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Full text of "A popular handbook of the birds of the United States and Canada"

Framk M. Ohapmt-n 




LIBRARY 

DEPARTMENT OF BIRDS 

A-M-N-H- 



>,Vuseumof^Y 




1869 
THE LIBRARY 



m.i 




1 . Hawk Owl 



2 . Screecli Owl. 



5. Bald Eaole. 



3. Great Horned Owl 



4. Plorida Burrowing Owl. 



A Popular Handbook 

of the 

Birds of the United States 
and Canada^ 

By Thomas Nuttall 

New Revised and Annotated Edition 
By Montague Chamberlain 



With Additions, and One Hundred and Ten 
Illustrations in Color 



Boston 

Little, Brown, and Company 

1903 



Copyright, 1891, 1896, 1903, 
By Little, Brown, and Company. 



•^5"- ifcO^t*- f^'»^^^ 






UNIVERSITY PRESS • JOHN WILSON 
AND SON • CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A. 



Part I. — LAND BIRDS, 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

Blackbird, Red-winged . . 96 

Rusty . . . .119 

Yellow-headed . 102 

Bluebird 285 

Bobolink 109 

Bunting, Indigo 310 

Painted 314 

Caracara, Audubon's ... 6 

Cardinal 362 

Catbird 195 

Chat 172 

Chickadee 146 

Carolina . . . .150 

Hudsonian . . 151 

Chuck-will's-widow .... 465 

Cowbird 104 

Creeper, Bahama Honey . . 388 

Brown 387 

Crossbill, American .... 378 

White-winged . . 381 

Crow 126 

Fish 131 

Cuckoo, Black-billed .... 436 

Mangrove .... 437 

Yellow-billed . . . 432 

DiCKCissEL 298 

Eagle, Bald 19 

Golden 15 

Gray Sea 26 

Finch, Purple 372 

Flicker 438 



Flycatcher, Acadian . 
Crested . 
Least . . 
Olive-sided 
Traill's . . 
Yellow-bellied 



Gnatcatcher . . . 
Goldfinch 

American . 

Goshawk 

Crackle, Boat-tailed . 

Purple 
Grosbeak, Blue . . . 

Evening . 

Pine . . . 

Rose-breasted 
Gyrfalcon .... 



Hawk, Broad-winged 
Cooper's . 
Duck . . 
Harris's 
Marsh . . 
Pigeon . . 
Red-shouldered 
Red-tailed . . 
Rough-legged 
Sharp-shinned 
Short-tailed <, 
Sparrow . . 

Humminc: Bird . . . 



Jay, Blue 
Canada 



Page 
425 

413 
421 
410 
424 
426 

170 

353 
348 

31 
114 

"5 
371 
367 

3Z5 

369 

7 

49 

34 

9 

46 

51 
II 

43 
46 

41 
35 
50 
13 

457 

133 
138 



IV 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

Jay, Florida 137 

Junco, Slate-colored .... 339 

Kingbird 404 

Gray 414 

Kingfisher 461 

Kinglet, Golden-crowned . . 283 
Ruby-crowned . . .281 

Kite, Everglade 40 

Mississippi 37 

Swallow-tailed • • • • 39 
White-tailed 38 

Lapland Longspur .... 304 

Lark, Horned ...... 294 

Meadow 79 

Martin, Purple 391 

Maryland Yellow-throat. . . 249 
Mocking Bird 187 

Nighthawk 470 

Nuthatch, Brown-headed . . 386 
Red-breasted . . . 385 
White-breasted . . 383 

Oriole, Baltimore .... 83 

Orchard 93 

Osprey 27 

Oven Bird 215 

Owl, Barn 75 

Barred 70 

Burrowing 78 

Great Gray 64 

Great Horned .... 61 

Hawk 53 

Long-eared 66 

Richards»on's .... 73 

Saw-whet 72 

Screech ...... 57 

Short-eared 68 

Snowy 55 

Paroquet, Carolina .... 428 

Pewee, Wood 419 

Phoebe 415 

Pipit 292 



Raven 
Redpoll 

Redstart 
Robin 



Hoary 



Sapsucker . . . 
Shrike, Loggerhead 
Northern . 
Siskin, Pine . . • 
Skylark .... 
Snowflake . . . 
Sparrow, Acadian Sharp 

Bachman's 

Chipping 

Field . . 

Fox . . 

Grasshopper 

Henslow's 

House 

Ipswich . 

Lark . . 

Le Conte's 

Lincoln's 

Nelson's 

Savanna 

Seaside . 

Sharp-tailed 

Song . 

Swamp 

Tree . 

Vesper 

White-crowned 

White-throated 
Swallow, Bank . . . 

Barn . . . 

Cliff . . . 

Rough-winged 

Tree . . 
Swift, Chimney . . . 



Page 
120 

355 
358 
164 



tailed 



Tanager, Scarlet . . 
Summer . 

Thrasher, Brown . . 

Thrush, Bicknell's . . 
Gray-cheeked 
Hermit . . 



450 
162 

159 
351 

297 
300 
345 
327 
333 
336 
338 
329 
330 
354 
326 

317 

331 
328 

346 
325 
346 
344 
322 

342 
332 
320 

315 
318 
401 
394 
396 
403 
399 
463 

306 

309 
192 
212 
211 
205 



CONTENTS. 



Thrush, Louisiana Water 

Olive-backed 

Water . 

Wilson's 

Wood . 
Titmouse, Tufted 
Towhee . . . 



ViREO, Blue-headed . . 

Philadelphia . . 

Red-eyed . . 

Warbling . . 

White-eyed . , 

Yellow-throated 

Vulture, Black . . . 

Turkey . . 



Page 
. 214 
> 211 



Page 



207 
202 
142 

359 

176 
186 
182 
180 
178 
174 
4 
I 

261 



Warbler, Bachman's . 
Bay-breasted 
Black and white 
Blackburnian 
Black-poll . 
Black-throated Blue 245 
Black-throated 

Green . , 
Blue-winged . 
Canadian . . 
Cape May 
Cerulean .... 247 
Chestnut-sided . . 235 
Connecticut . . . 253 
Golden-winged . 260 
Hooded .... 167 
Kentucky .... 246 
Kirtland's . . . 265 



237 
389 
232 
238 



230 
25S 
227 
226 



Warbler, Magnolia . . . 


. 224 


Mourning . . 


. 251 


Myrtle .... 


. 217 


Nashville . . . 


. 263 


Orange-crowned 


. 264 


Parula .... 


. 244 


Pine .... 


239 


Prairie . . . 


. 242 


Prothonotary . 


. 257 


Swainson's . . 


. 256 


Tennessee . . 


. 261 


Wilson's . . . 


. 168 


Worm-eating . 


• 255 


Yellow . . . 


. 230 


Yellow Palm . 


. 219 


Yellow-throated 


. 228 


Waxwing, Bohemian . . 


• 152 


Cedar .... 


. IS4 


Wheatear 


. 290 


Whip-poor-will 


• 467 


Woodpecker, American three- 


toed . . 


• 456 


Arctic three-toed 455 


Downy . . . 


. 452 


Hairy . . . 


• 451 


Ivory-billed . 


• 441 


Pileated . . 


. 444 


Red-bellied . 


• 448 


Red-cockaded 


• 454 


Red-headed . 


• 446 


Wren, Bewick's ... 


.276 


Carolina .... 


. 272 


House 


. 266 


Long-billed Marsh . 


. 279 


Short-billed Marsh . 


. 277 


Winter 


. 270 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN PART I. 



COLORED PLATES. 



Plate I Frontispiece 

1. Hawk Owl. 

2. Screech Owl. 

3. Great Horned Owl, 

4. Florida Burrowing Owl. 

5. Bald Eagle. 

Plate II Page 80 

1. Baltimore Oriole. 

2. Meadowlark. 

3. Red -Winged Blackbird. 

4. Bobolink. 

5. American Osprey. 

Plate III Page 146 

1. Chickadee. 

2. Catbird. 

3. Cedar Wax wing. 

4. Red-Eyed Vireo. 

5. Robin. 

Plate IV Page 202 

1. American Redstart. 

2. Blue Jay. 

3. Wood Thrush. 

4. Water Thrush. 

5. Duck Hawk. 

Plate V , Page 220 

1. Cerulean Warbler. 

2. Prairie Warbler. 



Plate V, — continued. 

3. Yellow Warbler. 

4. Parula Warbler. 

5. Blackburnian Warbler. 

6. Black-Throated Green 

Warbler. 

Plate VI Page 262 

1. Maryland Yellow Throat. 

2. Blue Bird. 

3. Winter Wren. 

4. Nashville Warbler. 

5. Black-Throated Blue 

Warbler. 

6. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. 

Plate VII. . . „ . Page 298 

1. Snowflake. 

2. White-Throated Sparrow. 

3. Black-Throated Bunting. 

4. Indigo Bunting. 

5. Scarlet Tanager. 

Plate VIII Page 360 

I Snow Bird, 

2. Song Sparrow. 

3. Phcebe. 

4. American Goldfinch. 

5. Vesper Sparrow. 

6. TOWHEE. 



Vlll 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



Plate IX Page 382 

1. Pine Grosbeak (Male). 

2. Pine Grosbeak (Female). 

3. Purple Finch (Male). 

4. Purple Finch (Female). 

5. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. 

6. White-Winged Crossbill 

(Male). 

7. White-Winged Crossbill 

(Female). 



Plate X Page 438 

1. Ruby-Throated Humming 

Bird. 

2. Barn Swallow. 

3. Flicker. 

4. Whip-poor-will. 

5. Crested Red Bird. 

6. Red-headed Woodpecker. 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT. 



No 


Page 


No 


I. 


Turkey Vulture . . 


I 


27. 


2. 


White Gyrfalcon . . 


7 


28. 


3- 


American Sparrow 




29. 




Hawk 


13 


30- 


4- 


Golden Eagle . . . 


15 


31- 


5- 


Bald Eagle .... 


19 


32- 


6. 


American Osprey . . 


27 


33. 


7. 


American Goshawk . 


31 


34. 


8. 


Cooper's Hawk . . . 


34 


35- 


9- 


Mississippi Kite . . . 


V 


36. 


10. 


American Rough-Legged 


37- 




Hawk 


41 


38. 


11. 


Red-Shouldered Hawk 


43 


39- 


12. 


Broad-Winged Hawk . 


49 


40. 


13- 


Hawk Owl 


53 


41. 


14. 


Snowy Owl .... 


55 




15- 


Screech Owl .... 


57 


42. 


16. 


Great Horned Owl . 


61 


43- 


17. 


Long-Eared Owl . . 


66 




18. 


Short-Eared Owl . . 


68 


44. 


19. 


Barred Owl .... 


70 


45- 


20. 


Richardson's Owl . . 


73 


46. 


21. 


Barn Owl 


75 


47- 


22. 


Florida Burrowing Owl 


78 




23- 


Meadowlark .... 


79 


48. 


24. 


Baltimore Oriole . . 


83 


49. 


25- 


Red-Winged Blackbird 


96 


50- 


26. 


Yellow-Headed Black- 




51- 




bird 


102 


52. 



Page 

Bobolink 109 

Blue Jay 133 

Canada Jay .... 138 
Tufted Titmouse . . 142 
Northern Shrike . . 159 

Redstart 164 

Wilson's Warbler . . 168 
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher 170 
Yellow-Breasted Chat 172 
White-Eyed Vireo . . 178 
Mocking Bird .... 187 
Brown Thrasher . . 192 
Wilson's Thrush . . 207 
Oven-Bird . . . . 215 
Black-Throated Green 

Warbler 230 

Parula Warbler . . 244 
Maryland Yellow- 
Throat 249 

Worm-Eating Warbler 255 
House Wren .... 266 
Carolina Wren . . . 272 
Golden-Crowned King- 
let 283 

Bluebird 285 

Wheatear 290 

American Pipit . . . 292 
Horned Lark .... 294 
Skylark 297 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



IX 



No 






Page 


JVo. 


54- 


Snowflake . . . 


. "^CX) 


71- 


Lapland Longspur 


• 304 


55- 


Scarlet Tanager 


. 306 


72. 


56. 


Lark Sparrow . 


. 317 


73- 


57- 


Vesper Sparrow 




. 320 


74- 


58. 


Song Sparrow 




. 322 


75- 


59- 


Tree Sparrow 




• • 332 


76. 


60. 


Fox Sparrow . 




. • 338 


77- 


61. 


Sharp-Tailed Sparf 


.ow 344 


78. 


62. 


American Goldfinc 


H . 348 


79- 


63- 
64. 
65. 


Goldfinch . 


. . '^'^'^ 


80. 


Redpoll .... 






Hoary Redpoll . 


. . 358 


81. 


€6. 


Cardinal . . . 


. . ^62 


82. 


67. 


Rose-Breasted Gp 


.OS- 






BEAK .... 


. . 369 


83- 


68. 


Pine Grosbeak . 


• • 375 


69. 


American Crossbili 


L . 378 


84. 


70 


White-Breasted Ni 


JT- 


85. 




HATCH .... 


. . ^8^ 


86. 



Fao-e 
Black and White War- 
bler 389 

Barn Swallow . . . 394 
Tree Swallow . . . 399 
Bank Swallow . . . 401 

Kingbird 404 

Olive-Sided Flycatcher 410 
Traill's Flycatcher . 424 
Carolina Paroquet . 428 
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo 432 
Ivory-Billed Wood- 
pecker 441 

PiLEATED Woodpecker 444 
Yellow-Bellied Sap- 
sucker 450 

Ruby-Throated Hum- 
ming Bird .... 457 
Belted Kingfisher . 461 
Chimney Swift ... 463 
Nighthawk 470 




INTRODUCTION. 



Of all the classes of animals by which we are surrounded in 
the ample field of Nature, there are none more remarkable in 
their appearance and habits than the feathered inhabitants of 
the air. They play around us like fairy spirits, elude approach 
in an element which defies our pursuit, soar out of sight in the 
yielding sky, journey over our heads in marshalled ranks, dart 
like meteors in the sunshine of summer, or, seeking the solitary 
recesses of the forest and the waters, they glide before us like 
bemgs of fancy. They diversify the still landscape with the 
most Hvely motion and beautiful association ; they come and 
go with the change of the season ; and as their actions are di- 
rected by an uncontrollable instinct of provident Nature, they 
may be considered as concomitant with the beauty of the sur- 
rounding scene. With what grateful sensations do we involun- 
tarily hail the arrival of these faithful messengers of spring and 
summer, after the lapse of the dreary winter, which compelled 
them to forsake us for more favored climes. Their songs, now 
heard from the leafy groves and shadowy forests, inspire de- 
light, or recollections of the pleasing past, in every breast. 
How volatile, how playfully capricious, how musical and happy, 
are these roving sylphs of Nature, to whom the air, the earth, 
and the waters are alike habitable ! Their lives are spent in 
boundless action ; and Nature, with an omniscient benevo- 
lence, has assisted and formed them for this wonderful display 
of perpetual life and vigor, in an element almost their own. 



xii INTRODUCTION. 

If we draw a comparison between these inhabitants of the 
air and the earth, we shall perceive that, instead of the large 
head, formidable jaws armed with teeth, the capacious chest, 
wide shoulders, and muscular legs of the quadrupeds, they 
have bills, or pointed jaws destitute of teeth ; a long and pliant 
neck, gently swelling shoulders, immovable vertebrae ; the fore- 
arm attenuated to a point and clothed with feathers, forming 
the expansive wing, and thus fitted for a different species of 
motion ; likewise the wide extended tail, to assist the general 
provision for buoyancy throughout the whole anatomical frame. 
For the same general purpose of lightness, exists the contrast 
of slender bony legs and feet. So that, in short, we perceive 
in the whole conformation of this interesting tribe, a structure 
wisely and curiously adapted for their destined motion through 
the air. Lightness and buoyancy appear in every part of the 
structure of birds : to this end nothing contributes more than 
the soft and delicate plumage with which they are so warmly 
clad ; and though the wings (or great organs of aerial motion 
by which they swim, as it were, in the atmosphere) are formed 
of such hght materials, yet the force with which they strike the 
air is so great as to impel their bodies with a rapidity unknoAvn 
to the swiftest quadruped. The same grand intention of form- 
ing a class of animals to move in the ambient desert they 
occupy above the earth, is likewise visible in their internal 
structure. Their bones are hght and thin, and all the muscles 
diminutive but those appropriated for moving the wings. The 
lungs are placed near to the back-bone and ribs ; and the air 
is not, as in other animals, merely confined to the pulmonary 
organs, but passes through, and is then conveyed into a num- 
ber of membranous cells on either side the external region of 
the heart, communicating with others situated beneath the 
chest. In some birds these cells are continued down the 
wings, extending even to the pinions, bones of the thighs, and 
other parts of the body, which can be distended with air at 
the pleasure or necessity of the animal. This diffusion of air 
is not only intended to assist in lightening and elevating the 
body, but also appears necessary to prevent the stoppage or 



INTRODUCTION. xiii 

interruption of respiration, which w(5uld otherwise follow the 
rapidity of their motion through the resisting atmosphere ; and 
thus the Ostrich, though deprived of the power of flight, runs 
almost with the swiftness of the wind, and requires, as he 
possesses, the usual resources of air conferred on other birds. 
Were it possible for man to move with the rapidity of a Swal- 
low, the resistance of the air, without some such peculiar pro- 
vision as in birds, would quickly bring on suffocation. The 
superior vital heat of this class of beings is likewise probably 
due to this greater aeration of the vital fluid. 

Birds, as well as quadrupeds, may be generally distinguished 
into two great classes from the food on which they are destined 
to subsist ; and may, consequently, be termed carnivorous and 
granivorous. Some also hold a middle nature, or partake of 
both. The granivorous and herbivorous birds are provided 
with larger and longer intestines than those of the carnivorous 
kinds. Their food, consisting chiefly of grain of various sorts, 
is conveyed whole into the craw or first stomach, where it is 
softened and acted upon by a peculiar glandular secretion 
thrown out upon its surface ; it is then again conveyed into a 
second preparatory digestive organ ; and finally transmitted 
into the true stomach, or gizzard, formed of two strong muscles 
connected externally with a tendinous substance, and lined in- 
ternally with a thick membrane of great power and strength ; 
and in this place the unmasticated food is at length completely 
triturated, and prepared for the operation of the gastric juice. 
The extraordinary powers of the gizzard in comminuting food, 
to prepare it for digestion, almost exceeds the bounds of cred- 
ibility. Turkeys and common fowls have been made to swal- 
low sharp angular fragments of glass, metallic tubes, and balls 
armed with needles, and even lancets, which were found 
broken and compressed, without producing any apparent pain 
or wounds in the stomach. The gravel pebbles swallowed by 
this class of birds with so much avidity, thus appear useful in 
bruising and comminuting the grain they feed on, and prepar- 
ing it for the solvent action of the digestive organs. 

Those birds which live chiefly on grain and vegetable sub- 



xiv INTRODUCTION. 

stances partake in a degree of the nature and disposition of 
herbivorous quadrupeds. In both, the food and the provision 
for its digestion are very similar. AHke distinguished for 
sedentary habits and gentleness of manners, their lives are 
harmlessly and usefully passed in collecting seeds and fruits, 
and ridding the earth of noxious and destructive insects ; they 
live wholly on the defensive with all the feathered race, and 
are content to rear and defend their offspring from the attacks 
of their enemies. It is from this tractable and gentle race, as 
well as from the amphibious or aquatic tribes, that man has 
long succeeded in obtaining useful and domestic species, 
which, from their prolificacy and hardihood, afford a vast 
supply of wholesome and nutritious food. Of these, the Hen, 
originally from India ; the Goose, Duck, and Pigeon of 
Europe ; the Turkey of America ; and the Pintado, or Guinea- 
hen of Africa, are the principal : to which may also be ad- 
ded, as less useful, or more recently naturalized, the Peacock 
of India, the Pheasant of the same country, the Chinese 
and Canada Goose, the Muscovy Duck, and the European 
Swan. 

Carnivorous birds by many striking traits evince the destiny 
for which they have been created; they are provided with 
wings of great length, supported by powerful muscles, which 
enable them to fly with energy and soar with ease at the 
loftiest elevations. They are armed with strong hooked bills 
and with the sharp and formidable claws of the tiger ; they are 
also further distinguished by their large heads, short necks, 
strong muscular thighs in aid of their retractile talons, and 
a sight so piercing as to enable them, while soaring at the 
greatest height, to perceive their prey, upon which they some- 
times descend, like an arrow, with undeviating aim. In these 
birds the stomach is smaller than in the granivorous kinds, and 
their intestines are shorter. Like beasts of prey, they are of a 
fierce and unsociable nature ; and so far from herding together 
like the inoffensive tribes, they drive even their offspring from 
the eyry, and seek habitually the shelter of desert rocks, ne- 
glected ruins, or the solitude of the darkest forest, from whence 



INTRODUCTION. XV 

they utter loud, terrific, or piercing cries, in accordance with 
the gloomy rage and inquietude of their insatiable desires. 

Besides these grand divisions of the winged nations, there 
are others, which, in their habits and manners, might be com- 
pared to the amphibious animals, as they live chiefly on the 
water, and feed on its productions. To enable them to swim 
and dive in quest of their aquatic food, their toes are con- 
nected by broad membranes or webs, with which, like oars, 
they strike the water, and are impelled with force. In this way 
even the seas, lakes, and rivers, abounding with fish, insects, 
and seeds, swarm with birds of various kinds, which all obtain 
an abundant supply. There are other aquatic birds, frequent- 
ing marshes and the margins of lakes, rivers, and the sea, 
which seem to partake of an intermediate nature between the 
land and w^ater tribes. Some of these feed on fishes and rep- 
tiles ; others, with long and sensible bills and extended necks, 
seek their food in wet and muddy marshes. These birds are 
not made for swimming ; but, familiar with water, they wade, 
and many follow the edge of the retiring waves of the sea, 
gleaning their insect prey at the recession of the tides : for 
this kind of life Nature has provided them with long legs, bare 
of feathers even above the knees ; their toes, unconnected by 
webs, are only partially furnished with membranous appen- 
dages, just sufficient to support them on the soft and boggy 
grounds they frequent. To this tribe belong the Cranes, Snipes, 
Sandpipers, Woodcocks, and many others. 

In comparing the senses of animals in connection with their 
instinct, we find that of sight to be more extended, more acute, 
and more distinct in birds, in general, than in quadrupeds. I 
say ''in general," for there are some birds, such as the Owls, 
whose vision is less clear than that of quadrupeds ; but this 
rather results from the extreme sensibility of the eye, which, 
though dazzled with the glare of full day, nicely distinguishes 
even small objects by the aid of twilight. In all birds the 
organ of sight is furnished with two membranes, — an external 
and internal, — additional to those which occur in the human 
subject. The former, membrana nictitans^ or external mem- 



xvi INTRODUCTION. 

brane, is situated in the larger angle of the eye, and is, in 
fact, a second and more transparent eyeHd, whose motions are 
directed at pleasure, and its use, besides occasionally cleaning 
and polishing the cornea, is to temper the excess of light and 
adjust the quantity admitted to the extreme delicacy of the 
organ. The other membrane, situated at the bottom of the 
eye, appears to be an expansion of the optic nerve, which, re- 
ceiving more immediately the impressions of the light, must be 
much more sensible than in other animals ; and consequently 
the sight is in birds far more perfect, and embraces a wider 
range. Facts and observations bear out this conclusion ; for a 
Sparrow-hawk, while hovering in the air, perceives a Lark or 
other small bird, sitting on the ground, at twenty times the dis- 
tance that such an object would be visible to a man or dog. 
A Kite, which soars beyond the reach of human vision, yet 
distinguishes a lizard, field-mouse, or bird, and from this lofty 
station selects the tiny object of his prey, descending upon it 
in nearly a perpendicular line. But it may also be added that 
this prodigious extent of vision is likewise accompanied with 
equal accuracy and clearness ; for the eye can dilate or con- 
tract, be shaded or exposed, depressed or made protuberant, 
so as readily to assume the precise form suited to the degree 
of light and the distance of the object ; the organ thus answer- 
ing, as it were, the purpose of a self-adjusting telescope, with a 
shade for examining the most luminous and dazzling objects ; 
and hence the Eagle is often seen to ascend to the higher 
regions of the atmosphere, gazing on the unclouded sun as on 
an ordinary and familiar object. 

The rapid motions executed by birds have also a reference 
to the perfection of their vision ; for if Nature, while she en- 
dowed them with great agility and vast muscular strength, had 
left them as short-sighted as ourselves, their latent powers 
would have availed them nothing, and the dangers of a per- 
petually impeded progress would have repressed or extin- 
guished their ardor. We may then, in general, consider the 
celerity with which an animal moves, as a just indication of 
the perfection of its vision. A bird, therefore, shooting swiftlv 



INTRODUCTION. xvii 

through the air, must undoubtedly see better than one which 
slowly describes a waving tract. The weak-sighted bat, flying 
carefully through bars of willow, even when the eyes were ex- 
tinguished, may seem to suggest an exception to this rule of 
relative velocity and vision ; but in this case, as in that of some 
blind individuals of the human species, the exquisite auditory 
apparatus seems capable of supplying the defect of sight. Nor 
are the flickerings of the bat, constantly performed in a narrow 
circuit, at all to be compared to the distant and lofty soarings 
of the Eagle, or the wide wanderings of the smaller birds, who 
often annually pass and repass from the arctic circle to the 
equator. 

The idea of motion, and all the other ideas connected with 
it, such as those of relative velocities, extent of country, the 
proportional height of eminences, and of the various inequali- 
ties that prevail on the surface, are therefore more precise in 
birds, and occupy a larger share of their conceptions, than in 
the grovelling quadrupeds. Nature would seem to have pointed 
out this superiority of vision, by the more conspicuous and 
elaborate structure of its organ ; for in birds the eye is larger in 
proportion to the bulk of the head than in quadrupeds ; it is 
also more delicate and finely fashioned, and the impressions it 
receives must consequently excite more vivid ideas. 

Another cause of difference in the instincts of birds and 
quadrupeds is the nature of the element in which they live. 
Birds know better than man the degrees of resistance in the 
air, its temperature at different heights, its relative density, and 
many other particulars, probably, of which we can form no 
adequate conception. They foresee more than we, and indi- 
cate better than our weather-glasses, the changes which happen 
in that voluble fluid ; for often have they contended with the 
violence of the wind, and still oftener have they borrowed the 
advantage of its aid. The Eagle, soaring above the clouds, can 
at will escape the scene of the storm, and in the lofty region of 
calm, far within the aerial boundary of eternal frost,^ enjoy a 

1 The mean heights of eternal frost under the equator and at the latitude of 
30° and 60° are, respectively, 15,207, 11,484, and 3,818 feet. 

TOL. 1. — b 



xviii INTRODUCTION. 

serene sky and a bright sun, while the terrestrial animals re- 
main involved in darkness and exposed to all the fury of the 
tempest. In twenty-four hours it can change its climate, and 
sailing over different countries, it will form a picture exceeding 
the powers of the pencil or the imagination. The quadruped 
knows only the spot where it feeds, — its valley, mountain, or 
plain ; it has no conception of the expanse of surface or of 
remote distances, and generally no desire to push forward its 
excursions beyond the bounds of its immediate wants. Hence 
remote journeys and extensive migrations are as rare among 
quadrupeds as they are frequent among birds. It is this 
desire, founded on their acquaintance with foreign countries, 
on the consciousness of their expeditious course, and on their 
foresight of the changes that will happen in the atmosphere, 
and the revolutions of seasons, that prompts them to retire 
together at the powerful suggestions of an unerring instinct. 
When their food begins to fail, or the cold and heat to incom- 
mode them, their innate feelings and latent powers urge them 
to seek the necessary remedy for the evils that threaten their 
being. The inquietude of the old is communicated to the 
young ; and collecting in troops by common consent, influ- 
enced by the same general wants, impressed with the approach- 
ing changes in the circumstances of their existence, they give 
way to the strong reveries of instinct, and wing their way over 
land and sea to some distant and better country. 

Comparing animals with each other, we soon perceive that 
smell, in general, is much more acute among the quadrupeds 
than the birds. Even the pretended scent of the Vulture is 
imaginary, as he does not perceive the tainted carrion, on 
which he feeds, through a wicker basket, though its odor is as 
potent as in the open air. This choice also of decaying flesh 
is probably regulated by his necessities and the deficiency of 
his muscular powers to attack a living, or even tear in pieces a 
recent, prey. The structure of the olfactory organ in birds is 
obviously inferior to that of quadrupeds ; the external nostrils 
are wanting, and those odors which might excite sensation 
have access only to the duct leading from the palate ; and even 



INTRODUCTION. xix 

in those, where the organ is disclosed, the nerves, which take 
their origin from it, are far from being so numerous, so large, 
or so expanded as in the quadrupeds. We may therefore 
regard touch in man, smell in the quadruped, and sight in 
birds, as respectively the three most perfect senses v/hich 
exercise a general influence on the character. 

After sight, the most perfect of the senses in birds appears 
to be hearing, which is even superior to that of the quadru- 
peds, and scarcely exceeded in the human species. We per- 
ceive with what facility they retain and repeat tones, successions 
of notes, and even words; we delight to listen to their un- 
wearied songs, to the incessant warbling of their tuneful affec- 
tion. Their ear and throat are more ductile and powerful 
than in other animals, and their voice more capacious and 
generally agreeable. A Crow, which is scarcely more than the 
thousandth part the size of an ox, may be heard as far, or 
farther ; the Nightingale can fill a wider space with its music 
than the human voice. This prodigious extent and power of 
sound depend entirely on the structure of their organs; but 
the support and continuance of their song result solely from 
their internal emotions. 

The windpipe is wider and stronger in birds than in any 
other class of animals, and usually terminates below in a large 
cavity that augments the sound. The lungs too have greater 
extent, and communicate with internal cavities which are 
capable of being expanded with air, and, besides lightening 
the body, give additional strength to the voice. Indeed, the 
formation of the thorax, the lungs, and all the organs connected 
with these, seems expressly calculated to give force and dura- 
lion to their utterance. 

Another circumstance, showing the great power of voice in 
birds, is the distance at which they are audible in the higher 
regions of the atmosphere. An Eagle may rise at least to the 
height of seventeen thousand feet, for it is there just visible. 
Flocks of Storks and Geese may mount still higher, since, not- 
withstanding the space they occupy, they soar almost out of 
sight ; their cry will therefore be heard from an altitude of 



XX INTRODUCTION. 

more than three miles, and is at least four times as powerful as 
the voice of men and quadrupeds. 

Sweetness of voice and melody of song are qualities which in 
birds are partly natural and partly acquired. The facility with 
which they catch and repeat sounds, enables them not only to 
borrow from each other, but often even to copy the more diffi- 
cult inflections and tones of the human voice, as well as of 
musical instruments. It is remarkable that in the tropical 
regions, where the birds are arrayed in the most glowing 
colors, their voices are hoarse, grating, singular, or terrific. 
Our sylvan Orpheus (the Mocking-bird), the Brown Thrush, 
the Warbling Flycatcher, as well as the Linnet, the Thrush, 
the Blackbird, and the Nightingale of Europe, pre-eminent for 
song, are all of the plainest colors and weakest tints. 

The natural tones of birds, setting aside those derived from 
education, express the various modifications of their wants and 
passions ; they change even according to different times and 
circumstances. The females are much more silent than the 
males ; they have cries of pain or fear, murmurs of inquietude 
or solicitude, ^specially for their young ; but of song they are 
generally deprived. The song of the male is inspired by ten- 
der emotion, he chants his affectionate lay with a sonorous 
voice, and the female replies in feeble accents. The Nightin- 
gale, when he first arrives in the spring, without his mate, is 
silent ; he begins his lay in low, faltering, and unfrequent airs ; 
and it is not until his consort sits on her eggs that his en- 
chanting melody is complete : he then tries to reheve and 
amuse her tedious hours of incubation, and warbles more 
pathetically and variably his amorous and soothing lay. In a 
state of nature this propensity for song only continues through 
the breeding season, for after that period it either entirely 
ceases, becomes enfeebled, or loses its sweetness. 

Conjugal fidelity and parental affection are among the most 
conspicuous traits of the feathered tribes. The pair unite their 
labors in preparing for the accommodation of their expected 
progeny ; and during the time of incubation their participa- 
tion of the same cares and solicitudes continually augments 



INTRODUCTION. xxi 

their mutual attachment. When the young appear, a new 
source of care and pleasure opens to them, still strengthening 
the ties of affection ; and the tender charge of rearing and 
defending their infant brood requires the joint attention of 
both parents. The warmth of first affection is thus succeeded 
by calm and steady attachment, which by degrees extends, 
without suffering any diminution, to the rising branches of the 
family. 

This conjugal union, in the rapacious tribe of birds, the 
Eagles and Hawks, as well as with the Ravens and Crows, con- 
tinues commonly through Hfe. Among many other kinds it is 
also of long endurance, as we may perceive in our common 
Pewee and the Blue-bird, who year after year continue to fre- 
quent and build in the same cave, box, or hole in the decayed 
orchard tree. But, in general, this association of the sexes 
expires with the season, after it has completed the intentions 
of reproduction, in the preser\'ation and rearing of the off- 
spring. The appearance even of sexual distinction often van- 
ishes in the autumn, when both the parents and their young 
are then seen in the same humble and oblivious dress. When 
they arrive again amongst us in the spring, the males in flocks, 
often by themselves, are clad anew in their nuptial livery ; and 
with vigorous songs, after the cheerless silence in which they 
have passed the winter, they now seek out their mates, and 
warmly contest the right to their exclusive favor. 

With regard to food, birds have a more ample latitude than 
quadrupeds ; flesh, fish, amphibia, reptiles, insects, fruits, grain, 
seeds, roots, herbs, — in a word, whatever lives or vegetates. 
Nor are they very select in their choice, but often catch indif- 
ferently at what they can most easily obtain. Their sense of 
taste appears indeed much less acute than in quadrupeds ; for 
if we except such as are carnivorous, their tongue and palate 
are, in general, hard, and almost cartilaginous. Sight and scent 
can only direct them, though they possess the latter in an infe- 
rior degree. The greater number swallow without tasting ; and 
mastication, which constitutes the chief pleasure in eating, is 
entirely wanting to them. As their horny jaws are unprovided 



xxii INTRODUCTION. 

with teeth, the food undergoes no preparation in the mouth, 
but is swallowed in unbruised and untasted morsels. Yet there 
is reason to believe that the first action of the stomach, or its 
preparatory ventriculus, affords in some degree the ruminating 
gratification of taste, as after swallowing food, in some insectiv- 
orous and carnivorous birds, the motion of the mandibles, ex- 
actly like that of ordinary tasting, can hardly be conceived to 
exist without conveying some degree of gratifying sensation. 

The clothing of birds varies with the habits and climates 
they inhabit. The aquatic tribes, and those which live in 
northern regions, are provided with an abundance of plumage 
and fine down, — from which circumstance often we may form a 
correct judgment of their natal regions. In all climates, aqua- 
tic birds are almost equally feathered, and are provided with 
posterior glands containing an oily substance for anointing 
their feathers, which, aided by their thickness, prevents the 
admission of moisture to their bodies. These glands are less 
conspicuous in land birds, — unless, like the fishing Eagles, their 
habits be to plunge in the water in pursuit of their prey. 

The general structure of feathers seems purposely adapted 
both for warmth of clothing and security of flight. In the 
wings of all birds which fly, the webs composing the vanes, or 
plumy sides of the feather, mutually interlock by means of reg- 
ular rows of slender, hair-like teeth, so that the feather, except 
at and towards its base, serves as a complete and close screen 
from the weather on the one hand, and as an impermeable oar 
on the other, when situated in the wing, and required to catch 
and retain the impulse of the air. In the birds which do not 
fly, and inhabit warm climates, the feathers are few and thin, 
and their lateral webs are usually separate, as in the Ostrich, 
Cassowary, Emu, and extinct Dodo. In some cases feathers 
seem to pass into the hairs, which ordinarily clothe the quadru- 
peds, as in the Cassowary, and others ; and the base of the 
bill in many birds is usually surrounded with these capillary 
plumes. 

The greater number of birds cast their feathers annually, and 
appear to suffer much more from it than the quadrupeds do 



INTRODUCTION. xxill 

from a similar change. The best-fed fowl ceases at this time 
to lay. The season of moulting is generally the end of summer 
or autumn, and their feathers are not completely restored till 
the spring. The male sometimes undergoes, as we have already 
remarked, an additional moult towards the close of summer ; 
and among many of the waders and web-footed tribes, as Sand- 
pipers, Plovers, and Gulls, both sexes experience a moult twice 
in the year, so that their summer and winter livery appears 
wholly different. 

The stratagems and contrivances instinctively employed by 
birds for their support and protection are peculiarly remark- 
able ; in this way those which are weak are enabled to elude 
the pursuit of the strong and rapacious. Some are even 
screened from the attacks of their enemies by an arrangement 
of colors assimilated to the places which they most frequent 
for subsistence and repose : thus the Wryneck is scarcely to be 
distinguished from the tree on which it seeks its food ; or the 
Snipe from the soft and springy ground which it frequents. 
The Great Plover finds its chief security in stony places, to 
which its colors are so nicely adapted that the most exact 
observer may be deceived. The same resort is taken advantage 
of by the Night Hawk, Partridge, Plover, and the American 
Quail, the young brood of which squat on the ground, instinc- 
tively conscious of being nearly invisible, from their close 
resemblance to the broken ground on which they lie, and trust 
to this natural concealment. The same kind of deceptive and 
protecting artifice is often employed by birds to conceal or 
render the appearance of their nests ambiguous. Thus the 
European Wren forms its nest externally of hay, if against 
a hayrick; covered with hchens, if the tree chosen is so 
clad ; or made of green moss, when the decayed trunk in which 
it is built, is thus covered ; and then, wholly closing it above, 
leaves only a concealed entry in the side. Our Humming- 
bird, by external patches of lichen, gives her nest the appear- 
ance of a moss-grown knot. A similar artifice is employed by 
our Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, or Vireo, and others. The 



XXIV INTRODUCTION. 

Golden-crowned Thrush {Seiurus aurocapilliis) makes a nest 
like an oven, erecting an arch over it so perfectly resem- 
bling the tussuck in which it is concealed that it is only dis- 
coverable by the emotion of the female when startled from its 
covert. 

The Butcher-bird is said to draw around him his feathered 
victims by treacherously imitating their notes. The Kingfisher 
of Europe is believed to allure his prey by displaying the 
brilliancy of his colors as he sits near some sequestered place 
on the margin of a rivulet ; the fish, attracted by the splen- 
dor of his fluttering and expanded wings, are detained while 
the wily fisher takes an unerring aim.^ The Erne, and our 
Bald Eagle, gain a great part of their subsistence by watching 
the success of the Fish Hawk, and robbing him of his finny prey 
as soon as it is caught. In the same way also the rapacious 
Burgomaster, or Glaucous Gull {Larus glaucus), of the North 
levies his tribute of food from all the smaller species of his 
race, who, knowmg his strength and ferocity, are seldom inclined 
to dispute his piratical claims. Several species of Cuckoo, and 
the Cow Troopial of America, habitually deposit their eggs in 
the nests of other small birds, to whose deceived affection are 
committed the preservation and rearing of the parasitic and 
vagrant brood. The instinctive arts of birds are numerous ; 
but treachery, like that which obtains in these parasitic species, 
is among the rarest expedients of nature in the feathered 
tribes, though not uncommon among some insect families. 

The art displayed by birds in the construction of their tem- 
porary habitations, or nests, is also deserving of passing 
attention. Among the Gallinaceous tribe, including our land 
domestic species, as well as the aquatic and wading kinds, 
scarcely any attempt at a nest is made. The birds which swarm 
along the sea-coast often deposit their eggs on the bare ground, 
sand, or slight depressions in shelving rocks ; governed alone 
by grosser wants, their mutual attachment is feeble or nugatory, 
and neither art nor instinct prompts attention to the construc- 

1 The bright feathers of this bird enter often successfully, with others, into 
the composition of the most attractive artificial flies employed by anglers. 



INTRODUCTION. XXV 

tion of a nest, — the less necessary, indeed, as the young run or 
take to the water as soon as hatched, and early release them- 
selves from parental dependence. The habits of the other aqua- 
tic birds are not very dissimilar to these ; yet it is singular to 
remark that while our common Geese and Ducks, like domestic 
Fowls, have no permanent selective attachment for their mates, 
the Canadian Wild Goose, the Eider Duck, and some others, 
are constantly and faithfully paired through the season; so 
that this neglect of accommodation for the young in the fabri- 
cation of an artificial nest, common to these with the rest of 
their tribe, has less connection with the requisition of mutual 
aid than with the hardy and precocious habits of these unmusi- 
cal, coarse, and retiring birds. It is true that some of them 
show considerable address, if little of art, in providing security 
for their young ; in this way some of the Razor-bills (including 
the Common Puffin) do not trust the exposure of their eggs, 
like the Gulls, who rather rely on the solitude of their retreat, 
than art in its defence ; but with considerable labor some of 
the Alcas form a deep burrow for the security of their brood. 

Birds of the same genus differ much in their modes of nidi- 
fication. Thus the Martin makes a nest within a rough-cast 
rampart of mud, and enters by a flat opening in the upper 
edge. The Cliff Swallow of Bonaparte conceals its warm and 
feathered nest in a receptacle of agglutinated mud resembling 
a narrow-necked purse or retort. Another species, in the 
Indian seas, forms a small receptacle for its young entirely 
of interlaced gelatinous fibres, provided by the mouth and 
stomach ; these nests, stuck in clusters against the rocks, are 
collected by the Chinese, and boiled and eaten in soups as 
the rarest deHcacy. The Bank Martin, like the Kingfisher, 
burrows deep into the friable banks of rivers to secure a de- 
pository for its scantily feathered nest. The Chimney Swallow, 
originally an inhabitant of hollow trees, builds in empty chim- 
neys a bare nest of agglutinated twigs. The Woodpecker, 
Nuthatch, Titmouse, and our rural Bluebird, secure their 
young in hollow trees; and the first often gouge and dig 
through the solid wood with the success and industry of car- 



XXVI INTRODUCTION. 

penters, and without the aid of any other chisel than their 
wedged bills. 

But the most consummate ingenuity of ornithal architecture 
is displayed by the smaller and more social tribes of birds, who, 
in proportion to their natural enemies, foreseen by Nature, are 
provided with the means of instinctive defence. In this labor 
both sexes generally unite, and are sometimes occupied a week 
or more in completing this temporary habitation for their 
young. We can only glance at a few examples, chiefly domes- 
tic ; since to give anything like a general view of this subject 
of the architecture employed by birds would far exceed the 
narrow limits we prescribe. And here we may remark that, 
after migration, there is no more certain display of the reveries 
of instinct than what presides over this interesting and neces- 
sary labor of the species. And yet so nice are the gradations 
betwixt this innate propensity and the dawnings of reason that 
it is not always easy to decide upon the characteristics of 
one as distinct from the other. Pure and undeviating in- 
stincts are perhaps wholly confined to the invertebral class of 
animals. 

In respect to the habits of birds, we well know that, like 
quadrupeds, they possess, though in a lower degree, the capa- 
city for a certain measure of what may be termed education, 
or the power of adding to their stock of invariable habits the 
additional traits of an inferior degree of reason. Thus in those 
birds who have discovered (like the faithful dog, that humble 
companion of man) the advantages to be derived from asso- 
ciating round his premises, the regularity of their instinctive 
habits gives way, in a measure, to improvable conceptions. In 
this manner our Golden Robin {Icterus balfimore) , or Fiery 
Hang Bird, originally only a native of the wilderness and the 
forest, is now a constant summer resident in the vicinity of 
villages and dwellings. From the depending boughs of our 
towering elms, and other spreading trees, like the Oriole of 
Europe, and the Cassican of tropical America, he weaves his 
pendulous and purse-like nest of the most tenacious and dur- 
able materials he can collect. These naturally consist of the 



INTRODUCTION. xxvii 

Indian hemp, flax of the silk- weed {Asclepias species), and 
other tough and fibrous substances ; but with a ready ingenuity 
he discovers that real flax and hemp, as well as thread, cotton, 
yarn, and even hanks of silk, or small strings, and horse and 
cow hair, are excellent substitutes for his original domestic ma- 
terials ; and in order to be convenient to these accidental 
resources, — a matter of some importance in so tedious a labor, 
— he has left the wild woods of his ancestry, and conscious of 
the security of his lofty and nearly inaccessible mansion, has 
taken up his welcome abode in the precincts of our habitations. 
The same motives of convenience and comfort have had their 
apparent influence on many more of our almost domestic 
feathered tribes ; the Bluebirds, Wrens, and Swallows, original 
inhabitants of the woods, are now no less familiar than our 
Pigeons. The Catbird often leaves his native solitary thickets 
for the convenience and refuge of the garden, and watch- 
ing, occasionally, the motions of the tenant, answers to his 
whistle with complacent mimicry, or in petulant anger scolds at 
his intrusion. The Common Robin, who never varies his simple 
and coarse architecture, tormented by the parasitic Cuckoo 
or the noisy Jay, who seek at times to rob him of his progeny, 
for protection has been known fearlessly to build his nest 
within a few yards of the blacksmith's anvil, or on the stem 
timbers of an unfinished vessel, where the carpenters were still 
employed in their noisy labors. That sagacity obtains its influ- 
ence over unvarying instinct in these and many other familiar 
birds, may readily be conceived when we observe that this 
venturous association with man vanishes with the occasion 
which required it ; for no sooner have the Oriole and Robin 
reared their young than their natural suspicion and shyness 
again return. 

Deserts and solitudes are avoided by most kinds of birds. 
In an extensive country of unvarying surface, or possessing but 
little variety of natural productions, and particularly where 
streams and waters are scarce, few of the feathered tribes are 
to be found. The extensive prairies of the West, and the 
gloomy and almost interminable forests of the North, as well as 



XXVlll INTRODUCTION. 

the umbrageous, wild, and unpeopled banks of the Mississippi, 
and other of the larger rivers, no less than the vast pine-bar- 
rens of the Southern States, are nearly without birds as perma- 
nent residents. In crossing the desolate piny glades of the 
South, with the exception of Creepers, Nuthatches, Wood- 
peckers, Pine Warblers, and flocks of flitting Larks {Sturnella) , 
scarcely any birds are to be seen till we approach the mean- 
ders of some stream, or the precincts of a plantation. The 
food of birds being extremely various, they consequently con- 
gregate only where sustenance is to be obtained ; watery situa- 
tions and a diversified vegetation are necessary for their support, 
and convenient for their residence ; the fruits of the garden 
and orchard, the swarms of insects which follow the progress of 
agriculture, the grain which we cultivate, — in short, everything 
which contributes to our luxuries and wants, in the way of 
subsistence, no less than the recondite and tiny enemies which 
lessen or attack these various resources, all conduce to the 
support of the feathered race, which consequently seek out and 
frequent our settlements as humble and useful dependents. 

The most ingenious and labored nest of all the North Amer- 
ican birds is that of the Orchard Oriole, or Troopial. It is 
suspended, or pensile, like that of the Baltimore Bird, but, with 
the exception of hair, constantly constructed of native mate- 
rials, the principal of which is a kind of tough grass. The 
blades are formed into a sort of platted purse but little inferior 
to a coarse straw bonnet ; the artificial labor bestowed is so 
apparent that Wilson humorously adds, on his showing it to a 
matron of his acquaintance, betwixt joke and earnest, she 
asked " if he thought it could not be taught to darn stock- 
ings." Every one has heard of the Tailor Bird of India {Sylvia 
sictoria) ; this little architect, by way of saving labor and gain- 
ing security for its tiny fabric, sometimes actually, as a seam- 
stress, sews together the edges of two leaves of a tree, in which 
her nest, at the extremity of the branch, is then secured for the 
period of incubation. x\mong the Sylvias, or Warblers, there 
is a species, inhabiting Florida and the West Indies, the 
Sylvia pensilis, which forms its woven, covered nest to rock in 



INTRODUCTION. xxix 

the air at the end of two suspending strings, rather than tmst 
it to the wily enemies by which it is surrounded ; the entrance, 
for security, is also from below, and through a winding vestibule. 

Our little cheerful and almost domestic Wren {^Troglodytes 
fulvus), which so often disputes with the Martin and the Blue- 
bird the possession of the box set up for their accommodation 
in the garden or near the house, in his native resort of a hollow 
tree, or the shed of some neglected out-house, begins his fabric 
by forming a barricade of crooked interlacing twigs, — a kind 
of chevaux-de-frise^ — for the defence of his internal habitation, 
leaving merely a very small entrance at the upper edge. The 
industry of this little bird, and his affection for his mate, are 
somewhat remarkable, as he frequently completes his habita- 
tion without aid, and then searches out a female on whom to 
bestow it ; but not being always successful, or the premises not 
satisfactory to his mistress, his labor remains sometimes with- 
out reward, and he continues to warble out his lay in solitude. 
The same gallant habit prevails also with our recluse Wren of 
the marshes. Wilson's Marsh Wren {Troglodytes palustris), 
instead of courting the advantages of a proximity to our dwel- 
lings, lives wholly among the reed-fens, suspending his mud- 
plastered and circularly covered nest usually to the stalks of 
the plant he so much affects. Another marsh species inhabits 
the low and swampy meadows of our vicinity ( Troglodytes bre- 
virostris), and with ready address constructs its globular nest 
wholly of the intertwined sedge-grass of the tussock on which 
it is built ; these two species never leave their subaquatic 
retreats but for the purpose of distant migration, and avoid 
and deprecate in angry twitterings every sort of society but 
their own. 

Among the most extraordinary habitations of birds, illustra- 
tive of their instinctive invention, may be mentioned that of 
the Bengal Grosbeak, whose pensile nest, suspended from the 
lofty boughs of the Indian fig-tree, is fabricated of grass, like 
cloth, in the form of a large bottle, with the entrance down- 
wards ; it consists also of two or three chambers, supposed to 
be occasionally illuminated by the fire-flies, which, however, 



XXX INTRODUCTION. 

only constitute a part of the food it probably conveys for the 
support of its young. But the most extraordinary instinct of 
this kind known, is exhibited by the Sociable, or Republican 
Grosbeak {Floceus socius, CirvaER), of the Cape of Good Hope. 
In one tree, according to Mr. Paterson, there could not be 
fewer than from eight hundred to one thousand of these nests, 
covered by one general roof, resembling that of a thatched 
house, and projecting over the entrance of the nest. Their 
common industry almost resembles that of bees. Beneath this, 
roof there are many entrances, each of which forms, as it were,. 
a regular street, with nests on either side, about two inches dis- 
tant from each other. The material which they employ in this 
building is a kind of fine grass, whose seed, also, at the same 
time serves them for food. 

That birds, besides their predilection for the resorts of men, 
are also capable of appreciating consequences to themselves 
and young, scarcely admits the shadow of a doubt ; they are 
capable of communicating their fears and nicely calculating 
the probability of danger or the immunities of favor. We talk 
of the cunning of the Fox and the watchfulness of the Weasel ; 
but the Eagle, Hawk, Raven, Crow, Pye, and Blackbird pos- 
sess those traits of shrewdness and caution which would seem 
to arise from reflection and prudence. They well know the 
powerful weapons and wiles of civiHzed man. Without being 
able to smell powder, — a vulgar idea, — the Crow and Blackbird 
at. once suspect the character of the fatal gun ; they will alight on 
the backs of cattle without any show of apprehension, and the 
Pye even hops upon them with insulting and garrulous playful- 
ness ; but he flies instantly from his human enemy, and seems, 
by his deprecating airs, aware of the proscription that affects 
his existence. A man on horseback or in a carriage is much 
less an object of suspicion to those wily birds than when alone ; 
and I have been frequently both amused and surprised, in the 
Southern States, by the sagacity of the Common Blackbirds in 
starting from the ploughing field, with looks of alarm, at the 
sight of a white man, as distinct from and more dangerous than 
the black slave, whose furrow they closely and familiarly fol- 



INTRODUCTION. xxxi 

lowed, for the insect food it afforded them, without betraying 
any appearance of distrust. Need we any further proof of 
the capacity for change of disposition than that which has so 
long operated upon our domestic poultry? — "those victims," 
as Buffon slightingly remarks, ''which are multiplied without 
trouble, and sacrificed without regret." How different the hab- 
its of our Goose and Duck in their wild and tame condition ! 
Instead of that excessive and timid cautiousness, so peculiar 
to their savage nature, they keep company with the domestic 
cattle, and hardly shuffle out of our path. Nay, the Gander 
is a very ban-dog, — noisy, gabbling, and vociferous, he gives 
notice of the stranger's approach, is often the terror of the 
meddling school-boy, in defence of his fostered brood ; and it 
is reported of antiquity, that by their usual garrulity and watch- 
fulness they once saved the Roman capitol. Not only is the 
disposition of these birds changed by domestication, but even 
their strong instinct to migration, or wandering longings, are 
wholly annihilated. Instead of joining the airy phalanx which 
wing their way to distant regions, they grovel contented in the 
perpetual abundance attendant on their willing slavery. If 
instinct can thus be destroyed or merged in artificial circum- 
stances, need we wonder that this protecting and innate intelli- 
gence is capable also of another change by improvement, 
adapted to new habits and unnatural restraints ? Even without 
undergoing the slavery of domestication, many birds become 
fully sensible of immunities and protection ; and in the same 
aquatic and rude family of birds already mentioned we may 
quote the tame habits of the Eider Ducks. In Iceland and 
other countries, where they breed in such numbers as to render 
their valuable down an object of commerce, they are forbidden 
to be killed under legal penalty ; and as if aware of this legisla- 
tive security, they sit on their eggs undisturbed at the approach 
of man, and are entirely as familiar, during this season of 
breeding, as our tamed Ducks. Nor are they apparently aware 
of the cheat habitually practised upon them of abstracting the 
down with which they line their nests, though it is usually 
repeated until they make the third attempt at incubation. If, 



xxxu INTRODUCTION. 

however, the last nest, with its eggs and down, to the lining 
of which the male is now obliged to contribute, be taken away, 
they sagaciously leave the premises, without return. The pious 
Storks, in Holland, protected by law for their usefulness, build 
their nests on the tops of houses and churches, often in the 
midst of cities, in boxes prepared for them, like those for our 
Martins ; and, walking about the streets and gardens without 
apprehension of danger, perform the usual office of domestic 
scavengers. 

That birds, like our more sedentary and domestic quadru- 
peds, are capable of exhibiting attachment to those who feed 
and attend them, is undeniable. Deprived of other society, 
some of our more intelligent species, particularly the Thrushes, 
soon learn to seek out the company of their friends or protec- 
tors of the human species. The Brown Thrush and Mocking 
Bird become in this way extremely familiar, cheerful, and 
capriciously playful ; the former, in particular, courts the atten- 
tion of his master, follows his steps, complains when neglected, 
flies to him when suffered to be at large, and sings and reposes 
gratefully perched on his hand, — in short, by all his actions he 
appears capable of real and affectionate attachment, and is 
jealous of every rival, particularly any other bird, which he 
persecutes from his presence with unceasing hatred. His pet- 
ulant dislike to particular objects of less moment is also dis- 
played by various tones and gestures, which soon become 
sufficiently intelligible to those who are near him, as well as 
his notes of gratulation and satisfaction. His language of 
fear and surprise could never be mistaken, and an imitation of 
his guttural low tsherr^ fsherr, on these occasions, answers as 
a premonitory warning when any danger awaits him from the 
sly approach of cat or squirrel. As I have now descended, as 
I may say, to the actual biography of one of these birds, which 
I raised and kept uncaged for some time, I may also add, that 
besides a playful turn for mischief and interruption, in which 
he would sometimes snatch off" the paper on which I was writ- 
ing, he had a good degree of'curiosity, and was much surprised 
one day by a large springing beetle or Elater {E. ocellatus'), 



INTRODUCTION. XXxiii 

which I had caught and placed in a tumbler. On all such 
occasions his looks of capricious surprise were very amusing ; he 
cautiously approached the glass with fanning and closing wings, 
and in an under-tone confessed his surprise at the address and 
jumping motion of the huge msect. At length he became 
bolder, and perceiving it had a relation to his ordinary prey of 
beetles, he, with some hesitation, ventured to snatch at the 
prisoner between temerity and playfulness. But when really 
alarmed or offended, he instantly flew to his loftiest perch, for- 
bid all friendly approaches, and for some time kept up his low 
and angry tsherr. My late friend, the venerable William Bar- 
tram, was also much amused by the intelligence displayed by 
this bird, and relates that one which he kept, being fond of 
hard bread-crumbs, found, when they grated his throat, a very 
rational remedy in softening them, by soaking in his vessel of 
water ; he likewise, by experience, discovered that the painful 
prick of the wasps on which he fed, could be obviated by ex- 
tracting their stings. But it would be too tedious and minute 
to follow out these glimmerings of intelligence, which exist 
as well in birds as in our most sagacious quadrupeds. The 
remarkable talent of the Parrot for imitating the tones of the 
human voice has long been familiar. The most extraordinary 
and well- authenticated account of the actions of one of the 
common ash-colored species is that of a bird which Colonel 
O'Kelly bought for a hundred guineas at Bristol. This indi- 
vidual not only repeated a great number of sentences, but 
answe7'ed many questions, and was able to whistle a variety of 
tunes. While thus engaged it beat time with all the appear- 
ance of science, and possessed a judgment, or ear so accurate, 
that if by chance it mistook a note, it would revert to the bar 
where the mistake was made, correct itself, and still beating 
regular time, go again through the whole with perfect exact- 
ness. So celebrated was this surprising bird that an obituary 
notice of its death appeared in the " General Evening Post " 
for the 9th of October, 1802. In this account it is added, that 
besides her great musical faculties, she could express her wants 
articulately, and give her orders in a manner approaching to 



xxxiv INTRODUCTION. 

rationality. She was, at the time of her decease, supposed to 
be more than thirty years of age. The colonel was repeat- 
edly offered five hundred guineas a year for the bird, by 
persons who wished to make a public exhibition of her ; but 
out of tenderness to his favorite he constantly refused the 
offer. 

The story related by Goldsmith of a parrot belonging to 
King Henry the Seventh, is very amusing, and possibly true. It 
was kept in a room in the Palace of Westminster, overlooking 
the Thames, and had naturally enough learned a store of boat- 
men's phrases ; one day, sporting somewhat incautiously. Poll 
fell mto the river, but had rationality enough, it appears, to 
make a profitable use of the words she had learned, and ac- 
cordingly vociferated, '' A boat ! twenty pounds for a boat ! " 
This welcome sound reaching the ears of a waterman, soon 
brought assistance to the Parrot, who delivered it to the 
king, with a request to be paid the round sum so readily prom- 
ised by the bird ; but his Majesty, dissatisfied with the exor- 
bitant demand, agreed, at any rate, to give him what the 
bird should now award ; in answer to which reference. Poll 
shrewdly cried, " Give the knave a groat ! " 

The story given by Locke, in his " Essay on the Human 
Understandmg," though approaching closely to rationahty, and 
apparently improbable, may not be a greater effort than could 
have been accomplished by Colonel O' Kelly's bird. This 
Parrot had attracted the attention of Prince Maurice, then 
governor of Brazil, who had a curiosity to witness its powers. 
The bird was introduced into the room, where sat the prince 
in company with several Dutchmen. On viewing them, the 
Parrot exclaimed, m Portuguese, " What a company of white 
men are here ! " Pointing to the prince, they asked, "■ Who is 
that man?" to which the Parrot replies, " Some general or 
other." The prince now asked, " From what place do you 
come?" The answer was, '^ From Marignan." "To whom 
do you belong?" It answered, *'To a Portuguese." "What 
do you do there? " To which the Parrot replied, " I look after 
chickens ! " The prince, now laughing, exclaimed, " You look 



INTRODUCTION. XXXV 

after chickens ! " To which Poll pertinently answered, " Yes, 

/^ and I know well enough how to do it ; " clucking at the 

same instant in the manner of a calling brood-hen. 

The docility of birds in catching and expressing sounds 
depends, of course, upon the perfection of their voice and 
hearing, — assisted also by no inconsiderable power of memory. 
The imitative actions and passiveness of some small birds, such 
as Goldfinches, Linnets, and Canaries, are, however, quite as 
curious as their expression of sounds. A Sieur Roman exhib- 
ited in England some of these birds, one of which simulated 
death, and was held up by the tail or claw without showing any 
active signs of life. A second balanced itself on the head, 
with its claws in the air. A third imitated a milkmaid going to 
market, with pails on its shoulders. A fourth mimicked a 
Venetian girl looking out at a window. A fifth acted the 
soldier, and mounted guard as a sentinel. The sixth was a 
cannonier, with a cap on its head, a firelock on its shoulder, 
and with a match in its claw discharged a small cannon. The 
same bird also acted as if wounded, was wheeled in a little 
barrow, as it were to the hospital ; after which it flew away 
before the company. The seventh turned a kind of windmill ; 
and the last bird stood amidst a discharge of small fireworks, 
without showing any sign of fear. 

A similar exhibition, in which twenty- four Canary birds 
were the actors, was also shown in London in 1820, by a 
Frenchman named Dujon ; one of these suffered itself to be 
shot at, and falling down, as if dead, was put into a little 
wheelbarrow and conveyed away by one of its comrades. 

The docility of the Canary and Goldfinch is thus, by dint of 
severe education, put in fair competition with that of the dog ; 
and we cannot deny to the feathered creation a share of that 
kind of rational intelligence exhibited by some of our sagacious 
quadrupeds, — an incipient knowledge of cause and effect far 
removed from the unimprovable and unchangeable destinies of 
instinct. Nature probably dehghts less in producmg such 
animated machines than we are apt to suppose ; and amidst 
the mutability of circumstances by which almost every animated 



XXXVl INTRODUCTION. 

being is surrounded, there seems to be a frequent demand for 
that reheving invention denied to those animals which are 
solely governed by inflexible instinct. 

The velocity with which birds are able to travel in their 
aerial element has no parallel among terrestrial animals : and 
this powerful capacity for progressive motion is bestowed in 
aid of their peculiar wants and instinctive habits. The swiftest 
horse may perhaps proceed a mile in something less than two 
minutes ; but such exertion is unnatural, and quickly fatal. An 
Eagle, whose stretch of wing exceeds seven feet, with ease and 
majesty, and without any extraordinary effort, rises out of sight 
in less than three minutes, and therefore must fly more than 
three thousand five hundred yards in a minute, or at the rate 
of sixty miles in an hour. At this speed a bird would easily per- 
form a journey of six hundred miles in a day, since ten hours 
only would be required, which would allow frequent halts, and 
the whole of the night for repose. Swallows and other migra- 
tory birds might therefore pass from northern Europe to the 
equator in seven or eight days. In fact, Adanson saw, on the 
coast of Senegal, Swallows that had arrived there on the 9th of 
October, or eight or nine days after their departure from the 
colder continent. A Canary Falcon, sent to the Duke of Lerma, 
returned in sixteen hours from Andalusia to the island of Tene- 
rifl"e, — a distance of seven hundred and fifty miles. The Gulls 
of Barbadoes, according to Sir Hans Sloane, make excursions in 
flocks to the distance of more than tv/o hundred miles after 
their food, and then return the same day to their rocky roosts. 

If we allow that any natural powers come in aid of the 
instinct to migration, so powerful and uniform in birds, besides 
their vast capacity for motion, it must be in the perfection and 
delicacy of their vision, of which we have such striking ex- 
amples in the rapacious tribes. It is possible that at times 
they may be directed principally by atmospheric phenomena 
alone ; and hence we find that their appearance is frequently 
a concomitant of the approaching season, and the wild Petrel 
of the ocean is not the only harbinger of storm and coming 
change. The currents of the air, in those which make exten- 



INTRODUCTION. xxxvii 

sive voyages, are sedulously employed ; and hence, at certain 
seasons, when they are usually in motion, we find their arrival 
or departure accelerated by a favorable direction of the winds. 
That birds also should be able to derive advantage in their 
journeys from the acuteness of their vision, is not more wonder- 
ful than the capacity of a dog to discover the path of his 
master, for many miles in succession, by the mere scent of his 
steps. It is said, indeed, in corroboration of this conjecture, 
that the Passenger, or Carrying Pigeon, is not certain to return 
to the place from whence it is brought, unless it be conveyed 
in an open wicker basket admitting a view of the passing 
scenery. Many of our birds, however, follow instinctively the 
great valleys and river- courses, which tend towards their 
southern or warmer destination ; thus the great valleys of 
the Connecticut, the Hudson, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, 
the Santee, and more particularly the vast Mississippi, are often, 
in part, the leading routes of our migrating birds. But, in fact, 
mysterious as is the voyage and departure of our birds, like 
those of all other countries where they remove at all, the des- 
tination of many is rendered certain, as soon as we visit the 
southern parts of the Union, or the adjoining countries of Mex- 
ico, to which they have retired for the winter ; for now, where 
they were nearly or wholly unknown in summer, they throng 
by thousands, and flit before our path like the showering leaves 
of autumn. It is curious to observe the pertinacity of this 
adventurous instinct in those more truly and exclusively insec- 
tivorous species which wholly leave us for the mild and genial 
regions of the tropics. Many penetrate to their destination 
through Mexico overland ; to these the whole journey is 
merely an amusing and varied feast. But to a much smaller 
number, who keep too far toward the sea-coast, and enter the 
ocean-bound peninsula of Florida, a more arduous aerial voy- 
age IS presented ; the wide ocean must be crossed, by the 
young and inexperienced as well as the old and venturous, 
before they arrive either at the tropical continent or its scat- 
tered islands. When the wind proves propitious, however, 
our little voyagers wing their unerring way like prosperous 



XXXVin INTRODUCTION. 

fairies ; but baffled by storms and contrary gales, they often 
suffer from want, and at times, like the Quails, become victims 
to the devouring waves. On such unfortunate occasions (as 
Mr. Bullock ^ witnessed in a voyage near to Vera Cruz late in 
autumn), the famished travellers familiarly crowd the decks of 
the vessel, in the hope of obtaining rest and a scanty meal 
preparatory to the conclusion of their unpropitious flight. 

Superficial observers, substituting their own ideas for facts, 
are ready to conclude, and frequently assert, that the old and 
young, before leaving, assemble together for mutual departure ; 
this may be true in many instances, but in as many more a 
different arrangement obtains. The young, often instinctively 
vagrant, herd together in separate flocks previous to their 
departure, and guided alone by the innate monition of Nature, 
seek neither the aid nor the company of the old ; consequently 
in some countries flocks of young of particular species are alone 
observed, and in others, far distant, we recognize the old. 
From parental aid the juvenile company have obtained all that 
Nature intended to bestow, — existence and education ; and 
they are now thrown upon the world among their numerous 
companions, with no other necessary guide than self-preserving 
instinct. In Europe it appears that these bands of the young 
always affect even a warmer climate than the old ; the aeration 
of their blood not being yet complete, they are more sensible 
to the rigors of cold. The season of the year has also its effect 
on the movements of birds ; thus certain species proceed to 
their northern destination more to the eastward in the spring, 
and return from it to the south-westward in autumn. 

The habitudes and extent of the migrations of birds admit 
of considerable variety. Some only fly before the inundating 
storms of winter, and return with the first dawn of spring ; 
these do not leave the continent, and only migrate in quest of 
food when it actually begins to fail. Among these may be 
named our common Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Blue- 
bird, Robin, Pewee, Cedar Bird, Blackbird, Meadow Lark, and 
many more. Others pass into warmer climates in the autumn, 

1 Travels in Mexico. 



INTRODUCTION. xxxix 

after rearing their young. Some are so given to wandering 
that their choice of a country is only regulated by the resources 
which it offers for subsistence ; such are the Pigeons, Herons 
of several kinds, Snipes, wild Geese and Ducks, the wandering 
Albatros, and Waxen Chatterer. 

The greater number of birds travel in the night ; some 
species, however, proceed only by day, as the diurnal birds of 
prey, — Crows, Pies, Wrens, Creepers, Cross-bills, Larks, Blue- 
birds, Swallows, and some others. Those which travel wholly 
in the night are the Owls, Butcher Birds, Kingfishers, Thrushes, 
Flycatchers, Night Hawks, Whip-poor-wills, and also a great 
number of aquatic birds, whose motions are also principally 
nocturnal, except in the cold and desolate northern regions, 
where they usually retire to breed. Other birds are so pow- 
erfully impelled by this governing motive to migration that 
they stop neither day nor night ; such are the Herons, Mota- 
cillas. Plovers, Swans, Cranes, Wild Geese, Storks, etc. When 
untoward circumstances render haste necessary, certain kinds 
of birds, which ordinarily travel only in the night, continue 
their route during the day, and scarcely allow themselves time 
to eat ; yet the singing-birds, properly so called, never migrate 
by day, whatever may happen to them. And it may here be 
inquired, with astonishment, how these feeble but enthusiastic 
animals are able to pass the time, thus engaged, without the 
aid of recruiting sleep ? But so powerful is this necessity for 
travel that its incentive breaks out equally in those which are 
detained in captivity, — so much so that although during the 
day they are no more alert than usual, and only occupied 
in taking nourishment, at the approach of night, far from seek- 
ing repose, as usual, they manifest great agitation, sing without 
ceasing in the cage, whether the apartment is lighted or not ; 
and when the moon shines, they appear still more restless, as it 
is their custom, at liberty, to seek the advantage of its light 
for facilitating their route. Some birds, while engaged in their 
journey, still find means to live without halting, — the Swallow, 
while traversing the sea, pursues its insect prey; those who 
can subsist on fish without any serious effort, feed as they pass 



Xl INTRODUCTION. 

or graze the surface of the deep. If the Wien, the Creeper, 
and the Titmouse rest for an instant on a tree to snatch a hasty 
morsel, in the next they are on the wing, to fulfil their destina- 
tion. However abundant may be the nourishment which 
presents itself to supply their wants, in general, birds of passage 
rarely remain more than two days together in a place. 

The cries of many birds, while engaged in their aerial voy- 
age, are such as are only heard on this important occasion, and 
appear necessary for the direction of those which fly in assem- 
bled ranks. 

During these migrations it has been observed that birds 
fly ordinarily in the higher regions of the air, except when 
fogs force them to seek a lower elevation. This habit is 
particularly prevalent with Wild Geese, Storks, Cranes, and 
Herons, which often pass at such a height as to be scarcely 
distinguishable. 

We shall not here enter into any detailed description of the 
manner in which each species conducts its migration, but 
shall content ourselves with citing the single remarkable exam- 
ple of the motions of the Cranes. Of all migrating birds, these 
appear to be endowed with the greatest share of foresight. 
They never undertake the journey alone ; throughout a circle 
of several miles they appear to communicate the intention 
of commencing their route. Several days previous to their 
departure they call upon each other by a peculiar cry, as if 
giving warning to assemble at a central point ; the favorable 
moment being at length arrived, they betake themselves to 
flight, and, in military style, fall into two lines, which, uniting 
at the summit, form an extended angle with two equal sides. 
x\t the central point of the phalanx, the chief takes his station, 
to whom the whole troop, by their subordination, appear to 
have pledged their obedience. The commander has not only 
the painful task of breaking the path through the air, but he 
has also the charge of watching for the common safety ; to 
avoid the attacks of birds of prey ; to range the two lines in a 
circle at the approach of a tenipest, in order to resist with 
more effect the squalls which menace the dispersion of the 



INTRODUCTION. xli 

linear ranks ; and, lastly, it is to their leader that the fatigued 
company look up to appoint the most convenient places for 
nourishment and repose. Still, important as is the station and 
function of the aerial director, its existence is but momentary. 
As soon as he feels sensible of fatigue, he cedes his place to 
the next in the file, and retires himself to its extremity. Dur- 
ing the night their flight is attended with considerable noise ; 
the loud cries which we hear, seem to be the marching orders 
of the chief, answered by the ranks who follow his commands. 
Wild Geese and several kinds of Ducks also make their aerial 
voyage nearly in the same manner as the Cranes. The loud 
call of the passing Geese, as they soar securely through the 
higher regions of the air, is familiar to all ; but as an additional 
proof of their sagacity and caution, we may remark that when 
fogs in the atmosphere render their flight necessarily low, they 
steal along in silence, as if aware of the danger to which their 
lower path now exposes them. 

The direction of the winds is of great importance to the 
migration of birds, not only as an assistance when favorable, 
but to be avoided when contrary, as the most disastrous of 
accidents, when they are traversing the ocean. If the breeze 
suddenly change, the aerial voyagers tack to meet it, and di- 
verging from their original course, seek the asylum of some 
land or island, as is the case very frequently with the Quails, 
who consequently, in their passage across the Mediterranean, 
at variable times, make a descent in immense numbers on the 
islands of the Archipelago, where they wait, sometimes for 
weeks, the arrival of a propitious gale to terminate their jour- 
ney. And hence we perceive the object of migrating birds, 
when they alight upon a vessel at sea : it has fallen in their 
course while seeking refuge from a baffling breeze or over- 
v/helming storm, and after a few hours of rest they wing their 
way to their previous destination. That Nature has provided 
ample means to fulfil the wonderful instinct of these feeble but 
cautious wanderers, appears in every part of their economy. 
As the period approaches for their general departure, and the 
chills of autumn are felt, their bodies begin to be loaded with 



xlii INTRODUCTION. 

cellular matter, and at no season of the year are the true birds 
of passage so fat as at the approach of their migration. The 
Gulls, Cranes, and Herons, almost proverbially macilent, are at 
this season loaded with this reservoir of nutriment, which is 
intended to administer to their support through their arduous 
and hazardous voyage. With this natural provision, dormant 
animals also commence their long and dreary sleep through 
the winter, — a nutritious resource no less necessary in birds 
while engaged in fulfilling the powerful and waking reveries of 
instinct. 

But if the act of migration surprise us when performed by 
birds of active power of wing, it is still more remarkable when 
undertaken by those of short and laborious flight, like the 
Coots and Rails, who, in fact, perform a part of their route on 
foot. The Great Penguin {^Alca i??ipe?mis) , the Guillemot, and 
the Divers, even make their voyage chiefly by dint of swim- 
ming. The young Loons ( Colymbus glacialis) , bred in inland 
ponds, though proverbially lame (and hence the name of Lom, 
or Loon), without recourse to their wings, which are at this 
time inefficient, continue their route from pond to pond, 
floundering over the intervening land by night, until at length 
they gain some creek of the sea, and finally complete their 
necessary migration by water. 

Birds of passage, both in the old and new continents, are 
observed generally to migrate southwest in autumn, and to 
pass to the northeast in spring. Parry, however, it seems, ob- 
served the birds of Greenland proceed to the southeast. This 
apparent aberration from the usual course may be accounted 
for by considering the habits of these aquatic birds. Intent on 
food and shelter, a part, bending their course over the cold 
regions of Norway and Russia, seek the shores of Europe ; 
while another division, equally considerable, proceeding south- 
west, spread themselves over the interior of the United States 
and the coast and kingdom of Mexico. 

This propensity to change their climate, induced by what- 
ever cause, is not confined to the birds of temperate regions ; 
it likewise exists among many of those who inhabit the tropics. 



INTRODUCTION. xliii 

Aquatic birds of several kinds, according to Humboldt, cross 
the line on either side about the time of the periodical rise of 
the rivers. Waterton, likewise, who spent much time in Dem- 
erara and the neighboring countries, observed that the visits of 
many of the tropical birds were periodical. Thus the wonder- 
ful Campanero, whose solemn voice is heard at intervals tolling 
like the convent- bell, was rare to Waterton, but frequent in 
Brazil, where it most probably retires to breed. The failure 
of particular food at any season, in the mildest climate, would 
be a sufficient incentive to a partial and overland migration 
with any species of the feathered race. 

The longevity of birds is various, and, different from the 
case of man and quadrupeds, seems to bear but little propor- 
tion to the age at which they acquire maturity of character. A 
few months seems sufficient to bring the bird into full posses- 
sion of all its native powers ; and there are some, as our Marsh 
Titmouse or Chickadee, which, in fact, as soon as fledged, are 
no longer to be distinguished from their parents. Land ani- 
mals generally live six or seven times as long as the period 
required to attain maturity ; but in birds the rate is ten times 
greater. In proportion to their size, they are also far more 
vivacious and long-lived than other animals of the superior 
class. Our knowledge of the longevity of birds is, however, 
necessarily limited to the few examples of domesticated species 
which we have been able to support through life : the result of 
these examples is, that our domestic Fowls have lived twenty 
years ; Pigeons have exceeded that period ; Parrots have at- 
tained more than thirty years. Geese live probably more than 
half a century ; a Pelican has lived to eighty years ; and Swans, 
Ravens, and Eagles have exceeded a century. Even Linnets, 
in the unnatural restraints of the cage, have survived for four- 
teen or fifteen years, and Canaries twenty-five. To account for 
this remarkable tenacity of hfe, nothing very satisfactory has 
been offered ; though Buffon is of opinion that the soft and 
porous nature of their bones contributes to this end, as the 
general ossification and rigidity of the system perpetually tends 
to abridge the boundaries of hfe. 



xliv INTRODUCTION. 

In a general way it may be considered as essential for the 
bird to fly as it is for the fish to swim or the quadruped to 
walk ; yet in all these tribes there are exceptions to the general 
habits. Thus among quadrupeds the bats fly, the seals swim, 
and the beaver and otter swim better than they can walk. So 
also among birds, the Ostrich, Cassowary, and some others, 
incapable of flying, are obliged to walk ; others, as the Dippers, 
fly and swim but never walk. Some, like the Swallows and 
Humming Birds, pass their time chiefly on the wing. A far 
greater number of birds live on the water than of quadrupeds, 
for of the latter there are not more than five or six kinds fur- 
nished with webbed or oar-like feet, whereas of birds with this 
structure there are several hundred. The lightness of their 
feathers and bones, as well as the boat-like form of their bodies, 
contributes greatly to facilitate their buoyancy and progress in 
the water, and their feet ser\'e as oars to propel them. 

Thus in whatever way we view the feathered tribes which 
surround us, we shall find much both to amuse and instruct. 
We hearken to their songs with renewed delight, as the harbin- 
gers and associates of the season they accompany. Their 
return, after a long absence, is hailed with gratitude to the 
Author of all existence ; and the cheerless sohtude of inani- 
mate Nature is, by their presence, attuned to life and harmony. 
Nor do they alone administer to the amusement and luxury of 
life ; faithful aids as well as messengers of the seasons, they 
associate round our tenements, and defend the various produc- 
tions of the earth, on which we so much rely for subsistence, 
from the destructive depredations of myriads of insects, which, 
but for timely riddance by unnumbered birds, would be fol- 
lowed by a general failure and famine. Public economy and 
utihty, then, no less than humanity, plead for the protection of 
the feathered race ; and the wanton destruction of birds, so 
useful, beautiful, and amusing, if not treated as such by law, 
ought to be considered as a crime by every moral, feeling, and 
reflecting mind. 




TURKEY VULTURE. 

TURKEY BUZZARD. 

Cathartes aura. 

Char. Brownish black; head bare of feathers and bright red; bill 
white; length about 2 feet. 

A^est. In a stump, or cavity among rocks, without additional material. 

Eggs^ 2 ; white, or with a tinge of green or yellow, spotted with brown 
and purple ; 2.75 X 1.90. 

This common Turkey-like Vulture is found abundantly in 
both North and South America, but seems wholly to avoid the 
Northeastern or New England States, a straggler being seldom 
seen as far as the latitude of 41°. Whether this limit arises 
from some local antipathy, their dislike of the cold eastern 
storms which prevail in the spring till the time they usually 
VOL. I. — I 



2 BIRDS OF PREY. 

breed, or some other cause, it is not easily assignable ; and the 
fact is still more remarkable, as they have been observed in the 
interior by Mr. Say as far as Pembino, in the 49th degree 
of north latitude, by Lewis and Clarke near the Falls of the 
Oregon, and they are not uncommon throughout that territory. 
They are, however, much more abundant in the warmer than 
in the colder regions, and are found beyond the equator, even 
as far or farther than the La Plata. All the West India islands 
are inhabited by them, as well as the tropical continent, where,' 
as in the Southern States of the Union, they are commonly 
protected for their services as scavengers of carrion, which 
would prove highly deleterious in those warm and humid cli- 
mates. In the winter they generally seek out warmth and 
shelter, hovering often like grim and boding spectres in the 
suburbs, and on the roofs and chimneys of the houses, around 
the cities of the Southern States. A few brave the winters of 
Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, but the greater part 
migrate south at the approach of cold weather. 

The Turkey Buzzard has not been known to breed north ot 
New Jersey in any of the Atlantic States. Here they seek out 
the swampy solitudes, and, without forming any nest, deposit 
two eggs in the stump of a hollow tree or log, on the mere 
fragments of rotten wood with which it is ordinarily strewed. 
Occasionally, in the Southern States, they have been known to 
make choice of the ruined chimney of a deserted house for 
this purpose. The eggs are larger than those of a Turkey, of 
a yellowish white, irregularly blotched with dark brown and 
blackish spots, chiefly at the larger end. The male often at- 
tends while the female is sitting; and if not materially dis- 
turbed, they will continue to occupy the same place for several 
years in succession. 

The young are covered with a whitish down, and, in common 
with the habit of the old birds, will often eject, upon those who 
happen to molest them, the filthy contents of their stomachs. 

In the cities of the South they appear to be somewhat grega- 
rious, and as if aware of the protection afforded them, pre- 
sent themselves often in the streets, and particularly near the 



TURKEY VULTURE. 3 

shambles. They also watch the emptying of the scavengers* 
carts in the suburbs, where, in company with the still more 
domestic Black Vultures, they search out their favorite morsels 
amidst dust, filth, and rubbish of all descriptions. Bits of 
cheese, of meat, fish, or anything sufficiently foetid, and easy of 
digestion, is greedily sought after, and eagerly eyed. When 
the opportunity offers they eat with gluttonous voracity, and 
fill themselves in such a manner as to be sometimes incapa- 
ble of rising from the ground. They are accused at times 
of attacking young pigs and lambs, beginning their assault by 
picking out the eyes. Mr. Waterton, however, while at Dem- 
erara watched them for hours together amidst reptiles of all 
descriptions, but they never made any attack upon them. He 
even killed lizards and frogs and put them in their way, but 
they did not appear to notice them until they attained the 
putrid scent. So that a more harmless animal, living at all 
upon flesh, is not in existence, than the Turkey Vulture. 

At night they roost in the neighboring trees, but, I believe, 
seldom in flocks like the Black kind. In winter they some- 
times pass the night in numbers on the roofs of the houses in 
the suburbs of the Southern cities, and appear particularly 
desirous of taking advantage of the warmth which they dis- 
cover to issue from the chimneys. Here, when the sun shines, 
they and their black relatives, though no wise social, may be 
observed perched in these conspicuous places basking in the 
feeble rays, and stretching out their dark wings to admit the 
warmth directly to their chilled bodies. And when not en- 
gaged in acts of necessity, they amuse themselves on fine clear 
days, even at the coolest season of the year, by soaring, in 
companies, slowly and majestically into the higher regions of 
the atmosphere ; rising gently, but rapidly, in vast spiral circles, 
they sometimes disappear beyond the thinnest clouds. They 
practise this lofty flight particularly before the commencement 
of thunder-storms, when, elevated above the war of elements, 
they float at ease in the ethereal space with outstretched wings, 
making no other apparent effort than the light balloon, only 
now and then steadying their sailing pinions as they spread 



4 BIRDS OF PREY. 

them to the fanning breeze, and become abandoned to its 
accidental sports. In South America, according to Humboldt, 
they soar even in company with the Condor in his highest 
flights, rising above the summits of the tropical Andes. 

Examples of this species still wander occasionally to New Eng- 
land and to Grand Menan, and in 1887 Mr. Philip Cox reported 
the capture of two near the mouth of the Miramichi River, on the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence, in latitude 47°. It occurs regularly on the 
St. Clair Flats, in Ontario. 

The Vultures are not classed as the first of birds by the syste- 
matists of the present day. Now the singing-birds — the Oscines — 
ar: considered the most highly developed, and of these the Thrush 
family is given highest rank. The Vultures are classed as the 
lowest of the birds of prey ; and this entire order has been moved 
down below the Swifts and the Woodpeckers. 



BLACK VULTURE. 

CARRION CROW. 
Catharista ATRATA. 

Char. Dull black ; head dusky and partially covered above with 
feathers. Length about 2 feet. 

Nest. On the ground screened by bushes, or in a stump. (No attempt 
is made to build a nest or even to lay a cushion for the eggs.) 

Eggs. 1-3 (usually 2) ; bluish white, marked with several shades of 
brown; 3.10 X 2.05. 

This smaller, black, and truly gregarious species of Vulture 
in the United States appears to be generally confined to the 
Southern States, and seems to be most numerous and familiar 
in the large maritime towns of North and South Carolina, 
Georgia, and Florida. They are also met with in several of 
the Western States, and as far up the Ohio as Cincinnati. In 
the tropical regions of America they are also very common, 
and extend at least as far as ChiH. Like the former species, 
with which they associate only at meal-times, they are tacitly 
allowed a public protection for the service they render in rid- 
ding the earth of carrion and other kinds of filth. They are 



BLACK VULTURE. 5 

much more familiar in the towns than the preceding, delight- 
ing, during winter, to remain on the roofs of houses, catching 
the feeble rays of the sun, and stretching out their wings to ad- 
mit the warm air over their foetid bodies. When the weather 
becomes unusually chilly, or in the mornings, they may be 
seen basking upon the chimneys in the warm smoke, which, 
as well as the soot itself, can add no additional darkness or 
impurity to such filthy and melancholy spectres. Here, or on 
the limbs of some of the larger trees, they remain in listless 
indolence till aroused by the calls of hunger. 

Their flight is neither so easy nor so graceful as that of the 
Turkey Buzzard. They flap their wings and then soar hori- 
zontally, renewing the motion of their pinions at short inter- 
vals. At times, however, they rise to considerable elevations. 
In the cities of Charleston and Savannah they are to be seen in 
numbers walking the streets with all the familiarity of domestic 
Fowls, examining the channels and accumulations of filth in 
order to glean up the offal or animal matter of any kind 
which may happen to be thrown out. They appeared to be 
very regular in their attendance around the shambles, and 
some of them become known by sight. This was particularly 
the case with an old veteran who hopped upon one foot 
(having by some accident lost the other), and had regularly 
appeared round the shambles to claim the bounty of the 
butchers for about twenty years. In the country, where I have 
surprised them feeding in the woods, they appeared rather shy 
and timorous, watching my movements alertly like Hawks; 
and every now and then one or two of them, as they sat in 
the high boughs of a neighboring oak, communicated to the 
rest, as I slowly approached, a low bark of alarm, or waugh, 
something like the suppressed growl of a puppy, at which the 
w^hole flock by degrees deserted the dead hog upon which 
they happened to be feeding. Sometimes they will collect 
together about one carcase to the number of two hundred 
and upwards ; and the object, whatever it may be, is soon 
robed in living mourning, scarcely anything being visible but 
a dense mass of these sable scavengers, who may often be 



6 BIRDS OF PREY. 

seen jealously contending with each other, both in and out of 
the carcase, defiled with blood and filth, holding on with their 
feet, hissing and clawing each other, or tearing off morsels so 
as to fill their throats nearly to choking, and occasionally 
joined by growling dogs, — the whole presenting one of the 
most savage and disgusting scenes in nature, and truly worthy 
the infernal bird of Prometheus. 

This species is very rarely seen north of the Carolinas, though 
a few examples have been taken in New England and at Grand 
Menan. 



AUDUBON'S CARACARA. 

CARACARA EAGLE. KING BUZZARD. 
POLYBORUS CHERIWAY. 

Char. General color brownish black ; fore part of back and breast 
barred with white ; tail white, w^ith bars of black. Length 2oi to 25 inches. 

N'est. On a low tree or bush ; made of sticks and leaves. 

Eggs. 2-4 (usually 2) ; brownish white or pale brown, blotched with 
deeper brown ; 2.30 X 1.75. 

This very remarkable and fine bird was first met with by Mr. 
x\udubon near St. Augustine, in East Florida. He afterwards 
also found it on Galveston Island, in Texas. From its general 
habits and graceful, sweeping flight, it was for some time mis- 
taken for a Hawk. Though common in many parts of South 
America, it is within the hmits of the United States merely an 
accidental visitor. It is said, however, to breed in Florida, in 
the highest branches of tall trees in the pine-barrens, making 
a rough nest of sticks like a Hawk. In Texas it breeds, accord- 
ing to Audubon, in the tops of bushes. 

Since Nuttall wrote, the Caracara has been found in numbers 
in parts of Florida, and it is not uncommon in Texas, southern 
Arizona, and Lower California. 




WHITE GYRFALCON. 

Falco islandus. 

Char. Prevailing color white, often immaculate, but usually with 
dark markings. Legs partially feathered. A sharp tooth near point of 
upper mandible ; the end of under mandible notched. Length 21 to 24 
inches. 

Nest. Usually on a cliff ; roughly made of sticks, — large dry twigs. 

Eggs. 3-4; buff or brownish, marked with reddish brown; 2.25 
X 1.25. 



GRAY GYRFALCON. 
Falco rusticolus. 

Char. Prevailing color dull gray, with whitish and slaty-blue bands 
and spots; sometimes white prevails ; thighs usually barred. 



8 BIRDS OF PREY. 

GYRFALCON. 

Falco rusticolus gyrfalco. 

Char. Upper parts dull brownish (dusky), with bars of bluish gray; 
lower parts white, or mostly white marked with dusky ; thighs heavily 
barred. 



BLACK GYRFALCON. 

Falco rusticolus obsoletus. 

Char. Prevailing color brownish black; usually barred with lighter 
tints, but sometimes the bars are indistinct. 

This elegant and celebrated Falcon is about two feet in 
length ; the female two or three inches longer. They particu- 
larly abound in Iceland, and are found also throughout Siberia, 
and the North of Europe as far as Greenland ; Mr. Hutchins, 
according to Pennant, saw them commonly about Fort Albany, 
at Hudson's Bay. Occasionally a pair is also seen in this 
vicinity in the depth of winter. They brave the coldest cU- 
mates, for which they have such a predilection as seldom to 
leave the Arctic regions ; the younger birds are commonly seen 
in the North of Germany, but very rarely the old, which are 
readily distinguished by the superior whiteness of their plumage, 
which augments with age, and by the increasing narrowness 
of the transverse stripes that ornament the upper parts of the 
body. The finest of these Falcons were caught in Iceland by 
means of baited nets. The bait was commonly a Ptarmigan, 
Pigeon, or common Fowl ; and such was the velocity and 
power of his pounce that he commonly severed the head 
from the baited bird as nicely as if it had been done by a 
razor. These birds were reserved for the kings of Denmark, 
and from thence they were formerly transported into Ger- 
many, and even Turkey and Persia. The taste for the amuse- 
ment of falconry was once very prevalent throughout Europe, 
and continued for several centuries ; but at this time it has 
almost wholly subsided. The Tartars, and Asiatics gener- 
ally, were also equally addicted to this amusement. A Sir 



DUCK HAWK. 9 

Thomas Monson, no later than the reign of James the First, 
is said to have given a thousand pounds for a cast of Hawks. 

Next to the Eagle, this bird is the most formidable, active, 
and intrepid, and was held in the highest esteem for falconry. 
It boldly attacks the largest of birds ; the Swan, Goose, Stork, 
Heron, and Crane are to it easy victims. In its native regions 
it lives much on the hare and Ptarmigan ; upon these it darts 
with astonishing velocity, and often seizes its prey by pouncing 
upon it almost perpendicularly. It breeds in the cold and 
desert regions where it usually dwells, fixing its nests amidst 
the most lofty and inaccessible rocks. 

Nuttall treated the four forms as one, while I follow the A. O. U. 
in separating them ; though I do not think that the present classifi- 
cation will be retained. The accessible material is very limited, 
but it appears to indicate that there is but one species with two, 
or possibly three, geographical races. The nests and eggs and 
the habits are similar, the difference being entirely that of plu- 
mage, — the prevalence of the dark or white color. 

The White breeds chiefly in North Greenland and along the bor- 
ders of the Arctic Ocean ; the Gray breeds in South Greenland ; the 
Black is restricted to Labrador ; and the habitat Oti gyrfalco is given 
as " interior of Arctic America from Hudson's Bay to Alaska." 
Specimens of all four have been taken south of latitude 45°, and 
a few of the Black have been taken, in winter, as far south as 
southern New England and New York. 



Note. — A few examples of the Prairie Falcon [Falco mexi- 
canus) have accidentally wandered to the prairie districts of 
Illinois. 



DUCK HAWK. 

peregrine falcon. great-footed hawk. 

Falco peregrinus anatum. 

Char. Above, bluish ash or brownish black, the edges of the feathers 
paler; below, ashy 'or dull tawny, with bars or streaks of brownish; a 
black patch on the cheeks. Bill of bluish color, and toothed and notched, 
as in all true Falcons; cere yellow. Wing long, thin, and pointed. 
Length 17 to 19 inches. 



lO BIRDS OF PREY. 

Nest. On tree or cliff; a loosely arranged platform of dry sticks, 
sometimes partially lined with grass, leaves, or moss. 

Eggs. 2-4 ; reddish brown — sometimes of bright tint — marked with 
dull red and rich brown ; 2.10 X 1.60. 

The celebrated, powerful, and princely Falcon is common 
both to the continent of Europe and America. In the former 
they are chiefly found in mountainous regions, and make their 
nests in the most inaccessible clefts of rocks, and very rarely 
in trees, laying 3 or 4 eggs of a reddish-yellow, with brown 
spots. In Europe they seldom descend to the plains, and 
avoid marshy countries. The period of incubation lasts but 
a short time, and commences in winter, or very early in the 
spring, so that the young acquire their full growth by the 
middle of May. They are supposed to breed in the' tall trees 
of the desolate cedar swamps in New Jersey. Audubon, how- 
ever, found them nesting on shelving rocks on the shores of 
Labrador and Newfoundland, laying from 2 to 5 eggs of a 
rusty yellowish brown, spotted and blotched with darker tints 
of the same color. They also breed on shelving rocks in the 
Rocky Mountains, where Mr. Townsend obtained a specimen 
on Big Sandy River of the Colorado of the West in the month 
of July. When the young have attained their growth, the 
parents drive them from their haunts, with incessant and 
piercing screams and complaints, — an unnatural propensity 
which nothing but dire necessity, the difficulty of acquiring 
sustenance, can palliate. 

In strength and temerity the Falcon is not exceeded by 
any bird of its size. He soars with easy and graceful motions 
amidst the clouds or clear azure of the sky ; from this lofty 
elevation he selects his victim from among the larger birds, — 
Grouse, Pheasants, Pigeons, Ducks, or Geese. Without being 
perceived, he swiftly descends, as if falling from the clouds in 
a perpendicular line, and carries terror and destruction into 
the timid ranks of his prey. Instead of flying before their 
relentless enemy, the Partridge and Pheasant run and closely 
hide in the grass, the Pigeons glance aside to avoid the fatal 
blow which is but too sure in its aim, and the Water Fowls seek 



PIGEON HAWK. II 

a more certain refuge in diving beneath their yielding element. 
If the prey be not too large, the Falcon mounts into the air, 
bearing it off in his talons, and then alights to gorge himself 
with his booty at leisure. Sometimes he attacks the Kite, 
another fellow-plunderer, either in wanton insult, or more 
probably to rob him of his quarry. 

The Peregrine is very generally distributed throughout America, 
but excepting on the Atlantic coast of Labrador, and possibly on 
Newfoundland, it is nowhere common in this faunal province. It 
is a winter visitor chiefly in Ohio and southern Ontario, but it is 
known to breed on isolated chffs in the Maritime Provinces and the 
New England States, and it is said that nests have been found in 
Pennsylvania and Maryland. The report of its building in a swamp 
in New Jersey has not been confirmed. 



PIGEON HAWK. 
Falco columbarius. 

Char. Generally the prevailing color, above, is blackish brown, though 
the older birds assume a dull tint approaching bluish gray ; wings, back, 
and tail streaked and barred with buffy or reddish brown. Tail tipped with 
white ; the middle tail-feathers in male with four bands of blackish, and 
in female about six pale bands. Below, dull, pale reddish brown, lighter 
on breast and throat. Length 1 1 to 13 inches. 

A^est. Usually on branches of trees, though found sometimes in cavi- 
ties of dead trees and on cliffs ; loosely built of twigs, and lined with grass 
and leaves. 

Eggs. 3-6 ; buffy or pale reddish-brown ground color, blotched with 
dull red and brown ; 1.30 X 1.55. 

This species is a little larger than the following, bu.- by no 
means so abundant ; though met with in latitude forty- eight 
degrees by Long's Northwestern Expedition, and occasion- 
ally extending its migrations from Texas to Hudson's Bay, and 
rearing its young in the interior of Canada, Its nest was also 
observed by Audubon in Labrador in the low fir-trees, and con- 
tained five eggs, laid about the ist of June. It is shy, skulk- 
ing, and watchful, seldom venturing beyond the unreclaimed 
forest, and flies rapidly, but, I believe, seldom soars or hovers. 



12 BIRDS OF PREY. 

Small birds and mice constitute its principal food ; and ac- 
cording to Wilson, it follows often in the rear of the gregarious 
birds, such as the Blackbirds and Reedbirds, as well as after 
the flitting flocks of Pigeons and Robins, picking up the strag- 
glers, the weak and unguarded, as its legitimate prey. Some- 
times, when shot at without effect, it will fly in circles around 
the gunner and utter impatient shrieks, — probably in appre- 
hension for the safety of the mate, or to communicate a cry 
of alarm. 

The Pigeon Hawk is a common migrant through New England, 
Ohio, and southern Ontario. It is always late in migrating, and a 
few examples have been seen in Massachusetts in midwinter. It 
breeds sparingly in the northern portions of New England, and the 
Maritime Provinces of Canada. Its breeding area extends north 
to the lower fur countries, and in winter it ranges to the Southern 
States and South America. 



Note. — One example of the European Merlin {Falco regulus) 
has been captured off the coast of Greenland. 




AMERICAN SPARROW HAWK. 

Falco sparverius. 

Char. Adult male : head bluish ash, with reddish patch on crown, and 
black patch on sides and nape ; back rufous ; wings bluish and black in 
bars ; tail tawny, with black band, and tipped with white ; below, buffish or 
tawny. Female : rufous barred with black ; underparts buffy streaked 
with tawny ; tail tawny, with blackish Lars. Length lo inches. 

Nest. Usually in cavities of trees, often in Woodpecker's holes, some- 
times in deserted nest of a Crow. 

Eggs. 5-7 ; buffish, occasionally white, blotched with dull red and 
brown; 1.33 X 112. 

This beautiful and singularly marked bird appears to reside 
principally in the warmer parts of the United States. They are 
particularly abundant in the winter throughout South Carolina, 
Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, whither they assemble from 
the remote interior of the Northern States, wandering in sum- 
mer as far as the Rocky Mountains, and were even seen by 
Dr. Richardson in the remote latitude of 53° ; these appear, 
however, to be only stragglers, nor do they seem at all to visit 



14 BIRDS OF PREY. 

the maritime districts of New England. As they were seen in 
St. Domingo, by Veillot, abundantly in April and May, the 
breeding-season, we may naturally conclude that this species 
has a much greater predilection for the warm than the cold 
climates. On the south side of the equator, even in Cayenne 
and Paraguay, they are still found, in all of which countries 
they probably breed. 

According to the habits of this tribe of rapacious birds 
it appears that the nest is built in a hollow, shattered, or 
decayed tree at a considerable elevation. 

Its motions appear somewhat capricious ; it occasionally 
hovers with beating wings, reconnoitring for prey, and soon 
impatiently darts off to a distance to renew Khe same ma- 
noeuvre. In the winter, however, it is most commonly seen 
perched on some dead branch, or on a pole or stalk in the 
fields, often at a little distance from the ground, keeping up a 
frequent jerking of the tail, and attentively watching for some 
such humble game as mice, grasshoppers, or lizards. At this 
time it is likewise so familiar as to enter the garden, orchard, 
or premises near to the house, and shows but little alarm on 
being approached. It is, however, by no means deficient in 
courage, and, like the larger Falcons, often makes a fatal and 
rapid sweep upon Sparrows or those small birds which are its 
accustomed prey. 

Instead of being a mere straggler outside the warmer portions of 
the United States, as Nuttall appears to have considered this Fal- 
con, it is quite common throughout most of the continent, and not 
only breeds in New England, but occasionally winters there. It 
breeds also throughout Canada, north to the lower fur countries, 
and during the cold weather ranges from New Jersey to the 
Southern States. 



Note. — The Cuban Sparrow Hawk (Falco dominicensis) 
has been found in Florida ; and two examples of the Kestrel 
{Falco tinnuficulus) have been captured on this side of the 
Atlantic, — one off the coast of Greenland, and the other at Nan- 
tasket, Mass., in 1887. 




'cm^^^^Lm 



GOLDEN EAGLE. 
Aquila chrysaetos. 

Char. Dark brown, head and neck tawny brown ; legs feathered to 
the toes ; in the young, tail whitish, with broad terminal band of black. 

JVest. On a tree, sometimes on a high cliff; loosely built of dry sticks, 
lined with twigs, grass, moss, leaves, and feathers. 

jEg-gs. 2-3 (usually 2); dull white or pale buff, spotted and blotched 
more or less thickly with reddish brown and lavender ; 3.00 X 2.30. 

This ancient monarch of the birds is found in all the cold 
and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, taking up 
his abode by choice in the great forests and plains, and in wild, 
desert, and mountainous regions. His eyry, commonly formed 
of an extensive set of layers of large sticks, is nearly horizontal, 
and occasionally extended between some rock and adjoining 



l6 BIRDS OF PREY. 

tree, as was the one described by Willughby in the Peak of 
Derbyshire. About thirty miles inland from the Mandan Fort 
on the Missouri I once had occasion to observe the eyry of 
this noble bird, which here consisted of but a slender lining of 
sticks conveyed into a rocky chasm on the face of a lofty hill 
rising out of the grassy, open plain. It contained one young 
bird, nearly fledged, and almost of the color of the Gyrfalcon. 
Near their rocky nests they are seen usually in pairs, at times 
majestically soaring to a vast height and gazing on the sun, 
towards which they ascend until they disappear from view. 
From this sublime elevation they often select their devoted 
prey, — sometimes a kid or a lamb from the sporting flock, or 
the timid rabbit or hare crouched in the furrow or sheltered in 
some bush. The largest birds are also frequently their victims ; 
and in extreme want they will not refuse to join with the 
alarmed Vulture in his cadaverous repast. After this gorging 
meal the Eagle can, if necessary, fast for several days. The 
precarious nature of his subsistence and the violence by which 
it is constantly obtained seem to produce a moral effect on 
the disposition of this rapacious bird : though in pairs, they are 
never seen associated with their young; their offspring are 
driven forth to lead the same unsocial, wandering life as their 
unfeeling progenitors. This harsh and tyrannical disposition is 
strongly displayed even when they lead a life of restraint and 
confinement. The weaker bird is never willingly suffered to 
eat a single morsel ; and though he may cower and quail under 
the blow with the most abject submission, the same savage 
deportment continues towards him as long as he exists. Those 
which I have seen in confinement frequently uttered hoarse 
and stridulous cries, sometimes almost barkings, accompanied 
by vaporous breathings, strongly expressive of their ardent, 
unquenchable, and savage appetites. Their fire-darting eyes, 
lowering brows, flat foreheads, restless disposition, and terrific 
plaints, together with their powerful natural weapons, seem to 
assimilate them to the tiger rather than the timorous bird. Yet 
it would appear that they may be rendered docile, as the Tar- 
tars (according to Marco Polo in 1269) were said to train 



GOLDEN EAGLE. 1/ 

this species to the chase of hares, foxes, wolves, antelopes, and 
other kinds of large game, in which it displayed all the docility 
of the Falcon. The longevity of the Eagle is as remarkable as 
its strength ; it is believed to subsist for a century, and is about 
three years in gaining its complete growth and fixed plumage. 
This bird was held in high estimation by the ancients on ac- 
count of its extraordinary magnitude, courage, and sanguinary 
habits. The Romans chose it as an emblem for their imperial 
standard ; and from its aspiring flight and majestic soaring it 
was fabled to hold communication with heaven and to be the 
favorite messenger of Jove. The Tartars have a particular 
esteem for the feathers of the tail, with which they supersti- 
tiously think to plume invincible arrows. It is no less the 
venerated War-Eagle of our Northern and Western aborigines ; 
and the caudal feathers are extremely valued for taHsmanic 
head-dresses and as sacred decorations for the Pipe of Peace. 

The Eagle appears to be more abundant around Hudson's 
Bay than in the United States ; but they are not unfrequent in 
the great plains of the Mississippi and Missouri, as appears 
from the frequent use of the feathers by the natives. The 
wilderness seems their favorite resort, and they neither crave 
nor obtain any advantage from the society of man. Attached 
to the mountains in which they are bred, it is a rare occurrence 
to see the Eagle in this vicinity ; and, as with some other birds, 
it would appear that the young only are found in the United 
States, while the old remain in Labrador and the northern 
regions. The lofty mountains of New Hampshire afford suit- 
able situations for the eyry of the Eagle, over whose snow-clad 
summits he is seen majestically soaring in solitude and gran- 
deur. A young bird from this region, which I have seen in a 
state of domestication, showed considerable docility. He had, 
however, been brought up from the nest, in which he was found 
in the month of August ; he appeared even playful, turning his 
head about in a very antic manner, as if desirous to attract 
attention, — still, his glance was quick and fiery. When birds 
were given to him, he plumed them very clean before he began 
his meal, and picked the subject to a perfect skeleton. 

VOL. I. 2 



1 8 BIRDS OF PREY. 

The ferocious and savage nature of the Eagle, in an unre- 
claimed state, is sometimes displayed in a remarkable manner. 
A peasant attempted to rob an eyry of this bird situated at the 
Lake of Killarney : for this purpose he stripped and swam over 
to the spot in the absence of the old birds ; but on his return, 
while yet up to the chin in water, the parents arrived, and 
missing their young, instantly fell on the unfortunate plunderer 
and killed him on the spot. 

There are several well-authenticated instances of their carry- 
ing off children to their nests. In 1737, in the parish of 
Norderhougs, in Norway, a boy over two years old, on his way 
from the cottage to his parents, at work in the fields at no great 
distance, fell into the pounce of an Eagle, who flew off with 
the child in their sight, and was seen no more. Anderson, in 
his history of Iceland, says that in that island children of four 
or five years of age have occasionally been borne away by 
Eagles ; and Ray relates that in one of the Orkneys a child of 
a year old was seized in the talons of this ferocious bird and 
carried about four miles to its nest, but the mother, knowing 
the place of the eyry, followed the bird, and recovered her child 
yet unhurt. 

The Common, or Ring-tailed Eagle, is now found to be the 
young of the Golden Eagle. These progressive changes have 
been observed by Temminck on two living subjects which he 
kept for several years. 

The Golden Eagle is generally considered to be a rare bird in 
New England and Canada, and, indeed, throughout the settled dis- 
tricts everywhere ; though examples have been taken the continent 
over, from Greenland to Mexico, and west to the Pacific. 







BALD EAGLE. 



WASHINGTON EAGLE. 



Halleetus LEUCOCEPHALUS. 



Char. Adult : blackish brown, paler on margin of feathers ; head and 
tail white after third year; bill and feet yellow; legs bare of feathers. 
Young: darker than the adult; no white on head or tail (or concealed by 
contour feathers); bill and feet brownish. 

Length 30 to 40 inches. (The young are larger than the adult birds, 
and are very similar to the young of the Golden Eagle, though the latter 
are easily distinguished by their feathered legs.) 

Nest. On a high tree, usually in a crotch, seldom on a dead tree, some- 
times on a cliff ; made of dry sticks loosely arranged, and occasionally 
weed-stems and coarse grass are added ; but there is rarely any attempt at 
a lining. 

Eggs. 2-3; white or pale buff; 2.90 X 2.25. 



20 BIRDS OF PREY. 

The Washingtofi Eagle. — It is to the indefatigable Audu- 
bon that we owe the distinct note and description of this noble 
Eagle, which first drew his attention while voyaging far up the 
Mississippi, in the month of February, 1S14. At length he had 
the satisfaction of discovering its eyry, in the high cliffs of Green 
River, in Kentucky, near to its junction with the Ohio : two 
young were discovered loudly hissing from a fissure in the 
rocks, on the approach of the male, from whom they received 
a fish. The female now also came, and with solicitous alarm 
for the safety of her young, gave a loud scream, dropped the 
food she had brought, and hovering over the molesting party, 
kept up a growling and threatening cry by way of intimidation ; 
and in fact, as our disappointed naturalist soon discovered, she 
from this time forsook the spot, and found means to convey 
away her young. The discoverer considers the species as rare, 
— indeed, its principal residence appears to be in the northern 
parts of the continent, particularly the rocky solitudes around 
the Great Northwestern Lakes, where it can at all times col- 
lect its finny prey and rear its young without the dread of man. 
In the winter season, about January and February, as well as at 
a later period of the spring, these birds are occasionally seen 
in this vicinity (Cambridge, Mass.), — rendered perhaps bolder 
and more familiar by want, as the prevalence of the ice and 
cold at this season drives them to the necessity of wandering far- 
ther than usual in search of food. At this early period Audubon 
observed indications of the approach of the breeding-season. 
They are sometimes seen contending in the air, so that one of 
the antagonists will suddenly drop many feet downwards, as if 
wounded or alarmed. My friend Dr. Hayward, of Boston, had 
in his possession one of these fine, docile Eagles for a consid- 
erable time ; but desirous of devoting it to the then Linnaean 
Museum, he attempted to poison it by corrosive sublimate of 
mercury : several times, however, doses even of two drams 
were given to it, concealed in fish, without producing any inju- 
rious effect on its health. 

The Washington Eagle, bold and vigorous, disdains the 
piratical habits of the Bald Eagle, and invariably obtains his 



BALD EAGLE. 21 

own sustenance without molesting the Osprey. The circles he 
describes in his flight are wider than those of the White- 
headed Eagle ; he also flies nearer to the land or the surface 
of the water ; and when about to dive for his prey, he descends 
in circuitous, spiral rounds, as if to check the retreat of the 
fish, on which he darts only when within the distance of a few 
yards. When his prey is obtained, he flies out at a low eleva- 
tion to a considerable distance to enjoy his repast at leisure. 
The quantity of food consumed by this enormous bird is very 
great, according to the account of those who have had them 
in confinement. Mr. Audubon's male bird weighed fourteen 
and one half pounds avoirdupois. One in a small museum in 
Philadelphia (according to the account of my friend Mr. C. 
Pickering), also a male, weighed much more, — by which dif- 
ference it would appear that they are capable of becoming 
exceedingly fat ; for the length of this bird was about the same 
as that of Audubon, — three feet six or seven inches. The 
width, however, was only about seven feet, — agreeing pretty 
nearly with a specimen now in the New England Museum. 
The male of the Golden Eagle, the largest hitherto known, is 
seldom more than three feet long. 

That this bird is not the White-tailed Eagle {Falco albi- 
ciila), or its young, the Sea Eagle {F. ossifragus)^ is obvi- 
ous from the difference in size alone, the male of that bird 
being little over two feet four inches in length, or a little 
less even than the Bald Eagle. The female of the Washing- 
ton Eagle must, of course, be six or eight inches longer, — 
which will give a bird of unparalleled magnitude amongst the 
whole Eagle race. This measurement of the Sea Eagle is 
obtained from Temminck's " Manual of Ornithology," who has 
examined more than fifty individuals. At the same time I have 
a suspicion that the Washington Eagle, notwithstanding this^ 
exists also in Europe ; as the g7'eat Sea Eagle of Brisson is 
described by this author as being three feet six inches in length 
from the point of the bill to the end of the tail, and the stretch 
of the wings about seven feet ! These measurements also are 
adopted by Buffon ; but the individuals were evidently in young 



22 BIRDS OF PREY. 

plumage, in which state, as described by Brisson, they again 
approach the present species. Nor need it be considered as 
surprising if two different species be confounded in the Sea 
Eagle of Europe, as the recently established Imperial Eagle 
had ever been confounded with the Golden. Another distin- 
guishing trait of the Washington Eagle is in the length of the 
tail, which is one and one half inches longer than the folded 
wings. In the White-tailed species this part never extends 
beyond the wings. 

The White-headed or Bald Eagle. — This noble and daring 
Eagle is found along the sea-coasts, lakes, and rivers through- 
out the northern regions, being met with in Asia, Europe, and 
America, where they extend to the shores of the Pacific, and 
as far as the confines of California. In Behring's Isle, Mack- 
enzie's River, and Greenland, they are not uncommon. But 
while they are confined in the Old World to this cheerless re- 
gion so constantly that only two instances are known of their 
appearance in the centre of Europe, in the United States they 
are most abundant in the milder latitudes, residing, breeding, 
and rearing their young in all the intermediate space from 
Nova Scotia or Labrador to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. 
The rocky coast of this part of New England (Massachusetts) 
is, however, seldom tenanted by this species, though they are 
occasionally seen in the spring and about the commencement 
of winter. In the United States it is certain that they show a 
decided predilection for the milder climates. It is probable 
that in Europe they are deterred in their migrations by the 
tyrannical persecution of the White-tailed Eagle {F. albiciUa)^ 
which abounds in that country, living also principally on fish, 
and therefore selecting the same maritime situations as our 
Eagle. In the United States he sways almost without control 
the whole coast of the Atlantic, and has rendered the rival 
Osprey his humble tributary, proscribing, in his turn, the ap- 
pearance of the Sea Eagle, which, if it exist at all with us, is 
equally as rare as the present species appears to be in Europe. 

Though on Behring's Isle the Bald Eagle is said to nest on 



BALD EAGLE. 23 

cliifs, as the only secure situation that probably offers, in the 
United States he usually selects, near the sea-coast, some lofty 
pine or cypress tree for his eyry ; this is built of large sticks, 
several feet in length, forming a floor, within and over which 
are laid sods of earth, hay, moss, dry reeds, sedge-grass, pine- 
tops, and other coarse materials, piled after several incubations 
to the height of 5 or 6, feet, and 4 or 5 feet in breadth. On 
this almost level bed the female early in February deposits two 
dull white eggs, one of which is said sometimes to be laid after 
an interval so considerable that the young are hatched at dif- 
ferent periods. Lawson, however, says that they breed so 
often as to commence laying again under their callow young, 
whose warmth assists the hatching of the eggs. This eyry 01 
breeding-place continues to be perpetually occupied and re- 
paired as long as the tree endures, — indeed their attachment 
to particular places is so strong that after their habitation has 
been demolished, by the destruction of the tree that supported 
it, they have very contentedly taken possession of an adjoin- 
ing one. Nor is the period of incubation the only time spent 
in the nest by this species ; it is a shelter and common habi- 
tation at all times and seasons, being a home like the hut to 
the savage, or the cottage to the peasant. 

The helpless young, as might be supposed, are fed with 
great attention, and supplied with such a superfluity of fish 
and other matters that they often He scattered around the 
tree, producing the most putrid and noisome effluvia. The 
young are at first clothed with a whitish down ; they gradually 
become gray, and continue of a brownish gray until the third 
year, when the characteristic white of the head and tail be- 
comes perfectly developed. As their food is abundant, the 
young are not forcibly driven from the nest, but fed for some 
time after they have left it. They are by no means shy or 
timorous, will often permit a near approach, and sometimes 
even bristle up their feathers in an attitude of daring de- 
fence. Their cry is sonorous and lamentable, hke that of the 
Great Eagle, and when asleep they are said to make a very 
audible snoring sound. 



24 BIRDS OF PREY. 

The principal food of the Bald Eagle is fish ; and though he 
possesses every requisite of alertness and keenness of vision 
for securing his prey, it is seldom that he obtains it by any 
other means than stratagem and rapine. For this habitual 
daring purpose he is often seen perching upon the naked 
Hmb of some lofty tree which commands an extensive view of 
the ocean. In this attitude of expectation he heedlessly sur- 
veys the active employment of the feathered throng, which 
course along the wavy strand, or explore the watery deep with 
beating wing, until from afar he attentively scans the motions 
of his provider, the ample-winged and hovering Osprey. At 
length the watery prey is espied, and the feathered fisher de- 
scends like a falling rock ; cleaving the wave, he now bears his 
struggling victim from the deep, and mounting in the air, 
utters an exulting scream. At this signal the Eagle pirate 
gives chase to the fortunate fisher, and soaring above him, by 
threatening attitudes obliges him to relinquish his prey; the 
Eagle, now poising for a surer aim, descends like an arrow, 
and snatching his booty before it arrives at the water, retires 
to the woods to consume it at leisure. These perpetual dep- 
redations on the industrious Osprey sometimes arouse him to 
seek for vengeance, and several occasionally unite to banish 
their tyrannical invader. When greatly pressed by hunger, the 
Bald Eagle has sometimes been observed to attack the Vul- 
ture in the air, obliging him to disgorge the carrion in his 
craw, which he snatches up before it reaches the ground. He 
is sometimes seen also to drive away the Vultures, and feed 
voraciously on their carrion. Besides fish, he preys upon 
Ducks, Geese, Gulls, and other sea-fowl ; and when the re- 
sources of the ocean diminish, or fail from any cause, par- 
ticularly on the southern migration of the Osprey, his inland 
depredations are soon notorious, young lambs, pigs, fawns, and 
even deer often becoming his prey. So indiscriminate in- 
deed is the fierce appetite of this bold bird that instances are 
credibly related of their carrying away infants. An attempt of 
this kind, according to Wilson, was made upon a child lying 
by its mother as she was weeding a garden at Great Egg- 



BALD EAGLE. 25 

Harbor, in New Jersey ; but the garment seized upon by the 
Eagle giving way at the instant of the attempt, the Hfe of the 
child was spared. I have heard of another instance, said to 
have happened at Petersburgh, in Georgia, near the Savannah 
River, where an infant, sleeping in the shade near the house, 
was seized and carried to the eyry near the edge of a swamp 
five miles distant, and when found, almost immediately, the 
child was dead. The story of the Eagle and child, in *' The 
History of the House of Stanley," the origin of the crest of 
that family, shows the credibility of the exploit, as supposed to 
have been effected by the White-tailed Eagle, so nearly related 
to the present. Indeed, about the year 1745 some Scotch 
reapers, accompanied by the wife of one of them with an 
infant, repaired to an island in Loch Lomond ; the mother laid 
down her child in the shade at no great distance from her, and 
while she was busily engaged in labor, an Eagle of this kind 
suddenly darted upon the infant and immediately bore it away 
to its rocky eyry on the summit of Ben Lomond. The alarm 
of this shocking event was soon spread ; and a considerable 
party, hurrying to the rescue, fortunately succeeded in recover- 
ing the child alive. 

The Bald Eagle, like most of the large species, takes wide 
circuits in its flight, and soars at great heights. In these sub- 
lime attitudes he may often be seen hovering over waterfalls 
and lofty cataracts, particularly that of the famous Niagara, 
where he watches for the fate of those unfortunate fish and 
other animals that are destroyed in the descent of the tumul- 
tuous waters. 

All ornithologists of the present day agree in the opinion that 
Audubon's " Bird of Washington " was an immature Bald Eagle, 
— the difference in size and coloration accounting for the error. 

Nuttall. following Audubon, wrote of the two phases as of dis- 
tinct species; for it was not until about 1870 that washingtotti W2is 
dropped from the lists. I have given the two biographies as they 
appeared in the original work, for together they form a good his- 
tory of the bird's distinctive habits. The difference in habits noted 
is not due to difference of age, as might be supposed, but to the 
different conditions under which the birds chanced to be observed. 



26 BIRDS OF PREY. 

I will take this opportunity of protesting against the perpetua- 
tion of an idea, still current, which originated with the older writers, 
concerning the "nobility" of the Falcofiidtz, undtr which family 
name are grouped the Eagles, Falcons, Kites, and Hawks. They 
were until quite recently classed among the first of the feathered 
race ; but the systematists now place them below the Woodpeckers, 
and next above the Grouse and Pigeons. 

The majority of the FalconidcB have an attractive physique and 
superior strength, as well as a haughty bearing. They are hand- 
some, stalwart ruffians, but they are nothing more. They are 
neither the most intelligent nor most enterprising of birds, nor the 
bravest. They are not even the swiftest, or most dexterous on the 
wing ; and in bearing, proudly as they carry themselves, are not 
supreme. 

It is now considered probable that the tales of Eagles carrying 
off children are myths. 



GRAY SEA EAGLE. 

WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. 
Halleetus ALBICILLA. 

Char. General color, grayish-brown (paler on margin of feathers); 

head and neck gray, — paler in old birds ; tail white ; legs bare. 

Length : male, 33 inches ; female, 38 inches. 

N'est. In a tree or on a rock, sometimes on the ground ; made of dry 
sticks loosely arranged and often piled to considerable height. 

Eggs. 1-3 (usually 2); dull white; 2.85 X 2.25. 

Mr. Hagerup reports that this European bird breeds in southern 
Greenland and is quite common there. It feeds principally on fish, 
but will eat any kind of meat or carrion, being particularly partial 
to water fowl, and is much more enterprising than is its congener, 
the Bald Eagle. 




AMERICAN OSPREY. 



fish hawk. 
Pandion haliaetus carolinensis. 

Char. Above, dark brown ; head and neck white, with dark stripe on 
side of the head ; tail grayish, with several narrow dark bars, and tipped 
with white; under-parts white or bufifish, sometimes (in female) streaked 
with brown. Feet and claws large and strong. Hook of the bill long. 
Length 21 to 25 inches. 

Nest. Of loosely arranged sticks on top of high tree, — generally a 
dead tree is selected; usually near water. 

Eggs. 2 to 4 ; variable in shape, color, size, and markings ; ground 
color generally whitish, with yellow or red tint, blotched with reddish 
brown of various shades. Size about 2.50 X 175. 

This large and well-known species, allied to the Eagles, is 
found near fresh and salt water in almost every country in the 



28 BIRDS OF PREY. 

world. In summer it wanders into the Arctic regions of 
Europe, Asia, and America ; it is also equally prevalent in the 
milder parts of both continents, as in Greece and Egypt. In 
America it is found in the summer from Labrador, and the 
interior around Hudson's Bay, to Florida; and according to 
Buffon, it extends its residence to the tropical regions of 
Cayenne. 

Its food being almost uniformly fish, it readily acquires sub- 
sistence as long as the waters remain unfrozen ; but at the 
commencement of cool weather, even as early as the close of 
September, or at farthest the middle of October, these birds 
leave New York and New Jersey and go farther south. This 
early period of departure is, in all probability, like their arrival 
towards the close of March, wholly regulated by the coming 
and going of the shoals of fish on which they are accustomed 
to feed. Towards the close of March or beginning of April 
they arrive in the vicinity of Boston with the first shoal of 
alewives or herrings ; but yet are seldom known to breed along 
the coast of Massachusetts. Their arrival in the spring is wel- 
comed by the fisherman as the sure indication of the approach 
of those shoals of shad, herring, and other kinds of fish which 
now begin to throng the bays, inlets, and rivers near the ocean ; 
and the abundance with which the waters teem affords ample 
sustenance for both the aerial and terrestrial fishers, as each 
pursues in peace his favorite and necessary employment. In 
short, the harmless industry of the Osprey, the familiarity with 
which he rears his young around the farm, his unexpected 
neutrality towards all the domestic animals near him, his sub- 
limely picturesque flight and remarkable employment, with the 
strong affection displayed towards his constant mate and long 
helpless young, and the wrongs he hourly suffers from the 
pirate Eagle, are circumstances sufficiently calculated, without 
the aid of ready superstition, to ensure the public favor and 
tolerance towards this welcome visitor. Driven to no harsh 
necessities, like his superiors the Eagles, he leads a compar- 
atively harmless life ; and though unjustly doomed to servitude, 
his address and industry raise him greatly above his oppressor, 
so that he supplies himself and his young with a plentiful 



AMERICAN OSPREY. 29 

sustenance. His docility and adroitness in catching fish have 
also sometimes been employed by man for his advantage. 

Intent on exploring the sea for his food, he leaves the nest 
and proceeds direcdy to the scene of action, sailing round in 
easy and wide circles, and turning at times as on a pivot, ap- 
parently without exertion, while his long and curving wings 
seem scarcely in motion. At the height of from one hundred 
to two hundred feet he continues to survey the bosom of the 
deep. Suddenly he checks his course and hovers in the air 
with beating pinions ; he then descends with rapidity, but the 
wily victim has escaped. Now he courses near the surface, and 
by a dodging descent, scarcely wetting his feet, he seizes a fish, 
which he sometimes drops, or yields to the greedy Eagle ; but, 
not discouraged, he again ascends in spiral sweeps to regain 
the higher regions of the air and renew his survey of the watery 
expanse. His prey again espied, he descends perpendicularly 
like a falling plummet, plunging into the sea with a loud, rush- 
ing noise and with an unerring aim. In an instant he emerges 
with the struggling prey in his talons, shakes off the water 
from his feathers, and now directs his laborious course to land, 
beating in the wind with all the skill of a practised seaman. 
The fish which he thus carries may be sometimes from six to 
eight pounds ; and so firm sometimes is the penetrating grasp 
of his talons that when by mistake he engages with one which 
is too large, he is dragged beneath the waves, and at length 
both fish and bird perish. 

From the nature of its food, the flesh, and even the eggs, are 
rendered exceedingly rank and nauseous. Though its prey is 
generally taken in the bold and spirited manner described, an 
Osprey sometimes sits on a tree over a pond for an hour at 
a time, quietly waiting its expected approach. 

Unlike other rapacious birds, these may be almost con- 
sidered gregarious, breeding so near each other that, accord- 
ing to Mr. Gardiner, there were on the small island on which 
he resided, near to the eastern extremity of Long Island 
(New York), no less than three hundred nests with young. 
Wilson observed twenty of their nests within half a mile. I 
have seen them nearly as thick about Rehoboth Bay in Dela- 



30 BIRDS OF PREY. 

ware. Here they live together at least as peaceably as rooks ; 
and so harmless are they considered by other birds that, ac- 
cording to Wilson, the Crow Blackbirds, or Grakles, are some- 
times allowed refuge by the Ospreys, and construct their nests 
in the very interstices of their eyry. It would appear some- 
times that, as with Swallows, a general assistance is given in 
the constructing of a new nest ; for previous to this event, a 
flock have been seen to assemble in the same tree, squealing as 
is their custom when anything materially agitates them. At 
times they are also seen engaged in social gambols high in the 
air, making loud vociferations, suddenly darting down, and then 
sailing in circles ; and these innocent recreations, like many 
other unmeaning things, are construed into prognostications of 
stormy or changing weather. Their common friendly call is a 
kind of shrill whistle, 'phew, 'phew, 'phew, repeated five or six 
times, and somewhat similar to the tone of a fife. Though 
social, they are sometimes seen to combat in the air, instigated 
probably more by jealousy than a love of rapine, as their food 
is always obtained from an unfailing source. 

Early in May the Osprey commences laying, and has from 
two to four eggs. They are a little larger than those of the 
Common Fowl, and are from a reddish or yellowish cream -color 
to nearly white, marked with large blotches and points of 
reddish brown. During the period of incubation the male 
frequently supplies his mate with food, and she leaves her eggs 
for very short intervals. 

The young appear about the last of June, and are most 
assiduously attended and supplied. On the approach of any 
person towards the nest, the parent utters a peculiar plaintive, 
whistling note, which increases as it takes to wing, sailing 
round, and at times making a quick descent, as if aiming at 
the intruder, but sweeping past at a short distance. On the 
nest being invaded, either while containing eggs or young, 
the male displays great courage and makes a violent and 
dangerous opposition. The young remain a long time in the 
nest, so that the old are sometimes obliged to thrust them 
out and encourage them to fly ; but they still, for a period, con- 
tinue to feed them in the air. 




AMERICAN GOSHAWK. 

BLUE HEN HAWK. 
ACCIPITER ATRICAPILLUS. 

Char. Above, dark bluish gray ; lop of head black, the feathers be- 
neath the surface white ; white stripe over the eye ; tail with four dark 
bands ; below, white barred and streaked with narrow dark lines. Young 
very different ; above, brown, edges of feathers bufifish ; tail lighter, tipped 
with white and crossed by four or five dark bands ; below, bufifish, streaked 
with brown. Length 22 to 24 inches. 

Nest. In a tree ; made of twigs. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; bluish white, with buff or reddish brown markings ; 2.30 
X 1.75- 

The foreign representative of this elegant and spirited spe- 
cies of Hawk appears to be common in France, Germany, the 
northern parts of Great Britain, Russia, and Siberia, and ex- 
tends into Chinese Tartary. Our species, so nearly related to 
the European bird, is very rare, migrating to the South ap- 
parently at the approach of winter. On the 26th of October, 
1830,, I received one of these birds from the proprietor of 



32 BIRDS OF PREY. 

Fresh Pond Hotel, in the moult, having the stomach crammed 
with moles and mice, and it was shot in the act of devouring 
a Pigeon. 

The Goshawk was held in considerable esteem for falconry, 
and, according to Bell, was employed for this amusement by 
the emperor of China, who moved sometimes to these excur- 
sions in great state, often bearing a Hawk on his hand, to let 
fly at any game that might be raised, which was usually Pheas- 
ants, Partridges, Quails, or Cranes. In 1269 Marco Polo 
witnessed this diversion of the emperor, which probably had 
existed for many ages previous. The falconers distinguished 
these birds of sport into two classes, — namely, those of falconry 
properly so called, and those of hazvking ; and in this second 
and inferior class were included the Goshawk, the Sparrow 
Hawk, Buzzard, and Harpy. This species does not soar so high 
as the longer-winged Hawks, and darts upon its quarry by a side 
glance, not by a direct descent, like the true Falcon. These 
birds were caught in nets baited with live Pigeons, and reduced 
to obedience by the same system of privation and discipline 
as the Falcon. 

A pair of Goshawks were kept for a long time in a cage by 
Buffon ; he remarks that the female was at least a third larger 
than the male, and the wings, when closed, did not reach 
within six inches of the end of the tail. The male, though 
smaller, was much more fierce and untamable. They often 
fought with their claws, but seldom used the bill for any other 
purpose than tearing their food. If this consisted of birds, 
they were plucked as neatly as by the hand of the poulterer ; 
but mice were swallowed whole, and the hair and skin, and 
other indigestible parts, after the manner of the genus, were 
discharged from the mouth rolled up in httle balls. Its cry 
was raucous, and terminated by sharp, reiterated, piercing 
notes, the more disagreeable the oftener they were repeated ; 
and the cage could never be approached without exciting 
violent gestures and screams. Though of different sexes, and 
confined to the same cage, they contracted no friendship for 
each other which might soothe their imprisonment, and finally. 



GOSHAWK. 33 

to end the dismal picture, the female, in a fit of indiscriminate 
rage and violence, murdered her mate in the silence of the 
night, when all the other feathered race were wrapped in 
repose. Indeed, their dispositions are so furious that a Gos- 
hawk, left with any other Falcons, soon effects the destruction 
of the whole. Their ordinary food is young rabbits, squirrels, 
mice, moles, young Geese, Pigeons, and small birds, and, with 
a cannibal appetite, they sometimes even prey upon the young 
of their own species. 

The Goshawk is not so rare in America as the older naturalists 
supposed ; indeed, it is quite a common bird in the maritime Prov- 
inces of Canada and in northern New England, where it is found 
during the entire year. It occurs also west to Manitoba (though 
apparently rare in the Lake Superior region), and ranges, in winter, 
south to Maryland, Kentucky, and Ohio. 

Its usual breeding area is from about latitude 45° to the fur 
countries ; though a few pairs probably build every year in southern 
New England. So few, comparatively, of the older and full-plu- 
maged birds are seen that the species is not well known, the 
younger brown birds being almost indistinguishable from the 
young of several other Hawks. 

There are several species that receive the name of " Hen Hawk " 
from the farmer ; but none is so much dreaded as the " Blue Hawk," 
— and for good reason. With a boldness, strength, and dexterity of 
flight that is rivalled only by the Peregrine, the Goshawk com- 
bines a spirit of enterprise worthy of the Osprey, and a ferocity 
and cunning that are unmatched by any of the tribe. I have seen 
one swoop into a farmyard while the fowls were being fed, and 
carry off a half-grown chick without any perceptible pause in the 
flight. 

VOL. I. — :? 



. v^y/ 




COOPER'S HAWK. 

ACCIPITER COOPERII. 

Char. Adult bluish gray or almost bluish ash, head darker ; below, 
whitish, breast and belly thickly streaked with reddish brown, sides with 
a bluish tinge ; wings and tail barred with dark brown, tail tipped with 
white. Length about i6 inches (female 2 to 3 inches longer). 

Nest. In a tree, near the trunk ; made of twigs, lined with grass. 

^SS^- 3-4; bluish white spotted with reddish brown (sometimes im- 
maculate) ; 1.90 X 1.50. 

This fine species of Hawk is found in considerable numbers 
in the Middle States, particularly New York and New Jersey, 
in the autumn and at the approach of winter. It is also 
seen in the Oregon territory to the shores of the Pacific. Its 
food appears principally to be birds of various kinds ; from 
the Sparrow to the Ruffed Grouse, all contribute to its rapa- 
cious appetite. I have also seen this species as far south as 
the capital of Alabama, and, in common with the preceding, 
its depredations among the domestic fowls are very destructive. 
Mr. Cooper informs me that the plumage of the adult male 
bears the same analogy to the adult of F. fuscus as the young 
of that species does to the present, excepting that the rufous 



SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. 35 

tints are paler. The difference in size between the two is as 
2, or even 3, to i. 

Cooper's Hawk is generally distributed throughout North Amer- 
ica from the fur countries to Mexico fin winter), though most 
abundant in the southern portions of New England and in the 
Middle States, where it is fairly common at all seasons. 

It is called " Chicken Hawk " by the Northern farmers. 



SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. 

ACCIPITER VELOX. 

Char. The adult may be best described as a small edition of 
Cooper's Hawk, which it resembles in almost everything but size. The 
top of the head is bluish, and the cheeks have a reddish tinge. Length 
of male about ii inches ; female some 2 inches longer. 

Nest. In a tree ; made of twigs, and lined with leaves and grass. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; bluish white or greenish white blotched with brown ; 
1.45 X 1. 15. 

This bold and daring species possesses all the courageous 
habits and temerity of the true Falcon ; and if the princely 
amusement to which these birds were devoted was now in 
fashion, few species of the genus would be found more san- 
guinary and pugnacious than the present. The young bird is 
described by Pennant under the name of the Dubious Falcon, 
and he remarks its affinity to the European Sparrow Hawk. 
It is, however, somewhat less, differently marked on the head, 
and much more broadly and faintly barred below. The nest 
of our species, according to Audubon, is made in a tree, and the 
eggs are four or five, grayish white, blotched with dark brown ; 
they lay about the beginning to the middle of March. The 
true Sparrow Hawk shows considerable docility, is easily trained 
to hunt Partridges and Quails, and makes great destruction 
among Pigeons, young poultry, and small birds of all kinds. 
In the winter they migrate from Europe into Barbary and 
Greece, and are seen in great numbers out at sea, making such 
havoc among the birds of passage they happen to meet in 
their way that the sailors in the Mediterranean call them 
Corsairs. Wilson observed the female of our species descend 



36 BIRDS OF PREV. 

upon its prey with great velocity in a sort of zig-zag pounce, 
after the manner of the Goshawk. Descending furiously and 
blindly upon its quarry, a young Hawk of this species broke 
through the glass of the greenhouse at the Cambridge Botanic 
Garden, and fearlessly passing through a second glass parti- 
tion, he was only brought up by the third, and caught, though 
little stunned by the effort. His wing-feathers were much torn 
by the glass, and his flight in this way so impeded as to allow 
of his being approached. This species feeds principally upon 
mice, lizards, small birds, and sometimes even squirrels. In 
the thinly settled States of Georgia and Alabama this Hawk 
seems to abound, and proves extremely destructive to young 
chickens, a single bird having been known regularly to come 
every day until he had carried away between twenty and thirty. 
At noon-day, while I was conversing with a planter, one of these 
Hawks came down, and without any ceremony, or heeding the 
loud cries of the housewife, who most reluctantly witnessed the 
robbery, snatched away a chicken directly before us. At an- 
other time, near Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, I observed a pair of 
these birds furiously attack the large Red-tailed Hawk, squall- 
ing very loudly, and striking him on the head until they had 
entirely chased him out of sight. This enmity appeared to 
arise from a suspicion that the Buzzard was prowling round 
the farm-house for the poultry, which these Hawks seemed to 
claim as their exclusive perquisite. As this was, however, the 
1 3th of February, these insulting marauders might possibly be 
already preparing to breed, and thus be incited to drive away 
every suspicious intruder approaching their nest. In fine 
weather I have observed this species soar to a great elevation, 
and ascend above the clouds. In this exercise, as usual, the 
wings seem but little exercised, the ascent being made in a 
sort of swimming gyration ; though while near the surface of 
the earth the motion of the wings in this bird is rapid and 
continuous. 

The Sharp-shinned is the commonest Hawk throughout New 
England and the settled portions of Canada, and breeds southward 
to the Southern States. In winter it ransfes south to Panama. 




MISSISSIPPI KITE. 

BLUE KITE. 

ICTINA MISSISSIPPIENSIS. 

Char. General color bluish-gray, lighter on the head and seconda^ 
ries, darker on primaries and tail. Length, 13 to i^}4 inches. 
JVest. On a tree ; of small sticks, lined with moss and leaves. 
Eggs. 2-3; bluish white ; size variable, averaging 1.65 X 1.35. 

This remarkably long-winged and beautiful Hawk does not 
appear to extend its migrations far within the United States. 
Wilson observed it rather plentiful about and below Natchez 
in the summer season, sailing in easy circles, sometimes at 
a great elevation, so as to keep company with the Turkey 
Buzzards in the most elevated regions of the air ; at other times 
they were seen among the lofty forest trees, like Swallows 
sweeping along, and collecting the locusts {CicadcE) which 
swarmed at this season. My friend Mr. Say observed this 
species pretty far up the Mississippi, at one of Major Long's 
cantonments. But except on the banks of this great river, 
it is rarely seen even in the most southern States. Its food, 



38 BIRDS OF PREY. 

no doubt, abounds more along the immense valley of the Mis- 
sissippi than in the interior regions, and, besides large in- 
sects, probably often consists of small birds, lizards, snakes, 
and other reptiles, which swarm in these their favorite resorts. 
On the failure of food these birds migrate by degrees into the 
Mexican and South American provinces, and were observed 
by D'Azara in Guiana, about the latitude of 7°. According to 
Audubon, this Kite breeds in the Southern States as well as 
in Texas, selecting the tall magnolias and white-oaks. From 
the narrow limits within which this bird inhabits in the United 
States, it is more than probable that the principal part of the 
species are constant residents in the warmer parts of the Ameri- 
can continent. They begin to migrate early in August. 

The range of this species is given as " southern United States 
southward from South Carolina, and Wisconsin and Iowa to 
Mexico." 



WHITE-TAILED KITE. 

BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE. 
Elanus LEUCURUS. 

Char. General color bluish gray fading to white on head and tail ; a 
large patch of black on shoulder; lower parts white. Length 15 to 16^ 
inches. 

Nest. In a tree, loosely built of sticks and leaves. 

Eggs. 2-4; dull white, heavily blotched with brown, 1.60 x 1-25. 

This beautiful Hawk, scarcely distinguishable from a second 
African species of this section, chiefly inhabits the continent 
of South America as far as Paraguay. In the United States it 
is only seen occasionally in the peninsula of East Florida, con- 
fining its visits almost to the southern extremity of the Union. 
It appears to be very shy and difficult of approach ; flying in 
easy circles at a moderate elevation, or at times seated on the 
deadened branches of the majestic live-oak, it attentively 
watches the borders of the salt-marshes and watery situations 



SWALLOW-TAILED KITE. 39 

for the field-mice of that country, or unwary Sparrows, that 
approach its perch. The bird of Africa and India is said to 
utter a sharp and piercing cry, which is often repeated while 
the bird moves in the air. It builds, m the forks of trees, a 
broad and shallow nest, lined internally with moss and feathers. 
A pair have been known to breed on the Santee River in the 
month of March, according to Audubon. 

This Kite occurs regularly in the Southern States, north to 
South Carolina, and Mr. Ridgway has met with it in southern 
Illinois. It extends its range westward to California. 



SWALLOW-TAILED KITE. 

FORK-TAILED KITE. 
Elanoides FORFICATUS. 

Char. Head, neck, rump, and lower parts white, other parts black ; 
tail deeply forked. Length 191^ to 25^^ inches. 

Nest. In a tree ; of sticks and moss, lined with grass and leaves. 

Eggs. 2-3 ; white, with buff or green tinge, spotted with various shades 
of brown ; 1.85 X 1.50 

This beautiful Kite breeds and passes the summer in the 
warmer parts of the United States, and is also probably resi- 
dent in all tropical and temperate America, migrating into the 
southern as well as the northern hemisphere. In the former, 
according to Viellot, it is found in Peru and as far as Buenos 
Ayres ; and though it is extremely rare to meet with this 
species as far as the latitude of 40° in the Atlantic States, 
yet, tempted by the abundance of the fruitful valley of the 
Mississippi, individuals have been seen along that river as 
far as the Falls of St. Anthony, in the 44th degree of north 
latitude. Indeed, according to Fleming two stragglers have 
even found their devious way to the strange climate of Great 
Britain. 

These Kites appear in the United States about the close of 
April or beginning of May, and are very numerous in the Mis- 



40 BIRDS OF PREY. 

sissippi territory, twenty or thirty being sometimes visible at 
the same time ; often collecting locusts and other large insects, 
which they are said to feed on from their claws while flying, 
at times also seizing upon the nests of locusts and wasps, and, 
like the Honey Buzzard, devouring both the insects and their 
larvae. Snakes and lizards are their common food in all parts 
of America. In the month of October they begin to retire to 
the South, at which season Mr. Bartram observed them in 
great numbers assembled in Florida, soaring steadily at great 
elevations for several days in succession, and slowly passing 
towards their winter quarters along the Gulf of Mexico. From 
the other States they migrate early in September. 

This species is most abundant in the western division of the Gulf 
States, but is irregularly distributed over the Southern, Western, 
and Middle States. It has occasionally visited New England, and 
examples have been seen in Manitoba and near London and 
Ottawa in Ontario. 



EVERGLADE KITE. 

BLACK KITE. HOOK-BILL KITE. SNAIL HAWK. 
ROSTRHANIUS SOCIABILIS. 

Char. Prevailing color dull bluish ash, darker on tail, wings, and an- 
terior portion of head ; rump white, with terminal bar of light brown ; 
bill black ; feet orange. Length i6 to iS inches. 

A^est A platform with a slight depression, composed of sticks or dried 
grass, built in a low bush or amid tall grass. 

Eggs. 2-3 ; brownish white blotched with various shades of brown ; 
1.70 X 1.45- 

This is a tropical species that occurs in Florida. Mr. W. E. D. 
Scott reports finding it abundant at Panasofkee Lake, and says : 
" Their food at this point apparently consists of a kind of large 
fresh-water snail which is very abundant. . . . They fish over the 
shallow water, reminding one of gulls in their motions ; and having 
secured a snail by diving, they immediately carry it to the nearest 
available perch, when the animal is dexterously taken from the 
shell, without injury to the latter." 




AMERICAN ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. 
black hawk. 

Archibuteo lagopus sancti-johannis. 

Char. General color variable, — dark or light brown, or brownish gray, 
sometimes black ; all the feathers edged with lighter color, producing an 
appearance of streaks. The absence of these streaks on the belly forms 
a dark band. Tail with dark and light bars, and whitish at its base. 
Easily distinguished from any other Hawk by the feathered shank. Length 
19/^ to 22 inches. 

Nest In a large tree, or on rocks ; of sticks lined with grass, dry 
moss, and feathers. 

Eggs. 2-3 ; white or creamy, more or less spotted with brown ; 1.90 
X 1.55. 

This remarkable species of Buzzard appears to take up its 
residence chiefly in the northern and western wilds of America. 
My friend Mr. Townsend found its nest on the banks of Bear 
River, west of the Rocky Mountains. The nest, formed of 
large sticks, was in a thick willow bush about ten feet from 
the ground, and contained two young almost fledged. It is 



42 BIRDS OF PREY. 

said to lay four eggs, clouded with reddish. It is common 
also to the north of Europe, if not to Africa. The usual station 
of these birds is on the outskirts of woods, in the neighborhood 
Oi marshes, — situations suited for supplying them with their 
usual humble prey of frogs, mice, reptiles, and straggling birds, 
for which they patiently watch for hours together, from daybreak 
to late twilight. When prey is perceived, the bird takes a cau- 
tious, slow, circuitous course near the surface, and sweeping over 
the spot where the object of pursuit is lurking, he instantly 
grapples it, and flies off to consume it at leisure. Occasionally 
they feed on crabs and shell-fish. The inclement winters of 
the high northern regions, where they are usually bred, failing 
to afford them food, they are under the necessity of making a 
slow migration towards those countries which are less severe. 
According to Wilson, no less than from twenty to thirty young 
individuals of this species continued regularly to take up their 
winter quarters in the low meadows below Philadelphia. They 
are never observed to soar, and when disturbed, utter a loud, 
squealing note, and only pass from one neighboring tree to 
another. 

The great variation in the plumage of this Hawk has been the 
cause of considerable controversy, Wilson wrote of the black and 
the brown phases as of two species, giving them distinct habits. 
Nuttall, following Audubon, considered the changes from hght to 
dark due only to age. Spencer Baird (in 1858), Cassin, and Dr. 
Brewer agreed with Wilson. Later authorities, however, with 
more material to aid them, have pronounced both views incorrect, 
and have decided that there is but one species, — that the black is 
but a melanistic phase. Our systematists now separate the Ameri- 
can from the European form, giving to the former varietal rank, 
as its " trinomial appellation " denotes. 

Nuttall does not mention the occurrence of this bird in Massa- 
chusetts, though Dr. Brewer states that at one time it was abun- 
dant near Boston, and within more recent years numbers have been 
captured by Mr. E. O. Damon on the Holyoke Hills, near Spring- 
field. It occurs within the United States principally as a winter 
visitor when it rano;es south to Virginia, its chief breeding-ground 
lying in the Labrador and Hudson Bay district. 




RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. 

WINTER HAWK. 
BUTEO LINEATUS. 

Char. Adult •. general color dark reddish brown ; head and neck ru- 
fous ; below, lighter, with dark streaks and light bars ; wings and tail 
black with white bars ; lesser wing-coverts chestnut. Young, with little 
of the rufous tinge ; below, buffy with dark streaks, Length 19 to 22 
inches. 

Nest. In a tree 
feathers. 

Eggs. 2-4 ; bluish white or buffy blotched with brown 



of loosely arranged twigs, lined with grass and 

.20 X 1.70. 



This very elegant Hawk does not migrate or inhabit very 
far to the north. It is never seen in Massachusetts, nor per- 
haps much farther than the State of Pennsylvania. In the 
Southern States, during winter, these birds are very common in 
swampy situations, where their quailing cry of mutual recogni- 
tion may be heard from the depths of the dark forest almost 



44 BIRDS OF PREY. 

every morning of the season. This plaintive echoing note 
resembles somewhat the garrulous complaint of the Jay, kee-oo, 
kee-oo, kee-oo, continued with but little intermission sometimes 
for near twenty minutes. At length it becomes loud and im- 
patient ; but on being distantly answered by the mate, the 
sound softens and becomes plaintive like kee-oo. This morn- 
ing call is uttered most loudly and incessantly by the male, 
inquiring for his adventurous mate, wnom the uncertain result 
of the chase has perhaps separated from him for the night. 
As this species is noways shy, and very easily approached, I 
have had the opportunity of studying it closely. At length, 
but in no haste, I observed the female approach and take her 
station on the same lofty, decayed limb with her companion, 
who, grateful for this attention, plumed the feathers of his 
mate with all the assiduous fondness of a Dove. Intent upon 
her meal, however, she soon flew off to a distance, while the 
male still remained on his perch, dressing up his beautiful 
feathers for near half an hour, often shaking his tail, like some 
of the lesser birds, and occasionally taking an indifferent sur- 
vey of the hosts of small chirping birds which surrounded him, 
who followed without alarm their occupation of gleaning seeds 
and berries for subsistence. I have occasionally observed 
them perched on low bushes and stakes in the rice-fields, re- 
maining thus for half an hour at a time, and then darting after 
their prey as it comes in sight. I saw one descend upon a 
Plover, as I thought, and Wilson remarks their living on these 
birds. Larks, and Sandpipers. The same pair that I watched 
also hung on the rear of a flock of cow-buntings which were 
feeding and scratching around them. They sometimes attack 
squirrels, as I have been informed, and Wilson charges them 
with preying also upon Ducks. 

I never observed them to soar, at least in winter, their time 
being passed very much in indolence and in watching for 
their game. Their flight is almost as easy and noiseless as 
that of the Owl. In the early part of the month of March 
they were breeding in West Florida, and seemed to choose 
the densest thickets and not to build at any great height from 



RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. 45 

the ground. On approaching these places, the kee-oo became 
very loud and angry. 

Winter Hawk. — This large American Buzzard is not un- 
common in this vicinity, as well as in the neighborhood of 
Philadelphia, where Wilson met with it along the marshes and 
meadows, feeding almost wholly upon frogs. It is abundant 
toward winter. It appears to have very much the manners 
of the European Buzzard, remaining inactive for hours to- 
gether on the edges of wet meadows, perched upon the larger 
limbs of trees, and at times keeping up a regular quailing and 
rather hoarse keigh-00, keigh-00, which at intervals is answered 
by the mate. When approached, it commonly steals off to 
some other tree at no great distance from the first ; but if 
the pursuit be continued, it flies out and hovers at a consider- 
able height. It is also an inhabitant of Hudson's Bay and 
Newfoundland. 

Nuttall regarded the old and young as distinct species, giving 
to them not only distinctive names, but a different distribution. 
Taken together, his two biographies tell about all that is yet known 
of the habits and range of the species. It is found throughout this 
faunal province, from the Gulf States to the southern border of the 
fur countries, has been taken at York Factory on Hudson's Bay, 
and is common in Manitoba. 



Note. — The Florida Red-Shouldered Hawk {Btiteo linea- 
tus alleni) is a Southern form found in Florida, and ranging on 
the Atlantic shore north to South Carolina and along the Gulf 
coast to Texas. It differs from true lineatjis in having the rufous 
tinge on the head and neck replaced by brownish gray. 



46 BIRDS OF PREY. 

HARRIS'S HAWK. 

PAR.A.BUTEO UNICINCTUS HARRISI. 

Char. Prevailing color black, sometimes chocolate brown, tinged with 
chestnut on the rump ; shoulders and lining of wings chestnut ; tail-coverts, 
base of tail, and terminal band, white. Length about 20 inches. 

N'est. On a cliff or in a tree, — usually the latter; a mere platform of 
twigs and roots, lined with grass. 

^SS^- 2-5 (usually 3^ ; white, tinged with yellow, sometimes marked 
with brown or lavender, or both , 2.15 X 1.65. 

Harris's Hawk is abundant in parts of Texas and in Mexico, 
and occurs in small numbers in the southern part of Mississippi. 
It is usually represented as a rather sluggish bird, associating with 
the Vultures and joining in their feasts of carrion, but sometimes 
preying upon the small reptiles that infest the banks of streams 
and pools. Mr. Bennett, however, describes those he saw along 
the lower Rio Grande as more active, feeding chiefly on birds, 
mice, and gophers. 



RED-TAILED HAWK. 

BUTEO BOREALIS. 

Char. Above, dull brown streaked with rufous and grayish ; below, 
whitish or tawny streaked with brown ; tail chestnut above and gray 
beneath, with a band of black near the end and tipped with white. In 
the young the tail is grayish brown crossed by some nine dark bars, 
and the underparts are white with brown streaks. Length 19^ to 23 
inches. 

Nest. In a high tree; of sticks, lined with grass, sometimes with 
feathers. 

Eggs. 2-4 ; whitish or bluish white, usually heavily spotted or blotched 
with reddish brown; 2 30 X 1.80. 

This beautiful Buzzard inhabits most parts of the United 
States, being observed from Canada to Florida; also, far 
westward up the Missouri, and even on the coasts of the 
northern Pacific Ocean, by Lewis and Clarke. Wilson found 
the young to be fully grown in the month of May, about 
latitude 31° on the banks of the Mississippi; at this period 
they were very noisy and clamorous, keeping up an inces- 
sant squealing. It also occasionally nests and breeds in large 



RED-TAILED HAWK. 47 

trees in the secluded forests of this part of Massachusetts. 
The young birds soon become very submissive, and allow them- 
selves to be handled with impunity by those who feed them. 
The older birds sometimes contest with each other in the air 
about their prey, and nearly or wholly descend to the earth 
grappled in each other's talons. Though this species has the 
general aspect of the Buzzard, its manners are very similar to 
those of the Goshawk ; it is equally fierce and predatory, 
prowling around the farm often when straitened for food, 
and seizing, now and then, a hen or chicken, which it snatches 
by making a lateral approach : it sweeps along near the sur- 
face of the ground, and grasping its prey in its talons, bears it 
away to devour in some place of security. These depredations 
on the farm-yard happen, however, only in the winter ; at all 
other seasons this is one of the shyest and most difficult 
birds to approach. It will at times pounce upon rabbits and 
considerable-sized birds, particularly Larks, and has been 
observed in the Southern States perseveringly to pursue 
squirrels from bough to bough until they are overtaken and 
seized in the talons. It is frequently seen near wet meadows 
where mice, moles, and frogs are prevalent, and also feeds 
upon lizards, — appearing, indeed, often content with the 
most humble game. 

They usually associate in pairs, and seem much attached to 
each other ; yet they often find it convenient and profitable to 
separate in hunting their prey, about which they would readily 
quarrel if brought into contact. Though a good deal of their 
time passes in indolence, while perched in some tall and dead- 
ened tree, yet at others they may be seen beating the ground 
as they fly over it in all directions in quest of game. On some 
occasions they amuse themselves by ascending to a vast eleva- 
tion, like the aspiring Eagle. On a fine evening, about the 
middle of January, in South Carolina, I observed one of these 
birds leave its withered perch, and soaring aloft over the wild 
landscape, in a mood of contemplation, begin to ascend 
towards the thin skirting of elevated clouds above him. At 
length he passed this sublime boundary, and was now per- 



48 BIRDS OF PREY. 

ceived and soon followed by his ambitious mate, and in a little 
time, by circular ascending gyrations, they both disappeared in 
the clear azure of the heavens ; and though I waited for their 
re-appearance half an hour, they still continued to be wholly 
invisible. This amusement, or predilection for the cooler 
regions of the atmosphere, seems more or less common to all 
the rapacious birds. In numerous instances this exercise must 
be wholly independent of the inclination for surveying their 
prey, as few of them besides the Falcon descend direct upon 
their quarry. Many, as well as the present species, when on 
the prowl fly near to the surface of the ground, and often wait 
and watch so as to steal upon their victims before they can 
take the alarm. Indeed the Condor frequents and nests upon 
the summit of the Andes, above which they are seen to soar 
in the boundless ocean of space, enjoying the invigorating and 
rarefied atmosphere, and only descending to the plains when 
impelled by the cravings of hunger. 

The Eastern variety of the Red-tail is a common bird through- 
out eastern North America north to about latitude 49°, and was 
taken by Dr. Bell at Fort Churchill, on Hudson's Bay. It ranges 
westward to the Great Plains, where it is replaced by the sub- 
species krideri. From the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific it is 
represented by calurus, and examples of this latter variety have 
been taken, occasionally, as far east as Illinois. The Red-tail is a 
summer resident only of the Maritime Provinces, but a few are 
found in winter in southern Ontario and New England. 



Note. — Mr. Ridgway now considers Harlan's Hawk to be 
a variety of the Red-tail, and he proposes to name it Buteo borealis 
harlani. Its usual habitat is along the lower Mississippi ; but exam- 
ples have been taken in Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. 

Capt. Bendine reports that Krider's Hawk {B. b. Krideri) 
occurs in Iowa and northern Illinois. (Life Histories of North 
American Birds.) 

Two examples of Swainson's Hawk {Buteo swamsoni), a 
Western species, have been taken in Massachusetts, — one at 
Wayland in 1876, and the other near Salem in 1878. 




BROAD-WINGED HAWK. 

BUTEO LATissnrus. 

Char. Above, dull brown, the feathers with paler edges ; tail dusky 
with four light bars and tipped with white ; below, buffish or tawny, barred 
and streaked with rufous. Length i6 inches. Young : similar, but tail 
brownish, with several dusky bars ; below buffy streaked with dusky. 

Nest. In a tree ; loosely built of twigs, and lined with leaves and 
feathers. 

Eggs. 2-4 ; buffish, blotched with reddish brown of various shades ; 
1.90 X 1.55. 

This species was obtained by Wilson, in the vicinity of 
Philadelphia, in the act of feeding on a meadow-mouse. On 
being approached, it uttered a whining whistle and flew to 
another tree, where it was shot. Its great breadth of wing, as 
well as of the head and body, compared with its length, ap- 
pears remarkably characteristic. The following day the mate 
was observed sailing in wide circles, the wings scarcely moving, 
and presenting almost a semi-circular outline. These two in- 
dividuals appear to be all that were known to Wilson of this 
VOL. I. — 4 



50 BIRDS OF PREY. 

species. Audubon considers it by no means a rare species 
in Virginia, Maryland, and all the States to the eastward of 
these. Its usual prey is small birds, very young poultry, small 
quadrupeds, and insects. 

The Broad-wing occurs throughout this eastern faunal province, 
but is somewhat local in distribution. In portions of the Maritime 
Provinces it is abundant, though in general it is rather uncommon. 
Mr. John Neilson considers it conimon near the city of Quebec, but 
Mr. Ernest Wintle reports it rare at Montreal, while Mr. William 
L. Scott thinks it the commonest Hawk in the Ottawa valley. Mr. 
Thomas Mcllwraith gives it as a "casual visitor " to the southern 
portions of Ontario, and Mr. Ernest Thompson found it abundant 
in the Muskoka district. Thompson also reports it common in 
Manitoba. 

In the more northern portions of New England it is a fairly 
common summer visitor, while it is found in Massachusetts and 
Connecticut throughout the year, but is rather rare. It occurs 
also in more or less abundance in all the Middle, Western, and 
Southern States. 

My observations in New Brunswick have led me to form a dif- 
ferent opinion of the characteristics of this Hawk from those 
expressed by several writers. The examples I met with were not 
peculiarly void of either boldness or vigor in pursuit of their prey, 
nor peculiarly spiritless when wounded. They did, of course, like 
others of the tribe, pursue weak prey, and displayed little true 
bravery ; but bravery is not a characteristic of the Hawks. A 
wounded Broad-wing, however, acts just as does the boldest of 
them, — he turns on his back and hits out with claws, beak, and 
wings ; and the gunner who thinks he has a meek or spiritless bird 
to handle may regret the thought. 



SHORT-TAILED HAWK. 

BUTEO BRACHYURUS. 

Char. Above, brownish black or blackish brown ; forehead and cheeks 
white ; tail brownish gray barred with black and tipped with white ; 
beneath, pure white, a patch of rufous on side of chest. Length i6 
inches. 

Nest. In a tall tree ; made of dry twigs, lined with fresh twigs of 
cypress. 

Eggs. 1-3 ; dull white, spotted on large end with reddish brown. 



MARSH HAWK. 5 I 

The black and brown phases of plumage worn by this bird have 
caused the scientific ornithologists no little perplexity, and been the 
subject of some controversy ; so a brief summary of the various 
opinions held may serve as an illustration of the evolution of many 
scientific names. 

The species was first described from a specimen in brown plu- 
mage and given the name it now bears ; then a young bird came 
into the hands of another systematist, and supposing it to be a new 
species, he named it B. oxypterus j and afterwards an example in 
black was taken by still another, who supposed it to be something 
new, so he wrote it down B. fuliginosus. These two last-men- 
tioned were disposed of by other writers as synonyms of swain- 
soni, oxypterus being considered the young plumage, and fuligi- 
nosus a melanistic phase, while in several more recent works the 
latter, as the Little Black Hawk, was restored to specific rank. 
These opinions have recently been abandoned for that which has 
been held for a long time by the few, — that both fuliginosus and 
oxypterus are synonyms of the present species. 

It cannot, however, be said that the matter is finally adjusted, for 
the black color still presents this problem : Is it individual or sex- 
ual, — a melanistic phase, or the normal color of the adult male 1 

The bird is entirely tropical in its range, and is found within the 
United States only in the tropical portions of Florida. It was sup- 
posed formerly to occur there merely as a casual or accidental 
straggler ; but recent observations have proved it to be a regular 
though uncommon visitor, and breeding there. 



MARSH HAWK. 

MARSH HARRIER. BLUE HAWK, 

Circus hudsonius. 

Char. Adult male : above, bluish gray ; tail with dark bands ; rump 
white ; beneath white. Adult female and young : above, dark brown 
streaked with rufous ; tail with dark bands ; rump white ; beneath, tawny 
with dark streaks. Length 19 to 24 inches. 

Nest. On the ground, in damp meadow or cedar swamp; a loosely 
arranged platform of dried grass some four to six inches high, with little 
depression, occasionally lined with softer material. 

^SS^' 3-8 ; bluish white, sometimes spotted with huffish or brown ; 
1.80 X 1.40. 



52 BIRDS OF PREY. 

This species is common to the northern and temperate, as 
well as the warmer parts of the old and new continents, being 
met with in Europe, Africa, South America, and the West 
Indies. In the winter season it extends its peregrinations 
from Hudson's Bay to the Oregon territory and the southern 
parts of the United States, frequenting chiefly open, low, and 
marshy situations, over which it sweeps or skims along, at a 
little distance usually from the ground, in quest of mice, small 
birds, frogs, hzards, and other reptiles, which it often selects 
by twilight as well as in the open day ; and at times, pressed 
by hunger, it is said to join the Owls and seek out its prey 
even by moonlight. Instances have been known in England 
in which this bird has carried its temerity so far as to pursue 
the same game with the armed fowler, and even snatch it from 
his grasp after calmly waiting for it to be shot, and without 
even betraying timidity at the report of the gun. The nest of 
this species is made on the ground, in swampy woods or 
among rushes, occasionally also under the protection of rocky 
precipices, and is said to be formed of sticks, reeds, leaves, 
straw, and similar materials heaped together, and finished with 
a lining of feathers, hair, or other soft substances. In the 
F. cineraceuSf so nearly related to this species, the eggs are of 
a pure white. When their young are approached, the parents, 
hovering round the intruder and uttering a sort of uncouth 
syllable, like geg geg gag, or ge ge ne ge ge, seem full of afright 
and anxiety. The Crows, however, are their greatest enemies, 
and they often succeed in demolishing the nests. The young 
are easily tamed, and feed almost immediately without exhib- 
iting any signs of fear. 

Nuttall has told about all that more modern observers have to 
tell of this species. The authorities differ chiefly in descriptions of 
the structure of the nest and the markings on the eggs. The nests 
that I have examined have been composed entirely of coarse grass, 
without lining, though the softest of the grass was laid on top. 
The eggs were unspotted. 




HAWK OWL. 

SURNIA ULULA CAPAROCH. 

Char. Above, dull blackish brown, spotted with white ; crown without 
spots ; dark patch on the cheeks ; face white, the feathers with dark 
margins; tail and wing with white bars; below, white with dark bars. 
Length 143;^ to iy}4, inches. 

JVest On a tree ; of twigs lined with feathers. 

Eg-gs. 2-7; dull white; 1.55 X 1.25. 

This remarkable species, forming a connecting link with 
the preceding genus of the Hawks, is nearly confined to the 
Arctic wilds of both continents, being frequent in Siberia and 
the fur countries from Hudson's Bay to the Pacific. A few 
stragglers, now and then, at distant intervals and in the depths 
of winter, penetrate on the one side into the northern parts of 
the United States, and on the other they occasionally appear 
in Germany, and more rarely in France. At Hudson's Bay 
they are observed by day flying high and preying on the White 
Grouse and other birds, sometimes even attending the hunter 
like a Falcon, and boldly taking up the wounded game as it 



54 BIRDS OF PREY. 

flutters on the ground. They are also said to feed on mice 
and insects, and (according to Meyer) they nest upon trees, 
laying two white eggs. They are said to be constant atten- 
dants on the Ptarmigans in their spring migrations towards the 
North, and are observed to hover round the camp-fires of the 
natives, in quest probably of any offal or rejected game. 

In Massachusetts and the more southern portions of New Eng- 
land the Hawk Owl is only an occasional winter visitor ; but in 
northern New England and the Maritime Provinces it occurs regu- 
larly, though of varying abundance, in some seasons being quite 
rare. It is fairly common near Montreal, and rare in Ontario and 
in Ohio. Thompson reports it abundant in Manitoba, but only 
one example has been taken in Illinois {Ridgway). It breeds in 
Newfoundland, the Magdalen Islands, and northern Manitoba, 
and north to sub-arctic regions. 




SNOWY OWL. 

Nyctea nyctea. 

Char. General color pure white, with markings of dull brown or 
brownish black, the abundance and shade of the spots varying with age. 
A large, stout bird. Length 23 to 27 inches. 

Nest. On the ground, of twigs and grass, lined with feathers. 

EgS^' 5 to 10; white; 2.55 X 190. 

This very large and often snow-white species of Owl is 
almost an exclusive inhabitant of the Arctic regions of both 
continents, being common in Iceland, the Shetland Islands, 
Kamtschatka, Lapland, and Hudson's Bay. In these dreary 
wilds, surrounded by an almost perpetual winter, he dwells, 
breeds, and obtains his subsistence. His white robe renders 



56 BIRDS OF PREY. 

him scarcely discernible from the overwhelming snows, where 
he reigns, like the boreal spirit of the storm. His loud, hol- 
low, barking growl, 'ivhowh, 'whowh, 'whowh hah, hah, hah, 
hdh^ and other more dismal cries, sound like the unearthly- 
ban of Cerberus ; and heard amidst a region of cheerless soli- 
tude, his lonely and terrific voice augments rather than relieves 
the horrors of the scene. 

Clothed with a dense coating of feathers, which hide even 
the nostrils, and leave only the talons exposed, he ventures 
abroad boldly at all seasons, and, like the Hawks, seeks his 
prey by daylight as well as dark, skimming aloft and reconnoi- 
tring his prey, which is commonly the White Grouse or some 
other birds of the same genus, as well as hares. On these he 
darts from above, and rapidly seizes them in his resistless 
talons. At times he w^atches for fish, and condescends also to 
prey upon rats, mice, and even carrion. 

These birds appear to have a natural aversion to settled 
countries ; for which reason, perhaps, and the severity of the 
climate of Arctic America, they are frequently known to wander 
in the winter south through the thinly settled interior of the 
United States. They migrate probably by pairs ; and accord- 
ing to Wilson, two of these birds were so stupid, or dazzled, 
as to alight on the roof of the court-house in the large town of 
Cincinnati. In South Carolina Dr. Garden saw them occa- 
sionally, and they were, in this mild region, observ'ed to hide 
themselves during the day in the palmetto-groves of the sea- 
coast, and only sallied out towards night in quest of their prey. 
Their habits, therefore, seem to vary considerably, according 
to circumstances and climate. 

This species is a regular winter visitor to the Northern and 
Middle States, and during some seasons has been quite abundant. 
A few pairs have been seen in summer in northern Maine, New 
Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; but the usual breeding-ground is 
from about latitude 50^ to the Arctic regions. 

While in their more southern resorts they are rarely found far 
from the forest districts. 

A These latter syllables with the usual quivering sound of the Owl. 




SCREECH OWL. 

MOTTLED OWL. RED OWL. 

Megascops ASIO. 



Char. Of two phases, brownish gray and brownish red. Above, 
mottled with darker shades of the prevailing color and with blackish; 
below, dull whitish or with a rufous tint and heavily marked with dull 
brown or blackish. In highly colored red examples the spots are less 
frequent. Large ear tufts ; wings and tail barred with the light and dark 
colors ; legs feathered and toes bristled. Length 7 to 10 inches. 

Nest. In a hollow tree or stump ; the bottom of the hole slightly lined 
with leaves or feathers. 

Eggs. 4-8; white, nearly round ; 1.35 X 1.20. 

Mottled Owl. — This common, small, and handsome species, 
known as the Little Screech Owl, is probably resident in every 
part of the United States, and, in fact, inhabits from Greenland 
to Florida, and westward to the Oregon. It appears more 
abundant in autumn and winter, as at those seasons, food fail- 



58 BIRDS OF PREY. 

ing, it is obliged to approach habitations and bams, in which 
the mice it chiefly preys on now assemble ; it also lies in wait 
for small birds, and feeds on beetles, crickets, and other in- 
sects. The nest is usually in the hollow of an old orchard tree, 
about the months of May or June ; it is lined carelessly with 
a little hay, leaves, and feathers, and the eggs are commonly 
four to six, white, and nearly round. Aldrovandus remarks 
that the Great Horned Owl provides so plentifully for its 
young that a person might obtain some dainties from the 
nest, and yet leave a sufficiency for the Owlets besides. The 
same remark may also apply to this species, as in the hollow 
stump of an apple-tree, which contained a brood of these 
young Owls, were found several Bluebirds, Blackbirds, and 
Song Sparrows, intended as a supply of food. 

During the day these birds retire into hollow trees and un- 
frequented barns, or hide in the thickest evergreens. At times 
they are seen abroad by day, and in cloudy weather they wake 
up from their diurnal slumbers a considerable time before 
dark. In the day they are always drowsy, or, as if dozing, 
closing, or scarcely half opening their heavy eyes, presenting 
the very picture of sloth and nightly dissipation. When per- 
ceived by the smaller birds, they are at once recognized as 
their insidious enemies ; and the rareness of their appearance, 
before the usual roosting-time of other birds, augments the 
suspicion they entertain of these feline hunters. From com- 
plaints and cries of alarm, the Thrush sometimes threatens 
blows ; and though evening has perhaps set in, the smaller 
birds and cackling Robins re-echo their shrill chirpings and 
complaints throughout an extensive wood, until the nocturnal 
monster has to seek safety in a distant flight. Their notes are 
most frequent in the latter end of summer and autumn, crying 
in a sort of wailing quiver, not very unlike the whining of a 
puppy dog, ho, ho ho ho ho ho ho, proceeding from high and 
clear to a low guttural shake or trill. These notes, at little in- 
tervals, are answered by some companion, and appear to be 
chiefly a call of recognition from young of the same brood, or 
pairs who wish to discover each other after having been sepa- 



RED OWL. 59 

rated while dozing in the day. On moonhght evenings this 
slender wailing is kept up nearly until midnight. 

Red Owl. — From the very satisfactory and careful observa- 
tions of Dr. Ezra Michener, of New Garden, Chester County, 
Pennsylvania, published in the eighth volume of the Journal of 
the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, it appears 
certain that the Red and Gray " Screech Owls " of the United 
States are specifically distinct ; he has observed that the Red 
Owls rear young of the same color, and that the Gray Owls 
of the preceding species have also young which are gray and 
mottled from the very nest. Still different as they are in 
plumage, the habits of the species are nearly alike. The 
present inhabits and breeds in most parts of the United States. 
In Pennsylvania they are hatched by the latter end of May, 
breeding in hollow trees. The eggs are about four. 

I have had an opportunity of verifying all that Wilson re- 
lates of the manners of this species in a Red or young Owl, 
taken out of a hollow apple-tree, which I kept for some 
months. A dark closet was his favorite retreat during the 
day. In the evening he became very lively and restless, glid- 
ing across the room in which he was confined, with a side- 
long, noiseless flight, as if wafted by the air alone. At times 
he clung to the wainscot, and, unable to turn, he brought his 
head round to his back, so as to present, by the aid of his 
brilliant eyes, a most spectral and unearthly appearance. As 
the eyes of all the Owls, according to Wilson, are fixed im- 
movably in the socket by means of a many cleft capsular liga- 
ment, this provision for the free versatile motion of the head 
appears necessary. When approached towards evening, he 
appeared strongly engaged in reconnoitring the object, blow- 
ing with a hissing noise {^shay, sliay, shay) , common to other 
species, and stretching out his neck with a waving, lateral 
motion, in a threatening attitude, and, on a nearer approach, 
made a snapping with the bill, produced by striking together 
both mandibles, as they are equally movable. He was a very 
expert mouse-catcher, swallowed his prey whole, and then, 
after some time, ejected from the bill the bones, skin, and 



60 BIRDS OF PREY. 

hair, in pellets. He also devoured large flies, which at this 
time came into the room in great numbers ; and even the dry 
parts of these were also ejected from the stomach without di- 
gestion. A pet of this species, which Dr. Michener had, 
drank frequently, and was accustomed to wash every day in 
a basin of cold water during the heat of summer. 

Nuttall, following Wilson and Audubon, treated the gray and 
red phases of this bird as two distinct species, and wrote separate 
biographies, which I insert in full. Some ornithologists have sup- 
posed that the gray specimens were the young birds; but it has 
been proved beyond question that the two phases are simply indi- 
vidual variations of the same species. Gray and red birds have 
been found in one nest, with both parents gray, or both red, or with 
one of each color. 

The Screech Owl is a resident of southern New England and 
quite common. It breeds northward to the Maritime Provinces, 
westward to Minnesota and southward to the Gulf States. Prob- 
ably southern New England is the northern limit of the bird's 
distribution in winter. 

Note. — A smaller and darker race is found in South Carolina, 
Georgia, and Florida. It is named Florida Screech Owl 
{M. asio floridanus). In this race the reddish feathers wear a 
richer rufous tint, and the gray are more deeply tinged with 
brown. 







==^ V ^ ^y^ /-^i < «><:»? 



GREAT HORNED OWL. 

CAT OWL. 

Bubo virginianus. 

Char. Plumage very variable, of mottled black, light and dark 
brown, buff, and tawny. A white band on the throat, and a white stripe 
down the breast, — the latter sometimes obscure. Ear-tufts large and 
conspicuous; legs and toes feathered. Length i8 to 25 inches. 

A'^est. Sometimes within a hollow tree, but usually on an upper limb. 
A deserted nest of Crow or Hawk is often used, and then it is a clumsy, 
bulky affair of sticks, lined with feathers. 

£^gs. 2-3 ; white and nearly spherical ; 2.20 X 1.80. 

This species, so nearly related to the Great Eared Owl of 
Europe, is met with occasionally from Hudson's Bay to 



62 BIRDS OF PREY. 

Florida, and in Oregon; it exists even beyond the tropics, 
being very probably the same bird described by Marcgrave as 
inhabiting the forests of Brazil. All climates are ahke to this 
Eagle of the night, the king of the nocturnal tribe of American 
birds. The aboriginal inhabitants of the country dread his 
boding howl, dedicating his effigies to their solemnities, and, as 
if he were their sacred bird of Minerva, forbid the mockery of 
his ominous, dismal, and almost supernatural cries. His favor- 
ite resort, in the dark and impenetrable swampy forests, where 
he dwells in chosen solitude secure from the approach of every 
enemy, agrees with the melancholy and sinister traits of his 
character. To the surrounding feathered race he is the Pluto 
of the gloomy wilderness, and would scarcely be known out of 
the dismal shades where he hides, but to his victims, were he 
as silent as he is solitary. Among the choking, loud, guttural 
sounds which he sometimes utters in the dead of night, and 
with a suddenness which always alarms, because of his noiseless 
approach, is the ^waiigh ho ! 'waugh ho ! which, Wilson re- 
marks, was often uttered at the instant of sweeping down 
around his camp-fire. Many kinds of Owls are similarly daz- 
zled and attracted by fire-lights, and occasionally finding, no 
doubt, some offal or flesh thrown out by those who encamp in 
the wilderness, they come round the nocturnal blaze with other 
motives than barely those of curiosity. The solitary travellers 
in these wilds, apparently scanning the sinister motive of his 
visits, pretend to interpret his address into '''Who 'cooks for 
you all! " and with a strong guttural pronunciation of the final 
syllable, to all those who have heard this his common cry, the 
resemblance of sound is well hit, and instantly recalls the 
ghastly serenade of his nocturnal majesty in a manner which 
is not easily forgotten. The shorter cry which we have 
mentioned makes no inconsiderable approach to that uttered 
by the European brother of our species, as given by Buffon, 
namely, 'he-hoo, 'hoo-hoo, boo-hoo, etc. The Greeks called this 
transatlantic species Byas, either from its note or from the 
resemblance this bore to the bellowing of the ox. The Latin 
name Bubo has also reference to the same note of this noc- 



GREAT HORNED OWL. 63 

turnal bird. According to Frisch, who kept one of these birds 
alive, its cries varied according to circumstances ; when hungry 
it had a muUng cry Uke Piihu. I have remarked the young, 
probably, of our species utter the same low, quailing cry, while 
yet daylight, as it sat on the low branch of a tree ; the sound 
of both is, at times, also not unlike that made by the Hawks or 
diurnal birds of prey. Indeed, in gloomy weather I have seen 
our species on the alert, flying about many hours before dark, 
and uttering his call of 'ko ko, ko ko ho. Their usual prey is 
young rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, Quails, and small birds of 
various kinds ; and when these resources fail or diminish, they 
occasionally prowl pretty boldly around the farm-yard in quest 
of Chickens, which they seize on the roost. Indeed the Euro- 
pean Horned Owl frequently contends with the Buzzard for its 
prey, and generally comes off conqueror; blind and infuriate 
with hunger, one of these has been known to dart even upon 
a man, as if for conflict, and was killed in the encounter. My 
friend Dr. Boykin, of Milledgeville, in Georgia, assured me that 
one of our own daring nocturnal adventurers, prowling round 
his premises, saw a cat dozing on the roof of a smoke-house, 
and supposing grimalkin a more harmless, rabbit-like animal 
than appeared in the sequel, blindly snatched her up in his 
talons ; but finding he had caught a Tartar, it was not long be- 
fore he allowed puss once more to tread the ground. In 
England the same error was committed by an Eagle, who, 
after a severe conflict with a cat he had carried into the air, 
was at length brought to the ground before he could disengage 
himself from the feline grasp. 

An Owl of this species, which I have observed in a cage, 
appeared very brisk late in the morning, hissed and blew when 
approached with a stick, and dashed at it very heedlessly with 
his bill ; he now and then uttered a ^ko-koh, and was pretty 
loud in his call at an earlier hour. When approached, he cir- 
cularly contracted the iris of the eyes to obtain a clearer view 
of the threatened object ; he also Hstened with great quickness 
to any sound which occurred near his prison, and eyed the 
flying Pigeons, which passed by at some distance, with a scruti- 



64 BIRDS OF PREY. 

nizing and eager glance. When fed he often had the habit of 
hiding away his superfluous provision. 

As far as I have been able to observe the retiring manners 
of this recluse, he slumbers out the day chiefly in the dark tops 
of lofty trees. In these, according to Wilson, he generally be- 
gins to build in the month of May, though probably earlier in 
the Southern States. The nest is usually placed in the fork of 
a tree, made of a considerable pile of sticks, and lined with 
dry leaves and some feathers ; and, as a saving of labor, some- 
times they select a hollow tree for the purpose. 

This Owl is usually found in woods of rather large growth ; but 
Nuttall slightly exaggerated in naming the " dark and impenetrable 
swampy forest" as its "favorite resort." Throughout the Mari- 
time Provinces it is found on the outskirts of settlements, as well 
as in the wilderness. 

An interesting account of the habits of this species in captivity, 
from the note-book of Mr. James W. Banks, of St. John, N. B., 
appeared in "The Auk " for April, 1884. 



Note. — There are two geographical races of this species that 
should be named here. The Dusky Horxed Owl {B. virgi- 
niamis saturattis), an extremely dark form, occurs in Labrador, and 
is found also on the coast of the Northwest. The Western 
Horned Owl {B. virginia7tus subarctiais), a light-gray form, is 
usually restricted to the middle faunal province, but has been taken 
in Illinois and Wisconsin. 



GREAT GRAY OWL. 

SCOTIAPTEX CINEREA. 

Char. Above, sooty brown mottled with irregular bars of dull gray ; 
below, paler tints of same colors in wavy stripes. No ear-tufts. The 
largest of the Owls. Length. 23 to 30 inches. 

JVest. In a tree. 

2-3; white; 2.15 X 1.70. 



This is the largest American species known, and if the S. 
lapponica, common also to the Arctic circle, and seldom leav- 
ing it, being only accidental about Lake Superior, and occa- 



GREAT GRAY OWL. 65 

sionally seen in Massachusetts in the depth of severe winters. 
One was caught perched on a wood-pile, in a state of listless 
inactivity, in the morning after daylight, at Marblehead, in 
February, 1831. This individual sur\dved for several months, 
and showed a great partiality for fish and birds. At times he 
uttered a tremulous cry or ho ho ho ho hoo, not very dissimilar 
to that of the Mottled Owl. At Hudson's Bay and Labrador 
these Owls reside the whole year, and were found in the Ore- 
gon territory by Mr. Townsend. They associate in pairs, fly 
very low, and feed on mice and hares, which they seize with 
such muscular vigor as sometimes to sink into the snow after 
them a foot deep. With ease they are able to carry off the 
alpine hare alive in their talons. In Europe the species ap- 
pears wholly confined to the desert regions of Lapland, two or 
three stragglers being all that have been obtained out of that 
country by naturalists. 

Dr. Richardson says that it is by no means a rare bird in the 
fur countries, being an inhabitant of all the woody districts 
lying between Lake Superior and latitudes 67° or 68° and 
between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific. It is common on 
the borders of Great Bear Lake ; and there, and in the higher 
parallels of latitude, it must pursue its prey, during the summer 
months, by daylight. It keeps, however, within the woods, and 
does not frequent the barren grounds, like the Snowy Owl, nor 
is it so often met with in broad dayhght as the Hawk Owl, but 
hunts principally when the sun is low, — indeed, it is only at such 
times, when the recesses of the woods are deeply shadowed, 
that the American hare and the marine animals on which the 
Cinereous Owl chiefly preys, come forth to feed. On the 23d 
of May I discovered a nest of this Owl, built on the top of a 
lofty balsam poplar, of sticks, and lined with feathers. It con- 
tained three young, which were covered with a whitish down. 

The capture in New England of several examples of this species 
has been recorded. During the winter of 1889-90, a number were 
seen along the northern border of these States and in the southern 
portions of Canada. Mr. Mcllwraith reported that a large number 
had been taken near Hamilton. 
.VOL. I. — 5 




LONG-EARED OWL. 

ASIO WILSONIANUS. 

Char. Above, finely mottled with dark brown, dull buff, and gray ; 
breast similar, but of reddish tint ; belly paler, with dark markings. Ear- 
tufts large; toes feathered. Length 15 inches. 

Nest. Usually in a tree ; of twigs, lined with grass and feathers. 
Sometimes a deserted Crow's or Hawk's nest is used. 

Eggs. 3-6; v^hite and oval ; 1.65 X 1.30. 

This species, like several others of the genus, appears to be 
almost a denizen of the world, being found from Hudson's Bay 
to the West Indies and Brazil, throughout Europe, in Africa, 
northern Asia, and probably China, in all which countries 
it appears to be resident, but seems more abundant in certain 
places in winter, following rats and mice to their retreats in or 
near houses and barns. It also preys upon small birds, and 
in summer destroys beetles. It commonly lodges in ruined 
buildings, the caverns of rocks, or in hollow trees. It defends 



LONG-EARED OWL. 6/ 

itself with great spirit from the attacks of larger birds, making 
a ready use of its bill and talons, and when wounded is dan- 
gerous and resolute. 

The Long-Eared Owl seldom, if ever, takes the trouble 
to construct a nest of its own ; it seeks shelter amidst ruins 
and in the accidental hollows of trees, and rests content with 
the dilapidated nursery of the Crow, the Magpie, that of the 
Wild Pigeon, of the Buzzard, or even the tufted retreat of the 
squirrel. True to these habits, Wilson found one of these 
Owls sitting on her eggs in the deserted nest of the Qua Bird, 
on the 25 th of April, six or seven miles below Philadelphia, in 
the midst of the gloomy enswamped forest which formed the 
usual resort of these solitary Herons. So well satisfied was she 
in fact with her company, and so peaceable, that one of the Quas 
had a nest in the same tree with the Owl. The young, until 
nearly fully grown, are grayish white, and roost close together 
on a large branch during the day, sheltered and hid amidst the 
thickest foliage ; they acquire their natural color in about fifteen 
days. Besides mice and rats, this species also preys on field- 
mice, moles, and beetles. The plaintive cry or hollow moan- 
ing made by this bird, " clow cloud,'^ incessantly repeated 
during the night, so as to be troublesome where they frequent, 
is very attractive to the larger birds, who out of curiosity and 
for persecution assemble around this species when employed 
as a decoy, and are thus shot or caught by limed twigs. 

This Owl occurs throughout temperate North America, and is a 
common resident everywhere excepting along the northern limit of 
its range, where it is less abundant, and appears in summer only. 




SHORT-EARED OWL. 

ASIO ACCIPITRINUS. 

Char. Above, mottled with dark brown, tawny, and buffish white ; 
below, paler ; feet feathered ; ear-tufts inconspicuous. Some examples 
are much paler, as if the colors had faded. Length about 15 inches. 

Nest. On the ground amid tall grass, and composed of a few twigs and 
a few feathers. 

Eggs. 3-6 ; white and oval ; 1.60 X 1.20. 

This is another of those nocturnal wanderers which now and 
then arrive amongst us from the northern regions, where they 
usually breed. It comes to Hudson's Bay from the South 
about May, where it makes a nest of dry grass on the ground, 
and, as usual, has white eggs. After rearing its brood it de- 
parts for the South in September, and in its migrations has 
been met with as far as New Jersey, near Philadelphia, where, 
according to Wilson, it arrives in November and departs in 
April. Pennant remarks that it has been met with in the 



SHORT-EARED OWL. 69 

southern continent of America at the Falkland Islands. It is 
likewise spread through every part of Europe, and is common 
in all the forests of Siberia ; it also visits the Orkney Islands 
and Iceland, and we have observed it at Atooi, one of the 
Sandwich Islands, in the Pacific, as well as in the territory of 
Oregon. In England it appears and disappears with the mi- 
grations of the Woodcock. Its food is almost exclusively mice, 
for which it watches, seated on a stump, with all the vigilance 
of a cat, listening attentively to the low squeak of its prey, 
to which it is so much alive as to be sometimes brought in 
sight by imitating the sound. It is readily attracted by the 
blaze of nocturnal fires, and on such occasions has sometimes 
had the blind temerity to attack men, and come so close to 
combat as to be knocked down with sticks. When wounded 
it also displays the same courageous ferocity, so as to be 
dangerous to approach. In dark and cloudy weather it some- 
times ventures abroad by daylight, takes short flights, and 
when sitting and looking sharply round, it erects the short, ear- 
like tufts of feathers on the head which are at other times 
scarcely visible. Like all other migrating birds, roving indif- 
ferently over the country in quest of food alone, these Owls 
have sometimes been seen in considerable numbers together ; 
Bewick even remarks that 28 of them had been counted at 
once in a turnip-field in England. They are also numerous in 
Holland in the months of September and October, and in all 
countries are serviceable for the destruction they make among 
house and field mice, their principal food. Although they 
usually breed in high ground, they have also been observed in 
Europe to nest in marshes, in the middle of the high herbage, 
— a situation chosen both for safety and solitude. 

This is one of the commonest of the New England Owls, and 
has been supposed to breed in all the suitable marsh land along 
the coast, but Mr. William Brewster states that he knows " of no 
authentic record of its breeding in any part of New England within 
the past ten years." It ranges north to the fur countries, south to 
the Gulf states and beyond, and west to the Pacific. 




BARRED OWL. 

HOOT OWL. 

Syrnium nebulosum. 

Char. Above, brown barred, spotted, and striped with dull gray or 
tawny ; below, similar colors of paler tints ; face, gray stripes ; tail 
barred ; iris brownish black ; bill yellow. Length 19^ to 24 inches. 

Easily distinguished from all other species by its dark eyes. 

Nest. Usually in a hollow tree, but often a deserted nest of Crow or 
Hawk is re-lined and used. 

Eggs. 2-4; white and nearly spherical ; 1.95 X 1.65. 

This species inhabits the northern regions of both the old 
and new continent, but with this difference, as in the Bald 
Eagle, that in the ancient continent it seldom wanders be- 
yond the Arctic circle, being found no farther to the south than 
Sweden and Norway ; while in America it dwells and breeds 
at least in all the intermediate region from Hudsqn's Bay to 
Florida, being considerably more numerous even than other 
species throughout the swamps and dark forests of the South- 



BARRED OWL. 7 1 

em States. Its food is principally rabbits, squirrels, Grouse, 
Quails, rats, mice, and frogs. From necessity, as well as choice, 
these birds not unfrequently appear around the farm-house and 
garden in quest of the poultry, particularly young chickens. 
At these times they prowl abroad towards evening, and fly low 
and steadily about, as if beating for their prey. In Alabama, 
Georgia, West Florida, and Louisiana, where they abound, they 
are often to be seen abroad by day, particularly in cloudy 
weather, and at times even soar and fly with aU the address of 
diurnal birds of prey. Their loud guttural call of ^koh ^koh ^ko 
ko, ho, or ^whah 'whah ''whah 'whah-aa, may be heard occasion- 
ally both by day and night, and as a note of recognition, is 
readily answered when mimicked, so as to decoy the original 
towards the sound. One which I received, in the month of 
December (1830), was hovering over a covey of Quails in the 
day-time ; and though the sportsman had the same aim, the 
Owl also joined the chase, and was alone deterred from his 
sinister purpose by receiving the contents of the gun intended 
only for the more favorite game. When the young leave the 
nest they still keep together for mutual warmth and safety in 
the high, shaded branches of the trees where they have prob- 
ably been hatched. On being approached by the parents, 
they utter a hissing call audible for some distance. According 
to Audubon, when kept in captivity they prove very useful 
in catching mice. Their flesh is also eaten by the Creoles of 
Louisiana, and considered as palatable. 

An interesting article, containing the most valuable information 
regarding the habits of this Owl that has yet been published, ap- 
peared in " The Auk " for April, 1890. The writer, Mr. Frank Belles, 
kept a pair for several years ; and one of these, having broken its 
wing, was reduced to such subjection that Mr. Bolles was enabled 
to make use of it in hunting for other birds, and thus gained 
an insight into the bird's methods that no other naturalist has 
equalled. 

Note. — The Florida Barred Owl (.S*. nebulosum alleni), 
a somewhat darker variety, is restricted to the Gulf States and 
Florida. 



72 BIRDS OF PREY. 

SAW-WHET OWL. 

ACADIAN OWL. 
Nyctala ACADICA. 

Char. Above, dark grayish brown spotted with white ; below, white, 
spotted with reddish brown ; tail short, with three narrow bands of white 
spots. Young almost solid brown of reddish tint, and face with white 
markings. Length y}( to S)4 inches. 

JVes^. A hole in a tree (often in a hole that has been deserted by Wood- 
peckers), lined with feathers. 

£g£'s. 3-6 (usually 4) ; white; 1.20 X i.oo. 

This very small species is believed to be an inhabitant of the 
northern regions of both continents, from which in Europe it 
seldom wanders, being even very rare in the North of Germany. 
In the United States it is not uncommon as far to the south as 
Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where it is resident, having ap- 
parently a predilection for the sea-coast, living and nesting in 
the pine-trees or in the clefts of rocks, and laying 4 or 5 
white eggs. It is generally nocturnal ; and if accidentally 
abroad by day, it flies quickly to some shelter from the light. 
It is very solitary in its habits, living wholly in the evergreen 
forests, and coming out only towards night or early in the 
morning in search of mice, beetles, moths, and grasshoppers. 

The note of this species is very different from that of the 
Strix passerina, or Little Owl, to which it is nearly related. 
This latter kind has a reiterated cry, when flying, like poopoo 
pobpoo. Another note, which it utters sitting, appears so much 
like the human voice calling out dime, Heme, edme, that accord- 
ing to Buffon, it deceived one of his servants, who lodged in 
one of the old turrets of the castle of Montbard ; and waking 
him up at three o'clock in the morning, with this singular cry, 
he opened the window and cafled out, " Who 's there below ? 
My name is not Edme, hit Peter ! " 

The Saw-whet — called so from its note, which resembles the 
filing of a saw — breeds from the Middle States northward to about 
latitude 50°, but is not an abundant bird anywhere. 




RICHARDSON'S OWL. 

SPARROW OWL. 

Nyctala tengivialmi richardsoni. 

Char. Above, dark brown spotted with white ; beneath, white streaked 
with brown ; legs and feet buffy, sometimes spotted. Similar to the Saw- 
whet, but with more white on head and neck. Length 9 to 12 inches. 

N'est. In a tree ; of grass and leaves. 

Eggs. 2-4; white; 1.35 X 1.15- 

This is a small and nocturnal species, and so much so that 
when it accidentally wanders abroad by day it is so much daz- 
zled by the light as to be rendered unable to make its escape 
when surprised, and may then be readily caught by the hand. 
Its nocturnal cry consists of a single melancholy note repeated 
at the long intervals of a minute or two : and it is one of the 
superstitious practices of the Indians to whistle when they hear 
it ; and if the bird remains silent after this interrogatory chal- 
lenge, the speedy death of the inquirer is augured ; and hence 
among the Crees it has acquired the omnious appellation of 
the Bird of Death ( Cheepomesees) . According to M. Hutch- 
ins, it builds a nest of grass half way up a pine-tree, and lays 



74 BIRDS OF PREY. 

2 eggs in the month of May. It feeds on mice and beetles. 
It probably inhabits all the forests of the fur countries from 
Great Slave Lake to the United States. On the banks of the 
Saskatchewan it is so common that its voice is heard almost 
every night by the traveller wherever he may select his camp. 
It inhabits the woods along the streams of the Rocky Moun- 
tains down to the Oregon, and betrays but little suspicion 
when approached. 

Richardson's Owl is usually a rare winter visitor to the Maritime 
Provinces ; but Mr. C. B. Cory found it common and breeding on 
the Magdalene Islands, and a few examples have been taken in 
New Brunswick in summer. 

It is common on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
though rare near the city of Quebec ; it occurs sparingly in winter 
along the northern border of New England and in southern Onta- 
rio, and occasionally straggles to Massachusetts and Connecticut. 
Thompson reports it common in Manitoba, and it is found through- 
out the fur country. Mr. Nelson reports these birds breeding in 
northern Alaska, where they occupy the deserted nests of other 
birds — usually on bushes. 

Dr. Merriam, on the authority of Mr. Comeau, of Point de Monts, 
describes the cry of this Owl as " a low liquid note that resembles 
the sound produced by water slowly dropping from a height." 




BARN OWL. 

Strix pratincola. 

Char. Colors extremely variable. Above, usually yellowish tawny or 
orange brown, clouded with darker tints and spotted with white ; beneath, 
buffish with dark spots ; face white, tinged with tawny ; bill whitish. 
Some examples have but little marking on the back, and the face and 
lower parts are pure white. Easily distinguished from other Owls by 
peculiar facial disc. Length 15 to 21 inches. 

Nest. In barn or church tower or hollow tree, — usually the last. The 
eggs are laid upon a mat of loosely laid twigs and weed-stems or grass. 

Egg^' 3-"; white; 1.75 X 1.30. 

There is scarcely any part of the world in which this com- 
mon species is not found ; extending even to both sides of the 
equator, it is met with in New Holland, India, and Brazil. It 
is perhaps nowhere more rare than in this part of the United 
States, and is only met with in Pennsylvania and New Jersey 
in cold and severe winters. Nor is it ever so familiar as in 
Europe, frequenting almost uniformly the hollows of trees. 



76 BIRDS OF PREY. 

In the old continent it is almost domestic, inhabiting even pop- 
ulous towns, and is particularly attached to towers, belfries, 
the roofs of churches, and other lofty buildings, which afford 
it a retreat during the day. The elegant, graphic lines of 
Gray, describing its romantic haunt, are in the recollection of 

every one, — 

" From yonder ivy-mantled tower 
The moping Owl does to the moon complain 
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower, 
Molest her ancient solitary reign." 

Superstition laid aside, these Owls render essential service to 
the farmer by destroying mice, rats, and shrews, which infest 
houses and bams ; they also catch bats and beetles. They 
likewise clear churches of such vermin, and now and then, 
pressed by hunger, they have been known to sip, or rather eat, 
the oil from the lamps when congealed by cold. A still more 
extraordinary appetite, attributed to them, is that of catch- 
ing fish, on which they fed their voracious young. In autumn 
also they have been known to pay a nightly visit to the places 
where springes were laid for Woodcocks and Thrushes. The 
former they killed and ate on the spot ; but sometimes carried 
off the Thrushes and smaller birds, which, like mice, they either 
swallowed entire, rejecting the indigestible parts by the bill, 
or if too large, they plucked off the feathers and then bolted 
them whole, or only took them down piecemeal. 

In fine weather they venture out into the neighboring woods 
at night, returning to their usual retreat at the approach of 
morning. When they first sally from their holes, their eyes 
hardly well opened, they fly tumbling along almost to the 
ground, and usually proceed side-ways in their course. In 
severe seasons, 5 or 6, probably a family brood, are discov- 
ered in the same retreat, or concealed in the fodder of the 
bam, where they find, shelter, warmth, and food. The Barn 
Owl drops her eggs in the bare holes of walls, in the joists 
of houses, or in the hollows of decayed trees, and spreads 
no lining to receive them ; they are 3 to 5 in number, of a 
whitish color, and rather long than round. 



BARN OWL. 



77 



When out abroad by day, like most of the other species, 
they are numerously attended by the little gossiping and insult- 
ing birds of the neighborhood ; and to add to their distraction, 
it is not an uncommon practice, in the North of England, for 
boys to set up a shout and follow the Owl, who becomes so 
deafened and stunned as at times nearly to fall down, and 
thus become an easy prey to his persecutors. And the prob- 
abihty of such an effect will not be surprising when we con- 
sider the delicacy and magnitude of the auditory apparatus of 
this bird, the use of which is probably necessary to discover 
the otherwise silent retreats of their tiny prey. When taken 
captive, according to Buffon, they do not long survive the loss 
of liberty, and pertinaciously refuse to eat, — a habit very differ- 
ent from that of the young Red Owl, who allowed himself to 
feed from my hand, and tugged greedily and tamely at the 
morsel held out to him until he got it in his possession ; small 
birds also he would instantly grasp in his talons, and hiss and 
shaie, shaie, when any attempt was made to deprive him of his 
booty. 

The young of this species, when they have just attained their 
growth, are, in France, considered good food, as they are then 
fat and plump. When first hatched they are so white and 
downy as almost entirely to resemble a powder puff. At 
Hudson's Bay a large Owl, resembling the cinereous, is like- 
wise eaten, and esteemed a delicacy, according to Pennant. 

The Barn Owl occurs regularly from the Middle States south- 
ward, though it is not abundant north of South CaroUna. A few 
examples have been taken in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and 
Mr. Mcllwraith reports that four have been taken in Ontario. 




FLORIDA BURROWING OWL. 
Speotyto cunicularia floridana. 

Char, Above, grayish brown spotted and barred with white ; below, 
pale buffish barred with brown; a patch of white on the breast; legs long 
and slender, and covered with buffish bristles. Length about lo inches. 

Nest. At the end of a burrow in the ground, lined with grass and 
feathers. 

Eggs. 4-10; white, varying in shape, usually nearly round; 1.25 
X 1. 00. 

This variety, which is found in Florida only, is smaller and lighter- 
colored than is the well-known bird of the prairies. In habits the 
two differ little, the Florida birds living in communities, — sometimes 
several pairs in one burrow, — and feeding on mice and small birds. 
The tales related of Burrowing Owls and rattlesnakes occupying 
the same burrow are " hunter's tales," and lack confirmation. 



Note. — The Western form of the Burrowing Owl {S. cuni- 
cularia hypogcsa, has been taken in Massachusetts ; but its occur- 
rence to the eastward of the Great Plains is accidental. 




MEADOWLARK. 

FIELD LARK. 

Sturnella magna. 

Char. Above,' grayish brown barred with black; crown with medial 
stripe of buff; lateral tail-feathers white; below yellow, sides darker 
and spotted with brown; black crescent on the breast. Length about 
10 inches. 

Nest. Made of dry grass and placed amid a tuft of long grass in 
a meadow ; often covered, and the opening placed at the side. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white, thickly spotted with reddish brown and lilac ; 
1.15 X .80. 

This well-known harmless inhabitant of meadows and old 
fields is not only found in every part of the United States, but 
appears to be a resident in all the intermediate region, from 
the frigid latitude of 53° and the territory of Oregon, to 
the mild table-land of Mexico and the savannahs of Guiana. 
In the winter these birds abound in Alabama and Western 



80 SINGING BIRDS. 

Florida ; so that in some degree, like the Jays and the legiti- 
mate Starlings, they partially migrate in quest of food during 
the severity of the weather in the colder States. It is not, how- 
ever, improbable but that most of the migrating families of these 
birds, which we find at this season, have merely travelled east- 
ward from the cold Western plains that are annually covered 
with snow. They are now seen in considerable numbers in and 
round the salt-marshec, roving about in flocks of ten to thirty 
or more, seeking the shelter of the sea-coast, though not in 
such dense flocks as the true Starlings ; these, in the manner of 
our common Blackbirds, assemble in winter like dark clouds, 
moving as one body, and when about to descend, perform pro- 
gressive circular evolutions in the air like a phalanx in the 
order of battle ; and when settled, blacken the earth with their 
numbers, as well as stun the ears with their chatter. Like 
Crows also, they seek the shelter of reed- marshes to pass the 
night, and in the day take the benefit of every sunny and shel- 
tered covert. 

Our Starling, like the American Quail, is sociable, and some- 
what gregarious ; and though many, no doubt, wander some 
distance after food, yet a few, in Pennsylvania as well as in 
this rigorous climate, may be seen in the market after the 
ground is covered with snow. Wilson even observed them 
in the month of February, during a deep snow, among the 
heights of the Alleghanies, gleaning their scanty pittance on 
the road, in company with the small Snow Birds. 

The flesh of our bird is white, and for size and delicacy it is 
considered little inferior to the Partridge ; but that of the Euro- 
pean species is black and bitter. 

The flight of these Larks is laborious and steady, like that 
of the Quail, with the action of the wings renewed at short in- 
tervals. They often alight on trees, and select usually the main 
branches or topmost twigs on which to perch, though their food 
is commonly collected from the ground. At various times of 
the day, and nearly through the winter, in the milder States, 
their very peculiar lisping, long, and rather melancholy note is 
heard at short intervals ; and without the variations, which are 



pi.n 




1 . Baltimore Oriole. 

oAinerican Osprev 



3 . Red-idnged Blackbird 



^leadoiv'Iapk. 



4- . Bobolink 



MEADOW LARK. 8 1 

not inconsiderable, bears some resemblance to the slender sing- 
ing and affected pronunciation of et se dee ah, and psedee etstlid, 
or fat sediao in a slow, wiry, shrill tone, and sometimes differ- 
ently varied and shortened. The same simple ditty is repeated 
in the spring, when they associate in pairs ; the female also, as 
she rises or descends, at this time frequently gives a reiterated 
guttural chirp, or hurried twitter, like that of the female Red- 
winged Blackbird. I have likewise at times heard them utter 
notes much more musical and vigorous, not very unlike the fine 
tones of the Sky Lark ; but I can by no means compare our 
lisping songster with that blithe "harbinger of day." There 
is a monotonous affectation in the song of our Lark which 
appears indeed somewhat allied to the jingling, though not 
unpleasant, tune of the Starling. The Stare, moreover, had the 
faculty of imitating human speech (which ours has not, as far 
as we yet know), and could indifferently speak even French, 
English, German, Latin, and Greek, or any other language 
within his hearing, and repeat short phrases ; so that " ' / can't 
get out y I can't get outy says the Starling," which accidentally 
afforded Sterne such a beautiful and pathetic subject for his 
graphic pen, was probably no fiction. 

At the time of pairing, our Lark exhibits a little of the 
jealous disposition of his tribe ; and having settled the dispute 
which decides his future condition, he retires from his fra- 
ternity, and, assisted by his mate, selects a thick tuft for the 
reception of his nest, which is pretty compact, made of dry, 
wiry grass, and lined with finer blades of the same. It is 
usually formed with a covered entrance in the surrounding 
withered grass, through which a hidden and almost winding 
path is made, and generally so well concealed that the nest is 
only to be found when the bird is flushed. 

The eggs are four or five, white, with a very faint tint of 
blue, almost round, and rather large, for the size of the bird, 
marked with numerous small reddish-brown spots, more nu- 
merous at the greater end, blended with other fighter and 
darker points and small spots of the same. They probably 
often raise two broods in the season. About the time of 
VOL. I. — 6 



82 SINGING BIRDS. 

pairing, in the latter end of the month of April, they have 
a call, like ^tship, twee, the latter syllable in a fine and slender 
tone, — something again alHed to the occasional notes of the 
Red-winged Blackbird, to which genus (^Icterus) our Sturnella 
is not very remotely allied. Towards the close of June little 
else is heard from the species but the noisy twitter of the 
female, preceded by a hoarse and sonorous '/imp or y 'ip, ac- 
companied by an impatient raising and lowering of the wings, 
and, in short, all the unpleasant and petulant actions of a 
brood-hen, as she is now assiduously engaged in fostering 
and supporting her helpless and dependent offspring. 

Their food consists of the larvae of various insects, as well as 
worms, beetles, and grass-seeds, to assist the digestion of 
which they swallow a considerable portion of gravel. It does 
not appear that these birds add berries or fruits of any kind 
to their fare, like the Starling, but usually remain the whole 
summer in moist meadows, and in winter retire to the open 
grassy woods, having no inclination to rob the orchard or gar- 
den, and, except in winter, are of a shy, timid, and retiring 
disposition. 

In the East the Meadowlark seldom ranges north of latitude 45°. 
I met with but one example in New Brunswick, and learn that it is 
rare near Montreal. It is common around Ottawa and throughout 
southern Ontario. In winter these birds are found occasionally as 
far north as southern New England and Illinois. 

Note. — A larger and paler form, named the Western Mead- 
owlark (vS". tnagna neglectd)^ occurs in Wisconsin, Illinois, and 
Iowa; and Mr. W. E. D. Scott has lately announced that the birds 
found in southwestern Florida should be referred to mexicana, the 
Mexican Meadowlark, which is the smallest of the three. 

A stray Starling {Sturnus vulgaris) is said to have wandered 
from Europe to Greenland ; and some sixty were imported and 
released in Central Park, New York, in 1890. They are thriving 
and increasing, giving evidence of ability to withstand the winter 
storm. 

A Troupial {Icterus icterus), a South American bird, was 
taken by Audubon near Charleston, S. C. 




BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 



golden robin. hang-nest. fire bird. 
Icterus galbula. 

Char. Male : head, neck, throat, back, wings, and greater part of 
tail black ; wing-coverts and secondaries tipped with white ; other parts 
orange. Bill and feet blue black. Female : smaller and paler, some- 
times the black replaced by olive brown or grayish orange. Young 
similar to female. Length 7 to 8 inches. 

Nest. Pensile and purse-shaped, 6 to 8 inches deep, suspended from 
extremity of branch 10 to 50 feet from the ground, composed of yarn, 
string, horsehair, grass, etc., woven into a compact texture. 

^i§^- 4-6 ; dull white, blotched irregularly with dark brown ; .90 X • 60. 



84 SINGING BIRDS. 

These gay, lively, and brilliant strangers, leaving their hi- 
bernal retreat in South America, appear in New England about 
the first week in May, and more than a month earlier in Loui- 
siana, according to the observations of Audubon. They were 
not seen, however, in West Florida by the middle of March, 
although vegetation had then so far advanced that the oaks 
were in leaf, and the white flowering cornel was in full 
blossom. 

It is here that they pass the most interesting period of their 
lives ; and their arrival is hailed as the sure harbinger of 
approaching summer. Full of life and activity, these fiery 
sylphs are now seen vaulting and darting incessantly through 
the lofty boughs of our tallest trees ; appearing and vanishing 
with restless inquietude, and flashing at quick intervals into 
sight from amidst the tender waving foliage, they seem like 
living gems intended to decorate the verdant garment of the 
new- clad forest. But the gay Baltimore is neither idle nor 
capricious ; the beautiful small beetles and other active-winged 
insects on which he now principally feeds are in constant mo- 
tion, and require perpetual address in their capture. At first 
the males only arrive, but without appearing in flocks ; their 
mates are yet behind, and their social dehght is incomplete. 
They appear to feel this temporary bereavement, and in shrill 
and loud notes they fife out their tender plaints in quick suc- 
cession, as they pry and spring through the shady boughs for 
their tiny and eluding prey. They also now spend much time 
in the apple-trees, often sipping honey from the white blossoms, 
over which they wander with peculiar delight, continually roving 
amidst the sweet and flowery profusion. The mellow whistled 
notes which they are heard to trumpet from the high branches 
of our tallest trees and gigantic elms resemble, at times, 
' tshippe-tshayia too too, and sometimes 'tshippee 'tshippee 
(Hspingly), too too (with the two last syllables loud and fufl). 
These notes are also varied by some birds so as to resemble 
^tsh 'tsh 'tsheetshoo tshoo tshoo^ also 'tsh 'tsheefd 'tsheefd 'tsheefd 

1 The first three of these notes are derived from the Summer Yellow Bird, 
though not its most usual tones. 



BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 85 

tshoo and ^kUi!cf a ttif a tuf a tea kei'ry ; ^ another bird I have 
occasionally heard to call for hours, with some little variation, 
tu teo teo teo teo too, in a loud, querulous, and yet almost lu- 
dicrously merry strain. At other intervals the sensations of 
solitude seem to stimulate sometimes a loud and interrog- 
atory note, echoed forth at intervals, as k'rij kerry ? and 
terminating plaintively k'rry k'rry k'rry, tu ; the voice falling 
oif very slenderly in the last long syllable, which is apparently 
an imitation from the Cardinal Grosbeak, and the rest is de- 
rived from the Crested Titmouse, whom they have already 
heard in concert as they passed through the warmer States. 
Another interrogatory strain which I heard here in the spring 
of 1830 was precisely, 'yip k'rry, 'yip, 'yip k'rry, very loud and 
oft repeated. Another male went in his ordinary key, tshei-ry 
tsherry, tshipee tsh'rry, — notes copied from the exhaustless stock 
of the Carolina Wren (also heard on his passage), but modu- 
lated to suit the fancy of our vocalist. The female likewise 
sings, but less agreeably than the male. One which I had 
abundant opportunity of observing, while busied in the toil of 
weaving her complicated nest, every now and then, as a relief 
from the drudgery in which she was solely engaged, sung, in a 
sort of querulous and rather plaintive strain, the strange, un- 
couth syllables, 'kd 'ked kowd, keka keka, the final tones loud 
and vaulting, which I have little doubt were an imitation of the 
discordant notes of some South American bird. For many 
days she continued this tune at intervals without any variation. 
The male, also while seeking his food in the same tree with his 
mate, or while they are both attending on their unfledged 
brood, calls frequently in a low, friendly whisper, 'twait, tw'it. 
Indeed, all the individuals of either sex appear pertinaciously 
to adhere for weeks to the same quaint syllables which they 
have accidentally collected. 

This bird then, like the Starling, appears to have a taste for 
mimicry, or rather for sober imitation. A Cardinal Grosbeak 
happening, very Unusually, to pay us a visit, his harmonious 

^ The last phrase loud and ascending, the tea plaintive, and the last syllable 
tender and echoing. 



86 SINGING BIRDS. 

and bold whistle struck upon the ear of a Baltimore with great 
delight ; and from that moment his ordinary notes were laid 
aside for 'woit, 'woit, teii, and other phrases previously foreign 
to him for that season. I have likewise heard another individ- 
ual exactly imitating the soft and somewhat plaintive lilt yu^ 
vit yiu of the same bird, and in the next breath the pent, or 
call of Wilson's Thrush ; also at times the earnest song of the 
Robin. Indeed his variations and imitations have sometimes 
led me to believe that I heard several new and melodious 
birds, and I was only undeceived when I beheld his brilliant 
livery. So various, in fact, are the individual phrases chanted 
by this restless and lively bird that it is scarcely possible to fix 
on any characteristic notes by which he may be recognized ; 
his singular, loud, and almost plaintive tone, and a fondness 
for harping long on the same string, are perhaps more peculiar 
than any particular syllables which he may be heard to utter. 
When alarmed or offended at being too closely watched or 
approached, both male and female utter an angry, rattling tsher 
tshW, or hiss, tsh' tsh' tsh' 'tsh. 

The beautiful Baltimore bird is only one of the tribe of true 
Icteri, which, except the present and two following species, 
remain within the tropical regions, or only migrate to short 
distances in the rainy season. Ours wing their way even 
into Canada as far as the 55 th degree, and breed in every 
intermediate region to the table-land of Mexico. A yellow 
Brazilian species of the section of this genus, called cassicus, 
according to Waterton inhabits also Demerara, where, like our 
bird, he familiarly weaves his pendulous nest near the planter's 
house, suspending it from the drooping branches of trees, and 
so low that it may be readily looked into even by the incu- 
rious. Omnivorous like the Starling, he feeds equally on insects, 
fruits, and seeds. He is called the Mocking Bird, and for hours 
together, in gratitude as it were for protection, he serenades 
the inhabitants with his imitative notes. His own song, though 
short, is sweet and melodious. But hearing perhaps the yelp- 
ing of the Toucan, he drops his native strain to imitate it, or 
place it in ridicule by contrast. Again, he gives the cackling 



BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 87 

cries of the Woodpecker, the bleating of the sheep ; an inter- 
val of his own melody, then probably a puppy dog or a Guinea- 
fowl receives his usual attention : and the whole of this mim- 
icry is accompanied by antic gestures indicative of the sport 
and company which these vagaries afford him. Hence we see 
that the mimicking talent of the Stare is inherent in this 
branch of the gregarious family, and our own Baltimore, in a 
humbler style, is no less delighted with the notes of his feathered 
neighbors. 

There is nothing more remarkable in the whole instinct of 
our Golden Robin than the ingenuity displayed in the fabrica- 
tion of its nest, which is, in fact, a pendulous cylindric pouch 
of five to seven inches in depth, usually suspended from near 
the extremities of the high, drooping branches of trees (such 
as the elm, the pear or apple tree, wild-cherry, weeping- willow, 
tulip-tree, or buttonwood). It is begun by firmly fastening 
natural strings of the flax of the silk-weed, or swamp-holyhock, 
or stout artificial threads, round two or more forked twigs, 
corresponding to the intended width and depth of the nest. 
With the same materials, willow down, or any accidental ravel- 
lings, strings, thread, sewing- silk, tow, or wool, that may be 
lying near the neighboring houses, or round the grafts of trees, 
it interweaves and fabricates a sort of coarse cloth into the 
form intended, towards the bottom of which is placed the 
real nest, made chiefly of lint, wiry grass, horse and cow hair, 
sometimes, in defect of hair, lining the interior with a mixture 
of slender strips of smooth vine-bark, and rarely with a few 
feathers, the whole being of a considerable thickness, and 
more or less attached to the external pouch. Over the top, 
the leaves, as they grow out, form a verdant and agreeable 
canopy, defending the young from the sun and rain. There is 
sometimes a considerable diflerence in the manufacture of 
these nests, as well as in the materials which enter into their 
composition. Both sexes seem to be equally adepts at this 
sort of labor, and I have seen the female alone perform the 
whole without any assistance, and the male also complete this 
laborious task nearly without the aid of his consort, — who, how- 



88 SINGING BIRDS. 

ever, in general, is the principal worker. I have observed a 
nest made almost wholly of tow, which was laid out for the 
convenience of a male bird, who with this aid completed his 
labor in a very short time, and frequently sang in a very ludi- 
crous manner while his mouth was loaded with a mass larger 
than his head. So eager are these birds to obtain fibrous ma- 
terials that they will readily tug at and even untie hard knots 
made of tow. In Audubon's magnificent plates a nest is rep- 
resented as formed outwardly of the long-moss; where this 
abounds, of course, the labor of obtaining materials must be 
greatly abridged. The author likewise remarks that the whole 
fabric consists almost entirely of this material, loosely inter- 
woven, without any warm lining, — a labor which our ingenious 
artist seems aware would be superfluous in the warm forests of 
the lower Mississippi. A female, which I observed attentively, 
carried off to her nest a piece of lamp-wick ten or twelve feet 
long. This long string, and many other shorter ones, were left 
hanging out for about a week before both the ends were wat- 
tled into the sides of the nest. Some other little birds, making 
use of similar materials, at times twitched these flowing ends, 
and generally brought out the busy Baltimore from her occupa- 
tion in great anger. 

The haste and eagerness of one of these airy architects, 
which I accidentally observed on the banks of the Susque- 
hanna, appeared likely to prove fatal to a busy female who, 
in weaving, got a loop round her neck ; and no sooner was she 
disengaged from this snare than it was slipped round her feet, 
and thus held her fast beyond the power of escape ! The male 
came frequently to the scene, now changed from that of joy 
and hope into despair, but seemed wholly incapable of com- 
prehending or relieving the distress of his mate. In a second 
instance I have been told that a female has been observed 
dead in the like predicament. 

The eggs of this species are usually four or five, white, with 
a faint, indistinct tint of bluish, and marked, chiefly at the 
greater end, though sometimes scatteringly, with straggling, 
serpentine, dark- brown hues and spots, and fainter hair streaks, 



BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 89 

looking sometimes almost like real hair, and occasionally lined 
only, and without the spots. The period of incubation is four- 
teen days. In Louisiana, according to Audubon, they fre- 
quently raise two broods in the season, arriving in that country 
with the opening of the early spring. Here they raise but a 
single brood, whose long and tedious support in their lofty 
cradle absorbs their whole attention ; and at this interesting 
period they seem, as it were, to live only to protect, cherish, 
and educate their young. The first and general cry which the 
infant brood utter while yet in the nest, and nearly able to 
take wing, as well as for some days after, is a kind of te-did ie- 
did, te-did, kat-te- te-did, or 'te 'te'te 'te 'ft ^t-did, which becomes 
clamorous as the parents approach them with food. They soon 
also acquire the scolding rattle and short notes which they 
probably hear around them, such as peet-weet, the cry of the 
spotted Sandpiper, and others, and long continue to be assidu- 
ously fed and guarded by their very affectionate and devoted 
parents. Unfortunately, this contrivance of instinct to secure 
the airy nest from the depredations of rapacious monkeys, and 
other animals which frequent trees in warm or mild climates, 
is also occasionally attended with serious accidents, when the 
young escape before obtaining the perfect use of their wings. 
They cling, however, with great tenacity either to the nest or 
neighboring twigs ; yet sometimes they fall to the ground, and, 
if not killed on the spot, soon become a prey to numerous 
enemies. On such occasions it is painful to hear the plaints 
and wailing cries of the parents. And when real danger offers, 
the generous and brilliant male, though much the less queru- 
lous of the two, steps in to save his brood at every hazard ; and 
I have known one so bold in this hopeless defence as to suffer 
himself to be killed, by a near approach with a stick, rather 
than desert his offspring. Sometimes, after this misfortune, or 
when the fell cat has devoured the helpless brood, day after 
day the disconsolate parents continue to bewail their loss. 
They almost forget to eat amidst their distress, and after leav- 
ing the unhappy neighborhood of their bereavement, they still 
come, at intervals, to visit and lament over the fatal spot, as if 



90 SINGING BIRDS. 

spell-bound by despair. If the season be not too far advanced, 
the loss of their eggs is generally soon repaired by constructing 
a second nest, in which, however, the eggs are fewer. 

The true Oriole {O. gaibula) , vfhich. migrates into Africa, 
and passes the breeding season in the centre of Europe, also 
makes a pendulous nest, and displays great courage in the de- 
fence of its young, being so attached to its progeny that the 
female has been taken and conveyed to a cage on her eggs, on 
which, with resolute and fatal instinct, she remained faithfully 
sitting until she expired. 

The Baltimore bird, though naturally shy and suspicious, 
probably for greater security from more dangerous enemies, 
generally chooses for the nest the largest and tallest spreading 
trees near farm-houses, and along frequented lanes and roads ; 
and trusting to the inaccessibleness of its ingenious mansion, 
it works fearlessly and scarcely studies concealment. But 
as soon as the young are hatched, here, towards the close of 
June, the whole family begin to leave the immediate neighbor- 
hood of their cares, flit through the woods, — a shy, roving, and 
nearly silent train ; and when ready for the distant journey be- 
fore them, about the end of August or beginning of September, 
the whole at once disappear, and probably arrive, as with us, 
amidst the forests of South America in a scattered flock, and 
continue, like Starlings, to pass the winter in celibacy, wholly 
engaged in gleaning a quiet subsistence until the return of 
spring. Then, incited by instinct to prepare for a more pow- 
erful passion, they again wing their way to the regions of the 
north, where, but for this wonderful instinct of migration, the 
whole race would perish in a single season. As the sexes 
usually arrive in different flocks, it is evident that the conjugal 
tie ceases at the period of migration, and the choice of mates 
is renewed with the season ; during which the males, and 
sometimes also the females, carry on their jealous disputes 
with much obstinacy. 

That our Oriole is not famiUar with us, independent of the 
all-powerful natural impulse which he obeys, is sufficiently 
obvious when he nests iri the woods. Two of these solitary 



BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 9 1 

and retiring pairs had this summer, contrary to their usual 
habits, taken up their abode in the lofty branches of a gigantic 
Buttonwood in the forest. As soon as we appeared they took 
the alarm, and remained uneasy and irritable until we were 
wholly out of sight. Others, again, visit the heart of the popu- 
lous city, and pour forth their wild and plaintive songs from the 
trees which decorate the streets and gardens, amid the din of 
the passing crowd and the tumult of incessant and noisy occu- 
pations. Audubon remarks that their migrations are performed 
singly and during the day, and that they proceed high, and fly 
straight and continuous. 

The food of the Baltimore appears to be small caterpillars, — 
sometimes those of the apple-trees, — some uncommon kinds 
of beetles, cimices, and small flies, like a species of cynips. 
Occasionally I have seen an individual collecting Cicindeli by 
the sides of sandy and gravelly roads. They feed their young 
usually with soft caterpillars, which they swallow, and disgorge 
on arriving at the nest ; and in this necessary toil both sexes 
assiduously unite. They seldom molest any of the fruits of our 
gardens, except a few cherries and mulberries, and are the 
most harmless, useful, beautiful, and common birds of the 
country. They are, however, accused of sometimes accom- 
panying their young to the garden peas, which they devour 
while small and green ; and being now partly gregarious, the 
damage they commit is at times rendered visible. Occasionally 
they are seen in cages, being chiefly fed on soaked bread, or 
meal and water; they appear also fond of cherries, straw- 
berries, currants, raisins, and figs, so that we may justly 
consider them, like the Cassicans and Starlings, as omnivorous, 
though in a less degree. They sing and appear lively in con- 
finement or domestication, and become very docile, playful, 
and friendly, even going in and out of the house, and some- 
times alighting at a whistle on the hand of their protector. 
The young for a while require to be fed on animal food alone, 
and the most suitable appears to be fresh minced meat, soaked 
in new milk. In this way they may be easily raised almost 
from the first hatching ; but at this time vegetable substances 



92 SINGING BIRDS. 

appear to afford them no kind of nutrition, and at all times 
they will thrive better if indulged with a little animal food or 
insects, as well as hard-boiled eggs. 

The summer range of this beautiful bird in the fur countries 
extends to the 55 th degree of latitude, arriving on the plains 
of the Saskatchewan, according to Richardson, about the loth 
of May, or nearly as early as their arrival in Massachusetts. 
Those which thus visit the wilds of Canada in all probability 
proceed at once from Mexico, or ascend the great valley of 
the Mississippi and Missouri. 

I have had a male bird in a state of domestication raised from 
the nest very readily on fresh minced meat soaked in milk. 
When established, his principal food was scalded Indian corn- 
meal, on which he fed contentedly, but was also fond of sweet 
cakes, insects of all descriptions, and nearly every kind of fruit. 
In short, he ate everything he would in a state of nature, and 
did not refuse to taste and eat of everything but the condi- 
ments which enter into the multifarious diet of the human 
species : he was literally omnivorous. 

No bird could become more tame, allowing himself to be 
handled with patient indifference, and sometimes with play- 
fulness. The singular mechanical application of his bill was 
remarkable, and explains at once the ingenious art employed 
by the species in weaving their nest. If the folded hand was 
presented to our familiar Oriole, he endeavored to open it by 
inserting his pointed and straight bill betwixt the closed fingers, 
and then by pressing open the bill with great muscular force, 
in the manner of an opening pair of compasses, he contrived, 
if the force was not great, to open the hand and examine its 
contents. If brought to the face he did the same with the 
mouth, and would try hard to open the closed teeth. In this 
way, by pressing open any yielding interstice, he could readily 
insert the threads of his nest, and pass them through an infinity 
of openings, so as to form the ingenious net- work or basis of his 
suspensory and procreant cradle. 

This is a familiar bird throughout the greater part of this faunal 
province north to the southern portions of Ontario and Quebec, 



ORCHARD ORIOLE. 93 

and it occurs sparingly in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It 
winters southward to Panama. 



Note. — A single example of Bullock's Oriole {Icterus 
hillocki), which was shot near Bangor, Maine, in 1889, gives this 
species a right to be mentioned here. The usual habitat of this 
species is between the eastern base of the Rockies and the Pacific 
coast. 



ORCHARD ORIOLE. 

Icterus spurius. 

Char. Male : head, neck, back, wings, and tail black ; other parts 
chestnut, deepest on breast. Female : yellowish olive inclining to brown ; 
wings dusky brown with 2 white bands ; beneath, olive yellow. Young 
similar to female. Length' 6 to 7^ inches. 

Nest. A handsome basket-like structure, about 4 inches in depth, 
composed of grasses woven into a smooth firm fabric, and lined with 
feathers or other soft material. It is sometimes partly supported in the 
forks of small twigs, and often entirely pendent. Usually about 10 feet 
from the ground and near the end of the branch. 

^SS^- 3-6 (generally 4) ; white with blue or green tint, irregularly 
marked with lilac and brown ; .80 X .60. 

This smaller and plainer species has many of the habits of 
the Baltimore bird, and arrives in Pennsylvania about a week 
later. They enter the southern boundary of the United States 
early in March, and remain there until October. They do not 
however, I believe, often migrate farther north and east than 
the State of Connecticut. I have never seen or heard of them 
in Massachusetts, any more than my scientific friend, and close 
observer, Mr. C. Pickering. Their stay in the United States, it 
appears from Wilson, is little more than four months, as they 
retire to South America early in September, or at- least do not 
winter in the Southern States. According to my friend Mr. 
Ware, they breed at Augusta, in Georgia; and Mr. Say ob- 
served the Orchard Oriole at Major Long's winter quarters on 
the banks of the Missouri. Audubon has also observed the 
species towards the sources of the Mississippi, as well as in the 
State of Maine. The same author likewise remarks that their 



94 SINGING BIRDS. 

northern migrations, like those of the Baltimore bird, are per- 
formed by day, and that the males arrive a week or ten days 
sooner than their mates. They appear to affect the elevated 
and airy regions of the Alleghany mountains, where they are 
much more numerous than the Baltimore. 

The Orchard Oriole is an exceedingly active, sprightly, and 
restless bird ; in the same instant almost, he is on the ground 
after some fallen insect, fluttering amidst the foliage of the 
trees, prying and springing after his lurking prey, or flying and 
tuning his lively notes in a manner so hurried, rapid, and 
seemingly confused that the ear is scarce able to thread out 
the shrill and lively tones of his agitated ditty. Between these 
hurried attempts he also gives others, which are distinct and 
agreeable, and not unlike the sweet warble of the Red-Breasted 
Grosbeak, though more brief and less varied. In choosing the 
situation of his nest he is equally familiar with the Baltimore 
Oriole, and seems to enjoy the general society of his species, 
suspending his most ingenious and pensile fabric from the 
bending twig of the apple-tree, which, like the nest of the 
other, is constructed in the form of a pouch from three to five 
inches in depth, according to the strength or flexibility of the 
tree on which he labors ; so that in a weeping- willow, according 
to Wilson, the nest is one or two inches deeper than if in an 
apple-tree, to obviate the danger of throwing out the eggs and 
young by the sweep of the long, pendulous branches. It is 
likewise slighter, as the crowding leaves of that tree aflbrd a 
natural shelter of considerable thickness. That economy of 
this kind should be studied by the Orchard Oriole will scarcely 
surprise so much as the laborious ingenuity and beautiful tissue 
of its nest. It is made exteriorly of a fine woven mat of long, 
tough, and flexible grass, as if darned with a needle. The 
form is hemispherical, and the inside is lined with downy 
substances, — sometimes the wool of the seeds of the Button- 
wood, — forming thus a commodious and soft bed for the young. 
This precaution of a warm lining, as in the preceding species, 
is, according to Audubon, dispensed with in the warm climate 
of Louisiana. The eggs are 4 or 5, of a very pale bluish 



ORCHARD ORIOLE. 95 

tint, with a few points of brown, and spots of dark purple, 
chiefly disposed at the greater end. The female sits about 
14 days, and the young continue in the nest 10 days before 
they become qualified to flit along with their parents; but 
they are generally seen abroad about the middle of June. 
Previously to their departure, the young, leaving the care of 
their parents, become gregarious, and assemble sometimes in 
flocks of separate sexes, from 30 to 40 or upwards, — in the 
South frequenting the savannahs, feeding much on crickets, 
grasshoppers, and spiders ; and at this season their flesh is much 
esteemed by the inhabitants. Wilson found them easy to raise 
from the nest, but does not say on what they were fed, though 
they probably require the same treatment as the Baltimore 
Oriole. According to Audubon, they sing with great liveliness 
in cages, being fed on rice and dry fruits when fresh cannot be 
procured. Their ordinary diet, it appears, is caterpillars and 
insects, of which they destroy great quantities. In the course 
of the season they likewise feed on various kinds of juicy fruits 
and berries ; but their depredations on the fruits of the orchard 
are very unimportant. 

This is a summer visitor throughout the Eastern States, though 
not common north of the Connecticut valley. It occurs regularly 
but sparingly in Massachusetts and southern Ontario, and has been 
taken in Maine and New Brunswick. It breeds southward to the 
Gulf States, and in winter ranges into Central America. 

Mr, Chapman describes the voice of this Oriole as " unusually 
rich and flexible," and adds, "he uses it with rare skill and ex- 
pression." 




RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 

Agelaius phgeniceus. 

Char. Male: black; lesser wing-coverts vermilion, bordered with 
buff. Female : above, blackish brown streaked with paler and grayish ; 
lower parts dusky white streaked with reddish brown ; sometimes wing- 
coverts have a reddish tinge. Young like female, but colors deeper. 
Length 7^ to 10 inches. 

Nest. In a tuft of grass or on a bush; composed of grass, leaves, and 
mud, lined with soft grass. 

^g^^- 3~5 1' color varies from bluish white to greenish blue, blotched, 
streaked, and spotted with lilac and dark brown ; size variable, average 
about 1. 00 X .90. 

The Red-Winged Troopial in summer inhabits the whole of 
North America from Nova Scotia to Mexico, and is found in 
the interior from the 53d degree across the whole continent to 
the shores of the Pacific and along the coast as far as CaU- 
fornia. They are migratory north of Maryland, but pass the 
winter and summer in great numbers in all the Southern States, 
frequenting chiefly the settlements and rice and corn fields ; 
towards the sea-coast, where they move about like blackening 
clouds, rising suddenly at times with a noise like thunder, and 
exhibiting amidst the broad shadows of their funereal plumage 
the bright flashing of the vermilion with which their wings are 
so singularly decorated. After whirling and waving a little 
distance like the Starling, they descend as a torrent, and, dark- 



RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 97 

ening the branches of the trees by their numbers, they com- 
mence a general concert that may be heard for more than two 
miles. This music seems to be something betwixt chattering 
and warbling, — jinghng liquid notes like those of the Bobolink, 
with their peculiar kong-quer-ree and bob a le, o-bob d lee ; then 
complaining chirps, jars, and sounds like saw-filing, or the 
motion of a sign-board on its rusty hinge ; the whole constitu- 
tmg a novel and sometimes grand chorus of discord and 
harmony, in which the performers seem in good earnest, and 
bristle up their feathers as if inclined at least to make up in 
quantity what their show of music may lack in quality. 

When their food begins to fail in the fields, they assemble 
with the Purple Grakles very familiarly around the corn-cribs 
and in the barn-yards, greedily and dexterously gleaning up 
everything within their reach. In the month of March Mr. 
Bullock found them very numerous and bold near the city of 
Mexico, where they followed the mules to steal a tithe of their 
barley. 

From the beginning of March to April, according to the 
nature of the season, they begin to visit the Northern States in 
scattered parties, flying chiefly in the morning. As they wing 
their way they seem to relieve their mutual toil by friendly 
chatter, and being the harbingers of spring, their faults are 
forgot in the instant, and we cannot help greeting them as old 
acquaintances in spite of their predatory propensities. Selec- 
ting their accustomed resort, they make the low meadows 
resound again with their notes, particularly in the morning and 
evening before retiring to or leaving the roost ; previous to 
settling themselves for the night, and before parting in the 
day, they seem all to join in a general chorus of liquid warb- 
ling tones, which would be very agreeable but for the inter- 
ruption of the plaints and jarring sounds w4th which it is 
blended. They continue to feed in small parties in swamps 
and by slow streams and ponds till the middle or close of 
April, when they begin to separate in pairs. Sometimes, how- 
ever, they appear to be partly polygamous, like their cousins 
the Cow Troopials ; as amidst a number of females engaged in 
VOL. I. — 7 



98 SINGING BIRDS. 

incubation, but few of the other sex appear associated with 
them j and as among the BoboHnks, sometimes two or three of 
the males may be seen in chase of an individual of the other 
sex, but without making any contest or show of jealous feud 
with each other, as a concubinage rather than any regular 
mating seems to prevail among the species. 

Assembled again in their native marshes, the male perched, 
upon the summit of some bush surrounded by water, in com- 
pany with his mates, now sings out, at short intervals, his 
guttural kong-quer-ree, sharply calls ftsheah, or when disturbed, 
plaintively utters 'ttshay ; to which his companions, not insen- 
sible to these odd attentions, now and then return a gratulatory 
cackle or reiterated chirp, like that of the native Meadow 
Lark. As a pleasant and novel, though not unusual, accompa- 
niment, perhaps the great bull-frog elevates his green head 
and brassy eyes from the stagnant pool, and calls out in a loud 
and echoing bellow, ^w'rroo, 'warroo, 'wori'orroo, ^dodroo, which 
is again answered, or, as it were, merely varied by the creaking 
or cackling voice of his feathered neighbors. This curious 
concert, uttered as it were from the still and sable waters of 
the Styx, is at once both ludicrous and solemn. 

About the end of April or early in May, in the middle and 
northern parts of the Union, the Red-Winged Blackbirds com- 
mence constructing their nests. The situation made choice of 
is generally in some marsh, swamp, or wet meadow, abounding 
with alder (^Alnus) or button- bushes ( Cephala?ithus) ; in these, 
commonly at the height of five to seven feet from the ground, 
or sometimes in a detached bush or tussock of rank grass in 
the meadow, the nest is formed. Outwardly it is composed of 
a considerable quantity of the long dry leaves of sedge-grass 
i^Carex), or other kinds collected in wet situations, and occa- 
sionally the slender leaves of the flag {Iris) carried round all 
the adjoining twigs of the bush by way of support or suspen- 
sion, and sometimes blended with strips of the lint of the 
swamp Asclepias, or silk- weed {Asclepias incar7iata). The 
whole of this exterior structure is also twisted in and out, and 
carried in loops from one side of the nest to the other, pretty 



RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 99 

much in the manner of the Orioles, but made of less flexible 
and handsome materials. The large interstices that remain, as 
well as the bottom, are then filled in with rotten wood, marsh- 
grass roots, fibrous peat, or mud, so as to form, when dry, a 
stout and substantial, though concealed shell, the whole very 
well lined with fine dry stalks of grass or with slender rushes 
{Scirpi) . When the nest is in a tussock, it is also tied to the 
adjoining stalks of herbage ; but when on the ground this pre- 
caution of fixity is laid aside. The eggs are from 3 to 5, 
white, tinged with blue, marked with faint streaks of light pur- 
ple, and long, straggling, serpentine lines and dashes of very 
dark brown ; the markings not very numerous, and disposed 
almost wholly at the greater end. They raise two broods com- 
monly in the season. If the nest is approached while the 
female is sitting, or when the young are hatched, loud cries of 
alarm are made by both parties, but more particularly by the 
restless male, who flies to meet the intruder, and generally 
brings together the whole sympathizing company of his fellows, 
whose nests sometimes are within a few yards of each other. 
The female cries 'queah, 'puedh, and at length, when the mis- 
chief they dreaded is accomplished, the louder notes give way 
to others which are more still, slow, and mournful ; one of 
which resembles fai, fai, or tea and ftsheah. W^hen the young 
are taken or destroyed, the pair continue restless and dejected 
for several days ; but from the force of their gregarious habit 
they again commence building, usually soon after, in the same 
meadow or swamp with their neighbors. In the latter part of 
July and August the young birds, now resembling the female, 
begin to fly in flocks and release themselves partly from depen- 
dence on their parents, whose cares up to this time are faithful 
and unremitting ; a few males only seem inclined to stay and 
direct their motions. 

About the beginning of September these flocks, by their 
formidable numbers, do great damage to the unripe corn, 
which is now a favorite repast ; and they are sometimes seen 
whirhng and driving over the devoted cornfields and meadows 
so as to darken the air with their numbers. The destruction 



100 SINGING BIRDS. 

at this time made among them by the gun and the Hawks pro- 
duces but little effect upon the remainder, who continue fear- 
lessly, and in spite of all opposition, from morning to night 
to ravage the cornfields while anything almost remains to be 
eaten. The farms near the sea-coast, or alluvial situations, 
however, are their favorite haunts; and towards the close of 
September, the corn becoming hard, it is at length rejected for 
the seeds of the wild rice {^Zizania aquaticd) and other aquatic 
plants, which now begin to ripen, and afford a more harmless 
and cheap repast to these dauntless marauders. At this time^ 
also, they begin to roost in the reeds, whither they repair in 
large flocks every evening from all the neighboring quarters of 
the country ; upon these they perch or cling, so as to obtain a 
support above the surrounding waters of the marsh. When 
the reeds become dry, advantage is taken of the circumstance 
to destroy these unfortunate gormandizers by fire ; and those 
who might escape the flames are shot down in vast numbers as 
they hover and scream around the spreading conflagration. 
Early in November they generally leave the Northern and 
colder States, with the exception of straggling parties, who 
still continue to glean subsistence, in the shelter of the sea- 
coast, in Delaware, Maryland, and even in the cold climate of 
the State of Massachusetts.^ 

To those who seem inclined to extirpate these erratic depre- 
dators, Wilson justly remarks, as a balance against the damage 
they commit, the service they perform in the spring season, by 
the immense number of insects and their larvae which they 
destroy, as their principal food, and which are of kinds most 
injurious to the husbandman. Indeed, Kalm remarked that 
after a great destruction made among these and the common 
Blackbirds for the legal reward of 3 pence a dozen, the 
Northern States, in 1749, experienced a complete loss of the 
grass and grain crops, which were now devoured by insects. 

Like the Troopial {Oriolus ictefus, Lath.), the Redwing 
shows attachment and docility in confinement, becoming, like 

1 My friend Mr. S. Green, of Boston, assures me that he has seen these birds 
near Newton, in a cedar-swamp, in January. 



RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 1 01 

the Starling, familiar with those who feed him, and repaying 
the attention he receives, by singing his monotonous ditty 
pretty freely, consisting, as we have already remarked, of vari- 
ous odd, grating, shrill, guttural, and sometimes warbling tones, 
which become at length somewhat agreeable to the ear; and 
instances are said to have occurred of their acquiring the power 
of articulating several words pretty distinctly. 

The flesh of this bird is but little esteemed except when 
young, being dark and tough like that of the Starling ; yet in 
some of the markets of the United States they are at times 
exposed for sale. 

The Red-wing is a common summer visitor to the Eastern States 
and Canada, breeding as far north as latitude 50°. In the West it 
ranges through the Saskatchewan valley to Great Slave Lake. It 
winters south to Mexico ; but a few individuals have been known to 
brave a New England winter. During the winter of 1889-90, a 
male was seen about the Fresh Pond marshes by several members 
of the Nuttall Club of Cambridge, and since that time several of 
these birds have been found there every winter. 



Note. — The Bahaman Red-wing (A. phoeiiicus bryanti), a 
smaller, darker race, is found on the Bahama Islands and in south- 
ern Florida. 




YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. 

Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. 

Char. Male : head, neck, and breast yellow ; large patch on wing 
white ; other parts black. Female and young : general color blackish 
brown ; wings without the white spot ; throat and breast dull yellow. 
Length 9 to ii inches. 

Nest. — Of dried grass, firmly woven and fastened to twigs of a bush or 
stalks of rushes, in a marsh or swampy meadow. 

Eggs. — 2-6 ; grayish white, sometimes with a green tint, irregularly 
marked with brown; 1.05 X 0.70. 

The Yellow-headed Troopial, though long known as an 
inhabitant of South America, was only recently added to the 
fauna of the United States by Major Long's expedition. It 
was seen in great numbers near the banks of the River Platte, 
around the villages of the Pawnees, about the middle of May ; 
and the different sexes were sometimes obsen^ed associated in 
separate flocks, as the breeding season had not yet probably 
commenced. The range of this fine species is, apparently, 
from Cayenne, in tropical America, to the banks of the River 
Missouri, where Mr. Townsend and myself observed examples 
not far from the settled line of Missouri State. It has been 
seen by Dr. Richardson, in summer, as far as the 58th par- 
allel. Its visits in the United States are yet wholly confined to 



YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. 103 

the west side of the Mississippi, beyond which, not even a 
straggler has been seen. These birds assemble in flocks, and 
in all their movements, aerial evolutions, and predatory char- 
acter, appear as the counterpart of their Red-winged relatives. 
They are also seen to frequent the ground in search of food, 
in the manner of the Cow-Bunting, or Troopial. In the 
spring season they wage war upon the insect tribes and their 
larvae, like the Red-wings, but in autumn they principally 
depend on the seeds of vegetables. At Demerara, Waterton 
observed them in flocks, and, as might have been suspected 
from their habits, they were very greedy after Indian corn. 

On the 2d of May, in our western tour across the continent, 
around the Kansa Indian Agency, we now saw abundance of 
the Yellow-headed Troopial, associated with the Cowbird. 
They kept wholly on the ground in companies, the males, at 
this time, by themselves. In loose soil they dig into the earth 
with their bills in quest of insects and larvae, are very active, 
straddle about with a quaint gait, and now and then, in the 
manner of the Cowbird, whistle out with great effort a chuck- 
ling note sounding like ko-kiikkle-^dit, often varying into a 
straining squeak, as if using their utmost endeavor to make 
some kind of noise in token of sociability. Their music is, 
however, even inferior to the harsh note of the Cowbird. 
In the month of June, by the edge of a grassy marsh, in the 
open plain of the Platte, several hundred miles inland, Mr. 
Townsend found the nest of this species built under a tussock 
formed of fine grasses and canopied over like that of the 
Stu7'nella, or Meadow Lark. 

While essentially a bird of the prairie, this species occurs reg- 
ularly and in abundance in Wisconsin and Illinois. It has been 
observed occasionally in southern Ontario, and examples have been 
taken at Point des Monts, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in 
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Florida. 



104 SINGING BIRDS. 

COWBIRD. 

cow BLACKBIRD. 
MOLOTHRUS ATER. 

Char. Male : head and neck dull brown ; other parts glossy black. 
Female and young '. brownish gray, paler below, with dark streaks. 
Length 7 to 8 inches. 

Nest. Does not build any, but lays its eggs in nests of other species, 
usually of smaller birds, such as the Yellow Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, 
or one of the Vireos. 

Eggs. .^ (number unknown, probably 4) ; dull white, sometimes with 

green or buff tint, irregularly marked with various shades of brown ; 
085 X 0.65. 

The Cow-pen Bird, perpetually gregarious and flitting, is 
observed to enter the Middle and Northern States in the latter 
end of March or the beginning of April. They make their mi- 
gration now chiefly under cover of the night, or early dawn ; 
and as the season becomes milder they pass on to Canada, and 
perhaps follow the Warblers and other small birds into the 
farthest regions of the north, for they are seen no more after 
the middle of June until the return of autumn, when, with the 
colds of October, they again reappear in numerous and aug- 
mented flocks, usually associated with their kindred Red-wings, 
to whom they bear a sensible likeness, as well as a similarity in 
notes and manners. They pass the winter in the warmer parts 
of America as well as in the Southern States, where I have 
observed them in the ploughed fields, gleaning along with the 
Red-wings and the common Blackbirds. They are also very 
familiar around the cattle, picking up insects which they 
happen to disturb, or that exist in their ordure. When on the 
ground, they scratch up the soil and appear very intent after 
their food. Sometimes even, infringing on the rights of the 
Plover, individuals, in the winter, frequent the margins of 
ponds in quest of aquatic insects and small shell-fish ; and they 
may be seen industriously occupied in turning over the leaves 
of the water-plants to which they adhere. They also frequent 



COWBIRD. 105 

occasionally the rice and corn fields, as well as their more 
notorious associates, but are more inclined to native food and 
insects at all times, so that they are more independent and 
less injurious to the farmer. As they exist in Mexico and 
California, it is probable that they are also bred in the higher 
table-lands, as well as in the regions of the north. In Loui- 
siana, however, according to Audubon, they are rare visitors 
at any season, seeming more inclined to follow their route 
through the maritime districts. Over these countries, high in 
the air, in the month of October, they are seen by day winging 
their way to the remoter regions of the south. 

We have observed that the Red-wings separate in parties, 
and pass a considerable part of the summer in the necessary 
duties of incubation. But the Cow-pen Birds release them- 
selves from all hindrance to their wanderings. The volatile 
disposition and instinct which prompt birds to migrate, as the 
seasons change and as their food begins to fail, have only a 
periodical influence ; and for a while they remain domestic, 
passing a portion of their time in the cares and enjoyments of 
the conjugal state. But with our bird, like the European 
Cuckoo, this season never arrives ; the flocks live together 
without ever pairing. A general concubinage prevails among 
them, scarcely exciting any jealousy, and unaccompanied by any 
durable affection. From the commencement of their race they 
have been bred as foundlings in the nests of other birds, and 
fed by foster-parents under the perpetual influence of delusion 
and deception, and by the sacrifice of the concurrent progeny 
of the nursing birds. Amongst all the feathered tribes hitherto 
known, this and the European Cuckoo, with a few other species 
indigenous to the old continent, are the only kinds who never 
make a nest or hatch their young. That this character is not 
a vice of habit, but a perpetual instinct of nature, appears from 
various circumstances, and from none more evidently than from 
this, that the eggs of the Cow Troopial are earlier hatched than 
those of the foster-parent, — a singular and critical provision, on 
which perhaps the existence of the species depends ; for did 
the natural brood of the deceived parent come first into exis- 



I06 SINGING BIRDS. 

tence, the strange egg on which they sat would generally be 
destroyed. 

When the female is disposed to lay, she appears restless and 
dejected, and separates from the unregarding flock. Stealing 
through the woods and thickets, she pries into the bushes and 
brambles for the nest that suits her, into which she darts in the 
absence of its owner, and in a few minutes is seen to rise on the 
wing, cheerful, and reheved from the anxiety that oppressed her, 
and proceeds back to the flock she had so reluctantly forsaken. 
If the egg be deposited in the nest alone, it is uniformly 
forsaken ; but if the nursing parent have any of her own, 
she immediately begins to sit. The Red- eyed Flycatcher, in 
whose beautiful basket-like nests I have observed these eggs, 
proves a very affectionate and assiduous nurse to the uncouth 
foundhng. In one of these I found an egg of each bird, and 
the hen already sitting. I took her own egg and left the 
strange one ; she soon returned, and as if sensible of what 
had happened, looked with steadfast attention, and shifted the 
egg about, then sat upon it, but soon moved off, again renewed 
her observation, and it was a considerable time before she 
seemed willing to take her seat ; but at length I left her on 
the nest. Two or three days after, I found that she had relin- 
quished her attention to the strange egg and forsaken the 
nest. Another of these birds, however, forsook the nest on 
taking out the Cowbird's egg, although she had still two of her 
owTi left. The only example, perhaps, to the contrary of de- 
serting the nest when solely occupied by the stray egg, is in 
the Bluebird, who, attached strongly to the breeding-places in 
which it often continues for several years, has been known to 
lay, though with apparent reluctance, after the deposition of 
the Cowbird's egg. My friend Mr. C. Pickering found two 
nests of the Summer-yellow Bird, in which had been deposited 
an egg of the Cowbird previously to any of their own ; and 
unable to eject it, they had buried it in the bottom of the nest 
and built over it an additional story ! I also saw, in the sum- 
mer of 1830, a similar circumstance with the same bird, in 
which the Cowbird's egg, though incarcerated, was still visible 



COWBIRD. 107 

on the upper edge, but could never have been hatched. At 
times I think it probable that they lay in the nests of larger 
birds, who throw out the egg, or that they drop their eggs on 
the ground without obtaining a deposit, as I have found an egg 
of this kind thus exposed and broken. On placing an egg of 
this bird in the Catbird's nest it was almost instantly ejected ; 
and this would probably be the usual fate of the strange egg if 
the diminutive nurses, thus wisely chosen, were capable of 
removing it. 

The most usual nurse of this bird appears to be the Red- 
eyed Vireo, who commences sitting as soon as the Cowbird's 
egg is deposited. On these occasions I have known the Vireo 
to begin her incubation with only an egg of each kind, and in 
other nests I have observed as many as 3 of her own, with 
that of the intruder. From the largeness of the strange egg, 
probably the nest immediately feels filled, so as to induce the 
nurse directly to sit. This larger egg, brought nearer to the 
body than her own, is consequently better warmed and sooner 
hatched ; and the young of the Cowbird, I believe, appears 
about the 12th or 13th day of sitting. The foundling is very 
faithfully nursed by the affectionate Vireo, along with her own 
brood, who make their appearance about a day later than the 
Troopial. From the great size of the parasite, the legitimate 
young are soon stifled, and, when dead, are conveyed, as usual, 
by the duped parent to a distance before being dropped ; but 
they are never found immediately beneath the nest, as would 
invariably happen if they were ejected by the young Troopial. 
In the summer of 1839 I actually saw a Chipping Sparrow car- 
rying out to a distance one of its dead young thus stifled ; and 
a second nest of the same species in which 3 of its own brood 
were hatched soon after the Cow Troopial : these survived 2 or 
3 days, and as they perished were carried away by the parent 
bird. As far as I have had opportunity of observing, the 
foundling shows no hostility to the natural brood of his nurses, 
but he nearly absorbs their whole attention, and early displays 
his characteristic cunning and self-possession. When fully 
fledged, they quickly desert their foster-parent, and skulk 



I08 SINGING BIRDS. 

about in the woods until, at length, they instinctively join com- 
pany with those of the same feather, and now becoming more 
bold, are seen in parties of 5 or 6, in the fields and lanes, 
gleaning their accustomed subsistence. They still, however, 
appear shy and watchful, and seem too selfish to study any- 
thing more than their own security and advantage. 

The song of the Cowbird is guttural and unmusical, uttered 
with an air of affectation, and accompanied by a bristling of 
the feathers and a swelling of the body in the manner of the 
Turkey. These are also all the notes of the species in the 
season of their attachment ; so that their musical talent rates 
lower than that of any other bird perhaps in the genus. Some- 
times the tones of the male resemble the liquid clinking of the 
Bobolink and Red-winged Blackbird. Sitting on the summit 
of a lofty branch, he amuses himself perhaps for an hour with 
an occasional 'kluck 'tsee, the latter syllable uttered in a drawl- 
ing hiss Hke that of the Red-wing. Accompanied by his mates, 
he also endeavors to amuse them by his complaisant chatter ; 
and watching attentively for their safety, they flit together at 
the instant he utters the loud tone of alarm ; and they are 
always shy and suspicious of the designs of every observer. 
On a fine spring morning, however, perched towards the sum- 
mit of some tree in the forest where they seek rest after their 
twilight wanderings, small and select parties may be seen grate- 
fully basking in the mild beams of the sunshine. The male on 
such occasions seems as proud of his uncouth jargon, and as 
eager to please his favorite companions, as the tuneful Night- 
ingale with his pathetic and varied lay. 

The Cowbird is a common summer resident of New England, 
though of rather local distribution. Dr. Wheaton reported it as 
abundant in Ohio during the summer months, and Mr. Mcllwraith 
made a similar report for Ontario. It is rather uncommon in the 
Maritime Provinces, but ranges as far northward as the 50th par- 
allel. In January, 1883, two specimens were taken near Cambridge, 
Mass., by Mr. William Brewster and Mr. Henry M. Spellman, and 
other evidences of occasional wintering in New England have been 
reported. 




BOBOLINK. 

RICE BIRD, SKUNK BLACKBIRD. MEADOW-WINK, 
DOLICHONYX ORYZIVORUS. 

Char. Male in summer: black; back of head and hind-neck buff ; 
scapulars, rump, and upper tail-coverts ashy white. Male in winter, 
female, and young: above, yellowish brown, beneath paler, more buffy; 
light stripe on crown. Length 6yi to 7/^ inches. 

Nest. In a meadow ; made of dried grass. 

Eggs. 4-6; white with green or buff tint, irregularly marked with 
lilac and brown ; 0.85 X 0.60. 

The whole continent of America, from Labrador to Mexico, 
and the Great Antilles, are the occasional residence of this truly 
migratory species. About the middle of March or beginning 
of April the cheerful Bobolink makes his appearance in the 
southern extremity of the United States, becoming gradually 
arrayed in his nuptial livery, and accompanied by troops of his 
companions, who often precede the arrival of their more tardy 



no SINGING BIRDS. 

mates. According to Richardson it is the beginning of June 
when they arrive at their farthest boreal station in the 54th 
degree. We observed them in the great western plains to the 
base of the Rocky Mountains, but not in Oregon. Their win- 
tering resort appears to be rather the West Indies than the 
tropical continent, as their migrations are observed to take 
place generally to the east of Louisiana, where their visits are 
rare and irregular. At this season also they make their ap- 
proaches chiefly by night, obeying, as it were, more distinctly, 
the mandates of an overruling instinct, which prompts them to 
seek out their natal regions ; while in autumn, their progress, 
by day only, is alone instigated by the natural quest of food. 
About the ist of May the meadows of Massachusetts begin to 
re-echo their lively ditty. At this season, in wet places, and 
by newly ploughed fields, they destroy many insects and their 
larvae. According to their success in obtaining food, parties 
often delay their final northern movement as late as the mid- 
dle of May, so that they appear to be in no haste to arrive at 
their destination at any exact period. The principal business 
of their lives, however, the rearing of their young, does not 
take place until they have left the parallel of the 40th degree. 
In the savannahs of Ohio and Michigan, and the cool grassy 
meadows of New York, Canada, and New England, they fix 
their abode, and obtain a sufficiency of food throughout the 
summer without molesting the harvest of the farmer, until the 
ripening of the latest crops of oats and barley, when, in their 
autumnal and changed dress, hardly now known as the same 
species, they sometimes show their taste for plunder, and flock 
together like the greedy and predatory Blackbirds. Although 
they devour various kinds of insects and worms on their first 
arrival, I have found that their frequent visits among the grassy 
meadows were often also for the seeds they contain ; and they 
are particularly fond of those of the dock and dandelion, the 
latter of which is sweet and oily. Later in the season, and pre- 
viously to leaving their native regions, they feed principally on 
various kinds of grass-seeds, particularly those of the Panicums, 
which are allied to millet. They also devour crickets and grass- 
hoppers, as well as beetles and spiders. Their nest is fixed on 



BOBOLINK. 1 1 1 

the ground in a slight depression, usually in a field of meadow 
grass, either in a dry or moist situation, and consists merely of 
a loose bedding of withered grass, so inartificial as scarcely to 
be distinguishable from the rest of the ground around it. The 
eggs are 5 or 6, of a dull white, inclining to olive, scattered all 
over with small spots and touches of lilac brown, with some 
irregular blotches of dark rufous brown, chiefly disposed to- 
wards the larger end. 

The males, arriving a little earlier than the other sex, now 
appear very vigorous, lively, and famihar. Many quarrels 
occur before the mating is settled ; and the females seem at first 
very coy and retiring. Emulation fires the Bobolink at this 
period, and rival songsters pour out their incessant strains of 
enlivening music from every fence and orchard tree. The 
quiet females keep much on the ground ; but as soon as they 
appear, they are pursued by the ardent candidates for their 
affection, and if either seems to be favored, the rejected suitor 
is chased off the ground, as soon as he appears, by his more 
fortunate rival. The song of the male continues with little in- 
terruption as long as the female is sitting, and his chant, at all 
times very similar, is both singular and pleasant. Often, like 
the Skylark, mounted, and hovering on the wing, at a small height 
above the field, as he passes along from one tree-top or weed 
to another, he utters such a jingling medley of short, variable 
notes, so confused, rapid, and continuous, that it appears 
almost like the blending song of several different birds. Many 
of these tones are very agreeable ; but they are delivered with 
such rapidity that the ear can scarcely separate them. The 
general effect, however, like all the simple efforts of Nature, is 
good, and when several are chanting forth in the same meadow, 
the concert is very cheerful, though monotonous, and somewhat 
quaint. Among the few phrases that can be distinguished, the 
liquid sound of bob-o-lee bob-o-link bob-o-linke, is very distinct. 
To give an idea of the variable extent of song, and even an 
imitation, in some measure, of the chromatic period and air of 
this familiar and rather favorite resident, the boys of this part 
of New England make him spout, among others, the following 



112 SINGING BIRDS. 

ludicrous dunning phrase, as he rises and hovers on the wing 
near his mate, " 'Bob-d-link, 'Bob-b-link, ' Tom Denny ' Tom 
Denny. — ' Come pay me the two and six pence you 've owed 
more than a year and a half ago ! — 'tshe 'tshe 'tshe^ 'tsh 'tsh 
'tshe,'' modestly diving at the same instant down into the grass 
as if to avoid altercation. However puerile this odd phrase 
may appear, it is quite amusing to find how near it approaches 
to the time and expression of the notes, when pronounced in 
a hurried manner. It would be unwise in the naturalist to 
hold in contempt anything, however trifling, which might tend 
to elucidate the simple truth of nature ; I therefore give the 
thing as I find it. This relish for song and merriment, con- 
fined wholly to the male, diminishes as the period of incubation 
advances ; and when the brood begin to flutter around their 
parents and protectors, the song becomes less frequent, the 
cares of the parents more urgent, and any approach to the 
secret recess of their helpless family is deplored with urgent 
and incessant cries as they hover fearfully around the inten- 
tional or accidental intruder. They appear sometimes inclined 
to have a second brood, for which preparation is made while 
they are yet engaged in rearing the first ; but the male gen- 
erally loses his musical talent about the end of the first week 
in July, from which time his nuptial or pied dress begins 
gradually to be laid aside for the humble garb of the female. 
The whole, both ' young and old, then appear nearly in the 
same songless livery, uttering only a chink of alarm when sur- 
prised in feeding on the grass seeds, or the crops of grain 
which still remain abroad. When the voice of the Bobolink 
begins to fail, with the progress of the exhausting moult, he flits 
over the fields in a restless manner, and merely utters a broken 
'bob' lee, 'bob' lee, or with his songless mate, at length, a 'weef 
'weet, b'leet b'leet, and a noisy and disagreeable cackhng 
chirp. At the early dawn of day, while the tuneful talent of 
the species is yet unabated, the effect of their awakening and 
faltering voices from a wide expanse of meadows, is singular 
and grand. The sounds mingle like the noise of a distant 
torrent, which alternately subsides and rises on the breeze as 



BOBOLINK. 113 

the performers awake or relapse into rest ; it finally becomes 
more distinct and tumultuous, till with the opening day it as- 
sumes the intelligible character of their ordinary song. The 
young males, towards the close of July, having nearly acquired 
their perfect character, utter also in the morning, from the 
trees which border their favorite marshy meadows, a very 
agreeable and continuous low warble, more like that of the 
Yellow Bird than the usual song of the species ; in fact, they 
appear now in every respect as Finches, and only become 
jingling musicians when robed in their pied dress as Icteri. 

About the middle of August, in congregating numbers, di- 
vested already of all selective attachment, vast foraging parties 
enter New York and Pennsylvania, on their way to the South. 
Here, along the shores of the large rivers, lined with floating 
fields of the wild rice, they find an abundant means of sub- 
sistence during their short stay ; and as their flesh, now fat, is 
little inferior to that of the European Ortolan, the Reed or Rice 
Birds, as they are then called in their Sparrow-dress, form a 
favorite sport for gunners of all descriptions, who turn out on 
the occasion and commit prodigious havoc among the almost 
silent and greedy roosting throng. The markets are then filled 
with this delicious game, and the pursuit, both for success and 
amusement, along the picturesque and reedy shores of the Del- 
aware and other rivers is second to none but that of Rail- 
shooting. As soon as the cool nights of October commence, 
and as the wild rice crops begin to fail, the Reed Birds 
take their departure from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and in 
their farther progress through the Southern States they swarm 
in the rice fields ; and before the crop is gathered they have 
already made their appearance in the islands of Cuba and 
Jamaica, where they also feed on the seeds of the Guinea 
grass, become so fat as to deserv^e the name of " Butter- birds," 
and are in high esteem for the table. 

Near the Atlantic coast the Bobolink is not common north of 
the 45th parallel ; but in the West it ranges to much higher latitudes. 
A few examples have been observed on the New Brunswick shore 
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 
VOL. I. — 8 



114 SINGING BIRDS. 

BOAT-TAILED CRACKLE, 

JACKDAW. 
QUISCALUS MAJOR. 

Char. Extremely long, wedge-shaped tail, less conspicuous in female. 
Male : black, with metallic tints of green, blue, and purple. Length 15 to 
lyYz inches. Female : above, brown j beneath, grayish brown, changing to 
reddish and buffy on breast and throat. Length, ii>4 to 13 inches. 

Nest. A bulky structure of dried grass and strips of bark, cemented 
with mud and lined with fine grass ; placed in a tree in swamp or near a 
marsh, sometimes fastened to rushes. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; grayish drab with tints of green or blue, marked with 
black and brown blotches and lines ; 1.25 X 0.90. 

This large and Crow-like species, sometimes called the Jack- 
daw, inhabits the southern maritime parts of the Union only, 
particularly the States of Georgia and Florida, where they are 
seen as early as the close of January or beginning of February, 
but do not begin to pair before March, previously to which 
season the sexes are seen in separate flocks. But about the 
latter end of November they quit even the mild climate of 
Florida, generally, and seek winter-quarters probably in the 
West Indies, where they are known to be numerous, as well as 
in Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas ; but they do not ever extend 
their northern migrations as far as the Middle States. Previ- 
ous to their departure, at the approach of winter, they are seen 
to assemble in large flocks, and every morning flights of them, 
at a great height, are seen moving away to the south. 

Like most gregarious birds, they are of a very sociable 
disposition, and are frequently observed to mingle with the 
common Crow Blackbirds. They assemble in great numbers 
among the sea islands, and neighboring marshes on the main- 
land, where they feed at low water on the oyster-beds and sand- 
flats. Like Crows, they are omnivorous, their food consisting 
of insects, small shell-fish, corn, and small grain, so that by 
turns they may be viewed as the friend or plunderer of the 
planter. 



PURPLE CRACKLE. II5 

The note of this species is louder than that of the common 
kind, according to Audubon resembling a loud, shrill whistle, 
often accompanied by a cry like cr'ick crick cree, and in the 
breeding- season changing almost into a warble. They are only 
heard to sing in the spring, and their concert, though inclining 
to sadness, is not altogether disagreeable. Their nests are 
built in company, on reeds and bushes, in the neighborhood 
of salt-marshes and ponds. They begin to lay about the 
beginning of April ; soon after which the males leave their 
mates, not only with the care of incubation, but with the rear- 
ing of the young, moving about in separate flocks like the 
Cowbirds, without taking any interest in the fate of their 
progeny. 

This species is rarely found north of Virginia. Several instances 
of its occurrence in New England have been reported ; but the 
correctness of these reports has been challenged, and Mr. Allen 
omitted the species from his list of Massachusetts birds issued in 
1886. 



PURPLE CRACKLE. 

CROW BLACKBIRD. 
QUISCALUS QUISCULA. 

Char. Black, with rich metallic tints of steel blue and purple, the 
female somewhat duller. Length, 11 to 13/^ inches. 

Nest. On the branch of a tree or in a hollow stub ; large and roughly 
made of coarse grass and twigs, and lined with finer grass, sometimes 
cemented with mud. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; extremely variable in shape, color, and size ; ground color 
greenish white to reddish brown, with irregular markings of dark brown ; 
1.25 X 0.90. 

This very common bird is an occasional or constant resident 
in every part of America, from Hudson's Bay and the northern 
interior to the Creat Antilles, within the tropic. In most parts 
of this wide region they also breed, at least from Nova Scotia to 
Louisiana, and probably farther south. Into the States north 
of Virginia they begin to migrate from the beginning of March 



Il6 SINGING BIRDS. 

to May, leaving those countries again in numerous troops about 
the middle of November. Thus assembled from the North and 
West in increasing numbers, they wholly overrun, at times, the 
warmer maritime regions, where they assemble to pass the 
winter in the company of their well-known cousins the Red- 
winged Troopials or Blackbirds ; for both, impelled by the 
same predatory appetite, and love of comfortable winter 
quarters, are often thus accidentally associated in the plun- 
dering and gleaning of the plantations. The amazing 
numbers in which the present species associate are almost 
incredible. Wilson relates that on the 20th of January, a few 
miles from the banks of the Roanoke in Virginia, he met with 
one of those prodigious armies of Blackbirds, which, as he ap- 
proached, rose from the surrounding fields with a noise like 
thunder, and descending on the stretch of road before him^ 
covered it and the fences completely with black ; rising again, 
after a few evolutions, they descended on the skirt of a leafless 
wood, so thick as to give the whole forest, for a considerable 
extent, the appearance of being shrouded in mourning, the 
numbers amounting probably to many hundreds of thousands. 
Their notes and screams resembled the distant sound of a 
mighty cataract, but strangely attuned into a musical cadence, 
which rose and fell with the fluctuation of the breeze, like the 
magic harp of tEoIus. 

Their depredations on the maize crop or Indian corn com- 
mence almost with the planting. The infant blades no sooner 
appear than they are hailed by the greedy Blackbird as the 
signal for a feast ; and without hesitation, they descend on the 
fields, and regale themselves with the sweet and sprouted seed, 
rejecting and scattering the blades around as an evidence of 
their mischief and audacity. Again, about the beginning of 
August, while the grain is in the milky state, their attacks are 
renewed with the most destructive effect, as they now assemble 
as it were in clouds, and pillage the fields to such a degree 
that in some low and sheltered situations, in the vicinity of 
rivers, where they delight to roam, one fourth of the crop is 
devoured by these vexatious visitors. The gun, also, notwith- 



PURPLE GRACKLE. 11/ 

Standing the havoc it produces, has Httle more effect than to 
chase them from one part of the field to the other. In the 
Southern States, in winter, they hover round the corn-cribs in 
swarms, and boldly peck the hard grain from the cob through 
the air openings of the magazine. In consequence of these 
reiterated depredations, they are detested by the farmer as 
a pest to his industry ; though on their arrival their food for 
a long time consists wholly of those insects which are calculated 
to do the most essential injury to the crops. They at this season 
frequent swamps and meadows, and familiarly following the fur- 
rows of the plough, sweep up all the grub-worms and other 
noxious animals as soon as they appear, even scratching up the 
loose soil, that nothing of this kind may escape them. Up to the 
time of harvest I have uniformly, on dissection, found their food 
to consist of these larvae, caterpillars, moths, and beetles, of 
which they devour such numbers that but for this providential 
economy the whole crop of grain, in many places, would prob- 
ably be destroyed by the time it began to germinate. In 
winter they collect the mast of the beech and oak for food, 
and may be seen assembled in large bodies in the woods for 
this purpose. In the spring season the Blackbirds roost in the 
cedars and pine-trees, to which in the evening they retire with 
friendly and mutual chatter. On the tallest of these trees, as 
well as in bushes, they generally build their nests, — which work, 
like all their movements, is commonly performed in society, so 
that lo or 15 of them are often seen in the same tree; and 
sometimes they have been known to thrust their nests into 
the interstices of the Fish Hawk's eyr}^, as if for safety and 
protection. Occasionally they breed in tall poplars near to 
habitations, and if not molested, continue to resort to the same 
place for several years in succession. The nest is composed 
of mud, mixed with stalks and knotty roots of grass, and lined 
with fine dry grass and horse-hair. According to Audubon, 
the same species in the Southern States nests in the hollows of 
decayed trees, after the manner of the Woodpecker, lining the 
cavity with grass and mud. They seldom produce more than a 
single brood in the season. In the autumn, and at the approach 



Il8 SINGING BIRDS. 

of winter, numerous flocks, after foraging through the day, return 
from considerable distances to their general roosts among the 
reeds. On approaching their station, each detachment, as it 
arrives, in straggling groups like crows, sweeps round the marsh 
in waving flight, forming circles ; amidst these bodies, the note 
of the old reconnoitring leader may be heard, and no sooner 
has he fixed upon the intended spot than they all descend and 
take their stations in an instant. At this time they are also 
frequently accompanied by the Ferruginous species, with which 
they associate in a friendly manner. 

The Blackbird is easily tamed, sings in confinement, and 
may be taught to articulate some few words pretty distinctly. 
Among the variety of its natural notes, the peculiarly aff'ected 
sibilation of the Starhng is heard in the wotfitshee, wottitshee, 
and whistle, which often accompanies this note. 

In Nuttall's day variety making had not come in fashion, and 
the systematists were content to treat the Crow Blackbirds of east- 
ern North America as of one form. Now we have three forms, 
with three " distinctive scientific appellations." It is somewhat 
difficult to distinguish these forms, except in extreme phases of 
plumage, for many specimens of the Northern variety have the 
diagnostic characters of the Southern birds. The present race is 
said to occur on the Atlantic coast of the United States, north to 
Massachusetts, and in the lower valley of the Mississippi. 

The Bronze Crackle (^. quiscula cetieus) lacks the purple 
metallic tint on the body, that being replaced by a tint of bronze ; 
the purple and blue tints are restricted to the head and neck. The 
wings and tail are purple. This form is abundant throughout the 
New England States and Canada, and ranges north to Hudson's 
Bay and west to the Great Plains. I have seen nests of these 
birds placed on the beams of barns in New Brunswick. The 
farmers along the St. John and Kenebecasis rivers erect barns on 
the marshy islands and " intervales " to store their hay until it can 
be carried to the mainland on the ice ; and these barns, being un- 
used during the breeding season, offer excellent building sites for 
colonies of Crow Blackbirds and Swallows. The nests are fastened 
to the beams with mud in much the same method as that adopted 
by Robins. 

A smaller race with a larger tail is restricted to Florida and the 
adjacent country and westward to the Mississippi. It is named 
the Florida Crackle {Q. giiiscida algcsus) 



RUSTY BLACKBIRD. II9 

RUSTY BLACKBIRD. 

SCOLECOPHAGUS CAROLINUS. 

Char. Male in summer: glossy black, generally more or less feathers 
edged with reddish brown. Male in winter : the brown more conspic- 
uous, the lower parts marked with buffy. Female and young : dull rusty 
brown above, rusty and ashy beneath. Length 8^ to 93.4; inches. 

Nest. In a tree or on the ground ; a large but solid structure of twigs 
and vines, sometimes cemented with mud, lined with grass and leaves. 

Eggs. 4-7 ; grayish green to pale green, thickly blotched with light 
and dark brown and purple ; 1. 00 X 0.76. 

This species, less frequent than the preceding, is often 
associated with it or with the Red-winged Troopial or the 
Cowpen Bird ; and according to the season, they are found 
throughout America, from Hudson's Bay to Florida, and west- 
ward to the Pacific Ocean. Early in April, according to 
Wilson, they pass hastily through Pennsylvania, on their 
return to the North to breed. In the month of March he 
observed them on the banks of the Ohio, near Kentucky River, 
during a snow-storm. They arrive in the vicinity of Hudson's 
Bay about the beginning of May, and feed much in the manner 
of the common Crow Blackbird on insects which they find on 
or near the ground. Dr. Richardson saw them in the winter 
as far as the latitude of 53°, and in summer they range to the 
68th parallel or to the extremity of the wooded region. They 
sing in the pairing season, but become nearly silent while 
rearing their young; though when their brood release them 
from care, they again resume their lay, and may occasionally be 
heard until the approach of winter. Their song is quite as 
agreeable and musical as that of the Starling, and greatly sur- 
passes that of any of the other species. I have heard them 
singing until the middle of October. 

They are said to build in trees and bushes at no great dis- 
tance from the ground, making a nest similar to the other 
species, and lay five eggs, of a pale blue spotted with black. 
The young and old, now assembling in large troops, retire from 
the northern regions in September. From the beginning of 



I20 SINGING BIRDS. 

October to the middle of November, they are seen in flocks 
through the Eastern States. During their stay in this vicinity 
they assemble towards night to roost in or round the reed- 
marshes of Fresh Pond, near Cambridge. Sometimes they 
select the willows by the water for their lodging, in preference 
to the reeds, which they give up to their companions the 
Crow Blackbirds. Early in October they feed chiefly on 
grasshoppers and berries, and at a later period pay a transient 
visit to the corn-fields. They pass the winter in the Southern 
States, and, like their darker relatives, make familiar visits to 
the barn-yard and corn-cribs. Wilson remarks that they are 
easily domesticated, and in a few days become quite familiar, 
being reconciled to any quarters while supplied with plenty of 
food. 

The Rusty Blackbird breeds from about the 45th parallel to the 
lower fur countries. It is fairly common near the Atlantic, but is 
more abundant in the interior, and Mr. Thompson reports it com- 
monly abundant in Manitoba. In this region it does not always 
select an alder swamp for a nesting site, as some authors have 
stated. A nest discovered by my friend Banks was amid the upper 
branches of a good sized spruce on a dry hillside in Mr. William 
Jack's park, near St. John. 



NORTHERN RAVEN. 

CORVUS CORAX PRINCIPALIS. 

Char. Black with bluish purple gloss. Length 22 to 26% inches. 

Nest. On a cliff or in a tree ; made of sticks carefully and compactly 
arranged, lined with grass or wool, — repaired year after year, and thus 
increased to considerable bulk. 

Eggs. 2-7 ; pale olive, marked with olive-brown blotches and streaks ; 
2.00 X 1.40. 

The sable Raven has been observed and described from the 
earliest times, and is a resident of almost every country in the 
world ; but is more particularly abundant in the western than 
the eastern parts of the United States, where it extends along 
the Oregon to the shores of the Pacific. This ominous bird 



NORTHERN RAVEN. 121 

has been generally despised and feared by the superstitious 
even more than the nocturnal Owl, though he prowls abroad in 
open day. He may be considered as holding a relation to the 
birds of prey, feeding not only on carrion, but occasionally 
seizing on weakly lambs, young hares or rabbits, and seems 
indeed to give a preference to animal food ; but at the same 
time, he is able to live on all kinds of fruits and grain, as well 
as insects, earth-worms, even dead fish, and in addition to all, 
is particularly fond of eggs, so that no animal seems more truly 
omnivorous than the Raven. 

If we take into consideration his indiscriminating voracity, 
sombre livery, discordant, croaking cry, with his ignoble, wild, 
and funereal aspect, we need not be surprised that in times of 
ignorance and error he should have been so generally regarded 
as an object of disgust and fear. He stood pre-eminent in the 
list of sinister birds, or those whose only premonition was the 
announcing of misfortunes ; and, strange to tell, there are many 
people yet in Europe, even in this enlightened age, who trem- 
ble and become uneasy at the sound of his harmless croaking. 
According to Adair, the Southern aborigines also invoke the 
Raven for those who are sick, mimicking his voice ; and the 
natives of the Missouri, assuming black as their emblem of 
war, decorate themselves on those occasions with the plumes 
of this dark bird. But all the knowledge of the future, or in- 
terest in destiny, possessed by the Raven, like that of other 
inhabitants of the air, is bounded by an instinctive feeling of 
the changes which are about to happen in the atmosphere, and 
which he has the faculty of announcing by certain cries and 
actions produced by these external impressions. In the south- 
ern provinces of Sweden, as Linnaeus remarks, when the sky is 
serene the Raven flies very high and utters a hollow sound, 
like the word clong, which is heard to a great distance. Some- 
times he has been seen in the midst of a thunder-storm with 
the electric fire streaming from the extremity of his bill, — a 
natural though extraordinary phenomenon, sufficient to terrify 
the superstitious and to stamp the harmless subject of it with 
the imaginary traits and attributes of a demon. 



122 SINGING BIRDS. 

In ancient times, when divination made a part of religion, 
the Raven, though a bad prophet, was yet a very interesting 
bird ; for the passion for prying into future events, even the 
most dark and sorrowful, is an original propensity of human 
nature. Accordingly, all the actions of this sombre bird, all 
the circumstances of its flight, and all the different intonations 
of its discordant voice, of which no less than sixty-four were 
remarked, had each of them an appropriate signification ; and 
there were never wanting impostors to procure this pretended 
intelligence, nor people simple enough to credit it. Some 
even went so far as to impose upon themselves, by devouring 
the heart and entrails of the disgusting Raven, in the strange 
hope of thus appropriating its supposed gift of prophecy. 

The Raven indeed not only possesses a great many natural 
inflections of voice corresponding to its various feelings, but it 
has also a talent for imitating the cries of other animals, and 
even mimicking language. According to Buffbn, colas is a 
word which he pronounces with peculiar faciUty. Connecting 
circumstances with his wants, Scaliger heard one, which when 
hungry, learnt very distinctly to call upon Conrad the cook. 
The first of these words bears a great resemblance to one of 
the ordinary cries of this species, kowallah^ kowallah. Besides 
possessing in some measure the faculty of imitating human 
speech, they are at times capable of manifesting a durable 
attachment to their keeper, and become familiar about the 
house. 

The sense of smell, or rather that of sight, is very acute in 
the Raven, so that he discerns the carrion, on which he often 
feeds, at a great distance. Thucydides even attributes to him 
the sagacity of avoiding to feed on animals which had died of 
the plague. Pliny relates a singular piece of ingenuity em- 
ployed by this bird to quench his thirst : he had obser\^ed 
water near the bottom of a narrow-necked vase, to obtain 
which, he is said to have thrown in pebbles, one at a time, 
until the pile elevated the water within his reach. Nor does 
this trait, singular as it is, appear to be much more sagacious 
than that of carrying up nuts and shell-fish into the air, and 



NORTHERN RAVEN. 1 23 

dropping them on rocks, for the purpose of breaking them 
to obtain their contents, otherwise beyond his reacli, — facts 
observed by men of credit, and recorded as an instinct of the 
Raven by Pennant and Latham. It is, however, seldom that 
these birds, any more than the rapacious kinds, feel an inclina- 
tion for drinking, as their thirst is usually quenched by the 
blood and juices of their prey. The Ravens are also more 
social than the birds of prey, — which arises from the promis- 
cuous nature and consequent abundance of their food, which 
allows a greater number to subsist together in the same place, 
without being urged to the stern necessity of solitude or fam- 
ine, — a condition to which the true rapacious birds are always 
driven. The habits of these birds are much more generally 
harmless than is usually imagined ; they are useful to the farmer 
in the destruction they make of moles and mice, and are often 
very well contented with insects and earth-worms. 

Though spread over the whole world, they are rarely ever 
birds of passage, enduring the winters even of the Arctic circle, 
or the warmth of Mexico, St. Domingo, and Madagascar. 
They are particularly attached to the rocky eyries where they 
have been bred and paired. Throughout the year they are 
observed together in nearly equal numbers, and they never 
entirely abandon this adopted home. If they descend into 
the plain, it is to collect subsistence ; but they resort to the 
low grounds more in winter than summer, as they avoid the 
heat and dislike to wander from their cool retreats. They never 
roost in the woods, like Crows, and have sufficient sagacity to 
choose in their rocky retreats a situation defended from the 
winds of the north, — commonly under the natural vault formed 
by an extending ledge or cavity of the rock. Here they retire 
during the night in companies of 15 to 20. They perch upon 
the bushes which grow straggling in the clefts of the rocks ; 
but they form their nests in the rocky crevices, or in the 
holes of the mouldering walls, at the summits of ruined towers ; 
and sometimes upon the high branches of large and solitary 
trees. After they have paired, their fidelity appears to continue 
through life. The male expresses his attachment by a particu- 



124 SINGING BIRDS. 

lar strain of croaking, and both sexes are observed caressing, by 
approaching their bills, with as much semblance of affection as 
the truest turtle-doves. In temperate climates the Raven be- 
gins to lay in the months of February or March. The eggs are 
5 or 6, of a pale, muddy bluish green, marked with numerous 
spots and lines of dark olive brown. She sits about 20 days, 
and during this time the male takes care to provide her with 
abundance of nourishment. Indeed, from the quantity of grain, 
nuts, and fruits which have been found at this time in the envi- 
rons of the nest, this supply would appear to be a store laid up 
for future occasions. Whatever may be their forethought re- 
garding food, they have a well-known propensity to hide things 
which come within their reach, though useless to themselves, 
and appear to give a preference to pieces of metal, or any- 
thing which has a brilliant appearance. At Erfurt, one of 
these birds had the patience to carry and hide, one by one, 
under a stone in the garden, a quantity of small pieces of 
money, which amounted, when discovered, to 5 or 6 florins ; 
and there are few countries which cannot afford similar instan- 
ces of their domestic thefts. 

Of the perseverance of the Raven in the act of incubation, 
Mr. White has related the following remarkable anecdote : In 
the centre of a grove near Selborne there stood a tall and 
shapeless oak which bulged out into a large excrescence near 
the middle of the stem. On this tree a pair of Ravens had 
fixed their residence for such a series of years that the oak 
was distinguished by the title of "The Raven Tree." Many 
were the attempts of the neighboring youths to get at this nest. 
The difftculty whetted their inclinations, and each was ambi- 
tious of accompHshing the arduous task ; but when they arrived 
at the swelling, it jutted out so in their way, and was so far 
beyond their grasp, that the boldest lads were deterred, and 
acknowledged the undertaking to be too hazardous. Thus the 
Ravens continued to build, and rear their young in security, 
until the fatal day on which the wood was to be levelled. 
This was in the month of February, when these birds usually 
begin to sit. The saw was applied to the trunk, the wedges 



NORTHERN RAVEN. 1 25 

were driven, the woods echoed to the heavy blows of the beetle 
or mallet, and the tree nodded to its fall ; but still the devoted 
Raven sat on. At last, when it gave way, she was flung from 
her ancient eyry; and a victim to parental affection, was 
whipped down by the twigs, and brought lifeless to the 
ground. 

The young, at first more white than black, are fed by food 
previously prepared in the craw of the mother and then dis- 
gorged by the bill, nearly in the manner of pigeons. The male 
at this time, doubly vigilant and industrious, not only provides 
for, but defends his family vigorously from every hostile attack, 
and shows a particular enmity to the Kite when he appears in 
his neighborhood, pouncing upon him and striking with his 
bill until sometimes both antagonists descend to the ground. 
The young are long and affectionately fed by the parents ; and 
though they soon leave the nest, they remain perching on the 
neighboring rocks, yet unable to make any extensive flight, and 
pass the time in continual complaining cries till the approach 
of the parent with food, when their note changes into craw, 
craw, craw. Now and then as they gain strength they make 
efforts to fly, and then return to their rocky roost. About 15 
days after leaving the nest, they become so well prepared for 
flight as to accompany the parents out on their excursions from 
morning to night ; and it is amusing to watch the progress of 
this affectionate association, the young continuing the whole 
summer to go out with the old in the morning, and as regularly 
return with them again in the evening, so that however we may 
despise the appetite of the Raven, we cannot but admire the 
instinctive morality of his nature. 

Like birds of prey, the Ravens reject from the stomach, by 
the bill, the hard and indigestible parts of their food, as the 
stones of fniit and the bones of small fish which they some- 
times eat. 

The Northern Raven has been separated lately from the 
" Mexican " race (for which latter the name of sinuaius has been 
retained); and the distribution of the Mexican bird is given 
as from the Rocky Mountains westward. The northern form 



126 SINGING BIRDS. 

occurs throughout Canada north to the Arctic Ocean and west to 
the Pacific. 

Of late years the Raven has almost forsaken the New England 
shores, though it is still numerous around the Bay of Fundy, and 
occurs locally in small numbers along the coast of the Atlantic to 
North Carolina. In the west it ranges south to northern Michigan 
and British Columbia. It is more abundant to the westward of the 
Mississippi than in the Eastern States. 



CROW. 

CORVUS AMERICANUS. 

Char. Black, with gloss of purple tinge. Length 17 to 21 inches. 
Nest. In a tree ; made of sticks and twigs, lined with grass and leaves. 
Eggs. 4-6 ; sea-green to dull olive, blotched with brown ; 1.70 X 1.20. 

The Crow, like the Raven, which it greatly resembles, is a 
denizen of nearly the whole world. It is found even in New 
Holland and the Philippine Islands, but is rare in Sweden, 
where the Raven abounds. It is also common in Siberia, and 
plentiful in the Arctic deserts beyond the Lena. 

The native Crow is a constant and troublesomely abundant 
resident in most of the settled districts of North America, 
as well as an inhabitant of the Western wilds throughout 
the Rocky Mountains, to the banks of the Oregon and the 
shores of the Pacific. These birds only retire into the forests 
in the breeding season, which lasts from March to May. At 
this time they are dispersed through the woods in pairs, and 
roost in the neighborhood of the spot which they have selected 
for their nest ; and the conjugal union, once formed, continues 
for life. They are now very noisy, and vigilant against any 
intrusion on their purpose, and at times appear influenced by 
mutual jealousy, but never proceed to any violence. The 
tree they select is generally lofty, and preference seems often 
given to some dark and concealing evergreen. The nest is 
formed externally of small twigs coarsely interlaced together, 
plastered and matted with earth, moss, and long horse-hair. 



CROW. 127 

and thickly and carefully lined with large quantities of the last 
material, wool, or the finest fibres of roots, so as to form a very 
comfortable bed for the helpless and naked young. 

The male at this season is extremely watchful, reconnoitring 
the neighborhood, and giving an alarm as any person happens 
to approach towards their nest, when both retire to a distance 
till the intruder disappears ; and in order the better to conceal 
their brood, they remain uncommonly silent until these are in 
a situation to follow them on the wing. The male also carries 
food to his mate while confined to her eggs, and at times 
relieves her by sitting in her absence. In Europe, when the 
Raven, the Buzzard, or the Kestrel makes his appearance, the 
pair join instantly in the attack, and sometimes, by dint of furi- 
ous blows, destroy their enemy ; yet the Butcher Bird, more 
alert and courageous, not only resists, but often vanquishes 
the Crows and carries off their young. Like the Ravens, 
endued with an unrestrained and natural affection, they con- 
tinue the whole succeeding summer to succor and accompany 
their offspring in all their undertakings and excursions. 

The Crow is equally omnivorous with the Raven ; insects, 
worms, carrion, fish, grain, fruits, and in short everything 
digestible by any or all the birds in existence, being alike 
acceptable to this gormandizing animal. Its destruction of 
bird-eggs is also very considerable. In Europe Crows are often 
detected feeding their voracious young with the precious eggs 
of the Partridge, which they very sagaciously convey by care- 
fully piercing and sticking them expertly on the bill. They 
also know how to break nuts and shell- fish by dropping them 
from a great height upon the rocks below. They visit even the 
snares and devour the birds which they find caught, attacking 
the weak and wounded game. They also sometimes seize on 
young chickens and Ducks, and have even been observed to 
pounce upon Pigeons in the manner of Hawks, and with almost 
equal success. So familiar and audacious are they in some 
parts of the Levant that they will frequent the courts of houses, 
and, like Harpies, alight boldly on the dishes, as the servants are 
conveying in the dinner, and carry off the meat, if not driven 



128 SINGING BIRDS. 

away by blows. In turn, however, the Crow finds enemies too 
powerful for him to conquer, such as the Kite and Eagle Owl, 
who occasionally make a meal of this carrion bird, — a voracious 
propensity which the Virginian Owl also sometimes exhibits 
towards the same species. Wherever the Crow appears, the 
smaller birds take the alarm, and vent upon him their just 
suspicions and reproaches. But it is only the redoubtable 
Kmg Bird who has courage for the attack, beginning the onset 
by pursuing and diving on his back from above, and haras- 
sing the plunderer with such violence that he is generally glad 
to get out of the way and forego his piratical visit ; in short, a 
single pair of these courageous and quarrelsome birds are suf- 
ficient to clear the Crows from an extensive cornfield. 

The most serious mischief of which the Crow is guilty 
is that of pillaging the maize-field. He commences at the 
planting-time by picking up and rooting out the sprouting 
grain, and in the autumn, when it becomes ripe, whole flocks, 
now assembled at their roosting-places, blacken the neighboring 
fields as soon as they get into motion, and do extensive dam- 
age at every visit, from the excessive numbers who now rush to 
the inviting feast. 

Their rendezvous or roosting-places are the resort in au- 
tumn of all the Crows and their families for many miles round. 
The blackening silent train continues to arrive for more than 
an hour before sunset, and some still straggle on until dark. 
They never arrive in dense flocks, but always in long lines, 
each falling into the file as he sees opportunity. This gregarious 
inclination is common to many birds in the autumn which 
associate only in pairs in the summer. The forests and groves, 
stripped of their agreeable and protecting verdure, seem no 
longer safe and pleasant to the feathered nations. Exposed to 
the birds of prey, which daily augment in numbers ; penetrated 
by the chilling blasts, which sweep without control through the 
naked branches, — the birds, now impelled by an overruling 
instinct, seek in congregated numbers some general, safer, and 
more commodious retreat. Islands of reeds, dark and solitary 
thickets, and neglected swamps, are the situations chosen for 



CROW. 129 

their general diurnal retreats and roosts. Swallows, Blackbirds, 
Rice Birds, and Crows seem always to prefer the low shelter of 
reed-flats. On the River Delaware, in Pennsylvania, there are 
two of these remarkable Crow-roosts. The one mentioned by 
Wilson is an island near Newcastle called the Pea-Patch, — a 
low, flat, alluvial spot, just elevated above high-water mark, 
and thickly covered with reeds, on which the Crows alight 
and take shelter for the night. Whether this roost be now 
occupied by these birds or not, I cannot pretend to say ; but in 
December, 1829, I had occasion to observe their arrival on 
Reedy Island, just above the commencement of the bay of that 
river, in vast numbers ; and as the wind wafted any beating 
vessel towards the shore, they rose in a cloud and filled the 
air with clamor. Indeed, their vigilant and restless cawing 
continued till after dark. 

Creatures of mere instinct, they foresee no perils beyond 
their actual vision ; and thus, when they least expect it, are 
sometimes swept away by an unexpected destruction. Some 
years ago, during the prevalence of a sudden and violent north- 
east storm accompanied by heavy rains, the Pea- Patch Island 
was wholly inundated in the night ; and the unfortunate Crows, 
dormant and bewildered, made no attempts to escape, and 
were drowned by thousands, so that their bodies blackened the 
shores the following day for several miles in extent. 

The Crows, like many other birds, become injurious and 
formidable only in the gregarious season. At other times they 
live so scattered, and are so shy and cautious, that they are 
but seldom seen. But their armies, like all other great and 
terrific assemblies, have the power, in limited districts, of 
doing very sensible mischief to the agricultural interests of the 
community ; and in consequence, the poor Crows, notwith- 
standing their obvious services in the destruction of a vast host 
of insects and their larvae, are proscribed as felons in all civil- 
ized countries, and, with the wolves, panthers, and foxes, a 
price is put upon their heads. In consequence, various means 
of ensnaring the outlaws have been had recourse to. Of the 
gun they are very cautious, and suspect its appearance at the 

VOL. I. Q 



I30 SINGING BIRDS. 

first glance, perceiving with ready sagacity the wily manner of 
the fowler. So fearful and suspicious are they of human arti^ 
fices that a mere line stretched round a field is often found 
sufficient to deter these wily birds from a visit to the cornfield. 
Against poison they are not so guarded, and sometimes com 
steeped in hellebore is given them, which creates giddiness 
and death. 

Another curious method is that of pinning a live Crow to the 
ground by the wings, stretched out on his back, and retained 
in this posture by two sharp, forked sticks. In this situation, 
his loud cries attract other Crows, who come sweeping down 
to the prostrate prisoner, and are grappled in his claws. In 
this way each successive prisoner may be made the innocent 
means of capturing his companion. The reeds in which they 
roost, when dry enough, are sometimes set on fire also to pro- 
cure their destruction ; and to add to the fatality produced by 
the flames, gunners are also stationed round to destroy those 
that attempt to escape by flight. In severe winters they suffer 
occasionally from famine and cold, and fall sometimes dead 
in the fields. According to Wilson, in one of these severe 
seasons, more than 600 Crows were shot on the carcase of a 
dead horse, which was placed at a proper shooting distance 
from a stable. The premiums obtained for these, and the price 
procured for the quills, produced to the farmer nearly the value 
of the horse when living, besides affording feathers sufficient to 
fill a bed. 

The Crow is easily raised and domesticated, and soon learns 
to distinguish the different members of the family with which 
he is associated. He screams at the approach of a stranger ; 
learns to open the door by alighting on the latch; attends 
regularly at meal times ; is very noisy and loquacious ; imitates 
the sounds of various words which he hears ; is very thievish, 
given to hiding curiosities in holes and crevices, and is very 
fond of carrying off pieces of metal, com, bread, and food of 
all kinds ; he is also particularly attached to the society of his 
master, and recollects him sometimes after a long absence. 

It is commonly believed and asserted in some parts of this 



FISH CROW. 131 

country that the Crows engage at times in general combat ; 
but it has never been ascertained whether this hostiUty arises 
from civil discord, or the opposition of two different species 
contesting for some exclusive privilege of subsisting ground. 
It is well known that Rooks often contend with each other, 
and drive away by every persecuting means individuals who 
arrive among them from any other rookery. 

Note. — The Florida Crow (C americanus Jloridafius) differs 
from true america?ius in having the wings and tail shorter, and the 
bill and feet larger. It is restricted to southern Florida. 



FISH CROW. 

CORVUS OSSIFRAGUS. 

Char. Black glossed with steel-blue. Length 15 to ijyi inches. 
Nest. On a tree ; of sticks and twigs firmly laid, lined with leaves. 
Eggs. 5-7 ; sea-green or olive, blotched and spotted with brown ; 
1.50 X 1.05. 

Wilson was the first to observe the distinctive traits of this 
smaller and peculiar American species of Crow along the sea- 
coast of Georgia. It is met with as far north as the coast of 
New Jersey ; and although we did not see it in the western 
interior of the continent, it is common on the banks of the 
Oregon, where it was nesting in the month of April. It 
keeps apart from the common species, and instead of assem- 
bling to roost among the reeds at night, retires, towards 
evening, from the shores which afford it a subsistence, and 
perches in the neighboring woods. Its notes, probably various, 
are at times hoarse and guttural, at others weaker and higher. 
These Crows pass most of their time near rivers, hovering over 
the stream to catch up dead and perhaps living fish, or other 
animal matters which float within their reach ; at these they 
dive with considerable celerity, and seizing them in their claws, 
convey them to an adjoining tree, and devour the fruits of 
their predatory industry at leisure. They also snatch up water- 



132 SINGING BIRDS. 

lizards in the same manner, and feed upon small crabs; at 
times they are seen even contending with the Gulls for their 
prey. It is amusing to see with what steady watchfulness they 
hover over the water in search of their precarious food, having, 
in fact, all the traits of the Gull ; but they subsist more on 
accidental supplies than by any regular system of fishing. On 
land they have sometimes all the familiarity of the Magpie, 
hopping upon the backs of cattle, in whose company they no 
doubt occasionally meet with a supply of insects when other 
sources fail. They are also regular in their attendance on the 
fishermen of New Jersey for the purpose of gleaning up the 
refuse of the fish. They are less shy and suspicious than 
the common Crow, and showing no inclination for plundering 
the cornfields, are rather friends than enemies to the farmer. 
They appear near Philadelphia from the middle of March to 
the beginning of June, during the season of the shad and herring 
fishery. 

The habitat now accorded to this species is " the Atlantic and 
Gulf States north to Long Island and west to Louisiana." It 
probably occurs occasionally along the Connecticut shore, and may 
straggle into Massachusetts ; though Mr. Allen has omitted it from 
his list. 

On the Pacific coast it is replaced by C. cauriims. 

All Crows are more or less fish-eaters, and in some localities fish 
forms their staple diet. On the shores of Cape Breton, near the 
coal districts, the fish-eating Crows are separated by the natives 
from the common sort. It is said that the flight and voice of these 
birds can be readily distinguished. Some miners working at 
Lepreaux, in New Brunswick, who were familiar with the fish- 
eating Crows of Cape Breton, drew my attention to a flock of 
apparently small and peculiar-voiced Crows gleaning along the 
shores ; but though easily trapped by a fish bait, they proved to 
be nothing more than rather small common Crows. 



Note. — The American Magpie {Pica pica hudsonicd) is a 
Western and Northwestern bird, and occurs as a straggler only 
east of the Mississippi. It has been taken in Michigan, northern 
lUinois, and western Ontario ; also at Chambly, near Montreal. 




BLUE JAY. 

Cyanocitta cristata. 



Char. Above, purplish blue ; below, pale purplish gray, lighter on 
throat and tail-coverts ; wings and tail bright blue barred with black ; wing- 
coverts, secondaries, and most of tail-feathers broadly tipped with white. 
Head conspicuously crested ; tail wedge-shaped. Length ii to 12^ inches. 

Nest. In a small conifer, about 20 feet from the ground, situated in 
deep forest or near a settlement ; roughly but firmly constructed of twigs 
and roots, and lined with fine roots. 

Eggs. 4-5; pale olive or buff, spotted with yellowish brown; i.io 
X 0^85. 

This elegant and common species is met with in the interior, 
from the remote northwestern regions near Peace River, in the 
54th to the 56th degree, Lake Winnipeg in the 49th degree, 
the eastern steppes of the Rocky Mountains, and southwest- 
ward to the banks of the Arkansas ; also along the Atlantic 
regions from the confines of Newfoundland to the peninsula of 
Florida and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. 



134 SINGING BIRDS. 

The Blue Jay is a constant inhabitant both of the wooded 
wilderness and the vicinity of the settled farm, though more 
familiar at the approach of winter and early in spring than at 
any other season. These wanderings or limited migrations are 
induced by necessity alone ; his hoards of grain, nuts, and 
acorns either have failed or are forgotten : for, like other 
misers, he is more assiduous to amass than to expend or en- 
joy his stores, and the fruits of his labors very frequently either 
devolve to the rats or squirrels, or accidentally assist in the 
replanting of the forest. His visits at this time are not un- 
frequent in the garden and orchard, and his usual petulant 
address of djdy, Jay, Jay, and other harsh and trumpeting 
articulations, soon make his retreat known to all in his neigh- 
borhood. So habitual is this sentinel cry of alarm, and so ex- 
pressive, that all the birds within call, as well as other wild 
animals, are instantly on the alert, so that the fowler and 
hunter become generally disappointed of their game by this 
his garrulous and noisy propensity ; he is therefore, for his 
petulance, frequently killed without pity or profit, as his flesh, 
though eaten, has but little to recommend it. His more com- 
plaisant notes, when undisturbed, though guttural and echoing, 
are by no means unpleasant, and fall in harmoniously with the 
cadence of the feathered choristers around him, so as to form 
a finishing part to the general music of the grove. His ac- 
cents of blandishment, when influenced by the softer passions, 
are low and musical, so as to be scarcely heard beyond the 
thick branches where he sits concealed ; but as soon as dis- 
covered he bursts out into notes of rage and reproach, accom- 
panying his voice by jerks and actions of temerity and defiance. 
Indeed the Jay of Europe, with whom our beau agrees entirely 
in habits, is so irascible and violent in his movements as some- 
times to strangle himself in the narrow fork of a branch from 
which he has been found suspended. Like the European spe- 
cies, he also exhibits a great antipathy to the Owl, and by his 
loud and savage vociferation soon brings together a noisy troop 
of all the busy birds in the neighborhood. To this garrulous 
attack the night wanderer has no reply but a threatening stare 



BLUE JAY. 135 

of indifference ; and as soon as opportunity offers, he quietly 
slips from his slandering company. Advantage in some coun- 
tries is taken of this dislike for the purpose of catching birds ; 
thus the Owl, being let out of a box, sometimes makes a hoot, 
which instantly assembles a motley group, who are then caught 
by liming the neighboring twigs on which they perch. In this 
gossip the Jay and Crow are always sure to take part if within 
sight or hearing of the call, and are thus caught or destroyed 
at will. The common Jay is even fond of imitating the harsh 
voice of the Owl and the noisy Kestrel. I have also heard the 
Blue Jay mock with a taunting accent the ke 00, ke 00, or quail- 
ing, of the Red-shouldered Hawk. Wilson likewise heard him 
take singular satisfaction in teasing and mocking the little 
American Sparrow Hawk, and imposing upon him by the pre- 
tended plaints of a wounded bird ; in which frolic several would 
appear to join, until their sport sometimes ended in sudden 
consternation, by the Hawk, justly enough, pouncing on one of 
them as his legitimate and devoted prey. 

His talent for mimicry when domesticated is likewise so far 
capable of improvement as to enable him to imitate human 
speech, articulating words with some distinctness ; and on 
hearing voices, like a Parrot, he would endeavor to contribute 
his important share to the tumult. Bewick remarks of the 
common Jay of Europe that he heard one so exactly counter- 
feit the action of a saw that, though on a Sunday, he could 
scarcely be persuaded but that some carpenter was at work. 
Another, unfortunately, rendered himself a serious nuisance by 
learning to hound a cur dog upon the domestic cattle, whistling 
and calling him by name, so that at length a serious accident 
occurring in consequence, the poor Jay was proscribed. 

One which I have seen in a state of domestication behaved 
with all the quietness and modest humility of Wilson's caged 
bird with a petulant companion. He seldom used his voice, 
came in to lodge in the house at night in any corner where he 
was little observed, but unfortunately perished by an accident 
before the completion of his education. 

The favorite food of this species is chestnuts, acorns, and 



136 SINGING BIRDS. 

Indian com or maize, the latter of which he breaks before 
swallowing. He also feeds occasionally on the larger insects 
and caterpillars, as well as orchard fruits, particularly cherries, 
and does not even refuse the humble fare of potatoes. In 
times of scarcity he falls upon carrion, and has been known to 
venture into the barn, through accidental openings ; when, as 
if sensible of the danger of purloining, he is active and silent, 
and if surprised, postponing his garrulity, he retreats with 
noiseless precipitation and with all the cowardice of a thief. 
The worst trait of his appetite, however, is his relish for the 
eggs of other birds, in quest of which he may frequently be 
seen prowling ; and with a savage cruelty he sometimes also 
devours the callow young, spreading the plaint of sorrow and 
alarm wherever he flits. The whole neighboring community 
of little birds, assembled at the cry of distress, sometimes, how- 
ever, succeed in driving off the ruthless plunderer, who, not 
always content with the young, has been seen to attack the old, 
though with dubious success ; but to the gallant and quarrel- 
some King Bird he submits like a coward, and driven to seek 
shelter, even on the ground, from the repeated blows of his 
antagonist, sneaks off well contented to save his life. 

Although a few of these birds are seen with us nearly through 
the winter, numbers, no doubt, make predatory excursions to 
milder regions, so that they appear somewhat abundant at this 
season in the Southern States ; yet they are known to rear their 
young from Canada to South Carolina, so that their migrations 
may be nothing more than journeys from the highlands 
towards the warmer and more productive sea-coast, or eastern 
frontier. 

East of the Mississippi the Blue Jay has been rarely seen north 
of the 50th parallel. 

Note. — A smaller race, which differs also from true C7'istata in 
having less white on the tips of the secondaries and tail-feathers, 
has been named the Florida Blue Jay (C cristata fiorincola). 
It is found in Florida and along the Gulf coast. 



FLORIDA JAY. 1 3/ 

FLORIDA JAY. 

Aphelocoma floridana. 

Char. Above, dull azure blue; back with patch of brownish gray ; 
throat and chest grayish white streaked with ashy ; belly, brownish gray. 
No crest ; tail longer than wing. Length iO/4 to i2/4 inches. 

Nest. In low tree or thicket of bushes ; made of twigs and roots, lined 
with fine roots and moss. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; pale green or bluish gray, spotted with rufous and black ; 
1. 10 X 080. 

This elegant species is, as far as yet known, almost wholly 
confined to the interior of the mild peninsula of East Florida. 
In a tour through the lower parts of Georgia and West Florida, 
protracted to the middle of March, I saw none of these birds ; 
and at the approach of winter they even retire to the south 
of St. Augustine, as Mr. Ord did not meet with them until 
about the middle of February ; from that time, however, they 
were seen daily, flying low and hopping through the luxuriant 
thickets, or peeping from the dark branches of the live-oaks 
which adorn the outlet of the St. Juan. These birds appear 
to possess the usual propensities of their tribe, being quarrel- 
some, active, and garrulous. Their voice is less harsh than 
that of the common Blue Jay, and they have a variety of notes, 
some of which, probably imitations, are said to have a resem- 
blance to the song of the Thrush and the call of the common 

Jay. 

Only a single brood is raised in the season. Its food is very 
similar to that of the other species; namely, berries, fruits, 
mast, and insects. It likewise collects snails from the marshy 
grounds, feeds largely on the seeds of the sword-palmetto ; 
and, in the manner of the Titmouse, it secures its food be- 
tween its feet, and breaks it into pieces previous to swallowing. 
Like other species of the genus, it destroys the eggs and young 
of small birds, despatching the latter by repeated blows on the 
head. It is also easily reconciled to the cage, and feeds on 
fresh or dried fruits and various kinds of nuts. Its attempts at 
mimicry in this state are very imperfect. 







CANADA JAY. 

WHISKEY JACK. MOOSE BIRD. 

Perisoreus canadensis. 

Char. Above, ashy gray; head and nape smoky black; forehead 
and lower parts whitish gray ; breast brownish gray ; wings and tail 
dark ashy, tipped obscurely with white. Young ; uniform dull smoky 
black, paler beneath. Length, ii to 12 inches. 

A^esf. In a coniferous tree ; a bulky but compact structure of dried 
twigs, shreds of bark and moss thickly lined with feathers. 

£^gs. 4-5 ; of light gray or bufifish, spotted with dark gray, lilac gray, 
and pale brown ; 1.15 X 0.80. 

This species, with the intrusive habits and plain plumage of 
the Pie, is almost confined to the northern regions of America, 
being met with around Hudson's Bay, but becoming rare near 
the St. Lawrence, and in winter only straggling along the coast 
as far as Nova Scotia. Westward, occasionally driven by the 
severity of the weather and failure of food, they make their 
appearance in small parties in the interior of Maine and north- 



CANADA JAY. 1 39 

em parts of Vermont, where, according to Audubon, they are 
frequently known to breed. They also descend into the State 
of New York as far as the town of Hudson and the banks of 
the Mohawk. In the month of May I observed a wandering 
brood of these birds, old and young, on the shady borders 
of the Wahlamet, in the Oregon territory, where they had 
probably been bred. They descended to the ground near a 
spring in quest of insects and small shells. 

According to Mr. Hutchins, like the Pie, when near the 
habitations and tents of the inhabitants and natives, it is given 
to pilfering everything within reach, and is sometimes so bold 
as to venture into the tents and snatch the meat from the 
dishes even, whether fresh or salt. It has also the mischievous 
sagacity of watching the hunters set their traps for the Martin, 
from which it purloins the bait. Its appetite, like that of the 
Crow, appears omnivorous. It feeds on worms, various insects, 
and their larvae, and on flesh of different kinds ; lays up stores 
of berries in hollow trees for winter ; and at times, with the 
reindeer, is driven to the necessity of feeding on Hchens. 
The severe winters of the wilds it inhabits, urges it to seek 
support in the vicinity of habitations. Like the common Jay, 
at this season it leaves the woods to make excursions after 
food, trying every means for subsistence ; and tamed by hun- 
ger, it seeks boldly the society of men and animals. These 
birds are such praters as to be considered Mocking Birds, and 
are superstitiously dreaded by the aborigines. They com- 
monly fly in pairs or rove in small families, are no way difficult 
to approach, and keep up a kind of friendly chattering, some- 
times repeating their notes for a quarter of an hour at a time, 
immediately before snow or falling weather. When caught, 
they seldom long sur\dve, though they never neglect their food. 
Like most of their genus, they breed early in the spring, build- 
ing their nests, which are formed of twigs and grass in the pine- 
trees. They lay 4 to 6 light-grayish eggs, faintly marked with 
brown spots. The young brood, at first, are perfect Crows, or 
nearly quite black, and continue so for some time. 

According to Richardson, this inelegant but familiar bird 



I40 SINGING BIRDS. 

inhabits all the woody districts of the remote far countries from 
the 65 th parallel to Canada, and now and then in severe win- 
ters extends his desultory migrations within the northern limits 
of the United States. Scarcely has the winter traveller in those 
cold regions chosen a suitable place of repose in the forest, 
cleared away the snow, lighted his fire, and prepared his tent, 
when Whiskey Jack insidiously pays him a visit, and boldly 
descends into the social circle to pick up any crumbs of frozen 
fish or morsels of dry meat that may have escaped the mouths 
of the weary and hungry sledge-dogs. This confidence is almost 
the only recommendation of our famihar intruder. There is 
nothing pleasing in his voice, plumage, or attitudes. But this 
dark, sinister dwarf of the North is now the only inhabitant of 
those silent and trackless forests, and trusting from necessity in 
the forbearance of man, he fearlessly approaches, and craves 
his allowed pittance from the wandering stranger who visits his 
dreary domain. At the fur posts and fishing stations he is also 
a steady attendant, becoming so tamed in the winter by the 
terrible inclemency of the climate as to eat tamely from the 
offered hand ; yet at the same time, wild and indomitable 
under this garb of humility, he seldom survives long in confine- 
ment, and pines away with the loss of his accustomed liberty. 
He hops with activity from branch to branch, but when at rest, 
sits with his head drawn in, and with his plumage loose. The 
voice of this inelegant bird is plaintive and squeaking, though 
he occasionally makes a low chattering, especially when his food 
appears in view. Like our Blue Jay, he has the habit of hoard- 
ing berries, morsels of meat, etc., in the hollows of trees or 
beneath their bark. These magazines prove useful in winter, 
and enable him to rear his hardy brood even before the disap- 
pearance of the snow from the ground, and long before any 
other bird indigenous to those climates. The nest is concealed 
with such care that but few of the natives have seen it. 

Whiskey Jack has evidently moved somewhat southward since 
Nuttall made his observ^ations, for the species is now a fairly com- 
mon resident of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, as well as of 
the northern portions of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New 



CANADA JAY. I4I 

York, and Alichigan. Near Ottawa, and in the Muskoka district 
of Ontario, it occurs regularly, though it is not abundant. In Oc- 
tober, 1889, one example was taken at Arlington Heights, near 
Boston, and several have been reported from other locahties in 
Massachusetts. 

I examined a nest taken near Edmundston, New Brunswick, on 
April 7, 1883, at which date the country there was covered with 
snow and ice. The nest was placed on a small tree near the main 
highway, and not many hundred yards from the railroad station. 
As the cold in that region is intense, the temperature often being at 
— 30° to — 40° F. in midwinter, it is surprising that the eggs are 
ever hatched. But the nest is made very warm, and the birds sit 
close, and when one parent steps off the other at once steps on. 

By the first of June the young are in full feather and taking care 
of themselves. 

Nuttall's opinion that these birds appear bold and familiar only 
when pressed by the hunger of winter, has not found support in 
my experience. Frequently v/hen camping in the New Brunswick 
woods during the summer vacation I have seen numbers of these 
birds gather about my camp-fire within a few minutes after it has 
been lighted ; and they did not hesitate to pick up a piece of meat 
thrown toward them. Mr. Thompson reports a similar experience 
in Manitoba. He describes these birds coming to his camp-fireside 
and helping themselves to scraps lying but a few feet from where 
he was sitting. Several other observers, however, have recorded 
a similar opinion to Nuttall's; and it may be that the fearless birds 
are restricted to localities where they are not disturbed. 

The Canadian hunters and lumbermen have a superstitious 
respect for these birds, fearing the ill-luck that is said to result 
from killing one, and Whiskey Jack may have discovered that. 



Note. — The Labrador Jay {P. canadensis nigricapilus) 
differs from true canadensis in being darker in 
It is restricted to the coast region of Labrador. 



^^\^N\Ny^ 




TUFTED TITMOUSE. 
Parus bicolor. 

Char. Above, bluish ash; beneath, dull white; flanks tinged with 
yellowish brown ; forehead black ; head conspicuously crested. Length 
5^ to 6/4 inches. 

A'est. In a cavity of a tree or stump ; composed of leaves, moss, or 
woollen material, lined with feathers. 

^SS^' 5~8 > white or pale cream, spotted with reddish brown; 0.75 
X 0.55. 

From the geographic limits of this species, as it occurs to 
me, I am inclined to believe that the bird seen in Greenland 
may be different from the present, as it scarcely appears to 
exist north beyond the States of Pennsylvania or New York. 
They are seldom, if ever, seen or heard in this part of Massa- 
chusetts, and instead of being more abundant to the north, as 
believed by Wilson, they are probably not known there at all. 
In the Southern States, at least in winter and spring, they are 
very common, and present all the usual habits and notes of the 
genus. The numbers which I saw in the Southern States from 
January to March would seem to indicate a migratory habit ; 
but whether they had arrived from the Northeast, or from the 
great forests of the West, could not be conjectured. 

The Peto, as I may call this bird from one of his character- 
istic notes, and the Carolina Wren, were my constant and 
amusing companions during the winter as I passed through the 
dreary solitudes of the Southern States. The sprightliness, 
caprice, and varied musical talent of this species are quite 
interesting, and more peculiarly so when nearly all the other 
vocal tenants of the forest are either absent or silent. To 



TUFTED TITMOUSE. 1 43 

hear in the middle of January, when at least the leafless trees 
and dark cloudy skies remind us of the coldest season, the 
lively, cheering, varied pipe of this active and hardy bird, is 
particularly gratifying ; and though his voice on paper may ap- 
pear to present only a list of quaint articulations, yet the deli- 
cacy, energy, pathos, and variety of his simple song, like many 
other things in Nature, are far beyond the feeble power of 
description j and if in these rude graphic outlines of the inim- 
itable music of birds I am able to draw a caricature sufficient 
to indicate the individual performer, I shall have attained all 
the object to be hoped for in an attempt at natural delineation. 

The notes of the Peto generally partake of the high, echo- 
ing, clear tone of the Baltimore Bird. Among his more extra- 
ordinary expressions I was struck with the call of 'whip-tom- 
killy kill}', and now and then ^whip torn killy, with occasionally 
some variation in the tone and expression, which was very 
lively and agreeable. The middle syllable {totJi) was pro- 
nounced in a hollow reverberating tone. In a few minutes 
after the subject and its variations were finished, in the estima- 
tion of the musical performer, he suddenly twisted himself 
round the branch on which he had sat, with a variety of odd 
and fantastic motions ; and then, in a lower, hoarser, harsh 
voice, and in a peevish tone, exactly like that of the Jay and 
the Chickadee, went day-day-day-ddy, and day -day -day -day - 
ddit ; sometimes this loud note changed into one which be- 
came low and querulous. On some of these occasions he also 
called 'tshica dee-dee. The jarring call would then change 
occasionally into kai-tee-did did-dit-did. These peevish notes 
would often be uttered in anger at being approached ; and 
then again would perhaps be answered by some neighboring 
rival, against whom they appeared levelled in taunt and ridi- 
cule, being accompanied by extravagant gestures. 

Later in the season, in February, when in the lower part of 
Alabama the mild influence of spring began already to be felt, 
our favorite, as he gayly pursued the busy tribe of insects, now 
his principal food, called, as he vaulted restlessly from branch 
to branch, in an echoing rapid voice, at short intervals, peto- 



144 SINGING BIRDS. 

peto-peto-peto. This tender call of recognition was at lengtb 
answered, and continued at intervals for a minute or two ; they 
then changed their quick call into a slower p'eto peto peto ; and 
now the natural note passed into the plaintive key, sounding 
like que-ah que-ah ; then in the same breath a jarring note like 
that of the Catbird, and in part like the sound made by put- 
ting the lower lip to the upper teeth, and calling Vj-/^' va/i, 'tsh'' 
vah. After this the call of kerry-kerj-y-kerry-kenj struck up 
with an echoing sound, heightened by the hollow bank of the 
river whence it proceeded. At length, more delicately than at 
first, in an under tone, you hear anew, and in a tender accent, 
peto peto peto. In the caprice and humor of our performer, 
tied by no rules but those of momentary feeling, the expression 
will perhaps change into a slow and iwW peet-peet-a-peet-a-peet^ 
then a low and very rapid ker-ker-ker-ker-ker-kerry, sometimes 
so quick as almost to resemble the rattle of a watchman. At 
another time his morning song commences like the gentle 
whispers of an aerial spirit, and then becoming high and clear 
like the voice of the nightingale, he cries keeva keeva keezra 
keeva ; but soon falling into the querulous, the day-day-day-day- 
day-dait of the Chickadee terminates his performance Imita- 
tive, as well as inventive, I have heard the Peto also sing- 
something like the lively chatter of the Swallow, leta-leta-leta- 
letalit, and then vary into peto-peto-petopetopeto extremely 
quick. Unlike the warblers, our cheerful Peto has no trill, or 
any other notes than these simple, playful, or pathetic calls ; 
yet the compass of voice and the tone in which they are 
uttered, their capricious variety and their general effect, at the 
season of the year when they are heard, are quite as pleasing 
to the contemplative observer as the more exquisite notes of 
the summer songsters of the verdant forest. 

The sound of 'ivhip-to77i-kelly, which I heard this bird utter^ 
on the 17th of January, 1830, near Barnwell, in South Carolina, 
is very remarkable, and leads me to suppose that the species is 
also an inhabitant of the West India Islands, where Sloane 
attributes this note to the Red-eyed Flycatcher ; but it is now 
known to be the note of a tropical species, the vireo longiros- 



TUFTED TITMOUSE. 1 45 

tris, and which our bird had probably heard and mimicked in its 
distant chme. 

The Peto, besides insects, Hke the Jay, to which he is aUied, 
chops up acorns, cracks nuts and hard and shelly seeds to get 
at their contents, holding them meanwhile in his feet. He 
also searches and pecks decayed trees and their bark with con- 
siderable energy and industry in quest of larvae ; he often also 
enters into hollow trunks, prying after the same objects. In 
these holes they commonly roost in winter, and occupy the 
same secure situations, or the holes of the small Woodpecker, 
for depositing and hatching their eggs, which takes place early 
in April or in May, according to the different parts of the 
Union they happen to inhabit. Sometimes they dig out a 
cavity for themselves with much labor, and always line the 
hollow with a variety of warm materials. Their eggs, about six 
to eight, are white with a few small specks of brownish red near 
the larger end. The whole family, young and old, may be seen 
hunting together throughout the summer and winter, and keep- 
ing up a continued mutual chatter. 

According to the observations of Wilson it soon becomes 
familiar in confinement, and readily makes its way out of a 
wicker cage by repeated blows at the twigs. It may be fed 
on hemp-seed, cherry-stones, apple-pippins, and hickory nuts, 
broken and thrown in to it. In its natural state, like the rest 
of its vicious congeners, it sometimes destroys small birds by 
blows on the skull. 

This species belongs to the Carolinian faunal area, and occurs 
regularly only from about the 40th parallel southward ; north of 
that it is but an accidental straggler. A few examples have been 
taken in New England, mostly in Connecticut. 



VOL. I. — 10 



146 SINGING BIRDS. 

CHICKADEE. 

Parus atricapillus. 

Char. Above, ashy gray ; below, grayish white ; flanks buffy ; crown 
and throat black ; cheek white. Length 434^ to 534^ inches. 

Nest. In a cavity made in a decayed stump, entering from the top or 
side ; composed of wool or inner fur of small mammals firmly and 
compactly felted. Sometimes moss and hair are used, and a lining of 
feathers. 

Eggs. 5-8; white speckled with reddish brown, 0,60 X 0.50. 

This familiar, hardy, and restless little bird chiefly inhabits 
the Northern and Middle States as well as Canada, in which it 
is even resident in winter around Hudson's Bay, and has been 
met with at 62° on the northwest coast. In all the Northern 
and Middle States, during autumn and winter, families of these 
birds are seen chattering and roving through the woods, busily 
engaged in gleaning their multifarious food, along with Nut- 
hatches and Creepers, the whole forming a busy, active, and 
noisy group, whose manners, food, and habits bring them 
together in a common pursuit. Their diet varies with the 
season ; for besides insects, their larvae and eggs, of which they 
are more particularly fond, in the month of September they 
leave the woods and assemble familiarly in our orchards and 
gardens, and even enter the thronging cities in quest of that 
support which their native forests now deny them. Large 
seeds of many kinds, particularly those which are oily, as the 
sunflower and pine and spruce kernels, are now sought after. 
These seeds, in the usual manner of the genus, are seized in 
the claws and held against the branch until picked open by the 
bill to obtain their contents. Fat of various kinds is also 
greedily eaten, and they regularly watch the retreat of the hog- 
killers in the country, to glean up the fragments of meat which 
adhere to the places where the carcases have been suspended. 
At times they feed upon the wax of the candle- berry myrtle 
{Myj'ica ceriferd) ; they likewise pick up crumbs near the houses, 
and search the weather-boards, and even the window-sills, 



pi.nr 




1. Chicl^adee. 

2. Catbird. 



5. Robin. 



3. Cedar Waxwino 



4. Red-Eved Vireo. 



CHICKADEE. 1 47 

familiarly for their lurking prey, and are particularly fond of 
spiders and the eggs of destructive moths, especially those of 
the canker-worm, which they greedily destroy in all its stages 
of existence. It is said that they sometimes attack their own 
species when the individual is sickly, and aim their blows at 
the skull with a view to eat the brain ; but this barbarity I have 
never witnessed. In winter, when satisfied, they will descend 
to the snow-bank beneath and quench their thirst by swallow- 
ing small pieces ; in this way their various and frugal meal is 
always easily supplied ; and hardy, and warmly clad in light 
and very downy feathers, they suffer little inconvenience from 
the inclemency of the seasons. Indeed in the winter, or about 
the close of October, they at times appear so enlivened as 
already to show their amorous attachment, like our domestic 
cock, the male approaching his mate with fluttering and vibra- 
ting wings ; and in the spring season, the males have obstinate 
engagements, darting after each other with great velocity and 
anger. Their roost is in the hollows of decayed trees, where 
they also breed, making a soft nest of moss, hair, and feathers, 
and laying from six to twelve eggs, which are white, with 
specks of brown-red. They begin to lay about the middle or 
close of April ; and though they commonly make use of natural 
or deserted holes of the Woodpecker, yet at times they are 
said to excavate a cavity for themselves with much labor. The 
first brood take wing about the yth or loth of June, and they 
have sometimes a second towards the end of July. The young, 
as soon as fledged, have all the external marks of the adult, — 
the head is equally black, and they chatter and skip about 
with all the agility and self-possession of their parents, who 
appear nevertheless very solicitous for their safety. From this 
time the whole family continue to associate together through 
the autumn and winter. They seem to move by concert from 
tree to tree, keeping up a continued 'tshe-de-de-de-de, and ^tshe- 
de-de-de-dait, preceded by a shrill whistle, all the while busily 
engaged picking round the buds and branches hanging from 
their extremities and proceeding often in reversed postures, 
head downwards, like so many tumblers, prying into every 



148 SINGING BIRDS. 

crevice of the bark, and searching around the roots and in 
every possible retreat of their insect prey or its larvae. If the 
object chance to fall, they industriously descend to the ground 
and glean it up with the utmost economy. 

On seeing a cat or other object of natural antipathy, the 
Chickadee, like the peevish Jay, scolds in a loud, angry, and 
hoarse note, like ^tshe ddigh ddigh ddigh. Among the other 
notes of this species I have heard a call like tshe-de-jay, tshe- 
de-jay, the two first syllables being a slender chirp, with \h.^jay 
strongly pronounced. Almost the only note of this bird which 
may be called a song is one which is frequently heard at inter- 
vals in the depth of the forest, at times of the day usually when 
all other birds are silent. We then may sometimes hear in the 
midst of this solitude two feeble, drawling, clearly whistled, and 
rather melancholy notes, like 'te-derij, and sometimes 'ye- 
perrit, and occasionally, but much more rarely, in the same 
wiry, whistling, solemn tone, ^pehbe. The young, in winter, also 
sometimes drawl out these contemplative strains. In all cases 
the first syllable is very high and clear, the second word drops 
low and ends like a feeble plaint. This is nearly all the quaint 
song ever attempted by the Chickadee, and is perhaps the two 
notes sounding like the whetting of a saw, remarked of the 
Marsh Titmouse in England by Mr. White, in his " Natural 
History of Selborne." On fine days, about the commencement 
of October, I have heard the Chickadee sometimes for half an 
hour at a time attempt a lively, petulant warble very different 
from his ordinary notes. On these occasions he appears to 
flit about, still hunting for his prey, but almost in an ecstasy of 
delight and vigor. But after a while the usual drawling note 
again occurs. These birds, like many others, are very subject 
to the attacks of vermin, and they accumulate in great numbers 
around that part of the head and front which is least accessible 
to their feet. 

The European bird, so very similar to ours, is partial to 
marshy situations. Ours has no such predilection, nor do the 
American ones, that I can learn, ever lay up or hide any store 
of seeds for provision, — a habit reported of the foreign family. 



CHICKADEE. 1 49 

In this fact, with so many others, we have an additional evi- 
dence of affinity between the Titmouse and Jay, particularly 
that short-billed section which includes the Garrulus cana- 
densis and G. infaustus. Even the blue color, so common 
with the latter, is possessed by several species of this genus. 
Indeed, from their aggregate relation and omnivorous habit 
we see no better place of arrangement for these birds than 
succinctly after the Garruli, or Jays. 

Following the authority of Temminck and Montagu, I con- 
sidered this bird the same as the European Marsh Titmouse. 
I have since seen the bird of Europe in its native country, and 
have good reason to believe it wholly different from our lively 
and familiar Chickadee. Unlike our bird, it is rather shy, seldom 
seen but in pairs or sohtary, never in domestic premises, usu- 
ally and almost constantly near streams or watercourses, on 
the willows, alders, or other small trees impending over 
streams, and utters now and then a feeble complaining or 
querulous call, and rarely if ever the chicka dee-dee. It also 
makes a noise in the spring, as it is said, like the whetting of a 
saw, which ours never does. The Chickadee is seldom seen 
near waters ; often, even in summer, in dry, shady, and se- 
cluded woods ; but when the weather becomes cold, and as 
early as October, roving families, pressed by necessity and the 
failure of their ordinary insect fare, now begin to frequent 
orchards and gardens, appearing extremely familiar, hungry, 
indigent, but industrious, prying with restless anxiety into every 
cranny of the bark or holes in decayed trees after dormant in- 
sects, spiders, and larvae, descending with the strictest economy 
to the ground in quest of every stray morsel of provision which 
happens to fall from their grasp. Their quaint notes and jing- 
ling warble are heard even in winter on fine days when the 
weather relaxes in its severity ; and, in short, instead of being 
the river hermit of its European analogue, it adds by its 
presence, indomitable action and chatter, an air of cheerful- 
ness to the silent and dreary winters of the coldest parts of 
America. 



150 SINGING BIRDS. 

CAROLINA CHICK.\DEE. 
Parus carolinensis. 

Char. Above, ashy gray tinged with dull brown ; head and throat 
black ; cheek white ; beneath, brownish white ; flanks buflish. Length 
4X to 4^ inches. 

iVest. In a cavity of decayed stump, composed of grass or shreds of 
bark, and lined with feathers. Sometimes composed entirely of fur or 
fine wool felted compactly. 

Eggs. 5-8 ; white often spotted with reddish brown ; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This species, detected by ]Mr. Audubon, is a constant inhab- 
itant of the Southern and Middle States from the borders of 
New Jersey to East Florida. It has a predilection for the 
borders of ponds, marshes, and swamps, and less gregarious 
than the preceding, seldom more than a pair or family are 
seen together. It is also shy and retiring ; inhabiting at all 
times a mild and genial clime, it never seeks out domestic 
premises, nor even the waysides, but, like the European Marsh 
Titmouse, it remains throughout the year in the tangled woods 
and swamps which gave it birth. In the wilds of Oregon late 
in autumn we frequently saw small roving restless flocks of 
these birds associated often with the Chestnut-Backed species. 
At such times both parties were querulous and noisy ; but the 
tshe te de de is comparatively feeble, uttered in a slender, wiry 
tone. At such times intently gleaning for insects, they show very 
little fear, but a good deal of sympathy for their wounded com- 
panions, remaining round them and scolding in a petulant and 
plaintive tone. At the approach of winter those in the Atlan- 
tic region retire farther to the south, and on the Pacific border 
they are to be seen in winter in the woods of Upper California ; 
but in no instance did we see them approach the vicinity of 
the trading posts or the gardens. 

A nest of this species discovered by Dr. Bachman was in a 
hollow stump about four feet from the ground ; it was rather 
shallow, composed of fine wool, cotton, and some fibres of 
plants, the whole fitted together so as to be of an uniform 
thickness throughout, and contained pure white eggs. 



HUDSONIAN CHICKADEE. 151 

HUDSONIAN CHICKADEE. 

Parus hudsonicus. 

Char. Above, pale dull brown, darker on crown; cheeks white; 
below, grayish white; flanks rusty; throat brownish black. Length 

5 to SX- 

Nest. In an excavation in a decayed stump, usually entering from the 
top. On the bottom of the cavity is placed a platform of dried moss, and 
on this another of felted fur, and upon this latter is set the graceful pouch- 
shaped nest of firm felt, made of the inner fur of small mammals. 

Eggs. 6-ro ; creamy white with brown spots in a circle around the 
larger end ; 0.58 X 0.58. 

This more than usually hardy species continues the whole 
year about Severn River, braving the inclemency of the winters, 
and frequents the juniper-bushes on the buds of which it feeds. 
In winter, like the common species, it is seen roving about 
in small flocks, busily foraging from tree to tree. It is said to 
lay five eggs. Mr. Audubon met with it on the coast of Lab- 
rador, where it was breeding, about the middle of July. He 
describes the nest as being placed at the height of not more 
than three feet from the ground, in the hollow of a decayed 
low stump scarcely thicker than a man's leg, the whole so 
rotten that it crumbled to pieces on being touched. It was 
shaped like a purse, eight inches in depth, two in diameter in- 
side, its sides about a half an inch thick. It was composed of 
the finest fur of different quadrupeds, so thickly matted through- 
out that it looked as if it had been felted by the hand of man. 
On the nest being assailed, the male flew at the intruder, utter- 
ing an angry te-te-te-tee. 

The Hudson Bay Chickadee is fairly common in the Maritime 
Provinces, though more abundant in winter than in summer. It 
has been found breeding, also, in the northern parts of Maine, New 
Hampshire, New York, and Michigan, and in the Muskoka districts 
of Ontario. Mr. Walter Faxon considers it a rare though regular 
migrant to the eastern part of Massachusetts, but thinks it occurs 
in numbers in winter amid the Berkshire hills. 

A few examxples have been taken in Connecticut and in Rhode 
Island. 



152 SINGING BIRDS. 

BOHEMIAN WAXWING. 

Ampeus garrulus. 

Char. Prevailing color cinnamon brown or fawn color, darker on 
front head and cheeks, changing to ashy on rump ; chin and line across 
forehead and through the eyes, rich black; wings and tail slaty; tail 
tipped with yellow ; primaries tipped with white, secondaries with appen- 
dages like red sealing-wax. Head with long pointed crest. Length 7>^ 
to 8^ inches. Easily distinguished from the Cedar Bird by its larger size 
and darker color. 

Nest. In a tree, a bulky structure of twigs and roots, lined with 
feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5; bluish white spotted with lilac and brown ; i.oo X 0.70. 

The Waxwing, of which stragglers are occasionally seen in 
Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, Long Island, and the vicinity of 
Philadelphia, first observed in America in the vicinity of the 
Athabasca River, near the region of the Rocky Mountains, in 
the month of March, is of common occurrence as a passenger 
throughout the colder regions of the whole northern hemi- 
sphere. Like our Cedar Birds, they associate in numerous 
flocks, pairing only for the breeding season; after which the 
young and old give way to their gregarious habits, and collec- 
ting in numerous companies, they perform extensive journeys, 
and are extremely remarkable for their great and irregular 
wanderings. The circumstances of incubation in this species 
are wholly unknown. It is supposed that they retire to the 
remote regions to breed ; yet in Norway they are only birds of 
passage, and it has been conjectured that they pass the sum- 
mer in the elevated table-land of Central Asia. Wherever they 
dwell at this season, it is certain that in spring and late autumn 
they visit northern Asia or Siberia and eastern Europe in vast 
numbers, but are elsewhere only uncertain stragglers, whose ap- 
pearance, at different times, has been looked upon as ominous 
of some disaster by the credulous and ignorant. 

The Waxen Chatterers, like our common Cedar Birds, ap- 
pear destitute of song, and only lisp to each other their usual 
low, reiterated call of zk ze re, which becomes more audible 



BOHEMIAN WAXWING. I 53 

when they are disturbed and as they take to wing. They are 
also very sociable and affectionate to their whole fraternity, 
and sit in rows often on the same branch, when not employed 
in collecting their food, which is said to consist of juicy fruits 
of various kinds, particularly grapes ; they will also eat juniper 
and laurel berries, as well as apples, currants, and figs, and are 
often seen to drink. 

Dr. Richardson informs us that this bird appears in flocks at 
Great Bear Lake about the 24th of May, when they feed on 
the berries of the alpine arbutus, marsh vaccinium, and other 
kinds exposed again to the surface after the spring thaw. 
Another flock of three or four hundred individuals was seen on 
the banks of the Saskatchewan, at Carlton House, early in the 
same month. In their usual manner they all settled together 
on one or two trees, and remained together about the same 
place for an hour in the morning, making a loud twittering 
noise, and were too shy to be approached within gunshot. 
Their stay at most did not exceed a few days, and none of the 
Indians knew of their nests j though the doctor had reason to 
believe that they retired in the breeding season to the broken 
and desolate mountain-limestone districts in the 67th or 68th 
parallels, where they find means to feed on the fruit of the 
common juniper, so abundant in that quarter. Neither Mr. 
Townsend nor myself observed this bird either in the Columbia 
River district or on the Rocky Mountains. 

The Bohemian is still a rover of uncertain and irregular habits, 
occasionally in winter appearing along the northern border of the 
United States and through the settled portions of Canada in large 
flocks, but sometimes absent for several seasons. The statement 
has been made that there is no record of its occurrence in New 
England within the past fifteen years. Colonel Goss found a nest 
in Labrador, and several have been taken in the Northwest. 



154 SINGING BIRDS. 

CEDAR WAXWING. 

CEDAR BIRD. CHERRY BIRD. 

A^IPELIS CEDRORUM. 

Char, Prevailing color cinnamon brown or fawn color, changing to 
ashy on rump and yellowish on the belly ; chin and line across forehead 
and through eyes, rich black ; wings and tail slaty ; tail tipped with yel- 
low ; secondaries sometimes with red, wax-like appendages. Head with 
long, pointed crest. Length 6}i to jyi inches. 

iVest. In a tree ; large and loosely made of twigs and grass, lined with 
grass, hair, or feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; bluish white spotted with lilac and brown ; 0.85 X 0.60. 

This common native wanderer, which in summer extends its 
migrations to the remotest unpeopled regions of Canada, is 
also found throughout the American continent to Mexico, and 
parties even roam to the tropical forests of Cayenne. In all this 
extensive geographical range, where great elevation or latitude 
tempers the climate so as to be favorable to the production 
of juicy fruits, the Cedar Bird will probably be found either 
almost wholly to reside, or to pass the season of reproduction. 
Like its European representative (the Waxen Chatterer) , it is 
capable of braving a considerable degree of cold ; for in Penn- 
sylvania and New Jersey some of these birds are seen through- 
out the winter, where, as well as in the early part of the 
summer and fall, they are killed and brought to market, gen- 
erally fat, and much esteemed as food. Silky softness of 
plumage, gentleness of disposition, innocence of character, 
extreme sociability, and an innate, inextinguishable love of 
freedom, accompanied by a constant desire of wandering, are 
characteristic traits in the physical and moral portrait of the 
second as well as the preceding species of this peculiar and 
extraordinary genus. 

Leaving the northern part of the continent, situated beyond 
the 40th degree, at the approach of winter, they assemble 
in companies of twenty to a hundred, and wander through the 
Southern States and Mexico to the confines of the equator, in 



CEDAR WAXWING. I55 

all of which countries they are now either common or abun- 
dant. As observed by Audubon, their flight is easy, continued, 
and often performed at a considerable height ; and they move 
in flocks or companies, making several turns before they alight. 
As the mildness of spring returns, and with it their favorite 
food, they reappear in the Northern and Eastern States about 
the beginning of April, before the ripening of their favorite 
fruits, the cherries and mulberries. But at this season, to re- 
pay the gardener for the tithe of his crop, their natural due, 
they fail not to assist in ridding his trees of more deadly ene- 
mies which infest them, and the small caterpillars, beetles, and 
various insects now constitute their only food ; and for hours 
at a time they may be seen feeding on the all-despoiling canker- 
worms which infest our apple-trees and elms. On these oc- 
casions, silent and sedate, after plentifully feeding, they sit 
dressing their feathers in near contact on the same branch to 
the number of 5 or 6 ; and as the season of selective attach- 
ment approaches, they may be observed pluming each other, 
and caressing with the most gentle fondness, — a playfulness in 
which, however, they are even surpassed by the contemned 
Raven, to which social and friendly family our Cedar Bird, 
different as he looks, has many traits of alliance. But these 
demonstrations of attachment, which in a more vigorous kind 
would kindle the feud of jealousy, apparently produce in this 
bird scarcely any diminution of the general social tie ; and as 
they are gregarious to so late a period of the inviting season of 
incubation, this affection has been supposed to be independent 
of sexual distinction. This friendly trait is carried so far that 
an eye-witness assures me he has seen one among a row of 
these birds seated upon a branch dart after an insect, and offer 
it to his associate when caught, who very disinterestedly passed 
it to the next, and each delicately declining the offer, the morsel 
has proceeded backwards and forwards before it was appro- 
priated. Whatever may be the fact, as it regards this peculiar 
sociability, it frequently facilitates the means of their destruc- 
tion with the thoughtless and rapacious sportsman, who, be- 
cause many of these unfortunate birds can be killed in an 



156 SINGING BIRDS. 

instant, sitting in the same range, thinks the exercise of the gun 
must be credited only by the havoc which it produces against 
a friendly, useful, and innocent visitor. 

Towards the close of May or beginning of June the Cherry 
Birds, now paired, commence forming the cradle of their young ; 
yet still so sociable are they that several nests may be observed 
in the same vicinity. The materials and trees chosen for their 
labors are various, as well as the general markings of their eggs. 
Two nests, in the Botanic Garden at Cambridge, were formed 
in small hemlock-trees, at the distance of 16 or 18 feet from 
the ground, in the forks of the main branches. One of these 
was composed of dry, coarse grass, interwoven roughly with a 
considerable quantity of dead hemlock sprigs, further con- 
nected by a small quantity of silk-weed lint, and lined with 
a few strips of thin grape-vine bark, and dry leaves of the 
silver fir. In the second nest the lining was merely fine root- 
fibres. On the 4th of June this nest contained 2 eggs, — the 
whole number is generally about 4 or 5 ; these are of the usual 
form (not remarkable for any disproportion of the two ends), of 
a pale clay white, inclining to olive, with a few well-defined 
black or deep umber spots at the great end, and with others 
seen, as it were, beneath the surface of the shell. Two or 
three other nests were made in the apple-trees of an adjoining 
orchard, one in a place of difficult access, the other on a de- 
pending branch easily reached by the hand. These were 
securely fixed horizontally among the ascending twigs, and were 
formed externally of a mass of dry, wiry weeds, the materials 
being firmly held together by a large quantity of cudweed 
down, in some places softened with glutinous saliva so as to 
be formed into coarse, connecting shreds. The round edge of 
the nest was made of coils of the wiry stolons of a common 
Cinquefoil then lined with exceedingly fine root-fibres; over 
the whole, to give elasticity, were laid fine stalks of a slender 
j'uncus, or minute rush. In these nests the eggs were, as de- 
scribed by Wilson (except as to form), marked with smaller 
and more numerous spots than the preceding. From the late- 
ness of the autumn, at which period incubation is still going 



CEDAR WAXWING. 1 5/ 

on, it would appear that this species is very proHfic, and must 
have at least two hatches in the season ; for as late as the 7th 
of September a brood, in this vicinity, were yet in the nest. 
The period of sitting is about 15 or 16 days ; and while the 
young are still helpless, it is surprising to witness the silence of 
the parents, uttering no cries, nor making any approaches to 
those who may endanger or jeopard the safety of their brood ; 
still, they are flying round, and silently watching the dreaded 
result, and approach the nest the moment the intruder disap- 
pears. They feed the young, at first, with insects and smooth 
caterpillars ; but at the end of the 3d or 4th day they are fed, 
like the old ones, almost exclusively on sweet and juicy fruits, 
such as whortle and service berries, wild and cultivated cher- 
ries, etc. A young bird from one of the nests described, in the 
hemlock, was thrown upon my protection, having been by 
some means ejected from his cradle. In this critical situation, 
however, he had been well fed, or rather gorged, with berries, 
and was merely scratched by the fall he had received. Fed on 
cherries and mulberries, he was soon well fledged, while his 
mate in the nest was suffered to perish by the forgetfulness of 
his natural protectors. Coeval with the growth of his wing- 
feathers were already seen the remarkable red waxen append- 
ages, showing that their appearance indicates no particular age 
or sex; many birds, in fact, being without these ornaments 
during their whole lives. I soon found my interesting protege 
impatient of the cage and extremely voracious, gorging him- 
self to the very mouth with the soft fruits on which he was 
often fed. The throat, in fact, like a craw, admits of distention, 
and the contents are only gradually passed ofl" into the stomach. 
I now suffered the bird to fly at large, and for several days he 
descended from the trees, in which he perched, to my arm for 
food ; but the moment he was satisfied, he avoided the cage, 
and appeared unable to suivive the loss of liberty. He now 
came seldomer to me, and finally joined the lisping muster-cry 
of tze tze tze, and was enticed away by more attractive associates. 
When young, nature provided him with a loud, impatient voice, 
and te-did, te-did, kai-tedid (often also the clamorous cry of 



158 SINGING BIRDS. 

the young Baltimore), was his deafening and almost incessant 
call for food. Another young bird of the first brood, probably 
neglected, cried so loud and plaintively to a male Baltimore 
Bird in the same tree that he commenced feeding it. Mr. 
Winship, of Brighton, informs me that one of the young Cedar 
Birds, who frequented the front of his house in quest of honey- 
suckle berries, at length, on receiving food (probably also 
abandoned by his roving parents) , threw himself wholly on his 
protection. At large day and night, he still regularly attended 
the dessert of the dinner-table for his portion of fruit, and re- 
mained steadfast in his attachment to Mr. W. till killed by an 
accident, being unfortunately trodden under foot. 

Though harmless, exceedingly gentle and artless, they make 
some show of defence when attacked ; as a second bird which 
I brought up, destitute of the red appendages on the wings, 
when threatened elevated his crest, looked angry, and repeat- 
edly snapped with his bill. 

Almost all kinds of sweet berries are sought for food by the 
American Waxen-wing. In search of whortle-berries, they 
retire in Pennsylvania to the western mountain-chains of the 
Alleghany range ; and in autumn, until the approach of winter, 
they are equally attached to the berries of the Virginia juniper, 
as well as those of the sour-gum tree and the wax-myrtle. 
They also feed late in the season on ripe persimmons, small 
winter-grapes, bird-cherries, the fruit of the pride of China, 
and other fruits. The kernels and seeds of these, uninjured by 
the action of the stomach, are strewed about, and thus acci- 
dentally planted in abundance wherever these birds frequent. 
Like their prototype, the preceding species, the migrations, 
and time and place of breeding, are influenced by their supply 
of food. In the spring of 1831 they arrived in this vicinity as 
usual ; but in consequence of the failure of cherries, scarcely 
any were bred, and very few were either to be heard or seen 
in the vicinity. In parts of New England this bird is known 
by the name of the Canada Robin ; and by the French Cana- 
dians it is fancifully called RecoUet, from the color of its crest 
resembling that of the hood of this religious order. 




NORTHERN SHRIKE. 

BUTCHER BIRD. 

Lanius borealis. 

Char. Above, bluish ash, paler on rump ; under parts dull white, with 
fine wavy lines of brownish gray ; bar on side of head black ; wings and 
tail black tipped with white ; white patch on wing ; outer tail feathers 
white. Length g)^ to lo^ inches. 

JVesf. In a tree or low bush ; large and roughly made of sticks and 
grass, lined with leaves or feathers. 

-Eg^s. 4-6 ; dull gray with green tint, spotted with lilac and brown ; 

1-05 X 0.75- 

This little wary Northern hunter is most commonly seen in 
this part of the continent at the commencement of winter, a 
few remaining with us throughout that season. They extend 
their wanderings, according to Audubon, as far as Natchez, 
and are not uncommon in Kentucky in severe winters. In 
March they retire to the North, though some take up their 
summer abode in the thickest forests in Pennsylvania and New 
England. The nest is said to be large and compact, in the 
fork of a small tree, and sometimes in an apple-tree, composed 
externally of dried grass, with whitish moss, and well lined wath 
feathers. The eggs are about 6, of a pale cinereous white, 



l60 SINGING BIRDS. 

thickly marked at the greater end with spots and streaks of 
rufous. The period of sitting is about 15 days. The young 
appear early in June or the latter end of May. 

The principal food of this species is large insects, such as 
grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders. With the surplus of the 
former, as well as small birds, he disposes in a very singular 
manner, by impaling them upon thorns, as if thus providing 
securely for a future supply of provision. In the abundance, 
however, which surrounds him in the ample store-house of 
Nature, he soon loses sight of this needless and sportive econ- 
omy, and, like the thievish Pie and Jay, he suffers his forgotten 
store to remain drying and bleaching in the elements till no 
longer palatable or digestible. As this little Butcher, like his 
more common European representative, preys upon birds, 
these impaled grasshoppers were imagined to be lures to attract 
his victims ; but his courage and rapacity render such snares 
both useless and improbable, as he has been known, with the 
temerity of a Falcon, to follow a bird into an open cage sooner 
than lose his quarry. Mr. J. Brown, of Cambridge, informs me 
that one of these birds had the boldness to attack two Canaries 
in a cage, suspended one fine winter's day at the window. The 
poor songsters in their fears fluttered to the side of the cage, 
and one of them thrust his head through the bars of his prison ; 
at this instant the wily Butcher tore off his head, and left the 
body dead in the cage. The cause of the accident seemed 
wholly mysterious, till on the following day the bold hunter 
was found to have entered the room, through the open window, 
with a view to despatch the remaining victim ; and but for 
timely interference it would have instantly shared the fate of 
its companion. On another occasion, while a Mr. Lock in this 
vicinity was engaged in fowling, he wounded a Robin, who 
flew to a little distance and descended to the ground ; he soon 
heard the disabled bird uttering unusual cries, and on approach- 
ing found him in the grasp of the Shrike. He snatched up the 
bird from its devourer; but having tasted blood, it still fol- 
lowed, as if determined not to relinquish its proposed prey, 
and only desisted from the quest on receiving a mortal wound. 



NORTHERN SHRIKE. l6l 

The propensity for thus singularly securing its prey is also 
practised on birds, which it impales in the same manner, and 
afterwards tears them to pieces at leisure. 

From his attempts to imitate the notes of other small birds, 
in Canada and some parts of New England he is sometimes 
called a Mocking Bird. His usual note, like that of the follow- 
ing species, resembles the discordant creaking of a sign-board 
hinge ; and my friend Mr. BrowTi has heard one mimicking the 
quacking of his Ducks, so that they answered to him as to a 
decoy fowl. They also imitate other birds, and I have been 
informed that they sing pretty well themselves at times, or 
rather chatter, and mimic the songs of other birds, as if with a 
view to entice them into sight, for the purpose of making them 
their prey. This fondness for imitation, as in the Pies, may 
however be merely the result of caprice. 

So complete at times is the resemblance between the 
Mocking Bird (Afiinus poUyglottus) and this species of Lanius, 
that it is difficult to distinguish them apart. I have lately 
heard one (November loth, 1833), employed in a low and soft 
warble resembling that of the Song Sparrow at the present 
season, and immediately after his note changed to that of the 
Catbird. Like that pre-eminent minstrel, the Orpheus, he 
also mounts to the topmost spray of some lofty tree to display 
his deceptive talent and mislead the small birds so as to bring 
them within his reach. His attitudes are also light and airy, 
and his graceful, flowing tail is kept in fantastic motion. 

The parents and their brood move in company in quest of 
their subsistence, and remain together the whole season. The 
male boldly attacks even the Hawk or the Eagle in their de- 
fence, and with such fury that they generally decline the onset. 

The Butcher Bird breeds from about latitude 50° northward, mi- 
grating in winter south to the Potomac and Ohio valleys. 

Dr. Arthur Chadbourne, of Cambridge, reports that he has heard 
a female sing, and describes her as " an unusually fine singer and 
quite a mimic." 

VOL. I. II 



I62 SINGING BIRDS. 

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE. 

Lanius ludovicianus. 

Char. Above, bluish ash, generally not much paler on rump; under- 
parts pure white, rarely any lines of gray ; flanks tinged with gray ; 
forehead and side of head black ; wings and tail black tipped with white ; 
white patch on wings ; outer tail feathers white. Length 8 j^ to 9_^ 
inches. 

Distinguished from borealis by smaller size and by the black forehead 
and white under-parts. 

Nest. In a tree ; roughly made of twigs and grass, lined with leaves 
and feathers. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; dull gray with green tint spotted with lilac and brown ; 
0.95 X 0.70. 

This species principally inhabits the warmer parts of the 
United States, residing and breeding from North CaroHna to 
Florida, where I have obsen^ed it likewise in winter. It was 
also seen in the table-land of Mexico by that enterprising natu- 
ralist and collector, Mr. Bullock, and my friend Mr. T. Town- 
send found it in the Rocky Mountain range and in the territory 
of Oregon. According to Audubon it affects the low countries, 
being seldom met with in the mountainous districts. 

Its habits are shy and retiring, and it renders itself useful, 
and claims protection by destroying mice around the planta- 
tion, for which it sits and watches near the rice -stacks for 
hours together, seldom failing of its prey as soon as it appears. 
Like most of the genus, it is also well satisfied with large in- 
sects, crickets, and grasshoppers, which like the preceding 
species it often impales. In the breeding-season, according 
to Dr. Bachman, it has a song which bears some resemblance 
to that of the young Brown Thrush ; and though very irregular, 
the notes are not unpleasing. At other times its discordant 
call may almost be compared to the creaking of a sign-board 
in windy weather; it probably has also the usual talent for 
mimicry. The pairs mate about March, at which time the 
male frequently feeds the female, and shows great courage in 
defending his nest from the intrusion of other birds. The nest 



LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE. 1 63 

is, according to Dr. Bachman, usually made in the outer limbs 
of a tree such as the live-oak or sweet-gum, and often on a 
cedar 15 to 30 feet from the ground. It is coarsely made of 
dry crooked twigs, and lined with root-fibres and slender grass. 
The eggs, 3 to 5, are greenish white. Incubation is per- 
formed by both sexes in turn, but each bird procures its own 
food in the intervals. They rear two broods in the season. 
Its manners resemble those of a Hawk; it sits silent and 
watchful until it espies its prey on the ground, when it pounces 
upon it, and strikes first with the bill, in the manner of small 
birds, seizing the object immediately after in its claws j but it 
seldom attacks birds except when previously wounded. 

The Loggerhead is now said to be restricted to the southern 
portion of the Eastern States north to Virginia, Ohio, southern 
Illinois, and the Great Lakes ; and through New York to north- 
ern New England and New Brunswick. 



Note. — The White-rumped Shrike (Z,. hidovicianus excu- 
bitorides) is a pale form restricted to the Western plains, and which 
in habits as in appearance differs but little from the Loggerhead. 



•- ^-^-v V 




REDSTART. 
Setophaga RUnCILLA. 

Char. Male : lustrous blue-black ; belly white ; patch on sides of 
breast, basal half of wing-quills and of tail, orange red. Female : the 
black of the male replaced by olive brown, the red replaced by dull 
yellow. Young males like female, but gradually changing to full plumage. 
Bill and feet black. Length 5 to s'A inches. 

A^est. An exceedingly graceful and compact structure saddled on a 
branch, or supported by forked twigs of a sapling, from 5 to 20 feet from 
the ground. It is composed of a variety of materials, in this region 
most commonly of grass and vegetable fibres lined with fine grass or 
horse-hair. 

£^gs. 4-5 ; dull white, spotted chiefly around the larger end with 
brown and lilac; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This beautiful and curious bird takes up its summer resi- 
dence in almost every part of the North American continent, 
being found in Canada, in the remote interior near Red River 
in the latitude of 49 degrees, throughout Louisiana, Arkansas, 
and the maritime parts of Mexico ; in all of which vast coun- 
tries it famiUarly breeds and resides during the mild season, 
withdrawing early in September to tropical America, where, in 
the perpetual spring and summer of the larger West India 
islands, the species again find means of support. At length, 
instigated by more powerful feehngs than those of ordinary 
want, the male, now clad in his beautiful nuptial livery, and 
accompanied by his mate, seeks anew the friendly but far 
distant natal regions of his race. In no haste, the playful 



REDSTART. 165 

Redstart does not appear in Pennsylvania until late in April, 
The month of May, about the close of the first week, ushers 
his arrival into the States of New England ; but in Louisiana 
he is seen as early as the beginning of March. He is no pen- 
sioner upon the bounty of man. Though sometimes seen, on 
his first arrival, in the darkest part of the orchard or garden, 
or by the meandering brook, he seeks to elude observation, 
and now, the great object of his migrations having arrived, he 
retires with his mate to the thickest of the sylvan shade. Like 
his relative Sylvias, he is full of life and in perpetual motion. 
He does not, like the loitering Pewee, wait the accidental ap- 
proach of his insect prey, but carrying the war amongst them, 
he is seen flitting from bough to bough, or at times pursuing 
the flying troop of winged insects from the top of the tallest 
tree in a zig-zag, hawk-like, descending flight, to the ground, 
while the clicking of the bill declares distinctly both his object 
and success. Then alighting on some adjoining branch, in- 
tently watching with his head extended, he runs along upon it 
for an instant or two, flirting like a fan his expanded, brilliant 
tail from side to side, and again suddenly shoots ofl" like an 
arrow in a new direction, after the fresh game he has discov- 
ered in the distance, and for which he appeared to be recon- 
noitring. At first the males are seen engaged in active strife, 
pursuing each other in wide circles through the forest. The 
female seeks out her prey with less action and flirting, and in 
her manners resembles the ordinary Sylvias. 

The notes of the male, though not possessed of great com- 
pass, are highly musical, and at times sweet and agreeably 
varied like those of the Warblers. Many of these tones, as they 
are mere trills of harmony, cannot be recalled by any words. 
Their song on their first arrival is however nearly uniform, and 
greatly resembles the 'tsh 'tsh tsh tshee, tshe, tshe, tshe tshea, or 'tsh 
'tsh 'tsh 'tshitshee of the summer Yellow Bird {Sylvia cestiva), 
uttered in a piercing and rather slender tone ; now and then 
also agreeably varied with a somewhat plaintive flowing 'tshe 
tshe tshe, or a more agreeable 'tshit 'tshit a 'tshee, given almost 
in the tones of the common Yellow Bird {Fringilla tristis) . I 



1 66 SINGING BIRDS. 

have likewise heard individuals warble out a variety of sweet 
and tender, trilling, rather loud and shrill notes, so superior to 
the ordinary lay of incubation that the performer would 
scarcely be supposed the same bird. On some occasions the 
male also, when angry or alarmed, utters a loud and snapping 
chirp. 

The nest of this elegant Sylvan Flycatcher is very neat and 
substantial, fixed occasionally near the forks of a slender 
hickory or beech sapling, but more generally fastened or agglu- 
tinated to the depending branches or twigs of the former; 
sometimes securely seated amidst the stout footstalks of the 
waving foliage in the more usual manner of the dehcate cradle 
of the Indian Tailor Bird, but in the deep and cool shade of the 
forest, instead of the blooming bower. Both parents, but par- 
ticularly the male, exhibit great concern for the safety of their 
nest, whether containing eggs only or young, and on its being 
approached, the male will flit about within a few feet of the 
invader, regardless of his personal safety, and exhibiting unequi- 
vocal marks of distress. The parents also, in their sohcitude 
and fear, keep up an incessant Uship when their infant brood 
are even distantly approached. 

Nuttall classed the Redstart with the Flycatchers, as some of 
its habits — such as darting from a perch, and capturing insects 
while on the wing — are typical of that family ; but the more mod- 
ern systematists class it with the Wood Warblers. It is an abun- 
dant summer resident of this eastern province, breeding from 
about the valley of the Potomac to southern Labrador. 



HOODED WARBLER. 167 



HOODED WARBLER. 

Sylvania mitrata. 

Char. Male : above, yellow olive ; beneath, rich yellow ; sides shaded 
with pale olive ; head and neck black, enclosing a wide band of yellow 
across forehead and through eyes; tail with patch of white on two or 
three outer tail-feathers. Bill black, feet flesh-color. Female: similar to 
male, but sometimes lacking the black, in which specimens the crown is 
olive and the throat yellow. 

Nest. In a low bush ; made of leaves and vegetable fibre, lined with 
grass or horse-hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; creamy white, spotted chiefly around the larger end with 
brown and lilac ; 0.70 x 0.53. 

This beautiful and singularly marked summer species, com- 
mon in the South, is rarely seen to the north of the State 
of Maryland. Tt retires to Mexico or the West Indies proba- 
bly to pass the winter. At Savannah, in Georgia, it arrives 
from the South about the 20th of March, according to Wilson. 
It is partial to low and shady situations darkened with under- 
wood, is frequent among, the cane-brakes of Tennessee and 
Mississippi, and is exceedingly active, and almost perpetually 
engaged in the pursuit of winged insects. While thus em- 
ployed, it now and then utters three loud, and not unmusical, 
very lively notes, resembling the words, twee twee ^twittshe. 
In its simple song and general habits it therefore much resem- 
bles the summer Yellow Bird. Its neat and compact nest 
is generally fixed in the fork of a small bush, formed outwardly 
of moss and flax, lined with hair, and sometimes feathers j the 
eggs, about 5, are grayish white, with reddish spots towards 
the great end. 

The Hooded Warbler is a Southern species, but is a regular 
summer resident of the Connecticut valley, and has been found 
breeding near Cleveland, Ohio, and in southern Michigan. It 
is said to be more abundant in South Carolina than elsewhere. 



l68 SINGING BIRDS. 




WILSON'S WARBLER. 

WILSON'S BLACK CAP. 

Sylvania pusilla. 

Char. Above, olive ; crown black ; forehead, cheeks, and entire 
under parts yellow. Female and young duller, and black cap often 
obscure, sometimes lacking. Length, 4^ to 5 inches. 

Nest. On the ground, in a bushy swamp, or on branch of low bush ; 
of twigs and vegetable fibre lined with moss or fine grass. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white spotted with brown and lavender ; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This remarkable species of sylvan Flycatcher was first ob- 
serv'ed by Wilson in New Jersey and Delaware as a transitory 
bird of passage. i\udubon has noticed it in I>abrador and 
Newfoundland, where it was breeding, and it is not uncommon 
in the State of Maine. He also saw it in his way to Texas 
early in x\pril. It begins to migrate from Newfoundland about 
the middle of August, and is seen in Maine in October. Mr. 
Townsend and myself had the pleasure of observing the arrival 
of the little cheerful songsters in the wilds of Oregon about the 
first week of May, where these birds commonly take up their 
summer residence, and seem almost the counterpart of our 
brilliant and cheerful Yellow Birds {Sylvia cEstiva), tuning 
their lay to the same brief and lively ditty, like ^tsh Ush 'tsh 
tshea, or something similar ; their call, however, is more brief 



WILSON'S WARBLER. 1 69 

and less loud. They were rather familiar and unsuspicious, kept 
in bushes more than trees, particularly in the thickets which 
bordered the Columbia, busily engaged collecting their insect 
fare, and only varying their employment by an occasional and 
earnest warble. By the 12th of May they were already feed- 
ing their full-fledged young, though I also found a nest on the 
1 6th of the same month, containing 4 eggs, and just commen- 
cing incubation. The nest was in the branch of a small service 
bush, laid very adroitly as to concealment upon an accidental 
mass of old moss {Us7iea) that had fallen from a tree above. 
It was made chiefly of ground moss {Hypmim) , with a thick 
lining of dry, wiry, slender grass. The female, when ap- 
proached, went off slyly, running along the ground like a 
mouse. The eggs are very similar to those of the summer 
Yellow Bird, sprinkled with spots of pale olive brown, inclined 
to be disposed in a ring at the greater end, as observed by Mr, 
Audubon in a nest which he found in Labrador made in a 
dwarf fir, also made of moss and slender fir-twigs. 



Wilson's Black Cap is a regular, though not common, summer 
resident of northern New England, breeding chiefly north of the 
United States. It is not uncommon in the Maritime Provinces, 
and fairly common as a migrant about Montreal, but is rarely seen 
in Ontario, though abundant in Ohio, and reported as breeding in 
Minnesota. 

Note. — The Small-headed Flycatcher {IVilsonia mhiuta 
and Sylvia minuta of Wilson and Audubon) was given a place in 
the " Manual " by Nuttall, who alleged to have seen the species. 
Not having been found by any of the more modern observers, it 
has been omitted from many recent works. It was placed on the 
"hypothetical list " by the A. O. U. committee, but has been again 
brought forward by Ridgeway, in his " Manual." Wilson stated 
that he saw it in New Jersey ; Audubon said he shot one in Ken- 
tucky ; and Nuttall's examples were in Massachusetts. As the 
birds were seen by Nuttall only " at the approach of winter," it is 
probable they were the young of the year of some of the more 
northern breeding species. 




BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER. 

POLIOPTILA C^RULEA. 

Char. Male: above, bluish gray, darker on head, paler on rump; 
forehead and line over the eye black ; beneath, pale bluish white ; wings 
dusky ; tail longer than the body, the outer feathers partly white. Fe- 
male : similar to the male, but lacking the black on head. Length 434 
to 5 inches. 

Nest. A graceful, cup-shaped structure, saddled on limb of a tree 15 
or 20 feet from the ground; composed of felted plant fibre ornamented 
externally with lichens and lined with feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5; bluish white, speckled with bright brown; 0.55 X 0.45. 

But for the length of the tail, this would rank among the 
most diminutive of birds. It is a very dexterous, lively insect- 
hunter, and keeps commonly in the tops of tall trees ; its 
motions are rapid and incessant, appearing always in quest of 
its prey, darting from bough to bough with hanging wings and 
elevated tail, uttering only at times a feeble song of tsee tsee tsee, 
scarcely louder than the squeak of a mouse. It arrives in the 
State of Pennsylvania from the South about the middle of April, 
and seldom passes to the north of the States of New York and 
Ohio, though others, following the course of the large rivers, pen- 
etrate into Kentucky, Indiana, and Arkansas. Its first visits 
are paid to the blooming willows along the borders of water- 
courses, and besides other small insects it now preys on the 
troublesome mosquitoes. About the beginning of May it forms 
its nest, which is usually fixed among twigs, at the height of i o, 
or sometimes even 50, feet from the ground, near the summit 



BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER. 1 71 

of a forest tree. It is formed of slight materials, such as the 
scales of buds, stems and parts of fallen leaves, withered blos- 
soms, fern down, and the silky fibres of various plants, lined 
with a few horsehairs, and coated externally with lichens. In 
this frail nest the Cow Troopial sometimes deposits her egg, and 
leaves her offspring to the care of these affectionate and pigmy 
nurses. In this case, as with the Cuckoo in the nest of the 
Yellow Wren and that of the Red-tailed Warbler, the egg is 
probably conveyed by the parent, and placed in this small and 
slender cradle, which would not be able to sustain the weight 
or receive the body of the intruder. 

Though classed with the Flycatchers by Nuttall and other writers 
of his day, this species is now ranked as one of the highest types of 
the Oscines, or Singing Birds, and a sub-family has been made for 
this and the two Western forms. Mr. William Saunders finds the 
present species fairly common near London, Ontario, but it is only 
casual in New England, and is rarely seen north of latitude 42°. 
It winters in the Gulf States and southward. 

Mr. Chapman tells us that this bird has " an exquisitely finished 
song," but the voice is " possessed of so little volume as to be in- 
audible unless one is quite near the singer." 




YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. 

ICTERIA VIRENS. 

Char. Above, olive ; lores black ; throat and breast rich yellow ; 
belly white. Length 7 to 8 inches. 

Nest. In a thicket 2 or 3 feet from the ground ; of dried leaves, strips 
of bark, or grass lined with fine grass or fibres. 

Eggs. 3-4; white, with pink tint, spotted with brown and lilac ; 0.90 
X 0.70. 

This remarkable bird is another summer resident of the 
United States which passes the winter in tropical America, 
being found in Guiana and Brazil, so that its migrations prob- 
ably extend indifferently into the milder regions of both 
hemispheres. Even the birds essentially tropical are still 
known to migrate to different distances on either side the 
equator, so essential and necessary is this wandering habit to 
almost all the feathered race. 

The Icteria arrives in Pennsylvania about the first week in 
May, and does not usually appear to proceed farther north and 
east than the States of New York or Connecticut. To the 
west it is found in Kentucky, and ascends the Ohio to the 
borders of Lake Erie. In the distant interior, however, near 
the Rocky Mountains, towards the sources of the Arkansas, 
this bird was observed by Mr. Say, and Mr. Townsend saw it 



YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. 1 73 

at Walla-Walla, on the Columbia, breeding in the month of 
June. It retires to the south about the middle of August, or 
as soon as the only brood it raises are fitted to undertake their 
distant journey. 

The males, as in many other migrating birds, who are not 
continually paired, arrive several days before the females. As 
soon as our bird has chosen his retreat, which is commonly in 
some thorny or viny thicket where he can obtain concealment, 
he becomes jealous of his assumed rights and resents the least 
intrusion, scolding all who approach in a variety of odd and 
uncouth tones very difficult to describe or imitate, except by 
a whistling, in which case the bird may be made to approach, 
but seldom within sight. His responses on such occasions are 
constant and rapid, expressive of anger and anxiety ; and still 
unseen, his voice shifts from place to place amidst the thicket. 
Some of these notes resemble the whistling of the wings of a 
flying duck, at first loud and rapid, then sinking till they seem 
to end in single notes. A succession of other tones are now 
heard, some like the barking of young puppies, with a variety 
of hollow, guttural, uncommon sounds frequently repeated, 
and terminated occasionally by something like the mewing of 
a cat, but hoarser, — a tone to which all our Vireos, particularly 
the young, have frequent recurrence. All these notes are 
uttered with vehemence, and with such strange and various 
modulations as to appear near or distant, like the manoeuvres 
of ventriloquism. In mild weather also, when the moon 
shines, this exuberant gabbling is heard nearly throughout the 
night, as if the performer was disputing with the echoes of his 
own voice. 

Soon after their arrival, or about the middle of May, the 
Icterias begin to build, fixing the nest commonly in a bramble- 
bush, in an interlaced thicket, a vine, or small cedar, 4 or 5 
feet from the ground. The young are hatched in the short 
period of 12 days, and leave the nest about the second week 
in June. While the female is sitting, the cries of the male are 
still more loud and incessant. He now braves concealment, 
and at times mounts into the air almost perpendicularly 30 



1/4 SINGING BIRDS. 

or 40 feet, with his legs hanging down, and descending as he 
rose, by repeated jerks, he seems to be in a paroxysm of fear 
and anger. The usual mode of flying is not, however, different 
from that of other birds. 

The food of the Icteria consists of beetles and other shelly 
insects ; and as the summer advances, they feed on various 
kinds of berries, like the Flycatchers, and seem particularly 
fond of whortleberries. They are frequent through the Middle 
States, in hedges, thickets, and near rivulets and watery 
situations. 

This Chat is now found regularly in Connecticut and northern 
Ohio, and sparingly in Massachusetts. A few examples have been 
taken in New Hampshire and southern Ontario. 



YELLOW-THROATED VIREO. 

ViREO FLAVIFRONS. 

Char. Above, rich olive, shading to ashy gray on the rump; line 
across the forehead and around the eyes yellow ; throat and breast rich 
yellow ; belly white, sides shaded with pale olive ; wings dusky with two 
white bars ; tail dusky, the feathers edged with white. Length 5 to 6 
inches. 

Nest. In woods or orchard; suspended from fork of branch 5 to 30 
feet from the ground (usually about 10 feet) ; a graceful and compact 
structure of grass and strips of bark covered with lichens and lined with 
grass or pine needles. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white with roseate tint, thickly spotted around the large 
end with shades of brown ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This species of Vireo, or Warbling Flycatcher, visits the 
Middle and Northern States of the Union about the beginning 
of May or as soon as his insect food allows him a means of 
subsistence. He resides chiefly in the forests, where he hunts 
his tiny prey among the high branches ; and as he shifts from 
twig to twig in restless pursuit, he often reheves his toil with a 
somewhat sad and indolent note, which he repeats, with some 
variation, at short intervals. This song appears like 'p7'eea 
^preed, etc., and it sometimes finishes with a complaining call 



YELLOW-THROATED VIREO. 1 75 

of recognition, ^pn-eaigh ^prreaigh. These syllables rise and 
fall in different tones as they are repeated, but though usually 
sweet and impressive, are delivered too slow and solemn to be 
generally pleasing. In other respects they considerably resem- 
ble the song of the Red- Eyed Warbling Flycatcher, in whose 
company it is often heard, blending its deep but languid 
warble with the loud, energetic notes of the latter ; and their 
united music, uttered during summer, even at noonday, is 
rendered peculiarly agreeable, as nearly all the songsters of 
the grove are now seeking a silent shelter from the sultry heat. 
In the warmest weather the lay of this bird is indeed peculiarly 
strong and lively ; and his usually long-drawn, almost plaintive 
notes, are now delivered in fine succession, with a peculiar 
echoing and impressive musical cadence, appearing like a 
romantic and tender revery of delight. The song, now almost 
incessant, heard from this roving sylvan minstrel is varied in 
bars nearly as follows : pred pred preoi, preait preoit frriweet 
preeai, pewai praiou, preeai preed praoit, preeo predwit preeoo. 
When irritated, he utters a very loud and hoarse mewing 
pTaigh praigh. As soon, however, as the warm weather begins 
to decline, and the business of incubation is finished, about 
the beginning of August, this sad and slow but interesting 
musician nearly ceases his song, a few feeble farewell notes 
only being heard to the first week in September. 

This species, like the rest of the genus, constructs a very 
beautiful pendulous nest about 3 inches deep and 2^ in 
diameter. One, which I now more particularly describe, is 
suspended from the forked twig of an oak in the near neigh- 
borhood of a dwelling-house in the country. It is attached 
firmly all round the cur\'ing twigs by which it is supported ; 
the stoutest external materials or skeleton of the fabric is 
formed of interlaced folds of thin strips of red cedar bark, 
connected very intimately by coarse threads and small masses 
of the silk of spiders' nests and of the cocoons of large moths. 
These threads are moistened by the glutinous saliva of the 
bird. Among these external materials are also blended fine 
blades of dry grass. The inside is thickly bedded with this 



176 SINGING BIRDS. 

last material and fine root- fibres j but the finishing layer, as if 
to preserve elasticity, is of rather coarse grass-stalks. Exter- 
nally the nest is coated over with green Hchen, attached very 
artfully by slender strings of caterpillars' silk, and the whole 
afterwards tied over by almost invisible threads of the same, so 
as to appear as if glued on ; and the entire fabric now resem- 
bles an accidental knot of the tree grown over with moss. 

The food of this species during the summer is insects, but 
towards autumn they and their young feed also on various 
small berries. About the middle of September the whole move 
off and leave the United States, probably to winter in tropical 
America. 

Nuttall followed the older authors in naming the forest as the 
favorite haunt of this species. Later observers consider that it 
frequents orchards and fields quite as much as the woods, and it is 
reported as common in the gardens near Boston. 

It occurs in southern New England and the Middle States as 
far west as Iowa, and in Manitoba, where it is common. It has 
not been found in the Maritime Provinces, but is common near 
Montreal and in Ontario. 



BLUE-HEADED VIREO. 

SOLITARY VIREO. 
ViREO SOLITARIUS. 

Char. Above, bright olive; line from nostril to and around the eyes 
whitish ; crown and sides of head bluish ash ; beneath, white, sides and 
flanks shaded with olive and yellow ; wings dusky with two bars of 
yellowish white ; tail dusky, feathers edged with white. Length 5 to 6 
inches. 

Nest. Suspended from fork of branch of low tree or bush ; composed 
of grass or vegetable fibre, ornamented with moss or lichens, lined with 
grass and plant down. 

Eggs. Creamy white, spotted, in wreath around larger end, with bright 
brown; 0.80 X 0.50. 

This is one of the rarest species of the genus, and from 
Georgia to Pennsylvania seems only as a straggler or acci- 
dental visitor. 



BLUE-HEADED VIREO. IJ'J 

It possesses all the unsuspicious habits of the genus, allow- 
ing a near approach without alarm. It seldom rises beyond 
the tops of the canes or low bushes amidst which it is com- 
monly seen hopping in quest of its subsistence, which consists 
of insects and berries. Its flight is generally tremulous and 
agitated. According to Dr. Bachman, " it is every year be- 
coming more abundant in South Carolina, where it remains 
from about the middle of February to that of March, keeping 
to the woods. It has a sweet and loud song of half a dozen 
notes, heard at a considerable distance." 

About the beginning of May, in the oaks already almost 
wholly in leaf, on the banks of the Columbia, we heard around 
us the plaintive deliberate warble of this species, first noticed 
by Wilson. Its song seems to be intermediate between that of 
the Red-eyed and Yellow-breasted species, having the/;r^/, 
preai, etc., of the latter, and the fine variety of the former in 
its tones. It darted about in the tops of the trees, incessantly 
engaged in quest of food, now and then disputing with some 
rival. The nest of this bird is made much in the same manner 
as that of the Vireo olivaceus. One which I examined was 
suspended from the forked twig of the wild crab-tree, at about 
ten feet from the ground. The chief materials were dead 
and whitened grass leaves, with some cobwebs agglutinated 
together, externally scattered with a few shreds of moss 
(^Hypnuvi), to resemble the branch on which it was hung; 
here and there were also a few of the white paper-like cap- 
sules of the spider's nest, and it was lined with fine blades of 
grass and slender root-fibres. The situation, as usual, was 
open but shady. 

This is a fairly common summer resident of northern New 
England, and it breeds sparingly south to the Middle States, and 
north to Hudson's Bay. It is a rare bird in the Maritime Prov- 
inces and in Quebec, though common in parts of Ontario. 



Note. — The Mountain Solitary ^yke.o {V. solitarius alti- 
cold), lately discovered by Mr. William Brewster in western North 
Carolina, is described as " nearly uniform blackish plumbeous, with 
only a faint tinge of green on the back." 
VOL. L — 12 




WHITE-EYED VIREO. 

ViREO NOVEBORACENSIS. 

Char. Above, olive, shading to ash on hind neck and rump ; line 
from nostril to and around eyes, yellow ; beneath, white, duller on throat 
and breast ; sides shaded with yellow ; wings and tail dusky ; wing-bars 
yellow ; iris white in the adult. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. Suspended from forked twig of low bush in a thicket, some- 
times on edge of swamp; composed of various materials, — grass, twigs, 
etc., — ornamented with moss and lichens, and lined with grass, etc. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white, spotted around larger end with brown ; 0.75 X 0.55. 

This interesting little bird appears to be a constant resident 
within the limits of the United States; as, on the 12 th of Jan- 
uary, I saw them in great numbers near Charleston, S. C, 
feeding on the wax-myrtle berries, in company with the Yellow- 
Rumped Sylvias. At this season they were silent, but very 
familiar, descending from the bushes when whistled too, and 
peeping cautiously, came down close to me, looking about with 
complacent curiosity, as if unconscious of any danger. In the 
last week of February, Wilson already heard them singing in 
the southern parts of Georgia, and throughout that month to 
March, I saw them in the swampy thickets nearly every day, 
so that they undoubtedly reside and pass the winter in the 
maritime parts of the Southern States. The arrival of this 
little unsuspicious warbler in Pennsylvania and New England 
is usually about the middle of April or earlier. On the 1 2 th 
of March I first heard his voice in the low thickets of West 
Florida. His ditty was now simply ssU (with a whistle) wd 
witte witte we-wd (the first part very quick) . As late as in 
the first week in May I observed a few stragglers in this vicinity 



WHITE-EYED VIREO. 1 79 

peeping through the bushes ; and in the latter end of the 
month a pair had taken up their abode in the thickets of 
Fresh Pond, so that those which first arrive leave us and pro- 
ceed farther to the north. On the 2 2d of June I heard the 
male in full song, near his nest in our neighborhood, where in- 
cubation was going on. His warble was very pleasing, though 
somewhat monotonous and whimsical. This affectionate note, 
often repeated near to his faithful mate while confined to 
her nest, was like ' tshippewee-wd-say, tsKippewee-wee-was-say , 
sweetly whistled, and with a greater compass of voice and 
loudness than might have been expected from the size of the 
little vocalist. The song is sometimes changed two or three 
times in the course of twenty minutes ; and 1 have heard the 
following phrases : 'att tshippewat 'wurr, tshippewat 'wurr ; at 
another time, Ushipeway ^tshe o et ^tsherr. On another visit 
the little performer had changed his song to 'pip te waigh a 
tshewa, with a guttural trill, as usual, at the last syllable. He 
soon, however, varied his lay to 'wh'ip te woi wee, the last sylla- 
ble but one considerably lengthened and clearly whistled. Such 
were the captious variations of this little quaint and peculiarly 
earnest musician, whose notes are probably almost continually 
varied. On the 6th of October I still heard one of these wan- 
dering little minstrels, who at intervals had for several weeks 
visited the garden, probably in quest of berries. His short, 
quaint, and more guttural song was now atshee-vdit (probably 
the attempt of a young bird). As late as the 30th of October 
the White-Eyed Vireo still lingered around Cambridge, and 
on the margin of a pond, surrounded by weeds and willows, he 
was actively employed in gleaning up insects and their larvae ; 
and now, with a feebler tone of voice, warbled with uncommon 
sweetness wholly different from his usual strain, sounding some- 
thing like the sweet whisperings of the Song Sparrow at the 
present season, and was perhaps an attempt at mimickry. 
Occasionally, also, he blended in his harsher, scolding, or 
querulous mewing call. 

This species, like the rest, build commonly a pensile nest 
suspended by the upper edge of the two sides on the circular 



I So SINGING BIRDS. 

bend, often of the smilax or green briar vine. In the Middle 
States they often raise 2 broods in the season, generally make 
choice of thorny thickets for their nest, and show much con- 
cern when it is approached, descending within a few feet of 
the intruder, looking down and hoarsely mewing and scolding 
with great earnestness. This petulant display of irritability is 
also continued when the brood are approached, though as large 
and as active as their vigilant and vociferous parents. In the 
Middle States this is a common species, but in Massachusetts 
rather rare. Its food, like the rest of the Vireos, is insects 
and various kinds of berries, for the former of which it hunts 
with great agility, attention, and industry. 

" Eastern United States, west to the Rockies, south in winter to 
Guatemala," is usually given as the habitat of this species. It has 
been seen rarely north of southern New England, and only one 
example has been taken in New Brunswick, though Mr. J. M. 
Jones considers it fairly common in portions of Nova Scotia. 
There is no authentic report of its occurrence in Ontario, but Mr. 
Mcllwraith thinks it may yet be found there. 



Note. — Mr. William Brewster has lately described the Key 
West Vireo ( V. noveboracensis mayftardi) as a larger bird than 
the type and of duller color, the yellow paler. 

Bell's Vireo ( Vireo bellti), a bird of much the same appearance 
and habits as the White-eyed, is found in_ the prairie districts of 
Illinois and Iowa. It ranges thence to the eastern base of the 
Rockies. 



WARBLING VIREO. 

Vireo gil\tjs. 

Char. Above, grayish olive brighter on the rump, shading to ashy on 
the head ; beneath, buffy white, flanks and sides tinged with olive yellow. 
Length 5 to 5/^ inches. 

N'est. In open pasture or shaded street, suspended from fork of a 
high branch ; composed of grass and vegetable fibre, and lined with fine 
grass. 

Eggs. 3-4; white, spotted, chiefly about the larger end, with brown j 
0-75 X 0.55. 



WARBLING VIREO. l8l 

This sweetest and most constant warbler of the forest, ex- 
tending his northern migrations to the confines of Canada and 
along the coast of the Pacific to the Oregon, arrives from trop- 
ical America in Pennsylvania about the middle of April, and 
reaches this part of New England early in May. His livery, 
like that of the Nightingale, is plain and unadorned ; but the 
sweet melody of his voice, — surpassing, as far as Nature usually 
surpasses art, the tenderest airs of the flute, — poured out often 
from the rising dawn of day to the approach of evening, and 
vigorous even during the sultry heat of noon, when most other 
birds are still, gives additional interest to this Httle vocalist. 
While chanting forth his easy, flowing, tender airs, apparently 
without effort, so contrasted with the interrupted emphatical 
song of the Red-Eye, he is ghding along the thick and leafy 
branches of our majestic elms and tallest trees busied in quest 
of his restless insect prey. With us, as in Pennsylvania, the 
species is almost wholly confined to our villages, and even 
cities. It is rarely ever observed in the woods ; but from the 
tall trees which decorate the streets and lanes, the almost in- 
visible musician, secured from the enemies of the forest, is 
heard to cheer the house and cottage with his untiring song. 
As late as the 2d of October I still distinguished his tuneful voice 
from amidst the yellow fading leaves of the linden, near which 
he had passed away the summer. The approaching dissolu- 
tion of those dehghtful connections which had been cemented 
by affection and the cheerless stillness of autumn, still called 
up a feeble and plaintive revery. Some days after this late 
period, warmed by the mild rays of the morning sun, I heard, 
as it were, faintly warbled, a parting whisper ; and about the 
middle of this month our vocal woods and fields were once 
more left in dreary silence. 

When offended or irritated, our bird utters an angry 'tshay 
^fshay, like the Catbird and the other Vireos, and sometimes 
makes a loud snapping with his bill. The nest of the Warbling 
Vireo is generally pendulous, and ambitiously and securely sus- 
pended at great elevations. In our elms I have seen one of 
these airy cradles at the very summit of one of the most gigan- 



1 82 SINGING BIRDS. 

tic, more than i oo feet from the ground. At other times they 
are not more than 50 to 70 feet high. The only nest I have 
been able to examine was made externally of flat and dry 
sedge-grass blades, for which, as I have observed, are occa- 
sionally substituted strings of bass. These dry blades and 
strips are confined and tied into the usual circular form by 
caterpillars' silk, blended with bits of wool, silk-weed lint, and 
an accidental and sparing mixture of vernal grass tops and old 
apple-blossoms. It was then very neatly lined with the small 
flat blades of the meadow grass called Poa compressa. 

This species is rather uncommon in the Maritime Provinces 
excepting near the Maine border in New Brunswick, and in the 
more southern portions of Nova Scotia. It is fairly common in 
southern Quebec, and abundant in Ontario. In parts of New 
England and the Middle States it is a common summer resident. 
At the West it ranges north to the fur countries. 



RED-EYED VIREO. 

ViREO OLIVACEUS. 

Char. Above, bright olive, crown ashy ; white line over eyes ; iris 
ruby red ; beneath, white faintly tinged with dull olive on sides ; wings 
and tail dusky. Length 5>^ to 6>^ inches. 

Nest. In an open pasture or along margin of field ; suspended from 
fork of an upper branch.; composed of grass and vegetable fibre, and 
lined with fine grass, etc. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white (sometimes with a faint pink tint) spotted sparingly, 
around larger end, with dull brown ; 0.80 X 0.55. 

These common and indefatigable songsters appear to inhabit 
every part of the American continent, from Labrador to the 
large tropical islands of Jamaica and St. Domingo ; they are 
likewise resident in the mild tableland of Mexico. Those 
individuals who pass the summer with us, however, migrate to 
the warmer regions at the commencement of winter, as none 
are found at that season within the limits of the United States. 
The Red- Eyed Vireo arrives in Pennsylvania late in April, and 
in New England about the beginning of May. It inhabits the 



RED-EYED VIREO. 1 83 

shady forests or tall trees near gardens and the suburbs of 
villages, where its loud, lively, and energetic song is often con- 
tinued, with little intermission, for several hours at a time, as 
it darts and pries among the thick foliage in quest of insects 
and small caterpillars. From its first arrival until August it is 
the most distinguished warbler of the forest, and when almost 
all the other birds have become mute, its notes are yet heard 
with unabated vigor. Even to the 5 th of October, still enliv- 
ened by the feeble rays of the sun, the male faintly recalls his 
song, and plaintively tunes a farewell to his native woods. His 
summer notes are uttered in short, emphatical bars of 2 or 3 
syllables, and have something in them like the simple lay of 
the Thrush or American Robin when he first earnestly and 
slowly commences his song. He often makes use, in fact, of 
the same expressions ; but his tones are more monotonous as 
well as mellow and melodious, like the rest of the Vireos. In 
moist and dark summer weather his voice seems to be one 
continued, untiring warble of exquisite sweetness ; and in the 
most populous and noisy streets of Boston his shrill and tender 
lay is commonly heard from the tall elms ; and as the bustle of 
carts and carriages attempts to drowTi his voice, he elevates his 
pipe with more vigor and earnestness, as if determined to be 
heard in spite of every discord. The call of " Whip-Tom- 
kelly,'" attributed to this species by Sloane and even Wilson, I 
have never heard ; and common as the species is throughout 
the Union, the most lively or accidental fit of imagination 
never yet in this country conceived of such an association of 
sounds. I have already remarked, indeed, that this singular 
call is, in fact, sometimes uttered by the Tufted Titmouse. 
When our Vireo sings slow enough to be distinctly heard, the 
following sweetly warbled phrases, variously transposed and 
tuned, may often be caught by the attentive Hstener : 'tshooe 
pewee peeai musik ^du ^du ^dii, ^tshoove ^here 'here, hear here, 
'k'ing'rttshard, 'p'shegru 'tshevu, 'tsheevoo 'tshuvee peedit 'perdi, 
— the whole delivered almost without any sensible interval, with 
earnest animation, in a pathetic, tender, and pleasing strain, 
well calculated to produce calm and thoughtful reflection in 



1 84 SINGING BIRDS. 

the sensitive mind. Yet while this heavenly revery strikes on 
the human ear with such peculiar effect, the humble musician 
himself seems but little concerned ; for all the while, perhaps, 
that this flowing chorus enchants the hearer, he is casually 
hopping from spray to spray in quest of his active or crawling 
prey, and if a cessation occurs in his almost untiring lay, it is 
occasioned by the caterpillar or fly he has just fortunately cap- 
tured. So unaffected are these delightful efforts of instinct, 
and so unconscious is the performer, apparently, of this pleas- 
ing faculty bestowed upon him by Nature, that he may truly be 
considered as a messenger of harmony to man alone. Wan- 
tonly to destroy these delightful aids to sentimental happiness 
ought therefore to be viewed, not only as an act of barbarity, 
but almost as a sacrilege. 

The Red- Eyed Vireo is one of the most favorite of all the 
adopted nurses of the Cowbird ; and the remarkable gentle- 
ness of its disposition and watchful affection for the safety of 
its young, or of the foundling confided to its care, amply justi- 
fies this selection of a foster-parent. The male, indeed, de- 
fends his nest while his mate is sitting, with as much spirit as 
the King Bird, driving away every intruder and complaining in 
a hoarse mewing tone when approached by any inquisitive 
observer. By accident the eggs were destroyed in a nest of 
this species in the Botanic Garden, in a sugar-maple about 20 
feet from the ground. At this time no complaints were heard, 
and the male sang all day as cheerful as before. In a few 
days, unwilling to leave the neighborhood, they had made a 
second nest in a beech at the opposite side of the same prem- 
ises ; but now the male drove away every intruder with the 
greatest temerity. The young of this species are often hatched 
in about 13 days, or 24 hours later than the parasitic Troopial ; 
but for want of room the smaller young are usually stifled or 
neglected. I have, however, seen in one nest a surviving bird 
of each kind in a fair way for being reared ; yet by a singular 
infatuation the supposititious "bird appeared by far the most 
assiduously attended, and in this case the real young of the 
species seemed to be treated as puny foundlings. 



RED-EYED VIREO. 1 85 

In the month of August the young fed greedily on the small 
berries of the bitter cornel and astringent Viburnuin dentatuniy 
as well as other kinds. One of these inexperienced birds 
hopped close round me in an adjoining bush, without any fear- 
ful apprehension; and as late as the 26th of October two 
young birds of the Red- Eye were still lingering in this vicinity, 
and busily engaged in gleaning subsistence. Eager after flies, 
about the 25 th of August a young bird with hazel instead of 
red eyes entered a chamber in the neighborhood and became 
my inmate. I clipped his wing and left him at large in a 
room ; he soon became very gentle, took grasshoppers and 
flics out of my hand, eat Viburnum berries with a good appe- 
tite, and in short seemed pleased with his quarters. A fly 
could not stir but it was instantly caught ; his only difficulty 
was with a lame King Bird who occupied the same apartment. 
The King appeared very jealous of this little harmless com- 
panion ; snapped his bill at him when he approached, and be- 
grudged him subsistence when he perceived that he fed on the 
same food with himself. At length he would come to me for 
provision and for protection from his tyrannical associate. But 
the career of my interesting and lively companion was soon 
terminated by death, occasioned, in all probability, by a diar- 
rhoea produced in consequence of swallowing a small lock of 
hair with his food, which was found in his stomach. This bird, 
very different from a Sylvia autumnalis which I afterwards had 
in my possession, regurgitated by the bill, like the King Bird, 
pellets of the indigestible parts of his food, such as the legs 
and wings of grasshoppers and flies, and the skins and seeds of 
berries. Unlike the King Bird in one particular, however, he 
folded his head under his wing when at rest, and reposed with 
great soundness ; whereas for eight months I was never able to 
detect the former asleep. 

The Red-eyed Vireo breeds from the Southern States to 
Labrador and Manitoba, and in winter ranges from Florida to 
Central America. 



1 86 SINGING BIRDS. 

PHILADELPHIA VIREO. 

ViREO PHILADELPHICUS. 

Char. Above, grayish olive, brighter on rump, shading to ashy on 
crown ; white line over eyes ; beneath, greenish yellow, paler on throat 
and belly. Length about ^}( inches. 

Nest. In a grove ; suspended from forked twigs of low branch ; com- 
posed of grass and birch bark. 

Eggs. 4 — ? ; white, spotted with brown ; ? 

This species was first described by Mr. Cassin, in 1851, from a 
specimen shot by him near Philadelphia in 1842. Of the bird's 
habits we have learned but little. The only nest yet discovered 
was found by Mr. Ernest E. Thompson in Manitoba in 1884. 

Of the bird's range we have still much to learn. It is a migrant 
only in southern New England, but is known to spend the summer 
in Maine, and has been taken at that season in New Hampshire. 
In 1882 our party secured several at Edmundston, in New Bruns- 
wick, near the Quebec border. Dr. Wheaton considered it a regu- 
lar spring and fall migrant through Ohio, but very few have been 
observed in Ontario. 

• The song of this species is so much like that of the Red-eye, 
that they are not easily distinguished. 



Note. — Mr. Comeau has taken at Godbout, on the north shore 
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, one example of the Yellow-green 
ViREO {V. Jiavoviridis), a bird of Mexico and Central America. 




MOCKINGBIRD. 

Mlmus polyglottos. 

Char. Above, ashy gray, darker on wings and tail ; wings with two 
white bars ; outer tail-feathers white ; beneath, white, tinged with gray on 
the breast ; bill and feet black. Length 9 to ii inches. 

Nest. In a thicket or bunch of low bushes ; composed of twigs, roots, 
grass, etc. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; greenish blue to pale buff, marked with reddish brown ; 
0.95 X 0.70. 

This unrivalled Orpheus of the forest and natural wonder of 
America inhabits the whole continent, from the State of Rhode 
Island to the larger isles of the West Indies ; and continuing 
through the equatorial regions, is found in the southern hemi- 
sphere as far as Brazil. Nor is it at all confined to the Eastern 
or Atlantic States. It also exists in the wild territory of Ar- 
kansas more than a thousand miles from the mouth of Red 
River ; and I have since seen it in the scanty forests of Upper 
Cahfomia. It breeds at the distant western sources of the 
Platte, near the base of the Rocky Mountains, as well as in 
Texas ; and Mr. Bullock saw it in the table-land of Mexico. 
The Mocking Bird rears its young, and consequently displays 
its wonderful powers, in all the intermediate regions of its 
residence in the United States to the peninsula of Florida. It 
appears, in short, permanently to inhabit the milder regions of 



1 88 SINGING BIRDS. 

the western world in either hemisphere ; and the individuals 
bred north of the Delaware, on this side the equator, are all 
that ever migrate from their summer residence. A still more 
partial migration takes place also, probably, from west to east, 
in quest of the food and shelter which the maritime districts 
afford. Though now so uncommon in that vicinity, 50 or 60 
years ago, according to Bartram, it even wintered near Phila- 
delphia, and made a temporary abode in the mantling ivy of 
his venerable mansion. In summer a few proceed as far as 
Rhode Island, following the mild temperature of the sea-coast ; 
but farther north these birds are, I believe, nearly unknown, 
except rarely and occasionally in Massachusetts near the sea. 
With the advance of the season, also, in the country which it 
inhabits, varies the time of incubation. Early in April the 
nests are begun in the maritime parts of Georgia, but not before 
the middle of May in Pennsylvania. 

In the winter these birds chiefly subsist on berries, partic- 
ularly those of the Virginia juniper (called red cedar), wax- 
myrtle, holly, smilax, sumach, sour-gum, and a variety of 
others, which furnish them and many other birds with a plen- 
tiful repast. Insects, worms, grasshoppers, and larvae are the 
food on which they principally subsist when so eminently vocal 
and engaged in the task of rearing their young. In the South- 
ern States, where they are seldom molested, with ready saga- 
city they seem to court the society of man and fearlessly hop 
around the roof of the house or fly before the planter's door. 
When a dwelling is first settled in the wilderness, this bird is 
not seen sometimes in the vicinity for the first year ; but at 
length he pays his welcome visit to the new-comer, gratified 
with the little advantages he discovers around him, and seek- 
ing out also the favor and fortuitous protection of human 
society. He becomes henceforth familiar, and only quarrels 
with the cat and dog, whose approach he instinctively dreads 
near his nest, and never ceases his complaints and attacks until 
they retreat from his sight. 

None of the domestic animals, or man himself, but partic- 
ularly the cat and dog, can approach during the period of 
incubation, \\dthout receiving an attack from these affectionate 



MOCKINGBIRD. 1 89 

guardians of their brood. Their most insidious and deadly 
enemies, however, are reptiles, particularly the black snake, 
who spares neither the eggs nor young. As soon as his fatal 
approach is discovered by the male, he darts upon him without 
hesitation, eludes his bite, and striking him about the head, 
and particularly the eyes, where most vulnerable, he soon suc- 
ceeds in causing him to retreat, and by redoubling his blows, 
in spite of all pretended fascination, the wily monster often 
falls a victim to his temerity ; and the heroic bird, leaving his 
enemy dead on the field he provoked, mounts on the bush 
above his affectionate mate and brood, and in token of victory 
celebrates with his loudest song. 

The Mocking Bird, like the Nightingale, is destitute of bril- 
liant plumage ; but his form is beautiful, delicate, and symmet- 
rical in its proportions. His motions are easy, rapid, and 
graceful, perpetually animated with a playful caprice and a 
look that appears full of shrewdness and intelligence. He 
listens with silent attention to each passing sound, treasures up 
lessons from everything vocal, and is capable of imitating with 
exactness, both in measure and accent, the notes of all the 
feathered race. And however wild and discordant the tones 
and calls may be, he contrives, with an Orphean talent pecu- 
liarly his own, to infuse into them that sweetness of expression 
and harmonious modulation which characterize this inimi- 
table and wonderful composer. With the dawn of morning, 
while yet the sun lingers below the blushing horizon, our sub- 
lime songster, in his native wilds, mounted on the topmost 
branch of a tall bush or tree in the forest, pours out his admi- 
rable song, which, amidst the multitude of notes from all the 
warbling host, still rises pre-eminent, so that his solo is heard 
alone, and all the rest of the musical choir appear employed in 
mere accompaniments to this grand actor in the sublime opera 
of Nature. Nor is his talent confined to imitation ; his native 
notes are also bold, full, and perpetually varied, consisting of 
short expressions of a few variable syllables, interspersed with 
imitations and uttered with great emphasis and volubility, 
sometimes for half an hour at a time, with undiminished ardor. 
These native strains bear a considerable resemblance to those 



190 SINGING BIRDS. 

of the Brown Thrush, to whom he is so nearly related in form, 
habits, and manners ; but, like rude from cultivated genius, his 
notes are distinguished by the rapidity of their dehvery, their 
variety, sweetness, and energy. As if conscious of his unri- 
valled powers of song, and animated by the harmony of his 
own voice, his music is, as it were, accompanied by chromatic 
dancing and expressive gestures ; he spreads and closes his 
light and fanning wings, expands his silvered tail, and with 
buoyant gayety and enthusiastic ecstasy he sweeps around, and 
mounts and descends into the air from his lofty spray as his 
song swells to loudness or dies away in sinking whispers* 
While thus engaged, so various is his talent that it might be 
supposed a trial of skill from all the assembled birds of the 
country; and so perfect are his imitations that even the 
sportsman is at times deceived, and sent in quest of birds that 
have no existence around him. The feathered tribes them- 
selves are decoyed by the fancied call of their mates, or dive 
with fear into the close thicket at the well-feigned scream of 
the Hawk. 

Soon reconciled to the usurping fancy of man, the Mocking 
Bird often becomes familiar with his master; playfully attacks 
him through the bars of his cage, or at large in a room ; rest- 
less and capricious, he seems to try every expedient of a lively 
imagination that may conduce to his amusement. Nothing 
escapes his discerning and intelligent eye or faithful ear. He 
whistles perhaps for the dog, who, deceived, runs to meet his 
master; the cries of the chicken in distress bring out the 
clucking mother to the protection of her brood. The barking 
of the dog, the piteous wailing of the puppy, the mewing of 
the cat, the action of a saw, or the creaking of a wheelbarrow, 
quickly follow with exactness. He repeats a tune of consider- 
able length ; imitates the warbling of the Canary, the lisping 
of the Indigo Bird, and the mellow whistle of the Cardinal, in 
a manner so superior to the originals that, mortified and aston- 
ished, they withdraw from his presence, or listen in silence as 
he continues to triumph by renewing his efforts. 

In the cage also, nearly as in the woods, he is full of life and 
action while engaged in song, throwing himself round with in- 



MOCKINGBIRD. 191 

spiring animation, and, as it were, moving in time to the melody 
of his own accents. Even the hours of night, which consign 
nearly all other birds to rest and silence, like the Nightingale 
he oft employs in song, serenading the houseless hunter and 
silent cottager to repose, as the rising moon illumines the 
darkness of the shadowy scene. His capricious fondness for 
contrast and perpetual variety appears to deteriorate his pow- 
ers. His imitations of the Brown Thrush are perhaps inter- 
rupted by the crowing of the cock or the barking of the dog ; 
the plaintive warblings of the Bluebird are then blended with 
the chatter of the Swallow or the cackhng of the hen ; amid 
the simple lay of the native Robin we are surprised with the 
vociferations of the Whip-poor-will; while the notes of the 
garrulous Jay, Wren, and many others succeed with such an 
appearance of reality that we almost imagine ourselves in the 
presence of the originals, and can scarcely reaHze the fact that 
the whole of this singular concert is the effort of a single 
bird. Indeed, it is impossible to listen to these Orphean 
strains, when delivered by a superior songster in his native 
woods, without being deeply affected and almost riveted to 
the spot by the complicated feelings of wonder and delight 
in which, from the graceful and sympathetic action, as well as 
enchanting voice of the performer, the eye is no less gratified 
than the ear. It is, however, painful to reflect that these ex- 
traordinary powers of nature, exercised with so much generous 
freedom in a state of confinement, are not calculated for long 
endurance, and after this most wonderful and interesting pris- 
oner has survived for 6 or 7 years, blindness often terminates 
his gay career ; and thus shut out from the cheering light, the 
solace of his lonely but active existence, he now after a time 
droops in silent sadness and dies. 

The Mockingbird is a rare but regular summer visitor to Rhode 
Island, Connecticut, and southern Massachusetts, and examples 
have been taken in Maine. Mr. Mcllwraith reports that a pair 
spent the summer of 1883 near Hamilton, Ontario, and C A. 
McLennan records in the O. & O. the capture of one near Truro, 
N, S. The species is chiefly restricted to the Southern States. 




BROWN THRASHER. 

BROWN THRUSH. 
Harporhynchus RUFUS. 

Char. Above, bright reddish brown or rufous ; beneath, white, tinged 
with rufous or buff ; breast and side spotted with brown; bill about as 
long as the head. Length io34 to 12 inches. 

Nest. In a thicket or low bush, and sometimes on the ground ; bulky, 
and loosely constructed of twigs, roots, and dried grass, sometimes lined 
with horse-hair or feathers. 

Eggs. 3-6 (usually 4) ; dull white with buff or green tint, marked with 
minute spots of reddish brown; i.oo X 0.80. 

This large and well-known songster, inferior to none but the 
Mocking Bird in musical talent, is found in every part of this 
continent, from Hudson's Bay to the shores of the Mexican 
Gulf, breeding in all the intermediate space, though more 
abundantly towards the North. It retires to the South early in 
October, in the States north of the Carolinas, and probably ex- 
tends its migrations at this season through the warmer regions 
towards the borders of the tropics. 

From the T5th of April to early in May these birds begin to 
revisit the Middle and Northern States, keeping pace in some 
measure with the progress of vegetation and the comparative 



BROWN THRASHER. 1 93 

advancement of the season. They appear ahvays to come in 
pairs, so that their mutual attachment is probably more durable 
than the season of incubation. Stationed on the top of some 
tall orchard or forest tree, the male, gay and animated, salutes 
the morn of his arrival with his loud and charming song. His 
voice, somewhat resembling that of the Thrush of Europe, but 
far more varied and powerful, rises pre-eminent amidst all the 
vocal choir of the forest. His music has the full charm of in- 
nate originality ; he takes no delight in mimickry, and has 
therefore no title to the name of Mocking Bird. On his first 
appearance he falters in his song, Hke the Nightingale ; but 
when his mate commences her cares and labors, his notes 
attain all their vigor and variety. The young birds, even of 
the first season, in a state of solitary domestication, without the 
aid of the parent's voice, already whisper forth in harmonious 
revery the pathetic and sweet warble instinctive to the species. 
In the month of May, while the blooming orchards perfume 
and decorate the landscape, the enchanting voice of the 
Thrasher in his affectionate lay seems to give grateful utter- 
ance for the bounty and teeming profusion of Nature, and 
falls in pleasing unison with the harmony and beauty of the 
season. 

From the beginning to the middle of IMay the Thrashers are 
engaged in building their nest, selecting for this purpose usu- 
ally a low, thick bush, in some retired thicket or swamp a few 
feet from the earth, and sometimes even on the ground in 
some sheltered tussuck, or near the root of a bush. They dis- 
play the most ardent affection for their young, attacking 
snakes, dogs, and cats in their defence. One of the parents, 
usually the male, seems almost continually occupied in guard- 
ing against any dangerous intruder. The cat is attacked com- 
monly at a considerable distance from the young, and the 
woods echo with his plaintive ye-ow, ye-ow, and the low, 
guttural, angry 'tsh Ush 'tsh ^tsh. The enemy is thus pursued 
off the field, commonly with success, as guilty grimalkin ap- 
pears to understand the threatening gestures and complaints 
with which she is so incessantly assailed. Towards their more 

VOL. I. — 13 



194 SINGING BIRDS. 

insidious enemies of the human species, when approaching the 
helpless or unfledged young, every art is displayed ; threats, 
entreaties, and reproaches the most pathetic and powerful, are 
tried in no equivocal strain ; they dart at the ravisher in wild 
despair, and lament, in the most touching strains of sorrow, the 
bereavement they suffer. I know of nothing equal to the burst 
of grief manifested by these affectionate parents excepting the 
afflicting accents of suffering humanity. 

Their food consists of worms and insects generally; also 
caterpillars, beetles, and other coleopterous tribes, as well as 
various kinds of berries. In the month of January I observed 
this Thrush and the Mocking Bird feed on the berries of the 
sumach. Sometimes they raise up a few grains of planted 
corn, but this is more the effect of caprice than appetite, as 
the search for grubworms is what commonly induces this 
resort to scratching up the soil. The Thrasher is an active, 
watchful, shy, and vigorous species, generally flying low, dwel- 
ling among thickets, and skipping from bush to bush with his 
long tail sometimes spread out like a fan. About the first week 
in October, after moulting, they disappear for the season and 
pass the winter in the Southern States. By the middle of 
February, or early in March, they already display their vocal 
powers in the warmer parts of Georgia and West Florida. 
They are easily reared, and become very familiar and amusing 
companions, showing a strong attachment to the hand that 
feeds and protects them. In their manners, intelligence, song, 
and sagacity, they nearly approach to the Mocking Bird, being 
equally playful, capricious, petulant, and affectionate. 

The Thrasher is abundant in Massachusetts, and is found in Ver- 
mont and New Hampshire, but near the Atlantic seaboard does 
not go farther north than southern Maine. It occurs regularly in 
the vicinity of Montreal, and is common in Ontario and Manitoba. 
It winters from about 37° southward. 



CATBIRD. 195 

CATBIRD. 

Galeoscoptes carolestensis. 

Char. General color dark slate, paler beneath ; top of head and tail 
black ; under tail-coverts chestnut. Length 8 to 9ji( inches. 

N'est. In thicket or orchard ; bulky, and rudely constructed of twigs, 
leaves, and grass, lined with grass or fine roots. 

Egg^' 4-6 ; deep bluish green ; 0.95 X 0.70. 

This quaint and familiar songster passes the winter in the 
southern extremities of the United States and along the coast 
of Mexico, whence as early as February it arrives in Geor- 
gia. About the middle of April it is first seen in Penn- 
sylvania, and at length leisurely approaches this part of New 
England by the close of the first or beginning of the second 
week in May. These birds continue their migration also to 
Canada, where they proceed into the fur-countries as far as 
the 45 th parallel, arriving on the banks of the Saskatchewan 
about the close of May. Throughout this extent and to the 
territory of the Mississippi they likewise pass the period of in- 
cubation and rearing their young. They remain in New Eng- 
land till about the middle of October, at which time the young 
feed principally upon wild berries. 

The Catbird often tunes his cheerful song before the break 
of day, hopping from bush to bush with great agility after his 
insect prey, while yet scarcely distinguishable amidst the dusky 
shadows of the dawn. The notes of different individuals vary 
considerably, so that sometimes his song in sweetness and 
compass is scarcely at all inferior to that of the Ferruginous 
Thrush. A quaintness, however, prevails in all his efforts, and 
his song is frequently made up of short and blended imitations 
of other birds, — given, however, with great emphasis, melody, 
and variety of tone, and, like the Nightingale, invading the 
hours of repose. In the late twilight of a summer's evening, 
when scarce another note is heard but the hum of the drowsy 
beetle, his music attains its full effect, and often rises and falls 
with all the swell and studied cadence of finished harmony. 



196 SINGING BIRDS. 

During the heat of the day, or late in the morning, the variety 
of his song decHnes, or he pursues his employment in silence 
and retirement. 

About the 25 th of May one of these familiar birds came into 
the Botanic Garden and took up his summer abode with us. 
Soon after his arrival he called up in low whisperings the notes 
of the Whip-poor-will, the Redbird, the peto peto of the Tufted 
Titmouse, and other imitations of Southern birds which he had 
collected on his leisurely route from the South. He also soon 
mocked the Ushe-ydh 'tshe-ydh of the little Acadian Flycatch- 
ers, with which the neighborhood now abounded. He fre- 
quently answered to my whistle in the garden, was very silent 
during the period of incubation, and expressed great anxiety 
and complaint on my approaching the young after their leaving 
the nest. 

One of the most remarkable propensities of the Catbird, and 
to which it owes its name, is the unpleasant, loud, and grating 
cat-like mew i^pay, ^pdy, ^pdy) which it often utters on being 
approached or offended. As the irritation increases, this note 
becomes more hoarse, reiterated, and vehement ; and some- 
times this petulance and anger are carried so far as to per- 
secute every intruder who approaches the premises. This 
temper often prevails after the young are fledged ; and though 
originating no doubt in parental anxiety, it sometimes appears 
to outlive that season, and occasionally becomes such an an- 
noyance that a revengeful and fatal blow from a stick or stone 
is but too often, with the thoughtless and prejudiced, the re- 
ward of this harmless and capricious provocation. At such 
times, with Httle apparent cause, the agitation of the bird is 
excessive ; she hurries backward and forward with hanging 
wings and open mouth, mewing and screaming in a paroxysm 
of scolding anger, and alighting almost to peck the very hand 
that offers the insult. To touch a twig or branch in any part 
of the garden or wood is often amply sufficient to call down 
the amusing termagant. This harmless excess, and simulation 
of grimalkin's tone, — that wizard animal so much disliked by 
many, — are unfortunate associations in the cry of the C^/bird ; 



CATBIRD. 197 

and thus, coupled with an ill name, this delightful and familiar 
songster, who seeks out the very society of man and reposes 
an unmerited confidence in his protection, is treated with un- 
deserved obloquy and contempt. The flight of the Catbird is 
laborious, and usually continued only from bush to bush ; his 
progress, however, is very wily, and his attitudes and jerks 
amusingly capricious. He appears to have very little fear of 
enemies, often descends to the ground in quest of insects, and 
though almost familiar, is very quick in his retreat from real 
danger. 

The food of the Catbird is similar to that of the preceding 
species, being insects and worms, particularly beetles, and va- 
rious garden fruits ; feeding his young often on cherries and 
various kinds of berries. Sometimes these birds are observed 
to attack snakes when they approach the vicinity of the nest, 
and commonly succeed in driving off the enemy ; when bitten, 
however, by the poisonous kinds, it is probable, as related, 
that they may act in such a manner as to appear laboring 
under the influence of fascination. The Catbird, when raised 
from the nest, is easily domesticated, becomes a very amusing 
inmate, and seems attached to his cage, as to a dwelling or 
place of security. About dawn of day, if at large, he flirts 
about with affected wildness, repeatedly jerks his tail and 
wings with the noise almost of a whip, and stretching forth his 
head, opens his mouth and mews. Sometimes this curious 
cry is so guttural as to be uttered without opening the bill. He 
often also gives a squeal as he flies from one place to another, 
and is very tame, though pugnacious to all other birds which 
approach him for injury. When wanting food, he stirs round 
with great uneasiness, jerks everything about within his reach, 
and utters the feeble cry of the caged Mocking Bird. A very 
amusing individual, which I now describe, began his vocal 
powers by imitating the sweet and low warble of the Song 
Sparrow, as given in the autumn ; and from his love of imita- 
tion on other occasions, I am inclined to believe that he pos- 
sesses no original note of his own, but acquires and modulates 
the songs of other birds. Like the Robin, he is exceedingly 



198 SINGING BIRDS. 

fond of washing, and dashes about in the water till every 
feather appears drenched ; he also, at times, basks in the 
gravel in fine weather. His food, in confinement, is almost 
everything vegetable except unbruised seeds, — as bread, fine 
pastr}% cakes, scalded cornmeal, fruits, particularly those which 
are juicy, and now and then insects and minced flesh. 

The Catbird occurs regularly along the Annapolis valley in 
Nova Scotia, and in New Brunswick between the Maine border 
and the valley of the St. John, but it is rarely seen elsewhere in the 
Maritime Provinces. It is fairly common near the city of Quebec, 
and abundant about Montreal and in Ontario. 



ROBIN. 

Merula migratoria. 

Char. Above, olive gray; head and neck darker, sometimes black} 
wings and tail dusky ; outer tail-feathers broadly tipped with white ; be- 
neath, brownish red; throat white with dark streaks; under tail-coverts 
white ; bill yellow. Length 9 to 10 inches. 

Nest. Usually in a tree, but often on fence-rail or window-ledge of 
house or barn ; a bulky but compact structure of grass, twigs, etc., 
cemented with mud. 

Eggs. 4-5; greenish blue (occasionally speckled) ; 1.15 X 0.80. 

The familiar and welcome Robins are found in summer 
throughout the North American continent from the desolate 
regions of Hudson's Bay, in the 53d degree, to the tableland 
of Mexico. In all this vast space the American Fieldfares rear 
their young, avoiding only the warmer maritime districts, to 
which, however, they flock for support during the inclemency 
of winter. The Robins have no fixed time for migration, nor 
any particular rendezvous ; they retire from the higher lati- 
tudes only as their food begins to fail, and so leisurely and 
desultory are their movements that they make their appear- 
ance in straggling parties even in Tvlassachusetts, feeding on 
winter berries till driven to the South by deep and inundating 
snows. At this season they swarm in the Southern States, 
though they never move in large bodies. The holly, prinos, 



ROBIN. 199 

sumach, smilax, candle-berry myrtle, and the Virgmian juniper 
now afford them an ample repast in the winter, in the absence 
of the more juicy berries of autumn, and the insects and 
worms of the milder season. Even in the vicinity of Boston 
flocks of Robins are seen, in certain seasons, assembling round 
open springs in the depth of winter, having arrived probably 
from the colder interior of the State ; and in those situations they 
are consequently often trapped and killed in great numbers. 

Towards the close of January in South Carolina the Robin 
at intervals still tuned his song ; and about the second week of 
March, in the Middle States, before the snows of winter have 
wholly disappeared, a few desultory notes are already given. 
As soon as the loth of this month they may at times also be 
heard in this part of New England. Early in April, however, 
at the close of the jealous contests, which are waged with ob- 
stinacy, they are only seen in pairs ; and now from the orchard 
or the edge of the forest, deliver their simple, thrilling lays in 
all the artless energy of true affection. This earnest song re- 
calls to mind the mellow whistle of the Thrush, which in the 
charming month of May so sweetly rises in warbling echoes 
from the low copse and shady glen. Our American bird has 
not, however, the compass and variety of that familiar and 
much-loved songster; but his freedom and willingness to 
please, render him an universal favorite, and he now comes, 
as it were, with the welcome prelude to the general concert 
about to burst upon us from all the green woods and blooming 
orchards. With this pleasing association with the opening 
season, amidst the fragrance of flowers and the improving ver- 
dure of the fields, we listen with peculiar pleasure to the sim- 
ple song of the Robin. The confidence he reposes in us by 
making his abode in our gardens and orchards, the frankness 
and innocence of his manners, besides his vocal powers to 
please, inspire respect and attachment even in the truant 
school-boy, and his exposed nest is but rarely molested. He 
owes, however, this immunity in no small degree to the fortu- 
nate name which he bears ; as the favorite Robin Redbreast, 
said to have covered with a leafy shroud the lost and wander- 



200 SINGING BIRDS. 

ing " babes in the woods," is held in universal respect in every 
part of Europe, where he is known by endearing names, and so 
familiar in winter that he sometimes taps at the window or 
enters the house in search of crumbs, and like the domestic 
fowls, claims his welcome pittance at the farmer's door. 

The nest of this species is often on the horizontal branch of 
an apple-tree, or in a bush or tree in the woods, and so large 
as to be scarcely ever wholly concealed. The parents show 
great affection, courage, and anxiety for the safety of their 
young, keeping up a noisy cackling chirp when the place is 
approached, sometimes even boldly pecking at the hand or 
flying in the face of the intruder ; and they have often serious 
contests with the piratical Cuckoo, who slyly watches the ab- 
sence of the parents to devour their eggs. To avoid these 
visits and the attacks of other enemies, the Robin has been 
known to build his nest within a few yards of the blacksmith's 
anvil ; and in Portsmouth (New Hampshire) one was seen to 
employ for the same purpose the stern timbers of an unfin- 
ished vessel, in which the carpenters were constantly at work, 
the bird appearing by this adventurous association as if con- 
scious of the protection of so singular and bold a situation. I 
have also seen a nest of the Robin bottomed with a mass of 
pine shavings taken without alarm from the bench of the car- 
penter. From the petulant and reiterated chirp so commonly 
uttered by the Robin when surprised or irritated, the Indians 
of Hudson's Bay call him, from this note, Pee-pee-tshu. They 
often also utter a loud echoing 'kh 'kh 'kh, and sometimes 
chirp in a high or slender tone when alarmed, and with an 
affectation of anger sharply flirt the tail and ends of the wings. 
They raise several broods in a season, and considerable num- 
bers flock together in the latter end of summer and autumn. 
When feeding on cherries, poke, sassafras, and sour-gum ber- 
ries, they are so intent as to be easily approached and shot 
down in numbers ; and when fat are justly esteemed for food 
and often brought to market. In the spring they frequently 
descend to the ground in quest of worms and insects, which 
then constitute their principal support. 



ROBIN. 201 

They are commonly brought up in the cage, and seem very 
docile and content. They sing well, readily learn to imitate 
lively parts of tunes, and some have been taught to pipe forth 
psalms even to so dull and solemn a measure as that of " Old 
Hiind7'ed'' ! They acquire also a considerable taste for mim- 
ickry, imitating the notes of most of the birds around them, 
such as the Bluebird, Pewee, Whip-poor-will, and others. On 
being approached with the finger, they usually make some 
show of anger by cracking and snapping the bill. At times* 
they become ver)' tame, and will go in and out of the house 
with domestic confidence, feel uneasy when left alone, and on 
such occasions have sometimes the sagacity of calling attention 
by articulating endearing words, d.'i pretty, pretty, etc., connec- 
ting, apparently with these expressions, their general import of 
attentive blandishment. They become almost naked in the 
moulting season, in which they appear to suffer considerably, 
yet have been known to survive for 1 7 years or upwards. The 
rufous color of the breast becomes deeper in those birds which 
thus live in confinement. Their principal song is in the morn- 
ing, and commences before sunrise, at which time it is very 
loud, full, and emphatic. 

The eastern form of this species is not found westward of the 
Great Plains excepting in the far North, where it has been traced 
to the Yukon district of Alaska. From the eastern base of the 
Rockies to the Pacific it is replaced hy propingtia, a larger, grayer 
variety. 

I have seen large flocks of Robins in New Brunswick during 
some winters, and every year they are more or less common during 
the cold months. These winter birds have much more white on 
their under parts than is seen on specimens taken in the summer, 
and their entire plumage is hoary. They doubtless spend the sum- 
mer much farther north, — probably on the barren lands which 
border the Arctic Ocean, — and are but the northernmost edge of 
that cloud of Robins which every autumn rises from their breeding- 
grounds and sails away southward until, when it has finally settled, 
its eastern margin is found stretched from the Gulf of St. Lawrence 
to the West Indies. Throughout this range, embracing as it does 
many variations of climate, Robins may be found in suitable local- 
ities during every winter, — rather rare, sometimes, at the north, 
but increasing in abundance towards the South. 



202 SINGING BIRDS. 

The habit of this species of assembling in large communities to 
roost at night, during the summer months, was unknown to natur- 
alists until a few years ago, and no mention of this habit appeared 
in print until October, 1890, when detailed accounts of several 
" roosts " that had been discovered in the vicinity of Boston were 
published in the '• Atlantic iMonthly " and " The Auk." They were 
written by Mr. Bradford Torrey and Mr. William Brewster re- 
spectively. The " roosts " are situated in Norton's Woods, on 
Beaver Brook, Belmont, in Longwood, and in Melrose. 

The Robins assembling in these places are numbered by 
thousands. 

Note. — A few examples of the Varied Thrush {Hespero- 
cichla ncEvia) have wandered from the Pacific coast to the Eastern 
States; and the Red- winged Thrush {Turdus iliacus) occasion- 
ally wanders from Europe to Greenland. 



WOOD THRUSH. 

Turdus mustelinus. 

Char. Above, tawny, brightest on head, shading to olive on rump 
and tail ; beneath, white ; breast and sides marked with round spots of 
dusky. Length 7^^ to 8^ inches. 

Nest. In a thicket or on low branch of small tree, usually in a moist 
place ; of grass and leaves cemented with mud, lined with fine roots. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; pale greenish blue ; 1.05 X 0.75. 

This solitary and retiring songster during summer inhabits 
the whole continent from Hudson's Bay to Florida ; and ac- 
cording to my friend Mr. Ware, breeds as far south as the 
vicinity of Natchez, in the territory of Mississippi. Whether 
it leaves the boundaries of the United States in the winter is 
not satisfactorily ascertained ; as the species is then silent, and 
always difficult of access, its residence is rendered peculiarly 
doubtful. The lateness of the season in which it still lingers 
renders it probable that it may winter in the Southern States, 
as a young bird, gleaning insects and berries, has been caught 
in a garden in Boston on the 26th of October. 

From the southern parts of the Union, or wherever he may 
winter, the Wood Thrush arrives in the Middle States from the 



PI.IV. 










1. Redstart. 
2 . Blue Jay. 



5. Duck Hawk, 



3 . AVood Tlirush. 



4.^^ater Thrush. 



WOOD THRUSH. 203 

I St to the 15 th of April; though his appearance here, where 
the species is scarce, does not take place earUer than the be- 
ginning of May. At the dawn of morning he now announces 
his presence in the woods, and from the top of some tall tree, 
rising through the dark and shady forest, he pours out his few, 
clear, and harmonious notes in a pleasing revery, as if inspired 
by the enthusiasm of renovated Nature. The prelude to this 
song resembles almost the double tonguing of the flute, blended 
with a tinkling, shrill, and solemn warble which re-echoes from 
his solitary retreat like the dirge of some sad recluse who 
shuns the busy haunts of life. The whole air consists usually 
of 4 parts or bars, which succeed, in deliberate time, and 
finally blend together in impressive and soothing harmony, 
becoming more mellow and sweet at every repetition. Rival 
performers seem to challenge each other from various parts of 
the wood, vying for the favor of their mates with sympathetic 
responses and softer tones ; and some, waging a jealous strife, 
terminate the warm dispute by an appeal to combat and vio- 
lence. Like the Robin and the Thrasher, in dark and gloomy 
weather, when other birds are sheltered and silent, the clear 
notes of the Wood Thrush are heard through the dropping 
woods from dawn to dusk, so that the sadder the day, the 
sweeter and more constant is his song. His clear and inter- 
rupted whistle is likewise often nearly the only voice of melody 
heard by the traveller, to mid-day, in the heat of summer, as he 
traverses the silent, dark, and wooded wilderness, remote from 
the haunts of men. It is nearly impossible by words to con- 
vey any idea of the peculiar warble of this vocal hermit ; but 
amongst his phrases the sound of 'airoee, peculiarly liquid, and 
followed by a trill repeated in two interrupted bars, is readily 
recognizable. At times the notes bear a considerable resem- 
blance to those of Wilson's Thrush ; such as eh rhehu ^vrhehu, 
then varied to ^eh vilUa villia, 'eh villia v?^hehu, then 'eh velu 
villiu, high and shrill. 

The Wood Thrush is always of a shy and retiring disposi- 
tion, appearing alone or only in single pairs, and while he 
willingly charms us with his song, he is content and even soli- 



204 SINGING BIRDS. 

citous to remain concealed. His favorite haunts are low, shady 
glens by watercourses, often rendered dark with alder-bushes, 
mantled with the traiUng grape-vine. In quest of his insect 
prey, he delights to follow the meanders of the rivulet, through 
whose leafy shades the sunbeams steal only in a few inter- 
rupted rays over the sparkling surface of the running brook. 
So partial is this bird to solitude that I have known one to 
sing almost uniformly in the same place, though nearly half a 
mile from his mate and nest. At times indeed he would ven- 
ture a few faltering, low notes in an oak near his consort, but 
his mellowest morning and evening warble was always deliv- 
ered from a tall hickory, overtopping a grove of hemlock firs, 
in which the dimness of twilight prevailed even at noon. The 
Wood Thrush, like the Nightingale, therefore feels inspired in 
darkness ; but instead of waiting for the setting sun, he chooses 
a retreat where the beams of day can seldom enter. These 
shady retreats have also an additional attraction to our Thrush ; 
it is here that the most interesting scene of his instinctive 
labor begins and ends ; here he first saw the light and breathed 
into existence ; and here he now bestows his nest in a sapling 
oak, or in the next thick laurel or blooming alder, whose ber- 
ries afford him ample repast in the coming autumn. Beetles, 
caterpillars, various insects, and in autumn, berries, constitute 
the principal food of the Wood Thrush. The young remain 
for weeks around gardens in quest of berries, and are particu- 
larly fond of those of the various species of cornel and vibur- 
num. At this season they occasionally leave their favorite 
glens, and in their devious wanderings, previous to their de- 
parture, sometimes venture to visit the rural suburbs of the 
city. The young are easily raised, and sing nearly as well in 
the cage as in their native wilds. 

Nuttall made a mistake in giving to the Wood Thrush so ex- 
tended a range, and must have confused this species with the 
Olive-backed, of which he makes no mention. In New England 
the Wood Thrush is rarely found north of Massachusetts excepting 
in western Vermont. It occurs in the southern parts of Ontario 
and Michigan, and has been taken in Minnesota. It has been 
found in winter in Cuba and Guatemala. 



HERMIT THRUSH. 205 

HERMIT THRUSH. 

SWAMP ROBIN. 
TURDUS AONALASCHK^ PALLASII. 

Char. Above, olive brown or russet, shading to rufous on rump and 
tail ; beneath buffish, shaded with olive on sides ; throat and breast 
marked with olive wedge-shaped spots. Length 6j^ to j}i inches. 

iVest. On the ground, loosely made of leaves, grass, and moss. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; greenish blue ; 0.85 X 0.65. 

This species, so much Uke the Nightingale in color, is scarce 
inferior to that celebrated bird in its powers of song, and 
greatly exceeds the Wood Thrush in the melody and sweetness 
of its lay. It inhabits the United States from the lofty alpine 
mountains of New Hampshire to Florida. It is also met with 
on the tableland of Mexico and in the warmer climate of the 
Antilles. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England, at 
the close of autumn, it appears to migrate eastward to the sea- 
coast in quest of the winter berries on which it now feeds ; in 
spring and summer it lives chiefly on insects and their larvae, 
and also collects the surviving berries of the Mitchella repens. 

Like the preceding species, it appears to court solitude, and 
lives wholly in the woods. In the Southern States, where it 
inhabits the whole year, it frequents the dark and desolate 
shades of the cane swamps. In these almost Stygian regions, 
which, besides being cool, abound probably with its favorite 
insect food, we are nearly sure to meet our sweetly vocal 
hermit flitting through the settled gloom, which the brightest 
rays of noon scarcely illumine with more than twilight. In one 
of such swamps, in the Choctaw nation, Wilson examined a 
nest of this species which was fixed on the horizontal branch 
of a tree, formed with great neatness and without using any 
plastering of mud. The outside was made of a layer of coarse 
grass, having the roots attached, and intermixed with horse- 
hair ; the lining consisted of green filiform blades of dry grass 
very neatly wound about the interior. 

In the Middle States these birds are only seen for a few 



206 SINGING BIRDS. 

weeks in the spring and fall. They arrive in this part of New- 
England about the loth of April, and disperse to pass the 
summer in the seclusion of the forest. They are often seen on 
the ground in quest of their food, and frequent low and thick 
copses, into which they commonly fly for concealment when 
too attentively observed ; though when in small companies, in 
the spring season, they do not appear very shy, but restless 
from the unsettled state of their circumstances. When dis- 
persed, they utter a low, chirping call, and for some time 
continue to frequent the same secluded part of the forest 
in society. At times, like the Wagtail, they keep this part of 
their body in a slow, vertical motion. In manners they strongly 
resemble the following species, but their song seems to be 
unusually lively and varied. 

The Hermit is a common bird in the Maritime Provinces and 
Quebec, and nests from about latitude 44° northward. It is com- 
mon on Anticosti and along the north shore of the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence, and has been taken at Lake Mistassini. In Ontario it 
occurs chiefly as a migrant, though breeding in the Muskoka 
district. In New England also it is principally known as a 
migrant, breeding in numbers only along the northern border and 
on the higher hills of Connecticut and Massachusetts. The nest 
has been taken in Ohio and in southern Michigan. 

The opinions expressed by Nuttall that the Hermit Thrush is a 
peculiarly shy and solitary bird, and that its favorite resorts are 
amid the deep forests, are, I think, somewhat misleading ; at least 
my observations in New Brunswick led me to form quite different 
opinions. I did find these birds courting retirement and appar- 
ently destitute of either vanity or curiosity; but they always dis- 
played a calm self-possession that is inconsistent with shyness. 
Nor were they peculiarly solitary, for though it was unusual to see 
a number of them in close companionship, it was not unusual to 
meet with half a dozen in as many minutes, or to find as many 
nests within a small area. 

Like all woodland birds, they prefer the groves to the open fields, 
and they enjoy a cool shade in a moist valley; but they build 
their nests near the settlements, and rarely go into the denser for- 
ests. This is their habit in New Brunswick, though of course when 
farther north they must resort to the timber districts; there are 
few settlements to attract them. 







WILSON'S THRUSH. 

TAWNY THRUSH. VEERY. 

TURDUS FUSCESCENS. 

Char. Above, light tawny or rufous ; beneath, white, shaded with 
creamy buff on breast, and with olive on sides ; breast spotted with 
tawny. Length 6)4 to y}^ inches. 

A^esf. On the ground or near it, usually at the base of small tree or in 
tuft of old grass ; of leaves and grass, lined with fine roots. 

-^SS^- 3~5 » P^^s greenish blue ; 0.85 X 0.65. 

This common Northern species arrives in Pennsylvania and 
New England about the beginning of May, and its northern 
range extends as far as Labrador. It appears to retire to the 
South early in October, and is more decidedly insectivorous 
than any other native species. According to Wilson, many of 



208 SINGING BIRDS. 

these birds winter in the myrtle-swamps of South Carolina. I 
have not, however, seen them in the Southern States at that 
season, and most part of the species pass on probably as far as 
the coast of the Mexican Gulf. They do not, according to 
Wilson, breed in the lower parts of Pennsylvania, though un- 
doubtedly they do in the mountainous districts, where they are 
seen as late as the 20th of May. They propagate and are very 
common in Massachusetts. 

In its retiring habits and love of concealment this Thrush 
resembles the preceding. It frequents the dark and shady 
borders of small brooks and woods, and sometimes the bushy 
and retired parts of the garden ; from whence, without being 
often seen, in the morning and particularly the evening to the 
very approach of night, we often hear the singular, quaint, and 
musical note of this querulous species at short intervals, as one 
perches upon some low branch of a tree or bush. This curious 
whistling note sounds like ^vehu ^v'rehu 'v'rehu 'v'rehu, and 
sometimes 'ved ved ^vrehd ^vrehd vehu, running up the notes 
till they become shrill and quick at the close, in the first 
phrase, but from high to low, and terminating slender and 
slow, in the latter; another expression seems to be, 've 'ved 
vehurr, ascending like a whistle. The song of another indi- 
vidual was expressed in the following manner : 've ''viUill 'viirill 
'tullull 'tuUuL It was then repeated with variation, 've viirillil 
vilUll villill; then viUUlill vilMill, tulM/l iuirilill ; the whole 
agreeably and singularly delivered in a shrill, hollow voice, 
almost like the sound of liquor passing through a tunnel into a 
bottle. I have also heard several of these sounds, sometimes 
occasionally prefaced by a mewing or chirping warble. These 
sounds, though monotonous, are possessed of greater variety 
than is at first imagined, the terminating tone or key changing 
through several repetitions, so as to constitute a harmony and 
melody in some degree approaching the song of the more 
musical Wood Thrush. From this habit of serenading into 
the night, the species is sometimes here dignified with the 
nickname of the Nightingale. Occasionally he utters an angry, 
rather plaintive mew, like the Catbird, or a quivering bleat 



WILSON'S THRUSH. 209 

almost similar to that of a lamb ; and when approached, watches 
and follows the intruder with an angry or petulant quedh 
queah ; at other times a sort of mewing, melancholy, or com- 
plaining j'V^2£/ ^feow is heard, and then, perhaps, a hasty and 
impatient /^z///^^/ follows. The food of this species, at least 
during the early part of summer, appears to be shelly insects of 
various kinds, particularly Chrysotnelas, or lady-bugs, and those 
many legged hard worms of the genus lulus. 

A good while after the commencement of the period of in- 
cubation I have observed the males engaged in obstinate quar- 
rels. On the 4th of June, 1830, I observed two of these 
petulant Thrushes thus fiercely and jealously contending ; one 
of them used a plaintive and angry tone as he chased his 
antagonist up and down the tree. At length, however, a cousin 
Catbird, to which this species has some affinity, stepped in be- 
twixt the combatants, and they soon parted. One of these 
birds had a nest and mate in the gooseberry bush of a neigh- 
boring garden ; the second bird was thus a dissatisfied hermit, 
and spent many weeks in the Botanic Garden, where, though 
at times sad and solitary, yet he constantly amused us with his 
forlorn song, and seemed at last, as it were, acquainted with 
those who whistled for him, peeping out of the bushes with a 
sort of complaisant curiosity, and from his almost nocturnal 
habits became a great persecutor of the assassin Owl whenever 
he dared to make his appearance. 

The nest of Wilson's Thrush (commenced about the close of 
the first week in May) is usually in a low and thorny bush in 
the darkest part of the forest, at no great distance from the 
ground (i to 3 feet), sometimes indeed on the earth, but 
raised by a bed of leaves, and greatly resembles that of the 
Catbird. This species seems, indeed, for security artfully to 
depend on the resemblance of itself and its leafy nest with the 
bosom of the forest on which it rests, and when approached it 
sits so close as nearly to admit of being taken up by the hand. 
The nest sometimes appears without any shelter but shade and 
association of colors with the place on which it rests. I have 
seen one placed on a mass of prostrated dead brambles, on a 
VOL. I. — 14 



2IO SINGING BIRDS. 

fallen heap of lilac twigs in a ravine, and also in a small 
withered branch of red oak which had fallen into a bush ; be- 
low it was also bedded with exactly similar leaves, so as easily 
to deceive the eye. But with all these precautions they appear 
to lose many eggs and young by squirrels and other animals. 
The nest is usually bottomed with dry oak or beech leaves, 
coarse stalks of grass and weeds, and lined very generally with 
naturally dissected foliage, its stalks, some fine grass, and at 
other times a mixture of root-fibres ; but no earth is employed 
in the fabric. The eggs, 4 or 5, are of an emerald green with- 
out spots, and differ from those of the Catbird only in being a 
little smaller and more inclined to blue. So shy is the species 
that though I feigned a violent chirping near the nest contain- 
ing their young, which brought Sparrows and a neighboring 
Baltimore to the rescue, the parents, peeping at a distance, did 
not venture to approach or even express any marked concern, 
though they prove very watchful guardians when their brood 
are fledged and with them in the woods. They have com- 
monly two broods in the season; the second being raised 
about the middle of July, after which their musical notes are 
but seldom heard. I afterwards by an accident obtained a 
young fledged bird, which retained in the cage the unsocial 
and silent timidity peculiar to the species. 

Wilson's Thrush breeds farther to the southward than the Her- 
mit, but does not range quite so far north. It is common in the 
Maritime Provinces and near the city of Quebec, but has not been 
taken recently on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 
Though it is abundant in Manitoba, and Chapman reports its 
occurrence in Newfoundland, it breeds abundantly in Ontario and 
in northern Ohio. 

In New Brunswick I have found the nest as frequently in an 
open pasture as in more obscure places. 



Note. — The Willow Thrush {T. fuscesceits salicicold), a 
Rocky Mountain form, occurs occasionally in Illinois and casually 
in South Carolina. 



GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH. 211 

OLIVE-BACKED THRUSH. 

TURDUS USTULATUS SWAINSONH. 

Char. Above, olive ; beneath, white, shaded with olive on the sides ; 
sides of head, neck, and breast tinged with buff; throat and breast 
spotted with olive ; yellowish ring around the eye. Length 6>^ to 7^ 
inches. 

Nest. In a low tree or bush ; of twigs, leaves, grass, etc. 

Eggs. 3-4; greenish blue speckled with brown; 0.90 X 0.65. 

This species w^as omitted by Nuttall, though given by Wilson. It 
has much the same range and similar habits as the Hermit, though 
differing in its song and the location of its nest. The tone of its 
voice is richer and rounder — more flute-like and less metallic — 
than that of any other of the small Thrushes ; but the song lacks 
that spiritual quality so conspicuous in the hymn-like melody of 
the Hermit. 

The Olive-backed is found throughout the temperate region of 
eastern North America, and westward to the eastern base of the 
Rockies. It breeds in northern New England and northward, and 
in the elevated portions of Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well 
as in northern New York and Michigan, and winters in the Gulf 
States and southward to Panama. 

It is common in the Maritime Provinces, but is reported rather 
rare between Montreal and Lake Huron, though it being an abun- 
dant migrant through Ohio, I should expect to find it plentiful in 
portions of Ontario. 



GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH. 

ALICE'S THRUSH. 
TURDUS ALICLE. 

Char. Above, olive ; cheeks grayish, a whitish ring round the eyes ; 
beneath, white ; sides tinged with olive ; throat and breast tinged with 
buff and marked with large dark spots. Length 7 to 7^ inches. 

Nest. In a low bush or on the ground ; of grass and leaves, etc., lined 
with fine grass. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; greenish blue spotted with brown ; 0.90 X 0.70. 

After much contention as to the validity of Alice's Thrush as a 
variety of the Olive-backed, the systematists have decided to give it 



212 SINGING BIRDS. 

specific rank. In appearance it differs from swainsoiiii chiefly in 
lacking the yellow around the eye, and in having gray instead of 
buff cheeks. Alicice is also a trifle the larger of the two. 

The distribution of the present species has not yet been thor- 
oughly worked out, for only a few years have passed since its 
discovery ; but it is known to occur in the United States and the 
settled portions of Canada as a migrant only, breeding north to 
the Arctic, and wintering south to Costa Rica. 



BICKNELL'S THRUSH. 

TURDUS ALICLE BICKNELLI. 

Char. Above, olive, varying from a grayish to a russet tint; wings 
and tail slightly browner than back ; distinct ring of pale buff around the 
eyes ; cheeks huffish ; beneath, white, tinged with olive on the sides ; 
throat and breast tinged with buff and marked with large dark spots. 
Length 7 to 7% inches. 

Nest. On the ground, in a thicket ; composed of twigs, grass, and moss, 
lined with grass. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; pale blueish green speckled with brown ; 0.S5 X 0.65. 

This variety of the Gray-cheeked Thrush was discovered by 
Mr. Eugene P. Bicknell amid the Catskill Mountains in 1885. It 
has been found on all the higher ranges of Eastern America and 
in Illinois, and Mr. Langille claims to have discovered the nest 
on an island off the southern coast of Nova Scotia. 



WATER THRUSH. 

WATER WAGTAIL. 
Seiurus N0VEB0R.\CENSIS. 

Char. Above, deep olive brown ; line over the eye whitish; beneath, 
white tinged with bright yellow, and spotted with olive. Length ^Yz to 
6 inches. 

Nest. On the ground, in border of swamp or stream ; bulky, and 
loosely made of moss, leaves, and grass, lined with roots. Sometimes 
deeply imbedded in moss, or covered with it. 

Eggs. 4-6; white, spotted, most heavily near the larger end, with 
brown and lilac; 0.75 X 0.55. 



WATER-THRUSH . 2 1 3 

This shy and retiring sylvan species extends its summer 
migrations throughout the United States, breeding rarely in 
Pennsylvania, proceeding principally to the western and 
northern regions at the period of incubation. Mr. Townsend 
and myself observed this bird in Oregon, as well as in Missouri, 
where it was, no doubt, breeding, and sung in a very lively 
manner, keeping in a shady wood which bordered a small 
stream, often descending to the ground after aquatic insects or 
larvae, and with the tail in a constant balancing motion, re- 
minding us strongly of the Wagtail or Motacilla of Europe. 

The Aquatic Thrush has, indeed, a particular partiality for 
the vicinity of waters, wading in the shallow streams in search 
of insects, moving its tail as it leisurely follows its pursuit, and 
chattering as it flies. During its transient migrating visits it is 
very timid, and darts into the thickets as soon as approached, 
uttering a sharp and rather plaintive iship' of alarm. About 
the beginning of May, these birds appear in Pennsylvania from 
the South, and stay around dark and solitary streams for ten 
or twelve days, and then disappear until about the middle of 
August, when, on their way to their tropical winter quarters, 
they leave the swamps and mountains of their summer retreat, 
and, after again gleaning a transient subsistence for a few days 
towards the sea-coast, depart for the season. In Massachu- 
setts they are .scarcely ever seen except in the autumn, and 
continue in shady gardens, probably feeding on small wild 
berries till nearly the close of September. 

It appears, according to Wilson, that the favorite resort of 
this species is in the cane-brakes, swamps, river shores, and 
watery solitudes of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. 
Here it is abundant, and is eminently distinguished by the 
loudness, sweetness, and expressive vivacity of its notes, which, 
beginning high and clear, flow and descend in a cadence so 
delicate as to terminate in sounds that are scarcely audible. 
At such times the singer sits perched on some branch which 
stretches impending over the flowing stream, and pours out his 
charming melody with such effect as to be heard at the dis- 
tance of nearly half a mile, giving a peculiar charm to the dark 



214 SINGING BIRDS. 

and solitary wilds he inhabits. The silence of night is also, at 
times, relieved by the incessant warble of this Western Philo- 
mel, whose voice, breaking upon the ear of the lonely traveller 
in the wilderness, seems like the dulcet lay of something super- 
natural. His song is also heard in the winter when the 
weather proves mild. In this habit he appears considerably 
aUied to the Reed Thrush or River Nightingale of Europe, 
which night and day almost ceaselessly sings, and soothes his 
sitting mate, among the reeds and marshes of his favorite 
resorts. 

Since Nuttall's day the Water Thrush has been separated from 
the true Thrushes and classed with the Warblers. The birds seen 
by Wilson and Audubon in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi 
were doubtless referable to motacilla, for though the present spe- 
cies is found throughout this Eastern Province, west to Illinois and 
Manitoba, it seldom has been discovered breeding south of 45°. It 
is a rather common spring and autumn visitor to Massachusetts, 
and may breed in small numbers on the Berkshire hills. 

On the plains the type is replaced by the variety named notabilts, 
— Grixnell's Water-Thrush, — which is larger and darker. 
Notabilis occurs occasionally in Illinois and Indiana. 



LOUISIANA WATER THRUSH. 

Seiurus motacilla. 

Char. Similar to noveboracensis, but larger, and bill longer and stouter. 
Under parts tinged with buff, but never with bright yellow ; throat free 
from spots. Length 5^/ to 6%, inches. 

Nest. On the ground, hidden amid roots of fallen tree, or on a mossy 
bank ; composed of leaves, grass, and moss, lined with grass and hair. 

Eggs. 4-6; white, sometimes with creamy tint, speckled with brown 
and lilac; 0.75 X0.60. 

The range of this species extends from southern New England, 
the Great Lakes, and Minnesota (in summer) to the Gulf States 
and Central America (in winter). A few pairs are seen every sea- 
son in southern Ontario. Its habits do not differ from those of its 
congener. 




OVEN-BIRD. 

GOLDEN-CROWNED THRUSH. 
Seiurus AUROCAPILLUS. 

Char. Above, olive ; crown orange-brown, bordered with black stripes, 
white ring around the eyes ; beneath, white, spotted with olive. Length 
S/4 to 6}4 inches. 

JVesf. On the ground, at the foot of a tree or in the moss on a decayed 
log ; rather loosely made of twigs, grass, leaves, and moss, lined with fine 
grass and hair. The top is often completely roofed, sometimes arched or 
domed ; the entrance on the side. 

£^gs. 4-6 ; creamy white, spotted with brown and lilac ; 0.80 X 0.55. 

This rather common bird, so nearly alHed to the true 
Thrushes, is found throughout the forests of the United States, 
Canada, and in the territory of Oregon during the summer, 
arriving in the Middle and Northern States about the beginning 
of May or close of April, and departing for tropical America, 
Mexico, and the larger West India islands early in September. 

The Golden-crowned Thrush, shy and retiring, is never seen 
out of the shade of the woods, and sits and runs along the 
ground often like the Lark ; it also frequents the branches of 
trees, and sometimes moves its tail in the manner of the Wag- 
tails. It has few pretensions to song, and while perched in 
the deep and shady part of the forest, it utters, at interv^als, a 
simple, long, reiterated note of '/s/i'e tshe tshe tshe tshe, rising 
from low to high and shrill, so as to give but little idea of the 
distance or place from whence the sound proceeds, and often 
appearing, from the loudness of the closing cadence, to be much 



2 1 6' SINGING BIRDS. 

nearer than it really is. As soon as discovered, like the Wood 
Thrush, it darts at once timidly into the depths of its sylvan 
retreat. During the period of incubation, the deliberate lay 
of the male, from some horizontal branch of the forest tree, 
where it often sits usually still, is a 'tshe te tshe te tshe te tshee, 
gradually rising and growing louder. Towards dusk in the 
evening, however, it now and then utters a sudden burst of 
notes with a short, agreeable warble, which terminates com- 
monly in the usual Ushe te tshe. Its curious oven-shaped nest 
is known to all the sportsmen who traverse the solitary wilds 
which it inhabits. This ingenious fabric is sunk a little into the 
ground, and generally situated on some dry and mossy bank 
contiguous to bushes, or on an uncleared surface ; it is formed, 
with great neatness, of dry blades of grass, and lined with the 
same ; it is then surmounted by a thick inclined roof of simi-' 
lar materials, the surface scattered with leaves and twigs so as 
to match the rest of the ground, and an entrance is left at the 
side. Near Milton hills, in this vicinity, the situation chosen 
was among low whortleberry bushes, in a stunted cedar and 
oak grove. When surprised, the bird escapes, or runs from the 
nest with the silence and celerity of a mouse. If an attempt 
be made to discover the nest from which she is flushed, she 
stops, flutters, and pretends lameness, and watching the success 
of the manoeuvre, at length, when the decoy seems complete, 
she takes to wing and disappears. The Oven Bird is another 
of the foster-parents sometimes chosen by the Cow Troopial ; 
and she rears the foundling with her accustomed care and 
affection, and keeps up an incessant tship when her unfledged 
brood are even distantly approached. These birds have often 
two broods in a season in the Middle States. Their food is 
wholly insects and their larvae, particularly small coleopterous 
kinds and ants, chiefly collected on the ground. 

The Oven-bird, like the Water-Thrush, has been removed by 
modern authorities from classification with the Thrush family and 
placed with the Warblers. It is now known to breed from Virginia 
and Kansas to Labrador and Manitoba. It is abundant in Massa- 
chusetts and the Maritime Provinces, and common over its entire 
range. It winters in Florida and as far south as Central America. 



MYRTLE WARBLER. 217 



MYRTLE WARBLER. 

YELLOW-RUMP WARBLER. YELLOW-CROWNED WARBLER. 
Dendroica CORONATA. 

Char. Male : above, bluish gray streaked with black ; sides of head 
black ; breast and sides mostly black ; patches of yellow on crown and 
rump and sides of breast ; throat and belly white ; wing-bars and patches 
on tail white. Female, young, and male in winter : similar, but the back 
with a tint of brown in place of blue, and all colors duller, and markings 
less distinct. Length 5 to 6 inches. 

Nest. In a coniferous tree 5 to 10 feet from the ground, in a pasture or 
open grove of woodland ; composed of twigs and grass, lined with fine 
grass, sometimes with feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; dull white or creamy white, spotted chiefly around the 
larger end with brown and lilac ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

The history of this rather common Warbler remains very 
imperfect. In the Middle and Northern States it is a bird of 
passage, arriving from the South about the close of April or 
beginning of May, and proceeding north as far as Canada and 
Labrador to pass the summer season in the cares of breeding 
and rearing the young. As early as the 30th of August, or after 
an absence of little more than three months, these birds again 
appear ; and being hardy, passing parties continue with us in 
gardens and woods till about the close of November, feeding 
now almost exclusively on the myrtle-wax berries {Myrica ceri- 
fera) , or on those of the Virginian juniper. These, other late 
and persisting berries, and occasional insects, constitute their 
winter food in the Southern States, where, in considerable num- 
bers, in the swamps and sheltered groves of the sea-coast, they 
pass the cold season. In fine weather, in the early part of Oc- 
tober, they may be seen, at times, collecting grasshoppers and 
moths from the meadows and pastures, and, like the Blue Bird, 
they often watch for the appearance of their prey from a neigh- 
boring stake, low bough, or fence-rail ; and at this time are so 
familiar and unsuspicious, particularly the young, as fearlessly 
to approach almost within the reach of the silent spectator. At 



21 8 SINGING BIRDS. 

the period of migration, they appear in an altered and less 
brilliant dress. The bright yellow spot on the crown is now 
edged with brownish olive, so that the prevailing color of this 
beautiful mark is only seen on shedding the feathers with the 
hand ; a brownish tint is also added to the whole plumage. But 
Wilson's figure of this supposed autumnal change only repre- 
sents the young bird. The old is, in fact, but little less brilliant 
than in summer, and I have a well-founded suspicion that the 
wearing of the edges of the feathers, or some other secondary 
cause, alone produces this change in the livery of spring, par- 
ticularly as it is not any sexual distinction. 

While feeding they are very active, in the manner of Fly- 
catchers, hovering among the cedars and myrtles with hanging 
wings, and only rest when satisfied with gleaning food. In 
spring they are still more timid, busy, and restless. According 
to Audubon, the nest and eggs are scarcely to be distinguished 
from those of Sylvia cestiva ; one which he examined from 
Nova Scotia was made in the extremity of the branch of a low 
fir-tree, about five feet from the ground. When approached, 
or while feeding, they only utter a feeble, plaintive tship of 
alarm. This beautiful species arrives here about the 7th or 
8th of May, and now chiefly frequents the orchards, uttering 
at short intervals, in the morning, a sweet and varied, rather 
plaintive warble, resembling in part the song of the Summer 
Yellow Bird, but much more the farewell, solitary autumnal 
notes of the Robin Redbreast of Europe. The tones at times 
are also so ventriloquial and variable in elevation that it is not 
always easy to ascertain the spot whence they proceed. While 
thus engaged in quest of small caterpillars, the Myrtle seems 
.almost insensible to obtrusion, and familiarly searches for its 
prey, however near we may approach. 

The " Yellow-rump " — by which name this species is best known 
— breeds regularly from northern New England northward and 
west to Manitoba; also on the Berkshire hills in Massachusetts. 
It is an abundant summer resident of the Maritime Provinces, but 
elsewhere, in the settled portions of Canada, occurs as a migrant 
only. It winters regularly in Massachusetts and central Ohio, and 
thence southward as far as Central America. 



YELLOW PALM WARBLER. 219 

YELLOW PALM WARBLER. 

YELLOW RED-POLL WARBLER. 
Dendroica PALMARUM HYPOCHRYSEA. 

Char. Above, brownish olive ; rump yellowish, dusky streaks on the 
back; crown chestnut; line over eye and under parts rich yellow; breast 
and sides streaked with brown ; no white wing bars ; square patches of 
white on outer tail-feathers. Adult in winter and young; similar but 
colors duller, and markings less distinct; underparts grayish yellow. 
Length 5 to 5^ inches. 

Nest. On the ground on border of swamp; loosely made of grass, 
weeds, and moss fastened with caterpillar's silk, lined with roots, hair, 
pine-needles, or feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; creamy white, sometimes with roseate tinge, marked on 
larger end with fine spots of brown and lilac ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

The Yellow Red- polls in small numbers arrive in the Middle 
and Northern States in the month of April ; many proceed as 
far as Labrador, where they were seen in summer by Audubon, 
and in the month of August the young were generally fledged. 
In the Southern States they are abundant in winter. While 
here, like many other transient passengers of the family, they 
appear extremely busy in quest of their restless insect prey. 
They frequent low, swampy thickets, are rare, and their few 
feeble notes are said scarcely to deserve the name of a song. 
These stragglers remain all summer in Pennsylvania, but the 
nest is unknown. They depart in September or early in Octo- 
ber, and some probably winter in the southernmost States, as 
they were met with in February, by Wilson, near Savannah. 
This is a different species from the Palm Warbler, which prob- 
ably does not exist in the United States. 

This bird appears yet to be very httle known. Pennant has 
most strangely blended up its description with that of the 
Ruby-crowned W' ren ! his supposed female being precisely 
that bird. 

The Eastern form of the Palm Warbler is a common bird from 
the Atlantic to the Mississippi valley, where it is replaced by true 
palmayum, and is abundant in summer in northern Maine and 
New Brunswick. 



220 SINGING BIRDS. 

Mr. Neilson thinks it uncommon near Dornald, Quebec, and 
says he never sees a specimen later than June ist. Dr. Wheaton 
has reported it as a common migrant through Ohio, but it is re- 
ported rare in Ontario. Nuttall's statement, borrowed from Wilson, 
that some remained in Pennsylvania during the breeding season, 
has not been confirmed by more recent observations. 

In habits this species stands peculiar. Unlike other Dendroicce^ 
it nests on the ground, and unlike most other Warblers, shows a 
strong preference for fields and road-sides, where it may be found 
hopping along with the Sparrows, and flirting its tail like a Titlark. 

The song is a very simple affair, — a few sweet notes. 



Note. — The Palm Warbler {Dendrotca pabnaruni) differs 
from hypochrysea in being smaller and much duller colored. It 
breeds in Manitoba and northward, and winters in the Southern 
States. A few examples have been seen in the Eastern States. 

Audubon's Warbler {Dendrotca auduboni\ though a bird of 
the Western Plains, has a right to mention here through examples 
having been taken in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. 



YELLOW WARBLER. 

summer yellow bird. summer warbler. 

Dendroica estiva. 

Char. Male : general color golden yellow, upper parts tinged with 
olive ; breast and sides streaked with orange brown. Female : similar, 
but upper parts with deeper tinge of olive, and under parts with less 
streaks. Length 4^ to 5^4^ inches. 

Nest. On a bush or low tree, in a garden or open pasture ; gracefully 
formed and compactly woven, of various vegetable fibres, — grass, stems, 
etc., — usually lined with hair or plant down, sometimes with feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; dull white or greenish white, marked chiefly around the 
larger end with brown and lilac ; 0.65 X 0.45. 

This very common and brilliant summer species is found in 
all parts of the American continent, from the confines of the 
Arctic circle to Florida and Texas, as well as Oregon and the 
Rocky Mountains, where it spends the mild season. About 
the middle of March I already heard the song amidst the 



PI.V 




1. Cerulean Warbler. 

2. Prairie Warbler. 
3 . \eIIow Warbler. 



4. Parula Warbler . 

5 . Blackburnian Warbler. 

6 . Black-Throaied Green \VarbIer. 



YELLOW WARBLER. 221 

early blooming thickets and leafy woods of the Altamaha ; but 
the birds do not arrive in Pennsylvania and this part of New 
England before the i st of May. About the close of August in 
the Northern, and by the middle of September in the Central 
States of the Union, or as soon as their second brood are capa- 
ble of joining the migrating host, they disappear, probably in 
the twilight, and wing their way by easy stages to their trop- 
ical destination, passing through Louisiana in October and 
appearing at length about Vera Cruz, whence they spread their 
numerous host through tropical America to Guiana, Cayenne, 
St. Domingo, and other of the larger contiguous islands of the 
West Indies. 

This is a very lively, unsuspicious, and almost familiar little 
bird, and its bright golden color renders it very conspicuous, 
as in pursuit of flitting insects it pries and darts among the 
blooming shrubs and orchards. It is particularly attached to 
willow-trees and other kinds in moist and shady situations, that 
afford this and other species a variety of small larvae and cater- 
pillars, on which they delight to feed. While incessantly and 
busily employed it occasionally mounts the twig, and with a 
loud, shrill, and almost piercing voice it earnestly utters, at short 
and irregular intervals, — 'tsh' 'tsh' 'tsh' 'tsh' 'tshdia, or fshe tshe 
tsh tshayia tshe tshe ; this last phrase rather plaintive and inter- 
rogatory, as if expecting the recognition of its mate. Some- 
times, but particularly after the commencement of incubation, 
a more extended and pleasingly modulated song is heard, as se 
te te tshltshoo, or tsh* tsK tsh'' tsheetshoo, Ushe Ushe ""tshe ^tshoo 
^peetshee, and Ushe Ushe ^tshe ''tshe Ushdia ''tship o way ; the ter- 
mination tender, plaintive, and solicitous. I have heard this 
note also sometimes varied to ^soit ^soit ^soit ^soit ^ tship a wee. 
The female sometimes sings nearly as well as the male, partic- 
ularly about the time she is engaged in fabricating her nest. 
Although the song of these birds may be heard, less vigorously, 
to the month of August, yet they do not here appear to raise 
more than a single brood. 

The nest, in Massachusetts, is commonly fixed in the forks 
of a barberry bush, close shrub, or sapling, a few feet from the 



222 SINGING BIRDS. 

ground ; at oeher times, I have known the nest placed upon the 
horizontal branch of a hornbeam, more than 15 feet from 
the ground, or even 50 feet high in the forks of a thick sugar- 
maple or orchard tree. These lofty situations are, however, 
extraordinary; and the little architects, in instances of this 
kind, sometimes fail of giving the usual security to their habita- 
tion. The nest is extremely neat and durable ; the exterior is 
formed of layers of Asclepias, or silk-weed lint, glutinously 
though slightly attached to the supporting twigs, mixed with 
some slender strips of fine bark and pine leaves, and thickly 
bedded with the down of willows, the nankeen-wool of the Vir- 
ginian cotton-grass, the down of fern-stalks, the hair from the 
downy seeds of the buttonwood {FIata7i7is) , or the pappus of 
compound flowers ; and then lined either with fine-bent grass 
(Agrosfts), or down, and horse-hair, and rarely with a few acci- 
dental feathers. Circumstances sometimes require a variation 
from the usual habits of the species. In a garden in Roxbury, 
in the vicinity of Boston, I saw a nest built in a currant-bush, 
in a small garden very near to the house ; and as the branch 
did not present the proper site of security, a large floor of dry 
grass and weeds was first made betwixt it and a contiguous 
board fence ; in the midst of this mass of extraneous materials, 
the small nest was excavated, then lined with a considerable 
quantity of white horse-hair, and finished with an interior bed 
of soft cow-hair. The season proving wet and stormy, the 
nest in this novel situation fell over, but was carried, with the 
young to a safe situation near the piazza of the house, where 
the parents now fed and reared their brood. The labor of 
forming the nest seems often wholly to devolve on the female. 
On the loth of May I observed one of these industrious matrons 
busily engaged with her fabric in a low barberry bush, and by 
the evening of the second day the whole was completed, to the 
lining, which was made, at length, of hair and willow down, of 
which she collected and carried mouthfuls so large that she 
often appeared almost like a mass of flying cotton, and far ex- 
ceeded in industry her active neighbor, the Baltimore, who 
was also engaged in collecting the same materials. Notwith- 



YELLOW WARBLER. 223 

Standing this industry, the completion of the nest, with this and 
other small birds, is sometimes strangely protracted or not im- 
mediately required. Yet occasionally I have found the eggs 
of this species improvidently laid on the ground. It is amus- 
ing to observe the sagacity of this little bird in disposing of the 
eggs of the vagrant and parasitic Cow Troopial. The egg, de- 
posited before the laying of the rightful tenant, too large for 
ejectment, is ingeniously incarcerated in the bottom of the 
nest, and a new lining placed above it, so that it is never 
hatched to prove the dragon of the brood. Two instances of 
this kind occurred to the observation of my friend Mr. Charles 
Pickering; and in 1833 I obtained a nest with the adventi- 
tious egg about two thirds buried, the upper edge only being 
visible, so that in many instances it is probable that this spe- 
cies escapes from the unpleasant imposition of becoming a 
nurse to the sable orphan of the Cow Bird. She however 
acts faithfully the part of a foster- parent when the egg is laid 
after her own. 

I have heard of two instances in which three of the Yellow 
Bird's own eggs were covered along with that of the Cow 
Blackbird. In a third, after a Blackbird's egg had been thus 
concealed, a second was laid, which was similarly treated, thus 
finally giving rise to a three-storied nest. 

The Summer Yellow Bird, to attract attention from its nest, 
when sitting, or when the nest contains young, sometimes 
feigns lameness, hanging its tail and head, and fluttering feebly 
along, in the path of the spectator ; at other times, when cer- 
tain that the intrusion had proved harmless, the bird would 
only go off" a few feet, utter a feeble complaint, or remain 
wholly silent, and almost instantly resume her seat. The male, 
as in many other species of the genus, precedes a little the arri- 
val of his mate. Towards the latter end of summer the young 
and old feed much on juicy fruits, as mulberries, cornel berries, 
and other kinds. 



224 SINGING BIRDS. 

MAGNOLIA WARBLER. 

BLACK AND YELLOW WARBLER. 
DeNDROICA MACULOSA. 

Char. Male : upper parts-black, the feathers edged with olive ; rump 
yellow; crown ash, bordered by black and white; beneath, rich yellow, 
thickly spotted on breast and sides with black; white patch on wings 
and on all but middle tail feathers. Female : similar, but colors duller, 
and back sometimes entirely olive. Length 534^ inches. 

Nest. On a horizontal branch of spruce or fir, usually 3 to 6 feet from 
the ground, but sometimes higher ; made of twigs and grass, lined with 
fine black roots. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; creamy white, spotted with lilac and several shades of 
brown; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This rare and beautiful species is occasionally seen in very- 
small numbers in the Southern, Middle, and Northern States, in 
the spring season, on its way to its Northern breeding-places. 
In Massachusetts I have seen it in this vicinity about the mid- 
dle of May. Its return to the South is probably made through 
the western interior, — a route so generally travelled by most of 
our birds of passage at this season ; in consequence of which 
they are not met with, or but very rarely, in the Atlantic States 
in autumn. In this season they have been seen at sea off the 
island of Jamaica, and have been met with also in Hispaniola, 
whither they retire to pass the winter. Like all the rest of the 
genus, stimulated by the unquiet propensity to migrate, they 
pass only a few days with us, and appear perpetually employed 
in pursuing or searching out their active insect prey or larvae ; 
and while thus engaged, utter only a few chirping notes. The 
Magnoha has a shrill song, more than usually protracted on the 
approach of wet weather, so that the Indians bestow upon it 
the name of Rain Bird. According to Audubon, many of 
these birds breed in Maine and the British Provinces, as well 
as in Labrador, and extend their summer residence to the 
banks of the Saskatchewan. They have also a clear and sweetly 
modulated song. 

Although rare in the United States, it appears, according to 
Richardson, that this elegant species is a common bird on the 



MAGNOLIA WARBLER. 225 

banks of the Saskatchewan, where it is as familiar as the com- 
mon Summer Yellow Bird (6*. cBstiva), which it also resembles 
closely in its manners and in its breeding station, but is gifted 
with a more varied and agreeable song. It frequents the 
thickets of young spruce-trees and willows, flitting from branch 
to branch, at no great distance from the ground, actively en- 
gaged in the capture of winged insects, which now constitute 
its principal fare. 

The Magnolia is not so rare a bird as Nuttall supposed, — indeed, 
it is common everywhere between the Atlantic and the eastern 
base of the Rockies, breeding in northern New England and in 
the northern portions of New York, Ohio, and Michigan, and 
thence to Labrador and Great Slave Lake. It also breeds " south- 
ward along the crests of the AUeghanies to Pennsylvania" 
(Chapman). 

It winters in Central America, Cuba, and the Bahamas. 

In its habits this bird combines the Creeper and the Flycatcher 
in true Warbler fashion, picking insects and larvae from the cran- 
nies of the bark and from the leaves, and capturing on the wing the 
flying mites. The favorite nesting site is the border of a wood 
or an open pasture, though I have found nests in the deep forest, 
usually on the margin of an open glade. 

The song is Warbler-like in its simplicity, yet is an attractive 
melody, the tones sweet and musical. 

Nuttall's idea that the autumn route of migration taken by more 
northern breeding birds lies somewhere to the westward of New 
England, is not consistent with more recent observation ; for while 
it is true that large numbers follow the valley of the Mississippi, — 
some of them crossing to the Atlantic when south of the AUegha- 
nies, — it has also been ascertained that immense flights of birds 
that breed in the interior go southward along the coast-line. Many 
species that are not seen in New England during the spring migra- 
tion are abundant in the autumn. 



VOL. 



226 SINGING BIRDS. 

CAPE MAY WARBLER. 

Dendroica tigrina. 

Char. Male : back yellowish olive, with darker spots ; crown blackish; 
ear-patch chestnut ; line from bill around the eyes black ; rump yellow, 
wing-bars white and fused into one large patch ; white blotches on three 
pairs of tail-feathers ; beneath, yellow tinged with orange on chin and 
throat, spotted with black on breast and sides. Female : similar, but 
back grayish, and lacking distinctive marking on head ; under parts paler ; 
spots on wings and tail smaller or obscure. Length about 5 inches. 

N'est. In a pasture or open woodland, on low branch of small tree ; a 
neat, cup-shaped structure, partially pensile, composed of twigs and grass 
fastened with spider's webbing, lined with horse-hair. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; dull white or buffy, slightly specked, and wreathed around 
larger end with spots of brown and lilac ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This very rare Warbler has only been seen near the swamps 
of Cape May by Edward Harris, Esq. ; near Moorestown, in 
New Jersey; and m the vicinity of Philadelphia, about the 
middle of May, — probably as a straggler on its way to some 
Northern breeding-place. Its notes and further history are yet 
unknown. 

Since Nuttall wrote, we have learned a little more of the life his- 
tory of this feathered beauty, though our knowledge of the bird's 
habits is still very limited. So rare is the bird that examples adorn 
but few collections ; yet it has been seen occasionally throughout the 
Eastern States, and is reported by Thompson as " plentiful " along 
the Red River, in Manitoba. It has been traced north to Hudson 
Bay, and south (in winter) to the West Indies. The southern limit 
of its breeding area is probably about the 45th parallel. The nest 
has been found by Mr. H. B. Bailey at Umbagog Lake, in Maine, 
and by Mr. James W. Banks near St. John, N. B. 

Banks's nest, which I had the privilege of examining, was com- 
pletely hidden amid the dense foliage of a clump of cedars, growing 
on an open hill-side, and quite close to a much-used thoroughfare. 
When first discovered it was unfinished, and the female was at 
work upon it. The male never appeared, nor was he heard in the 
vicinity, though the spot was visited frequently. After four eggs 
had been laid, female, nest, and eggs were "gathered." 

The species had not been observed before near St. John, though 
Mr. Boardman had reported taking examples at St. Stephen's, and 
I had seen several at Edmundston, near the Quebec border. 



CANADIAN WARBLER. 22/ 

The Edmundston birds were seen in early June, and those secured 
proved to be males. As they sang with great frequency, they were 
easily discovered, and were invariably found amid the top branches 
of high spruce and fir trees on the crest of a hill. We were anxious 
to obtain a nest, and of course hunted through these high branches, 
little thinking that this coterie of Benedicts were making holiday 
while their industrious but neglected spouses were attending to 
housekeeping affairs down yonder in the valley. We learned the 
song, however, and discovered that its theme resembled somewhat 
the simple lay of the Nashville, though the voice is neither so 
full nor so sweet, recalling rather the thin, wiry tones of the Black 
and White Creeper. 



CANADIAN WARBLER. 

Sylvania canadensis. 

Char. Male : above, bluish ash ; crown marked with black ; line 
from bill around the eyes, yellow ; line from beneath the eyes to sides of 
breast black ; under parts yellow spotted with black, the spots forming a 
line or crescent across the breast ; throat unspotted. Female and young : 
similar but lacking black on head ; crescent on breast less distinct. 
Length 5 to 5^ inches. 

Nest. On the ground, sometimes near border of a stream or by a moist 
meadow, placed on side of mound or among upturned roots of a tree ; com- 
posed of grass and stems, lined with hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; white or creamy, spotted, chiefly around the larger end, 
with brown and lilac ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This is a rare summer species in the Atlantic States, appear- 
ing singly, and for a few days only, on the passage north or 
south in the spring or autumn. These birds breed in Canada 
and Labrador, and are more abundant in mountainous interior, 
— the route by which they principally migrate. They winter 
in the tropical regions, are then silent, and, like the rest of 
their tribe, very active in darting through the branches after 
insects. 

Audubon found this species breeding in the Great Pine 
Forest of the Pokono in Pennsylvania, as well as in Maine, the 
British Provinces, and Labrador. They have a short, unattrac- 
tive note in the spring, and in the mountains w^here they dwell 
they have a predilection for the shady borders of streams where 
laurels otow. 



228 SINGING BIRDS. 

The Canadian Warbler is common during the migrations, from 
the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and though breeding chiefly north of 
43°, some pairs nest in Massachusetts, New York, southern Ontario, 
and Illinois. It has been taken in Labrador and is common in 
Manitoba. It winters in Central America. 



YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. 

DeNDROICA DOMINICA. 

Char. Above, grayish ash; forehead and sides of head, black; line 
from nostril to hind neck, yellow ; patch on side of neck, white ; wing- 
bars white ; outer tail feathers with white patches ; beneath, yellowish 
white; chin and throat rich yellow; sides streaked with black. Length 
4/4 to 5|^ inches. 

A^est. In an open grove or the edge of heavy woods, on top of horizontal 
branch or at the forks of a limb, or " concealed in pendant moss," 20 to 90 
feet from the ground ; made of grass-weed stems, strips of bark, and moss, 
lined with vegetable fibre, horse-hair, or feathers. 

E^^^s. 3-5 ; white, tinged with green, spotted around the larger end 
with brown and lilac; 0.70 X 0.50. 

These elegant and remarkable birds reside in the West 
Indies, and also migrate in considerable numbers into the 
southern parts of the United States, particularly Louisiana and 
Georgia, whence indeed they only absent themselves in the 
two inclement months of December and January. They are 
seen in February in Georgia, but very rarely venture as far 
north as Pennsylvania. The song is pretty loud and agreeable, 
according to Latham and Wilson, resembling somewhat the 
notes of the Indigo Bird. In the tropical countries they inhabit, 
this dehcate music is continued nearly throughout the year, 
and participated also by the female, though possessed of in- 
ferior vocal powers. The bird appears to have many of the 
habits of the Creeping Warbler (S. z'aria), running spirally 
around the trunks of the pine-trees, on which it alights, and 
ascending or descending in the active search of its insect 
fare. 

The sagacity displayed by this bird in the construction and 
situation of its nest is very remarkable. This curious fabric is 



YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. 229 

suspended to a kind of rope which hangs from tree to tree, 
usually depending from branches that bend over rivers or 
ravines. The nest itself is made of dry blades of grass, the 
ribs of leaves, and slender root-fibres, the whole interwoven 
together with great art ; it is also fastened to, or rather worked 
into, the pendant strings made of the tough silky fibres of some 
species of Echites, or other plant of that family. It is, in fact, 
a small circular bed, so thick and compact as to exclude the 
rain, left to rock in the wind without sustaining or being ac- 
cessible to any injury. The more securely to defend this 
precious habitation from the attacks of numerous enemies, the 
opening, or entrance, is neither made on the top nor the side, 
but at the bottom ; nor is the access direct, for after passing 
the vestibule, it is necessary to go over a kind of partition, and 
through another aperture, before it descends into the guarded 
abode of its eggs and young. This interior lodgment is round 
and soft, being lined with a kind of Hchen, or the silky down 
of plants. 

This species is confined chiefly to the South Atlantic States, 
though occasionally a few wander to New York, Connecticut, 
and Massachusetts. It winters in Florida and Central America. 



Note. — The Sycamore Warbler (Z). dominica albilora) 
differs from the type in being smaller (length 4>^ to 5>^ inches) 
and in having the line over the eyes white, instead of yellow. It 
occurs along the Mississippi valley north to southern Illinois and 
eastward to Ohio, where it is common, and has been taken also in 
South Carolina and Florida. 

It winters in Central America. 




BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 
Dendroica virens. 

Char. Male in spring : above, bright olive; line on sides of head rich 
yellow ; wings and tail dusky ; wing-bars and outer tail-feathers white ; 
beneath, white tinged with yellow; throat and chest rich black. Male in 
autumn, female, and young: similar, but black of throat mixed with 
yellow, sometimes obscured. Length 5 to ^X inches. 

A^est On the border of heavy woods, in fork of coniferous tree 30 to 
50 feet from the ground; of twigs, grass, etc., lined with hair and down. 

^iS^-*"- 3~4j white or creamy white wreathed around larger end with 
spots of brown and lilac; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This rather rare species arrives from its tropical winter- 
quarters in Pennsylvania towards the close of April or begin- 
ning of May. About the 12th of the latter month it is seen in 
this part of iSIassachusetts ; but never more than a single pair 
are seen together. At this season a silent individual may be 
occasionally obsen^ed, for an hour at a time, carefully and ac- 



BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 23 I 

tively searching for small caterpillars and winged insects amidst 
the white blossoms of the shady apple-tree ; and so inoffensive 
and unsuspicious is the httle warbler that he pursues without 
alarm his busy occupation, as the spectator within a few feet of 
him watches at the foot of the tree. Early in October these 
birds are seen in small numbers roving restlessly through the 
forest, preparatory to their departure for the South. 

Though the greater part of the species probably proceed 
farther north to rear their young, a few spend the summer in 
the Middle and Northern States ; but from their timorous and 
retiring habits it is not easy to trace out their retreats at the 
period of breeding. In the summer of 1830, however, on the 
8th of June, I was so fortunate as to find a nest of this species 
in a perfectly solitary situation on the Blue Hills of J^Iilton. 
The female was now sitting, and about to hatch. The nest was 
in a low, thick, and stunted Virginia juniper. When I ap- 
proached near to the nest the female stood motionless on its 
edge and peeped down in such a manner that I imagined her 
to be a young bird. She then darted directly to the earth and 
ran ; but when, deceived, I sought her on the ground, she had 
very expertly disappeared, and I now found the nest to con- 
tain 4 roundish eggs, white, incHning to flesh-color, variegated, 
more particularly at the great end, with pale, purplish points 
of various sizes, interspersed with other large spots of brown 
and blackish. The nest was formed of circularly entwined 
fine strips of the inner bark of the juniper and the tough white 
fibrous bark of some other plant, then bedded with soft feath- 
ers of the Robin, and lined with a few horse-hairs and some 
slender tops of bent-grass {Agrostis) . The male was singing 
his simple chant af the distance of a quarter of a mile from the 
nest, and was now nearly in the same dark wood of tall oaks 
and white pines in which I had first heard him a fortnight be- 
fore. This simple, rather drawling, and somewhat plaintive 
song, uttered at short intervals, resembled the syllables 7^ de 
teritscd, sometimes te derisca, pronounced pretty loud and 
slow, and the tones proceeded from high to low. In the inter- 
vals he was perpetually busied in catching small cynips and 



232 SINGING BIRDS. 

Other kinds of flies, keeping up a smart snapping of his bill, 
almost similar to the noise made by knocking pebbles together. 
This quaint and indolent ditty I have often heard before in 
the dark and solitary woods of west Pennsylvania ; and here, 
as there, it affords an agreeable relief in the dreary silence and 
gloom of the thick forest. This note is very much like the 
call of the Chicadee, and at times both are heard amidst 
the reigning silence of the summer noon. In the whole dis- 
trict of this extensive hill or mountain, in Milton, there ap- 
peared to exist no other pair of these lonely Warblers but the 
present. Another pair, however, had probably a nest in the 
vicinity of the woods of Mount Auburn in Cambridge, and 
in the spring of the present year (1831) several pairs of these 
birds were seen for a transient period. 

Nuttall was not the only one of the older writers who expressed 
the opinion that this and other species of the family were less 
abundant than more modern observers have found them. Wilson 
and Audubon made similar statements. 

This Warbler is now known to be a common bird throughout 
these Eastern States, and may be found, in summer, in any coni- 
ferous forest in Massachusetts, and thence northward to the fur- 
countries and westward to the plains. It breeds also, sparingly, in 
southern New England, northern Ohio, Illinois, etc., and " along 
the AUeghanies to South Carolina," and winters in the West Indies 
and Central America. 



BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 
Dendroica blackburni^. 

Char. Male : above, black, back streaked with whitish ; sides of head 
black ; crown patch, line over eye, and entire throat and breast rich 
orange or flame color ; belly yellowish white ; sides streaked with black; 
large white patches on wings ; outer tail-feathers nearly all white. Fe- 
male : similar, but black replaced by grayish brown, and orange by dull 
yellow ; white patches on wings and tail less conspicuous. Length ^% 
to ^}4 inches. 

JVest Usually in coniferous woods, saddled on horizontal limb of pine 
or hemlock, 20 to 40 feet from the ground ; composed of twigs, roots, and 
shreds of bark mixed with vegetable down, lined with feathers and hair. 

Eggs. 4 ; white, often tinged with green, spotted, chiefly around 
larger end, with brown and lilac; 0.70 X 0.50. 



BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 233 

The Blackburnian Warbler is one of the rarest and most 
beautiful species of the genus, which from the ist to the 15 th 
of May, or sometimes later, pays a transient visit to the Middle 
and Northern States, on its way to its remote boreal place of 
retirement for the breeding season. It is still more rarely seen 
in the autumn, about the month of September, in its passage 
to tropical America, where it winters, as may be presumed, from 
its occurrence late in autumn about Vera Cruz, according to 
Mr. Bullock. It is an exceedingly nimble insect-hunter, keep- 
ing towards the tops of trees, scarcely uttering even an audible 
chirp, and at this season no song as far as is yet known. 

On the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in 
June, Audubon remarks that he heard the song of this beauti- 
ful warbler, consisting of five or six loud notes, which it uttered 
from the branches of a fir-tree while engaged in quest of its 
prey. The nest found in Nova Scotia was made externally of 
coarse materials and lined with silky fibres and delicate strips 
of bark, over which lay a thick bed of feathers and horse-hair. 
It was found in a small fork of a tree, 5 or 6 feet from the 
ground, near a brook. Dr. Brewer also found a nest of this 
species in Massachusetts. 



The very rare adult of the Hemlock Warbler was found by 
Wilson in the Great Pine Swamp in Pennsylvania, and ap- 
peared to take up its residence in the dark hemlock-trees of 
that desolate region. It was very lively and active, climbing 
among the branches and hanging from the twigs like a Tit- 
mouse. It darted after flies to a considerable distance, and 
beginning with the lower branches, hunted with regularity up- 
wards to the summit of the tree, and in this way it proceeded 
very industriously to forage through the forest till satisfied. At 
intervals it stopped an instant to warble out a few low and 
sweet notes, probably for the recognition or company of its 
mate, which the discoverer, however, did not see. 

The nest of this species, according to Audubon, who discov- 
ered it in the Great Pine Swamp, was made in a hemlock or 



234 SINGING BIRDS. 

spruce tree at a considerable elevation. Lichens, dry leaves of 
the hemlock, and slender twigs formed the exterior; it was 
then lined with hair or fur and the feathers of the Ruifed 
Grouse. He afterwards met with this species in Maine and 
Newfoundland. 

Nothing is more remarkable in the history of this species 
than the rarity of the adult and the abundance of the young 
birds ; these last, which we have long known as the Autumnal 
Warbler, appear in gregarious flocks in the larger soUtary for- 
ests of Massachusetts as early as the 20th of July, assembled 
from the neighboring districts probably, in which they have 
been reared. They remain there usually until the middle of 
October, at which time they are also seen in the Middle 
States. They feed on small insects and berries. Late in the 
season, on a fine autumnal morning, troops of them may be 
seen in the fields and lanes, sometimes descending to the 
ground, and busily employed in turning over the new fallen 
leaves, or perambulating and searching the chinks of the bark 
of the trees, or the holes in the posts of the fence, in quest of 
lurking moths and spiders ; and while thus eagerly engaged, 
they are occasionally molested or driven away by the more 
legitimate Creepers or Nuthatches, whose jealousy they thus 
arouse by their invasion. Earlier in the season they prey on 
cynips, flies, and more active game, in pursuit of which they 
may be seen fluttering and darting through the verdant boughs 
of the forest trees. One of these little visitors, which I ob- 
tained by its flying inadvertently into an open chamber, soon 
became reconciled to confinement, flew vigorously after house- 
flies, and fed greedily on grasshoppers and ivy berries ( Cissus 
hedetacea) ; at length it became so sociable as to court my 
acquaintance and eat from my hand. Before I restored it to 
liberty, its occasional tweet attracted several of its companions 
to the windows of its prison. At this time the bird is desti- 
tute of song, and only utters a plaintive call of recognition. 

Nuttall followed Wilson and Audubon in considering the young 
Blackburnians a different species, naming it the " Hemlock War- 
bler." I have given above Nuttall's account of the two. 



CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. 235 

The Blackburnian is rather common in the Atlantic States and 
westward to the Plains, breeding chiefly north of 45°, and sparingly 
in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and southward along the crests 
of the Alleghanies. It winters from the Bahamas and eastern 
Mexico southward. 

Many Canadian observers have considered this Warbler rather 
rare, but the opinion has probably arisen from the secluded habits 
of the bird while in its summer home. It shows a preference for 
the higher branches, and its favorite haunts are amid the deeper 
forests where the pine and hemlock flourish. 



CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. 

Dendroica pennsylvanica. 

Char. Male : back black, streaked with olive of grayish or yellowish 
tint ; crown yellow ; sides of head white, enclosing a patch of black ; sides 
of neck and entire under parts white ; sides streaked with chestnut, which 
extends from neck to flanks; wing-bars and blotches on tail white. 
Female: similar, but colors duller. Young; upper parts bright oHve ; 
wing-bars yellowish ; under parts white. Length 4^ to 5^ inches. 

Nest. On the edge of an open woodland or the margin of a moist 
meadow, in low tree or bush ; composed of grass and strips of bark fas- 
tened with insect silk, and lined with grass or leaves or hair. 

Eggs- 4-5; white or creamy, spotted, chiefly around the larger end, 
which is sometimes wreathed, with reddish brown and lilac ; 0.68 X 0.50. 

This rare and beautiful Sylvia, which probably winters in 
tropical America, appears in the Middle and Northern States 
early in May on its way north to breed ; it is also seen in the 
spring in Canada and around Hudson's Bay. A few pairs re- 
main, no doubt, to rear their young in secluded mountainous 
situations in the Northern States, as on the 2 2d of May, 
1830, a pair appeared to have fixed their summer abode 
near the summit of the Blue Hills of Milton. The note of the 
male was very similar to that of the Summer Yellow Bird, being 
only a little louder, and less whistling ; it resembles 'tsh 'tsh 
Ush Ushyia, given at about an interval of half a minute, and 
answered by his mate at some distance, near which, it is proba- 
ble, there was a nest. He appeared to be no way suspicious 
of our approach ; his restlessness was subdued, and he quietly 
sat near the same low bushes, amusing himself and his consort, 
for an hour at a time, with the display of his lively and simple 



236 SINGING BIRDS. 

ditty. On their first arrival, previous to pairing, these birds 
are hke the rest of the genus, restless, and intently engaged 
in the chase of insects amidst the blossoms and tender leaves ; 
they likewise pursue common and green bottle flies with avidity 
and success. On the 27th of June, 1831, I obser\'ed a pair 
selecting food for their young, with their usual address and 
activity, by the margin of a bushy and secluded swamp on the 
west side of Fresh Pond, in this vicinity ; but I had not the 
good fortune to discover the nest. I have, however, since, I 
beheve, discovered the nest of this bird, in a hazel copse in a 
wood in Acton, in this State. It is fixed in the forked twigs of 
a hazel about breast high. The fabric is rather light and airy, 
being made externally of a few coarse blades and stalks of 
dead grass, then filled in with finer blades of the same, the 
whole matted and tied with caterpillar's silk, and lined with 
very slender strips of brown bark and similar white-pine leaves. 
It appeared to have been forsaken before its completion, and 
the eggs I have never seen. 

In the woods around Farranville, on the Susquehanna, 
within the range of the Alleghany chain, in the month of May, 
1S30, I saw and heard several males in full song, in the 
shady forest trees by a small stream, and have no doubt of 
their breeding in that situation, though I was not fortunate 
enough to find a nest. 

This species is now a common summer resident of New England 
and the settled portions of Canada, and occurs westward to the 
Plains. It breeds in numbers as far south as the fortieth parallel, 
and regularly, though sparingly, on the elevated lands southward 
to Georgia ; is not an uncommon summer visitor to the Maritime 
Provinces, and is quite common in Manitoba. It winters south- 
ward to the Bahamas and Central America. 



BAY-BREASTED WARBLER. 237 

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER. 

Dexdroica castanea. 

Char. Male : back grayish olive, streaked with black ; forehead and 
cheeks black ; sides of neck buffy ; crown, throat, breast, and sides chest- 
nut ; remainder of under parts buffish ; wing-bars and patches on tail 
white. Female : above, olive streaked with black ; beneath, buffy, sides 
and breast tinged with dull rufous. Length 5)^ to 6 inches. 

Nest. In an open woodland, on horizontal branch of coniferous tree 
10 to 20 feet from the ground ; of twigs, shreds of bark, grass roots, and 
moss, lined with fine roots, moss, or pine-needles. 

Egg^- 3-6 (usually 4) ; white, with blue tint, or bluish green, spotted 
with reddish brown ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This is a still rarer and more transient visitor than the last. 
It arrives in Pennsylvania from the South some time in April 
or about the beginning of May, and towards the 12 th or 15 th 
of the same month it visits Massachusetts, but seldom stays 
more than a week or ten days, and is very rarely seen on its 
return in the autumn. Audubon once obsen-ed several in 
Louisiana late in June, so that it probably sometimes breeds 
in very secluded places without regularly proceeding to the 
northern regions. It is an active insect- hunter, and keeps 
much tow^ards the tops of the highest trees, where it darts about 
with great activity, and hangs from the twigs with fluttering 
wings. One of these birds, which was wounded in the wing, 
soon became reconciled to confinement, and greedily caught 
and devoured the flies which I offered him ; but from the 
extent of the injury, he did not long survive. In habits and 
manners, as well as markings, this species greatly resembles 
the preceding. 

This Warbler is exceptional in being more abundant in New 
England in spring than in autumn. Mr. Mcllwraith reports that 
the same rule obtains in Ontario, but Dr. Wheaton considered that 
in Ohio the birds were more numerous during the autumn : and 
these apparently conflicting statements suggest an interesting phase 
in the question of migration routes. 

The bird is common as a summer resident in the northern por- 
tions of New England, New York, and Michigan, though rather rare 



238 SINGING BIRDS. 

in New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. The most southern point 
at which it has been found breeding is Chicarua, N. H., in lati- 
tude 44°, where Mr. Frank BoUes obtained a nest in 1890. The spe- 
cies ranges north to Hudson Bay, and south to Central America. 



BLACK-POLL WARBLER. 

Dendroica striata. 

Char. Above, grayish olive thickly streaked with black; top of head 
black; cheeks and entire under parts white; sides streaked with black; 
wing-bars and tail-patches white. Length 5)^ to 5^ inches. 

Nest. In an evergreen forest on low branch (sometimes on the ground) ; 
of grass, roots, twigs, and lichens ; lined with grass covered with white 
feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; white, with various tints (usually pale pink or creamy), 
more or less spotted with reddish brown and lilac, — often dark brown 
and ohve gray ; 0.75 X 0.55. 

This rather common and well-marked species is observed to 
arrive in Pennsylvania from the South about the 20th of April, 
but in Massachusetts hardly before the middle of May ; it re- 
turns early in September, and appears to feed wholly on insects. 
In the Middle States it is confined chiefly to the woods, where, 
in the summits of the tallest trees, it is seen in busy pursuit of 
its favorite prey. On its first arrival it keeps usually in the 
tops of the maples, darting about amidst the blossoms. As 
the woods become clothed with leaves, it may be found pretty 
generally as a summer resident ; it often also seeks the banks 
of creeks and swamps, in which situations it probably passes the 
breeding season. In this vicinity the Black-poll is a familiar 
visitor in the lowest orchard-trees, where it feeds on canker- 
worms and other small caterpillars, as well as flies of different 
kinds, etc. At this time, towards the month of June, it is no 
longer a restless wanderer, but having fixed upon its station for 
the summer, it now begins, in a humble way, to display its 
musical talents in the cherished and constant company of its 
faithful mate. This note, uttered at intervals of half a minute, 
is like the sound of tsh' tsh tsh tshe tshe^ from low to high, but 



PINE WARBLER. 239 

altogether so shrill and slender as to sound almost like the 
faint filing of a saw. This species extends its migrations to 
Newfoundland, according to Pennant. In the month of 
June, Audubon found the nest in Labrador placed about 
3 feet from the ground, in the fork of a small branch, close 
to the main stem of a fir-tree. It was formed of green and 
white moss and lichens, intermixed with coarse dried grass; 
within this was a layer of bent-grass, the lining, of dark-colored 
dry moss, looked like horse-hair, and was arranged in a circu- 
lar direction with great care ; lastly was a thick bed of large 
soft feathers, — some of them were from Ducks, but most of 
them from the Willow Grouse. It contained 4 eggs. 

The Black-poll breeds sparingly in northern New England, New 
Brunswick, and northern Michigan, building chiefly beyond the 
Laurentian bills, in Quebec and Ontario; though Dr. L. B. Bishop 
found it breeding in numbers on the Magdalen Islands, and Mr. 
J. P. Norris took a number of nests on Grand Menan. It ranges 
northward to the Barren Grounds and to Alaska, and winters in 
northern South America. 



PINE WARBLER. 

Dendroica vtgorsii. 

Char. Above, olive ; beneath, yellow, paler (or white) on belly ; wing- 
bars and blotches on outer tail-feathers, white. Length 5^ to 5^ 
inches. 

N'est. Usually in evergreen woods, on horizontal bough of pine or 
cedar 30 or 40 feet from the ground; of weed stems, shreds of bark, 
and leaves fastened with insect silk, lined with hair and feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5; dull white or gray, spotted with brown and lilac; 0.70 
X 0.50. 

This common species, to the commencement of winter, in- 
habits all parts of the United " States, and probably extends 
its northern migrations to the forests of Newfoundland. It 
arrives in Pennsylvania at the close of March and beginning of 
April, and soon after is seen in all parts of New England, 
amidst the pine and juniper forests, in which it principally 



240 SINGING BIRDS. 

resides. Both the old and young remain with us till nearly the 
close of October ; stragglers have even been seen in mid-win- 
ter in the latitude of 43°. In winter they rove through the 
pine forests and barrens of the Southern States in companies 
of 20 to 50 or more, alighting at times on the trunks of the 
trees, and attentively searching them for lurking larvae, but are 
most frequently employed in capturing the small insects which 
infest the opening buds of the pine, around which they may be 
seen perpetually hovering, springing, or creeping, with restless 
activity ; in this way they proceed, from time to time, foraging 
through the forest ; occasionally, also, they alight on the 
ground in quest of worms and grubs of various kinds, or dart 
irregularly after hovering flies, almost in the manner of the Fly- 
catchers. In these states they are by far the most numerous of 
all the Warblers. In the month of March they already began 
to show indications for pairing, and jealous contests ensued 
perpetually among the males. The principal body of the spe- 
cies probably remain the year round in the Southern forests, 
where I saw them throughout the winter ; great numbers are 
also bred in the Northern States. In summer their food is the 
eggs and larvae of various insects, as well as flies or cynips, 
caterpillars, coleoptera, and ants. In autumn, the young fre- 
quent the gardens, groves, and orchards, feeding likewise on 
berries of various kinds, as on those of the cornel, wild grape, 
and five -leaved ivy ; at this season they are very fat, and fly and 
forage in famihes. They now only utter a shrill and plaintive 
chip. I have had a male Pine Warbler, domesticated for a 
short time ; he fed gratefully, from the instant he was caught, 
upon flies, small earthworms, and minced flesh, and was so 
tame and artless as to sit contented on every hand, and 
scarcely shift himself securely from my feet. On offering him 
drink he walked directly into the vessel, without using the 
slightest precaution or exhibiting any trace of fear. His tship 
and manner in all respects were those of the Autumnal 
Warbler. 

The song of the Pine Warbler, though agreeable, amidst the 
dreary solitude of the boundless forests which he frequents, has 



PINE WARBLER. 24I 

but little compass or variety ; sometimes it approaches the sim- 
plest trill of the Canary, but it is commonly a reverberating, 
gently rising, or murmuring sound, like er V 'r V V V 'rah ; or, 
in the spring, 'twe 'twe 'tw 'tw 'tw 'tw 'tw, and sometimes like 
'tsh 'tsh 'tsh 'tw 'tw 'tw 'tw 'tw ; when harkened to some time, 
there is a variation in the cadence, which, though rather feeble 
at a distance, is not unpleasant, as the little minstrel tunes his 
pipe during the heat of the summer day, while he flits gently 
and innocently fearless through the shady boughs of the pine or 
cedar in perpetual quest of his untiring prey. This song is 
commonly heard at a considerable distance from his mate and 
nest, from whom he often widely strays, according to the suc- 
cess of his precarious pursuit. As the sound of the warble 
varies from slender to high or low, it is often difficult to dis- 
cover the retreat of the little busy musician, which appears far 
or near with the modulation of his almost ventriloquous note. 
The female hkewise tunes, at times, her more slender lay in 
a wiry tone, almost like that of the S. varia, in early spring. 

About the 7th of June, 1830, I discovered a nest of this 
species in a Virginian juniper, near Mount Auburn, in this vicin- 
ity, at the height of about 40 feet from the ground. It was 
firmly fixed in the upright twigs of a close branch. The nest 
was thin, but very neat ; the principal material was the wir}^ old 
stems of the slender knot-weed {^Polygonum te?we), circularly 
interlaced, and connected externally with rough Unty fibres of 
some species of Asclepias, and blended with caterpillar's webs. 
The lining was made of a few hog's bristles, slender root-fibres, 
a mat of the down of fern-stalks, and one or two feathers of 
the Robin's breast, — a curious medley, but all answering the 
pose of warmth and shelter for the expected brood. I saw 
several of these nests, which had at different times been thrown 
to the ground, and in all, the wiry grass and general material 
were the same as in the one now described ; and this, of 
course, is entirely different from that given by Wilson on the 
authority of Mr. Abbot. The nest there mentioned is nothing 
more than the usual pendulous fabric of the Red-eyed Warbling 
Flycatcher. The eggs in ours were 4, and, advanced towards 
VOL. I. — 16 



242 SINGING BIRDS. 

hatching, they were white, with a sHght tinge of green, very- 
full of small pale brown spots, somewhat more numerous 
towards the larger end, where they appear connected or aggre- 
gated around a purplish ground. The female made some little 
complaint, but almost immediately resumed her seat, though 2 
of the eggs were taken away ; the male made off immediately, 
and was but seldom seen near the place. 

The Pine Warbler is a common summer resident of New Eng- 
land, but I seldom saw it in New Brunswick, and can find no evi- 
dence of its occurrence in Nova Scotia. Mr. Neilson thinks it 
uncommon in the vicinity of Quebec city, and Mr. Mcllwraith 
makes a similar report for Ontario, while Mr. Thompson reports 
it common in Manitoba. It winters in the Southern States. 



PRAIRIE WARBLER. 
Dendroica discolor. 

Char. Above, olive ; back with patch of red spots ; forehead, line 
over the eyes, wing-bars, and entire under parts rich yellow ; black streak 
on sides of head ; sides spotted with black ; 3 outer tail-feathers with 
broad patches of white. Length 4J/2 to 5 inches. 

JVest. In open woodland or old meadow, on small tree or bush ; neatly 
and compactly made of grass and vegetable fibre lined with hair or 
feathers. 

Eg§-s. 4-5 ; white, spotted around larger end with brown ; 0.63 X 
0.47. 

These birds, rare in the Atlantic States, appear to be some- 
what more common in the solitary barrens of Kentucky and 
the open woods of the Choctaw country. Here they prefer the 
open plains thinly covered with trees ; and without betraying 
alarm at the visits of a spectator, leisurely pursue their search 
for caterpillars and small flies, examining among the leaves or 
hopping among the branches, and at times descending pretty 
near, and familiarly examining the observer, with a confidence 
and curiosity seldom witnessed in these shy and retiring 
species. Such was the conduct of a male bird in this vicinity, 
on the 4th of June, whom I discovered by his slender filing 
notes, which were uttered every half minute, and like those of 



PRAIRIE WARBLER. 243 

the Black-poll Warbler resembled the suppressed syllables 'tsh 
Ush 'tsh 'tshea\ beginning low, and gradually growing louder, 
having nearly the same slender whistle as that species, though 
somewhat stronger. The pair were busily engaged collecting 
flies and larvae from a clump of young locust-trees in the woods 
of Mount Auburn, and occasionally they flitted among the 
Virginian junipers ; the familiar visit of the male appeared for 
the purpose of discovering my intentions near the nest, about 
which he was naturally solicitous, though he made his ap- 
proaches with the appearance of accident. The female was 
more timid ; yet while I was still engaged in viewing this little 
interesting and secluded pair, she, without any precaution or 
concealment, went directly to the nest in the forks of a low 
barberry bush near by, and when there, she sat and looked at 
me some time before she removed. She made, however, no 
pretences to draw me away from the spot, where she was sit- 
ting on 4 eggs, of which I took away 2 ; her approaches to the 
nest were now more cautious, and she came escorted and en- 
couraged by the presence of her mate. Two eggs were again 
soon added, and the young brood, I believe, reared without 
any accident. 

The nest was scarcely distinguishable from that of the Sum- 
mer Yellow Bird, and quite different from the nests described 
by "\\'ilson and Audubon. My opportunity for examination, 
so long continued, seemed to preclude the possibility of error 
in the investigation ; neither can I compare the slender note 
of this species to any whtrrhig sound, which would more 
nearly approach to the song of the Pine Warbler. The Prairie 
Warbler visits Cambridge about the first or second week in 
May, and according to the observations of my friend Mr. 
Cooper, is seen probably about the same time in the vicinity 
of New York in small numbers and in pairs, and retires to 
winter in the West Indies about the middle of September. 

This species is now considered common in Massachusetts, 
though it has not been taken farther northward. It occurs in 
Michigan, but not in Ontario, and breeds southward to Florida. 
It winters in southern Florida and the West Indies. 










PARULA WARBLER. 

BLUE YELLOW-BACKED WARBLER. 
COMPSOTHLYPIS AMERICANA. 

Char. Male: above, bright ashy blue, an olive patch on the back; 
throat and breast yellow, a patch of rich brown on the breast ; belly 
white ; wings with 2 broad white bars ; white patches on inner web of 
outer tail-feathers. Female : similar, but colors duller and the patches on 
back and breast obscure or absent. Length ^Yz to 4^ inches. 

JVest. In moist woodland or on border of swamp ; usually in a bunch 
of "beard-moss " (usnea) hanging from the trunk or branch of a tree 10 
to 40 feet from the ground, and composed of threads of the moss and fine 
grass or hair compactly woven ; sometimes lined with pine-needles or 
hair. 

Eggs. 3-7 (usually 4) ; white or creamy, thickly spotted with several 
shades of reddish brown ; 0.65 X 0.45. 

This remarkable species visits the Middle and Northern 
States about the ist to the 15 th of May, and is seen again 
early in October on its way to the West Indies (St. Domingo 
and Porto Rico), whither it retires at the approach of ^\inter. 
A few, according to Catesby, pass the whole year in South Car- 
olina. It is very abundant in the summer in the woods of 
Kentucky, is active and restless on its first arrival, and fre- 
quents the summits of the highest trees, being particularly 
fond of the small caterpillars and flies of various kinds which 
are, in the early part of spring, attracted to the open blossoms 
and tender shoots. It also possesses in some degree the 
creeping and pr}dng habits of the Titmouse, to which genus it 
it was referred by Linnaeus and Pennant. Entering the south- 



BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. 245 

em extremity of the Union by the first approach of spring, it 
is now seen searching for its insect food on shrubs and plants 
in moist places, by the borders of lakes and streams. In this 
vicinity it is not common ; but as it was singing as late as the 
2 2d of May in the woody solitude of the Blue Hills of 
Milton, it must undoubtedly breed there. 

The notes of this species resemble those of the Prairie 
Warbler in some respects, though sufficiently different; the 
tones, rising from low to high, are rather weak and insignificant. 

In Nuttall's day this dainty bird was named "Party-colored War- 
bler " and " Finch Creeper." It is a rather common summer resi- 
dent in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and breeds 
northward to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The nests have been 
found also in northern Ohio and southern Illinois, and in winter 
the birds range through southern Florida and among the more 
northern West Indies. 

The Parula is associated in my mind with secluded woods on 
cool and shaded hill-sides bordering a stream, and the song comes 
to me from amid the top branches of tall trees, — birch and poplar. 
It is an attractive song, though it has little theme, — merely a 
rapid trill of some twenty sibilant notes delivered with a rising in- 
flection ; but the tones are sweet, and the effect is pleasing. The 
song is clearly an outburst of joyous emotion. 



BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. 
Dendroica c^rulescens. 

Char. Male : above, dull blue, back sometimes streaked with black ; 
sides of head, throat, and chest rich black ; remainder of under parts 
white; white spot on wing; tail with large white blotches. Female: 
above, dull oHve; beneath, dull greenish 'yellow; white spot on wing. 
Length 5 to 5/4 inches. 

Nest. In deep woods amid thick underbrush or on high branch ; of 
grass, twigs, vines, and lichens, fastened with insect silk, lined with roots 
and hair. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white, with green or buff tint, often, when fresh, tinged 
with rosy, marked with large spots of reddish brown; 0.70 X 0.50. 

Of this uncommon species we know very little. It appears 
only as a transient visitor in the month of April, in the Middle 



246 SINGING BIRDS. 

States, and after staying to feed for a week or ten days, it 
proceeds to its northern breeding-place in the wilds of Canada, 
of which we are wholly ignorant. In November I have ob- 
served a few on their return to the South, and according to 
Vieillot, they winter in St. Domingo and other of the larger 
West India islands. 

Near Farranville, on the Susquehanna, within the range of 
the Alleghany Mountains, in the month of May, I saw and 
heard several pairs of this rare species in the shady hemlock- 
trees. The males were uttering their slender, wiry, and very 
peculiar notes, while busily engaged in foraging for insects, 
and seemed, by being paired, to prepare for incubation. 

The Pine Swamp Warbler {Sylvia sphagnosd) is now consid- 
ered only as the young of this species, of which, however, I 
think there yet remains some doubt. 

The history of this species need no longer remain a mystery, for 
while not abundant, its nesting habits may be studied in any suita- 
ble locaHty in northern New England or northern New York, and 
westward to the Plains, or along the higher altitudes of the Alle- 
ghanies as far down as Georgia ; though the major portion of the 
flocks pass on to the Canadian faunal area before stopping to build. 

I did not meet with many examples in New Brunswick, and Mr. 
Neilson thinks it rare near Quebec city; but Mr, Wintle calls it 
common near Montreal, and the Ontario observers also regard it 
as common. It winters in Florida as well as in the West Indies. 



KENTUCKY WARBLER. 

GeOTHLYPIS FORMOSA. 

Char. Above, olive ; crown and sides of head and neck, black ; line 
from nostril to and around the eye yellow ; beneath, yellow, the sides 
shaded with olive. Length 5/4 to ^% inches. 

N'est. On the ground, in rather thick woods ; a bulky affair of loosely 
laid leaves and grass, lined with vegetable down, roots, or hair. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white or creamy, spotted with lilac and several shades of 
brown; 0.73 X 0.56. 

This beautiful species, first described by Wilson, frequents 
the dark forests of the southwestern parts of the Union, being 



CERULEAN WARBLER. 247 

particularly abundant in Louisiana, and not uncommon in Ken- 
tucky and Tennessee, and from thence inhabiting throughout 
the country to the estuaries of the Mississippi. It frequents 
low, damp woods and the desolate borders of the lagoons, 
cane-brakes, and swamps near the banks of the great rivers. 
It arrives in Kentucky about the middle of April, but enters 
the southern extremity of the Union from Mexico by the same 
time in March, and by the middle of September retires south 
of the United States. The males are very pugnacious in the 
pairing season of spring, and utter some loud notes, in threes, 
resembling the sound of 'tweedle twee die tweedle. The nest is 
often attached to stems of stout weeds, or placed in a tuft of 
grass. It is made of the dry bark of herbaceous plants, mixed 
with downy substances, and lined with the cotton of the seed 
of the wild poplar. The species is scarcely known to the east 
of North Carolina. 

In the A. O. U. check-list the habitat of this species is given as 
" Eastern United States, west to the Plains, and north to southern 
New England and southern Michigan. In winter, West Indies 
and Central America." It is most abundant along the Mississippi 
valley, and has been seen but rarely east of the Alleghanies. 
There is only one record of its occurrence in New England, — a pair 
taken in 1876, at Sufifield, Conn. Mr. John Neilson reports that a 
pair were frequently seen by him near the city of Quebec during 
the early part of July, 1879. 

Those who have heard the song pronounce it an attractive 
melody, the tones being loud and clear and the theme pleasing. 
Mr. Wm. Brewster ranks it among the best of the Sylvicoline per- 
formances. 



CERULEAN WARBLER. 

BLUE WARBLER. 
Dendroica C^RULEA. 

Char. Male: above, bright azure blue; sides of head and back 
streaked with black ; line of dusky blue through the eyes ; wings with 
two white bars ; all tail-feathers but inner pair patched with white ; be- 
neath, white ; breast and sides streaked with dusky blue. Female : 
similar but upper parts tinged with olive, and under parts tinged with 
yellow. Length 4^4^ to 5 inches. 

Nest. In open v/oodland, on horizontal bough 30 to 50 feet from the 



248 SINGING BIRDS. 

ground ; of grass and lichens fastened with insect silk, lined with fine 
grass. 

Eggs. 4 ; white with green or blue tint, spotted chiefly around the 
larger end with reddish brown and lilac ; 0.70 X 0.53. 

This very delicately colored species is among the rarest 
summer residents of the Atlantic States, and does not probably 
migrate or rather stray farther north than the State of New 
York. In the Southwestern States, particularly Tennessee and 
West Florida, it is one of the most abundant species j it is also 
found in the western wilderness beyond the Mississippi. It is 
only in the summer that it ventures into the Middle States, 
from which it retires almost before the first chills of autumn, or 
by the middle of August. It frequents the borders of streams 
and marshes, and possesses many of the habits of the Fly- 
catchers, warbling also at times in a lively manner, and 
though its song be short, it is at the same time sweet and 
mellow. 

The principal range of this daintily dressed songster is through 
the southwestern division of this Eastern Province, between the 
valley of the Mississippi and the Alleghanian hills, north to Ohio 
(where it is abundant), southern Ontario, Indiana, and Illinois. 
It occasionally wanders eastward to central New York, Rhode 
Island, and Connecticut. 

Nuttall copied Audubon when characterizing the song of this 
species as " sweet and mellow." 

Wilson, who discovered the bird and named it the Blue-green 
Warbler, described the note as " a feeble chirp." Between the 
opposed opinions of these fathers of American ornithology comes 
the report of a recent observer, Mr. WiUiam Brewster, who found 
the species abundant in West Virginia. " At best it is a modest 
little strain, and far from deserving the encomium passed upon it 
by Audubon ; " and again, " The song is a guttral trill much like 
that of the Blue Yellow-backed Warbler." 



kMl^iS,^4 ^^^& 




MARYLAND YELLOW-THROAT. 

Geothlypis trichas. 

Char. Above, olive, duller on the head, brighter on rump; fore- 
head and broad band on side of head black, with whitish border ; beneath 
rich yellow, paler on the belly. Length 4j{ to 5^4 inches. 

JVesf. Hidden by tuft of grass, or amid thicket of briers, usually in a 
moist woodland or'on border of swamp ; composed exteriorly of loosely 
laid grass, twigs, etc., lined with fine grass compactly woven. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white, sometimes creamy, spotted around larger end with 
brown and lilac ; often a few black spots and lines ; 0.70 X 0.52. 

This common and familiar species extends its summer mi- 
grations from Florida to Nova Scotia, arriving in Pennsylvania 
towards the middle of April, and in this part of New England 
about the first week in May. The majority return to the South 
in September ; a few stragglers of the young, however, may be 
seen to the first week in October, and though some may re- 
main and winter in the Southern States, it is more probable 
that the main body retire at this season into the interior of 
tropical America, as they were seen late in autumn around 
Vera Cruz by the naturaUst and traveller Mr. Bullock. Early 
in the month of March, however, I heard this species singing 
in the forests of West Florida. 

The Maryland Yellow-Throat, with cheerful devotedness to the 
great object of his summer migration, — the attachments and 
cares of his species, — passes his time near some shady rill of 
water, amidst briers, brambles, alders, and such other shrubbery 
as grows in low and watery situations. Unambitious to be seen, 



250 SINGING BIRDS. 

he seldom ascends above the tops of the underwood, where he 
dwells, busily employed in collecting the insects on which he 
feeds. After these, like the Wren, he darts into the deepest 
thicket, and threads his devious way through every opening ; 
he searches around the stems, examines beneath the leaves, 
and raising himself on his peculiarly pale and slender legs, 
peeps into each crevice in order to seize by surprise his tiny 
lurking prey. While thus engaged, his affection to his neigh- 
boring mate is not forgotten, and with a simplicity, agreeable 
and characteristic, he twitters forth at short intervals his 
^whifitetee 'whititetee 'whititeiee, but his more common song is 
^whitfitshee 'whitittshee^ or 'wetitshee wctitshee wee ; and some- 
times I have heard his note like, ^wetitshee wetitshee, 'wifyu 
we. On this last syllable a plaintive sinking of the voice ren- 
ders the lively, earnest ditty of the active minstrel peculiarly 
agreeable. Copying apparently from the Cardinal Bird, the 
song was, in one instance, which came to my notice, 'vit'iyu 
^vit'tyu ^vit'iyu. The whole is likewise often varied and lowered 
into a slender whisper, or tender revery of vocal instinct. 
Sometimes he calls out, teetshoo, teetshoo^ and sewaidedit 
sewaidedit sewaidttsewee, or sewaididit sewaiditsiwee, as he 
busily darts through the blooming and odor-breathing shrubs 
of the grove or garden, which he examines with minute atten- 
tion, and sometimes springs perpendicularly after his retreating 
and discovered prey. He appears by no means shy or sus- 
picious, as long as his nest is unapproached ; but for the safety 
of that precious treasure he scolds, laments, and entreats with 
great anxiety. 

The species generally nest in the recluse thickets of the 
forest, or the low bushy meadow ; but sometimes they take up 
their abode in the garden, or the field contiguous to the house, 
and if undisturbed, show a predilection for the place which 
has afforded security to themselves and their young. They 
commence their labor of building about the middle of May, 
fixing the nest on or near the ground, among dry leaves, 
withered grass, or brush, and choose often for security the most 
intricate thicket of briers, so that the nest is often sheltered 



MOURNING WARBLER. 25 I 

and concealed by projecting weeds and grass. Sometimes a 
mere tussuck of grass or accidental pile of brush is chosen. 
It is made of dry sedge-grass ( Carex) , and a few leaves loosely 
womid together and supported by the weeds or twigs where it 
rests; the hning consists entirely of fine bent-grass {Ag?'ostis). 
The young leave the nest, here, about the middle of June, 
and a second brood is sometimes raised in the course of 
the season. The parents and young now rove about in 
restless prying troops, and take to the most secluded bushy 
marshes, where they pass their time in comparative security 
till the arrival of that period of scarcity which warns them to 
depart. As early as the close of July, the lively song of the 
male ceases to be heard, and the whole party now forage in 
silence. 

This species "breeds from the Gulf States to Manitoba and 
Labrador ; winters from the Gulf States southward." (Chapman.) 



Note. — The Western form has lately been separated from true 
irichas and given varietal rank with the name G. trichas occidentalism 
Its habitat is from the Mississippi valley to the Pacific. It is some- 
what larger and more brightly colored than is the eastern race. 
Another geographical race, the Florida Yellow-throat {G. 
trichas ignota), differs from typical trichas in having the yellow of 
under parts of deeper shade and greater extent ; the facial mask is 
wider also. 



MOURNING WARBLER. 

Geothlypis philadelphl^. 

Char. Above, olive ; head, neck, and breast ashy ; breast mottled with 
black ; remainder of under parts yellow. Length 5X to 5}^ inches. 

Nest. In open woodland or pasture, on the ground or in low tree or 
bush ; of vegetable fibre, lined with hair. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white or creamy, with brown and lilac spots wreathed 
around the larger end; 0.70 X 0.54. 

Wilson, the discoverer of this curious species, never met with 
more than a single individual, which in its habits of frequent- 



252 SINGING BIRDS. 

ing marshy ground, and flitting through low bushes in quest of 
insects, appears very similar to the Maryland Yellow-throat. 
The discoverer, however, also distinguished it more importantly 
by the novelty of its sprightly and pleasant warble ; we may 
therefore perhaps consider it as a solitary straggler from the 
main body in the western regions of this vast continent. It 
was shot in the early part of June near Philadelphia. 

On the 20th of May, 1831, I saw, as I beheve, the male of 
this species in the dark shrubbery of the Botanic Garden 
(Cambridge). It possessed all the manners of the common 
species, was equally busy in search of insects in the low bushes, 
and at little intervals warbled out some very pleasant notes, 
which though they resembled the lively chant of the Maryland 
Yellow-throat, even to the wetitshee, yet they were more agree- 
ably varied, so as to approach in some degree the song of the 
Summer Yellow Bird {^Sylvia cestiva). This remarkable note, 
indeed, set me in quest of the bird, which I followed for some 
time j but at last, perceiving himself watched, he left the gar- 
den. As far as I was able to observe this individual, he was 
above of a dark olive-green, very cinereous on the fore part of 
the head, with a band of black through the eyes, which de- 
scended from the side of the neck, where at length it joined 
with a crescent of dusky or black spots upon the breast j the 
throat was yellow and the under parts paler. 

Mr. Townsend saw a specimen on the shady borders of the 
Schuylkill in the month of May last, and a second individual 
has been obtained by Mr. De Rham in the vicinity of New York. 
Two or three other specimens have also been obtained in the 
vicinity of Philadelphia and in New Jersey. It is, however, 
still a very rare species, and its proper habitation is yet to be 
discovered. 

This is still a rare bird in many localities, and it is among the 
desiderata of most collectors ; yet within the limits of its favorite 
breeding areas, — at the higher altitudes of the Alleghanies ; on the 
Berkshire Hills; along the northern borders of Vermont and New 
Hampshire; in portions of New York; and elsewhere between the 
Atlantic coast and the Plains where suitable conditions of environ- 



CONNECTICUT WARBLER. 253 

merit are obtainable, — the Mourning Warbler is not at all rare, 
and in the West — in Minnesota, Dakota, and Manitoba — it is 
decidedly abundant. Evidently it has no special liking for the 
Maritime Provinces nor for any portion of Canada east of Lake 
Winnipeg, for Canadian observers in general report it rare or 
uncommon. Yet one of the few nests that have been discovered 
was secured by Mr. Kells, near Listowel, in Ontario. This nest 
was in a cedar swamp and placed on the horizontal branch of 
a small tree quite close to the ground. 

The examples I saw in New Brunswick were in small flocks, and 
were a very busy and very merry company, — busy in searching for 
their food, moving in most sprightly and vivacious manner, and 
making merry with sweet voices. The song consists of a few sim- 
ple notes, but the birds frequently ascend to a high perch to deliver 
it and sing on as if much pleased with the performance. Merriam 
reports them singing thus for half an hour at a time. 



CONNECTICUT WARBLER. 

GRAY-HEADED WARBLER. 
Geothlypis AGILIS. 

Char. Male : above, olive ; head, neck, and breast ashy, darkest on 
breast and crown, lightest on the throat ; white ring around the eyes ; 
chest and belly yellow, sides shaded with olive. Female : similar, but 
without ashy tint on the head ; throat tinged with brown ; belly paler. 
Length 5^ to 6 inches. 

Nest. Hidden on a tuft of weeds, or sunk in mossy mound, in swampy 
woods ; composed of dried grass. 

Eggs. 4- .''; creamy, spotted, chiefly around the larger end, with black, 
brown, and lilac ; 0.75 + 0.55. 

This rare species, discovered by Wilson in Connecticut and 
afterwards in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, appears to 
frequent low thickets, and is exceedingly active in pursuit of 
its prey, scarcely remaining a moment in the same place. 
Wilson afterwards shot two specimens of a bird which in every 
particular agreed with the above, except in having the throat 
dull buff instead of pale ash. These were both females, as he 
supposed, of the present species. 

The history of this bird is still interestingly obscure, so much 
has yet to be learned ; but gleaning from records made by obser- 
vers in various parts of the country, I am enabled to add a little to 
Nuttall's account. 



254 SINGING BIRDS. 

The bird has been taken throughout the greater part of this 
Eastern Province ; but its distribution appears, from the evidence 
so far gathered, to be somewhat pecuHar. It winters in Mexico 
and southward, and in the spring migrates wholly along the Missis- 
sippi valley, where it is more or less abundant north to Manitoba, 
though it is rarely seen at that season to the eastward of Illinois. 
It breeds in Minnesota, Dakota, and Manitoba, and in the au- 
tumn part of the flocks go south along the Mississippi, while others 
pass eastward along the shores of the Great Lakes, and thence ta 
Massachusetts, the most northern limit of the bird's range on 
the Atlantic side, where it is common during the first half of 
September, after which the flocks continue on a gradual movement 
southward. 

Dr. Wheaton considered the species very rare in Ohio, and it- 
was thought to be rare in Ontario until 1884, w-hen my friend Wil- 
liam Saunders found it common in the vicinity of London. The 
only nest yet taken was discovered by another friend and fellow- 
worker Ernest Thompson. It was found near Carberry, Manitoba, 
in 1883, sunk amid a mossy mound in a tamarack swamp, — "a 
dark, gray waste." 

In the West, during the spring migrations, these birds are exceed- 
ingly active and very shy, moving incessantly among the branches 
in quest of insects, and when approached darting into the thickest 
covers ; but those I saw on the Fresh Pond marsh at Cambridge 
fed chiefly on the ground, among the leaves, and when disturbed 
flew generally but a short distance to a low branch, and sat as com- 
posedly as a Thrush. 

Thompson describes the song as similar to the Golden-crowmed 
Thrush, and says it may be suggested by the syllables beecher- 
beechcr-beecher-beecher-beecher-beecher, sung at the same pitch 
throughout; he adds, "but he also had another which I can recall 
to mind by the aid of the syllables freechaple, freechaple, free- 
chaple, WHOIT." 

This same writer says : " Connecticut Warbler is an unfortunate 
misnomer for this species," and he suggests " Swamp Warbler " or 
" Tamarac Warbler" or " Bog Black-throat." " This species," he 
writes, " has somewhat the manners of the Vireos, but is much 
more active and sprightly in its movements." 




WORM-EATING WARBLER. 

Helmitherus vermivorus. 

Char. Above, olive ; head buff, with four stripes of black *, beneath, 
buff, paler on belly. Length 5^4 to 5^ inches. 

Nest. On the ground, often covered by a bush, or beside a fallen log ; 
of leaves, moss, and grass, lined with moss, fine grass, or hair. 

Eggs. 3-6 (usually 5) ; variable in shape and color- white, sometimes 
with buff or pink tint, marked with fine spots of reddish brown and 
lilac; 0.70 X 0.55. 

These birds arrive in Pennsylvania about the middle of 
May, and migrate to the South towards the close of Septem- 
ber ; they were seen feeding their young in that State about 
the 25 th of June by Wilson, so that some pairs stay and breed 
there. They are very active and indefatigable insect-hunters, 
and have the note and many of the manners of the Marsh 
Titmouse or Chickadee. About the 4th of October I have seen 
a pair of these birds roving through the branches of trees with 
restless agility, hanging on the twigs and examining the trunks, 
in quest probably of spiders and other lurking and dormant 
insects and their larvae. One of them likewise kept up a con- 
stant complaining call, like the sound of tshe de de. 

According to Richardson this species visits the fur coun- 
tries, where a single specimen was procured at Cumberland 
House, on the banks of the Saskatchewan. It is found also in 
Maine and the British Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova 
Scotia. Dr. Bachman says that it breeds sparingly in the 



256 SINGING BIRDS. 

swamps of Carolina, as he observed a pair followed by three 
or four young ones nearly fledged, all of which already exhibi- 
ted the markings on the head. 

Richardson led Nuttall into a mistake regarding the distribution 
of this species. It is a Southern bird, breeding chiefly south of lati- 
tude 40°, and occurs but rarely along the northern limit of its range, 
— southern New England, the southern shores of Lake Erie, and 
southern Illinois. It has not been taken in the Provinces. 

Usually these birds feed on the ground among the dead leaves, 
but sometimes rise amid the branches, as described by Nuttall. 
They are not " shy " birds, for they will remain on the nest until 
fairly driven off, and when feeding are apparently indifferent about 
being watched. 



SWAINSON'S WARBLER. 

Helinaia swainsonii. 

Char. Above, dull olive, head and wings tinged with reddish brown; 
dark streak through the eyes ; line over eyes and under parts white with 
yellow tint ; sides tinged with olive. Length 5^4 to 6 inches. 

N'est. In a swamp, or near stagnant pool, or on dry upland ; in cane- 
stalk or on bush, 4 to 10 feet from the ground ; a bulky and inartistic 
affair of dead leaves, lined with roots and pine-needles. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; white with blue tint, unmarked ; 0.75 X 0,60. 

Dr. Bachman, who discovered this species near the banks 
of the Edisto River, in South Carolina, remarks : " I was first 
attracted by the novelty of its notes, four or five in number, 
repeated at intervals of five or six minutes apart. These notes 
were loud, clear, and more hke a whistle than a song. They 
resembled the sound of some extraordinary ventriloquist in such 
a degree that I supposed the bird much farther off than it 
really was ; for after some trouble caused by these fictitious 
notes, I observed it near me, and soon shot it." These birds 
appear to have a predilection for swampy, muddy places, usu- 
ally more or less covered with water. They feed on coleop- 
terous insects and the lar\^ge which infest the pond-lily. They 
usually keep in low bushes, and retire southward at the close 
of summer. They breed, it appears, in South Carolina. 



PROTHONOTARY WARBLER. 257 

Until recently, naturalists knew nothing more of this species than 
Nuttall put into the above few lines ; and for that information he was 
indebted to Audubon. Only three examples were taken between 
Audubon's time and 1873, when Nathan C. Brown captured three 
more in Alabama; and eleven years afterwards, in 1884, William 
Brewster collected fifty specimens in the vicinity of Charleston, 
and published in " The Auk " for January, 1885, an interesting 
account of the bird's habits. 

He reports that he met with this bird in dry, scrubby woods or 
open orange-groves, though it prefers the ranker growth of the 
swamps, to which it appears to be confined during the breeding 
season. Its song is said to be "very loud, very rich, very beau- 
tiful, while it has an indescribable tender quality that thrills the 
senses after the sound has ceased." 

The distribution of the species has not yet been very satisfac- 
torily determined, but it probably occurs in all the South Atlantic 
and Gulf States, and along the Mississippi valley north to Illinois 
and Indiana. 



PROTHONOTARY WARBLER. 

Protonotaria citrea. 

Char. Head, neck, and under parts golden yellow; back bright 
olive; wings, tail, and rump, bluish ash; inner webs of tail-feathers white. 
Length about 534 inches. 

Nest. On the margin of a stream or pond or in a swamp ; a cavity in 
dead tree, often a deserted nest of Woodpecker or Chickadee, generally 
near the ground ; lined with leaves and moss. 

E'ggs. 4-7 (usually 6); white, or with buff tint, thickly spotted with 
brownish red ; 0.70 X 0.55. 

This beautiful species inhabits the Southern States commonly 
in summer, being plentiful in the low, dark, and swampy forests 
of the Mississippi near New Orleans, as well as in Louisiana 
and the wilds of Florida. In these solitary retreats individuals 
are seen nimbly flitting in search of insects, caterpillars, larvae, 
and small land shells, every now and then uttering a few creak- 
ing notes scarcely deserving the name of song. They some- 
times, though very rarely, proceed as far north as Pennsylvania. 
They appear to affect watery places in swamps which abound 
with lagoons, and are seldom seen in the woods. According to 
VOL. I. — 17 



258 SINGING BIRDS. 

Dr. Bachman, these birds breed in South Carolina, as he saw a 
pair and their young near Charleston. 

This species is common in the Gulf States, and ranges along the 
Mississippi valley, being peculiarly abundant in southern Illinois 
and southwestern Indiana, but near the Atlantic is rarely seen 
north of Georgia. A few stragglers have been encountered in 
New England, while one has been taken at St. Stephen, New 
Brunswick, by Mr. George A. Boardman, and another near Hamil- 
ton, Ontario, by H. C Mcllwraith. 

It is said to be more deliberate and thrushlike in its movements 
than are its sprightly congeners, the Dendroicce. The song most 
frequently heard is described as a simple but pleasing whistle, like 
that of the solitary Sandpiper, though when the singer is near at 
hand, almost startling in its intensity. Mr. Brewster mentions 
hearing another song delivered on the wing, and intended for the 
ear of the mate alone. It is generally heard only after incubation 
has commenced, and is low, but very sweet, and resembles some- 
what the song of a Canary, delivered in an undertone. 



BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. 

Helminthophila pinus. 

Char. Male: above, bright olive; wings and tail dull blue; wings 
with two yellowish bars ; outer tail feathers with white blotches ; black 
line through the eye ; crown and under parts bright yellow. Female : 
similar but under parts duller, and yellow on head restricted to forehead. 
Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. In a tuft of grass amid thicket of underbrush or along margin of 
woods ; bulky, and loosely made of dried leaves and vegetable fibre, lined 
with fine grass. 

Eggs. 4-5; white, faintly speckled with brown; 0.60 X 0.50. 

About the beginning of May this species enters Pennsylvania 
from the South, and frequents thickets and shrubberies in quest 
of the usual insect food of its tribe. At the approach of win- 
ter, very different from the Pine Warbler, with which it has 
sometimes been confounded, it retires to pass the winter in 
tropical America, having been seen around Vera Cruz in 
autumn by Mr. Bullock. On its arrival it frequents gardens, 
orchards, and willow trees, gleaning among the blossoms, but 
at length withdraws into the silent woods remote, from the 



BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. 259 

haunts of men, to pass the period of breeding and rearing its 
young in more security. 

The apparent distribution of this species, judged by the records 
of recent observations, is somewhat peculiar. It seems to be 
abundant in the southwestern portion of this Eastern Province, and 
rarely ranges east of the Alleghanian hills until north of 40°, when 
it spreads off to the shores of the Atlantic, though seldom going 
beyond latitude 42°. " It is a common summer resident of south- 
ern Connecticut, but is not known to occur regularly north of 
Hartford, and is most numerous in the country immediately border- 
ing the Sound and in the lower valley of the Connecticut River " 
(Brewster). A few examples only have been taken in Massachu- 
setts, and though common in Ohio it has not been seen in Ontario. 
Farther west it is found north to the southern portions of Michigan, 
Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It winters south to eastern Mexico 
and Guatemala. 

The nests that have been discovered in recent years are not 
fashioned like that described by Wilson, for instead of being 
funnel-shaped, they have the ordinary cup-like form. 

Opinions differ regarding the song, but I am inchned to believe 
that it is a rapid trill of strong, sweet tones, limited in compass and 
executed with little art, — a merry whistle rather than an artistic 
melody. " As a rule it consists of the two drawled wheezy notes 
swee-chee ; the first inhaled, the second exhaled. A less common 
song uttered later in the season is 7uee, cM-chS-chg-ch^, chur, chee, 
chtlr, and is sometimes accompanied by pecuHar kik notes" 
(Chapman). 



26o SINGING BIRDS. 



GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. 
Helminthophila chrysoptera. 

Char. Male: above, bluish gray, sometimes tinged with olive; 
crown bright yellow ; side of head yellowish white, with broad patch of 
black from bill through eyes ; wings with large patch of bright yellow ; 
blotches on tail white; beneath, white tinged with yellow; throat black; 
sides tinged with gray. Female : similar, but colors duller; patch from 
bill through eyes, grayish. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. Amid a tuft of long grass, in moist meadow or damp margin of 
woods ; constructed of shreds of bark, roots, etc, lined with fine grass. 

Egg^' 4-6; white spotted with brown and lilac; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This scarce species appears only a few days in Pennsylvania 
about the last of April or beginning of May. It darts actively 
through the leafy branches, and Hke the Titmouse examines the 
stems for insects, and often walks with the head downwards ; 
its notes and actions are also a good deal similar, in common 
with the Worm-eating Warbler. I have never yet seen it in 
Massachusetts, and if it really does proceed north to breed, it 
must follow a western route. 

The Golden-wing still remains a somewhat "scarce" bird, but it 
occurs regularly in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts, and 
in some few localities is often quite numerous. Its general breeding 
area lies north of latitude 40°, though nests have been found among 
the hills of Georgia and North Carolina. To the westward it breeds 
in Ohio, southern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and in the 
vicinity of London, Ontario, where Saunders reports it quite com- 
mon. It winters south to Central America. 



Note. — Two variations from the type, Brewster's Warbler 
(H. leucobronchialis) and Lawrence's Warbler {H. lawrencei) 
are still placed on the " hypothetical list " by conservative writers. 
Both birds are supposed to be either hybrids between H. pinus and 
H. chrysoptera^ or color phases. Lawrence's Warbler is rather 
rare, though it occurs regularly in Connecticut, but Brewster's 
Warbler is not uncommon in the Connecticut valley, and has been 
traced south to Virginia and west to Michigan. 



TENNESSEE WARBLER. 261 

BACHMAN'S WARBLER. 

Helminthophila bachmanii. 

Char. Male : above, olive ; head dull ashy ; tail grayish with white 
patches ; black band across crown ; forehead and underparts yellow, with 
large patch of black on the breast ; yellow band on wing. Female : 
similar, but duller and grayer ; under parts paler. Length 4^ inches. 

Nest. In a low tree. 

Eggs. 4 ; dull white, heavily wreathed around larger end with dark 
brown and spotted with lilac ; 0.74 X 0.60. 

This species was first obtained a few miles from Charles- 
ton, S. C, in July 1833, by Dr. Bachman, after whom it is 
named. It appears to be a lively, active species, frequenting 
thick bushes, through which it glides after insects, or occasion- 
ally, mounting on wing, it seizes them in the air. Several 
individuals were seen in the same neighborhood. 

Nothing more was heard of this interesting bird than the little 
told by Audubon and Nuttall, until 1883, when Mr. H. B. Bailey 
described the nest and eggs from examples collected in Georgia, 
by Dr. S. W. Wilson, somewhere between 1853 and 1865. The 
male and female secured by Dr. Bachman were the only specimens 
taken until 1886, when a third was shot by Charles S. Galbraith, 
in Louisiana, and announced by Mr. George N. Lawrence in "The 
Auk" of January, 1887. A fourth, taken in Florida in March, 
1887, was announced by Dr. Merriam, and during that year others 
were reported. Since then the bird has been discovered to be 
fairly common in the South Atlantic and Gulf States. 

It is described as an active, quarrelsome bird, wary and difficult 
to approach. Its manner, when searching for food, is described as 
rather leisurely. The song is somewhat similar to the Parula. It 
frequents both shrubbery and high trees, but shows a preference 
for the latter and for a rather thick growth. 



TENNESSEE WARBLER. 

Helminthophila peregrin a. 

Char. Male : above, olive, brightest on rump, shading to ashy on 
head ; wings and tail dusky ; beneath, white, with faint tint of yellow ; 
sides tinged with gray. Female : similar, but crown tinged with olive 
and under parts with more yellow. Young : similar to female, but crown 
olive and under tail-coverts white. Length 4>^ to 4^ inches. 

Nest. On a low bush in open woodland ; made of grass, moss, and 
vegetable fibre, lined with hair. 



262 SINGING BIRDS, 

Eggs. 0-0 (probably 4 or 5) ; white, wreathed around larger end with 
brown and purplish spots : 0.65 X 0.50. 

This rare and plain species was discovered by Wilson on 
the banks of Cumberland River, in the State of Tennessee. It 
was hunting with great agility among the opening leaves in 
spring, and like the rest of the section to which it appertains, 
possesses a good deal of the habits of the Titmouse. Its notes 
were few and weak, and its food, as usual, smooth caterpillars 
and winged insects. It is still so rare that Audubon never 
saw more than three individuals, — two in Louisiana, and one at 
Key West in East Florida, all of which were males. 

Ornithologists of the present day do not consider this Warbler 
quite so rare as did Nuttall and his contemporaries, though it is 
somewhat local in its distribution, and is only met with occasionally 
at many places within its range. In the Eastern States it is rather 
rare, excepting on the northern border of New York and New Eng- 
land, where it breeds ; but it is more numerous in the Mississippi 
valley, and Dr. Coues found it migrating in abundance along the 
Red River, through Minnesota and Dakota, while Thompson 
reports it as " a common summer resident " in parts of Manitoba. 
Dr. Wheaton considered it rare in Ohio, but Saunders reports it 
" common at times " in the southern peninsula of Ontario, while 
Mcllwraith has seen it but twice near Hamilton. It is rare in the 
Ottawa valley and near the city of Quebec, while common near 
Montreal. Comeau says it breeds in numbers near Point de 
Monts, on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Macoun 
reports it common around Lake Misstissini. It is not uncommon in 
some few localities in New Brunswick, where it remains all sum- 
mer. Very few nests have been discovered. 

The bird is very wary and always on the alert, — darting rapidly 
from branch to branch. The song is a sweet-toned, cheery whistle, 
— somewhat similar to that of the Nashville, "but so decidedly 
different," writes Mr. Bradford Torrey, " as never for a moment to 
be confounded with it." He adds : " The resemblance lies entirely 
in the first part; the notes of the concluding portion are not run 
together or jumbled, after the Nashville's manner, but are quite as 
distinct as are those of the opening measure." 



PI AT 




1 . Mar\iand Yellow-Throal 

2 . Bluebird. 

3 . AN'inter AVren. 



4.Nasli\dlIe Warbler. 

5 . Black-Throated Blue Warbler. 

6 . Rubv-Cro^vned Kinglet . 



NASHVILLE WARBLER. 263 

NASHVILLE WARBLER. 
Helminthophila ruficapilla. 

Char. Above, olive, brighter on rump ; head ashy gray, with con- 
cealed patch of reddish brown ; yellow ring around the eyes ; beneath, 
bright yellow, paler on the belly ; sides shaded with olive. Length 4^ to 
5 inches. 

A^est. Amid a tuft of weeds in pasture or open woodland ; composed 
of leaves and vegetable fibre, lined with grass, pine-needles, or hair. 

Eggs. 3-5 (usually 4) ; white or creamy, marked with fine spots of 
reddish brown and lilac ; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This rare species was discovered by Wilson in the vicinity of 
Nashville in Tennessee ; it also exists in the neighboring States 
in summer, and occasionally proceeds as far north as Philadel- 
phia, and even the neighborhood of Salem in this State [Mas- 
sachusetts]. Its discoverer was first attracted to it by the 
singular noise which it made, resembling the breaking of small 
dry twigs, or the striking together of pebbles, for six or seven 
times in succession, and loud enough to be heard at the dis- 
tance of thirty or forty yards. A similar sound, produced, no 
doubt, by the smart snapping of the bill, is given by the Stone- 
chat of Europe, — which hence, in fact, derives its name. Au- 
dubon says, the male, while standing in a still and erect posture, 
utters a few low, eagerly repeated, creaking notes. This spe- 
cies has all the active habits of the family to which it more 
particularly belongs. Audubon says that these birds are not 
in fact rare, as he saw them in considerable numbers in the 
month of April, towards Texas, on their way eastward ; he also 
saw them in Maine and the Provinces of New Brunswick and 
Nova Scotia. A few proceed to Labrador, and Dr. Richardson 
mentions the occurrence of a straggler in the fur countries. 

However rare the Nashville may have been when Nuttall lived 
in Cambridge, it is not a rare bird here to-day. It is, indeed, a 
common summer resident throughout New England and the Mari- 
tine Provinces, and occurs in more or less abundance westward to 
Manitoba. It winters south to Mexico and Guatemala. 

On the arrival of these birds in the spring they frequent the sub- 



264 SINGING BIRDS. 

urban gardens and orchards, but soon retire to a more secluded 
place to build ; and hidden away amid the thicker bushes of their 
favorite haunts, are often overlooked by the collector, — the or- 
nithological reporter, — and thus the species has acquired a repu- 
tation of being " uncommon." 

The song is a typical Warbler-like performance, — a short trill of 
sweet notes, whistled with little variation in tone, and little effort 
at artistic execution; but I have not heard any of the " harsh " 
and "creaking" effects noted by some writers. 



ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. 

Helminthophila celata. 

Char. Above, olive, brightest on the rump ; crown with concealed 
patch of brownish orange ; line over and around the eyes, pale yellow ; 
beneath, pale greenish yellow ; sides shaded with olive. Length 4^ to 
534!' inches. 

Nest. On the ground among clumps of bushes; made of grass, moss, 
and plant stems, lined with hair. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white or creamy, marked, chiefly around the larger end, 
with spots of reddish brown and purplish slate ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This species, first discovered, early in May, on the banks of 
the Missouri by my friend Mr. T. Say, appeared to be on its 
passage farther north. It is not uncommon in winter in the 
orange-groves of West Florida, where it proceeds to pass the 
season, around St. Augustine ; and its note is described as a 
mere chirp and faint squeak, scarcely louder than that of a 
mouse. 

According to Audubon, these birds breed in the eastern part 
of Maine and in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In the 
month of May we saw them abundant in the forests of the 
Oregon, where no doubt they breed. The song is weak, some- 
what resembling that of most of the Sylvicolas. 

Audubon must have gathered in all the New Brunswick Orange 
Crowns, for none have been seen there since his visit, nor can I 
learn of any having been observed elsewhere in eastern Canada, 
excepting the few discovered by Mcllwraith and Saunders in. 



KIRTLAND'S WARBLER. 265 

southern Ontario, and one taken by Ernest D. Wintle near Mon- 
treal in 1890. 

Accidental stragglers have been taken in New England, but it is 
chiefly a Western bird, breeding in the far north, though it winters 
in the Southern and Gulf States. 



KIRTLAND'S WARBLER. 

Dendroica kirtlandi. • 

Char. Above, slaty brown, head bluish ; head and back streaked 
with black ; line across forehead and through the eyes, black ; beneath, 
yellow, breast and sides spotted with black; white blotches on tail. 
Length 5^ to 6 inches. 

Nest 2ind Eggs. Unknown. 

Only a few specimens of this bird, discovered by Dr. Kirtland, 
near Cleveland, in 185 1, have as yet been seen, and these few were 
captured in South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, 
and Missouri during the spring migrations. Mr. Charles B. Cory 
secured one in the Bahamas in winter. The habits of the bird are 
unknown, but Mr. Chubb, who shot a male and female near Cleve- 
land in 1880, says: " I am incHned to think they are rather terres- 
trial in their habits, frequenting bushy fields near woods." Mr. 
Chapman suggests the probability of these birds breeding " in the 
Hudson Bay region." 

Note. — The Carbonated Warbler {Dendroica carbonatd), 
mentioned by Nuttall on the authority of Audubon, who killed two 
specimens in Kentucky, has been placed on the " Hypothetical 
List " by the A. O. U. Committee, as has also the Blue Mountain 
Warbler {Dendroica montand) and the Small-headed War- 
bler {Sylvania microcephala'), mentioned by Wilson and Audu- 
bon. No specimens of either have been taken in recent years. 
On this same list has been placed the Cincinnati Warbler 
{Hebni7ithophila cincinnatiensis ), which is probably a hybrid of 
H. pi7ius and G. forjnosa. 

Townsend's Warbler {Dendroica townsendi), described by 
Nuttall and named in honor of its discoverer, is a rare bird of the 
Far West, and its claim to mention here rests on the accidental 
occurrence of one example near Philadelphia in 1868. 




HOUSE WREN. 

wood wren. 

Troglodytes aedon. 

Char. Above, reddish brown (sometimes with dark bars), darker on 
the head ; below, brownish white, marked irregularly with dark lines ; 
wings and tail with fine waved lines. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. On the eaves of houses or in a barn or hollow tree, etc. ; made 
of grass, twigs, etc. ; the hole generally filled with rubbish and lined 
with feathers. 

Eo-gs. 7-9 ; white tinted with pink, densely marked with reddish 
brown; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This lively, cheerful, capricious, and well-known little min- 
strel is only a summer resident in the United States. Its 
northern migrations extend to Labrador, but it resides and 
rears its young principally in the Middle States. My friend 
Mr. Say also observed this species near Pembino, beyond the 
sources of the Mississippi, in the Western wilderness of the 
49th degree of latitude. It is likewise said to be an inhabitant 
of Surinam, within the tropics, where its delightful melody has 
gained it the nickname of the Nightingale. This region, or 
the intermediate country of Mexico, is probably the winter 
quarters of our domestic favorite. In Louisiana it is unknown 
even as a transient visitor, migrating apparently to the east of 



HOUSE WREN. 26/ 

the Mississippi, and sedulously avoiding the region generally 
inhabited by the Carolina Wren. It, is a matter of surprise 
how this, and some other species, with wings so short and a 
flight so fluttering, are ever capable of arriving and returning 
from such distant countries. At any rate, come from where 
it may, it makes its appearance in the Middle States about the 
1 2 th or 15 th of April, and is seen in New England in the latter 
end of that month or by the beginning of May. It takes its 
departure for the South towards the close of September or 
early in October, and is not known to winter within the limits 
of the Union. 

Some time in the early part of May our little social visitor 
enters actively into the cares as well as pleasures which preside 
instinctively over the fiat of propagation. His nest, from pref- 
erence, near the house, is placed beneath the eaves, in some 
remote corner under a shed, out-house, barn, or in a hollow 
orchard tree ; also in the deserted cell of the Woodpecker, and 
when provided with the convenience, in a wooden box along 
with the Martins and Bluebirds. He will make his nest even 
in an old hat, nailed up, and perforated with a hole for en- 
trance, or the skull of an ox stuck upon a pole ; and Audubon 
saw one deposited in the pocket of a broken-down carriage. 
So pertinacious is the House Wren in thus claiming the con- 
venience and protection of human society that, according to 
Wilson, an instance once occurred where a nest was made in 
the sleeve of a mower's coat, which, in the month of June, was 
hung up accidentally for two or three days in a shed near a 
barn. 

The nest of this species, though less curious than that 
of some other kinds, is still constructed with considerable 
appearance of contrivance. The external approach is bar- 
ricaded with a strong outwork of sticks, interlaced with 
much labor and ingenuity. W^hen the nest, therefore, is 
placed beneath the eaves, or in some other situation contig- 
uous to the roof of the building, the access to the inner fabric 
is so nearly closed by this formidable mass of twigs that a 
mere portion of the edge is alone left open for the female, 



268 SINGING BIRDS. 

just sufficient for her to creep in and out. Within this judi- 
cious fort is placed the proper nest, of the usual hemispherical 
figure, formed of layers of dried stalks of grass, and lined with 
feathers. The eggs, from 6 to 9, are of a reddish flesh-color, 
sprinkled all over with innumerable fine grains of a somewhat 
deeper tint. They generally rear two broods in the season : 
the first take to flight about the beginning of June, and the 
second in July or August. The young are early capable of 
providing for their own subsistence and twittering forth their 
petulant cry of alarm. It is both pleasant and amusing to 
observe the sociability and activity of these recent nurslings, 
who seem to move in a body, throwing themselves into antic 
attitudes, often crowding together into the old nests of other 
birds, and for some time roosting near their former cradle, 
under the affectionate eye of their busy parents, who have 
perhaps already begun to prepare the same nest for a new 
progeny. Indeed, so prospective and busy is the male that 
he frequently amuses himself with erecting another mansion 
even while his mate is still sitting on her eggs ; and this curi- 
ous habit of superfluous labor seems to be more or less common 
to the whole genus. 

One of these Wrens, according to Wilson, happened to lose 
his mate by the sly and ravenous approaches of a cat, — an ani- 
mal which they justly hold in abhorrence. The day after this 
important loss, our little widower had succeeded in introducing 
to his desolate mansion a second partner, whose welcome 
appeared by the ecstatic song which the bridegroom now 
uttered; after this they remained together, and reared their 
brood. In the summer of 1830 I found a female Wren who 
had expired on the nest in the abortive act of laying her first 
egg. I therefore took away the nest from under the edge of the 
shed in which it was built. The male, however, continued 
round the place as before, and still cheerfully uttered his 
accustomed song. Unwilling to leave the premises, he now 
went to work and made, unaided, another dwelling, and after 
a time brought a new mate to take possession ; but less faith- 
ful than Vvllson's bird, or suspecting some lurking danger, she 



HOUSE WREN. 269 

forsook the nest after entering, and never laid in it. But still 
the happy warbler continued his uninterrupted lay, apparently 
in solitude. 

The song of our familiar Wren is loud, sprightly, and tremu- 
lous, uttered with peculiar animation, and rapidly repeated ; at 
first the voice seems ventriloquial and distant, and then bursts 
forth by efforts into a mellow and echoing warble. The trill- 
ing, hurried notes seem to reverberate from the leafy branches 
in which the musician sits obscured, or are heard from the low 
roof of the vine-mantled cottage like the shrill and unwearied 
pipe of some sylvan elf. The strain is continued even during 
the sultry noon of the summer's day, when most of the feath- 
ered songsters seek repose and shelter from the heat. His 
lively and querulous ditty is, however, still accompanied by 
the slower-measured, pathetic chant of the Red-eyed Fly- 
catcher, the meandering, tender warble of the Musical Vireo, 
or the occasional loud mimicry of the Catbird ; the whole 
forming an aerial, almost celestial concert, which never tires 
the ear. Though the general performance of our Wren bears 
no inconsiderable resemblance to that of the European species, 
yet his voice is louder, and his execution much more varied and 
delightful. He is rather a bold and insolent intruder upon those 
birds w^ho reside near him or claim the same accommodation. 
He frequently causes the mild Bluebird or the Martin to relin- 
quish their hereditary claims to the garden box, and has been 
accused also of sucking their eggs. Nor is he any better con- 
tented with neighbors of his own fraternity who settle near him, 
keeping up frequent squabbles, like other little busybodies, 
who are never happy but in mischief; so that upon the whole, 
though we may justly admire the fine talents of this petulant 
domestic, he is, like many other actors, merely a good per- 
former. He is still upon the whole a real friend to the farmer 
and horticulturist, by the number of injurious insects and their 
destructive larvae on which both he and his numerous family 
subsist. Bold and fearless, seeking out every advantageous 
association, and making up in activity what he may lack in 
strength, he does not confine his visits to the cottage or the 



2/0 SINGING BIRDS. 

country, but may often be heard on the tops of houses even in 
the midst of the city, warbhng with his usual energy. 

The House Wren is a common summer resident of Massachu- 
setts, but is rarely seen north of this State. 

The only instance of its occurrence in New Brunswick is that of 
a pair seen at Grand Falls by Mr. C. F, Batchelder. It is fairly 
common near Montreal and through southern Ontario, and is 
abundant in Manitoba. It winters in the Middle States and 
southward. 

Note. — A Western form — distinguished from true aedon by the 
prevalence of gray on its upper parts and its more distinct bars on 
the back — occurs from Illinois and Manitoba westward. This is 
Western House Wren {T. a. aztecus). 

The Wood Wren {T. a?nericamis), mentioned by Nuttall on the 
authority of Audubon, should have been referred to T. aedon. 



WINTER WREN. 
Troglodytes hiemalis. 

Char. Above, reddish brown, brightest on the rump, marked with 
dark waved lines ; wings and tail with dark bars ; under parts paler 
brown, belly and under tail-coverts with numerous dark bars. Length 
about 4 inches. 

Nest. At the foot of a moss-covered stump, or under a fallen tree, or 
amid a pile of brush; composed of twigs and moss, lined with feathers. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white, spotted, chiefly near the larger end, with reddish 
brown and purple ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This little winter visitor, which approaches the Middle States 
in the month of October, seems scarcely in any way distin- 
guishable from the Common Wren of Europe. It sometimes 
passes the winter in Pennsylvania, and according to Audubon 
even breeds in the Great Pine Swamp in that State, as well as 
in New York. Early in the spring it is seen on its returning 
route to the Northwest. Mr. Say observed it in summer near 
the base of the Rocky Mountains ; it was also seen, at the 
same season, on the White Mountains of New Hampshire by 
the scientific exploring party of Dr. Bigelow, Messrs. Boott 



WINTER WREN. 2/1 

and Gray, so that it must retire to the Western or mountainous 
sohtudes to pass the period of incubation. Mr. Townsend 
obtained specimens of this bird in the forests of the Colum- 
bia. During its residence in the Middle States it frequents 
the broken banks of rivulets, old roots, and decayed logs near 
watery places in quest of its insect food. As in Europe, it also 
approaches the farm-house, examines the wood-pile, erecting 
its tail, and creeping into the interstices like a mouse. It 
frequently mounts on some projecting object and sings with 
great animation. In the gardens and outhouses of the city it 
appears equally familiar as the more common House Wren. 

The Wren has a pleasing warble, and much louder than 
might be expected from its diminutive size. Its song hkewise 
continues more or less throughout the year, — even during the 
prevalence of a snowstorm it has been heard as cheerful as 
ever ; it likewise continues its note till very late in the evening, 
though not after dark. 

This species is common throughout the Eastern States, breeding 
in northern New England and north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
and westward through northern Ohio and Ontario to Manitoba. 
During the summer it occurs also, sparingly, on the Berkshire Hills 
in Massachusetts, and along the crests of the Alleghanies to North 
Carolina. It winters from about 40° southward. 

Had Nuttall ever met with the Winter Wren in its summer 
haunts ; had he heard its wild melody break the stillness of the 
bird's forest home, or known of the power controlled by that tiny 
throstle and of its capacity for brilliant execution ; had he but once 
listened to its sweet and impassioned tones, and the suggestive 
joyousness of its rapid trills; had Nuttall, in short, ever heard 
the bird sing, — he could not, surely, have damned it with such 
faint praise. 

The song of this Wren is not well known, for the bird seldom 
sings beyond the nesting period, and then is rarely heard away 
from the woodland groves. But once heard, the song is not soon 
forgotten ; it is so wild and sweet a lay, and is flung upon the 
woodland quiet with such energy, such hilarious abandon, that it 
commands attention. Its merits entitle it to rank among the best 
of our sylvan melodies. 




CAROLINA WREN. 

MOCKING WREN. 

Thryothorus ludovicianus. 

Char. Above, reddish brown, with fine black bars ; below, tawny buff ; 
long line over the eye white or buff ; wings and tail with dark bars 
Length 5>4 to 6 inches. 

Nest. In any available hole, often in hollow tree, sometimes in brush 
heap, usually in the woods ; composed of grass, leaves, etc., sometimes 
fastened with corn-silk, lined with feathers, grass, or horse-hair. 

Eggs. 3-6 ; white, with pink or buff tint, thickly speckled around 
larger end with reddish brown ; 0.75 X 0.60. 

This remarkable mimicking and Musical Wren is a constant 
resident in the Southern States from Virginia to Florida, but 
is rarely seen at any season north of the line of Maryland or 
Delaware, though, attracted by the great river-courses, it is 
abundant from Pittsburg to New Orleans. A few individuals 
stray, in the course of the spring, as far as the line of New 
York, and appear in New Jersey and the vicinity of Philadel- 
phia early in the month of May. On the 1 7th of April, re- 
turning from a Southern tour of great extent, I again recognized 
my old and pleasing acquaintance, by his usual note, near 
Chester, on the Delaware, where, I have little doubt, a few 
remain and pass the summer, retiring to the South only 



CAROLINA WREN. 2/3 

as the weather becomes inclement. On the banks of the 
Patapsco, near Baltimore, their song is still heard to the close 
of November. 

Our bird has all the petulance, courage, industry, and famili- 
arity of his particular tribe. He delights to survey the mean- 
ders of peaceful streams, and dwell amidst the shady trees 
which adorn their banks. His choice seems to convey a taste 
for the picturesque and beautiful in Nature, himself, in the 
foreground, forming one of the most pleasing attractions of 
the scene. Approaching the waterfall, he associates with its 
murmurs the presence of the Kingfisher, and modulating the 
hoarse rattle of his original into a low, varied, desponding note, 
he sits on some depending bough by the stream, and calls, at 
intervals, in a slow voice, tee-yurrh tee-yurrh, or chr'r'r'r'rh. 
In the tall trees by the silent stream, he recollects the lively, 
common note of the Tufted Titmouse, and repeats the peto peto 
peto peet, or his peevish katetedid, katetedid, katedid. While 
gleaning low, amidst fallen leaves and brushwood, for hiding 
and dormant insects and worms, he perhaps brings up the note 
of his industrious neighbor, the Ground Robin, and sets to his 
own sweet and liquids tones the simple toweet toweet toweet. 
The tremulous trill of the Pine Warbler is then recollected, 
and tr' r" r' r' r' r' rh is whistled. In the next breath comes his 
imitation of the large Woodpecker, woity woity woity and 
wotchy wotchy wotchy, or tshovee tshovee fshof, and tshooadee 
tshooddee tshooadee f, then varied to tshuvai tshuvai tshuvat, and 
toovaiiah toovaiiah toovai'iatoo. Next comes perhaps his more 
musical and pleasing version of the Blackbird's short song, 
wottitshee wottitshee wottitshee. To the same smart tune is 
now set a chosen part of the drawling song of the Meadow 
Lark, precedo precedo pi'eceet, then varied, recedo recedo receet 
and tecedo tecedo teceef ; or changing to a bass key, he tunes 
sooteet sooteet soot. Once, I heard this indefatigable mimic 
attempt delightfully the warble of the Bluebird in the month of 
February. The bold • whistle of the Cardinal Bird is another 
of the sounds he delights to imitate and repeat in his own 
quaint manner ; such as vit-yii vit-yic vit-yii, and vishnu vishnu 

VOL. I. 1 8 



274 SINGING BIRDS. 

vishnu, then his woitee woitee woitee and wiltee wiltee wiltee. 
Soon after I first heard the note of the White- eyed Vireo in 
March, the CaroUna Wren immediately mimicked the note of 
teeah wewd wittee weewd. Some of these notes would appear 
to be recollections of the past season, as imitations of the 
Maryland Yellow-Throat {wittisee wiitisee wittisee wit, and 
shewaidit shewaidit shewaidit) , not yet heard or arrived within 
the boundary of the United States. So also his tsherry tsherry 
tsherry tshup is one of the notes of the Baltimore Bird, yet in 
South America. 

While at Tuscaloosa, about the 20th of February, one of 
these Wrens, on the borders of a garden, sat and repeated for 
some time tshe-whiskee whiskee whiskee, then soolait soolait 
soolait ; another of his phrases is tshukddee tshukddee tshukd- 
deetshoo and chjibway chjibway chjibway, uttered quick; the 
first of these expressions is in imitation of one of the notes of 
the Scarlet Tanager. Amidst these imitations and variations, 
which seem almost endless, and lead the stranger to imagine 
himself, even in the depth of winter, surrounded by all the 
quaint choristers of the summer, there is still, with our capri- 
cious and tuneful mimic, a favorite theme more constantly 
and regularly repeated than the rest. This was also the first 
sound that I heard from him, delivered with great spirit, though 
in the dreary month of January. This sweet and melodious 
ditty, tsee-toot tsee-toot tsee-toot, and sometimes tsee-toot tsee- 
toot seef, was usually uttered in a somewhat plaintive or tender 
strain, varied at each repetition with the most delightful and 
delicate tones, of which no conception can be formed without 
experience. That this song has a sentimental air may be con- 
ceived from its interpretation by the youths of the country, 
who pretend to hear it say sweet-heart sweet-heart sweet / Nor 
is the illusion more than the natural truth ; for, usually, this 
affectionate ditty is answered by its mate, sometimes in the 
same note, at others, in a different call. In most cases it will 
be remarked that the phrases of our songster are uttered in 
3's ; by this means it will generally be practicable to distinguish 
its performance from that of other birds, and particularly from 



CAROLINA WREN. 275 

the Cardinal Grosbeak, whose expressions it often closely imi- 
tates both in power and delivery. I shall never, I believe, 
forget the soothing satisfaction and amusement I derived from 
this little constant and unwearied minstrel, my sole vocal com- 
panion through many weary miles of a vast, desolate, and 
otherwise cheerless wilderness. Yet with all his readiness to 
amuse by his Protean song, the epitome of all he had ever 
heard or recollected, he was still studious of concealment, 
keepmg busily engaged near the ground, or in low thickets, in 
quest of his food ; and when he mounted a log or brush pile, 
which he had just examined, his color, so similar to the fallen 
leaves and wintry livery of Nature, often prevented me from 
gaining a glimpse of this wonderful and interesting mimic. 

Like the preceding species, he has restless activity and a 
love for prying into the darkest corners after his prey, and is 
particularly attached to the vicinity of rivers and wet places, 
when not surrounded by gloomy shade. His quick and capri- 
cious motions, antic jerks, and elevated tail resemble the actions 
of the House Wren. Eager and lively in his contracted flight, 
before shifting he quickly throws himself forward, so as nearly 
to touch his perch previous to springing from his legs. In 
Tuscaloosa and other towns in Alabama he appeared frequently 
upon the tops of the bams and out-houses, delivering with 
energy his varied and desultory lay. At Tallahassee, in West 
Florida, I observed one of these birds chanting near the door 
of a cottage, and occasionally imitating, in his way, the squall- 
ing of the crying child within, so that, like the Mocking Bird, 
all sounds, if novel, contribute to his amusement. 

This species is common in the Southern States and north to 40°, 
being extremely abundant in southern Illinois, and it occasionally 
wanders to northern Ohio and to New York, Connecticut, Massa- 
chusetts, and southern New Hampshire. Mr. Saunders reports 
that one was taken near London, Ontario, in February, 1891. 



;N"ote. The Florida Wren (7". ludovicianus miamensis) is 

a larger, darker form, which is restricted to southeastern Florida. 



2^6 SINGING BIRDS. 

BEWICK'S WREN. 

LONG-TAILED HOUSE WREN. 

Thryothorus BEWICKIL 

Char. Above, chestnut brown; tail with dark bars; wings not 
barred ; buff stripe over eye ; below, dull white ; flanks brown. Length 
5 to ^Yz inches. 

Nest. Almost anywhere. In settled districts it is usually built in a 
crevice of a house or barn ; but in the woods a hollow tree or stump is 
selected, or a clump of bushes. Composed of a mass of leaves, grass, etc., 
roughly put together. 

Eggs. 4-7 ; white or Avith pink tint, thickly marked with fine spots of 
reddish brown and purple ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

For the discovery of this beautiful species of Wren, appar- 
ently allied to the preceding, with which it seems nearly to 
agree in size, we are indebted to the indefatigable Audubon, in 
whose splendid work it is for the first time figured. It was 
observed by its discoverer, towards the approach of winter, in 
the lower part of Louisiana. Its manners are very similar to 
those of other species, but instead of a song, at this season it 
only uttered a low twitter. 

Dr. Bachman found this species to be the most prevalent of 
any other in the mountains of Virginia, particularly about the 
Salt Sulphur Springs, where they breed and pass the season. 
The notes bear some resemblance to those of the Winter Wren, 
being scarcely louder or more connected. From their habit oi 
prying into holes and hollow logs they are supposed to breed in 
such situations. Mr. Trudeau believes that they breed in Loui- 
siana. In the marshy meadows of the Wahlamet Mr. Townsend 
and myself frequently saw this species, accompanied by the 
young, as early as the month of May. At this time they have 
much the habit and manners of the Marsh Wren, and probably 
nest in the tussocks of rank grass in which we so frequently 
saw them gleaning their prey. They were now shy, and rarely 
seen in the vicinity of our camp. 

Bewick's Wren is abundant along the Mississippi valley, but is 
rarelv seen east of the Alleghanies or north of latitude 40°. 



SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN. 2// 

SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

CiSTOTHORUS STELLARIS. 

Char. Above, brown, very dark on crown and back, and streaked 
everywhere with buffy ; wings and tail with dark bars ; below, buffy 
white, paler on throat and belly; breast and sides shaded with brown 
Length 4 to ^]4, inches. 

Nest. On the ground, amid a tuft of high grass, in fresh-water marsh or 
swampy meadow ; composed of grass, lined with vegetable down. Usu- 
ally the tops of surrounding grass are weaved above the nest, leaving an 
entrance at the side. 

£^^g^' 6-8; white; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This amusing and not unmusical little species inhabits the 
lowest marshy meadows, but does not frequent the reed-flats. 
It never visits cultivated grounds, and is at all times shy, timid, 
and suspicious. It arrives in this part of Massachusetts about 
the close of the first week in May, and retires to the South by 
the middle of September at farthest, probably by night, as it is 
never seen in progress, so that its northern residence is only 
prolonged about four months. In winter this bird is seen from 
South Carolina to Texas. 

His presence is announced by his lively and quaint song of 
^tsh ^tship, a day day day day, delivered in haste and earnest 
at short intervals, either when he is mounted on a tuft of 
sedge, or while perching on some low bush near the skirt of 
the marsh. The 'tsh 'tship is uttered with a strong aspiration, 
and the remainder with a guttural echo. While thus engaged, 
his head and tail are alternately depressed and elevated, as if 
the little odd performer were fixed on a pivot. Sometimes the 
note varies to 'tship 'tship 'tshia, dh' dh' dh' dh\ the latter 
part being a pleasant trill. When approached too closely, — 
which not often happened, as he never permitted me to come 
within two or three feet of his station, — his song became 
harsh and more hurried, like 'tship da da da, and de de de de 
d' d* dh, or tshe de de de de, rising into an angry, petulant cry, 
sometimes also a low, hoarse, and scolding daigh daigh ; then 
again on invading the nest the sound sank to a plaintive 'tsh 



2/8 SINGING BIRDS. 

tship, Ush tship. In the early part of the breeding season the 
male is very lively and musical, and in his best humor he tunes 
up a 'tship Uship tship a dee, with a pleasantly warbled and 
reiterated de. At a later period another male uttered little else 
than a hoarse and guttural daigh, hardly louder than the croak- 
ing of a frog. When approached, these birds repeatedly descend 
into the grass, where they spend much of their time in quest of 
insects, chiefly crustaceous, which with moths, constitute their 
principal food ; here, unseen, they still sedulously utter their 
quaint warbling, and tship tship a day day day day may for 
about a month from their arrival be heard pleasantly echoing 
on a fine morning from the borders of every low marsh and wet 
meadow provided with tussocks of sedge-grass, in which they 
indispensably dwell, for a time engaged in the cares and grati- 
fication of raising and providing for their young. 

The nest of the Short-billed Marsh Wren is made wholly of 
dry or partly green sedge, bent usually from the top of the 
grassy tuft in which the fabric is situated. With much inge- 
nuity and labor these simple materials are loosely entwined 
together into a spherical form, with a small and rather obscure 
entrance left in the side ; a thin lining is sometimes added to 
the whole, of the linty fibres of the silk-weed or some other 
similar material. The eggs, pure white and destitute of spots, 
are probably from 6 to 8. In a nest containing 7 eggs there 
were 3 of them larger than the rest and perfectly fresh, while 
the 4 smaller were far advanced towards hatching ; from this 
circumstance we may fairly infer that tivo different individuals 
had laid in the same nest, — a circumstance more common 
among wild birds than is generally imagined. This is also the 
more remarkable as the male of this species, like many other 
W^rens, is much employed in making nests, of which not more 
than one in three or four are ever occupied by the females. 

The summer limits of this species, confounded with the 
ordinary Marsh-Wren, are yet unascertained ; and it is singu- 
lar to remark how near it approaches to another species in- 
habiting the temperate parts of the southern hemisphere in 
America, namely, the Sylvia platensis^ figured and indicated by 



LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN. 279 

Buffon. The time of arrival and departure in this species, 
agreeing exactly with the appearance of the Marsh Wren of 
Wilson, appears to prove that it also exists in Pennsylvania 
with the following, whose migration, according to Audubon, is 
more than a month earlier and later than that of our bird. Mr. 
Cooper, however, has not been able to meet with it in the 
vicinity of New York, but Dr. Trudeau found its nest in the 
marshes of the Delaware. 

This Wren occurs throughout the Eastern Province north to 
Massachusetts on the Atlantic, and in the west to Manitoba, breed- 
ing generally north of 40°, and wintering in the Gulf States. It is 
found in eastern Canada only on the marshes near Lake St. Clair. 



LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

CiSTOTHORUS >PALUSTRIS. 

Char. Above, dull reddish brown, darker on crown ; back black, 
streaked with white ; white line over eyes ; wings and tail with dark bars ; 
below, buffy white, shaded on sides with brown. Length 5 to sj4 inches. 

A^es^. In a salt marsh or reedy swamp of interior, fastened to reeds or 
cat-tails or a small bush ; composed of grass and reeds, sometimes 
plastered with mud, lined with fine grass or feathers. It is bulky and 
spherical in form, the entrance at the side. 

^o-gs. 6-10 ; generally so thickly covered with dark-brown spots as to 
appear uniform chocolate with darker spots; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This retiring inhabitant of marshes and the wet and sedgy 
borders of rivers arrives in the Middle States of the Union 
early in April, and retires to the South about the middle of 
October. It is scarcely found to the north of the State of 
New York, its place in New England being usually occupied 
by the preceding species, though a few individuals are known 
to breed in the marshes near Cambridge and Boston. 

It is a remarkably active and quaint little bird, skipping 
and diving about with great activity after its insect food and 
their larvae among the rank grass and rushes, near ponds and 
the low banks of rivers, where alone it affects to dwell, laying 
no claims to the immunities of the habitable circle of man, 
but content with its favorite marshes ; neglected and seldom 



28o SINGING BIRDS. 

seen, it rears its young in security. The song, according to the 
observations of a friend, is very similar to that of the preced- 
ing, — a sort of short, tremulous, and hurried warble. Its 
notes were even yet heard in an island of the Delaware, oppo- 
site to Philadelphia, as late as the month of September, where 
they were still in plenty in this secluded asylum. Towards the 
close of the breeding season the song often falls off into a low, 
guttural, bubbling sound, which appears almost like an effort of 
ventriloquism. 

The nest, according to Wilson, is generally suspended 
among the reeds and securely tied to them at a sufficient 
height above the access of the highest tides. It is formed of 
wet rushes well intertwisted together, mixed with mud, and 
fashioned into the form of a cocoa-nut, having a small orifice 
left in the side for entrance. The principal material of this 
nest, as in the preceding species, is, however, according to 
Audubon, the leaves of the sedge-grass, on a tussock of which 
it also occasionally rests. The young quit the nest about the 
2oth of June, and they generally have a second brood in the 
course of the season. From the number of empty nests found 
in the vicinity of the residence of the Marsh Wren, it is 
pretty evident that it is also much employed in the usual 
superfluous or capricious labor of the genus. The pugnacious 
character of the males, indeed, forbids the possibihty of so 
many nests being amicably occupied in the near neighborhood 
in which they are commonly found. 

This Wren is common in suitable localities in Massachusetts, but 
has not been found farther northward. It occurs westward to the 
Pacific, and south (in winter) to the Gulf States. It appears on 
Canadian territory only in southern Ontario and Manitoba. 



Note. — Worthington's Marsh Wren (C. palustris griseus) 
and Marian's Marsh Wren (C p. mariaiice) have been discov- 
ered somewhat recently. Both are smaller than true palustris. 
Griseus is described as the palest of the three, and " its dark mark- 
ings are less pronounced. It is restricted to the coast of South 
Carolina and Georgia," while viaria7icB has been found only on the 
southwestern coast of Florida. The latter race is the darkest of 
the three. 



RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. 28 1 

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. 

Regulus calendula. 

Char. Above, olive, brighter on rump; crown with a concealed patch 
of rich scarlet, white at the base, — wanting in female and young ; white 
ring around the eyes ; wings and tail dusky, the feathers edged with dull 
buff; wings with two white bars i below, dull white tinged with buff. 
Length about 4^ inches. 

Nest, In woodland, usually partially pensile, suspended from extrem- 
ity of branch, — often placed on top of branch, sometimes against the 
trunk, — on coniferous tree, 10 to 30 feet from the ground ; neatly and 
compactly made of shreds of bark, grass, and moss, lined with feathers or 
hair. 

Eggs. 6-9 ; dull white or buff, spotted, chiefly around larger end, with 
bright reddish brown; 0.55 X 0.43. 

These beautiful little birds pass the summer and breeding 
season in the colder parts of the North American continent, 
penetrating even to the dreary coasts of Greenland, where, as 
well as around Hudson's Bay and Labrador, they rear their 
young in solitude, and obtain abundance of the diminutive 
flying insects, gnats, and cynips, on which with small cater- 
pillars they and their young delight to feed. In the months of 
October and November the approach of winter in their natal 
regions stimulates them to migrate towards the South, when 
they arrive in the Eastern and Middle States, and frequent in 
a familiar and unsuspicious manner the gardens and orchards ; 
how far they proceed to the South is uncertain. On the 12th 
of January I observed them near Charleston, South Carolina, 
with companies of Sylvias busily darting through the ever- 
greens in swampy situations in quest of food, probably minute 
larvae. About the first week in March I again observed them 
in West Florida in great numbers, busily employed for hours 
together in the tallest trees, some of which were already un- 
folding their blossoms, such as the maples and oaks. About 
the beginning of April they are seen in Pennsylvania on their 
way to the dreary limits of the continent, where they only 
arrive towards the close of May, so that in the extremity of 
their range they do not stay more than three months. Wilson, 



282 SINGING BIRDS. 

it would appear, sometimes met with them in Pennsylvania 
even in summer ; but as far as I can learn, they are never ob- 
served in Massachusetts at that season, and with their nest and 
habits of incubation we are unacquainted. In the fall they 
seek society apparently with the Titmouse and Golden-Crested 
Kinglet, with whom they are intimately related in habits, man- 
ners, and diet ; the whole forming a busy, silent, roving com- 
pany, with no object in view but that of incessantly gleaning 
their now scanty and retiring prey. So eagerly, indeed, are 
they engaged at this time that scarcely feeling sympathy 
for each other, or willing to die any death but that of famine, 
they continue almost uninterruptedly to hunt through the same 
tree from which their unfortunate companions have just fallen 
by the destructive gun. They only make at this time, occa- 
sionally, a feeble chirp, and take scarcely any alarm, however 
near they are observed. Audubon met with this species breed- 
ing in Labrador, but did not discover the nest ; its song, he 
remarks, is fully as sonorous as that of the Canary, — as pow- 
erful and clear, and even more varied. 

This species probably breeds from about latitude 45° to the 
lower fur countries, and on the higher mountains to the southward. 
Few nests have been discovered. Rev. Frank Ritchie found one 
near Lennox\nlle, Quebec, and Harry Austen has taken another 
near Halifax, in which he found 11 eggs. 

The full song is much more elaborate and more beautiful than 
the bird has usually been credited with, for it has been described 
by writers who have heard only the thin, weak notes more gener- 
ally uttered. Mr. Chapman describes this song as mellow and 
flute-like, " loud enough to be heard several hundred yards ; an 
intricate warble past imitation or description, and rendered so 
admirably that I never hear it now without feeling an impulse to 
applaud." 

Note. — Cuvier's Kinglet {Reguhis cuvieri) was placed on 
the " Hypothetical List" by the A. O. U. Committee. The single 
bird shot by Audubon in Pennsylvania is the only specimen that 
has been obtained. 




GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET. 

Regulus satrapa. 

Char. Above, olive, brightest on the rump; crown with patch of 
orange red and yellow, bordered by black (female and young lacking the 
red) ; forehead and line over eyes and patch beneath, dull white ; wings 
and tail dusky, the feathers edged with dull- buff; two white bars on 
wings ; below, dull white with buff tint. Length 4 inches 

Nest. In damp coniferous woods, often wholly or partially pendent 
from small twigs near end of branch (sometimes saddled upon the branch) 
10 to 50 feet from the ground; usually made of green moss and lichens, 
lined at bottom with shreds of soft bark and roots, and often with feathers 
fastened to inside of edge, and so arranged that the tips droop over and 
conceal the eggs ; sometimes the nest is a spherical mass of moss and 
lichens, lined with vegetable down and wool ; the entrance at the side. 

Eggs. 6-10; usually creamy or pale buff, sometimes white, unmarked, 
or dotted with pale reddish brown and lavender over entire surface, 
often merely a wreath, more or less distinct around larger end; 0.55 
X 0.45. 

These diminutive birds are found, according to the season, 
not only throughout North America, but even in the West 
Indies. They appear to be associated only in pairs, and are 
seen on their southern route, in this part of Massachusetts, a 
few days in October, and about the middle of the month, or a 
little earlier or later according to the setting in of the season, 
as they appear to fly before the desolating storms of the north- 
ern regions, whither they retire about May to breed. Some 
few remain in Pennsylvania until December or January, pro- 
ceeding probably but little farther south during the winter. 
They are not known to reside in any part of New England, 
retiring to the same remote and desolate limits of the farthest 
North with the preceding species, of which they have most of 



284 SINGING BIRDS. 

the habits. They are actively engaged during their transient 
visits to the South in gleaning up insects and their lurking 
larvse, for which they perambulate the branches of trees of 
various kinds, frequenting gardens and orchards, and skipping 
and vaulting from the twigs, sometimes head downwards like 
the Chick-adee, with whom they often keep company, making 
only now and then a feeble chirp. They appear at this time 
to search chiefly after spiders and dormant concealed coleop- 
terous or shelly insects ; they are also said to feed on small 
berries and some kinds of seeds, which they break open by 
pecking with the bill in the manner of the Titmouse. They 
likewise frequent the sheltered cedar and pine woods, in which 
they probably take up their roost at night. Early in April 
they are seen on their return to the North in Pennsylvania ; at 
this time they dart among the blossoms of the maple and elm 
in company with the preceding species, and appear more vola- 
tile and actively engaged in seizing small flies on the wing, and 
collecting minute, lurking caterpillars from the opening leaves. 
On the 2 1 St of May, 1835, I observed this species feeding 
its full-fledged young in a tall pine-tree on the banks of the 
Columbia River. 

The range of this species is now set down as " Eastern North 
America, breeding from the northern border of the United States 
northward and southward along the Rockies and the Alleghanies ; 
wintering south to Guatemala." Until quite recently it was sup- 
posed to be a migrant through Massachusetts, wintering in small 
numbers, but has been discovered breeding in both Berkshire and 
Worcester counties. It is a resident of the settled portion of 
Canada, though not common west of the Georgian Bay, and rarely 
breeding south of latitude 45°. 

The song is a rather simple " twittered warble," shrill and high- 
pitched. 




BLUEBIRD. 

SlALLA. SIALIS. 

Char. Male : above, azure blue, duller on cheeks ; throat, breast, and 
sides reddish brown ; belly and under tail-coverts white ; shafts of feathers 
in wing and tail, black. Female : duller, blue of back mixed with grayish 
brown ; breast with less of rufous tint. Length about 6^ inches. 

Nest. In a hollow tree, deserted Woodpecker's hole, or other excava- 
tion or crevice, or in a bird-box ; meagrely lined with grass or feathers. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; usually pale blue, sometimes almost white ; 0.85 X 0.65. 

These well-known and familiar favorites inhabit almost the 
whole eastern side of the continent of America, from the 48th 
parallel to the very line of the tropics. Some appear to mi- 
grate in winter to the Bermudas and Bahama islands, though 
most of those which pass the summer in the North only retire 
to the Southern States or the tableland of Mexico. In South 
Carolina and Georgia they were abundant in January and Feb- 
ruary, and even on the 12th and 28th of the former month, the 
weather being mild, a few of these wanderers warbled out their 
simple notes from the naked limbs of the long-leaved pines. 
Sometimes they even pass the winter in Pennsylvania, or at 
least make their appearance with almost every relenting of the 
severity of the winter or warm gleam of thawing sunshine. 
From this circumstance of their roving about in quest of their 
scanty food, like the hard-pressed and hungry Robin Redbreast, 
who by degrees gains such courage from necessity as to enter 
the cottage for his allowed crumbs, it has, without foundation, 



286 SINGING BIRDS. 

been supposed that our Bluebird, in the intervals of his absence, 
passes the tedious and stormy time in a state of dormancy ; 
but it is more probable that he flies to some sheltered glade, 
some warm and more hospitable situation, to glean his frugal 
fare from the berries of the cedar or the wintty fruits which 
still remain ungathered in the swamps. Defended from the 
severity of the cold, he now also, in all probability, roosts in 
the hollows of decayed trees, — a situation which he generally 
chooses for the site of his nest. In the South, at this cheer- 
less season, Bluebirds are seen to feed on the glutinous berries 
of the mistletoe, the green-brier, and the sumach. Content with 
their various fare, and little affected by the extremes of heat 
and cold, they breed and spend the summer from Labrador to 
Natches, if not to Mexico, where great elevation produces the 
most temperate and mild of climates. They are also abundant, 
at this season, to the west of the Mississippi, in the territories 
of the Missouri and Arkansas. 

In the Middle and Northern States the return of the Blue- 
bird to his old haunts round the barn and the orchard is 
hailed as the first agreeable presage of returning spring, and he 
is no less a messenger of grateful tidings to the farmer, than 
an agreeable, familiar, and useful companion to all. Though 
sometimes he makes a still earlier flitting visit, from the 3d to 
the middle of March he comes hither as a permanent resident, 
and is now accompanied by his mate, who immediately visits the 
box in the garden, or the hollow in the decayed orchard tree, 
which has served as the cradle of preceding generations of his 
kindred. Affection and jealousy, as in the contending and re- 
lated Thrushes, have considerable influence over the Bluebird. 
He seeks perpetually the company of his mate, caresses and 
soothes her with his amorous song, to which she faintly replies ; 
and, like the faithful Rook, seeks occasion to show his gallan- 
try by feeding her with some favorite insect. If a rival make 
his appearance, the attack is instantaneous, the intruder is 
driven with angry chattering from the precincts he has chosen, 
and he now returns to warble out his notes of triumph by the 
side of his cherished consort. The business of preparing and 



BLUEBIRD. 287 

cleaning out the old nest or box now commences; and even 
in October, before they bid farewell to their favorite mansion, 
on fine days, influenced by the anticipation of the season, they 
are often observed to go in and out of the box, as if examining 
and planning out their future domicile. Little pains, however, 
are requisite for the protection of the hardy young, and a sub- 
stantial lining of hay, and now and then a few feathers, is all 
that is prepared for the brood beyond the natural shelter of 
the chosen situation. As the Martin and House Wren seek 
out the favor and convenience of the box, contests are not 
unfrequent with the parties for exclusive possession ; and the 
latter, in various clandestine ways, exhibits his envy and hos- 
tility to the favored Bluebird. As our birds are very prolific, 
and constantly paired, they often raise 2 and sometimes prob- 
ably 3 broods in the season; the male taking the youngest 
under his affectionate charge, while the female is engaged in 
the act of mcubation. 

Their principal food consists of insects, particularly beetles 
and other shelly kinds ; they are also fond of spiders and 
grasshoppers, for which they often, in company with their 
young, in autumn, descend to the earth, in open pasture fields 
or waste grounds. Like our Thrushes, they, early in spring, 
also collect the common wire -worm, or lulus, for food, as well 
as other kinds of insects, which they commonly watch for, 
while perched on the fences or low boughs of trees, and dart 
after them to the ground as soon as perceived. They are 
not, however, flycatchers, like the Sylvicolas and Muscicapas, 
but are rather industrious searchers for subsistence, like the 
Thrushes, whose habits they wholly resemble in their mode 
of feeding. In the autumn they regale themselves on various 
kinds of berries, as those of the sour-gum, wild-cherry, and 
others ; and later in the season, as winter approaches, they 
frequent the red cedars and several species of sumach for 
their berries, eat persimmons in the Middle States, and many 
other kinds of fruits, and even seeds, — the last never enter- 
ing into the diet of the proper Flycatchers. They have also, 
occasionally, in a state of confinement, been reared and fed 



288 SINGING BIRDS. 

on soaked bread and vegetable diet, on which they thrive as 
well as does the Robin. 

The song of the Bluebird, which continues almost uninter- 
ruptedly from March to October, is a soft, rather feeble, but 
delicate and pleasing warble, often repeated at various times 
of the day, but most frequently in early spring when the sky 
is serene and the temperature mild and cheering. At this 
season, before the earnest Robin pours out his more energetic 
lay from the orchard tree or fence-rail, the simple song of this 
almost domestic favorite is heard nearly alone ; and if at 
length he be rivalled, at the dawn of day, by superior and 
bolder songsters, he still reheves the silence of later hours by 
his unwearied and affectionate attempts to please and accom- 
pany his devoted mate. All his energy is poured out into this 
simple ditty, and with an ecstatic feeling of delight he often 
raises and quivers his wings like the Mocking Orpheus, and 
amidst his striving rivals in song, exerts his utmost powers to 
introduce variety into his unborrowed and simple strain. On 
hearkening some time to his notes, an evident similarity to the 
song of the Thrush is observable ; but the accents are more 
weak, faltering, and inclining to the plaintive. As in many 
other instances, it is nearly impossible to give any approxi- 
mating idea of the expression of warbled sounds by words ; yet 
their resemblance to some quaint expressions, in part, may not 
be useless, as an attempt to recall to memory these pleasing 
associations with native harmony : so the Bluebird often at 
the commencement of his song seems tenderly to call in a 
whistled tone 'hear — hear buty, buty ? or merely /z^^r — biity, 
and instantly follows this interrogatory call with a soft and warb- 
ling trill. So much is this sound like that which these birds 
frequently utter that on whistling the syllables in their accent, 
even in the cool days of autumn, when they are nearly silent, 
they often resume the answer in sympathy. During the period 
of incubation, the male becomes much more silent, and utters 
his notes principally in the morning. More importantly 
engaged, in now occasionally feeding his mate as well as him- 
self, and perhaps desirous of securing the interesting occupa- 



BLUEBIRD. 289 

tion of his devoted consort, he avoids betraying the resort of 
his charge by a cautious and silent interest in their fate. Gen- 
tle, peaceable, and familiar when undisturbed, his society is 
courted by every lover of rural scenery; and it is not un- 
common for the farmer to furnish the Bluebird with a box, as 
well as the Martin, in return for the pleasure of his company, 
the destruction he makes upon injurious insects, and the cheer- 
fulness of his song. Confident in this protection, he shows 
but little alarm for his undisturbed tenement ; while in the 
remote orchard, expecting no visitor but an enemy, in com- 
pany with his anxious mate he bewails the approach of the 
intruder, and flying round his head and hands, appears by his 
actions to call down all danger upon himself rather than suffer 
any injury to arrive to his helpless brood. 

Towards autumn, in the month of October, his cheerful song 
nearly ceases, or is now changed into a single plaintive note 
of tshay-wit, while he passes with his flitting companions over 
the fading woods ; and as his song first brought the welcome 
intelligence of spring, so now his melancholy plaint presages 
but too truly the silent and mournful decay of Nature. Even 
when the leaves have fallen, and the forest no longer affords a 
shelter from the blast, the faithful Bluebirds still linger over 
their native fields, and only take their departure in November, 
when at a considerable elevation, in the early twilight of the 
morning, till the opening of the day, they wing their way in 
small roving troops to some milder regions in the South. But 
yet, after this period, in the Middle States, with every return 
of moderate weather we hear their sad note in the fields or in 
the air, as if deploring the ravages of winter ; and so frequent 
are their visits that they may be said to follow fair weather 
through all their wanderings till the permanent return of spring. 

If the Bluebird ever tried the climate of Labrador, it evidently 
discovered that the weather there was not suitable, for now it rarely 
goes north of latitude 45°. A few pairs are seen every season 
about the farm-lands on the upper St. John, in New Brunswick, 
and Philip Cox has seen several at Newcastle, near the mouth of 
the Miramichi. Comeau found a pair breeding at Godbout, and 
Thompson reports that they have lately entered Manitoba. 
VOL. I. — 19 



^:S<.^ 




WHEATEAR. 



SaXICOLA (ENANTHE. 

Char. Above, bluish gra}'; forehead and stripe over eyes white; 
patch on cheek and wings black ; rump white; middle tail-feathers black, 
rest white, broadly tipped with black; under parts white. In the female 
the upper parts are brown, and under parts buff. Length 6^ inches. 

Nest. In a crevice of a stone wall or a stone heap ; made of plant 
stems and grass, lined with feathers, hair, or rabbit's fur. 

Eggs. 5-7 ; pale blue, sometimes spotted with pale tawny, or purple ; 
0.85 X 0.65. 

The first mention of the occurrence of this species in eastern 
America appeared in Holboll's account of the birds of Greenland, 
issued in 1846; it had been reported previously from the Pacific 
coast by Vigors. In 1854 the name appeared in Cassin's work, 
and in Baird's "Report" of 1859 it was recorded as "accidental 
in the northern part of North America." 

It should not be termed accidental at the present day, for it 
occurs regularly in Greenland and Labrador and at Godbout, on 
the St. Lawrence, and has been taken in winter in Nova Scotia, 
Maine, New York, Long Island, Louisiana, and Bermuda. 

American writers formerly gave the vernacular name as " Stone- 
chat," or "Stone Chat," — Coues alone adding Wheatear (as a 
synonym). 



WHEATEAR. 29 1 

The Stonechat is a different bird, though Magillivray called 
the present species the " White-rumped Stonechat." Throughout 
Europe the bird is commonly known as the " White-rump," and 
Saunders considers the name " wheatear " a corruption of white 
and cBrs^ — the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the modern word 
" rump." 

In Europe and Asia the species is abundant, breeding from cen- 
tral Europe far to the northward, and migrating in winter to north- 
ern Africa. A few winter in the British Islands, though these may 
be of the Greenland race, which some authors think is a distinct 
form, — larger than those that breed in Europe, — as the Green- 
land birds are known to migrate across Great Britain. Ridgway 
states that the examples taken on our western coast are smaller and 
more like those found in central Europe. 

Formerly large numbers were trapped in the autumn on the 
Southdowns in England, and marketed, being considered little 
inferior in delicacy to the famous Ortolans. 

The favorite resorts of the Wheatear at all seasons are the lonely 
moors or open meadows by the sea-shore. It is an active bird and 
always alert, keeping up a perpetual flitting. It is very terrrestrial, 
though the Greenland race is said to perch on trees more fre- 
quently than the European bird. 

The song is sweet and sprightly, and the male often sings while 
hovering over his mate. 

Mr. Hagerup writes to me that the birds in Greenland sing at 
times very similarly to the Snow Buntings, — a song that he never 
heard from the Wheatears of Denmark, — and this song is ren- 
dered by both females and males. Seebohm writes : " The love 
notes form a short but pleasing song ; and the more particularly 
are we apt to view his performance with favor, because it gener- 
ally greets the ear in wild and lonely places." And again : " Some- 
times he warbles his notes on his perch, accompanying them with 
graceful motion of the wings, and finally launching into the air to 
complete his song, the aerial fluttering seeming to give the perform- 
ance additional vigor." Dixon has seen " two Wheatears in the 
air together, buffeting each other, and singing lustily all the time, 
with all the sweetness that love rivalry inspires." 




AMERICAN PIPIT. 

TITLARK. 
Anthus PENSILVANICUS. 

Char. Above, olive brown, edges of the feathers paler; line over 
and around the eye pale buff ; wings dusky, edges of feathers pale brown ; 
tail dusky, middle feathers olive brown, large patches of white on outer 
feathers ; below, dull buff, breast and sides spotted with brown. Length 
6% inches. 

A^est. On the ground, usually sheltered by stone or mound ; a bulky 
affair of grass, stems, moss, and lichens, — sometimes only grass is used, 
— often loosely made, occasionally compact. 

Eggs. 4-6; variable in color, usually dull white covered thickly with 
reddish brown and purplish brown ; sometimes the markings so nearly 
conceal the ground color as to give appearance of a brown egg with 
gray streaks ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This is a winter bird of passage in most parts of the United 
States, arriving in loose, scattered flocks from the North, in 
the Middle and Eastern States, about the second week in 
October. In the month of April we saw numerous flocks 
flitting over the prairies of Missouri, on their way, no doubt, 
to their breeding quarters in the interior. Audubon found 
these birds also in the summer on the dreary coast of Labra- 
dor. During the breeding season the male often rises on wing 
to the height of eight or ten yards, uttering a few clear and 



AMERICAN PIPIT. 293 

mellow notes, and then suddenly settles down near the nest or 
on some projecting rock. They leave Labrador and New- 
foundland as soon as the young are able to fly, or about the 
middle of August. According to their well-known habits, they 
frequent open flats, commons, and ploughed fields, Hke a 
Lark, running rapidly along the ground, taking by surprise their 
insect prey of flies, midges, and other kinds, and when rest- 
ing for an instant, keeping the tail vibrating in the manner of 
the European Wagtail. They also frequent the river shores, 
particularly where gravelly, in quest of minute shell-fish, as 
well as aquatic insects and their larvae. At this time they 
utter only a feeble note or call, like tweet tweet, with the final 
tone often plaintively prolonged ; and when in flocks, wheel 
about and fly pretty high, and to a considerable distance before 
they ahght. Sometimes famihes of these birds continue all 
winter in the Middle States, if the season prove moderate. In 
the Southern States, particularly North and South Carolina, 
they appear in great flocks in the depth of winter. On the 
shores of the Santee, in January, I observed them gleaning 
their food familiarly amidst the Vultures, drawn by the rubbish 
of the city conveyed to this quarter. They likewise frequent 
the cornfields and rice-grounds for the same purpose. They 
emigrate to the Bermudas, Cuba, and Jamaica, and penetrate 
in the course of the winter even to Mexico, Guiana, and 
Brazil. They also inhabit the plains of the Oregon. They 
are again seen on their return to the North, in Pennsylvania, 
about the beginning of May or close of April. 

The Titlark is distributed over North America at large, breed- 
ing in subarctic regions and wintering in the Gulf States and 
Central America. During the autumn migrations it is abundant 
on the moorlands along the coasts of New England and the 
Maritime Provinces. 



Note. — Two European congeners of the Titlark, the White 
Wagtail {Motacilla alba) and the Meadow Pipit {Anthus pra- 
tensis) have been captured in Greenland, but should be considered 
merely as " accidentals " in that region. 

Sprague's Pipit {Anthus spragueii)^ a bird of the western 
plains, has been taken near Charleston, S. C. 




HORNED LARK. 

SHORE LARK. 
Otocoris ALPESTRIS. 

Char. Above, dull grayish brown streaked with darker; nape, shoul. 
ders, and rump pink-vinaceous cinnamon ; black bar across forehead and 
along sides of head, terminating in erectile horn-like tufts ; throat and 
line over the eyes, yellow ; black bar from nostril curving below the eyes ; 
below, dull white, shaded on the sides with same color as back ; breast 
tinged with yellow and bearing large black patch ; middle tail-feathers 
like back, the rest black, with white patches on outer pair. Length about 
7^ inches. 

Nest. On the ground, amid a bed of moss ; composed of grass, lined 
with feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; dull white with buff or purple tint spotted with purplish 
brown or olive brown and lilac ; 0.93 X 0.70. 

This beautiful species is common to the north of both the old 
and new continent ; but, as in some other instances already re- 
marked, the Shore Lark extends its migrations much farther over 
America than over Europe and Asia. Our bird has been met 
vi^ith in the Arctic regions by the numerous voyagers, and Mr. 
Bullock saw it in the winter around the city of Mexico, so that 
in their migrations over this continent these birds spread them- 
selves across the whole habitable northern hemisphere to the 
very equator ; while in Europe, according to the careful obser- 



HORNED LARK. 295 

vations of Temminck, they are unknown to the south of Ger- 
many. Pallas met with these birds round Lake Baikal and on 
the Volga, in the 53d degree of latitude. Westward they have 
also been seen in the interior of the United States, along the 
shores of the Missouri. 

They arrive in the Northern and Middle States late in the 
fall or commencement of winter. In New England they are 
seen early in October, and disappear generally on the approach 
of the deep storms of snow, though straggling parties are still 
found nearly throughout the winter. In the other States to 
the South they are more common at this season, and are par- 
ticularly numerous in South Carolina and Georgia, frequenting 
open plains, old fields, common grounds, and the dry shores 
and banks of bays and rivers, keeping constantly on the 
ground, and roving about in families under the guidance of the 
older birds, who, watching for any approaching danger, give 
the alarm to the young in a plaintive call very similar to that 
which is uttered by the Skylark in the same circumstances. 
Inseparable in all their movements, like the hen and her fos- 
tered chickens, they roost together in a close ring or com- 
pany, by the mere edge of some sheltering weed or tuft of 
grass on the dry and gravelly ground, and thickly and warmly 
clad, they abide the frost and the storm with hardy indiffe- 
rence. They fly rather high and loose, in scattered companies, 
and follow no regular time of migration, but move onward only 
as their present resources begin to fail. They are usually fat, 
esteemed as food, and are frequently seen exposed for sale in 
our markets. Their diet, as usual, consists of various kinds of 
seeds which still remain on the grass and weeds they frequent, 
and they swallow a considerable portion of gravel to assist 
their digestion. They also collect the eggs and dormant 
larvae of insects when they fall in their way. About the middle 
of March they retire to the North, and are seen about the 
beginning of May round Hudson Bay, after which they are 
no more observed till the return of autumn. They arrive in 
the fur countries along with the Lapland Buntings, with which 
they associate ; and being more shy, act the sentinel usually to 



296 SINGING BIRDS. 

the whole company in advertising them of the approach of 
danger. They soon after retire to the marshy and woody dis- 
tricts to breed, extending their summer range to the Arctic Sea. 
They are said to sing well, rising into the air and warbling as 
they ascend, in the manner of the Skylark of Europe. " The 
male," says Audubon, like the Common Lark, "soars into the 
air, sings with cheerfulness over the resort of his mate, and 
roosts beside her and his nest on the ground, having at this 
season a very remarkable appearance in the development of 
the black and horn- like egrets." 

Happy Nuttall, to have died before "variety making" came into 
fashion ! Vou had but one form of Horned Lark to deal with, 
while I am confronted with eleven. Fortunately a large number of 
these sub-species have never taken it into their horned heads to 
cross into the territory under present consideration, so I am saved 
from puzzling myself and my readers with their diagnosis. 

The true alpestris is found during summer in the region be- 
tween the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Greenland west to Hudson 
Bay, and in winter south to about latitude 35°. It is quite common 
along the New England shores while migrating and in winter. 

The Prairie Horned Lark {O. alpestris praticold) is a smaller 
bird with very gray back ; line over eyes white ; c^va pale yellow. 

This race is found in summer along the upper Mississippi valley 
and Great Lake region, eastward sparingly to Montreal, Vermont, 
and Long Island. It is resident over the greater portion of its 
range, but some few winter south to the Carolinas and Texas. 




SKYLARK. 

Alauda arvensis. 

Char. Above, yellowish brown streaked with dark brown, darkest on 
back and crown ; buff streak over the eye ; wings brown, margined with 
buff and tipped with white ; outer tail-feathers mostly white ; below, pale 
buff, spotted and streaked with brown. Length about 7 inches. 

Nest. In a meadow, under a tuft of grass ; made of coarse and fine 
grass. 

Eggs. 3-5; dull gray, marked with olive brown; 0.95 X 0.70. 

Although not mentioned by Nuttall, this European bird becomes 
entitled to a place among the birds of America through its occur- 
rence casually in Greenland and Bermuda. About 1886 a number 
of these birds were liberated in New York State and New Jersey, 
and in 1888 a colony appeared established at Flatbush, Long 
Island ; but the experiment has not been successful, for this colony 
has disappeared, and Mr. Frank M. Chapman, writing in 1895, 
says : " At the present time the species is not known to exist in 
North America in a wild state." 



298 SINGING BIRDS. 

DICKCISSEL. 

BLACK-THROATED BUNTING. 
SpIZA AMERICANA. 

Char. Male : above, gray brown, middle of back streaked with 
black ; nape and side of head ash ; crown olive streaked with dusky ; line 
over the eyes yellow ; chin white ; large patch of black on throat ; two 
wing-bars chestnut ; edge of wing yellow ; below, white tinged with yel- 
low ; sides shaded with brown. Female ; similar, somewhat smaller ; 
throat without patch, but with black spots ; less tinge of yellow on lower 
parts. Length 6 to 7 inches. 

Nest. On the prairie or in a field or pasture or open scrubby woods ; 
placed upon the ground or in a bush or low tree, sometimes 10 to 20 
feet from ground ; made of grass, weed-stalks, leaves, and roots, lined 
with fine grass or hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; pale greenish blue, unspotted ; 0.80 X o.6o. 

These birds arrive in Pennsylvania and New England from 
the South about the middle of May, and abound in the vicinity 
of Philadelphia, where they seem to prefer level fields, building 
their nests on the ground, chiefly of fine withered grass. They 
also inhabit the prairies of Missouri, the State of New York, 
the remote northern regions of Hudson's Bay, and are not un- 
common in this part of New England, dwelling here, however, 
almost exclusively in the high, fresh meadows near the salt- 
marshes. Their song, simple and monotonous, according to 
Wilson consists only of five notes, or rather two, the first 
being repeated twice and slowly, the second thrice and rapidly, 
resembling tshsp tship, tshe tshe tsJiL With us their call is 'tic 
'tic — tshe tshe tshe tship, and tship tship, tshe tshe tshe tship. 
From their arrival nearly to their departure, or for two or three 
months, this note is perpetually heard from every level field of 
grain or grass ; both sexes also often mount to the top of some 
low tree of the orchard or meadow, and there continue to 
chirp forth in unison their simple ditty for an hour at a time. 
While thus engaged they may be nearly approached without 
exhibiting any appearance of alarm or suspicion ; and though 
the species appears to be numerous, they live in harmony, and 



PI ATI 




%a6?rj^ 






1. Snowflake. 

2 . TVliite -Throated Sparro^v 



3. Black-TKroated Buntino. 



5. Scarlet Tanager. 



4. Indigo Bunting. 



DICKCISSEL. 299 

rarely display any hostility to the birds around them, or 
amongst each other. In August they become mute, and about 
the beginning of September depart for the South, wintering as 
well as breeding in Texas and other parts of Mexico, but are 
not seen in the Southern States at any period of the winter. 
Their food consists of seeds, eggs of insects, and gravel, and in 
the early part of summer they subsist much upon caterpillars 
and small coleopterous insects ; they are also among the many 
usual destroyers of the ruinous cankerworm. 

This species is now restricted chiefly to the valley of the Mis- 
sissippi, though it occurs sparingly in southern New England, but 
is merely accidental farther to the northward. The only examples 
that have been met with in Canada were the few that Mr. William 
E. Saunders found breeding at Point Pelee in southern Ontario. 

Mr. William Brewster, writing of this species, says : " It is now 
unquestionably one of the rarest species known to breed within 
this region (New England). Moreover, within the past two de- 
cades it has practically disappeared from the Middle States, where 
it was formerly abundant, and at many localities west of the Alle- 
ghanies and east of the Mississippi its numbers have diminished 
steadily and more or less rapidly." 



Note. — Townsend's Bunting {Spiza townsendii) was placed 
on the " Hypothetical List " by the A. O. U. Committee. The type 
specimen taken by Mr. Townsend in Pennsylvania remains unique. 

The Lark Bunting {Calamospiza melanocorys) has been seen 
in Massachusetts and Long Island, — the only instances of its oc- 
currence east of the Great Plains. 




SNOWFLAKE. 

SNOW BUNTING. WHITE SNOW BIRD. 
PlECTROPHENAX NIVALIS. 

Char. In summer, prevailing color white ; middle of back, wings, and 
tail mixed with black. In autumn the dark color is extended, the black 
being broadly margined with tawny brown, which gradually becomes white 
as winter advances. Length about 6^ inches. 

Nest. On a barren hillside, under shelter of a rock or in a stone heap, 
sometimes in cavity of a sand-bank ; compactly built of dry grass, plant 
stems, and moss, lined with feathers and hair. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; dull white, with faint tint of blue or green, spotted, chiefly 
around larger end, with reddish brown and lavender ; 0.90 X 0.65. 

This messenger of cold and stormy weather chiefly in- 
habits the higher regions of the Arctic circle, whence, as the 
severity of the winter threatens, they migrate indifferently over 
Europe, eastern Asia, and the United States. On their way to 
the South they appear round Hudson Bay in September, and 
stay till the frosts of November again oblige them to seek out 
warmer quarters. Early in December they make their descent 



SNOWFLAKE. 3OI 

into the Northern States in whirUng. roving flocks, either im- 
mediately before or soon after an inundating fall of snow. 
Amidst the drifts, and as they accumulate with the blast, flocks 
of these illwars fogel^ or bad-weather birds, of the Swedes, like 
the spirits of the storm are to be seen flitting about in restless 
and hungry troops, at times resting on the wooden fences, 
though but for an instant, as, Hke the congenial Tartar hordes 
of their natal regions, they appear now to have no other 
object in view but an escape from famine and to carry on a 
general system of forage while they happen to stay in the 
vicinity. At times, pressed by hunger, they alight near the 
door of the cottage and approach the bam, or even venture 
into the out-houses in quest of dormant insects, seeds, or 
crumbs wherewith to allay their hunger; they are still, how- 
ever, generally plump and fat, and in some countries much 
esteemed for the table. In fine weather they appear less rest- 
less, somewhat more famihar, and occasionally even at this 
season they chant out a few unconnected notes as they survey 
the happier face of Nature. At the period of incubation they 
are said to sing agreeably, but appear to seek out the most 
desolate regions of the cheerless North in which to waste the 
sweetness of their melody, unheard by any ear but that of their 
mates. In the dreary wastes of Greenland, the naked Lapland 
Alps, and the scarcely habitable Spitzbergen, bound with eter- 
nal ice, they pass the season of reproduction seeking out the 
fissures of rocks on the mountains in which to fix their nests 
about the month of May or June. A few are known to breed 
in the alpine declivities of the White Mountains of New 
Hampshire. The nest is here fixed on the ground in the 
shelter of low bushes, and formed nearly of the same materials 
as that of the Common Song Sparrow. 

At times they proceed as far south in the United States as 
the State of Maryland. They are here generally known by the 
name of the White Snow Bird, to distinguish them from the 
more common dark-bluish Sparrow, so called. They vary in 
their color according to age and season, and have always a 
great predominance of white in their plumage. 



302 SINGING BIRDS. 

The Snow Buntings are seen in sparing to assemble in Nor- 
way and its islands in great numbers ; and after a stay of about 
three weeks they disappear for the season, and migrate across 
the Arctic Ocean to the farthest known land. On their return 
in winter to the Scottish Highlands their flocks are said to be 
immense, minghng, by an aggregating close flight, almost into 
the form of a ball, so as to present a very fatal and successful 
mark for the fowler. They arrive lean, but soon become fat. 
In Austria they are caught in snares or traps, and when fed 
with millet become equal to the Ortolan in value and flavor. 
When caged they show a very wakeful disposition, instantly 
hopping about in the night when a light is produced. Indul- 
gence in this constant train of action and perpetual watchful- 
ness may perhaps have its influence on this species, in the 
selection of their breeding places within the Arctic regions, 
where for months they continue to enjoy a perpetual day. 

The food of these birds consists of various kinds of seeds 
and the larv^ae of insects and minute shell-fish ; the seeds of 
aquatic plants are also sometimes sought by them, and I have 
found in their stomachs those of the Ruppia, species of Poly- 
gonum, and gravel. In a state of confinement they shell and 
eat oats, millet, hemp-seed, and green peas, which they split. 
They rarely perch, and, like Larks, live much on the ground. 

This harbinger of winter breeds in the northernmost of the 
American islands and on all the shores of the continent from 
Chesterfield Inlet to Behring's Straits. The most southerly of 
its breeding stations in America, according to Richardson, is 
Southampton Island, in the 6 2d parallel, where Captain Lyons 
found a nest, by a strange fatality, placed in the bosom of the 
exposed corpse of an Esquimaux child. Well clothed and 
hardy by nature, the Snow Bunting even lingers about the forts 
of the fur countries and open places, picking up grass-seeds, 
until the snow becomes deep. It is only during the months 
of December and January that it retires to the southward 
of Saskatchewan, and it is seen again there on its return 
as early as the middle of February, two months after which 
it arrives in the 65 th parallel, and by the beginning of May it 



SNOWFLAKE. 303 

has penetrated to the coast of the Polar Sea. At this period it 
feeds upon the buds of the purple saxifrage {^Saxifraga opposi- 
tifolia), one of the most early of the Arctic plants. 

As the Snow Bunting sometimes begins to visit the United 
States in October, it appears pretty certain that some of these 
birds breed almost, if not quite, within the northern limits of 
the Union ; and as stated elsewhere, a nest has been found 
near the rocky summit of the White Mountains of New 
Hampshire. 

The Snow Bunting is usually restricted in summer to the higher 
latitudes, — from Labrador and the Great Slave Lake region to the 
Arctic Ocean, — but an occasional flock is seen farther southward, 
and nests have been taken in the White Mountains. In winter 
these birds range south to the Middle States, occasionally going as 
far as " Georgia and Kansas." Numbers spend the winter in New 
Brunswick, gathering in flocks of twenty to fifty. They are to be 
seen about the suburbs of St. John as well as on the margins of 
lakes in the deep forests. 

Mr. A. Hagerup, who saw considerable of this bird when in 
Greenland, writes to me that the song is a sweet and pleasing 
melody, though rather disconnected, " dehvered in short stanzas." 
" Warbling," he adds, " is perhaps the English word best suited to 
describe its character." 







LAPLAND LONGSPUR. 
Calcarius lapponicus. 



Char. Above, brownish black, the feathers edged with dull buff^ 
wing-feathers with dull bay ; head and throat rich black (female and 
young have the crown same as back) ; line from eyes and down side of 
throat, white ; band of bright chestnut across hind-neck; tail with patches 
of white on outer feathers ; below, dull white, breast and sides marked 
with black ; bill yellow, tipped with black ; legs and feet black. Length 
about (i%. inches. 

Nest. In swampy moorlands, amid deep moss or tuft of grass, or at 
the base of a mound ; composed of grass, plant-stems, roots, and moss, 
lined with feathers or deer's hair. 

Eggs. 4-7 ; pale grayish brown or reddish brown, marked with dark 
brown ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This species generally inhabits the desolate Arctic regions of 
both continents. In the United States a few stragglers from 
the greater body show themselves in winter in the remote and 



LAPLAND LONGSPUR. 305 

unsettled parts of Maine, Michigan, and the Northwestern 
Territories. Large flocks also at times enter the Union, and 
contrary to their usual practice of resting and living wholly on 
the ground, occasionally alight on trees. They leave the colder 
Arctic deserts in the autumn, and are found around Hudson 
Bay on their way to the South in winter, not making their 
appearance there before November. Near Severn River they 
haunt the cedar-trees, upon whose berries they now princi- 
pally feed. They live in large flocks, and are so gregarious 
that when separated from their own species, or in small par- 
ties, they usually, in Europe, associate with the common Larks, 
or, in America, they join the roving bands of Snow Birds. In 
the fur countries they extend their migrations in the spring as 
far as the 65th parallel, where they were seen about Fort 
Franklin by the beginning of May ; at this time they fed much 
upon the seeds of the Alpine arbutus. They feed principally 
on seeds, and also on grass, leaves, buds, and insects. They 
breed on small hillocks, among moss and stones, in open 
marshy fields, and the nest is thickly and loosely constructed 
of moss and grass, and lined with a few feathers and deer's 
hair. The Longspur, like the Lark, sings only as it rises in 
the air, in which, suspended aloft, it utters a few agreeable and 
melodious notes. 

The Longspur occurs in winter in South Carolina, Kentucky, 
and Kansas, though it is not common south of about 40°. 

Of its song Mr. Hagerup writes to me : " It sounds best when 
the bird, after mounting up in the sky, drops slowly to the earth 
with extended wings. The song is not very long, but has a sweet, 
flute-like tone, and though the melody is attractive, it is almost mel- 
ancholy in its wild plaintiveness, — as, indeed, all the notes of this 
species are." 

Note. — The Chestnut-collared Longspur {Calcarius or- 
natus) has been taken in Massachusetts and Long Island. 

Smith's Longspur {Calcarius pictus\ which occurs in the in- 
terior, — breeding from the Great Slave Lake district to the Arctic 
Ocean, — is found, in winter, in Illinois. 
VOL. I. — 20 




SCARLET TANAGER. 

PiRANGA ERYTHROMELAS. 

Char. Male : scarlet, with black wings and tail. Male in winter ; 
similar to female, but with black wings and tail. Female and young: 
above, olive ; wings and tail dusky, the feathers edged with olive ; below, 
greenish yellow. Length 7 to 7^ inches. 

Nest. In a woodland grove, sometimes in an orchard, placed near the 
extremity of a horizontal limb 10 to 20 feet from the ground; composed 
of twigs, roots, or shreds of bark, and lined with roots, sometimes with 
pine-needles. 

Eggs. 3-5 (usually 4) ; dull white or with blue tinge, thickly marked, 
with several shades of brown and lilac j 0.95 X 0.65. 

This splendid and transient resident, accompanying fine 
weather in all his wanderings, arrives from his winter station in 
tropical America from the beginning to the middle of May, 
and extends his migrations probably to Nova Scotia as well as 
Canada. With the shy, unsocial, and suspicious habits of his 
gaudy fraternity, he takes up his abode in the deepest recess 



SCARLET TANAGER. 



307 



of the forest, where, timidly flitting from observation, he darts 
from tree to tree Uke a flashing meteor. A gaudy sylph, con- 
scious of his brilliance and the exposure to which it subjects 
him, he seems to avoid remark, and is only solicitous to be 
known to his humble mate, and hid from all besides. He 
therefore rarely approaches the habitations of men, unless 
perhaps the skirts of the orchard, where he sometimes, how- 
ever, builds his nest, and takes a taste of the early and inviting, 
though forbidden, cherries. 

Among the thick foliage of the tree in which he seeks sup- 
port and shelter, from the lofty branches, at times we hear his 
almost monotonous tship w'ifee, tship-idee, or tshukadee, tshu- 
kadee repeated at short intervals and in a pensive undertone, 
heightened by the solitude in which he dehghts to dwell. The 
same note is also uttered by the female when the retreat of 
herself and young is approached ; and the male occasionally 
utters in recognition to his mate, as they perambulate the 
branches, a low whispering 'tait'm a tone of caution and tender- 
ness. But besides these calls on the female, he has also dur- 
ing the period of incubation, and for a considerable time after, 
a more musical strain, resembling somewhat in the mellowness 
of its tones the song of the fifing Baltimore. The syllables 
to which I have hearkened appear like Ushoove 'wait 'wait 
'vehowit wait, and 'wait 'vehowit vea wait, with other addi- 
tions of harmony for which no words are adequate. This 
pleasing and highly musical meandering ditty is delivered for 
hours, in a contemplative mood, in the same tree with his 
busy consort. If surprised, they flit together, but soon return 
to their favorite station in the spreading boughs of the shady 
oak or hickory. The song resembles that of the Red-eyed 
Vireo in its compass and strain, though much superior, the 
'wait wait being whistled very sweetly in several tones and 
with emphasis, so that upon the whole, our Piranga may be 
considered as duly entitled to various excellence, being harmless 
to the farmer, brilhant in plumage, and harmonious in voice. 

These birds only sojourn long enough to rear their single 
brood, which are here fledged early in July, leaving us already 



308 SINGING BIRDS. 

for the South about the middle or close of August, or as soon 
as the young are well able to endure the fatigue of an extensive 
migration in company with their parents. The female shows 
great solicitude for the safety of her only brood, and on an 
approach to the nest appears to be in great distress and appre- 
hension. When they are released from her more immediate 
protection, the male, at first cautious and distant, now attends 
and feeds them with activity, being altogether indifferent to 
that concealment which his gaudy dress seems to require from 
his natural enemies. So attached to his now interesting brood 
is the Scarlet Tanager that he has Been known, at all hazards, 
to follow for half a mile one of his young, submitting to feed 
it attentively through the bars of a cage, and, with a devotion 
which despair could not damp, roost by in the branches of the 
same tree with its prison ; so strong, indeed, is this innate and 
heroic feeling that life itself is less cherished than the desire 
of aiding and supporting his endearing progeny (Wilson) . 

The food of the Scarlet Tanager while with us consists 
chiefly of winged insects, wasps, hornets, and wild bees, as 
well as smaller kinds of beetles and other shelly tribes ; it 
probably also sometimes feeds on seeds, and is particularly 
partial to whortleberries and other kinds which the season 
affords. 

About the beginning of August the male begins to moult, 
and then exchanges his nuptial scarlet for the greenish livery 
of the female. At this period these birds leave us ; and having 
passed the winter in the celibacy indicated by this humble 
garb, they arrive again among us on its vernal renewal, and 
so soon after this change that individuals are at this time occa- 
sionally seen with the speckled livery of early autumn, or with 
a confused mixture of green and scarlet feathers in scattered 
patches. 

The Scarlet Tanager is common throughout this Eastern Prov- 
ince north to about latitude 44°, and occurs sparingly along the 
Annapolis valley, in Nova Scotia and along the valley of the St. 
John in New Brunswick, also near the city of Quebec and in the 
vicinity of Lake Winnipeg. It breeds from Virginia northward 
and winters in northern South America. 



SUMMER TANAGER. 309 

SUMMER TANAGER. 

SUMMER RED-BIRD. 
PiRANGA RUBRA. 

Char. Male : rich vermilion, duller above. Female and young : 
above, dull olive ; below, dull buff. Length about jYz inches. 

Nest. On the edge of an open grove or by a roadside, placed near 
the extremity of a horizontal limb ; composed of grass, leaves, and vege- 
table fibre, lined with grass. 

Eggs, 3-4; bright green, sometimes with a tinge of blue, spotted, 
chiefly near the larger end, with various shades of brown and purple ; 
0.95 X 0.65. 

This brilliant and transient resident, like the former species, 
passes the greatest part of the year in tropical America, whence 
in his gaudy nuptial suit he presents himself with his humble 
mate in the Southern States in the latter end of April or by 
the I St of May. In Pennsylvania these birds are but rarely 
seen, though in the warm and sandy barren forests of New 
Jersey several pairs may usually be observed in the course of 
every season; farther north they are unknown, ceding those 
regions apparently to the scarlet species. They are not con- 
fined to any particular soil, though often met with in bushy, 
barren tracts, and are consequently common even to the west 
of the Mississippi, in Louisiana and the Territory of Arkansas, 
as well as Mexico ; they also breed near the banks of that 
river around Natchez. 

The nest is built in the woods on the low, horizontal branch 
of a tree, often in an evergreen 10 or 12 feet from the ground. 
Both parents assist in incubation, and the young are fledged 
by the middle or latter end of June. They only raise a single 
brood in the season, and towards the middle or close of 
August the whole party disappear on their way to the South, 
though the young remain later than the old and more restless 
birds. 

The note of the male, like that of the Baltimore Bird, is said 
to be a strong and sonorous whistle, resembling the trill or 



310 SINGING BIRDS. 

musical shake on the fife, and is frequently repeated. The 
note of the female is a chattering, and appears almost like the 
rapid pronunciation of tshicky-tukky-tuk^ tshicky-tukky-tuk, and 
is chiefly uttered in alarm when any person approaches the 
vicinity of her nest. From the similarity of her color to the 
foliage of the trees, she is, however, rarely seen, and is usually 
mute ; while the loquacity and brilliance of the male render 
him, as he flits timidly and wildly through the branches, a most 
distinguished and beautiful object. 

The food of the Summer Red Bird is very similar to that of 
the preceding species ; bugs, beetles, and stinging bees make 
part of his repast, as well as flies and cynips of various kinds, 
after which he often darts about until hindered by the ap- 
proach of night. The late suppers are probably necessary, 
from the almost nocturnal habits of some of these insect 
tribes. After the period of incubation, and until their depar- 
ture, whortleberries and other kinds of berries form no incon- 
siderable part of the food of these birds. 

This species does not occur regularly north of New Jersey, 
southern Ohio, and southern Illinois. Occasionally stragglers are 
found in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and two examples have 
been taken in New Brunswick, one in Nova Scotia, four near 
Montreal, and one at Hamilton, Ontario. 



Note. — Specimens of the Louisiana Tanager {Piranga 
hidoviciana) — a Western species — have been taken in New York, 
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. 



INDIGO BUNTING. 

Passerina cyanea. 

Char, Male : indigo blue, intense on head and throat, other parts 
tinged with green ; black bar from bill to eyes ; wings and tail brown, the 
edge of feathers tinged with blue. Female : above, brown ; below, much 
paler, with dark streaks. Length about 5^ inches. 

N'est. On the margin of a meadow or country road, or in an orchard 
or garden, in a bush or low tree, placed in an upright crotch ; a rather 



INDIGO BUNTING. 311 

clumsy and bulky affair of twigs, stems, grass, etc., lined with fine grass, 
etc., sometimes with horse-hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; white, sometimes with blue or green tint, occasionally with 
a few fine spots of purplish brown; 0.75 X 0.55. 

This very beautiful and rather famihar messenger of summer, 
after passing the winter in tropical America, towards the 15 th 
of May, decked in his brilliant azure livery of the nuptial sea- 
son, again joyfully visits his natal regions in the Middle States ; 
and about a week or ten days later his lively trill in the garden, 
orchard, or on the top of the house, its chimney, or vane, is 
first heard in this part of New England. Still later, accompa- 
nied by his mate, he passes on to Nova Scotia, and probably to 
the precincts of Labrador. After raising and training their 
only brood in a uniform and more humble dress, the whole 
family, in color like so many common Sparrows, begin to 
retire to the South from the first to the middle of September. 
They are also known in Mexico, where, as well as in the 
Southern States to the peninsula of Florida, they breed and 
pass the summer as with us. There is reason, however, to 
beHeve that they are less abundant, if seen at all, to the west 
of the Mississippi ; but yet they are met with in the Western 
States up to the alluvial lands of that great natural boundary. 

Their food in the early part of the season, as well as that of 
their young for a considerable time, is chiefly insects, worms, 
and caterpillars, as well as grasshoppers, of which they are 
particularly fond. They likewise eat seeds of various kinds, 
and are readily reared in a cage on the usual diet of the 
Canary. 

Though naturally shy, active, and suspicious, particularly the 
brilHant male, they still at this interesting period of procrea- 
tion resort chiefly to the precincts of habitations, around which 
they are far more common than in the solitary woods, seeking 
their borders or the thickets by the sides of the road ; but 
their favorite resort is the garden, where, from the topmost 
bough of some tall tree which commands the whole wide land- 
scape, the male regularly pours out his lively chant, and con- 
tinues it for a considerable length of time. Nor is this song 



312 Sir>JGING BIRDS. 

confined to the cool and animating dawn of morning, but it 
is renewed and still more vigorous during the noon-day heat 
of summer. This lively strain seems composed of a repeti- 
tion of short notes ; commencing loud and rapid, and then, 
slowly falling, they descend almost to a whisper, succeeded by 
a silent interval of about half a minute, when the song is again 
continued as before. The most common of these vocal expres- 
sions sounds like she tshe tshe — tshe tshee tshee — tshS tshe 
tshe. The middle syllables are uttered lispingly, in a very 
peculiar manner, and the three last gradually fall ; sometimes 
the song is varied and shortened into tshea tshea tshea tshi-eh, 
the last sound being sometimes doubled. This shorter song 
is usually uttered at the time that the female is engaged in 
the cares of incubation, or as the brood already appear, and 
when too great a display of music might endanger the retiring 
security of the family. From a young or imperfectly moulted 
male, on the summit of a weeping-willow, I heard the following 
singularly lively syllables, V/<? V/<? 7/<? td lee, repeated at short 
intervals. While thus prominently exposed to view, the little 
airy minstrel is continually on the watch against any surprise, 
and if he be steadily looked at or hearkened to with visible 
attention, in the next instant he is off to seek out some securer 
elevation. In the village of Cambridge I have seen one of 
these azure, almost celestial musicians, regularly chant to the 
inmates of a tall dwelling-house from the summit of the chim- 
ney or the point of the forked lightning-rod. I have also 
heard a Canary, within hearing, repeat and imitate the slowly 
lisping trill of the Indigo Bird, whose warble indeed often 
greatly resembles that of this species. The female, before 
hatching her brood, is but seldom seen, and is then scarcely 
distinguishable from a common Sparrow ; nor is she ever to be 
observed beyond the humble bushes and weeds in which she 
commonly resides. 

The nest of our bird is usually built in a low bush partly con- 
cealed by rank grass or grain ; at times in the forks of a young 
orchard tree lo or 12 feet from the ground. I have also seen 
one suspended in a complicated manner in a trellised grape- 



INDIGO BUNTING. 313 

vine. If left undisturbed, they often build in the same garden 
or orchard for several successive years. When in a bush, the 
nest is suspended betwixt two twigs, passing up on either side. 
Externally it is composed of coarse sedge-grass, some withered 
leaves, and lined with fine stalks of the same, and the slender 
hair-like tops of the bent-grass {Agrostis), with a very few 
cow-hairs ; though sometimes they make a substantial lining of 
hair. The nest which I saw in the vine was composed out- 
wardly of coarse strips of bass-mat, weeds, and some strings 
picked up in the garden, and lined with horse-hair and a few 
tops of bent-grass. The young here scarcely leave the nest 
before the end of July or the first week in August, and they 
raise usually but a single brood in the season. They appear 
to show great timidity about their nest, and often readily for- 
sake it when touched, or when an egg is abstracted. Their 
usual note of alarm when themselves or their young are 
approached is a sharp tship, quickly and anxiously repeated, 
resembling almost the striking of two pebbles. They will not 
forsake their young, however ready they may be to relinquish 
their eggs; and they have been known to feed their brood 
very faithfully through the bars of a cage in which they were 
confined. 

This species is a common summer resident from South Carolina 
to western Maine and the city of Quebec, and westward through 
Ontario and Illinois to the Great Plains. It also occurs occasion- 
ally in eastern Maine and the Maritime Provinces. 

Note. — One example of the Varied Bunting {Passerina 
versicolor) has been captured in southern Michigan. Its usual 
habitat is the valley of the Rio Grande and Lower California. 



314 SINGING BIRDS. 



PAINTED BUNTING. 

NONPAREIL. 

Passerina ciris. 

Char. Male: head and neck blue; eyelids red; back yellowish 
green ; rump red ; wings dusky, glossed with green ; tail purplish brown : 
below, vermilion. Female : above, olive ; below, buff ; wings and tail 
dusky edged with olive. Length 5^ inches. 

Nest. In a thicket of low bushes ; compactly made of twigs, roots, 
shreds of bark and grass, lined with fine grass or horse-hair, or fine roots. 

Eggs, 4-5 ; dull white, or with blue tint, marked chiefly around larger 
end with purplish and reddish brown ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This splendid, gay, and docile bird, known to the Americans 
as the Nonpareil, and to the French Louisianians as the Pape, 
inhabits the woods of the low countries of the Southern States, 
in the vicinity of the sea and along the borders of the larger 
rivers, from North Carolina to Mexico. It arrives from its 
tropical quarters in Louisiana and Georgia from the middle 
to the 20th of April ; but impatient of cold, retires to the 
South early in October, and is supposed to winter about Vera 
Cruz. For the sake of their song as well as beauty of plum- 
age, these birds are commonly domesticated in the houses of 
the French inhabitants of New Orleans and its vicinity ; and 
some have succeeded in raising them in captivity, where plenty 
of room was allowed in an aviary. They are familiar also in 
the gardens and orchards, where their warbling notes are al- 
most perpetually heard throughout the summer. Their song 
mtich resembles that of the Indigo Bird, but their voice is 
more feeble and concise. Soon reconciled to the cage, they 
will sing even a few days after being caught. Their food con- 
sists of rice, insects, and various kinds of seeds ; they collect 
also the grains of the ripe figs, and, frequenting gardens, build 
often within a few paces of the house, being particularly 
attached to the orangeries. 

Their nests are usually made in the hedges of the orange, or 
on the lower branches of the same tree, likewise occasionally 
in a bramble or thorny bush. In the mildest climates in which 



WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 315 

they pass the summer, they raise two broods in the season. 
They are commonly caught in trap-cages, to which they are 
sometimes allured by a stuffed bird, which they descend to 
attack ; and they have been known to survive in domestica- 
tion for upwards of ten years. 

This species is common in the South Atlantic and Gulf States, 
and has been taken north to southern Illinois and North Carolina. 



Note. — The Grassquit {Euetheia bicolor) and the jVIelo- 
Dious Grassquit {Euetheia caiiord) — both West India birds — 
have been taken in southern Florida, though they are merely 
accidental wanderers there. 



WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 

ZONOTRICmA LEUCOPHRYS. 

Char. Upper parts grayish brown, streaked with dull bay, and pale 
ash ; crown white, bordered by bands of black ; lines of black and white 
from eyes to hind neck ; wings with two white bars ; tail dusky ; below, 
gray, whitening on throat and belly ; flanks shaded with brown. Length 
about 7 inches. 

Nest. In an open woodland, on the ground or in a low bush, — 
usually concealed in grass at the foot of a bush ; firmly made of dried 
grass lined with fine grass, — sometimes with deer's hair or feathers, or 
roots. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; greenish white or bluish white thickly spotted with red- 
dish brown ; 0.90 X 0.65. 

This rare and handsome species is very little known in any 
part of the United States, a few stragglers only being seen 
about the beginning of winter, and again in May or earlier, on 
their way back to their Northern breeding-places, in the fur 
countries and round Hudson's Bay, which they visit from the 
South in May, and construct their nests in June in the vicinity 
of Albany Fort and Severn River. These are fixed on the 
ground, or near it, in the shelter of the willow-trees which 
they glean, probably with many other birds, for the insects 
which frequent them. 



3l6 SINGING BIRDS. 

At this season the male sings in a loud, clear, musical, but 
rather plaintive tone, the song consisting of six or seven notes ; 
these he repeats at short intervals during the whole day. On 
the 13th of April, 1835, I saw flocks of this species among 
the thickets in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, Upper California. 
They sung with a feeble, quaint note, to me unlike that of any 
other species, and almost similar to some of the notes of the 
Chickadee. As they depart from Hudson Bay in September, 
it is probable that they principally winter in the Canadian 
provinces, otherwise, as passengers farther south, they would 
be seen more abundantly in the United States than they are. 
Indeed, as they approach this part of New England only in 
small desultory parties in the winter, as in November and 
December, it is evident that they only migrate a short distance 
in quest of food, and return to the North at the approach of 
fine weather. While here they appear silent and solitary, and 
are not difficult to approach. Their food, as usual, is seeds of 
grasses, insects, and their lan^ae. 

This species is not so rare in our day as Nuttall evidently con- 
sidered it, for it now occurs quite regularly throughout this Eastern 
Province, though likely to appear in irregular numbers at any given 
locality. It breeds in northern Maine and New Brunswick, and 
north to sub-arctic regions. Nests have been found also in Ver- 
mont and New York. The birds are met with in winter from 
southern New England southward to Mexico. 




LARK SPARROW. 

lark finch. 

Chondestes grammacus. 

Char. Above, grayish olive ; the back brown, with fine streaks of 
black; tail black, — excepting central feathers, — tipped with white, outer 
web of outer pair entirely white ; crown chestnut, with median line of 
dull white ; line over the eye dull white ; white crescent under the eyes 
bordered by black, and behind by chestnut; below white tinged with 
brown ; breast with patch of black. Length 6 to 6%, inches. 

Mest. Usually amid a tuft of grass, but sometimes in a tree or bush; 
composed of grass and vegetable fibre. 

^?S'^- 3-5 (usually 4) ; white or with blue or buff tint, marked with 
spots and lines of dark brown or black ; 0.S5 X 0.65. 

For this species we are again indebted to Mr. Say, who ob- 
served it in abundance near the Council Bluffs and the neigh- 
boring country of the Missouri in the spring, as well as in the 
month of June. It appears to be wholly confined to the west 
side of the Mississippi, and probably extends into Mexico. 
These birds frequent the prairie grounds, and seldom if ever 
alight on trees ; they sing sweetly, and, like the Larks, have 
the habit of continuing their notes while on the wing. 

Mr. Townsend observes : " This species inhabits several hun- 
dred miles of the Platte plains in great numbers, as well as the 
banks of the Columbia River. It generally affects the low 
bushes of wormwood {Artemisia) , from the summit of which 



3l8 SINGING BIRDS. 

it pours forth a variety of pretty notes." At the commence- 
ment of the pairing season the males are very pugnacious, 
fighting often on wing, and the conquering rival, repairing to 
the nearest bush, tunes his lively pipe in token of success. 

The Lark Finch is common along the Mississippi valley north to 
Iowa and southern Michigan. It has been taken occasionally in 
Manitoba and in Ontario, and a few examples have appeared in 
New England, and southward along the Atlantic coast to Florida. 

It is said to resemble the Grass Finch in general habits, and its 
song is somewhat similar. 



WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 

PEABODY BIRD — OLD TOM PEABODY. 
ZONOTRICHLA. ALBICOLLIS. 

Char. Back streaked, reddish brown, black and dull buff ; sides of 
head and rump ashy ; crown with median stripe of white bordered by- 
stripes of black ; stripes of yellow from bill to eyes ; stripes of white over 
eyes ; stripes of black through eyes ; throat white ; under parts grayish 
shading to white on the belly, the sides shaded with brown ; wings with 
two white bars. Length 6% to 7 inches. 

Nest. In an old meadow or open woodland, or on the edge of a grove ; 
placed on the ground upon a cushion of moss; composed of grass, stems, 
roots, etc., lined with fine grass or roots, — sometimes with hair or 
feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; pale greenish blue, thickly marked with several shades of 
reddish brown ; 0.85 X 0.60. 

These large and handsome Sparrows are seen in this part of 
Massachusetts only as transient visitors at the approach of 
winter, or in spring about the first week in May. In the 
Middle and Southern States they pass the inclement season, 
and appear there as a numerous species. A flock has been 
observed in the State of New York in the month of January. 
In their hibernal resorts they are seen in bands, and show a 
predilection for thickets, swamps, small streams, and the bor- 
ders of ponds, where, among the tall and bleaching weeds, 
they continue to collect the seeds, and probably insect larvae, 
which constitute their usual fare. While here they keep much 
on the ground, and seek out cool and shady situations, scratch- 



WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 319 

ing up the fallen leaves in quest of worms and other insects, 
and are at this time often very unsuspicious, allowing a near 
approach without betraying any alarm; but when in large 
flocks, they move about in timorous haste as soon as ap- 
proached. About the 15 th of April they leave the Middle 
States, and retire to the high northern latitudes to breed, hav- 
ing been seen in Labrador, Newfoundland, and the fur coun- 
tries up to the 66th parallel in summer. At the period of 
breeding the male sings with considerable energy and melody 
already in the early spring ; also before their departure to the 
North, on fine mornings, they are heard to whisper forth a few 
sweet and clear notes, as in a revery of the approaching hap- 
piness of their more lively and interesting condition. 

This Sparrow — known to the country people of the East as the 
" Peabody Bird " and " Kennedy Bird " — breeds abundantly in 
the northern portions of New York and New England as well as 
in the Maritime Provinces; and at the west in northern Michigan 
and Manitoba. According to Mr. Brewster, this bird breeds also 
"very commonly on Mount Graylock, sparingly in the northern 
part of Worcester County, Massachusetts, and occasionally in 
eastern Massachusetts." The bird winters sparingly in southern 
New England, and commonly thence southward to Florida. 

The song, which is loud and sweet, is familiar in the district 
where the birds build, for they sing all day long, and are often 
heard during the night. It has been interpreted ped-ped-pedbody- 
pedbody-pedbody J hence the name. 




VESPER SPARROW. 

GRASS FINCH. BAY-WINGED BUNTING. 

POOC/ETES GRAMINEUS. 

Char. Above, yellowish brown, streaked with darker ; line over and 
around eyes, white; shoulder chestnut or bay; two white bars on wing; 
two outer tail-feathers partly white ; below, white with buffy tinge ; breast 
and sides streaked with brown. Length about 6X inches. 

Nest. In a field, old meadow, open pasture, or roadside, on the ground, 
— usually hidden by tuft of grass or under alow bush; composed of grass 
and roots, and lined with fine grass, sometimes with hair. 

^S§^' 4~6 ; grayish white, sometimes with green or pink tint, thickly 
marked with several shades of brown; 080 X 0.60. 

This plain-looking Finch chiefly frequents dry pastures and 
meadows, and is often seen perched on the fences and in 
orchard trees ; it also often approaches the public roads and 
gathers its subsistence tamely from various sources. It is 
abundant in all the States east of the Alleghanies, where many 
pass the whole year ; yet great numbers also winter in the south- 
ern parts of the Union, proceeding as far as the maritime 
districts of Georgia and Florida. From the beginning of 
April to the beginning of June, the males sing with a clear and 
agreeable note, scarcely inferior to that of the Canary, though 
less loud and varied. On their first arrival, as with the Song 
Sparrow, their notes are often given in an under-tone of con- 
siderable sweetness. Their song begins at early dawn, and is 
again peculiarly frequent after sunset until dark, when, from 



VESPER SPARROW. 32 1 

the fence of some elevated pasture-field, in the cool of the 
summer evening, when other songsters have retired to rest, the 
Grass Sparrow, more than usually wakeful, after a silence which 
has perhaps continued nearly through the warmer part of the 
day, pipes forth his clear and slender, though now almost mo- 
notonous song, near to the favorite spot where his mate hatches 
or fosters her tender brood ; and from all the neighboring 
meadows, at this silent hour, as the last rays of the sun are re- 
flected from the dusky horizon, we hear a constant repetition 
of an echoing and shrill tsh 'tsh ^tshe te tshete tshete, with warb- 
ling tones blended and varied, at the beginning and close of 
this simple, rather pensive, but agreeable ditty. They are 
more common in fields than thickets, and run along the ground 
in the manner of the Lark. They likewise frequent ploughing 
fields, searching on the ground for insects, and are very fond 
of dusting themselves and basking in dry places. 

Being nearly sedentary, they raise probably several broods 
in the season. Sometimes when started from the nest, the 
female simulates lameness with remarkable dexterity, so as 
very readily to draw off the attention of her enemies or in- 
truders. The young are easily raised from the nest, and 
become very tame, clean, and domestic, but readily quarrel 
with each other. 

The " Bay-winged Bunting " of earlier writers was named " Ves- 
per Sparrow " by Wilson Flagg, from its habit of singing during 
the early evening. It breeds from Virginia and Kentucky to Mani- 
toba and the Maritime Provinces, and is one of the most abundant 
Sparrows in New England and Ontario. It winters from Virginia 
southward. 

The song is much more effective than Nuttall's description indi- 
cates. The voice is of sweet tone, and the theme, though simple, 
is exceedingly tender and plaintive. 



VOL. I. — 21 




SONG SPARROW. 

Melospiza fasciata. 



Char. Back streaked with black, bay, and ash ; crown bay, streaked 
with black and with two stripes of ash ; wings grayish brown edged with 
dull rufous ; tail grayish brown, with dark wavy cross-bars ; below, white ; 
breast, sides of throat, and sides of body spotted with brown, the spots 
forming a " patch " on the breast. Length 6 to 6% inches. 

Nest. In a field or open pasture, amid a tuft of grass or under a low 
bush, sometimes fastened to bush or vine, occasionally placed in a cavity 
in a tree ; composed of twigs, grass, roots, and leaves, lined with grass 
and roots, or hair. 

^SS^- Trl (usually 4 or 5) ; dull white or with tint of green, blue, or 
pink, thickly marked with several shades of brown ; occasionally un- 
spotted ; o.So X 0.60. 

This familiar and almost domestic bird is one of the most 
common and numerous Sparrows in the United States ; it is 
also, with the Bluebird, which it seems to accompany, one 
of the two earliest, sweetest, and most enduring warblers. 



SONG SPARROW. 323 

Though many pass on to the Southern States at the commence- 
ment of winter, yet a few seem to brave the colds of New 
England as long as the snowy waste does not conceal their 
last resource of nutriment. When the inundating storm at 
length arrives, they no longer, in the sheltering swamps and 
borders of bushy streams, spend their time in gleaning an in- 
sufficient subsistence, but in the month of November begin to 
retire to the warmer States ; and here, on fine days, even in 
January, whisper forth their usual strains. As early as the 4th 
of March, the weather being mild, the Song Sparrow and the 
Bluebird here jointly arrive, and cheer the yet dreary face of 
Nature with their familiar songs. The latter flits restlessly 
through the orchard or neighboring fields ; the Sparrow, more 
social, frequents the garden, barn-yard, or road-side in quest 
of support, and from the top of some humble bush, stake, or 
taller bough tunes forth his cheering lay, in frequent repetitions, 
for half an hour or more at a time. These notes have some 
resemblance to parts of the Canary's song, and are almost 
uninterruptedly and daily delivered, from his coming to the 
commencement of winter. When the birds first arrive, while 
the weather is yet doubtful and unsettled, the strain appears 
contemplative, and is often delivered in a peculiarly low and 
tender whisper, which, when hearkened to for some time, will 
be found more than usually melodious, seeming as a sort of 
revery, or innate hope of improving seasons, which are recalled 
with a grateful, calm, and tender delight. At the approach of 
winter, this vocal thrill, sounding like an Orphean farewell to 
the scene and season, is still more exquisite, and softened by 
the sadness which seems to breathe almost with sentiment, 
from the decaying and now silent face of Nature. Our song- 
ster, never remarkable for sprightliness, as the spring advances 
delivers his lay louder and more earnestly. He usually begins 
with a tsh' tsh" tshe te tshete tshete, and blends in a good deal of 
quivering notes. Individuals also excel, and vary their song from 
time to time with very agreeable effect ; and it is only because 
our familiar vocalist is so constantly heard and seen that so little 
value is set upon his agreeable, cheerful, and faithful perform- 



324 SINGING BIRDS. 

ance. When not attached to the garden, our Sparrow seems 
fond of frequenting low bushy meadows, streams, swamps, and 
watery situations, which afford him ready shelter, and his usual 
food of worms, insects, larvae, and seeds. Such situations are 
also their favorite resorts when, in gregarious and miscellaneous 
flocks with other congeneric kinds, they are seen to crowd the 
sheltered marshes of the Southern States. They are also com- 
monly seen nimbly running along the ground, and gliding 
through low thickets in quest of their insect fare ; and in fine 
weather they dust themselves, and bask in the sun. They often 
Ukewise frequent the water, being fond of washing ; and some- 
times are seen to swim across small streams, particularly when 
disabled from flying by a gunshot wound. 

The nest is usually formed of a considerable portion of fine 
dry grass neatly put together, and mostly lined with horse-hair. 
These birds are very prolific, raising as many as three broods 
in a season, the young being occasionally hatched, in the Mid- 
dle States, from the close of April to the end of August. They 
are very solicitous for the safety of their young, keeping up at 
this time often a tiresome chirping ; and on the destruction of 
the female and most of her young, I have known the remain- 
ing male, with unceasing and anxious attention, raise a solitary 
survivor of his ruined family with the most devoted affection. 
As they keep the young and their habitation so very clean, and 
are so prolific, it is a matter of surprise that they do not re- 
occupy the premises ; instances are, however, not wanting in 
which they have been known to raise two broods in the same 
nest. Both parents join in the duty of incubation, and alter- 
nately feed each other while so engaged. 

This species nests from South Carolina to Lake Mistassini, and 
from central Ohio and northern Illinois to Lake Winnipeg. It 
arrives at St. John, N. B., during the second week in April in im- 
mense flocks, and is usually accompanied by similar flocks of 
Robins and Juncos. Occasionally a few winter in the Maritime 
Provinces and in Quebec, wliile in eastern Massachusetts and Con- 
necticut they are often quite numerous at that season. 



SAVANNA SPARROW. 32$ 

SAVANNA SPARROW. 

ground sparrow. 

Ammodramus sandwichensis savanna. 

Char. Above, streaked with grayish brown, black, rufous, and gray; 
line over the eyes and edges of wings yellow ; crown with median stripe 
of yellowish white ; line from lower mandible yellowish white bordered 
by brown ; below, white tinged with buff, breast and sides streaked with 
brown and black. Length 534 inches. 

Nest. In a salt-marsh or along a river bank, sometimes in a dry 
inland meadow, concealed by tall grass or tuft of weeds ; composed of 
grass, sometimes mixed with fine roots, and occasionally lined with 
horse-hair. 

Eggs, 3-6 ; variable in shape, size, and markings, usually dull white 
or with green tint, thickly spotted with dark brown, rich brown, and 
lilac; 0.70 X 0.55 

This Sparrow, allied to the preceding, but far less familiar, is 
commonly seen in this part of New England from April to 
October, migrating towards the South in severe weather, though 
many pass the whole winter in the Middle States- In Georgia 
and West Florida these birds are rather numerous in the cold 
season, migrating in quest of food probably from the West ; 
and the whole species generally show a predilection for the 
warm and sheltered vicinage of the sea, where the seeds and 
insects they feed on are most abundant. On their first arrival 
in Massachusetts they frequent the sandy beaches and shores 
of the bays in quest of Cicindelce and other coleopterous 
insects which frequent such situations ; and they are at this 
time exceedingly fat, though their moult is not yet completed. 
In summer this shy and timid species lives wholly in pastures 
or grass fields, and often descends to the ground in quest of 
food. Its nest, also laid in the grass and made of the dry 
blades of the same, very similar to that of the Song Sparrow, is 
usually built about the close of April. 

In the month of March, in Georgia, I observed these Spar- 
rows in the open grassy pine woods on the margins of small 
swamps or '' galls." At times they utter a note almost exactly 
similar to the chirpings of a cricket, so that it might be easily 
mistaken for that insect. At other times they utter a few 



326 SINGING BIRDS. 

pleasant notes somewhat similar to the song of the Song Spar- 
row, but sufficiently distinct. 

The Savanna Sparrow breeds more abundantly along the coast 
of Massachusetts than in the interior, and perhaps this may apply 
to all localities ; but the opinion expressed by many writers that it 
is almost exclusively a bird of the sea-shore — of the salt-marshes 
— is far from correct. I traced it up the valley of the St. John as far 
as there were cleared fields or marshy meadows, and in no locality 
was it more abundant than at Fort Kent, — the most northern point 
of Maine. It occurs throughout the southern portions of Canada. 

These birds are rarely seen off the ground; an occasional perch 
on a stone heap or a fence being the only deviation from this rule. 



IPSWICH SPARROW. 

Ammodramus princeps. 

Char. General appearance of a large pale Savanna Sparrow. Above, 
grayish brown, each feather streaked with black, rufous, and gray ; crown 
stripe dull buff or buffy white ; stripe over eyes similar but paler ; wings 
blackish brown, edged with buff ; tail grayish brown tipped with white ; 
beneath, dull white tinged with buff ; chest and sides streaked with brown. 
Length 6 to 6^ inches. 

Nest. In a cup-shaped hollow scratched in the sand and concealed by 
a tussock of grass or a low bush ; made of grass compactly woven, with 
an outer shell of coarser material and lined with fine grass. 

Eggs. 4-5; bluish or grayish white thickly marked with deep brown 
of several shades and some spots of purplish and grayish brown ; 
0.61 X 0.S5. 

This interesting bird was first described by Mr. C. J. Maynard 
from a specimen taken by him at Ipswich, Mass., in 1868. For 
two years the type remained unique, and for several years later the 
species was supposed to be rare. It has since been found all along 
the Atlantic coast from Georgia to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It 
usually frequents the sea-shore or salt-meadows near by, though 
Mr. N. C. Brown reports that he has seen it at Lake Umbagog, in 
the interior of Maine. I met with it in New Brunswick only for a 
few days during the second week of April, 1883. When feeding 
on the sandy shore (the snow still covered the fields), in company 
with other Sparrows, it was not difficult to distinguish the Ipswich 
from their congeners, but it is difficult to define the distinguishing 
characteristics. 



bachman's sparrow. 327 

In 1894 Dr. Jonathan Dwight, Jr., visited Sable Island, off Nova 
Scotia, and obtained several nests of this species with sets of eggs. 
His monograph, issued as a memoir of the Nuttall Ornithological 
Club, contains the only account that has been published of the 
habits of the bird, and from that paper I have taken the description 
of the nest and eggs given above. 

Dr. Dwight describes these birds as tamer than they appear 
when on the migrations, yet they were so retiring he could not learn 
much of their " domestic affairs." The song, he says, is similar 
to that of the Savanna Sparrow, but is " a more polished and 
tuneful affair." 



BACHMAN'S SPARROW. 

SUMMER FINCH. 
Peuc^a aestivalis BACHMANII. 

Char. Above, rufous streaked with black and ash; lines over the 
eyes ash ; edge of wing yellow ; below, buff, sides shaded with ash, breast 
with brown. Length 6X inches. 

A^est. In open grassy woodland, half-cleared field, or old meadow ; 
placed on the ground ; made of dry grass or mixed with roots ; sometimes 
the top is roofed, the entrance at the side. 

■Eggs. 4-5; white; 0.75 X 0.60. 

This interesting species was first made known to Audubon 
by Dr. Bachman, who found it near the Edisto River, and 
afterwards breeding in the vicinity of Charleston, South Caro- 
lina, in the pine barrens. The discoverer remarks of this 
bird : " When I first heard its notes they so nearly resembled 
those of the Towee Bunting that I took it to be that bird. As 
soon as it is seen in the tall pine-trees where it usually sits to 
warble out its melodious notes, it darts down and conceals 
itself in the rank grass, through which it runs off like a mouse, 
and is flushed with difficulty." It is believed to breed on the 
ground. It is said to be the finest songster of the Sparrow 
family in the United States. Its notes are loud for the size of 
the bird, and heard nearly alone in the region it frequents. 
About the month of November it proceeds to migrate farther 
south, though a few stragglers still remain throughout the 
winter. According to Latham, its nest is usually on the ground 
among the grass, under small bushes ; it is composed of dry 



328 SINGING BIRDS. 

grass for the most part, and the eggs are dusky white. He 
also adds that these birds inhabit Georgia the whole year, 
frequenting fences, brushwood, and thickets. 

Some years ago in Georgia in the month of March I ob- 
served these Sparrows in the open grassy pine woods, on the 
margins of small swamps or galls. On being suddenly sur- 
prised, they often flew off a little distance, and then, if followed, 
descended to the ground, and ran and hid closely in the tall 
tufts of grass. 

Their notes at this time were very long, piping, and ele- 
vated, and resembling often tshe tship tship tship tship tship 
tship, then tshe ch' tsh' tsh' ts'h ts'h. Some of these notes were 
as fine and lively as those of the Canary, — loud, echoing, and 
cheerful. 

The food of this species consists of grass seeds, coleoptera, 
and a variety of small berries as they come in season. The 
sexes are nearly alike in plumage. 

This species occurs in the Gulf States and north to South Caro- 
lina and southern Illinois, but the vicinity of Charleston, S. C, is 
the only locality in which it has been found in abundance. Very 
little is known of its habits or of Its distribution. 



Note. — The type of this species is larger and darker than 
bachmanii. It is restricted to southern Georgia and Florida, and 
has been named the Pine-woods Sparrow {Peuccza csstivalts). 



LINCOLN'S SPARROW. 

LINCOLN'S FINCH. 
Melospiza LINCOLNII. 

Char. Above, streaked with brown, gray, and black; below, white; 
band across the breast and on sides brownish yellow. Length about 
5/4 inches. 

Nest. On the ground, amid low bushes, along the skirts of marshy 
meadow, or on a dry grassy hillock in an open woodland ; composed of 
grass. 

Eggs. 4-5; pale green or huffish, — sometimes almost white, — thickly 
spotted and blotched with reddish brown and lilac ; 0.80 X 0.60. 



GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. 329 

The habits of this boreal species, discovered by Audubon in 
Labrador, are very similar to those of the Song Sparrow. Like 
it, mounted on the topmost twig of some tree or tall shrub, it 
chants for hours together ; or, diving into the thicket, it hops 
from branch to branch until it reaches the ground in quest of 
its usual fare of insects and berries. It moves off swiftly when 
watched, and if forced to take wing flies low and with rapidity 
to some considerable distance. It is met with usually near 
streams, in the sheltered valleys of that cold and desolate 
region. By the 4th of July the young had left the nest, and in 
August they had begun their migrations to the South. Speci- 
mens have been obtained by Mr. W. Cooper near New York 
city. 

Lincoln's Finch is now considered less " boreal " in its distribu- 
tion than Nuttall and his contemporaries supposed, for though it 
has been found in Labrador and in the high Arctic regions of the 
West, yet nests have been discovered in Nova Scotia, northern 
New York, and Wisconsin, as well as on the higher mountains of 
the West down nearly to the Mexican border. It is a rare bird 
near the Atlantic, but is abundant along the Mississippi valley. 



GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. 

YELLOW-WINGED SPARROW. YELLOW-WINGED BUNTING. 

Ammodramus savannarum passerinus. 

Char. Above, streaked with bay, black, buff, and ash; crown black- 
ish, with median h'ne of buff ; lines over the eye buff; bend of wing bright 
yellow; below, buff, shading to white on the belly. Length about 5 
inches. 

Nest In a field, concealed by long grass ; composed of grass, lined 
with horse-hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; white, spotted with rich brown and lilac ; 0.75 X 0.60. 

This small Sparrow is a summer resident in the United 
States, in the distant territory of the Oregon, and is Hkewise, 
according to Sloane, a common species in the savannas or 
open glades of the island of Jamaica. From what little is 
known of it as a bird of the United States, it appears to 



330 SINGING BIRDS. 

remain in the sheltered plains of the sea-coast of New York 
and New Jersey until the very commencement of winter. It is 
also observed in the lower parts of Pennsylvania ; and about the 
middle of May, or later, they are occasionally seen in the gar- 
dens in Cambridge, Mass., on their way apparently to some 
other breeding- station. On these occasions they perch in 
sheltered trees in pairs, and sing in an agreeable voice some- 
what like that of the Purple Finch, though less vigorously. In 
the West Indies they live much on the ground, and run like 
Larks, flying low when flushed, and soon alighting. Their nest 
is likewise fixed on the ground, among the grass, where they 
collect their usual fare of seeds and insects. 

The majority of local students of bird life to-day consider this 
species more or less common in Massachusetts and Connecticut, 
and it is known to occur in parts of the more northern New Eng- 
land States, and in New York, Ohio, Ontario, and Michigan. One 
example has been taken in New Brunswick. Its supposed rarity 
by earlier observers was probably due to its usual concealment 
amid the tall grass and to its lack of an attractive song ; for in spite 
of Nuttall's assurance to the contrary, modern observers have in- 
dorsed the opinion expressed by one of their leaders that " its best 
vocalization is scarcely stronger or more musical than the stridula- 
tion of a grasshopper." 



HENSLOW'S SPARROW. 

HENSLOW'S BUNTING. 

Ammodramus henslowii. 

Char. Above, streaked with olive brown, bay, and gray ; crown olive 
gray, with two blackish stripes; edge of wing j^ellow ; below, buff, paler 
on throat and belly ; sides of throat and sides of body streaked with 
black. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. In a field, concealed amid long grass ; made of grass with a 
lining of hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; dull white, sometimes tinged with green, spotted with 
brown and lilac ; 0.75 X 0.60. 

This species, so much allied to the Yellow-winged Finch 
discovered by Audubon, is known to breed in New Jersey. 



LE CONTE'S SPARROW. 331 

As a winter bird of passage it is common in South Carolina, 
and equally abundant in the pine forests of Florida, seeking 
out by choice the light sandy soils overgrown with pines, 
though it keeps on the ground wholly, running with celerity, 
and threading its way through the grass with the nimbleness 
of a mouse. 

Henslow's Sparrow breeds from southern New England to South 
Carolina, and from Ontario and Illinois southward, and has been 
found in New Hampshire and Vermont. It is more abundant to 
the westward than near the Atlantic seaboard. 



LE CONTE'S SPARROW. 

LE CONTE'S BUNTING. 
Ammodramus LECONTEII. 

Char. General color reddish brown, streaked with brownish black, 
the feathers margined with pale buff ; crown with two black stripes sepa- 
rated by a narrow stripe of pale huffish gray ; cheeks and stripes over the 
eyes buff ; hind neck rufous ; under parts buff, paler on the belly ; no 
streaks on the breast. Bill small and slender ; tail-feathers narrow, 
tapering, and extremely pointed. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. In a marsh or wet meadow, raised from the ground by tangled 
grass ; made of fine grass. 

^SS^- 3~ ? J delicate pink, with a few spots of brownish and of black 
towards the larger end; 0.75 X 0.50. (Thompson.) 

This interesting bird was first described by Audubon in the 1843 
edition of his work, — issued after Nuttall had written. Audubon 
secured but one specimen, and only one other was discovered until 
1873, when Dr. Coues took several examples on the Dakota plains. 
Since then the species has been found by a number of naturalists, 
and it is now known to breed on the plains of Dakota, Minnesota, 
and Manitoba, migrating in the autumn through Illinois, Iowa, 
Kansas, etc., to South Carolina and Florida. It is by no means 
a rare bird, — Ridgeway thinks it abundant in Illinois, and Thomp- 
son reports it common in Manitoba ; but, as Dr. Coues suggests, its 
retiring habits and the nature of its resorts have doubtless caused 
it to be overlooked. 

The birds resemble Henslow's Sparrow, and the habits of the 
two species are similar. Only one nest and set of eggs have been 
discovered, and they were taken by Mr. Ernest Thompson on the 
Manitoba plains. 




TREE SPARROW. 

Spizella monticola. 

Char. Above, streaked with black, bay, and buff ; crown chestnut, 
sometimes the feathers edged with ashy ; sides of head and neck ashy ; 
line from behind eyes chestnut ; wings with two white bars ; edges of tail- 
feathers white ; below, dull white, breast and throat tinged with ash ; spot 
of brown on the breast ; flanks shaded with brown. Length 6^ inches. 

Nest. On the ground or in a low bush ; made of grass, twigs, and 
roots, — sometimes cemented with mud, — lined with hair or feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; pale green or greenish blue, spotted with reddish brown ; 
0.75 X 0.60. 

This handsome winter Sparrow arrives from the northern 
regions in New England about the close of October, withdraw- 
ing from Hudson Bay and the neighboring countries some- 
time in the month of September. The species consequently, 
like many more of our Fringillas, only measures its speed by 
the resources of subsistence it is able to obtain, and thus 
straggling southward as the winter advances, it enters Pennsyl- 
vania only about the beginning of November ; there, as well as 
in the maritime parts of Massachusetts, and perhaps as far 
south as Virginia, the Tree Sparrow is often associated with 
the hardy Snow Birds, gleaning a similar kind of subsistence ; 
and when the severity of winter commences, leaving the woods, 
gardens, and uplands in which it is an occasional visitor, it 
seeks in company the shelter of some bushy swamp, thickly 
shaded brook, or spring. Near Fresh Pond, in this vicinity, 



CHIPPING SPARROW. 



333 



these birds are at that season numerous, and roost together 
near the margin of the reeds, almost in the society of the 
Blackbirds, who seek out a similar place of warmth and shelter 
as the chilling frosts begin to prevail. 

At this cool and gloomy season, and down to the close of 
the first week in November, as they pass from branch to 
branch and play capriciously round each other, they keep up 
almost perpetually a low and pleasant hquid warble, not much 
unlike that of the Yellow Bird {Fringilla tristis), but less 
varied. Sometimes two or three at the same time will tune up 
s'weedit s'weedit weet, and s'waidit s'waidit weet, accompanied 
by some tremulous trilling and variation, which, though rather 
sad and querulous, is heard at this silent season with peculiar 
delight. In summer, during the breeding-time, they express 
considerable melody. 

According to Mr. Hutchins they breed around the Hudson 
Bay settlements, making a nest in the herbage, formed exter- 
nally of dry grass, and lined with soft hair or down, probably 
from vegetables, in the manner of the Yellow Bird. About the 
beginning of April they leave the Middle States for their sum- 
mer quarters, and arrive around Severn River in May; they 
also probably propagate in Newfoundland, where they have 
been observed. With us they are still seen in numbers to the 
19th of April. 

Numbers of the Tree Sparrow winter regularly in the Maritime 
Provinces of Canada. Macoun reports the species common in 
summer at Lake Mistassini, which lies a little to the southward of 
Hudson Bay. 



CHIPPING SPARROW. 

CHIPPY. HAIR-BIRD. 
Spizella SOCIALIS. 



Char. Above, streaked with grayish brown, black, and bay ; crown 
chestnut ; forehead black ; sides of head and neck ashy ; dull white line 
over eyes; dusky stripe from bill through eyes; bill black; tail dusky 
with pale edgings ; wings with two white bars ; below, dull white, tinged 
with ash on breast and sides. Length about 51^ mches. 



334 SINGING BIRDS. 

Nest. In a pasture, orchard, or garden, placed in a bush or low tree ; 
composed of grass, — sometimes mixed with roots, — thickly lined with 
horse-hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; bluish green, spotted, chiefly about the larger end, with 
brown, black, and lilac; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This species, with the Song Sparrow, is probably the most 
numerous, common, and famiUar bird in the United States, 
inhabiting from Nova Scotia to Florida, westward to the banks 
of the Missouri, and Mr. Townsend found it to be a common 
species in the Territory of Oregon. Aware of the many para- 
sitic enemies of the feathered race which it has to encounter, 
who prowl incessantly, and particularly in quest of its eggs, it 
approaches almost instinctively the precincts of houses, barns, 
and stables, and frequently ventures into the centre of the 
noisy and bustling city, to seek in the cultivated court an 
asylum for its expected progeny. Soon sensible of favor or 
immunity, it often occupies with its nest the thick shrubs of 
the garden within a few yards of the neighboring habitation, 
by the side perhaps of a frequented walk, in the low rose-bush, 
the lilac, or any other familiar plant affording any degree of 
shelter or security, and will at times regularly visit the thresh- 
old, the piazza, or farm-yard for the crumbs which intention 
or accident may afford it. On other occasions the orchard 
trees are chosen for its habitation, or in the lonely woods an 
evergreen, cedar, or fir is selected for the purpose. It makes 
no pretensions to song, but merely chips in complaint when 
molested, or mounting the low boughs of some orchard tree or 
shrub, utters a quickly articulated ascending 'tsh 'tsh 'tsh 'tsh 
'tsh tshe tshe, almost like the jingling of farthings, and a little 
resembling the faint warble of the Canary, but without any of 
its variety or loudness. This note, such as it is, is continued 
often for half an hour at a time, but is little louder than the 
chirping of a cricket, and uttered by the male while attending 
his brooding mate. For many weeks through the summer and 
during fine weather this note is often given from time to time 
in the night, like the revery of a dream. 

The nest of the Chipping Bird varies sometimes consider- 
ably in its materials and composition. The external layer. 



CHIPPING SPARROW. 335 

seldom so thick but that it may be readily seen through, is 
composed of dry stalks of withered grass, and lined more or 
less with horse or cow hair. The Cuckoo destroys many eggs 
of this timid, harmless, and sociable little bird, as the nests are 
readily discovered and numerous ; on such occasions the little 
sufferer expresses great and unusual anxiety for the security of 
her charge, and after being repeatedly robbed, the female sits 
closely sometimes upon perhaps only two eggs, desirous at any 
rate to escape if possible with some of her little offspring. Two 
or more broods are raised in the season. 

Towards the close of summer the parents and their brood 
are seen busily engaged collecting seeds and insects in the 
neighboring fields and lanes, and now become so numerous, as 
the autumn advances, that flitting before the path on either 
side as the passenger proceeds, they almost resemble the 
falling leaves of the season rustling before the cheerless blast ; 
and finally, as their food fails and the first snows begin to 
appear, advertised of the threatening famine, they disappear 
and winter in the Southern States. In the month of January, 
in Georgia, during the continuance of the cool weather and 
frosty nights, I frequently heard at dusTc a confused chirping or 
piping like that of frogs, and at length discovered the noise to 
proceed from dense flocks of the Chipping Sparrows roosting 
or huddling near together in a pile of thick brush, where, with 
the Song Sparrow also, they find means to pass the cool 
nights. 

The Chipping Sparrow occurs throughout the Maritime Prov- 
inces and westward to the Rockies, northward to the Great Slave 
Lake region, and southward to Florida. It is abundant in Quebec 
and Ontario. It is very abundant in the Eastern States and the 
Eastern Provinces. 



Note. — One example of Brewer's Sparrow {Spizella 
breweri), a bird that dwells chiefly on the western slopes of the 
Rockies, has been taken in Massachusetts. 



336 SINGING BIRDS. 



FIELD SPARROW. 

Spizella pusilla. 

Char. Above, streaked rufous, black, and buff; crown chestnut, with 
obscure median line of ash ; hind neck, sides of head and neck ash ; cheek 
shaded with brown ; wings with two white bars ; below, white; breast and 
throat tinged with yellow ; bill reddish brown. Length 534^ inches. 

Nest. In a field, pasture, or open woodland, amid a tuft of grass or in 
a tangled thicket, sometimes placed on a low bush or vine ; composed of 
grass, twigs, and straw, lined with hair, fine roots, or fur. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; dull white or with buff or green tint, usually thickly spotted 
with reddish brown ; 0.70 X 0.55. 

The Small Brown Sparrow arrives in Pennsylvania and New 
England from the Southern States, where it passes the winter, 
in the beginning of April. It is with us a shy, wild, and retir- 
ing species, partial to dry hills and pastures, and open, bushy, 
secluded woods, living much in trees. In autumn, indeed, the 
pair, accompanied by their brood, in small flitting flocks leave 
their native wilds, and glean at times in the garden or orchard ; 
yet but little is now seen of them, as they only approach culti- 
vated grounds a few weeks before their departure. These 
Sparrows, if indeed they are the same as those described by 
Wilson, in winter flock together in great numbers in the 
Southern States, and mingling with the Chipping Birds and 
other species, they now line the roads, fences, and straggling 
bushes near the plantations in such numbers as, with their 
sober and brown livery, to resemble almost a shower of rust- 
ling and falling leaves, continually haunting the advancing 
steps of the traveller in hungry, active flocks, driven by the 
storms of winter into this temporary and irksome exile. But 
no sooner does the return of early spring arrive than they flit 
entirely from the Southern wilds to disperse in pairs and seek 
out again their favorite natal regions of the North. 

Our little bird has a pretty loud and shrill note, which may 
be heard at a considerable distance, and possesses some variety 
of tone and expression. Sometimes it is something like tw'e 
twee twdi, tw ^tw ^tw 'tw 'tw 'tw 'tw, beginning loud and 



FIELD SPARROW. 337 

slow, and going up and down, shrill and quick, with a reverbe- 
rating tone almost as rapid as the drumming of the Ruffed 
Grouse. At other times the sound appears like te de de de de 
d' d' d' d' d' d" dr\ rapid and echoing ; then weet weet weed 
wat te 'd 'd V V V V, also weet weet weet weef wf wf wf 
wf trr ; the whole of these notes rising and running together 
into a short trill something hke the song of the Canary, but 
less varied, and usually in a querulous or somewhat plaintive 
tone, though towards the close of summer I have heard indi- 
viduals nearly as musical and warbling as the common Yellow 
Bird. These tones are also somewhat similar to the reverbera- 
tions of the Chipping Bird, but quite loud and sonorous, and 
without the changeless monotony of that species. In fact, our 
bird would be worthy a place in a cage as a songster of some 
merit. Like most of the Sparrows, the food of this species 
consists of seeds and insects ; and they also search the leaves 
and branches at times in quest of moths, of which they appear 
fond. 

The Field Sparrow is a common summer resident of southern 
New England, but is rather rare north of Massachusetts. It has 
not been taken in the Maritime Provinces, though Mr. Neilson 
thinks it not uncommon near the city of Quebec, and it is common 
throughout Ontario and in Manitoba. It breeds southward to 
South Carolina and winters from the Southern States southward. 



Note. — A few examples of the Clay-colored Sparrow 
{Spizella pallida) wander every year from their usual habitat on 
the Great Plains to Iowa and Illinois. 



VOL. I. 22 




FOX SPARROW. 

Passerella iliaca. 

Char. Above, foxy red (brightest on wings and rump) streaked with 
ash (in winter the ash is sometimes obscure); head and tail without 
streaks ; wings with two white bars ; below, white spotted with red. 
Length about 7 inches. 

Nest. Amid moss, or on a low bush ; composed of grass and moss, lined 
with grass, roots, and feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; white with green or blue tinge, spotted and blotched with 
brown of several shades (sometimes the brown almost conceals the 
ground color); great variation in size, average about 0.80 X 0.65. 

This large and handsome Sparrow, after passing the summer 
and breeding-season in the northern regions of the continent 
around Hudson Bay, and farther north and west perhaps to 
the shores of the Pacific, visits us in straggUng parties or pairs 
from the middle of October to November. At this time it 
frequents low, sheltered thickets in moist and watery situations, 
where it usually descends to the ground and is busily employed 
in scratching up the earth and rustling among the fallen leaves 
in quest of seeds, worms, and insects, but more particularly the 
last. It migrates in a desultory manner, and sometimes arrives 



SLATE-COLORED JUNCO. 339 

as far south as Georgia, passing the winter in the Southern 
States and retiring early in the spring to its favorite boreal 
retreats. These Sparrows are silent birds, rather tame and 
unsuspicious ; when alarmed or separated their call is simply 
shep, shep ; yet at times in the spring, a little before their 
departure, they whisper forth a few low and sweet notes indi- 
cative of the existence of vocal powers in the pairing season. 

According to Richardson this species breeds in the woody 
districts of the fur countries up to the 68th parallel. 

Nuttall was correct in his conjecture that the Fox Sparrow is a 
vocalist. It ranks as a peer of the best songsters of the entire 
Sparrow-Finch tribe. 

I have heard the song frequently in New Brunswick, when cold 
storms have detained the birds on their journey north until the 
approach of their mating season. Sometimes they arrive there 
early in March, and pass on in a couple of weeks, without uttering 
any other note than a metallic cheep. But when they tarry until 
after the first week in April they then burst into full song, and 
sing almost continuously. It is a "fervent, sensuous, and withal 
perfectly rounded carol," writes William Brewster; and he adds: 
"It expresses careless joy and exultant masculine vigor rather than 
the finer shades of sentiment." The voice is strong, of wide com- 
pass, and sweet, rich tone. 

Nests of this species have been found on the Magdalen Islands 
and in Newfoundland, where it is called the Hedge Sparrow, and 
Thompson reports it breeding in numbers on Duck Mountain in 
Manitoba. 



SLATE-COLORED JUNCO. 

SNOW BIRD. WHITE BILL. 
JUNCO HYEMALIS. 

Char. Male : upper parts, neck, and breast dark slate or blackish 
ash ; belly white ; outer tail-feathers and bill, white. Female : similar, 
but upper parts browner, breast paler. Length 63^ to 6^ inches. 

Nest. In grassy woodland, or old meadow, or by the roadside, some- 
times in the garden of a farm-house ; sheltered by a mound or stump, or 
amid long grass ; composed, usually, of grass, sometimes mixed with 
roots or moss ; lined with feathers, hair, fur, or moss. 



340 SINGING BIRDS. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; dull white, or tinted with green or buff, spotted chiefly 
around larger end with reddish-brown and lilac; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This hardy and very numerous species, common to both 
continents, pours in flocks from the northern regions into the 
United States about the middle of October, where their ap- 
pearance is looked upon as the presage of approaching winter. 
At this season they migrate into the Southern States in great 
numbers, and seem to arrive in augmenting hosts with the 
progress of the wintry storms and driving snows, before which 
they fly for food rather than shelter; for even during the 
descent of the whitening inundation, and while the tempest 
still rages without abatement, these hardy and lonely wander- 
ers are often seen flitting before the blast, and, seeking ad- 
vantage from the sweeping current, descend to collect a scanty 
pittance from the frozen and exposed ground, or stop to col- 
lect the seeds which still remain upon the unshorn weeds 
tising through the dreary waste. At such times they are also 
frequently accompanied by the Snow Bunting, the humbly 
dressed Yellow Bird, and the querulous Chickadee. Driven 
to straits, however, by hunger, they at length become more 
familiar, and are now seen about the barns and out-houses, 
spreading themselves in busy groups over the yard, and even 
approaching the steps of the door in towns and cities, and 
gleaning thankfully from the threshold any crumbs or acci- 
dental fragments of provision. Amidst all this threatening and 
starving weather, which they encounter almost alone, they are 
still lively, active, and familiar. The roads, presenting an 
accidental resource of food for these northern swarms, are con- 
sequently more frequented by them than the fields. Before the 
severity of the season commences, they are usually only seen 
moving in families; and the parents, watchful for the common 
safety, still continue by reiterated chirpings to warn their full- 
grown brood of every approach of danger, and, withdrawing 
them from any suspicious observation, wander off to securer 
ground. At this time they frequent the borders of woods, seek 
through the thickets and among the fallen leaves for their 
usual food of seeds and dormant insects or their larvae. Their 



SLATE-COLORED JUNCO. 341 

caution is not unnecessary, for on the skirts of the larger flocks 
the famished Hawk prowls for his fated prey, and descending 
with a sudden and successful sweep, carries terror through all 
the wandering and retreating ranks. 

In the latter end of March or beginning of April, as the 
weather begins to be mild, they re-appear in flocks from the 
South, frequenting the orchard trees, or retreating to the shel- 
ter of the woods, and seem now to prefer the shade of thickets 
or the sides of hills, and frequently utter a few sweet, clear, and 
tender notes, almost similar to the touching warble of the 
European Robin Redbreast. The jealous contest for the 
selection of mates already also takes place, soon after which 
they retire to the northern regions to breed ; though, accord- 
ing to Wilson, many remove only to the high ranges of the 
Alleghany Mountains, where, in the interior of Virginia, and 
towards the western sources of the Susquehanna, they also 
breed in great numbers, fixing their nests on the ground or 
among the grass, the pairs still associating in near communion 
with each other. In the fur countries they were not observed 
by Richardson beyond the 5 7th parallel. 

The Junco breeds from northern New England northward, and 
on the higher hills south to North Carolina. It is an abundant 
summer resident of the Maritime Provinces, and winters there in 
small numbers. It also winters sparsely in northern New England, 
and from Massachusetts southward it is a common winter bird. 

The song is very similar to that of the Chipping Sparrow. 
Though usually building its nest on the ground, a few have been 
found in other situations. Sheriff Bishop, of Kentville, N. S., re- 
corded in the O. & O. for September, 1888, finding nests on branches 
of low trees, in holes in apple-trees, etc. 



Note. — Examples of Shufeldt's Junco (/. hyemalis shu- 
feldti), a western form, has been reported from several Eastern 
States. 

Another species, the Carolina Junco (/. h. caroUnensis)^ was 
first described by Mr. William Brewster from specimens obtained 
by him on the mountains of North CaroHna in June, 1885. It is 
larger and lighter colored than hye?nalis, and has a horn-colored 
bill. 



342 SINGING BIRDS. 

SWAMP SPARROW. 
Melospiza georgiana. 

Char. Above, streaked with brown, black, and buff; crown bay, 
sometimes with indistinct median line of ash and streaks of black ; fore- 
head black ; brown stripe behind eyes ; sides of head and neck ash ; 
below, dull white, breast shaded with ash, sides shaded with brown ; 
wings and tail tinged with bay. Length about 5^ inches. 

Nest. Under cover of long grass, in a swamp or wet meadow; usually 
made entirely of grass, though sometimes weed-stems are added to the 
exterior, and hair is used in lining. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; dull white, tinted with green, blue, or pink, blotched, often 
clouded, with lilac and several shades of brown ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

The aquatic habits of these common, though Httle known, 
birds is one of their most remarkable peculiarities. In Nevi^ 
England they arrive from the Southern States, where they win- 
ter, about the middle of April, and take up their summer resi- 
dence in the swamps and marshy meadows through which, 
often without flying, they thread their devious way with the 
same alacrity as the Rail, with whom they are indeed often 
associated in neighborhood. In consequence of this perpetual 
brushing through sedge and bushes, their feathers are fre- 
quently so worn that their tails appear almost like those of 
rats, and are very often flirted in the manner of the Wagtail. 
Occasionally, however, they mount to the tops of low bushes 
or willow-trees and chant forth a few trilling, rather monoto- 
nous minor notes, resembling, in some measure, the song of 
the Field Sparrow, and appearing like twe tw' tw' tw' tiu' tw' 
twe, and twP tw'l 'tw tw' twe, uttered in a pleasant and some- 
what varied warble. These notes are made with considerable 
effort, and sometimes with a spreading of the tail. In the 
spring, on their first arrival, this song is delivered with much 
spirit, and echoes through the marshes like the trill of the 
Canary. The sound now resembles the syllables ^tw ^tw ^tw 
Uwee ^twee ^tw ^twe 'twe, or 'tshp 'tshp Ushe 'tsh 'tsh ^tsh Ush, 
beginning loud, sweet, and somewhat plaintive ; and the song 
is continued till late in the morning, and after sunset in the 
evening. This reverberating tone is again somewhat similar 



SWAMP SPARROW. 343 

to that of the Chipping Sparrow, but far louder and more musi- 
cal. In the intervals the Swamp Sparrow descends into the 
grassy tussocks and low bushes in quest of his insect food, as 
well as to repose out of sight ; and while here his movements 
are as silent and secret as those of a mouse. The rice planta- 
tions and river swamps are the favorite hibernal resorts of 
these birds in Louisiana, Georgia, and the Carolinas ; here they 
are very numerous, and skulk among the canes, reeds, and rank 
grass, solicitous of concealment, and always exhibiting their 
predilection for watery places. In the breeding season, before 
the ripening of many seeds, they live much on the insects of 
the marshes in which they are found, particularly the smaller 
coleopterous kinds, Carabi and Curculiones. They extend 
their northern migrations as far as the coasts of Labrador and 
Newfoundland. 

They probably raise two or three broods in a season, being 
equally prolific with our other Sparrows. They express extreme 
solicitude for their young even after they are fully fledged and 
able to provide for themselves ; the young also, in their turn, 
possess uncommon cunning and agility, running and concealing 
themselves in the sedge of the wet meadows. They are quite 
as difficult to catch as field-mice, and seldom on these emer- 
gencies attempt to take wing. We have observed one of these 
sagacious birds dart from one tussock to another, and at last 
dive into the grassy tuft in such a manner, or elude the grasp 
so well, as seemingly to disappear or burrow into the earth. 
Their robust legs and feet, as well as long claws, seem pur- 
posely provided to accelerate this clinging and running on the 
uneven ground. 

This species is a common summer resident throughout the settled 
portions of eastern Canada, and abundant on the St. Clair Flats 
and in Manitoba. It is common at that season in New England 
also, and breeds south to Pennsylvania. A few spend each winter 
in some marshes near Boston, and the flocks winter from that lati- 
tude to the Gulf. 

Mr. Chapman tells us that in the South they frequently belie 
their name and resort to dry fields. 







SHARP-TAILED SPARROW. 
shore finch. 

Ammodramus caudacutus. 

Char. Above, brownish gray tinged with olive ; crown darker, with 
median stripe of ashy gray and two stripes of black; back streaked with 
black; stripes of buff above and below eyes meeting behind ear-coverts; 
wings edged with yellow; tail-feathers narrow, with acutely pointed tips; 
below, dull white, breast and sides tinged with buff and streaked with 
black. Length about sH inches. 

A^esL In a salt-marsh or wet meadow, amid a cluster of reeds or tuft 
of sedges, to the stems of which it is sometimes fastened; a somewhat 
bulky structure of grass and weed-stems, lined with fine grass. 

Bg^'s. 4-5 ; dull white or tinged with buff or green, thickly spotted 
with brown and lilac; 0.75 X 0.55. 

The Shore Finch is an inhabitant of the low islands and 
marshy sea-coasts from Massachusetts to Texas, living on 
small shrimps, marine insects, and probably grass seeds, mov- 
ing through the rank herbage nearly with the same agility and 
timidity as a Swamp Sparrow, to which in structure of the 
feet and stoutness of the bill it bears considerable affinity. 



ACADIAN SHARP-TAILED SPARROW. 345 

These birds are not rare, though not so numerous as the Sea- 
side Sparrow, with which they commonly associate. 

These Finches frequent the water, and walk on the floating 
weeds as if on the land ; throughout the winter they remain 
gregarious till spring, when they separate for the purpose of 
breeding. They are almost silent, a single tweet being now 
all they are heard to utter ; and even in the spring, so defec- 
tive are they in melody that their notes are scarcely worthy 
the name of a song. They nest on the ground, amid the short 
marsh-grass near the line of high- water mark ; a slight hollow 
is made, and then lined with delicate grass. They raise two 
broods in the season in the Middle States. 

'•' Sharp-tails " have been traced north to Prince Edward's Island, 
but in 1887 Mr. Jonathan Dwight, Jr., discovered that true cauda- 
cutus had not been taken beyond Portsmouth, N. H., the birds 
found to the northward of that point being a distinct variety, which 
he named subvirgatus. 



ACADIAN SHARP-TAILED SPARROW. 

Ammodramus caudacutus subvirgatus. 

Char. " Similar in size and coloring to A. caudacutus, but paler and 
much less conspicuously streaked beneath with pale greenish gray instead 
of black or deep brown. Bill averages smaller. Compared with iielsoni 
it is much paler and grayer, generally larger, and with a longer bill " 
(Dwight). 

Nest and Eggs are not known to dififer from those of true caudactitus. 

The habitat of this newly discovered sub-species, or, rather, the 
limit of its range, has not yet been determined. Mr. Dwight gives 
it as " Marshes of southern New Brunswick, Prince Edward's 
Island, and probably Nova Scotia, and southward in migration 
along the Atlantic coast." In habits the present bird differs from 
catidacutus in frequenting fresh-water marshes and dry meadows 
on the margins of inland streams. 

The song of this bird — if its few wheezy notes deserve such 
recognition — is a rather ludicrous effort, and suggests a bad cold 
in the head. Mr. Dwight represents it by the syllables lic-se-e- 
e-e-oop. All I remember having heard frorii the specimens I 
encountered is the see-e-e-e-oop, delivered with apparent effort, as 
if choking. 



34^ SINGING BIRDS. 

NELSON'S SPARROW. 

Ajmmodramus caudacutus nelsoni. 

Char. Differs from the type by the colors of the back being very 
sharply defined, the white a clearer shade, and the brown a richer and 
more decided umber ; chest and sides deep buff. Size larger than true 
catidacMtus. Length about ^yi inches. 

Nest and Eggs similar to caiuiaciitics. 

Nelson's Sharp-tail was described by Mr. J. A. Allen in 1875. 
It is found in summer on the marshes of the Mississippi valley, 
from northern Illinois to Manitoba, and in winter on the Atlantic 
coast from Massachusetts (sparingly) to South Carolina, and west 
to Texas. 



SEASIDE SPARROW. 

SEASIDE FINCH. 
Ammodrajvius MARITDIUS. 

Char. Above, dull olive brown, back and head with indistinct streaks 
of ashy ; superciliary line and edge of wing yellow ; below, dull white, the 
breast and sides with dark streaks. Length about 6 inches. 

Nest. Hidden amid a tuft of grass or coarse sedges in a salt marsh or 
wet meadow ; sometimes placed on the ground, often a few inches above 
it ; composed of dry grass. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; dull white with green or buff tint, spotted with brown ; 
0.80 X 0.60. 

This species is not uncommon in the maritime marshy 
grounds and in the sea islands along the Atlantic coast from 
Massachusetts to the Southern States. It confines its excur- 
sions almost wholly within the bounds of the tide-water, leav- 
ing its favorite retreats for more inland situations only after 
the prevalence of violent easterly storms. In quest of marine 
insects, cnistacea, shrimps, and minute shell-fish, it courses 
along the borders of the strand with all the nimbleness of a 
Sandpiper, examining the sea-weeds and other exuviae for its 
fare ; it seeks out its prey also at dusk, as well as at other 
times, and usually roosts on the ground like a Lark. In short, 
it derives its whole subsistence from the margin of the ocean, 



SEASIDE SPARROW. 347 

and its flesh is even imbued with the rank or fishy taste to be 
expected from the nature of its food. At other times it re- 
mains amidst the thickest of the sea-grass, and cHmbs upon 
the herbage with as much dexterity as it runs on the ground. 
Its feet and legs for this purpose are robust, as in the Swamp 
Sparrow. It appears to rear two broods in the season. In 
May and June the Seaside Finch may be seen almost at all 
hours perched on the top of some rank weed near the salt- 
marsh, singing with much emphasis the few notes which com- 
pose its monotonous song. When approached it seeks refuge 
in the rank grass by descending down the stalks, or flies off" to 
a distance, flirting its wings, and then, alighting suddenly, runs 
off" with great nimbleness. 

The Seaside Finch is now considered a rare bird in Massachu- 
setts, though an abundant summer resident of the salt marshes of 
southern Connecticut. It breeds southward to North Carolina, 
and winters in the Southern States. 



Note. — Scott's Seaside Sparrow (A. maritimus penin- 
sula!) was first described from specimens taken by Mr. W. E. D. 
Scott at Tarpon Springs, Florida, in 1888. It is intermediate in 
coloration between A. nigrescens and A. maritimus. 

This race is found in South Carolina and Florida, and along the 
Gulf coast to Texas. 

The Dusky Seaside Sparrow {Ammodra7jtus nigrescens') 
differs from maritimus in being black above, streaked with olive 
and gray ; beneath white, streaked with black. It was described 
originally by Mr. C. J. Maynard, who captured the type specimen 
in 1872, in southern Florida. He reported the bird as quite abun- 
dant in some locaHties, but no other collector has been successful 
in finding it. 




AMERICAN GOLDFINCH. 

YELLOW BIRD. ITHISTLE BIRD. THISTLE FINCH. WILD 
CANARY. 

Spinus tristis. 

Char. Male in summer : bright gamboge yellow ; crown, wings, and 
tail black ; upper and undev tail-coverts, wing and tail markings, white. 
In winter the male resembles the female, though with less olive tint. 
Female : above, olive brown ; below, paler or yellowish ; forehead with- 
out black ; wings and tail much the same as in the male. Length about 
4^ inches. 

Nest. In a pasture or orchard ; usually placed in a crotch of a decidu- 
ous tree lo to 20 feet from the ground ; a compact and gracefully formed 
cup, made of grass and vegetable fibre, lined with grass and plant down, 
and often with hair. 

Eggs. 3-6 ; white with tint of green or greenish blue, occasionally 
marked with faint spots of brown ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This common, active, and gregarious Goldfinch is a very- 
general inhabitant of the United States. It is also found in 
summer in the remote interior of Canada, in the fur countries 
and near Lake Winnipique, in the 49th degree of latitude, as 
well as in the remote territory of Oregon and the Rocky 
Mountains, on the banks of Lewis's River, where I found the 
nest as usual with white eggs. On the other hand, it is also 
met with in Mexico, and even in Guiana and Surinam in trop- 
ical America, where it frequents the savannas. Although 
many of these birds which spend the summer here leave at 
the approach of winter, yet hungry flocks are seen to arrive in 



MIERICAN GOLDFINCH. 349 

this part of New England throughout that season ; and some- 
times, in company with the Snow Buntings, in the inclement 
months of January and February, they may be seen busily 
employed in gleaning a scanty pittance from the seeds of the 
taller weeds, which rise above the deep and drifted snows. As 
late as the 15 th of September I have observed a nest of the 
Yellow Bird with the young still unfledged. Their migrations 
are very desultory, and do not probably extend very far, their 
progress being apparently governed principally by the scarcity 
or abundance of food with which they happen to be supplied. 
Thus, though they may be numerous in the depth of winter, as 
soon as the weather relaxes in the month of March, scarcely 
any more of them are to be seen, having at this time, in quest 
of sustenance, proceeded probably to the southern extremity of 
the United States. Those observed in tropical America may 
be hibernal wanderers from the cooler parts of Mexico. At 
all events they select the milder climates of the Union in 
which to pass the breeding season, as at this time they are but 
rarely seen in the Southern States, Kentucky being about the 
boundary of their summer residence. 

Naturally vagrant and wandering, they continue to live in 
flocks or in near vicinage, even throughout the greatest part of 
the selective season. As the fine weather of spring approaches 
they put ofl" their humble winter dress, and the males, now 
appearing in their temporary golden livery, are heard tuning 
their lively songs as it were in concert, several sitting on the 
same tree enjoying the exhilarating scene, basking and pluming 
themselves, and vying with each other in the delivery of their 
varied, soft, and cheerful warble. They have also the faculty 
of sinking and raising their voices in such a delightful cadence 
that their music at times seems to float on the distant breeze, 
scarcely louder than the hum of bees ; it then breaks out as it 
were into a crescendo, which rings like the loud song of the 
Canary. In cages, to which they soon become familiar and 
reconciled, their song is nearly as sonorous and animated as 
that of the latter. When engaged in quarrel they sometimes 
hurl about in a whole flock, some, as it were, interfering to 



350 SINGING BIRDS. 

make peace, others amused by the fray, all uttering loud and 
discordant chirpings. One of their most common whining 
calls while engaged in collecting seeds in gardens, where they 
seem to be sensible of their delinquency, is 'may be, 'may be. 
They have also a common cry like 'tsheveet 'tshevee, uttered in 
a slender, complaining accent. These and some other twitter- 
ing notes are frequently uttered at every impulse while pursu- 
ing their desultory waving flight, rising and falling as they shut 
or expand their laboring wings. They are partial to gardens 
and domestic premises in the latter end of summer and 
autumn, collecting oily seeds of various kinds and shelHng 
them with great address and familiarity, if undisturbed often 
hanging and moving about head downwards, to suit their con- 
venience while thus busily and craftily employed. They have 
a particular fondness for thistle seeds, spreading the down in 
clouds around them, and at this time feeding very silently and 
intently ; nor are they very easily disturbed while thus engaged 
in the useful labor of destroying the germs of these noxious 
weeds. They do some damage occasionally in gardens by 
their indiscriminate destruction of lettuce and flower seeds, 
and are therefore often disliked by gardeners ; but their use- 
fulness in other respects far counterbalances the trifling inju- 
ries they produce. They are very fond, also, of washing and 
bathing themselves in mild weather; and as well as tender 
buds of trees they sometimes collect the Confervas of springs 
and brooks as a variety to their usual fare. 

They raise sometimes two broods in the season, as their 
nests are found from the first week in July to the middle of 
September. In 1831 I examined several nests, and from the 
late period at which they begin to breed it is impossible that 
they can ever act in the capacity of nurses to the Cow 
Troopial. This procrastination appears to be occasioned by 
the lack of sufficiently nutritive diet, the seeds on which they 
principally feed not ripening usually before July. 



Note. — The Black-headed Goldfinch {Spinus notatus), 
a Mexican bird, is credited with an accidental occurrence in 
Kentucky. 



PINE SISKIN. 351 

PINE SISKIN. 

PINE FINCH. PINE LINNET. 

Spinus pinus. 

Char. Above, olive brown or dark flaxen, streaked with dusky ; 
wings and tail black, the feathers edged with yellow ; wings with two 
buffish bars ; below streaked with dusky and yellowish white. Length 
about 4^ inches. 

Nest. Usually in a deep forest, on a horizontal branch of an evergreen 
tree 20 to 40 feet from the ground. It is fairly well built, as a rule, 
but is neither as compact nor graceful as the Thistle Bird's, and is com- 
posed of various materials, though generally grass, twigs, and pine-needles 
form the exterior, while the lining is either feathers or hair, or both. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; pale green or greenish blue spotted with light reddish 
brown and lilac; 0.70 X 0.50. 

Our acquaintance with this Kttle northern Goldfinch is very 
unsatisfactory. It visits the Middle States in November, fre- 
quents the shady, sheltered borders of creeks and rivulets, and 
is particularly fond of the seeds of the hemlock-tree. Among 
the woods, where these trees abound, these birds assemble in 
flocks, and contentedly pass away the winter. Migrating for 
no other purpose but subsistence, their visits are necessarily- 
desultory and uncertain. My friend Mr. Oakes, of Ipswich, 
has seen them in large flocks in that vicinity in winter. With 
us they are rare, though their favorite food is abundant. They 
are by no means shy, and permit a near approach without tak- 
mg alarm, often fluttering among the branches in which they 
feed, hanging sometimes by the cones, and occasionally utter- 
ing notes very similar to those of the American Goldfinch. 
Early in March they proceed to the North, and my friend 
Audubon observed them in famihes, accompanied by their 
young, in Labrador in the month of July. They frequented 
low thickets in the vicinity of water, and were extremely fear- 
less and gentle. Their summer plumage, as we have since 
also found in the Oregon Territory, where they abound and 
breed, is entirely similar to the garb in which they visit us in 
the winter, with the sole exception that the yellow of the wings 
is brighter. 



352 SINGING BIRDS. 

They sing on the wing in the manner of the Goldfinch. 
Their notes are clear, lively, and mellow, like as in that bird, 
but still sufficiently distinct ; they fly out in the same graceful, 
deep curves, emitting also the common call- note at every 
effort to proceed. 

The history of this interesting bird is but little better known to- 
day than when Nuttall wrote. Our ignorance is partly due to the 
irregular, nomadic habits of the bird, but chiefly because its favorite 
haunts are in out-of-the-way places, amid the deeper recesses of the 
forests, where few observers penetrate. At intervals large flocks 
visit the outskirts of settlements, and even look in upon the vil- 
lages ; but these are merely excursions by the way introduced into 
the migration programme. Its habitat is now given as " North 
America in general, breeding mostly north of the United States." 
In the east, nests have been found in New York State by Dr. C. 
Hart Merriam and Dr. A. K. Fisher, and the nest and eggs have 
been taken twice in Massachusetts; but the major portion of the 
eastern flocks go to the more northern portions of New England 
and beyond before settling down for the summer. 

The dates usually given for the nesting are early in May ; but 
a much earlier time is given by Dr. A. Leith Adams, an Eng- 
lish naturalist who met with the species in New Brunswick. In 
his " Field and Forest Rambles," he writes : " It breeds early, and 
has its young flying before the first summer migrants arrive in 
April, when large flocks may be observed feeding on the buds of 
the hawthorn preparatory to their departure northward." He adds 
that it is a choice cage-bird, and is easily tamed. He kept some 
for several months, and when liberated they all returned to their 
cages after an absence of several days. 

The biography of this species forms an interesting chapter in 
that interesting book, " The Land Birds and Game Birds of New 
England," by H. D. Minot, — a book, by the way, that has not 
received the recognition its merit deserves. 




GOLDFINCH. 

Carduelis carduelis. 

Char. Forehead and throat crimson ; cheeks and lower throat white; 
crown and nape black, the latter being bordered by a narrow line of 
white ; back brown ; wings black, tipped with white and barred with 
yellow ; tail-coverts white with black bases ; three outer tail-feathers 
black, with white central spots, the remainder black, tipped with white; 
breast white, banded with brownish buff ; flanks buffy ; belly and under 
tail-coverts white. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. In an orchard or garden, placed in a fork of a tree or bush ; a 
compact and neatly made structure of fine grass and moss, lined with 
grass and plant down, etc. 

Eggs. 4-6; dull white tinged with blue or green, spotted and streaked 
with purplish brown ; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This European songster has been introduced within recent years, 
and though increasing slowly, appears to be thoroughly naturalized. 

It is most abundant near Hoboken, N. J., where a number were 
set at liberty in 1878, but examples have been taken in other States. 
A nest and eggs were discovered in Cambridge some ten years 
ago, and during the summer of 1890 a nest was taken near 
Worcester, Mass. 

In Great Britain it is very common, and breeds north to Caith« 
ness, and one nest has been taken on the south side of Skye. 

The young are fed on insects and larvae ; but Mr. Saunders says 
" the principal food of the Goldfinch consists of seeds of the thistle, 
knapweed, groundsel, dock, and other plants." 

VOL. I. — 23 



354 SINGING BIRDS. 

HOUSE SPARROW. 

english sparrow. 
Passer domesticus. 

Char. General color grayish brown, the back streaked with black ; a 
narrow stripe of white over the eyes ; cheeks with patches of chestnut and 
white ; sides and neck white ; throat and breast black, sometimes washed 
with chestnut; wings brown with white bar ; tail brown ; belly dull white. 
Female : paler, without the black throat-patch. Length about 6 inches. 

Nest. Anywhere and of any material, — usually a bulky affair, roughly 
made of dry grass and feathers. 

^gg^' 4-7 ; grayish white speckled with rich brown and pale lavender ; 
0.85 X 0.60. 

This is another introduced species; but about its naturalization 
there is, unfortunately, no doubt. 

The history of the introduction of this bird, and its relation to 
American agriculture, is exhaustively treated in a volume prepared 
by Mr. Walter B. Barrows, under the direction of Dr. C. Hart 
Merriam, ornithologist to the Department of Agriculture, and 
issued from the Government Printing Office at Washington in 
1889. From it we learn that the first importation of this Sparrow 
was made by Hon. Nicholas Pike, and the birds were liberated in 
Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1851. The first batch did not thrive, so others 
— about a hundred — were brought over during 1 852 and 1 853. In 
1854 Colonel Rhodes, of Quebec, brought a number from England 
and liberated some in Portland, Me., the remainder being taken 
to Quebec. During the following ten years a few hundred were 
brought from Europe and scattered between Portland and New 
York, some thirty being turned out on Boston Common. About 
1869 a thousand were taken to Philadelphia, and several cities in 
the interior received each a few pairs. 

From these imported birds have sprung the hosts of "ruffians in 
feathers" that have taken possession of every town and village, 
from Cape Breton to Florida, and west to the plains. 

A few pairs were taken to southern Greenland, and though some 
lived through several winters, the entire flock at last perished. 



Note. — The European Tree Sparrow {Passer montanus') 
has also been introduced. A few years ago a number were liber- 
ated in St. Louis, and have become thoroughly naturalized there. 
This bird is closely related to the House Sparrow, which it resembles 
in appearance and in habits. The Tree Sparrow has not, however, 
increased so rapidly as its congener, nor proved so great a pest. 




REDPOLL. 

LESSER REDPOLL. REDPOLL LINNET. 
ACANTHIS LINARIA. 

Char. Above, brownish gray streaked with dusky; rump white, 
tinged with rose pink and streaked with dusky; forehead with patch of 
deep carmine ; wings dusky brown with two white bars ; below, white, 
sides heavily streaked with dusky ; chin and throat dusky ; breast deep 
rose pink. Bill extremely acute ; in winter its color is yellow tipped with 
black, but in summer the color is dull blackish. (Female differs from 
male only in lacking the red tints on rump and breast.) Length 4/4 to 5 
inches. 

Nest. In a low tree or amid a tuft of grass ; composed of dry grass and 
moss lined with hair or feathers or plant down. 

Eggs. 4-6; white tinged with green or blue, spotted with reddish 
brown ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

These elegant birds, which only pay us occasional and 
transient visits at distant intervals, are inhabitants of the whole 
Arctic circle to the confines of Siberia, and are found in Kam- 
tschatka and Greenland as well as the colder parts of Europe. 
Arriving in roving flocks from the northern wilds of Canada, 
they are seen at times in the western parts of the State of New 
York with the fall of the first deep snow, and occasionally pro- 
ceed eastward to the very city of New York, where in the 
depth of winter, and for several weeks, they have been seen 
gleaning their scanty food of various kinds of seeds in the 
gardens of the town and suburbs. Flocks are likewise some- 
times seen in the vicinity of Philadelphia in severe winters, 
though at remote periods ; as according to Mr. Ord they have 
not visited that part of Pennsylvania since the winter of 



356 SINGING BIRDS. 

1813-14. They appear very unsuspicious while feeding in the 
gardens, or on the seeds of the alder-bush, one of their favor- 
ite repasts, and thus engaged allow a near approach while 
searching for their food in every posture, and sometimes head 
downwards. They are also fond of the seeds of the pine, the 
linden, and rape, and in the winter sometimes content them- 
selves even with the buds of the alder. Wilson believed he 
heard this species utter a few interrupted notes, but nothing 
satisfactory is known of its vocal powers. Mr. Ord remarks 
that their call much resembles that of the common Yellow 
Bird, to which, indeed, they are allied. They are said to 
breed in the Highlands of Scotland, and to select the heath 
and furze for the situation of their nests, though they more 
commonly choose alder-bushes and the branches of the pine. 

According to Richardson, these birds are among the few 
hardy and permanent residents in the fur countries, where they 
may be seen in the coldest weather on the banks of lakes and 
rivers, hopping among the reeds and carices or clinging to their 
stalks. They are numerous throughout the year even in the 
most northern districts, and from the rarity of their migrations 
into the United States it is obvious that they are influenced by 
no ordinary causes to evacuate the regions in which they are 
bred. Famine, in all probability, or the scarcity of food, urges 
them to advance towards the South. It is certain that they do 
not forsake their natal regions to seek shelter from the cold. 
This season, by the 7th or 8th of November (1833), before 
the occurrence of any extraordinary cold weather, they arrived 
in this vicinity (Cambridge, Mass.) in considerable flocks, and 
have not paid a visit to this quarter before to my knowledge 
for 10 or 12 years. They now regularly assemble in the birch- 
trees every morning to feed on their seeds, in which employ- 
ment they are so intent that it is possible to advance to the 
slender trees in which they are engaged and shake them off by 
surprise before they think of taking wing. They hang upon 
the twigs with great tenacity, and move about while feeding in 
reversed postures, like the Chickadees. After being shot at 
they only pass on to the next tree and resume their feeding as 



REDPOLL. 357 

before. They have a quaiUng call perfectly similar to that 
of the Yellow Bird {Fringilla tristis)^ twee twee, or tshe-vee ; 
and when crowding together in flight make a confused chirp- 
ing 'twitHtwit' twit' twit 'twit^ with a rattling noise, and some- 
times go off with a simultaneous twitter. Occasionally they 
descend from their favorite birches and pick up sunflower 
seeds and those of the various weedy Chenopodiums growing 
in wastes. At length they seemed attracted to the pines by 
the example of the Crossbills, and were busily employed in 
collecting their seeds. As the weather becomes colder they 
also roost in these sheltering evergreens ; and confused flocks 
are seen whirling about capriciously in quest of fare, sometimes 
descending on the fruit-trees to feed on their buds by way of 
variety. Though thus urged from their favorite regions in the 
north, there appeared no obvious reason for their movements, 
as we found them fat and not driven to migrate from any 
imminent necessity. 

In Nuttall's day but two forms of Redpoll were recognized by 
naturalists, — linaria and canescens {=exilipes)\ but now there 
are five, — or six, if we count the hypothetical brewsterii. Similar 
as these appear to the casual observer, an expert can readily divide 
them when examples of the different races are compared, though it 
is sometimes difficult to refer a specimen with accuracy unless so 
compared. 

The habitat of true linaria is now given as " northern portions 
of northern hemisphere, in North America ; south in winter to 



Note. — Holbcell's Redpoll {Acanthis linaria holbcellii^ is 
larger than the type, with a proportionately longer bill. It is 
usually restricted to the northern coasts of Europe and Asia, but 
examples have been taken in Alaska, Quebec, Massachusetts, and 
New York. 

The Greater Redpoll {Acanthis linaria rostrata) is still 
larger, — length 5X to 5X inches, — and the colors ar^ darker, 
with the under parts more broadly striped. It is found in southern 
Greenland in summer, and in winter migrates to New England, 
Manitoba, and northern Illinois. 




HOARY REDPOLL. 

MEALY REDPOLL. 

ACANTHIS HORNEMANII EXILIPES. 

Char. Male: above, dull white streaked with dusky brown; crown 
crimson ; rump white washed with pink ; wings and tail dusky brown 
with two white bars ; below, dull white sparsely streaked with dusky ; 
chin and throat dusky ; breast delicate rose pink. Female : similar, but 
without pink on breast and rump. Length 5 inches. 

Similar to A. linaria, but colors paler, — the brown largely replaced by 
gray, and the red of a paler shade and more restricted. 

Nest. In a low tree or on the ground ; composed of grass and twigs 
lined with feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5 ; white tinged with blue or green, spotted with reddish 
brown ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This species, so nearly allied to the last, is met with partly 
in the same remote boreal regions in the summer, but is of 
much more rare occurrence ; it is also found in the territory 
of Oregon, and stragglers have been obtained as far south as 
New Jersey and New York. In Maine it is less rare. These 
birds have a note very similar to the last species, but distinct. 
They are full of activity and caprice while engaged in feeding, 
making wide circles and deep undulations in their flight. Like 



TOWHEE. 359 

Titmice also, they frequently feed and hang to the twigs in 
reversed postures. 

This form summers in the Arctic regions, and in winter migrates 
southward, a few examples reaching the northern border of the 
United States. 

Note. — The Greenland Redpoll {Acanthis hornemannit) 
is larger than exilipes, — length sK to dyi inches. It breeds in 
Greenland and the eastern part of Arctic America, and in winter 
ranges as far south as Labrador. 

Brewster's Linnet {Acanthis brewsterii) is a "Redpoll" 
without any red on its poll ; it differs also from the other forms in 
lacking the dusky spot on the throat and in having a portion of its 
plumage tinged with yellow. The type specimen was taken at 
Waltham, Mass., in 1870, and remains unique. The A. O. U. have 
placed the name in that "lock-up" for suspicious characters, the 
" hypothetical list." 



TOWHEE. 

GROUND ROBIN. CHEWINK. 
PiPILO ERYTHROPHTHALMUS. 

Char. Black with white belly and bay sides and vent ; outer tail- 
feathers partly white ; white spot on wing ; iris red. Female and young 
tawny brown where the adult male is black. 

Nest. Near the margin of woodland or in an overgrown pasture ; 
usually placed on the ground and concealed in a tuft of grass or brush- 
heap, or under a log or bush, — sometimes fastened to a low bush; loosely 
made of dry leaves, grape-vines, weed-stems, and grass, lined with fine 
grass, roots, or pine-needles. 

Eggs. 4-6; dull white thickly marked with fine spots of warm, reddish 
brown and lilac; sometimes the marks are bolder ; 0.95 X 0.75 

This is a very common, humble, and unsuspicious bird, 
dwelling commonly in thick dark woods and their borders, 
flying low, and frequenting thickets near streams of water, 
where it spends much time in scratching up the withered 
leaves for worms and their larvae, and is particularly fond of 
wire-worms (or luli), as well as various kinds of seeds and 
gravel. Its rustling scratch among the leafy carpet of the 
forest is often the only indication of its presence, excepting 



36o SINGING BIRDS. 

now and then a call upon its mate {Joiv-wee, iow-wee, tow- 
weet)j with which it is almost constantly associated. While 
thus busily engaged in foraging for subsistence, it may be 
watched and approached without showing any alarm ; and 
taking a look often at the observer, without suspicion, it 
scratches up the leaves as before. This call of recognition is 
uttered in a low and somewhat sad tone, and if not soon 
answered it becomes louder and interrogatory, tow-wee towee ? 
and terminates often with toweet. These birds are accused 
of sometimes visiting the pea-fields to feed, but occasion no 
sensible damage. 

In the pairing season and throughout the period of incuba- 
tion the male frequently mounts to the top of some bush 
amidst the thickets where he usually passes the time, and from 
hence in a clear and sonorous voice chants forth his simple 
guttural and monotonous notes for an hour or so at a time, 
while his faithful mate is confined to her nest. This quaint 
and somewhat pensive song often sounds like fsh'd wttee te te 
te te te, or ^btd-wt tee, tr tr Ur ^tr, — the latter part a sort of 
quaint and deliberate quivering trill ; sometimes it sounds like 
^bid tshe?'r ' ?'h ^rh, rrh ^wt, then ^fwee twee f tsher' ;-'r, also 
et se ya, ya 'ya ^ya ^ya ^ya ; the latter notes, attempted to be 
expressed by whistled and contracted consonant syllables, are 
trilled with this sound. 

Ground Robins, sometimes also called Tshe-wink and Pee- 
wink, from another of their notes, are general inhabitants of 
Canada and the United States even to the base of the Rocky 
Mountains and the peninsula of Florida, in all of which regions, 
except the last, with Louisiana and the contiguous countries, 
they pass the summer and rear their young, migrating, how- 
ever, from the Northern and Middle States in October, and 
returning again about the middle or close of April, according 
to the advancement of the season, at which time also the 
males usually precede the arrival of their mates. They pass 
the winter generally to the south of Pennsylvania, and are then 
very abundant in all the milder States in the Union. 

They are said to show some address at times in concealing 



pi.vin. 




1 . Snow" Bird . 

2. Sons Spaj^row. 

3. Phoebe. 



4 . Ainericaii Goldfinch 
•5 . Vesper Sparro^v. 
6 . Towhee. 



TOWHEE. 361 

their nest, which is fixed on the ground in a dry and elevated 
situation and sunk beneath the surface among the fallen leaves, 
sometimes under the shelter of a small bush, thicket, or brier. 
According to the convenience of the site, it is formed of differ- 
ent materials, sometimes, according to Wilson, being made of 
leaves, strips of grape-vine bark, lined with fine stalks of dry 
grass, and occasionally in part hidden with hay or herbage. 
Most of the nests in this vicinity are made in solitary dry pine 
woods without any other protection than some small bush or 
accidental fallen leaves; and the external materials, rather 
substantial, are usually slightly agglutinated strips of red-cedar 
bark, or withered grass with a neat hning of the same and 
fallen pine leaves ; the lining sometimes made wholly of the 
latter. The nest is also at times elevated from the ground by 
a layer of coarse leaf-stalks such as those of the hickory. The 
first brood are raised early in June, and a second is often 
observed in the month of July ; but in this part of New Eng- 
land they seldom raise more than one. The pair show great 
sohcitude for the safety of their young, fluttering in the path 
and pretending lameness with loud chirping when their nest is 
too closely examined. 

The eastern form of the Towhee is not found west of Minnesota, 
Kansas, and Texas. In the more northern and unsettled portions 
of New England it is very rare or absent. It is common in Man- 
itoba and southern Ontario, but rare in Quebec ; and one example, 
captured near St. John, N. B., in 1881, is the only known instance 
of its occurrence in the Maritime Provinces. 

The flocks migrate in winter to the Southern States, settUng in 
Virginia and southward. 



Note. — The White-eyed Towhee {Pipilo erythrophthalmus 
alleni) differs from the northern race chiefly in being of somewhat 
smaller size, and in the iris being white instead of red. 

It was discovered during the spring of 1879 t>y Mr. C. J. May- 
nard in Florida, and is said to be distributed along the coast north- 
ward to South Carolina. 




CARDINAL. 

REDBIRD. 
Cardinalis CARDINALIS. 

Char. Head with conspicuous crest. Male : above, bright vermi- 
lion, shaded with gray on the back ; beneath, paler ; forehead and throat 
black. Female: above, olive gray; beneath, buffy. Young similar to 
female, but duller. Length about 8 to S}4 inches. 

JVest In a variety of situations, most frequently amid a thicket of 
brambles or in a low tree ; loosely made of twigs, strips of grape-vine, 
dry grass, weed-stems, lined with iine grass or roots, sometimes with 
hair. 

£gg-s. 3-5 ; dull white or tinged with blue, green, or buff; spotted 
with reddish brown and lilac; i.oo X 0.75. 

These splendid and not uncommon songsters chiefly reside 
in the warmer and more temperate parts of the United States 
from New York to Florida, and a few stragglers even proceed 
as far to the north as Salem in Massachusetts. They also 
inhabit the Mexican provinces, and are met with south as far 
as Carthagena ; adventurously crossing the intervening ocean, 
they are likewise numerous in the little temperate Bermuda 
islands, but do not apparently exist in any of the West Indies. 
As might be supposed, from the range already stated, the Red- 
birds are not uncommon throughout Louisiana, Missouri, and 
Arkansas Territory. Most of those which pass the summer in 



CARDINAL. 363 

the cooler and Middle States retire to the South at the com- 
mencement of winter ; though a few linger in the sheltered 
swamps of Pennsylvania and near the shores of the Delaware 
almost through the winter. They also, at this season, probably 
assemble towards the sea-coast from the west, in most of the 
Southern States, where roving and skulking timid families are 
now seen flitting silently through thickets and swampy woods, 
eager alone to glean a scanty subsistence, and defend them- 
selves from prowUng enemies. At all times, however, they 
appear to have a predilection for watery groves and shaded 
running streams, abounding with evergreens and fragrant mag- 
nolias, in which they are so frequent as to be almost concomi- 
tant with the scene. But though they usually live only in 
families or pairs, and at all times disperse into these selective 
groups, yet in severe weather, at sunset, in South Carolina, I 
observed a flock passing to a roost in a neighboring swamp 
and bushy lagoon, which continued, in lengthened file, to fly 
over my head at a considerable height for more than twenty 
minutes together. The beautiful procession, illumined by the 
last rays of the setting sun, was incomparably splendid as the 
shifting shadowy light at quick intervals flashed upon their 
brilliant livery. They had been observed to pass in this man- 
ner to their roost for a considerable time, and, at daybreak, 
they were seen again to proceed and disperse for subsistence. 
How long this timid and gregarious habit continues, I cannot 
pretend to say ; but by the first week in February the song of 
the Redbird was almost daily heard. As the season advances, 
roving pairs, living, as it were, only with and for each other, flit 
from place to place ; and following also their favorite insect or 
vegetable fare, many proceed back to the same cool region in 
which they were bred, and from which they were reluctantly 
driven ; whfle others, impefled by interest, caprice, and adven- 
ture, seek to establish new families in the most remote limits of 
their migration. Some of these more restless wanderers occa- 
sionally, though rarely, favor this part of New England with a 
visit. After Hstening with so much delight to the lively fife of 
the splendid Cardinal, as I travelled alone through the deep and 



364 SINGING BIRDS. 

wild solitudes which prevail over the Southern States, and bid, 
as I thought, perhaps an eternal adieu to the sweet voice of my 
charming companions, what was my surprise and pleasure, on 
the 7th of May, to hear, for the first time in this State, and in 
the Botanic Garden, above an hour together, the lively and 
loud song of this exquisite vocalist, whose voice rose above 
every rival of the feathered race, and rung almost in echoes 
through the blooming grove in which he had chosen his re- 
treat. In the Southern States, where these birds everywhere 
breed, they become familiarly attached to gardens, which, as 
well as cornfields, afford them a ready means of subsistence ; 
they are also fond of the seeds of most of the orchard fruits, 
and are said occasionally to prey upon bees. 

The lay of the Cardinal is a loud, mellow, and pleasingly 
varied whistle, delivered with ease and energy for a consider- 
able time together. To give it full effect, he chooses the sum- 
mit of some lofty branch, and elevating his melodious voice in 
powerful as well as soothing and touching tones, he listens, 
delighted as it were, with the powers of his own music, at 
intervals answered and encouraged by the tender responses of 
his mate. It is thus the gilded hours of his existence pass 
away in primeval delight, until care and necessity break in 
upon his contemplative reveries, and urge him again to pursue 
the sober walks of active life. 

The song of the Redbird, like that of so many others, 
though possessed of great originality, often consists in part of 
favorite borrowed and slightly altered phrases. It would be 
a difficult and fruitless task to enumerate all the native notes 
delivered by this interesting songster ; a few may be perhaps 
excused by those who wish, in their rural walks, to be made, in 
any way, acquainted with the language of the feathered vocal- 
ists that surround them. All the tones of the Cardinal are 
whistled much in the manner of the human voice. Late in 
February, while travelling in Alabama, I heard one crying 
woolit, wolit wolit wolit, then in a quicker tone butsh butsh 
buish butsh, and Ushooway tshooway tshooway. At another 
time the song was ''wit a' wit, ^feu; then tshevi tsheve ^feUy 



CARDINAL. 365 

^whoit 'whoit 'whoit 'feu (the 'whoit an exact human whistle, 
and the feu tenderly emphatic) . Another bird called teo teo 
teo, tshooe tshooe tshooe tshooe, then teo teo teo teo alone, or 
'woit 'woit ''woit 'woit, with the last word delivered slower, and 
in a sinking, delicately plaintive tone. These phrases were 
also answered in sympathy by the female, at a little distance 
up the meandering brook where they were engaged in collect- 
ing their food. In Florida, about the 12th of March, I heard 
a very fine Redbird singing 'wJiittoo wittoo widoo 'irnddoo. 
He began low, almost in a whisper, but very clearly articu- 
lated, and gradually raised his voice to loudness, in the manner 
of the Nightingale. He now changed the strain into 'uictu, 
wilt wilt wilt wilt ; then ^victu tshooe 'tshooe tshooe tshooe, 
afterwards tu tu 'victu, and 'vicfu tu tUy then varying 'tshooee, 
etc., in a lower key. On approaching this bird, to see and 
hear him more distinctly, he exhibited his anger by scolding in 
a hoarse tone almost like that of a squirrel, and from the sea- 
son, and absence of respondence in the female, I imagine he 
already had a nest in the neighboring thicket. The bird, which 
frequented the Botanic Garden for several days, in the morn- 
ing sang fearlessly and loudly, but at other times the pair hid 
themselves amongst the thickest bushes, or descended to the 
ground to feed among the grass and collect insects and worms ; 
now and then however, in an undertone, as if afraid of attract- 
ing notice, he whispered to his mate teu teu feu, woit, 'woit 
\voit, elevating his tone of recognition a little at the close of 
the call, and going over other of the usual phrases in the same 
whispering and slenderly rising voice. About the 4th of July, 
the same pair, apparently, paid us a parting visit, and the male 
sang with great energy, 'tv' tiv' , 'weto 'weto 'weto 'weto 'weto 
wait, then waitiip wditiip wditup wdttiip, tshow tshow tshow 
tshow tshow. On whistling any of these notes within hearing 
of the Cardinal, a response is almost certain, as this affectionate 
recognition is frequently answered by the female. His phrase 
may also be altered at will, by whistling some other than that 
which he repeats, as he often immediately answers in the call 
he hears, supposing it to be that of his approaching mate. 



366 SINGING BIRDS. 

On their arrival in the Middle States, in spring, violent con- 
tests sometimes ensue between the unmated and jealous males. 
When the dispute is for the present closed, the pair, probably 
for greater security, and dreading a recurring quarrel of doubt- 
ful issue, wander off to a remote distance from their usual 
abode, and in this way, no doubt, occasionally visit countries 
but little frequented by the rest of their species. Early in 
May, it seems, in Pennsylvania, according to Wilson, they 
begin to prepare their nests, which are often placed in an ever- 
green bush, cedar, laurel, or holly. They usually raise two 
broods in the season. As they are so easily domesticated im- 
mediately after being caught in trap cages, it is unnecessary to 
raise them from the nest. By this kind of unnatural confine- 
ment, the brilliant color of the male is found sometimes to 
fade until it becomes of a pale whitish red. They live, how- 
ever, long in confinement, and an instance is known of one 
which had survived for 21 years. In the cage, they have not 
that variety of song which they exhibit in their native wilds ; 
and this, judging from the frequent repetition of the same 
phrase, would appear to be a monotonous performance, if the 
variety of expression, tone, and key did not perpetually relieve 
and enhance the character of the lay. His song also con- 
tinues for 6 or 8 months in the year, and is, even, as among 
the Thrushes, more lively in wet weather, the sadness of 
Nature, softening and soothing the tender vocalist into a lively, 
pathetic, and harmonious revery. So highly were these birds 
esteemed for their melody that, according to Gemelli Careri, 
the Spaniards of Havanna, in a time of public distress and 
scarcity, bought so many of these birds, with which a vessel 
was partly freighted, from Florida, that the sum expended, at 
10 dollars apiece, amounted to no less than 18,000 dollars ! 
Indeed, Latham admits that the notes of our Cardinal " are 
almost equal to those of the Nightingale," the sweetest feath- 
ered minstrel of Europe. The style of their performance is, 
however, wholly different. The bold, martial strains of the 
Redbird, though relieved by tender and exquisite touches, 
possess not the enchanting pathos, the elevated and varied 



EVENING GROSBEAK. 367 

expression of the far-famed Philomel, nor yet those contrasted 
tones, which, in the solemn stillness of the growing night, fall 
at times into a soothing whisper, or slowly rise and quicken 
into a loud and cheering warble. A strain of almost senti- 
mental tenderness and sadness pervades by turns the song of 
the Nightingale ; it flows like a torrent, or dies away like an 
echo ; his varied ecstasies poured to the pale moonbeams, 
now meet with no response but the sighing zephyr or the ever- 
murmuring brook. The notes of our Cardinal are as full of 
hilarity as of tender expression ; his whistling call is uttered in 
the broad glare of day, and is heard predominant over most of 
the feathered choir by which he is surrounded. His respond- 
ing mate is the perpetual companion of all his joys and cares ; 
simple and content in his attachment, he is a stranger to 
capricious romance of feeling, and the shades of melancholy, 
however feeble and transient, find no harbor in his preoc- 
cupied affections. 

The Cardinal occurs sparingly in southern New England, and it 
has been occasionally seen in Massachusetts and northward. Two 
examples visited Halifax, N. S., in 1871. It is quite common in 
Ohio, and has been taken, across the lake, in Ontario, and westward 
to Iowa. 



EVENING GROSBEAK. 

COCCOTHR.A.USTES VESPERTINUS. 

Char. Dusky olivaceous, shading to yellowish on the rump ; fore- 
head, line over the eyes, and under tail-coverts, yellow ; crown, wings, 
and tail black ; secondaries mostly white ; bill greenish yellow, conspicu- 
ously large. Female differs slightly from the male, but is readily identi- 
fied. Length about 7^ to 8 inches. 

Nest. In the deep forest, usually on a branch of a tall tree, sometimes 
in low bush; composed of twigs and roots, lined with roots or hair. 

Eggs. 4-? ; pale dull green, marked with pale brown spots. 

This beautiful species inhabits the solitudes of the North- 
western interior, being met with from the extremity of the 
Michigan Territory to the Rocky Mountains. It is not un- 
common towards the upper extremity of Lake Superior and 



368 SINGING BIRDS. 

the borders of Athabasca Lake ; to the east of these Umits 
these birds appear to be only transient visitors in spring and 
fall. They are common inhabitants of the fur countries, and 
particularly of the maple woods of the Saskatchewan, where 
they do not arrive from the South before the commencement 
of the month of June. In the pine woods of Oregon (accord- 
ing to Mr. Townsend) numerous flocks are seen about the mid- 
dle of May, and at this time they are very tame and unsuspicious, 
moving about in considerable numbers throughout the whole 
of the day, and seem no way given to retiring before sunset. 
Their ordinary note while feeding consists of a single rather 
screaming call. At other times, particularly about mid-day, the 
male from the branches of some tall pine-tree utters a single 
warbling note much like the interrupted beginning of the 
Robin's song, but not so sweet. They feed upon the seeds 
of the pine and other trees, alighting upon the large limbs, 
and proceed by a series of hops to the very extremities of 
the branches. They also occasionally devour the larvae of ants, 
and probably other kinds of insects. 

The Evening Grosbeak occurs regularly in winter in Wisconsin, 
Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan, and occasionally in Ohio and Ontario. 
During the latter part of the winter of 1889-90 numbers were 
seen eastward to Montreal and the New England States. 

The flocks appeared in the vicinity of Hamilton about the 
middle of December. Mr. Mcllwraith writes that the first he saw 
was a flock of about twenty or thirty, some of whom were on the 
bank of the Lake feeding, " while others were down on the sandy 
shore, picking gravel or dabbling themselves in the water, ... I 
thought at first that the original flock had remained, but soon found 
that an easterly migration was going on, and that as one flock left 
another arrived. . . . During February few, if any, were observed 
here. In March the return trip commenced, but was in all respects 
different from the easterly one. The birds were then fewer in num- 
ber, and all seemed excited and desirous to go west with the least 
possible delay." (Birds of Ontario.) 




ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 
Habia ludoviciana. 

Char. Male : above, black ; rump white ; wings and tail black with 
white markings ; below, white ; breast and under tail-coverts deep rose 
pink. Female : above, streaked blackish and olive ; crown with central 
stripe of white ; rump white ; under parts dull white, streaked with brown ; 
no red on the breast. Length 7J4 to 8^ inches. 

A^esf. Usually on the margin of woods, or in a dense alder-swamp, — 
occasionally in a garden or open pasture ; composed of grass, ttsnea moss, 
roots, stalks, and twigs, lined with fine grass, roots, or pine-needles. 

£!^^s. 3-5; dull green or bluish green variously marked with spots 
and blotches of reddish brown, lilac, and pale lavender; i.oo X 0.70. 

The remote Northwestern Territories of the Union, Canada, 
and the cool regions towards the Rocky Mountains appear to 
be the general residence of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. A 
few pairs breed on the banks of the Mohawk, and probably 
in the interior of Pennsylvania. Mr. Say met with it in the 
spring, on the lower part of the Missouri ; and at Pembino, on 
the 5 th of August, in the 49th parallel. Dr. Richardson also 
observed it in the latitude of 53°, and Audubon found it breed- 
ing in Newfoundland. It has Hkewise been seen in Mexico 
and Texas. These are, no doubt, its proper natal regions, and 
the course of its migrations, from which it only ventures acci- 
dentally in severe winters, and is then transiently seen in pairs 
east of the Atlantic mountains, which constitute the general 
boundary of its range. It is thus seen occasionally in the 
VOL. I. — 24 



370 SINGING BIRDS. 

vicinity of Philadelphia, in the State of New York, particularly 
along the borders of Lake Ontario, and in Connecticut, but 
rarely in this part of New England. Pennant speaks of its 
arrival in the State of New York in May, where it has a nest of 
5 eggs, and then retires in August. It is also unknown in the 
Southern States. 

My friend Mr. Cooper remarks that though this species is 
rare in the vicinity of New York, a few probably breed in the 
woods of the Hudson, as at Tappan, 30 miles up that river, it < 
is frequently seen in the cherry-trees in the month of June, 
and is said to be common in the forests along the south shore 
of Lake Erie, and usually breeds there. It thrives very well 
in a cage, is a most melodious and indefatigable warbler, fre- 
quently in fine weather, as in its state of freedom, passing a 
great part of the night in singing, with all the varied and touch- 
ing tones of the Nightingale. 

While thus earnestly engaged, it seems to mount on tiptoe 
in an ecstasy of enthusiasm and delight at the unrivalled har- 
mony of its own voice. The notes are wholly warbled, now 
loud, clear, and vaulting with a querulous air ; then perhaps 
sprightly; and finally lower, tender, and pathetic. In short, 
I am not acquainted with any of our birds superior in song 
to the present, with the solitary exception of our Orphean 
Mocking Bird. 

The Louisiana Grosbeak is fed with the usual kinds of bird- 
seed, and in its wild state seems to be particularly fond of 
the kernels of the sour-gum berries ; it probably also feeds 
upon the berries of the juniper, which abound in the regions 
it usually inhabits. 

Though somewhat local in its distribution, this attractive bird 
occurs regularly throughout the Eastern States, but is uncommon 
in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is found in some 
parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and is quite 
common in Ontario, and abundant in Manitoba. 

Though generally selecting a secluded spot for nesting, a pair 
will occasionally wander away from the forest and thicket, and even 
build in the heart of a town. In 1890 a nest was built and a brood 
raised not a hundred yards from where I am penning these words, 



BLUE GROSBEAK. 371 

— almost within the shadow of Memorial Hall. The nest was 
laid upon a branch that hung over the sidewalk of Oxford Street, 
not more than ten or twelve feet from the ground, the tree being 
in the garden adjoining the residence of Mr. Francis Foster. 



BLUE GROSBEAK. 

GUIRACA C^RULEA. 

Char. Male : general plumage rich blue, darker on the back ; feath- 
ers around base of bill, wings, and tail black ; two bright rufous bands 
on the wings. Female : smaller ; above, yellowish brown ; below, dark 
buff. Length 6/4 to 7 inches. 

Nest, On a low branch of a tree or bush, situated along the margin of 
a wood, or in an open pasture or orchard, or by a roadside, — sometimes 
in an alder swamp or blackberry thicket ; composed of leaves, weed- 
stems, and grass, lined with horse-hair, roots, or fine grass ; occasionally 
pieces of snake skin or newspaper are worked into the exterior. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; light blue ; 0.85 X 0.65. 

This shy and almost solitary species chiefly inhabits the 
warmer parts of America from Brazil to Virginia ; stragglers 
occasionally also visit the lower parts of Pennsylvania and 
New Jersey, and Bullock observ^ed them on the tableland of 
Mexico. According to Wilson, it is nearly a silent bird, seldom 
singing in the cage, its usual note of alarm being merely a 
loud cJuick ; though at times its musical capacity under more 
favorable circumstances is suggested by a few low and sweet- 
toned notes. It may be fed on Indian corn, hemp-seed, 
millet, and the kernels of several kinds of berries. 

According to Audubon, these birds arrive in Louisiana 
about the middle of March. They proceed through Alabama, 
Georgia, and the Carolinas, in all which districts they breed ; 
and although rarely seen in the Western States, Mr. Townsend 
and myself met with them in May on the borders of the 
Platte, near Scott's Bluffs, where they were already mated and 
breeding. They are sometimes met with along the Atlantic 
coast as far as New Jersey, and Audubon found a nest in that 
State within a few miles of Philadelphia. Their food consists 



372 SINGING BIRDS. 

principally of different sorts of seeds ; they are also fond of 
those of rice, and grass of all kinds. At the period of breeding 
they sing with great sweetness and melody. 

This species is still considered a Southern bird ; but it regularly 
visits Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Kansas, and has been taken in 
Massachusetts, Maine, and New Brunswick. 



PURPLE FINCH. 

LINNET. 

Carpodacus purpureus. 

Char. Male: no "purple;" body rosy crimson, brightest on the 
head, darkest on the back, palest on the breast; belly white ; wings and 
tail dusky ; everywhere streaked more or less with brown and gray. 
Female and young : without red ; streaked brown and gray, sometimes 
with olive tint. Length about 6^ inches. 

Nest. Near a settlement and in some old pasture, open grove, park, or 
orchard ; composed of twigs, weed-stems, roots, and bark, lined with fine 
grass or hair. 

Eggs. 4-5 ; pale dull bluish green, variously marked with dark brown 
and lilac ; 0.85 X 0.60. 

These brilliant and cheerful songsters inhabit the Northern 
and Western States during the summer, where they rear their 
young. They appear to have a great predilection for resinous 
evergreens, pine, and spruce, and feed upon the berries of the 
juniper and red cedar as well as the seeds of the tulip-tree and 
others ; they likewise frequent gardens for the same purpose, 
and are particularly pleased with sunflower seeds and other 
oily kinds. When reduced to necessity they are observed to 
eat the buds of the beech and those of the fruit-trees, — prob- 
ably for the sake of the stamens contained in them, of which 
they are greedy when displayed in the opening blossoms. The 
stipules of the expanding buds of the elm, which are sweet 
and mucilaginous, as well as the young capsules of the willow 
in the spring, also make a common part of their fare. Their 
food in summer, however, consists principally of insects and 
juicy berries, as those of the honeysuckle and others. 



PURPLE FINCH. 



373 



Although the Purple Finch breeds and passes the season in 
this vicinity, yet as early as the close of September they leave 
us for the South ; about which time and nearly to the close of 
October, small, hungry, roving flocks arrive from the more 
northern States and Canada or Newfoundland. At the same 
time likewise great numbers visit Pennsylvania, the maritime 
parts of New York and New Jersey, and many pass the winter 
in the Middle States, while others proceed as far south as the 
States of Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, returning north in the 
latter end of March or early in April, and arriving with us in 
the month of May to pass the most important period of their 
existence. Roving flocks are also seen here as early as the 
24th of March, singing while they stay with great energy and 
cheerfulness ; these in all probability proceed to Labrador or 
Newfoundland to breed. The males now have many bitter 
contests for the choice of their mates, and are very bold and 
pugnacious in confinement, attempting to destroy every other 
bird introduced into the same cage. They also bite severely 
when taken up wounded, but are directly reconciled to the 
cage, finding their most important wants so amply suppHed ; 
yet in this state they often refuse to sing, and after moulting 
into the humble plumage of the female, frequently remain so, 
without ever renewing their crimson dress. They are here 
exposed in cages for sale at high prices (by the name of 
Linnets), and sing pretty commonly in confinement. Their 
notes are very similar to those of the Warbling Vireo, but 
louder, and more agreeably diversified. From the tops of our 
lofty and spreading elms or shadowy spruce trees, where they 
delight to pass the time, their varied and very cheerful melody 
is often continued for hours almost without interval, and 
poured forth like a torrent. After a combat with a rival, his 
towering notes of victory burst out into rapture, and he now 
seems to triumph with loud and petulant hilarity. The song 
of this beautiful Finch is indeed much finer than that of the 
Canary ; the notes are remarkably clear and mellow, and the 
trifling sweet and various, particularly on their first arrival. At 
times the warble is scarcely audible, and appears at a distance ; 



374 SINGING BIRDS. 

it then, by a fine crescendo, bursts into loudness and falls into 
an ecstasy of ardent and overpowering expression ; at such 
times the usual pauses of the song are forgotten, and like the 
varied lay of the Nightingale, the ravishing performer, as if in 
serious emulation, seems to study every art to produce the 
effect of brilliant and well-contrasted harmony. As he sits on 
the topmost bough of some tall sapling or more lofty tree, sur- 
veying the wide landscape, his proud voice and elevated action 
seem to bid defiance to competition ; and while thus earnestly 
engaged, he seems to fear no spectator, however near may be 
his approaches. The rapidity of his performance and the pre- 
eminent execution with which it is delivered seem almost like 
the effort of a musical-box or fine-toned, quickly moving, deH- 
cate strain on the organ. While feeding in the month of 
March these birds also utter a querulous tshippee tshee, in 
nearly the same sad and liquid tone as that uttered by the 
Yellow Birds while thus engaged. The dull-colored birds, in 
the attire of the female, do not sing either so well or in the 
same manner as the crimson-colored individuals. 

The nest of this species is, as I have observed in two in- 
stances in Cambridge, made in the horizontal branches of the 
balsam-fir. In the first, which I saw in the garden of Professor 
Farrar, it was made in a young tree about 6 feet from the 
ground. On approaching it the female sat still until I nearly 
touched her, and made very Httle complaint when off. The 
nest was coarse and substantial, very much like that of the 
Song Sparrow, composed of coarse grass and fined with fine 
root-fibres. From this nest was raised in a cage one of the 
young, which became exceedingly docile and affectionate, but 
was not remarkable for its song. 

In winter the Purple Finch is found regularly, though sparingly, 
through the southern and central portions of New England and in 
Ontario, and occasionally as far north as New Brunswick. Its 
winter range extends southward as far as the Gulf States, while 
its breeding area extends from Long Island and Minnesota to the 
lower fur countries. 



/'" '"l>''^"'-~=^ 




"^IWN^ 



PINE GROSBEAK. 

PiNICOLA ENUCLEATOR. 

Char. Male : grayish brown, darkest on the back, shading to ashy 
on the rump, washed with rosy carmine, which is deepest on the crown 
and rump ; wings and tail dusky, the wings with two white bands. Fe- 
male and young : similar, but without the rosy coloring; head and rump 
washed with pale olive bronze. Length 8^ to 9 inches. 

Nest. On the border of a swamp or the margin of a stream running 
through an evergreen forest ; saddled on a low branch or in a crotch of 
a low bush, or placed in a crevice of a rock. A bulky, ill-made affair 
of moss, or twigs and roots or strips of bark, and lined with fine grass, 
roots, or vegetable fibre. 

Eggs. 4-?; pale greenish blue marked with dark brown and lilac; 
1.05 X 0.75. 

These splendid and very hardy birds appear to dwell almost 
wholly within the cold and Arctic regions of both continents, 
whence, only in severe winters, a few migrate into Can- 
ada and the United States, where they are consequently of 
rare and uncertain occurrence. They have been • seen in 
winter in the lower part of Missouri, and at the same season, 
occasionally, in the maritime parts of Massachusetts and Penn- 
sylvania, and are observed to return to Hudson Bay as early as 
April. According to Mr. Pennant, they frequent the woods of 
pine and juniper, and are now possessed of musical talents ; 



3/6 SINGING BIRDS. 

but as the period of incubation approaches they grow silent. 
Suited to the sterile climates they inhabit, their fare, besides' 
the seeds of the pine, alpine plants, and berries, often consists 
of the buds of the poplar, willow, and other northern trees and 
shrubs ; so that they are generally secure of the means of sub- 
sistence as long as the snows are not too overwhelming. The 
individuals as yet seen in the United States are wholly young 
birds, which, it seems, naturally seek out warmer climates than 
the adult and more hardy individuals. 

According to Mr. T. McCulloch, of Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 
very severe winters flocks of these birds, driven from the pine 
forests by famine and cold, collect about the barns, and even 
enter the streets of Pictou, alighting in quest of food. A male 
bird at this season, caught in a trap, became very familiar, and 
as the spring approached he resumed his song in the mornings, 
and his notes, like those of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, were 
exceedingly rich and full. As, however, the period for migra- 
tion approached, his familiarity disappeared, and the desire of 
liberty seemed to overcome every other feeling. For four days 
in succession his food remained untouched, and his piteous 
wailing excited so much commiseration that at length he was 
released. The Pine Grosbeak is said to breed in Maine as 
well as in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The visits of this handsome bird to New England and the more 
southern portions of Canada are decidedly irregular. During an 
occasional winter the flocks are large and numerous, whUe again 
for several seasons but a few stragglers may appear. 

Dr. Coues thinks that there is no question but that the bird is a 
" resident " in northern New England, breeding in some parts of 
Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont ; but I am much inclined 
to question it. Very possibly a few pairs may pass an occasional 
summer in that region, but I can find no evidence of the birds 
having been seen there with sufficient frequency to warrant their 
being termed residents. 

The only known instances of this species having built in the 
vicinity of northern New England must be credited to New 
Brunswick. These are Boardman's hypothetical nest, found near 
St Stephen; the unfinished nest which Banks discovered the 
parents at work upon, near St. John ; and the nest with three 



PINE GROSBEAK. 377 

young and one egg taken by Cox on the Restigouche, in latitude 
47°. But excepting in these three instances, and a fourth where 
young birds were seen on the Tobique River, the species has 
been unknown as a summer resident in New B.ninswick. Cox 
saw several examples along the Restigouche in July, 1888, but I 
have hunted for them up and down the same river, from the 
Wagan to the Metapedia, both in July and September, without 
seeing or hearing so much as one. 

It is said that the southern hmit of its breeding area is in the 
vicinity of the 50th parallel, though in the West it is somewhat 
farther north, as Thompson reports the bird a winter visitor only 
at Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie. From thence it ranges far 
north — to the Yukon and beyond. In winter the flocks spread 
over the country in varying abundance, as far south as Kansas and 
Maryland. 

Some years ago I kept a male in confinement, and found him a 
delightful pet. He was healthy and happy in his cage, was easily 
tamed, being confiding and affectionate, and added to his other 
good quahties a sweet voice and pretty melody. 

The song differs with the season. In winter it is strong and 
cheery, as befits a stalwart fellow who laughs at Jack Frost and 
makes merry when the north wind blows. But when the spring- 
time comes he tells the old, old story in most gentle tones, — a 
whispered love song, sweet and tender, yet with a wild plaintive- 
ness that makes it peculiarly pleasing. 




AMERICAN CROSSBILL. 

COMMON CROSSBILL. RED CROSSBILL. 
LOXIA CURVIROSTRA MINOR. 

Char. Bill long and compressed, mandibles curved at the points, 
which cross or overlap. In young birds the bill is straight. Adult males : 
dull red, variable in shade ; wings and tail blackish brown. Young males : 
yellowish olive. In changing plumage they display great variety of com- 
binations of yellow, olive, and red. Females : above, dull olive ; rump 
and crown yellow ; wings and tail as male ; below, grayish. Length 5>^ 
to 6 inches. 

Nest. Usually in a dense wood, on a branch of an evergreen tree 15 
to 30 feet from the ground ; made of twigs, strips of bark, weed-stems, 
and roots, lined thickly with grass, roots, hair, and feathers. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; pale green dotted, near larger end, with brown and laven- 
der; 0.75 X 0.57. 

This more common species, like the preceding, inhabits the 
high northern and arctic regions of both continents, where it 
breeds, and is met with from Greenland to Pennsylvania, or 
farther south, according to the season and the success in 
obtaining food when driven to make a southern descent or 
migration. From September to April these birds are found 
inhabiting the extensive pine forests in the mountainous and 
interior districts of Pennsylvania and other States to the north ; 
they also extend their winter migrations into the lower parts of 
the State of Missouri. They have occasionally been seen in 
the maritime parts of Massachusetts, but are less common 



AMERICAN CROSSBILL. 379 

here than the following species, generally taking, in their irregu- 
lar incursions, a more interior and mountainous route. In the 
eastern chain of the Alleghanies, in Pennsylvania, according to 
Wilson, they appear to be at times very abundant visitors, 
feeding so steadily on the seeds of the white pine and hem- 
lock spruce as to be approached without taking alarm. They 
have also a loud, sharp, and not unmusical note, chattering as 
they fly, and during the prevalence of deep snows become so 
tamed by hunger as to ahght round the mountain cabins, even 
settling on the roofs when disturbed, and, like pigeons, de- 
scending in the next moment to feed as if they had never 
been molested. They are then easily trapped, and so eager 
and unsuspicious as to allow an approach so near that they 
may be knocked down with sticks. In these very familiar visits 
they are observed even to pick off the clay from the logs of the 
house, and to swallow the mere earth to allay the cravings of 
hunger. In cages they show many of the habits of the Parrot, 
climbing up the sides and holding the pine-cones given them in 
one claw while they extract the seeds. Like the same bird in 
Louisiana, they also do considerable damage at times in the 
orchard by tearing apples to pieces for the sake of getting at 
the seeds only. They feed likewise on the seeds of the alder, 
as well as the kernels of other fruits and the buds of trees. 
Scarcely any of these birds have yet been observed to breed 
within the United States, as they retire for this purpose to their 
favorite pine forests in high and more cool latitudes, where in 
security and solitude they pursue the duties of procreation. 
Dr. Brewer, of Boston, however, obtained eggs of these birds 
from Coventry, in Vermont. Like the preceding species, they 
often breed in winter in more temperate countries, as in 
January and February, and the young fly in March. 

This bird was not observ^ed by the naturalists of the north- 
ern expeditions in any part of the fur countries. It is, how- 
ever, described by Forster. In the winter of 1832, during or 
soon after a severe snow-storm, a large flock of these uncer- 
tain winter visitors were seen in a red-cedar grove near to 
Mount Auburn, in this vicinity. In 1833, accompanied by the 



380 SINGING BIRDS. 

White-winged species, a flock of the same birds made their 
appearance as early as the nth of November in some tall 
pine-trees in the same place they visited the last year in the 
depth of winter. They are very busy and unsuspicious, having 
very much the manners of Parrots in their feeding. At some 
distance beneath the trees where they are engaged, we can 
hear them forcing open the scales of the rigid pine cones with 
a considerable crackhng, and the wings of the seeds fly about 
in all directions. Sometimes the little Redpolls also attend to 
snatch a seed or two as they are spread to the winds. They 
fly somewhat like the Yellow Birds, by repeated jerks and sink- 
ings and risings in their course, but proceed more swiftly and 
directly to their destination ; they also utter a rather loud and 
almost barking or fifing chirp, particularly the females, like 
'tsh 'tship 'tsh 'tship. Their enemies seem also to follow them 
into this distant and unusual retreat. One evening, as they 
were uttering their quailing chirp, and about to roost in the 
pines, we heard an unusual cry, and found that the alarm was 
justly occasioned by the insidious and daring attack of a bold 
Butcher Bird {Lanius borealis), who had taken advantage of 
their bewildered confusion at the moment of retiring to repose. 
Besides their call and ordinary plaints, we hear, as I have 
thought, now and then, in the warmer part of the day, a' rather 
agreeable, but somewhat monotonous, song. We found these 
birds, as well as the Redpolls, very fat and plump ; and they 
devour a great quantity of pine-seeds, with which the oesopha- 
gus is perpetually gorged as fiill as in the gluttonous and tune- 
less Cedar Birds {^Bo7nby cilia). 

The Red Crossbill is still known to be chiefly a winter visitor to 
New England and the Middle States, though every summer a 
small number may be met with in the more northern districts and 
on the crests of the Alleghanies south to Georgia. In April, 1889^ 
Mr. G. S. Miller, Jr., found a flock on Cape Cod, and upon dis- 
secting several, he discovered evidence that they were nesting. 

In northern Maine and New Brunswick numbers have been seen 
during the summer months ; but even in these regions the bird is 
chiefly a winter visitor, and at that season it ranges to the Southern 
States. 



WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL. 381 

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL. 

LOXIA LEUCOPTERA. 

Char. Bill long and compressed, mandibles curved at the points, 
which cross or overlap. Male : dull rosy, clouded with dull dark brown 
on the back ; wings and tail black ; two broad white bars on the wings ; 
belly dull white streaked with brown. Female : dull olive, paler beneath; 
rump buffy. Young : similar to female, but paler olive above, and more 
decided yellow beneath, streaked everywhere with dark brown. As the 
young mature they are subject to considerable variation. Length about 
6 to 6% inches. 

A^est. In the deep forest, on an evergreen, amid the denser foliage 
near the centre of the tree ; made of twigs and strips of birch bark, cov- 
ered with moss {nsnea), and lined with soft moss and hair. 

■Eggs. 3-?; pale blue, spotted and streaked near larger end with red- 
dish brown and lilac; 0.80 X 0.55. 

This beautiful and well-distinguished species inhabits the 
northern regions of the American continent only, v^^hence, 
at irregular intervals, on the approach of winter, it arrives in 
the Northern and Middle States, and, as usual with the rest of 
this curious family, seeks out the pine and hemlock-spruce 
forests. Its visits to this State [Massachusetts] are very 
irregular. About two years ago, large, gregarious, famished 
flocks were seen near Newburyport and other neighboring 
towns in the vicinity of the sea-coast, at which time many 
were caught, killed, and caged. The habits of this bird are 
almost entirely similar to those of the preceding species. Its 
song is said to be mellow and agreeable, and in captivity it 
becomes gentle and familiar. 

According to Mr. Hutchins, it arrives around Hudson Bay 
in March, and in May builds a nest of grass, mud, and feath- 
ers, fixed generally about half way up a pine-tree, and lays 5 
white eggs marked with yellowish spots. The young fly about 
the end of June. It remains in this country till the close of 
November, after which it retires, probably to the South ; and 
Wilson's bird was obtained in the Great Pine Swamp or forest 
of the Pokono (Pennsylvania), in the month of September, 
so that it may be possible that some few pairs breed in this 
situation. 



382 SINGING BIRDS. 

This species, according to Richardson, inhabits the dense 
white spruce forests of the fur countries, feeding principally on 
the seeds of the cones. It ranges through the whole breadth 
of the continent, and probably up to the 68th parallel, where 
the forests terminate. It is usually seen in the upper branches 
of trees, and when wounded still clings so fast as to remain 
suspended after death. In September, collecting in small 
flocks, they fly from tree to tree in a restless manner and make 
a chattering noise ; and in the depth of winter they retire from 
the coast to seek shelter in the thick woods of the interior. 

This interesting bird must still be written " irregular" in its oc- 
currence in Massachusetts, though usually more or less abundant 
in winter down to the 40th parallel, and occasionally ranging as far 
south as Virginia. 

It is partially sedentary in northern New England and the Mari- 
time Provinces of Canada, though much more abundant in winter 
than during the warm weather. Mr. Mcllwraith considers the bird 
a winter visitor only to southern Ontario, and Mr. Thompson makes 
a similar report for Manitoba though he thinks it may breed there. 
The nest is built in January and February, — I have known of 
numerous nests being discovered in New Brunswick in those 
months, — and it is probable that both young and old retire farther 
northward after the young birds are able to fly. 

The flight of the Crossbills is undulating, like the flight of the 
American Goldfinch, and their songs are similar. They sing on 
the wing, and as a flock passes overhead on a clear winter's day 
their sweet voices come through the quiet air with pleasing effect. 



PI. IX 




1~ 2 . Pine Grosbeak, 
■^~'i-. Purple FincTi. 



•5. Rose-Breasted Giosbeak . 
6-7.AVhilc-^\lrioed Cross Bil 




WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 

SiTTA CAROLINENSIS. 

Char. Above, bluish ash; top of head and neck black ; wings black, 
blue, and white ; tail black, marked with white ; beneath, white ; under 
tail-coverts reddish brown. Bill long and acute. Female and young 
similar, but black of head tinged with ashy or wanting. Length 5^ 
inches. 

Nest. In open woodland, placed at the bottom of a cavity excavated 
in a dead tree or stump, — sometimes an old woodpecker's nest is used; 
made of leaves, grass, feathers, and hair. 

Eggs. 4-8 (occasionally as many as 10, usually 5) ; white tinged with 
rose pink, and spotted with reddish brown and lilac ; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This Species, so nearly allied to the European Nuthatch, re- 
sides permanently throughout North America, from Hudson 
Bay and Oregon to the tableland of Mexico, appearing only 
more common and familiar at the approach of winter in con- 
sequence of the failure of its food in its favorite sylvan re- 
treats, which it now often forsakes for the open fields, orchards, 
or gardens, where, in pairs or small and sometimes contending 



384 SINGING BIRDS. 

parties, they cautiously glean a transient means of subsistence, 
and wander from place to place as the supply diminishes. At 
the welcome return, however, of the month of April, with the 
revival and renewal of its insect fare the Nuthatch becomes 
more domestic ; and retiring into the forest with its mate, it 
prepares for its progeny in some hollow tree, or even in a rail 
of the neighboring fence. The male is now assiduously atten- 
tive to his sitting mate, supplying her regularly with food ; on 
which occasion he affectionately calls her from the mouth of 
her dark and voluntary prison, where sometimes, in mere 
sociability, he attempts in his rude way to soothe her with his 
complaisant chatter. He is too affectionate to ramble from 
this favorite spot, where he not only accompanies his consort, 
but, sentinel-like, watches and informs her of every threaten- 
ing danger. When the pair are feeding on the trunk of the 
same tree, or near to each other in the same wood, the faithful 
male is heard perpetually calling upon his companion at short 
intervals as he circumambulates the trunk. His approach is 
announced usually at a distance by his nasal kank ka?ik, 
frequently repeated, as in spiral circles round the trunk of 
some tree he probes, searches, and shells off the bark in quest 
of his lurking prey of spiders, ants, insects, and their lar\'ae in 
general. So tight and secure is his hold that he is known to 
roost indifferently with his head up or down from the tree ; 
and when wounded, while any spark of life remains, his con- 
vulsive and instinctive grasp is still firmly and obstinately 
maintained. Sometimes, with a sort of complaisant curiosity, 
one of the birds, when there is a pair, will silently descend 
nearly to the foot of the tree, where the spectator happens to 
stand, stopping, head downwards, and stretching out his neck, 
as it were, to reconnoitre your appearance and motives ; and 
after an interval of silence, wheeling round, he again ascends 
to his usual station, trumpeting his notes as before. He seldom 
wholly quits the forest, but when baffled by the slippery sleet 
which denies him a foothold, he is sometimes driven to the 
necessity of approaching the barnyard and stables, or the 
precincts of the dwelling, where, occasionally mixing among 



RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 385 

the common fowls, entering the barn, examining its beams and 
rafters, he seems to leave no means untried to secure a 
subsistence. 

This species is doubtless a resident in Ontario and New Eng- 
land, becoming more abundant during the winter months; but in 
the Maritime Provinces it is only a summer visitor. 



RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 

SiTTA CANADENSIS. 

Char. Above, ashy blue (top and side of head black on the male) ; 
broad stripe of white over the eyes ; wings blackish, with ashy markings; 
outer tail-feathers black with white patches; beneath, reddish brown, 
— paler in the female ; chin white ; bill long and acute. Length 4}^ 
inches. 

Nest. In open woodland ; an excavation in a decayed stub, lined with 
grass and roots. Often the entrance is surrounded with fir balsam. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white with pale roseate tint and thickly spotted with brown 
and lilac; 0.60 X 0.50. 

The habits of these smaller birds are almost similar to the 
preceding ; they have, however, a predilection for pine forests, 
feeding much on the oily seeds of these evergreens. In these 
barren solitudes they are almost certain to be found in busy 
employment, associating in pairs with the Chickadees and 
smaller Woodpeckers, the whole forming a hungry, active, and 
noisy group, skipping from tree to tree with petulant chatter, 
probing and ratthng the dead or leafless branches, prying in 
every posture for their scanty food, and, like a horde of Tar- 
tars, proceed through the forest and leisurely overrun the whole 
of the continent to the very confines of the tropics, retiring 
north in the same manner with the advance of the spring. 

The notes of this species of Nuthatch, though similar, are 
sharper than those of the preceding, resembling day day dait, 
and sounding almost like a child's trumpet. Its motions are 
also quicker. They cling to the bark of the tree and roost 
commonly with the head downwards, in the manner of their 
whole tribe. 

VOL. I. — 25 



386 SINGING BIRDS. 

This species has a more extended range than carolinensis, being 
found farther west and farther north. It breeds from northern 
New England and Manitoba northward and southward along the 
Alleghanies. In winter it ranges from New Brunswick to the Gulf 
States. 



BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH. 

SiTTA PUSILLA. 

Char. Above, ashy blue ; top of head and neck brown ; white spot 
on back of neck; wings black and bluish; middle tail-feathers like back, 
others black tipped with bluish ; beneath, dull brownish white tinged 
with pale ash behind; throat white. Bill long, slender, and acute. 
Length 4 to 4)^ inches. 

Nest In open woodland; an excavation in a dead stump, lined with 
grass, leaves, and feathers. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white, thickly marked with fine spots of reddish brown and 
pale lilac ; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This small species is seldom seen to the north of the State 
of Virginia. In the Southern States it is rather common, and 
is also met with in the island of Jamaica. Like the last, which 
it resembles in manners, it is very fond of pine-trees, and 
utters a similar note, but more shrill and chirping. Its food, 
besides the seeds of the pine, is usually the insects which infest 
the forest trees. In winter families of this species of 8 or 10 
individuals may be seen busily hunting in company, and keep> 
ing up a perpetual and monotonous screeping. It is less 
suspicious than most other sylvan birds, sometimes descending 
down the trunk of a tree watching the motions of the by- 
stander ; and if the intrusion happens to be near the nest, or 
while engaged in digging it out, the little harmless mechanic 
utters a sort of complaining note, and very unwillingly relin- 
quishes his employment, which is instantly renewed on the 
removal of the observer. 

This species is restricted to the Southern and Gulf States, rarely 
wandering north of Virginia and Maryland; but examples have 
been taken in New York, Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan. 



BROWN CREEPER. 387 



BROWN CREEPER. 

CeRTHIA FAMILIARIS AMERICANA. 

Char. Above, grayish brown, each feather streaked with dull white 3 
rump rufous ; wings with a band of buffy white ; beneath, dull white or 
pale gray. Length about 5^^ inches. 

Nest. In deep woods, placed behind a sliver of loose bark on a 
decayed tree or stub ; made of shreds of bark and tis)iea moss firmly 
interwoven and set on a platform of twigs. It is sometimes lined with 
feathers. 

Eggs. 4-8 ; white or creamy, — when freshly laid, tinted with pale 
roseate, — spotted with reddish brown ; 0.60 X 0.50. 

This industrious forager for insects, chiefly dwelHng in the 
seclusion of the forest, is but seldom seen in the summer ; but 
on the approach of winter, with other hungry wanderers of 
similar habits such as the small Woodpeckers and Nuthatches, 
it makes its appearance on the wooded skirts of the village, 
particularly among the pine-trees, and occasionally becomes 
familiar enough to pay a passing visit to the orchard. In this 
country, however, the species is neither common nor familiar, 
nor is it more abundant in the Northern than the Middle 
States, though its breeding range extends from Pennsylvania to 
Newfoundland. 

The bill of the Creeper not being of sufficient strength to 
probe the wood, it rests contented with examining the crevices 
of the bark for insects and their eggs, proceeding leisurely 
upwards or downwards in straight or spiral hues towards the 
top of the tree, dodging dexterously to the opposite side from 
the observer, and only resuming its occupation when assured 
of solitude and safety. While thus employed it utters at short 
intervals a sharp, quick, rather grating note, by which its resort 
may be discovered, though it requires some time and a good 
eye to perceive it if on the upper branches of a tall tree. 
Though it lives chiefly on insects, it also, according to Wilson, 
collects the seeds of the pine for food, and is particularly fond 
of the vermin which prey on those kinds of trees. In the 
thick forests which it inhabits in the Northern and Western 



388 SINGING BIRDS. 

States about the middle of April, it commences the nest in the 
hollow trunk or branch of a tree which has been exposed to 
decay by injury or accident. Here in the accidental cavities 
or deserted holes of the squirrel or Woodpecker the Creeper 
deposits her eggs. The young creep about with great caution 
previous to taking to their wings. 

The Brown Creeper is a common bird in New England, though 
in the southern portions it occurs in the winter only, its breeding 
area extending from Maine and Minnesota northward. In winter 
it ranges as far southward as the Gulf States. It is common in 
Ontario and Quebec, but less abundant in the Maritime Provinces. 
An interesting account of the breeding habits of this bird, written 
by Mr. WilHam Brewster, appeared in the Nuttall Bulledn for 
July, 1879. 

Mr. Brewster credits the Creeper with a tender song, which 
falls upon the ear " like the soft sigh of the wind among the pine 
boughs." 

BAHAMA HONEY CREEPER. 

CCEREBA BAHAMENSIS. 

Char. Above, dark brown ; rump yellow ; stripe over eyes and un- 
der parts dull white ; breast and edge of wing pale yellow ; tail broadly 
tipped with white. Length 4^ inches. 

N^est. In a low tree or bush ; a large, pensile, dome-shaped structure, 
the entrance at the side ; made of weed-stems and grass, and lined with 
plant down. 

Eggs. 2-4 ; white, tinged with green and speckled with rufous : 0.65 
X 0.50. 

The home of this species is on the Bahamas, but a straggler 
has been found on the coast of Florida. Mr. Gosse in his " Birds 
of Jamaica " gives an interesting account of this bird's habits. He 
describes it as obtaining its food in much the same manner as 
Humming Birds, — by probing the flowers; but instead of hover- 
ing in front of a flower, the Creeper alights on the tree. When 
examining a flower for the insects which are at the bottom of the 
cup, the bird throws its body into a variety of positions, sometimes 
with the back downward, the better to reach the interior of a 
blossom with its curved bill and peculiar tongue. The bird is 
unsuspecting and familiar, and freely resorts to the blossoming 
shrubs of a garden. 




BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER. 

BLACK AND WHITE CREEPER. 
Mniotilta VARLA.. 

Char. Above, black striped with white, head, wings, and tail mostly 
black; beneath, white, more or less striped with black. Female and 
young without stripes on the throat. Length 4^ to 5)4 inches. 

Nest. In open woodland or pasture ; placed at the foot of a tree or 
stump, or at the base of a moss-covered rock, sometimes in a hole ; made 
of grass, moss, and shreds of bark, and lined with grass, hair, roots, and 
vegetable down. 

Eggs. 4-5; creamy white, thickly spotted with pale reddish brown; 
0.65 X 0.50. 

This remarkable bird, allied to the Creepers, is another 
rather common summer resident in most parts of the United 
States, and probably migrates pretty far to the north. It 
arrives in Louisiana by the middle of February, visits Pennsyl- 
vania about the second week in April, and a week later appears 
in the woods of New England, protracting its stay in those 
countries till the beginning of October, and lingering on the 
southern limits of the Union a month later, so that it does not 
appear to be much affected by the commencement of frost, 
and probably at this season occasionally feeds on berries. 
As numbers are observed round Vera Cruz toward the com- 
mencement of winter, and are described as inhabiting the 
West India islands, it is probable they pass the extremity of 
the winter beyond the southern boundary of the Union. 



390 SINGING BIRDS. 

Like the Creepers and Nuthatches, these birds are seldom 
seen to perch upon the branches of trees, but creep spirally 
around the trunk and larger boughs up and down, in quest of 
insects which alight upon or hide within the crevices of the 
bark. In this employment they display all the dexterity of the 
more regular climbers. For this purpose the hind toe is rather 
stout, and extends backward so as to balance with the anterior 
part of the foot, and allow a motion like that of the Creepers, 
from which genus they are at the same time wholly distinct. 

At the period of breeding, the male scrapes out a Httle 
monotonous ditty in recognition of his mate, resembling some- 
what the syllables te tshe tshe tshe tsh' tshete, proceeding from 
high to low in a tolerably strong and shrill, but somewhat 
filing tone. As the season of incubation advances, this note, 
however, becomes more mellow and warbling, and though 
feeble, is very pleasing, bearing at this time some resemblance 
to that of the Redstart {Setophaga riiticilla) . This song is like 
the ascending call of '/wee 'twee 'twee 'twee 'tweet. At the 
romantic estate of the Cold Spring place in Roxbury the pro- 
prietor, Mr. Newman, pointed out to me the nest of this bird, 
which on the 2 7th of June contained four young about a week 
old. Other birds of this species I had seen fledged this year 
about the 17th of the same month, and as Wilson remarks the 
flight of the young in July, we may suppose that they raise two 
broods in the season. The nest was niched in the shelving of 
a rock on the surface of the ground, and was externally com- 
posed of coarse strips of the inner bark of the hemlock-trees, 
which overshadowed the situation. With these were mixed soft, 
dissected old leaves and a few stalks of dead grass ; the lining 
was made of a thin layer of black hair. According to Audu- 
bon, these birds nest in Louisiana in some small hole in a tree, 
and employ dry moss and a lining of downy substances. The 
pair fed the young before us with affectionate attention, and 
did not seem more uneasy -at our presence than the common 
and famihar summer Yellow Bird. They crept about the trunks 
of the neighboring trees, often head downwards, like the Sittas, 
and carried large smooth caterpillars to their young. This is, 



PURPLE MARTIN. 39 1 

in fact, at all times a familiar, active, and unsuspicious little 
visitor of the shady gardens and orchards, as well as woods 
and solitudes. 

The Black and White Creeper, as this species is usually called, 
breeds from the Southern States to Fort Simpson. It is abundant 
in southern New England, and fairly common in the Maritime 
Provinces. 

It was first classed with the Warblers by Spencer Baird in 1859, 
and has been retained there by all later authorities. Nuttall con- 
sidered that there were two species, one of which he named borealis ; 
but it has not been considered vahd, though Ridgway, in his "Man- 
ual," suggests the name M. varia borealis for a supposed Missis- 
sippi valley and Middle American race, which he describes as 
somewhat smaller than true varia j but he thinks the material at 
hand insufficient to warrant a positive decision, so we are saved the 
infliction of this much " hair-splitting." 



PURPLE MARTIN. 

Progne subis. 

Char. Male : lustrous black with purple tint, wings and tail with 
brownish tint. Female and young : browner above, and beneath grayish. 
Length -jYz inches. 

Nest. In a box, or attached to the eave of a house ; sometimes in a 
decayed tree ; made of grass, leaves, etc. 

Eggs'. 4-6; white and glossy; 0.95 X 0.75. 

According to the progress of the season in the very different 
climates of the United States, is measured the arrival of this 
welcome messenger of spring. Around the city of New Or- 
leans, for example, the Purple Martin is seen from the ist to 
the 9th of February. At the Falls of the Ohio, it is not seen 
before the middle of March, and representatives do not arrive 
in the vicinity of Philadelphia until the first week in April ; on 
the 25 th of that month, or later, they visit the vicinity of Bos- 
ton, and penetrate even to the cold regions of Hudson Bay, 
where they arrive in May and retire in August ; about the 20th 
of the same month they also leave the State of Pennsylvania. 
The migrations of these birds are remarkably extensive, as 
they were seen by Mr. Swainson in great numbers around Per- 



392 SINGING BIRDS. 

nambuco. Mr. Townsend met with them on the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and Audubon observed them breeding in Texas. In 
Oregon we found them nesting in the knot-holes of the oaks, 
and they did not appear to court the society, of man, as we 
seldom saw them near the fort. In their haste to return to 
their natal climes, they sometimes expose themselves to fatal 
accidents from changeable and unfavorable weather. In the 
maritime parts of Massachusetts, and probably throughout the 
State, a few years ago after a rainy midsummer, many were 
found dead in their boxes, and they have since been far less 
numerous than formerly. 

This beautiful species, like many others of the family, seeks 
out the dwellings of man, associating itself equally with the 
master and the slave, the colonist and the aboriginal. To the 
Martin it is indifferent whether its mansion be carved and 
painted, or humbled into the hospitable shell of the calabash 
or gourd. Secure of an asylum for its mate and young, while 
under the protection of man it twitters forth its gratitude, and 
is everywhere welcomed to a home. So eager is it to claim 
this kind of protection that sometimes it ventures hostilities 
with the Bluebirds and domestic Pigeons, who are often forced 
to abandon their hereditary claims. Satisfied with the recep- 
tion and success, like so many contented and faithful domes- 
tics, it returns year after year to the same station. The 
services of the Martin in driving away Hawks and Crows from 
the premises he claims, are also important inducements for 
favor ; he has even the courage to attack the redoubtable 
Kingbird, when its visits are too familiar near the nest. 

At the approaching dawn the merry Martin begins a lively 
twitter, which, continuing for half a minute, subsides until the 
twilight is fairly broken. To this prelude succeeds an ani- 
mated and incessant musical chattering, sufficient, near the 
dwelling, to awaken the soundest sleeper. His early vigils are 
scarcely exceeded by the domestic Cock ; the industrious 
farmer hears the pleasing call to labor, and associates with this 
favorite bird the idea of an economical, cheerful, and useful 
guest. 



PURPLE MARTIN. 393 

In the Middle States, from the 15th to the 20th of April, 
the Martins begin to prepare their nest, which is usually made 
of small green or dry leaves, straws, hay, and feathers, laid in 
considerable quantities. They rear two broods in the season. 
Several pairs also dwell harmoniously in the same box. The 
male, very attentive to his sitting mate, also takes part in the 
task of incubation ; and his notes at this time have apparently 
a peculiar and expressive tenderness. 

The food of the Martin is usually the larger winged insects, 
as wasps, bees, large beetles, such as the common Cetonias^ or 
goldsmiths, which are swallowed whole. His flight possesses 
all the swiftness, ease, and grace of the tribe. Like the Swift, 
he glides along, as it were, without exertion. Sometimes he is 
seen passing through the crowded streets, eluding the passen- 
gers with the rapidity of thought; at others he sails among 
the clouds at a dizzy height like something almost ethereal. 

The Purple Martin occurs throughout the Maritime Provinces, 
though nowhere common, and is extremely local in its distribution. 
It is rather rare near Quebec, but common at Montreal and 
throughout Ontario. Observers in Winnipeg consider the bird 
abundant there, and it is said to range north to the Saskatchewan 
valley. It breeds from the Gulf States northward, and winters in 
South America. 

Small colonies of these Martins are found scattered through 
New England at widely separated localities, accepting, usually, the 
proffered hospitality of friendly villagers who provide them with 
homes, though an occasional coterie may be found nesting in the 
primitive manner of their ancestors, — rearing their broods in 
natural cavities of trees or in crevices of rocks, as was the custom 
of their race before the Europeans led them into more Sybaritic 
habits. 



Note. — The Cuban Martin (^Progne cryptoleucd) is a summer 
resident of southern Florida. 




BARN SWALLOW. 

ChELIDON ERYTHROG ASTRA. 

Char. Upper parts steel blue ; forehead, throat, and breast rich 
chestnut ; belly paler ; tail deeply forked, — outer feathers several inches 
longer than the inner. Length 5}^ to 7>^ inches. 

Nest. Attached to a rafter of a barn or the side of a cave ; cup 
shaped; made of pellets of mud bound with grass, and lined with grass 
and feathers. 

Eggs. 3-6 ; white, variously marked with dark brown, reddish brown, 
or purplish brown and lilac; 0.75 X 0.55. 

The Barn Swallows arrive in Florida and the maritime parts 
of Georgia about the middle of March, but are not seen in the 
Middle States before the last of that month or the beginning 



BARN SWALLOW. 395 

of April. Their northern migration extends to the sources of 
the Mississippi, the Rocky Mountains, and the fiir countries, 
where, distant from the habitations of man, they inhabit caves, 
particularly those in the Hmestone rocks. They retire from 
Massachusetts about the i8th of September, and are observed 
in the same month and in October passing over the penin- 
sula of Florida on their way to tropical America, where they 
probably pass the winter. I have seen a straggling pair in 
this vicinity even on the 15 th of October. The fleetness with 
which they move, and the peculiarity of their insect fare, are 
circumstances which would impel a prompt transition to more 
favorable climates. Accidental fits of torpidity, like those 
which occasionally and transiently take place with the Hum- 
ming Bird, have undoubtedly happened to Swallows, without 
proving anything against the general migrating instinct of the 
species, which as long back as the time of Anacreon has been 
generally observed. 

Early in May they begin to build against a beam or rafter, 
usually in the barn. The external and rounding shell is made 
of pellets of mud tempered with fine hay and rendered more 
adhesive by the glutinous saliva of the bird ; within is laid a 
bed of fine hay, and the lining is made of loosely arranged 
feathers. They have usually two broods in the season, and the 
last leave the nest about the first week in August. Twenty or 
thirty nests may sometimes be seen in the same barn, and two 
or three in a cluster, where each pursues his busy avocation in 
the most perfect harmony. When the young are fledged, the 
parents, by their actions and twitterings, entice them out of 
the nest, to exercise their wings within the barn, where they sit 
in rows amid the timbers of the roof, or huddle closely to- 
gether in cool or rainy weather for mutual warmth. At length 
they venture out with their parents, and, incapable of constant 
exercise, may now be seen on trees, bushes, or fence-rails, near 
some pond or creek convenient to their food ; and their diet 
is disgorged from the stomachs or crops of their attentive 
parents. When able to provide for themselves, they are still 
often fed on the wing, without either party alighting ; so aerial 



396 SINGING BIRDS. 

and light are all their motions that the atmosphere alone 
seems to be their favorite element. In the latter end of 
summer, parties of these social birds may be often seen by the 
sides of dusty roads, in which they seem pleased to bask. 

About the middle of August they leave the barns, and begin 
to prepare for their departure, assembling in great numbers on 
the roofs, still twittering with great cheerfulness. Their song 
is very sprightly, and sometimes a good while continued. Some 
of these sounds seem like 'fie 'fie 'fletalit, uttered with rapid- 
ity and great animation. A while before their departure, they 
are observed skimming along the rivers and ponds after insects 
in great numbers, till the approach of sunset, when they assem- 
ble to roost in the reeds. 

The Barn Swallow is a common bird throughout this Eastern 
Province, and northward to Greenland and Alaska. 
It winters in the West Indies and south to Brazil. 



CLIFF SWALLOW. 

eave swallow. 

Petrochelidon lunifrons. 

Char. Above, dark steel blue ; forehead dull white ; wings and tail 
brownish black ; rump rufous ; chin, throat, and collar around neck deep 
chestnut ; patch of blue black on breast ; remaining under-parts pale 
gray tinged with rufous. Length about ^)i inches. 

Nest. Fastened to the side of a cliff or the eave of a building ; made 
of pellets of mud and lined with grass and feathers. Usually gourd- 
shaped, the entrance at the mouth of the gourd, — sometimes open on 
top. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; white, variously marked with shades of brown and purple ; 

0.80 X 0.55. 

The Chff Swallows have but recently come to the notice of 
naturalists. Their summer residence in the temperate parts 
of America is singularly scattered. They have long occupied 
the regions of the Rocky Mountains, extending to the banks of 
the Columbia, and the cliffs of the Missouri, and are probably 
to be found on other large Western rivers. According to 



CLIFF SWALLOW. 397 

Richardson they are extremely abundant in the fur countries. 
In 1815 they were observed for the first time at Henderson, 
on the banks of the Ohio, and at Newport in Kentucky. In 
181 7 they made their appearance at Whitehall, near Lake 
Champlain, in the western part of the State of New York. In 
these places their increase seems to have kept pace with the 
time since their arrival, augmenting their nests from a single 
cluster to several hundreds in the course of four or five years. 
Vieillot observed one at sea off Nova Scotia, and they have, in 
fact, long been commonly known in that Province. In 181 8, 
as I learn from J. W. Boott, Esq., they began to build at Craw- 
ford's, near the base of the White Mountauis of New Hamp- 
shire. In the summer of 1830 a few nests were seen by 
General Dearborn at Winthrop in Maine ; he had also heard 
of one at Gardiner in the same State. The hibernal retreat of 
these birds would appear to be in the West Indies, as they 
were seen in Porto Rico by Vieillot, and one was also observed 
in St. Domingo by the same author. 

In the Western States they arrive from the South early in 
April, and almost immediately begin to construct their nests. 
They commence their labor at the dawn, and continue their 
operations until near mid-day. The nests are made of pellets 
of sandy mud, disposed in layers until the fabric, with its 
entrance, assumes the form of a projecting retort, agglutinated 
to cliffs or the walls of buildings as convenience may offer. 
From the nature of the friable materials employed, the whole 
is frail, and would crumble in the possession of any but the 
airy owners. The internal lining is of straw and dried grass 
negligently disposed for the reception of the eggs. They raise 
but a single brood, who, with their parents, after several 
attempts at mustering, finally disappear in August as suddenly 
as they came. Mr. Townsend says : " In the neighborhood of 
the Columbia River the Cliff Swallow attaches its nest to the 
trunks of trees, making it of the same form and materials as 
elsewhere." The face of Pillar Rock, an isolated columnar 
mass of basalt near Chinhook, at the estuary of the Columbia, 
was rendered still more fantastic and picturesque by the nests 



398 SINGING BIRDS. 

of the Cliff Swallow with which it was faced ; a small colony- 
having taken up their abode here. These were, as usual, made 
of pellets of mud, enclosed at the top, but without the retort 
necks. 

Like the rest of their congeners, these birds are almost per- 
petually on the wing in quest of flies and other small insects 
which constitute their ordinary food. Their note does not 
appear to resemble a twitter, and according to Audubon it 
may be imitated by rubbing a moistened cork round in the 
neck of a bottle. In Kentucky, until the commencement of 
incubation, the whole party resorted to roost in the hollow 
limbs of the buttonwood-trees. However curious, it is certain 
that the birds have but recently discovered the advantage of 
associating round the habitations of men. 

Numerous colonies of this species are found throughout New 
England and the Maritime Provinces, and a few pairs have been 
seen at Point de Monts, on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Law- 
rence, which is the limit of its northward range near the Atlantic, 
though in the interior it ranges much farther north. It breeds 
southward to the Gulf States, and winters in South America. 

It is highly probable that the habit of breeding in large commu- 
nities, and thus becoming " local " in distribution, will account for 
the report of their having moved eastward during the first half of 
the present century. As a matter of fact, Audubon discovered the 
species in Kentucky five years before Say found it among the 
Rockies. That the older writers knew so little about the bird 
should not be taken as evidence of its absence, — they failed to 
learn the history of several equally common species ; and after the 
added years we are still ignorant of the breeding habits of some of 
these birds. 



Note. — The Cuban Cliff Swallow {Petrochelido7i fulva) 
has been taken in Florida. 




TREE SWALLOW. 

white-bellied swallow. singing swallow. 

Tachycineta bicolor. 

Char. Above, rich steel blue, wings and tail with green reflections ; 
beneath, white. Length about 6 inches. 

A'est. In a cavity of a tall dead tree, — often a deserted Woodpecker':: 
hole, — sometimes in a bird box; made of grass and straw, lined with 
feathers. 

Eggs. 4-9 (usually 5) ; white ; 0.75 X 0.55. 

This species, less common than the Barn Swallow and nearly 
alUed to the common Martin, arrives in Pennsylvania and 
New England about the middle of April, and extends its migra- 
tions over the continent nearly to the Arctic circle, having 
been seen by Dr. Richardson in the latitude of 53°; it is 
also abundantly dispersed over the Rocky Mountains and the 
Columbia River, where it breeds, as well as around Hudson 
Bay and throughout the Northern and Middle States. On its 
arrival, like many other species, it seeks out the society of 
man and frequently takes possession of the mansion of the 
Martin. When these advantages are unattainable it will be 
content with the eaves of some deserted dweUing, a hollow 
tree, its ancient residence, or even an horizontal branch when 
large and convenient. 

The note of these birds is a shrill, lively, warbling twitter ; 
but they are more quarrelsome and less sociable in the breed- 



400 SINGING BIRDS. 

ing season that the Barn Swallow. In the spring their pro- 
tracted, angry contentions, and rapid chatter are often heard in 
the air. Their food is similar to that of the species above 
mentioned, and they make a snapping sound with the bill in 
the act of seizing their prey. They proceed to the South in 
September, and according to the observations of Audubon 
pass nearly, if not quite, the whole winter in the cypress swamps 
near to New Orleans, and probably in the Mexican vicinity. 
He observed them about the middle of December, and also 
near to the close of January. '* During the whole winter many 
retired to the holes around houses, but the greater number 
resorted to the lakes, and spent the night among the branches 
of the wax-myrtle," whose berries at this season afford them a 
support on which they fatten, and are then considered as excel- 
lent food. About sunset they usually began to flock together 
at a peculiar call, and were then seen almost in clouds moving 
towards the neighboring lagoons or the estuaries of the Mis- 
sissippi. Before alighting they perform their aerial evolutions 
to reconnoitre the place of roosting, soon after which they 
rapidly descend as it were in a spiral vortex almost like the 
fall of a water-spout, and when within a few feet of the wax- 
myrtles they disperse and settle at leisure ; but their twittering 
and the motions of their wings are heard throughout the night. 
At dawn they rise, at first flying low over the waters which 
they almost touch, and then rising gradually separate in quest 
of food. During their low flight numbers of them are often 
killed by canoe-men with the mere aid of their paddles 
(Aububon). This predilection for the borders of lakes and 
ponds led some of the ancient writers to believe that Swallows 
retired to the bottom of the water during the winter; and 
some fishermen on the coast of the Baltic pretended to have 
taken them up in their nets in large knots, clinging together 
by their bills and claws in a state of torpidity. 

The Tree Swallow breeds from the Gulf States north to the 
fur countries, and winters from the Southern States to Central 
America. Mr. William Brewster believes that these birds have 
been driven from the cities of southern New England by the House 
Sparrows. 




BANK SWALLOW. 

SAND MARTIN. 

ClIVICOL-A. RIPARIA. 

Char. Above, dull grayish brown, which extends around the neck 
and across the breast ; throat and belly white. Length about 5 inches. 

Nest. At the end of a burrow excavated in a bank of sand or gravel, 
— usually within a few feet of the top ; the bank generallv near a stream 
of water ; the excavation is 2 to 4 feet deep, and widens at the inner end, 
where a little dry grass and a few feathers are loosely placed, and on this 
cushion the eggs are laid. 

Eggs. 4-6; white; 0.70 X 0.50. 

These plain-looking and smaller birds, though equally grega- 
rious with other kinds, do not court the protection or society 
of man, — at least their habitations are remote from his. They 
commonly take possession for this purpose of the sandy bank 
or bluif of a river, quarry, or gravel pit, 2 or 3 feet below the 
upper surface of the bank. In such places, in the month of 
April, they may be observed burrowing horizontally with their 
awl-like bills, when at length, having obtained a foot-hold in 
the cHff, they also use their feet and continue this labor to the 
depth of 2 or 3 feet. Many of these holes may be often seen 
within a few inches of each other. This species has gener- 
VOL. I. — 26 



402 SINGING BIRDS. 

ally two broods in the season, and on the egress of the young 
in the latter end of May the piratical Crows often await their 
opportunity to destroy them as they issue from the nest. In 
rocky countries the birds often take possession of the clefts 
on the banks of rivers for their dwelling, and sometimes they 
content themselves with the holes of trees. 

Their voice is only a low twitter of short lisping notes ; and 
while busily passing backwards and forwards in the air around 
their numerous burrows, they seem at a distance almost similar 
to hiving bees. As they arrive earlier than other species, the 
cold and unsettled weather often drives them for refuge in 
their holes, where they cluster together for warmth, and have 
thus been found almost reduced to a state of torpidity. Dwel- 
ling thus shut up, they are often troubled with swarms of infest- 
ing insects, resembling fleas, which assemble in great numbers 
around their holes. They begin to depart to the South from 
the close of September to the middle of October. Although 
they avoid dwelling near houses, they do not fly from settled 
vicinities ; and parties of six or more, several miles from their 
nests, have been seen skimming through the streets of adjacent 
villages in the province of Normandy. 

They are found on both sides of North America, from the 
shores of the Atlantic to the borders of the Columbia, and in 
all the intermediate region suited to their manner of breeding. 
According to Audubon, they winter in great numbers in Florida, 
and breed from Labrador to Louisiana. 

If the Bank Swallow was found in Labrador by Audubon it has 
since changed its habitat to the extent of deserting that country, 
for during recent years only one example has been seen on the 
northern side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, though colonies have 
been found on Anticosti and the Magdalen Islands. 

In the Far West these birds range to much higher latitudes, a 
few having been met with along the valley of the Mackenzie 
River, and in Alaska. They breed from the Gulf States northward, 
and winter in the tropics, ranging as far south as Brazil. They 
are locally common throughout the Eastern States and the adjoin- 
ing Provinces. 



ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW. 403 

ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW. 

Stelgidopteryx serripennis. 

Char. Above, grayish brown ; beneath, brownish gray, whitening on 
the belly. Edge of wings rough to the touch; "outer web of the first 
primary with recurved hooklets " which are lacking on the young birds. 
Length 5 to 5^ inches. 

Nest. In a cavity of a bank or in a crevice of a stone wall or bridge, 
usually near a stream ; made of dry grass lined with feathers. 

Egg^- 4-7; white; 0.75 X 0.50. 

We are indebted to Audubon for the discovery of this spe- 
cies so much alHed to the preceding, who first observed it 
near Bayou Sara, and afterwards in South Carohna. Of its 
habits he says nothing; but it is rarer, and he thinks its 
habitual residence may prove to be far to the westward, — 
perhaps the valleys of the Columbia. 

This species is more common in the Western Faunal Province 
than in the East; it is abundant in British Columbia, but Mr. 
Thompson has not put it in his " Birds of Manitoba." It occurs 
regularly, however, throughout the Eastern States north to New 
York, Ohio, and Illinois, and sparingly in Connecticut. It has also 
been found in parts of Ontario. 

In appearance and habits it so closely resembles the Bank Swal- 
low that it may be overlooked by the casual observer ; it does not, 
however, confine its choice of a nesting site to a sand-bank, but 
will place its nest amid the stones of a wall or bridge, in a crevice 
of a building, or even in a knot-hole. It differs also from the Bank 
Swallow in being of a paler color, and both of these birds differ 
from our other swallows in wearing: no metallic tints. 



Note. — The Cuban Cliff Swallow {Pet7'ochelidon fulvd) 
and the Bahaman Swallow {Callichelidon cyaneoviridis) have 
been added to the United States fauna by Mr. W. E. D. Scott, 
who captured examples on Dry Tortugas island during March and 
April, 1890. 




KINGBIRD. 

BEE MARTIN. 
Tyrannus T\^RANNUS. 

Char. Above, blackish ash, darker on the head ; beneath, white ; 
breast tinged with gray; tail black, tipped with broad band of white. 
Crown with concealed patch of yellow or orange red. Length 8 to 9 
inches. 

Nest. On a branch or in fork of a tree, in garden or pasture ; com- 
posed of twigs, roots, and moss, lined with roots, horse-hair, and feathers. 
The exterior is loosely laid, but the interior is neat and compact. 

Egg^' 4-5 J creamy white, spotted with light and dark brown ; 0.95 
X 0.70. 



KINGBIRD. 



405 



This well-knowTi, remarkable, and pugnacious bird takes up 
his summer residence in all the intermediate region from the 
temperate parts of Mexico to the uninhabited and remote inte- 
rior of Canada. In all this vast geographical range the King- 
bird seeks his food and rears his young. According to Audu- 
bon they appear in Louisiana by the middle of March ; and 
about the 20th of April Wilson remarked their arrival in 
Pennsylvania in small parties of five or six ; but they are seldom 
seen in this part of New England before the middle of May. 
They are now silent and peaceable, until they begin to pair, 
and form their nests, which takes place from the first to the 
last week in May or early in June, according to the advance- 
ment of the season in the latitudes of 40 and 43 degrees. 
The nest is usually built in the orchard, on the horizontal 
branch of an apple or pear tree, sometimes in an oak, in the 
adjoining forest, at various heights from the ground, seldom 
carefully concealed, and firmly fixed at the bottom to the sup- 
porting twigs of the branch. The outside consists of coarse 
stalks of dead grass and wiry weeds, the whole well connected 
and bedded with cut-weed down, tow, or an occasional rope- 
yarn and wool ; it is then lined with dry, slender grass, root 
fibres, and horse-hair. The eggs are generally 3 to 5, yel- 
lowish white, and marked with a few large, well-defined spots 
of deep and bright brown. They often build and hatch twice 
in the season. 

The Kingbird has no song, only a shrill, guttural tvvitter, 
somewhat like that of the Martin, but no way musical. At 
times, as he sits watching his prey, he calls to his mate with a 
harsh tsheup, rather quickly pronounced, and attended with 
some action. As insects approach him, or as he darts after 
them, the snapping of his bill is heard like the shutting of a 
watch-case, and is the certain grave of his prey. Beetles, 
grasshoppers, crickets, and winged insects of all descriptions 
form his principal summer food. I have also seen him col- 
lecting the canker-worms from the Elm. Towards autumn, as 
various kinds of berries ripen, they constitute a very consider- 
able and favorite part of his subsistence ; but with the excep- 



406 FLYCATCHERS. 

tion of currants (of which he only eats perhaps when confined), 
he refuses all exotic productions, contenting himself with 
blackberries, whortle-berries, the berries of the sassafras, cornel, 
viburnum, elder, poke, and five-leaved ivy. Raisins, foreign 
currants, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, and apples were 
never even tasted when offered to a bird of this kind, which I 
had many months as my pensioner ; of the last, when roasted, 
sometimes, however, a few mouthfuls were relished in the 
absence of other more agreeable diet. Berries he always swal- 
lowed whole, grasshoppers, if too large, were pounded and 
broken on the floor as he held them in his bill. To manage the 
larger beetles was not so easy ; these he stnick repeatedly against 
the ground, and then turned them from side to side, by throwing 
them dexterously into the air, after the manner of the Toucan, 
and the insect was uniformly caught reversed, as it descended, 
with the agility of a practised cup-and-ball player. At length 
the pieces of the beetle were swallowed, and he remained still 
to digest his morsel, tasting it distinctly soon after it entered 
the stomach, as became obvious by the ruminating motion of 
his mandibles. When the soluble portion was taken up, large 
pellets of the indigestible legs, wings, and shells, as likewise 
the skins and seeds of berries, were, in half an hour or less, 
brought up and ejected from the mouth in the manner of the 
Hawks and Owls. When other food failed he appeared very 
well satisfied with fresh minced meat, and drank water fre- 
quently, even during the severe frosts of January, which he 
endured without much difficulty; basking, however, like Dio- 
genes, in the feeble beams of the sun, which he followed round 
the room of his confinement, well satisfied when no intruder 
or companion threw him into the shade. Some very cold 
evenings he had the sagacity to retire under the shelter of a 
depending bed-quilt, was very much pleased with the warmth 
and brilliancy of lamp-light, and would eat freely at any hour 
of the night. Unacquainted with the deceptive nature of 
shadows, he sometimes snatched at them for the substances 
they resembled. Unlike the Vieros, he retired to rest without 
hiding his head in the wing, and was extremely watchful. 



KINGBIRD. 407 

though not abroad till after sunrise. His taciturnity and disin- 
clination to friendship, and familiarity in confinement, were strik- 
ing traits. His restless, quick, and side-glancing eye enabled 
him to follow the motions of his flying insect prey, and to as- 
certain precisely the infallible instant of attack. He readily 
caught morsels of food in his bill before they reached the 
ground, when thrown across the room, and on these occa- 
sions seemed pleased with making the necessary exertion. 
He had also a practice of cautiously stretching out his neck, 
like a snake, and peeping about either to obtain sight of his 
food, to watch any approach of danger, or to examine any- 
thing that appeared strange. At length we became so well 
acquainted that when very hungry he would express his grati- 
tude on being fed by a shrill twitter and a lively look, which 
was the more remarkable as at nearly all other times he was 
entirely silent. 

In a natural state he takes his station on the top of an 
apple-tree, a stake, or a tall weed, and betwixt the amusement 
of his squeaking twitter, employs himself in darting after his 
insect food. Occasionally he is seen hovering over the field, 
with beating wing, almost like a Hawk, surveying the ground or 
herbage for grasshoppers, which are a favorite diet. At other 
times these birds may be observed in companies flickering over 
still waters in the same employment, — the gratification of appe- 
tite. Now and then, during the heat of summer, they are seen 
to dip and bathe in the watery mirror ; and with this washing, 
drying, and pluming, they appear to be both gratified and 
amused. During the season of their sojourn the pair are 
often seen moving about in company, with a rapid quivering 
of the wings and a continued tremulous, shrieking twitter. 
Their energetic and amusing motions are most commonly per- 
formed in warm and fine weather, and continue, with little 
interruption, until towards the close of August. 

One of the most remarkable traits in the character of the 
Kingbird is the courage and affection which he displays for his 
mate and young ; for on his first arrival he is rather timid, and 
readily dodges before the Swallow and Purple Martin. Indeed 



408 FLYCATCHERS. 

at this season I have seen the Spotted Sandpiper drive away a 
pair of Kingbirds because they happened to approach the 
premises of her nest. But he now becomes, on this important 
occasion, so tenacious of his rights as readily to commence the 
attack against all his feathered enemies, and he passes several 
months of the summer in a scene of almost perpetual contest ; 
and not overrating his hostile powers, he generally finds means 
to come off with impunity. Eagles, Hawks, Crows, Jays, and 
in short every bird which excites his suspicion by its inten- 
tional or accidental approach, are attacked with skill and 
courage ; he dives upon the heads and backs of the larger 
intruders, who become so annoyed and tormented as willingly 
to make a precipitate retreat. He pursues his foes sometimes 
for a mile ; and at length, assured of conquest, he returns to his 
prominent watch-ground, again quivering his wings in gratula- 
tion, and rapidly uttering his shrill and triumphant notes. He 
is therefore the friend of the farmer, as the scourge of the pil- 
ferers and plunderers of his crop and barn-yard. But that he 
might not be perfectly harmless, he has sometimes a propensity 
for feeding on the valuable tenants of the bee-hive ; for these 
he watches, and exultingly twitters at the prospect of success 
as they wing their way engaged in busy employment ; his quick- 
sighted eyes now follow them, until one, more suitable than the 
rest, becomes his favorite mark. This selected victim is by 
some farmers believed to be a drone rather than the stinging 
neutral worker. The selective discernment of the eyes of 
this bird has often amused me ; berries of different kinds, held 
to my domestic Kingbird, however similar, were rejected 
or snatched as they suited his instinct, with the nicest 
discrimination. 

As the young acquire strength for their distant journey, they 
may be seen in August and September assembling together in 
almost silent, greedy, and watchful parties of a dozen or more, 
feeding on various berries, particularly those of the sassafras 
and cornel, from whence they sometimes drive away smaller 
birds, and likewise spar and chase each other as the supply 
diminishes. Indeed, my domestic allowed no other bird to 



KINGBIRD. 409 

live in peace near him when feeding on similar food ; and 
though lame of a wing, he often watched his opportunity for 
reprisal and revenge, and became so jealous that, instead of 
being amused by companions, sometimes he caught hold of 
them with his bill, and seemed inclined to destroy them for 
invading his usurped privileges. In September the Kingbird 
begins to leave the United States and proceeds to pass the 
winter in tropical America. During the period of migration 
southward, Audubon remarks that they fly and sail through the 
air with great ease at a considerable elevation ; and they thus 
continue their silent retreat throughout the night until about 
the first of October, when they are no longer to be seen 
within the limits of the Middle States. 

We now know that the Kingbird ranges throughout North 
America from the tropics to the lower fur countries, though 
not common west of the Rockies. 

All lovers of birds and of justice will thank Mrs. Olive Thorne 
Miller for her noble defence of this chivalrous and much maligned 
bird, which appeared in the " Atlantic Monthly " for August, 1890. 
The systematists have dubbed him " tyrant of the tyrants," but 
his friends know him to be a true knight, the real " king of the 
air." Mrs. Miller credits the Kingbird with "a soft and very 
pleasing song," which she has heard " only in the very early 
morning." 

Note. — The Arkansas Kingbird (7! verticalis) differs from 
iyranmis in being light ashy gray on head, neck, and breast, and 
other lower parts yellow. In size the two birds are much the same, 
some examples of the Western form being slightly larger. 

Its habitat is the Western plains: but specimens have been 
taken in the Middle and Northern States. 




OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER. 

CONTOPUS BOREALIS. 

Char. Above, dull olive brown, darker on head, paler on rump ; tail 
dusky, tipped with gray ; wings dusky, with gray band ; lower parts yel- 
lowish white ; flanks pale olive. Length 7X to 8 inches. 

Nest. Saddled on horizontal limb of tall tree ; of twigs and grass lined 
with grass and moss. 

^ggs- 3-5; creamy white, spotted near larger end with reddish brown 
and pale purple ; 0.85 X 0.65. 

This remarkable species, which appertains to the group of 
Pewees, was obtained in the woods of Mount Auburn, in this 
vicinity, by Mr. John Bethune, of Cambridge, on the 7th of 
June, 1830. This, and a second specimen acquired soon 
afterwards, were females on the point of incubation. A third 
individual of the same sex was killed on the 21st of June, 
1 83 1. They were all of them fat, and had their stomachs 
filled with torn fragments of wild bees, wasps, and other sim- 
ilar insects. I have watched the motions of two other living 
individuals who appeared tyrannical and quarrelsome even with 
each other ; the attack was always accompanied with a whir- 
ring, querulous twitter. Their dispute was apparently, like 
that of savages, about the rights of their respective hunting- 
grounds. One of the birds, the female, whom I usually saw 
alone, was uncommonly sedentary. The territory she seemed 



OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER. 411 

determined to claim was circumscribed by the tops of a cluster 
of tall Virginia junipers or red cedars, and an adjoining elm 
and decayed cherry-tree. From this sovereign station, in the 
solitude of a barren and sandy piece of forest adjoining Mount 
Auburn, she kept a sharp lookout for passing insects, and pur- 
sued them with great vigor and success as soon as they ap- 
peared, sometimes chasing them to the ground, and generally 
resuming her perch with an additional mouthful, which she 
swallowed at leisure. On descending to her station she occa- 
sionally quivered her wings and tail, erected her blowsy cap, 
and kept up a whistling, oft-repeated, whining call of 'pu 'pu, 
then varied to 'pii pip, and 'pl,p pu, also at times 'pip 'pip 'pu 
^ptp 'p1,p pip, 'pic 'pu pip, or 'tu, 'tu 'tu, and 'tu 'tu. This 
shrill, pensive, and quick whistle sometimes dropped almost to 
a whisper or merely 'pu. The tone was in fact much like that 
of the 'phu 'phu 'phu of the Fish Hawk. The male, however, 
besides this note, at long intervals had a call of 'eh'pheb'ee or 
'h'phebed, almost exactly in the tone of the circular tin whistle, 
or bird-call, being loud, shrill, and guttural at the commence- 
ment. The nest of this pair I at length discovered in the 
horizontal branch of a tall red cedar 40 or 50 feet from the 
ground. It was formed much in the manner of the Kingbird, 
externally made of interlaced dead twigs of the cedar, inter- 
nally of the wiry stolons of the common cinquefoil, dry grass, 
and some fragments of branching Lichen or Usnea. It con- 
tained 3 young and had probably 4 eggs. The eggs had been 
hatched about the 20th of June, so that the pair had arrived in 
this vicinity about the close of May. 

The young remained in the nest no less than 23 days, and 
were fed from the first on beetles and perfect insects, which 
appeared to have been wholly digested, without any regurgi- 
tation. Towards the close of this protracted period the young 
could fly with all the celerity of the parents ; and they prob- 
ably went to and from the nest repeatedly before abandoning 
it. The male was at this time extremely watchful, and fre- 
quently followed me from his usual residence, after my paying 
him a visit, nearly half a mile. These birds, which I watched 



412 FLYCATCHERS. 

on several successive days, were no way timid, and allowed 
me for some time previous to visiting their nest to investigate 
them and the premises they had chosen, without showing any 
sign of alarm or particular observation. 

This bird appears to have been discovered in the fur coun- 
tries about the same time as in the United States. According 
to Dr. Richardson, the specimen, figured so spiritedly in the 
" Northern Zoology of Canada," was shot on the banks of the 
Saskatchewan as it was flying near the ground. 

In 1832, about the middle of June, the same pair appar- 
ently had again taken possession of a small juniper not more 
than 300 yards from the tree they had occupied the preceding 
year, about 14 or 15 feet up which they had fixed their thin 
twiggy nest as in the preceding year. It contained 4 eggs, on 
which the female had commenced sitting; these, except in 
their superior size, were precisely similar with those of the 
Wood Pewee, — yellowish-cream color, with dark-brown and 
lavender-purple spots, rather thinly dispersed. Being unfortu- 
nate enough to shake out the two eggs I intended to leave in 
the nest, the pair had to commence their labors of preparing 
for a progeny anew ; and a few days after, a second nest was 
made in another Virginian juniper at a very short distance 
from the preceding. The present year, however, they did not 
return to their accustomed retreat, and no individual was seen 
in this vicinity. In all places it appears, in fact, a scarce and 
widely dispersed species. Audubon has since observed this 
bird in other parts of Massachusetts, Maine, the Magdalen 
Islands, and the coast of Labrador. He has also seen it in 
Georgia and in Texas. This species is a common inhabitant 
of the dark fir-woods of the Columbia, where it arrives 
towards the close of May. We again heard, at interv^als, the 
same curious call, like 'gh-phebea, and sometimes like the gut- 
tural sound ^egh-phebee, commencing with a sort of suppressed 
chuck ; at other times the note varied into a lively and some- 
times Q;}i\Q}s. f t-detoway. This, no doubt, is the note attributed 
by Wilson to the Wood Pewee. When approached, or when 
calling, we heard the pu pu pu. 



CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 413 

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a rare summer resident in the 
southern portions of New England, but is quite commoain Maine 
and New Brunswick, and ranges north to about the 50th parallel. 
It winters south to the tropics. 



CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

Myiarchus crinitus. 

Char, Upper parts olive, inclined to brown on the head ; belly bright 
yellow; throat and breast ashy gray; wings and tail dusky, marked with 
rufous. Head crested. Length 8^ to 9 inches. 

Nest. In a cavity of a tree ; of twigs, grass-roots, feathers, and usually 
a cast-off snake-skin. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; light buffy brown, marked with lines of brown and purple ; 
0.85 X 0.65. 

This species, nearly unknown in New England, arrives in 
Pennsylvania early in May, and builds his nest in the deserted 
holes of the Woodpecker or Bluebird. He also frequents the 
orchard, and is equally fond of bees with the Kingbird. He 
has no other note than a harsh squeak, which sounds like ^paip, 
^pa'ipf payup, 'paywip, with a strong accent on the first syl- 
lable. He preys actively on insects, which he collects from 
his stand, and, in short, has most of the manners and physi- 
ognomy of the whole section or family to which he belongs. 
The note of the male appears often delivered in anger and 
impatience, and he defends his retreat from the access of all 
other birds with the tyrannic insolence characteristic of the 
Kingbird. 

Towards the end of summer these birds feed on berries of 
various kinds, being particularly partial to pokeberries and 
whortleberries, which for a time seem to constitute the prin- 
cipal food of the young. They remain in Pennsylvania till about 
the middle of September, when they retire to tropical America. 
In July, 1 83 1, 1 observed a pair in an orchard at Acton, in this 
State (Massachusetts) . They had reared a brood in the vicinity, 
and still appeared very stationary on the premises ; their harsh 



4^4 FLYCATCHERS. 

payup, and sometimes a slender twittering, as they took the 
perch, were heard almost from morn to night, and resembled 
at first the chirp of a young Robin. They fed on the cater- 
pillars or vermin of some kind which happened to infest the 
apple-trees. I was told that they utter a different and more 
musical note about sunrise ; but of this I cannot speak from my 
own knowledge. They are unknown in the vicinity of the 
sea-coast of Massachusetts. According to Audubon, they are 
found on the upper Missouri during summer. Many also 
pass the winter in the warmer parts of Florida. They also 
breed in Texas. 

This species is common In the Eastern States north to Connec- 
ticut and northern Ohio and in southern Ontario. It is rare in 
portions of Massachusetts, but examples have been observed in 
Maine and New Brunswick. It breeds south to Florida, and 
winters in the tropics. 

Those who know the bird best say it has the courage of the 
Kingbird, and a knack of quarrelling that is all its own. 



GRAY KINGBIRD. 

Tyrannus dominicensis. 

Char. Very similar to the Kingbird, but of paler color ; the upper 
parts, including the head, being ashy gray. Its size is somewhat larger, — 
about an inch in length. 

J\^est In a tree ; composed of twigs, lined with roots or moss. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; white, tinged with pale buff or salmon pink and spotted 
with brown and purple ; i.oo X 0.75. 

This fine tropical species was discovered by Audubon on 
the Florida Keys, where it arrives about the first of April, and 
spreads over the peninsula as far as Cape Florida. It is com- 
mon in Cuba and several other of the West India islands. 
Stragglers, however, appear to wander at times as far to the 
north as South Carolina; a pair and their nest having been 
found in a college yard, where they continued to return for 
several years in succession, rearing two broods in a season. 
Its whole demeanor so much resembles that of the common 



PHCEBE. 415 

Kingbird that but for its superior size and note it might be 
mistaken for that species. 

These birds flutter while flying, and sometimes during the 
breeding season the pair, crossing each other's path, rise in 
spiral evolutions, loudly twittering as they ascend. When 
interrupted, alarmed by pursuit, or in quest of insects, they 
dart off with great velocity. If a large bird, as a Heron or 
Crow, or indeed any intruder, pass near their station, they 
immediately pursue it, and that often to a considerable dis- 
tance. At the same time they appear careless of the approach 
of man except when the nest is invaded, when they fly about 
in great anger, snapping their bills and loudly chattering ; but 
when relieved from their unwelcome visitors, they return to 
their stand with notes of exultation. 

Nuttall, following Audubon, named this species the Pipiry Fly- 
catcher. It is abundant in the West Indies and occurs in parts of 
Florida and along the coast to South Carolina. Examples have 
been taken on Long Island, and at Lynn, in Massachusetts. 

It winters in the tropics. 



PHCEBE. 

PEWEE. PEWIT. 
Sayornis PHGEBE. 

Char. Upper parts dull olive brown, darker on head ; under parts 
whitish, changing to pale yellow on belly, and brownish on flanks ; wings 
and tail dusky, outer tail feathers and wing bar wliitish ; white ring 
around the eyes ; bill and feet black. Head with inconspicuous crest. 
Length 6^ to 7 inches. 

Nest. Attached to the under-side of a bridge, or to a rock, or the side 
of a cave ; of twigs, roots, and moss, cemented with mud, lined with grass 
and feathers. 

Eggs. 4-5; white, sometimes speckled with pale brown ; 0.80 X 0.55. 

This familiar species inhabits the continent of North Amer- 
ica from Canada and Labrador to Texas, retiring from the 
Northern and Middle States at the approach of winter. How 



41 6 FLYCATCHERS. 

far they proceed to the South at this season is not satisfac- 
torily ascertained ; a few, no doubt, winter in the milder parts 
of the Union, as Wilson saw them in February in the swamps 
of North and South Carolina, where they were feeding on 
smilax berries, and occasionally even giving their well-known 
notes; but in the winter and early spring of 1830, while em- 
ployed in an extensive pedestrian journey from South Carolina 
to Florida and Alabama, I never heard or met with an individ- 
ual of the species. Audubon found them abundant in the 
Floridas in winter. 

These faithful messengers of spring return to Pennsylvania as 
early as the first week in March, remain till October, and 
sometimes nearly to the middle of November. In Massa- 
chusetts they arrive about the beginning of April, and at first 
chiefly frequent the woods. 

Their favorite resort is near streams, ponds, or stagnant 
waters, about bridges, caves, and barns, where they choose to 
breed ; and, in short, wherever there is a good prospect for 
obtaining their insect food. Near such places our little hunter 
sits on the roof of some out-building, on a stake of the fence, 
or a projecting branch, calling out at short intervals and in a 
rapid manner phehe phebe, and at times in a more plaintive 
tone phee-he-ee. This quaint and querulous note, occasionally 
approaching to a warble, sometimes also sounds like pewait 
pewait, and then pe-wai-ee, also phebe phe-bee-ee, twice alter- 
nated ; the latter phrase somewhat soft and twittering. In the 
spring this not unpleasing guttural warble is kept up for hours 
together until late in the morning, and though not loud, may 
be heard to a considerable distance. From a roof I have 
heard these notes full half a mile across the water of a small 
lake ; and this cheerful, though monotonous, ditty is only in- 
terrupted for a few seconds as the performer darts and sweeps 
after his retreating prey of flies, frequently flirting and quiver- 
ing his tail and elevating his feathery cap, while sharply 
watching the motions of his fickle game. 

In the Middle States he begins to construct his nest about 
the latter end of March, in Massachusetts not before the first 



PHCEBE. 417 

week in April. The nest is situated under a bridge, in a cave, 
the side of a well 5 or 6 feet down, under a shed, or in the 
shelter of the low eaves of a cottage, and even in an empty 
kitchen ; sometimes it rests on a beam, though it is frequently 
attached to the side of a piece of roofing timber in the manner 
of the Swallow. 

According to the touching relation of Wilson, this humble 
and inoffensive bird forms conjugal attachments which 'prob- 
ably continue through life j for, like the faithful Bluebirds, 
a pair continued for several years to frequent and build in a 
romantic cave in the forest which made part of the estate of 
the venerable naturalist, William Bartrara. Here our unfortu- 
nate birds had again taken up their welcome lease for the 
summer, again chanted forth their simple lay of affection, and 
cheered my aged friend with the certain news of spring ; when 
unexpectedly a party of idle boys, one fatal Saturday, de- 
stroyed with the gun the parents of this old and peaceful 
settlement ; and from that time forward no other pair were 
ever seen around this once happy, now desolate spot. 

Their attachment to particular places is indeed remarkable. 
About the middle of April, 1831, at the Fresh Pond Hotel, in 
this vicinity, three different nests were begun in the public 
boat-house, which may be here considered almost as a thorough- 
fare. Only one nest, however, was completed ; and we could 
not help admiring the courage and devotedness with which 
the parents fed their young, and took their alternate station 
by the side of the nest, undaunted in our presence, only now 
and then uttering a 'tship when observed too narrowly. Some 
ruffian at length tore down the nest and carried off the brood ; 
but our Pewit immediately commenced a new fabric, laid 5 
additional eggs in the same place with the first, and, in haste 
to finish her habitation, lined it with the silvery shreds of a 
Manilla rope which she discovered in the contiguous loft 
over the boat-house. For several previous seasons the parents 
had taken up their abode in this vicinity, and seemed unwil- 
ling to remove from the neighborhood they had once chosen, 
in spite of the most untoward circumstances. In two other 

VOL. I. — 27 



41 8 FLYCATCHERS. 

instances I have known a pair, when the nest and eggs were 
taken by some mischievous boys, commence a new nest in 
the same place, and laying a smaller number of eggs, raised 
a second brood. In one of those nests, under a bridge, the 
insidious Cowbird had also dropped her parasitic egg. 

Towards the time of their departure for the South, which is 
about the middle of October, they are silent, and previously 
utter their notes more seldom, as if mourning the decay of 
Nature, and anticipating the approaching famine which now 
urges their migration. In the Middle States they raise two 
broods in the season ; but in Massachusetts the Pewit rarely 
raises more than a single brood, unless, as in the instance re- 
lated, they have had the misfortune to lose the first hatch. 
The young, dispersed through the woods in small numbers, 
may now and then be heard to the close of September exer- 
cising their feeble voices in a guttural phebe. But the old birds 
are almost wholly silent, or but little heard, as they flit timidly 
through the woods, when once released from the cares of rear- 
ing their infant brood ; so that here the Phoebe's note is almost 
a concomitant of spring and the mildest opening of summer, — 
it is, indeed, much more vigorous in April and May than at 
any succeeding period. 

The Phcebe is an uncommon bird in the Maritime Provinces, 
but more common in the vicinity of Montreal and westward to 
Western Ontario, and in all the Eastern States. It breeds from 
Manitoba and Newfoundland to South Carolina, and winters in the 
Gulf States as well as in Cuba and Mexico. 



Note. --Mr. G. S. Miller, Jr., captured on Cape Cod, in Sep- 
tember, 1889, an example of Say's Phcebe {Sayoniis saya\ the 
first that has been taken to the eastward of the Great Plains. 



WOOD PEWEE. 419 

WOOD PEWEE. 

CONTOPUS VIRENS. 

Char. Upper parts olive brown, darker on the head; lower parts 
whitish, with dull yellow tinge ; sides pale olive, extending across the 
breast ; tail and wings dusky ; wings with bars of whitish. Head with 
inconspicuous crest. Length 6 to 6%, inches. 

JVest. On branch of a tree ; of twigs and grass, covered exteriorly 
with lichens and lined with moss. 

Eggs. 3-4; creamy white with spots of brown and lilac wreathed 
about the larger end; 0.75 X 0.55. 

This species has much the appearance of the common Pewit 
Flycatcher, but differs essentially by its note and habits. The 
Wood Pewee appears generally to winter south of the United 
States, and scarcely arrives in Pennsylvania or New England 
before the middle of May; its migrations, in all probability, 
extend to Canada. According to Audubon, many of them 
winter in the southern extremity of the United States, and Mr. 
Townsend and myself frequently saw them in the dark forests 
of the Oregon. It is a solitary species, frequenting gloomy 
forests and dark orchards, where, watching on some dead and 
projecting branch for its insect prey, it sweeps at intervals 
amidst the shade, and the occasional snapping of its bill an- 
nounces the success of its flight. It then again alights as 
before, sometimes uttering a sort of gratulatory low twitter, 
accompanied by a quivering of the wings and tail ; and in the 
lapse of its employment, in a feeble, sighing tone, often cries 
pee-wee or pee-e^ and sometimes pl-wee pewittitee or pewittee 
p'e-wee. This note is continued often till quite late in the 
evening, at which time many of the insect brood and moths 
are abundant. Most of these birds, indeed, appear capable of 
collecting their food by the feeblest light, the only season when 
some of their favorite prey ever stir abroad. This species also 
appears particularly fond of small wild bees. From June to 
September, its soHtary notes are heard in the field and forest ; 
after which time, preparing for its departure, and intently glean- 
ing food in every situation, it sometimes approaches the city, 



420 FLYCATCHERS. 

often examines the courts and gardens, at the same time feed- 
ing and training its young to the habits of their subsistence, 
and about the first week in October it retires south to pass the 
winter. 

The Pewee is a very expert and cautious flycatcher ; and as 
if aware of the drowsiness of insects in the absence of the sun's 
broad hght, he is on the alert at day-dawn after his prey. At 
this early period, and often in the dusk of evening, for the most 
part of summer till the middle of August, he serenades the 
neighborhood of his mansion from 3 to 4 or 5 o'clock in the 
morning, with an almost uninterrupted chanting ditty, sweet, 
but monotonous, like pe-ay pay-wee, pe-ay pay-wee, then in a 
little higher and less sing-song tone, his usual and more serious 
pee-d-iuee. In dark and damp mornings this curious warble is 
sometimes continued nearly to 8 o'clock; and the effect of 
this tender, lulling lay in the gray dawn, before the awakening 
of other birds, and their mingling chorus, is singular and pecu- 
liarly pleasing. It is a gratulatory feeling of unmixed and 
placid delight, concomitant with the mild reviving light of the 
opening day and the perfect joy of the mated male, satisfied in 
every reasonable desire, — in short, a hymn of praise to the 
benevolent Author and Supporter of existence ! 

Towards the period of departure they become wholly silent ; 
and driven to extremity, they may now be seen watching the 
stagnant pools and ponds, dipping occasionally into the still 
surface after their drowsy and languid prey. Like the King- 
bird, this species at times displays a tyrannical disposition ; and 
I have observed one to chase a harmless Sparrow to the ground 
for safety, who merely by inadvertence happened to approach 
the station he had temporarily chosen for collecting his insect 
game. 

The notes of peto-way peto-way pee-way are never uttered 
by this species; but on the 12th of February, 1830, in Ala- 
bama, I heard, at that season, a bird uttering this note, and 
several times afterwards I saw a rather large and dark Fly- 
catcher in the pine woods, to which I attributed this call, and 
which must be a distinct species, as its notes bear no resem- 



LEAST FLYCATCHER. 42 1 

blance to those of the Wood Pewee, — at this season probably 
in South America. 

The Pewee, I believe, raises here but a single brood, which 
are not abroad before the middle of July. The nest is ex- 
tremely neat and curious, almost universally saddled upon an 
old moss-grown and decayed limb in an horizontal position, 
and is so remarkably shallow, and incorporated upon the 
branch, as to be very easily overlooked. The body of the 
fabric consists of wiry grass or root-fibres, often blended with 
small branching lichens, held together with cobwebs and cat- 
erpillar's silk, moistened with saliva ; externally it is so coated 
over with bluish crustaceous lichens as to be hardly discernible 
from the moss upon the tree. It is lined with finer root-fibres 
or slender grass stalks. Some nests are, however, scarcely 
hned at all, being so thin as readily to admit the light through 
them, and are often very lousy, with a species of acarus which 
probably infests the old birds. 

The plaintive and almost pathetic note of the Wood Pewee is a 
familiar sound amid the orchards of New Brunswick, and the bird 
is of common occurrence through Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba. 
It breeds south to Florida, and winters southward to Mexico and 
Guatemala. 



LEAST FLYCATCHER. 

CHEBEC. 

Empidonax minimus. 

Char. Upper parts olive; lower parts white, tinged with yellow; 
the breast washed with olive gray ; wings with two bars of grayish white. 
Length 5 to 5^ inches. 

Nest. On fork of a tree; of twigs and grass, lined with grass or 
feathers. 

Eggs. 3-5; creamy white, usually unspotted ; 0.65 X 0.50. 

This is one of our most common summer birds in this part 
of New England, arriving from the South about the last week 
in April, and leaving us to retire probably to tropical America 
about the beginning of September or sometimes a little later. 
It also extends its migrations to Labrador and the Oregon 



422 FLYCATCHERS. 

Territory, and seems most abundant in the Northern and 
Eastern States. Though, hke the preceding, these are soUtary, 
retiring birds, and fond of the shade of the forest, yet in this 
vicinity their nests are numerous. On their first arrival, pre- 
vious to pairing, they are engaged in constant quarrels about 
their mates, and often molest other birds whom they happen to 
see employed in pursuit of the same kind of food with them- 
selves. Like the preceding species, they take their station on 
a low branch to reconnoitre the passing insects on which they 
feed, and from time to time make a circular sweep for their 
prey. When seated, they utter very frequently a sharp, un- 
pleasant squeak, somewhat resembling that of the Kingbird, 
sounding like queah, and sometimes 'tsh'ah, or tsheah, tsheah^ 
and tshooe, with a guttural, snapping sound, succeeded by a 
kind of querulous, low twitter uttered as they fly from tree to 
tree, and chiefly at the instant of alighting. At other times 
they have a recognizing, rather low call of 'whit, ^whif, re- 
peated at short intervals; again, in the warmest weather, I 
have heard one of these Pewees call something like the whist- 
ling of 'meet, 'weet, 'weet, 'will. Occasionally, when fighting 
or in flying, it also makes an echoing tshirr. It possesses all 
the habits of the Kingbird, catches bees, flies, and moths, ex- 
hibits a variety of quivering motions, and defends its nest with 
great courage against the approach of larger birds. 

The nest of the Small Pewee is usually fixed in the slender, 
upright forks of a young forest tree from 6 to 20 or 30 feet 
from the ground. I have also found the nests on the horizon- 
tal branch of an apple-tree or forest tree. In most instances 
in the woods a gloomy, solitary situation is chosen. The mate- 
rials of this fabric vary according to circumstances ; for the 
first brood a very soft and warm nest is usually made of dry 
grass, willow, and cud-weed down in large quantities, partly 
felted or matted together externally with the saliva of the 
bird. Common tow, if convenient, is also occasionally em- 
ployed when the nest is in an apple-tree, for which some neigh- 
boring graft is probably unravelled. The interior is usually 
formed of slender, narrow strips of bark, bass, and dry grass ; 



LEAST FLYCATCHER. 423 

the lining is commonly of fine root-fibres, slender tops of bent 
grass, and at times a few hairs and feathers. Occasionally the 
principal external material consists of strips or strings of silk- 
weed lint and the bark of the common virgin's bower. The 
nest is extremely neat and uniform, resembling a complete 
hemisphere. As nests may be found late in July, it is 
probable they have a second brood in the course of the 
season. They are extremely attached to their offspring, and 
keep up an incessant, almost choking tshedh tsheah when 
any person approaches the tree where they have their 
brood. The young and old now move about in company, 
and at this time feed on various kinds of berries, partic- 
ularly those of the cornel and whortleberry. At length the 
young are seen to select each other's society, and rove about 
without any fixed resort, previous to their gradual departure. 
A pair, probably of the same brood, still lingered here in Sep- 
tember, and like the httle Parrots called Inseparable, appeared 
fondly to cherish each other's company. It was toward even- 
ing when I saw them, and at first they appeared inclined to 
roost in the shady willow-tree in which they had alighted. They 
nestled close to each other with looks and notes of tenderness 
and affection ; wherever one went, the other instantly followed, 
and the same branch contained the same contented pair. 

Nuttall followed Wilson in the mistake of supposing this species 
and acadicus to be identical, and in his account has mingled the 
biographies of the two. The latter is more southern in its distri- 
bution, the center of its breeding area being in the Middle States. 
" Chebec " is a common summer resident from Pennsylvania to the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence, and westward to the prairies. It winters 
south to Panama. 




TRAILL'S FLYCATCHER. 
Empidonax traillii alnoruivi. 

Char. Upper parts olive brown, darker on the head, lighter on the 
rump ; under parts whitish, the sides tinged with pale olive, which ex- 
tends nearly across the breast, the belly tinged with yellow; wings dusky, 
with yellowish white bars. Length 5^4 to 6 inches. 

Nest. On an upright fork in a clump of alders or low deciduous tree, 
I to 8 feet from the ground ; composed of grass roots or hempen fibre, 
lined usually with fine grass, sometimes with horse-hair or thistle-down. 

Eggs. 3-4 ; creamy white or buff, boldly spotted with light and dark 
brown chiefly about the larger end ; 0.70 X 0.53. 

This species, so nearly allied to the last, was first distin- 
guished by Audubon. Its note resembles the syllable ^wheety 
'wheet, articulated clearly while in the act of flying. It was 
first observed on the wooded skirts of the prairies along the 
banks of the Arkansas. Mr. Townsend and myself observed it 
in various places in the skirts of the forests of the Columbia 
and Wahlamet during the summer, when it was breeding, but 
we could not discover the nest. Its motions are thus de- 
scribed by Audubon : " When leaving the top branches of a 
low tree this bird takes long flights, skimming in zig-zag lines, 
passing close over the tops of the tall grasses, snapping at and 
seizing different species of winged insects, and returning to the 
same trees to alight." 

Traill's Flycatcher is chiefly a spring and autumn migrant 
through southern New England, though a few pairs breed as far 



ACADIAN FLYCATCHER. 425 

south as Long Island, It is a common summer resident of Maine 
and of the northern part of Vermont and New Hampshire, and 
is not uncommon on the Berkshire hills in Massachusetts. It is 
common in New Brunswick. West of this region it breeds farther 
to the southward, being common in the middle of Ohio and in 
southern Illinois and Missouri. Mr. Mcllwraith considers it un- 
common in Ontario, and Mr. Thompson reports it common in 
Manitoba. It winters in Central America. 

There has been considerable discussion over the breeding habits 
of this species, caused by the difference in habits of the Western 
birds from those which breed near the Atlantic. Here the favorite 
site is a clump of alders near a running stream, and the nest is 
placed within a foot or two of the ground ; while in the West a 
small tree is generally selected, — sometimes an oak, — and the 
nest is placed as high as ten feet. The nest, in the West, is not so 
compactly or neatly made, and the materials are coarser. The note 
of this bird — for while the Flycatchers are not classed with tlie 
Oscmes, or Singing-Birds, they add not a little to our forest melo- 
dies — is peculiar, though strictly of the family type. It sounds 
something like ke-wink delivered with a rising inflection and the 
accent on the final sound, which is prolonged, — quite a different 
note from the abrupt chebec of minimus. I have never heard the 
song uttered on the wing ; but when the bird is perching, the head 
is tossed back, and the note is fiung out with a decided emphasis 
of manner as well as of voice. 



ACADIAN FLYCATCHER. 

Empidoxax virescens. 

Char. Upper parts olive, slightly darker on crown; under parts 
whitish, the sides tinged with pale olive, which reaches almost across the 
breast; belly tinged with pale yellow; wings and tail dusky; wing-bars 
bu%. Length 5^ to 6 inches. 

Nest. In a tree, suspended on fork of twigs at the extremity of a low 
limb; rather loosely made of moss or grasses and shreds of bark bound 
with spider's webbing. 

^ggs- 2-4; buff or creamy white, spotted, chiefly about the larger 
end, with reddish brown; 0.75 X 0.55. 

The older writers had rather confused ideas regarding these 
small Flycatchers, and Nuttall supposed he was writing of the 
present species, when the bird he had in mind was yninim^is. 



426 FLYCATCHERS. 

The Acadian Flycatcher belongs to the Middle States rather 
than to New England, and has been taken but once north of the 
Connecticut valley. It is abundant in Ohio and Illinois, but has 
not been observed in Ontario. Mr. Thompson reports it as com- 
mon in Manitoba. It breeds south to Florida, and winters in 
Central America. 

I have not met with this species in the field, but those who have 
been so fortunate describe it as a shy bird, seeking the low, moist 
thicket and shaded groves rather than the open pastures. Dr. 
Coues thinks the nest " may be compared to a light hammock 
swung between forks." It is shallow and saucer-shaped, and so 
loosely made that the eggs may be seen from below. Dr. Wheaton 
states that so much loose grass is left on the outside of the nest 
" that it looks like a tuft of hay caught by the limb from a load 
driven under it." 

Mr. Chapman tells us that the most common call of this bird is 
" a single spee or peet repeated at short intervals, and accompanied 
by a rapid twitching of the tail. A more peculiar note is a louder 
pee-e-ytik. The bird seems to articulate this note with difificulty, 
with bill pointing upward and wings trembling, like a fledgling 
begging for food." 



YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. 

EmPIDONAX FLAVrVENTRIS. 

Char. Upper parts dull olive, darker on the crown; under parts 
bright yellow, shaded with olive on the breast ; wing-bars pale yellow ; a 
yellow ring around the eye. Length 5^^ to 6 inches. 

Nest. Amid moss-covered roots of upturned tree or mossy log ; of 
twigs, or vegetable fibre, or moss, lined with roots, or fine grass, or 
moss. 

Eggs. 4 ; pale buff, sparingly spotted, mostly about larger end, with 
reddish brown; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This species was discovered about 1843, ^ri*^ ^or many years — 
as late as 1880 — was considered a rare bird. Even now compar- 
atively few persons are familiar with it, though it occurs throughout 
this Eastern Province. It is common in New England, breeding 
in the northern portion, and occurs on the higher hills elsewhere. 
*I found it abundant in New Brunswick, and it has been traced 
northward to the lower Hudson Bay region. Macoun reports it 
common at Lake Mistissini. 



YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. 427 

Dr. Wheaton considered it a common migrant through Ohio, 
but observers in Ontario have met with it so seldom as to think 
it rare, though Ridgway says the bird is common in Illinois, and 
Thompson found it in Manitoba. 

The notes of this species have caused much discussion, — some 
writers claiming for it an individuality, and others insisting that it 
utters nothing different from the notes of traillii or ininitnus. The 
kil-lic of flaviventris seems, to my ear, quite different from the 
ke-wink of Traill's, — which is rather sibilant, and is delivered 
with a rising inflection, — and differs also from the che-bec of the 
Least Flycatcher. While the latter delivers the last two notes 
abruptly and makes more or less pause after each couplet, the 
Yellow-bellied whistles four notes, kil-lic kil-lic^ with but a short 
pause — a mere rest — between each pair, and delivers the notes 
with a trifle less abruptness. Dr. Dwight thinks the song "is more 
suggestive of a sneeze on the bird's part, than of any other sound 
with which it may be compared." 

Other notes of the present species resemble pea and pe-we-yea. 
These are heard when a pair are in close companionship. They 
are soft, sweet, cooing-notes, delivered in a plaintive tone that 
suggests the tender pathos of the Pewee's. 



Note. — The Fork-tailed Flycatcher {Milvuhis tyran- 
nus), a bird of Central and South America, has occasionally 
wandered north, and been taken in Mississippi, Kentucky, and 
New Jersey. 

Also a few examples of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 
{MUvmIus for/icatiis), which rarely appears north or east of 
Texas, have been seen in Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, 
Ontario, and Manitoba, and one wandered to the shores of 
Hudson Bayc 




CAROLINA PAROQUET. 

CAROLINA PARROT. PARAKEET. 
CONURUS CAROLINENSIS. 

Char. Head and neck yellow ; forehead and sides of head orange 
red ; body and tail green, the belly tinged with yellow ; wings green and 
yellow, the edges tinged with orange red. In immature specimens the 
yellow of head and neck is replaced by green. Length about 13 inches. 

Nest. In dense woods or cypress swamp ; placed on a fork near the 
end of a branch or in a hole in a tree. When on a branch it is made of 
cypress twigs loosely woven, and a nest in a hole is usually lined with 
cypress twigs. When abundant the birds generally build in large colonies. 

Eggs. 2-5 (.?) ; greenish white or creamy; 1.40 X 1.05. 

Of more than 200 species now known to belong to this 
remarkable and brilliant genus, the present is the only one 
found inhabiting the United States ; it is also restricted to the 
warmer parts, rarely venturing beyond the State of Virginia. 
West of the Alleghanies, however, circumstances induce these 
birds commonly to visit much higher latitudes ; so that, fol- 



CAROLINA PAROQUET. 429 

lowing the great valley of the Mississippi, they are seen to 
frequent the banks of the Illinois, and occasionally to approach 
the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Straggling parties 
even have sometimes been seen in the valley of the Juniata in 
Pennsylvania, and a flock, to the great surprise of the Dutch 
inhabitants of Albany, are said to have appeared in that vicin- 
ity. They constantly inhabit and breed in the Southern States, 
and are so far hardy as to make their appearance, commonly 
in the depth of winter, along the woody banks of the Ohio, 
the interior of x\labama, the banks of the Mississippi and 
Missouri around St. Louis, and other places, when nearly all 
other birds have migrated before the storms of the season. 

The Carolina Parrakeets in all their movements, which are 
uniformly gregarious, show a peculiar predilection for the allu- 
vial, rich, and dark forests bordering the principal rivers and 
larger streams, in which the towering cypress and gigantic 
sycamore spread their vast summits, or stretch their innumer- 
able arms over a wide waste of moving or stagnant waters. 
From these, the beech, and the hack-berry, they derive an 
important supply of food. The flocks, moving in the manner 
of wild Pigeons, dart in swift and airy phalanx through the 
green boughs of the forest ; screaming in a general concert, they 
wheel in wide and descending circles round the tall button- 
wood, and all alight at the same instant, their green vesture, 
like the fairy mantle, rendering them nearly invisible beneath 
the shady branches, where they sit perhaps arranging their 
plumage and shufiling side by side, seeming to caress and 
scratch each other's heads with all the fondness and unvarying 
friendship of affectionate Doves. If the gun thin their ranks 
they hover over the screaming, wounded, or dying, and return- 
ing and flying around the place where they miss their compan- 
ions, in their sympathy seem to lose all idea of impending 
danger. When more fortunate in their excursions, they next 
proceed to gratify the calls of hunger, and descend to the 
banks of the river or the neighboring fields in quest of the 
inviting kernels of the cockle-burr, and probably of the bitter- 
weed, which they extract from their husks with great dexterity. 



430 PARROTS. 

In the depth of winter, when other resources begin to fail, 
they, in common with the Yellow Bird and some other 
Finches, assemble among the tall sycamores, and hanging 
from the extreme twigs in the most airy and graceful postures, 
scatter around them a cloud of down from the pendant balls 
in quest of the seeds, which now afford them an ample repast. 
With that pecuUar caprice, or perhaps appetite, which char- 
acterizes them, they are also observed to frequent the saline 
springs or licks to gratify their uncommon taste for salt. Out 
of mere wantonness they often frequent the orchards, and 
appear delighted with the fruitless frolic of plucking apples 
from the trees and strewing them on the ground untasted. 
So common is this practice among them in Arkansas Territory 
that no apples are ever suffered to ripen. They are also fond 
of some sorts of berries, and particularly of mulberries, which 
they eat piecemeal in their usual manner as they hold them by 
the foot. According to Audubon, they likewise attack the 
outstanding stacks of grain in flocks, committing great waste ; 
and on these occasions, as well as the former, they are so 
bold or incautious as readily to become the prey of the sports- 
man in great numbers. Peculiarity of food appears wholly to 
influence the visits and residence of this bird, and in plain, 
champaign, or mountainous countries they are wholly strangers, 
though common along the banks of all the intermediate 
watercourses and lagoons. 

Of their manners at the interesting period of propagation 
and incubation we are not yet satisfactorily informed. They 
nest in hollow trees and take little if any pains to provide more 
than a simple hollow in which to lay their eggs, like the Wood- 
peckers. They are at all times particularly attached to the 
large sycamores, in the hollow trunks of which they roost in 
close community, and enter at the same aperture into which 
they chmb. They are said to cling close to the sides of the 
tree, holding fast by the claws and bill ; and into these hollows 
they often retire during the day, either in very warm or incle- 
ment weather, to sleep or pass away the time in indolent and 
social security, like the Rupicolas of the Peruvian caves, at 



CAROLINA PAROQUET. 43 1 

length only hastily aroused to forage at the calls of hunger. 
Indeed, from the swiftness and celerity of their aerial move- 
ments, darting through the gleaming sunshine like so many 
sylvan cherubs decked in green and gold, it is obvious that 
their actions as well as their manners are not calculated for 
any long endurance ; and shy and retiring from all society but 
that to which they are inseparably wedded, they rove abroad 
with incessant activity until their wants are gratified, when, hid 
from sight, they again relapse into that indolence which seems 
a relief to their exertions. 

The Carolina Parrot is readily tamed, and early shows an 
attachment to those around who bestow any attention on its 
wants ; it soon learns to recollect its name and to answer and 
come when called on. It does not, however, evince much, if 
any, capacity for mimicking human speech or sounds of any 
kind, and as a domestic is very peaceable and rather taciturn. 
It is extremely fond of nuts and almonds, and may be sup- 
ported on the vegetable food usually given to other species. 
One which I saw at Tuscaloosa, a week after being disabled in 
the wing, seemed perfectly reconciled to its domestic condi- 
tion ; and as the weather was rather cold, it remained the 
greater part of the time in the house, climbing up the sides of 
the wire fender to enjoy the warmth of the fire. I was in- 
formed that when first caught it scaled the side of the room 
at night, and roosted in a hanging posture by the bill and 
claws ; but finding the labor difficult and fruitless, having no 
companion near which to nestle, it soon submitted to pass the 
night on the back of a chair. 

I fear that the story of this gorgeously apparalled bird is nearly 
finished. It is not quite exterminated yet, but of the large flocks 
that were once to be seen all over the Southern States, only a mere 
remnant can be found, and these are hidden amid the dense 
swamps of central Florida and along the lower valley of the Mis- 
sissippi. The farmers and fruit-growers were obliged to kill large 
numbers, and later woman's vanity and man's greed have joined 
hands to carry on the slaughter. From the combined attack of 
such foes the remnant has but slight chance for escape. 




YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. 

RAIN CROW. 

COCCYZUS AMERICANUS. 

Char. Upper mandible and tip of lower, black ; rest of lower mandi* 
ble and cutting edges of upper, yellow. Upper parts olive, with a slight 
metallic gloss, tinged with ash toward the bill ; wings tinged with rufous ; 
middle feathers of tail like back, remainder black tipped with white ; 
beneath, white or creamy. Length about 12 inches. 

Nest. In a thicket by the side of a stream or on the border of a 
swamp ; placed in a bush or low tree. A flat, frail affair made of twigs 
loosely laid, sometimes lined with bark strips or grass. 

Eggs. 2-6 (usually 4) ; pale dull green or bluish green; 1.25 X 0.90. 

The American Cuckoo arrives in the middle and colder 
States of the Union about the close of April or the first week 
of May, and proceeds to the north as far as Nova Scotia. 
It probably winters in Mexico, and individuals pass no farther 
than the forests of Louisiana. We also met with it in the 
remote Territory of Oregon. Latham speaks of these birds 
also as inhabitants of the tropical island of Jamaica. They 
delight in the shady retirement of the forest, and are equally 
common in tall thickets and orchards, where, like piratical 
prowlers, they skulk and hide among the thickest boughs ; and 
although, unlike the European Cuckoo, they are faithfully paired, 
yet the pair are seldom seen in the same tree, but, shy and 
V\^atchful, endeavor to elude everything like close observation. 



YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. 433 

The male, however, frequently betrays his snug retreat by his 
monotonous and guttural kow kow kow kow, or koo koo koo 
koo, and ko kuky ko kuk, koo koo koo kick, koo ko koo, koo 
ko koo, uttered rather low and plaintively, Uke the call of the 
Dove. At other times the kow kow kow, and 'tk 'tk 'tk 'tk 
'tdk, or 'kh 'kh 'kh 'kh 'kah kow kow kow- kow, beginning 
slow, rises, and becomes so quick as almost to resemble the 
grating of a watchman's rattle, or else, commencing with this 
call, terminates in the distant cry of kow kow kow. From this 
note, supposed to be most clamorous at the approach of rain, 
it has received in Virginia and other States the name of Rain- 
Ci'ow and Cow-Bird. At various seasons during the contin- 
uance of warm weather the vigil kow kow kow kow of the 
faithful male is uttered for hours at intervals throughout the 
night. The same notes, but delivered in a slower and rather 
tender strain, are given with great regularity likewise in the 
day as long as the period of incubation continues. He often 
steadfastly watches any approach to the nest, going to it occa- 
sionally to assure himself that it is unmolested ; and at times 
he may be observed darting even at the dormant bat, who 
accidentally seeks repose beneath the shady leaves of some 
contiguous tree, so that he is no less vigilant in seeking the 
security of his own progeny than in piratically robbing the 
nests of his neighbors. There are two or three other species 
in Jamaica and other parts of tropical America possessing a 
note very similar to that of our bird, which also frequently 
approaches, when delivered in the plaintive mood, koo koo and 
koo koo koo, the usual sound of the European Cuckoo. There 
is a Mexican species ( Cucidus ridibundiis) which so simulates 
laughter as to have excited the superstition of the natives, 
by whom it is hated as a messenger of evil, its accidental 
note of risibility being construed into an ominous delight in 
misfortune. 

The whole tribe of Cuckoos are in disgrace for the unnatural 
conduct of the European and some other foreign species, who, 
making no nests nor engaging in conjugal cares parasitically 
deposit their eggs one by one in the nests of other small birds, 

VOL. I. — 28 



434 CUCKOOS. 

to whom the care of rearing the vagrant foundhng is uniformly 
consigned. 

But we may turn with satisfaction to the conjugal history of 
our own subject, which, early in May or soon after its arrival, 
may be at times observed obstinately engaged in the quarrels 
of selective attachment. The dispute being settled, the nest is 
commenced, and usually fixed either in the horizontal branches 
of an apple-tree or in a thicket, a thorn-bush, crab, cedar, or 
other small tree in some retired part of the woods. The fabric 
is usually very slovenly and hastily put together, and possesses 
scarcely any concavity for the reception of the young, who in 
consequence often fall out of their uncomfortable cradle. The 
nest is a mere flooring of twigs put together in a zig-zag form, 
then blended with green weeds or leaves and withered blos- 
soms of the maple, apple, or hickory catkins. A nest near the 
Botanic Garden had, besides twigs, fragments of bass-mat, and 
was very uncomfortably heated, and damp with the fermenta- 
tion of the green tops of a species of maple introduced into it, 
and the whole swarmed with thrush-lice or millipedes. The 
eggs are of a bluish-green color, often pale, varying in the 
shade and without spots ; they are somewhat round and rather 
large. If they are handled before the commencement of incu- 
bation, the owner generally forsakes the nest, but is very tena- 
cious and affectionate towards her young, and sits so close as 
almost to allow of being taken off by the hand. She then 
frequently precipitates herself to the ground, fluttering, tumb- 
ling, and feigning lameness, in the manner of many other affec- 
tionate and artful birds, to draw the intruder away from the 
premises of her brood. At such times the mother also adds to 
the contrivance by uttering most uncouth and almost alarming 
guttural sounds, like qua quah gwaih, as if choking, as she runs 
along the ground. While the female is thus dutifully engaged 
in sitting on her charge, the male takes his station at no great 
distance, and gives alarm by his notes at the approach of any 
intruder ; and when the young are hatched, both unite in the 
labor of providing them with food, which, like their own, con- 
sists chiefly of the hairy caterpillars, rejected by other birds, 



YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. 433 

that so commonly infest the apple-trees, and live in commu- 
nities within a common silky web. They also devour the large 
yellow cockchafer, Carabi, and other kinds of insects, as well 
as various sorts of berries ; but their worst propensity is the 
parasitic habit of sucking the eggs of other birds, thus spread- 
ing ruin and dismay wherever they approach. They hatch 
several broods in a season, and I have seen a nest with eggs in 
it as late as the 28th of August ! — though they usually take their 
departure in some part of the month of September. Consid- 
ering the time they are engaged in breeding, they raise but few 
young, appearing to be improvident nurses and bad nest- 
makers, so that a considerable part of their progeny are either 
never hatched, or perish soon after. These birds are greatly 
attached to places where small birds resort, for the sake of 
sucking their eggs ; and I have found it difficult at times to 
eject them, as when their nests are robbed, without much con- 
cern they commence again in the same vicinity, but adding 
caution to their operations in proportion to the persecution 
they meet with. In this way, instead of their exposing the 
nest in some low bush, I have with difficulty met with one at 
least in a tall larch, more than fifty feet from the ground. 
When wholly routed, the male kept up a mournful kow kow 
kbw for several days, appearing now sensible by experience of 
his own predatory practices. 

Careless in providing comfort for her progeny, the Amer- 
ican Cuckoo, like that of Europe, seems at times inclined to 
throw the charge of her offspring on other birds. Approach- 
ing to this habit, I have found an Qgg of the Cuckoo in the 
nest of a Catbird ; yet though the habitation was usurped, the 
intruder probably intended to hatch her own eggs. At another 
time, on the 15th of June, 1830, I saw a Robin's nest with two 
eggs in it indented and penetrated by the bill of a bird, and 
the Qgg of a Cuckoo deposited in the same nest. Both 
birds forsook the premises, so that the object of this forcible 
entry was not ascertained, — though the mere appropriation 
of the nest would seem to have been the intention of the 
Cuckoo. 



436 CUCKOOS. 

This Cuckoo occurs throughout this Faunal Province north to 
New Brunswick, its breeding area extending south to Florida. 
Nuttall has not mentioned one peculiar habit of this bird, — that of 
laying eggs at such long intervals that young in very different stages 
of maturity are frequently found in the same nest, as also young 
birds and partially incubated eggs. The practice of laying its eggs 
in the nests of other birds is seldom indulged in, — indeed, the 
known instances are extremely rare. 



BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. 

RAIN CROW. 
COCCYZUS ERYTHROPHTHALMUS. 

Char. Above, olive brown with a slight metallic gloss, tinged with 
ash toward the bill ; wings slightly tinged with rufous ; tail similar to 
back, outer feathers slightly tinged with gray, narrowly tipped with white. 
Beneath, white, tinged on the throat with pale buff. Bill black. Length 
about 12 inches. 

Nest. On the edge of a swampy wood, usually in a retired situation 
placed generally in a low bush ; made of twigs, strips of bark, moss, and 
catkins. Similar to the nest of the Yellow-billed, but somewhat firmer 
and more artistic. 

Eggs. 2-6 (usually 4) ; deep glaucous green; i.io X 0.80. 

This species, so nearly related to the preceding, is also 
equally common throughout the United States in summer, and 
extends its migrations about as far as the line of Nova Scotia 
or Newfoundland. This kind also exists in the island of St. 
Domingo and Guiana, and the birds which visit us probably 
retire to pass the winter in the nearest parts of tropical 
America. They arrive in Massachusetts later than the Yellow- 
billed Cuckoo, and the first brood are hatched here about the 
4th of June. In Georgia they begin to lay towards the close 
of April. Their food, like that of the preceding species, also 
consists of hairy caterpillars, beetles, and other insects, and 
even minute shell-fish. They also, like many birds of other 
orders, swallow gravel to assist digestion. 

They usually retire into the woods to breed, being less 
familiar than the former, choosing an evergreen bush or sap- 
ling for the site of the nest, which is made of twigs pretty well 



MANGROVE CUCKOO. 437 

put together, but still little more than a concave flooring, and 
lined with moss occasionally, and withered catkins of the hick- 
ory. The female sits very close on the nest, admitting a near 
approach before flying ; the young, before acquiring their 
feathers, are of a uniform bright grayish blue ; at a little dis- 
tance from the nest the male keeps up the usual rattling call 
of kow kow kow kow, the note increasing in loudness and 
quickness ; sometimes the call seems like kh' kh' kh' kh' 'kh 
'kak, the notes growing louder, and running together like those 
of the Yellow-winged Woodpecker. This species has also, 
before rain, a peculiar call, in a raucous, guttural voice, like 
orrattotoo or worrattotoo. It is less timorous than the Yellow- 
billed kind ; and near the nest with young, I have observed 
the parent composedly sit and plume itself for a considerable 
time without showing any alarm at my presence. It is equally 
addicted to the practice of sucking the eggs of other birds. 
Indeed, one that I saw last summer, kept up for hours a con- 
stant watch after the eggs of a Robin sitting in an apple-tree, 
which, with her mate, kept up at intervals a running fight with 
the Cuckoo for two days in succession. 

This species is considered less abundant than the Yellow-billed, 
but it has much the same general distribution ; it goes, however, 
farther north, having been taken in Newfoundland and Labrador, 
and is common in Manitoba, where the Yellow-billed is not found. 
The Black-billed is rather common in New Brunswick and Nova 
Scotia and throughout New England. 



MANGROVE CUCKOO. 

CoCCi^ZUS MINOR. 

Char. Above, olive ; head, ashy; below, buff with tawny tinge, paler 
towards the chi . ; middle tail-feather olive, rest black, broadly tipped 
with white. Length 12 inches. 

Nest. In a low tree or bush ; loosely made of twigs. 

^SS^- 3~4> pale green or bluish green; 1.25 X 0.90. 

The Mangrove Cuckoo is especially a West Indian bird, but is 
a resident also of the Florida Keys, though not common there. 
A few examples have been met with in Louisiana. 



438 WOODPECKERS. 

Note. — Maynard's Cuckoo (C minor maynardi), a smaller 
race, with paler lower parts, is found in the Bahama islands and in 
Southern Florida. 

Note. — Nuttall made no mention in his book of the Ani {Croto- 
phaga ani), a South American bird that had been found in Loui- 
siana and Florida. It was but a straggler within the borders of the 
United States in his day, and is still considered a rare bird here. 
A few years ago one was taken near Philadelphia by Mr. John 
Krider. 



FLICKER. 



GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. PIGEON WOODPECKER. 
HIGH-HOLDER. 

COLAPTES AURATUS. 

Char. Male: above, olive brown barred with black; crown and 
sides of neck bluish gray ; red crescent on nape ; *' moustache " black ; 
rump white ; beneath, pale brown with pink and yellow tints, each feather 
bearing a spot of black ; breast with conspicuous black crescent ; shafts 
and under surface of wings and tail golden yellow. Female : similar, but 
without the black " moustache." Length about I2}i inches. 

N'est. In open woodland, pasture, or orchard ; a cavity excavated in 
dead trunk, and unlined save for the fine chips made by the boring. 

^^^^- 6-10 (usually 2 or 7) ; snow white, with surface like highly 
polished ivory; i.io X 0.90. 

This beautiful and well-known bird breeds and inhabits 
throughout North America, from Labrador and the remotest 
wooded regions of the fur countries to Florida, being partially 
migratory only from Canada and the Northern States, proceed- 
ing to the South in October, and returning North in April. 
From the great numbers seen in the Southern States in winter 
it is evident that the major part migrate thither from the North 
and West to pass the inclement season, which naturally de- 
prives them of the means of acquiring their usual sustenance. 
At this time also they feed much on winter berries, such as 
those of the sumach, smilax, and mistletoe. In the Middle 
States some of these birds find the means of support through 
the most inclement months of the winter. In New England 
they reappear about the beginning of April, soon after which 



PI^ 




1 . Tviil) v-Thro ate d Hummino'bird . 4' . AvTiip -Po or -\V ill . 

2.Barn SwalloAr. 5 . Cardinal. 

3 . Fli cker. 6 . Red-Headed Woodpecker. 



FLICKER. 439 

they commence to pair and build ; for this purpose they often 
make choice of the trunk of a decayed apple or forest tree, at 
different heights from the ground. When an accidental cavity 
is not conveniently found, confident in the formidable means 
provided them by nature, with no other aid than the bill, they 
have been known to make a winding burrow through a solid 
oak for 15 inches in length. At this labor, for greater secu- 
rity and privacy, they continue till late in the evening, and 
may be heard dealing blows as loud and successive as if aided 
by the tools of the carpenter. My friend Mr. Gambel ob- 
served the present spring (1840) a burrow of this kind in 
Cambridge, excavated out of the living trunk of a sassafras 
about 15 feet from the ground. It was about 8 inches in 
diameter and 18 inches deep, dug with a shelving inclination; 
and was continued at intervals for more than 4 weeks before 
it was completed. The eggs, about 6, and pure white, are 
deposited merely upon the fragments of wood which line the 
natural or artificial cavity thus forming the nest. This cell, 
before the young are fledged, acquires a rank and disagreeable 
smell ; and on inserting the hand into it, the brood unite in 
producing a hissing, like so many hidden snakes. They at 
length escape from this fetid den in which they are hatched ; 
and climbing sometimes into the higher branches of the tree, 
are there fed until able to fly. At other times the young cling 
to their protecting cell with great pertinacity, so that the 
female will often call upon them for hours together {quedh 
quedh), trying every art to induce them to quit their cradle, 
punishing them by fasting, till at length they are forced to 
come out and answer to her incessant plaint. If not disturbed, 
they will occasionally approach the farm-house; and I have 
known a pair, like the Bluebirds, repair to the same hole in a 
poplar-tree for several years in succession, merely cleaning out 
the old bed for the reception of their eggs and young. They 
incubate by turns, feeding each other while thus confined to 
the nest, and are both likewise equally solicitous in feeding 
and protecting their young ; the food on this occasion is raised 
Dften from the throat, where it has undergone a preparatory 



440 WOODPECKERS. 

process for digestion. In the month of March, in Florida and 
Alabama, I observed them already pairing, on which occasion 
many petulant quarrels daily ensued from a host of rival sui- 
tors, accompanied by their ordinary cackling and squealing. 
One of their usual complaisant recognitions, often delivered on 
a fine morning from the summit of some lofty dead Umb, is 
^wit a ^wit ^wit 'wit 'wit 'wit 'wit weet and woit a woit, wait 
wait woit woit, commencing loud, and slowly rising and quick- 
ening till the tones run together into a noise almost like that 
of a watchman's rattle. They have also a sort of complaining 
call, from which they have probably derived their name of 
pee lit, pee lit ; and at times a plaintive quedh qiieah. Occa- 
sionally they also utter in a squealing tone, when surprised, or 
engaged in amusing rivalry with their fellows, we-cogh we-cogh 
we-cogh we-cogh or weciip weciip wecUp. 

The food of these birds varies with the season. They are 
at all times exceedingly fond of wood-lice, ants, and their 
larv^se ; and as the fruits become mature, they also add to their 
ample fare common cherries, bird cherries, winter grapes, gum- 
berries, the berries of the red-cedar, as well as of the sumach, 
smilax, and other kinds. As the maize too ripens, the Flicker 
pays frequent visits to the field ; and the farmer, readily for- 
getful of its past sendees, only remembers its present faults, 
and closing its career with the gun, unthinkingly does to him- 
self and the public an essential injury in saving a few unim- 
portant ears of corn. In this part of New England it is known 
by the name of Pigeon Woodpecker, from its general bulk and 
appearance ; and, to the disgrace of our paltry fowlers, it is 
in the autumn but too frequently seen exposed for sale in the 
markets, though its flesh is neither fat nor delicate. It is 
exceedingly to be regretted that ignorance and wantonness in 
these particulars should be so productive of cruelty, devas- 
tation, and injurious policy in regard to the animals with whose 
amusing and useful company Nature has so wonderfully and 
beneficently favored us. 




IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER. 

Campephilus principalis. 

Char. Glossy black; white stripe from bill down sides of neck; scap- 
ulars and secondaries white ; bill ivory white. Male with crest of scarlet 
and black ; female with crest of black. Length 21 inches. 

N'est. In a cypress-swamp or deep forest ; a cavity excavated in a live 
tree. 

Eggs. 4-6; white; 1.40 X i.oo. 

This large and splendid bird is a native of Brazil, Mexico, 
and the Southern States, being seldom seen to the north of 
Virginia, and but rarely in that State. He is a constant 
resident in the countries where he is found, breeding in 
the rainy season, and the pair are believed to be united 
for life. More vagrant, retiring, and independent than the 
rest of his family, he is never found in the precincts of 



442 WOODPECKERS. 

cultivated tracts; the scene of his dominion is the lonely 
forest, amidst trees of the greatest magnitude. His reiterated 
trumpeting note, somewhat similar to the high tones of the 
clarinet i^pait pait pait paii) , is heard soon after day, and until 
a late morning hour, echoing loudly from the recesses of the 
dark cypress-swamps, where he dwells in domestic security 
without showing any impertinent or necessary desire to quit 
his native solitary abodes. Upon the giant trunk and moss- 
grown arms of this colossus of the forest, and amidst almost 
inaccessible and ruinous piles of mouldering logs, the high, 
rattling clarion and rapid strokes of this princely Woodpecker 
are often the only sounds which vibrate through and commu- 
nicate an air of life to these dismal wilds. His stridulous, 
interrupted call, and loud, industrious blows may often be 
heard for more than half a mile, and become audible at vari- 
ous distances as the elevated mechanic raises or depresses his 
voice, or as he flags or exerts himself in his laborious employ- 
ment. His retiring habits, loud notes, and singular occupa- 
tion, amidst scenes so savage yet majestic, afford withal a 
peculiar scene of solemn grandeur on which the mind dwells 
for a moment with sublime contemplation, convinced that 
there is no scene in Nature devoid of harmonious consistence. 
Nor is the performance of this industrious hermit less remark- 
able than the peals of his sonorous voice or the loud choppings 
of his powerful bill. He is soon surrounded with striking 
monuments of his industry ; like a real carpenter (a nick-name 
given him by the Spainards), he is seen surrounded with cart- 
loads of chips and broad flakes of bark which rapidly accumu- 
late round the roots of the tall pine and cypress where he has 
been a few hours employed ; the work of half a dozen men 
felling trees for a whole morning would scarcely exceed the 
pile he has produced in quest of a single breakfast upon those 
insect larvae which have already, perhaps, succeeded in dead- 
ening the tree preparatory to his repast. Many thousand 
acres of pine-trees in the Southern States have been destroyed 
in a single season by the insidious attacks of insects which in 
the dormant state are not larger than a grain of rice. It 



IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER. 443 

is in quest of these enemies of the most imposing part of the 
vegetable creation that the industrious and indefatigable Wood- 
pecker exercises his pecuHar labor. In the sound and healthy 
tree he finds nothing which serves him for food. 

One of these birds, which Wilson wounded, survived with 
him nearly three days, but was so savage and unconquerable as 
to refuse all sustenance. When taken, he reiterated a loud and 
piteous complaint, almost exactly like the violent crying of a 
young child ; and on being left alone in a tavern, in the course 
of an hour he had nearly succeeded in making his way through 
the side of the wooden house. He also cut the author severely 
in several places while engaged in drawing his portrait, and 
displayed, as long as he survived, the unconquerable spirit of a 
genuine son of the forest. From his magnanimous courage 
and ardent love of liberty, the head and bill are in high esteem 
among the amulets of the Southern Indians. 

The nest of this species is usually made in the living trunk 
of the cypress-tree at a considerable height, both sexes alter- 
nately engaging in the labor. The excavation is said to be 
two or more feet in depth. The young are fledged and abroad 
about the middle of June. It is usually known by the name of 
^' Large Log-cock." This species appears to live almost wholly 
upon insects, and chiefly those that bore into the wood, which 
never fail in the country he inhabits; nor is he ever known 
to taste of Indian com or any sort of grain or orchard 
fruits, though he has a fondness for grapes and other kinds of 
berries. 

This species is now restricted to the Gulf States and lower 
Mississippi valley. 




PILEATED WOODPECKER. 

log-cock. black woodcock. 

Ceophlceus pileatus. 

Char. General color greenish black; wide stripe of white from the 
bill down the sides of the neck; chin, throat, and part of wings white or 
pale yellow. Male with scarlet crown, crest, and cheek patch. Female 
with crest partly black and no scarlet on cheek. Length about 18 
inches. 

Nest. In a deep forest or the seclusion of a swampy grove ; excavated 
in high trees, and lined only with fine chips. 

Eggs. 4-6 ; snow white and glossy ; 1.25 X i.oo. 

This large and common Woodpecker, considerably resem- 
bling the preceding species, is not unfrequent in well-timbered 
forests from Mexico and Oregon to the remote regions of 
Canada, as far as the 63d degree of north latitude ; and in all 
the intermediate region he resides, breeds, and passes most of 
the year, retiring in a desultory manner only into the Southern 
States for a few months in the most inclement season from the 
North and West. In Pennsylvania, however, he is seen as 
a resident more or less throughout the whole year ; and Mr. 



PILEATED WOODPECKER. 445 

Hutchins met with him in the interior of Hudson Bay, near 
Albany River, in the month of January. It is, however, suf- 
ficiently singular, and shows perhaps the wild timidity of this 
northern chief of his tribe, that though an inhabitant towards 
the :-'.vage and desolate sources of the Mississippi, he is un- 
known at this time in all the maritime parts of the populous 
and long-settled State of Massachusetts. In the western parts 
of the State of New York he is sufficiently common in the 
uncleared forests, which have been the perpetual residence of 
his remotest ancestry. From the tall trees which cast their 
giant arms over all the uncleared river lands, may often be 
heard his loud, echoing, and incessant cackle as he flies 
restlessly from tree to tree, presaging the approach of rainy 
weather. These notes resemble eke^-ek i-ek rek rek rek 7'ek 7'ek 
uttered in a loud cadence which gradually rises and falls. The 
marks of his industry are also abundantly visible on the decay- 
ing trees, which he probes and chisels with great dexterity, 
stripping off wide flakes of loosened bark to come at the bur- 
rowing insects which chiefly compose his food. In whatever 
engaged, haste and wildness seem to govern all his motions, 
and by dodging and flying from place to place as soon as 
observed, he continues to escape every appearance of danger. 
Even in the event of a fatal wound he still struggles with uncon- 
querable resolution to maintain his grasp on the trunk to which 
he trusts for safety to the very instant of death. When caught 
by a disabling wound, he still holds his ground against a tree, 
and strikes with bitterness the suspicious hand which attempts 
to grasp him, and, resolute for his native liberty, rarely submits 
to live in confinement. Without much foundation, he is charged 
at times with tasting maize. I have observed one occasionally 
making a hearty repast on holly and smilax berries. 

This species is being driven back by "civilization," and is now 
found only in the deeper forests. Mr, William Brewster reports 
that a few pairs still linger in the northern part of Worcester 
County, Mass. 



446 WOODPECKERS. 

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER. 

Melanerpes erythrocephalus. 

Char. Back, tail, and primaries blue black ; head, neck, and breast 
crimson ; belly, rump, and secondaries white. Length 9 to 9^ inches. 

Nest. In woodland, pasture, or orchard ; usually a cavity in a decayed 
tree. 

EgS^' 4~6; glossy white ; i.oo X 0.80. 

This common and well-known species is met with along the 
coast from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, and inland in 
the region of the Rocky Mountains and about the sources of 
the Mississippi. In all the intermediate country, however 
extensive, it probably resides and breeds. At the approach 
of winter, or about the middle of October, these birds migrate 
from the North and West, and consequently appear very 
numerous in the Southern States at that season. Many of 
them also probably pass into the adjoining provinces of Mex- 
ico, and they reappear in Pennsylvania (according to Wilson) 
about the first of May. According to .Audubon, they effect 
their migration in the night, flying high above the trees in a 
straggling file, at which time they are heard to emit a sharp 
and pecuhar note, easily heard from the ground, although the 
birds themselves are elevated beyond the sight. Like the 
Log-cock, the present species is but rarely seen in the mari- 
time parts of Massachusetts ; this region is only occasionally 
visited by solitary stragglers, yet in the western parts of the 
State it is said to be as common as in the Middle States. 

These birds live principally in old forests of tall trees, but are 
much less shy than most of the genus, frequently visiting the 
orchards in quest of ripe fruits, particularly cherries and juicy 
pears and apples, with which they likewise occasionally feed 
their young. They also at times eat acorns, of which they are 
said to lay up a store, and visit the maize-fields, being partial 
to the corn while in its juicy or milky state. In consequence 
of these dependent habits of subsistence, the Red-headed 
Woodpecker is a very familiar species, and even sometimes 



RED-HEiVDED WOODPECKER. 447 

not only nests in the orchard which supplies him with suste- 
nance, but ventures to rear his brood within the boundaries of 
the most populous towns. In the latter end of summer its 
reiterated tappings and cackling screams are frequently heard 
from the shady forests which border the rivulets in more 
secluded and less fertile tracts. It is also not uncommon to 
observe them on the fence-rails and posts near the public 
roads, flitting before the passenger with the familiarity of 
Sparrows. In the Southern States, where the mildness of the 
climate prevents the necessity of migration, this brilliant bird 
seems half domestic. The ancient live-oak, his cradle and 
residence, is cherished as a domicile ; he creeps around its 
ponderous weathered arms, views the passing scene with com- 
placence, turns every insect visit to his advantage, and for 
hours together placidly reconnoitres the surrounding fields. At 
times he leaves his lofty citadel to examine the rails of the 
fence or the boards of the adjoining bam ; striking terror into 
his lurking prey by the stridulous tappings of his bill, he 
hearkens to their almost inaudible movements, and discovering 
their retreat, dislodges them from their burrows by quickly 
and dexterously chiselling out the decaying wood in which they 
are hid, and transfixing them with his sharp and barbed 
tongue. But his favorite and most productive resort is to the 
adjoining fields of dead and girdled trees, amidst whose 
bleaching trunks and crumbling branches he long continues to 
find an ample repast of depredating and boring insects. When 
the cravings of appetite are satisfied, our busy hunter occa- 
sionally gives way to a playful or quarrelsome disposition, and 
with shrill and lively vociferations not unlike those of the 
neighboring tree-frog, he pursues in a graceful, curving flight his 
companions or rivals round the bare limbs of some dead tree 
to which they resort for combat or froHc. 

About the middle of May, in Pennsylvania, they burrow out 
or prepare their nests in the large limbs of trees, adding no 
materials to the cavity which they smooth out for the purpose. 
As with the Bluebird, the same tree continues to be employed 
for several years in succession, and probably by the same undi- 



448 WOODPECKERS. 

vided pair. The eggs and young of this and many other birds 
occasionally fall a prey to the attacks of the common black 
snake. The young are easily tamed for a while, and when left 
at large come for some time regularly to be fed, uttering a cry 
to call attention. I have seen them feed on corn- meal paste, 
a large piece of which the bird would carry off to a distance 
and eat at leisure. 

This species is common in Ontario and near Montreal, but is 
only an accidental visitor to other portions of eastern Canada. It 
is usually a rare bird to the eastward of the Hudson River, though 
it is said to be rather common in Western Vermont, and in the 
fall of 1881 it was quite common in other parts of New England. 

The habit of this bird — in common with others of the family — 
to store nuts and grain for winter use, briefly alluded to by Nuttall, 
has been confirmed frequently by recent observers. An interesting 
paper on this subject by O. P. Hay appeared in the " Auk " for 
July, 1887. 



RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 

MeLANERPES CAROLINUS. 

Char. Above, black and white in narrow bands ; tail black and 
white ; beneath, pale buff; belly rosy red. Male, with crown and back 
of head scarlet, which in the female is replaced by dull ash. 

Nest. Usually in a secluded forest of tall trees ; a cavity cut in a dead 
trunk or limb. 

Eggs. 4-6; white and glossy; i.oo X 0.75. 

This species inhabits the whole North American continent, 
from the interior of Canada to Florida, and even the island of 
Jamaica, in all of which countries it probably rears its young, 
migrating only partially from the colder regions. This also, 
like the preceding, is unknown in all the eastern parts of Mas- 
sachusetts, and probably New Hampshire. 

The Red-bellied Woodpecker dwells in the solitude of the 
forest ; amidst the tall and decayed trees only he seeks his less 
varied fare, and leads a life of roving wildness and independ- 
ence, congenial with his attachment to freedom and liberty. 
Sometimes, however, on the invasion of his native haunts by 



RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 449 

the progress of agriculture, he may be seen prowling among 
the dead and girdled trees which now afford him an augmented 
source of support ; and, as a chief of the soil, he sometimes 
claims his native rights by collecting a small tithe from the 
usurping field of maize. His loud and harsh call of 'tshow 
Ushow 'tshow 'tshow, reiterated like the barking of a cur, may 
often be heard, through the course of the day, to break the 
silence of the wilderness in which his congenial tribe are 
almost the only residents. On a fine spring morning I have 
observed his desultory ascent up some dead and lofty pine, 
tapping at intervals, and dodging from side to side, as he as- 
cended in a spiral line ; at length, having gained the towering 
summit, while basking in the mild sunbeams, he surveys the 
extensive landscape, and almost with the same reverberating 
sound as his blows, at intervals he utters a loud and solitary 
'curWh in a tone as solemn as the tolling of the Campanero. 
He thus hearkens, as it were, to the shrill echoes of his own 
voice, and for an hour at a time seems alone employed in con- 
templating, in cherished solitude and security, the beauties and 
blessings of the rising day. 

The nest, early in April, is usually made in some lofty 
branch ; and in this labor both the sexes unite to dig out a cir- 
cular cavity for the purpose, sometimes out of the solid wood, 
but more commonly into a hollow limb. The young appear 
towards the close of May or early in June, climbing out upon 
the higher branches of the tree, where they are fed and reared 
until able to fly, though in the mean time from their exposure 
they often fall a prey to prowling Hawks. These birds usually 
raise but one brood in the season, and may be considered, like 
the rest of their insect-devouring fraternity, as useful scaven- 
gers for the protection of the forest ; their attacks, as might be 
reasonably expected, being always confined to decaying trees, 
which alone afford the prey for which they probe. 

This bird's breeding area lies between Florida and Maryland 
and northward through the interior to Southern Ontario, where it 
is quite common. 

VOL. I. — 29 




YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. 

Sphyrapicus varius. 

Char. Above, black and white, back tinged with yellow; crown and 
chin scarlet, bordered by black ; cheeks black, bordered by white or pale 
yellow ; breast black ; belly pale yellow. In females the scarlet on chin 
is replaced by white. Length 8)4 inches. 

Nest. In woodland; a cavity in a dead trunk of large tree ; sometimes 
excavated in a live tree. 

Eggs. 4-7; white; 0.85 X 0.60. , 

This species, according to the season, extends over the 
whole American continent, from the 53d degree to the tropics, 
where it is seen in Cayenne. With us it is most common 
in summer in the Northern and Middle States, and as far 
north as Nova Scotia. At this season it is seldom seen beyond 
the precincts of the forest, in which it selects the most soHtary 
recesses, leaving its favorite haunts only at the approach of 
winter, and seeking, from necessity or caprice, at this roving 
season the boundaries of the orchard. The habits of this bird 
are but little different from those of the Hairy and Downy 
Woodpeckers, with which it is often associated in their fora- 
ging excursions. The nest, as usual, is made in the body of 
some decayed orchard or forest tree, the circular entrance to 



HAIRY WOODPECKER. 45 1 

which is left only just sufficient for the passage of the parties. 
The depth of the cavity is about 1 5 inches, and the eggs, 4 or 
upwards, are white. The principal food of these birds is insects, 
for they sometimes bore the trunks of the orchard trees. 

The " sapsucking " habit of this species, denied by some of our 
most eminent naturalists, has been established by Mr. Frank 
Bolles, who published an interesting account of his observations in 
"The Auk "for July, 1891. 

For several days Mr. Bolles almost continuously watched a 
number of these birds while they operated on trees in the vicinity 
of his summer home at Chicarua, N. H. The birds drilled holes 
in maple, oak, birch, and ash trees, and drank the sap as it dripped 
from these holes. When one set of holes became "dry," others 
were drilled, eight to sixteen on each tree, the new holes being 
made higher up than the old. Some of the birds spent about 
nine tenths of the time in drinking the sap. Mr. Bolles placed 
under the trees cups made of birch bark and filled with maple 
syrup, which the birds drank freely. Later brandy was added, 
with amusing consequences, the mixture finally acting as an emetic. 
He moreover states that the sap was not used as a trap for insects, 
as some writers have supposed ; and while the birds caught insects 
occasionally, these did not appear to form a large part of their diet. 
An examination of the stomachs of a few birds revealed but little 
insect remains, and that little was composed chiefly of ants. 



HAIRY WOODPECKER. 

Dryobates villosus. 

Char. Above, black and white, the back with long, slender, loose 
hair-like feathers ; beneath, white ; outer tail-feathers white. Male with 
scarlet band at back of head, which in the female is black. In immature 
birds the crown is more or less tinged with red, or, sometimes with 
yellow. Length 8/4 to 9 inches. 

Nest. In open woodland, pasture, or orchard ; a cavity in a dead 
trunk, without lining. 

^RS^- 4-5; white and glossy; i.oo X 0.70. 

This common and almost familiar species is a resident 
in most parts of America, from Hudson Bay to Florida, fre- 



452 WOODPECKERS. 

quently approaching the cottage or the skirts of the town as 
well as the forest. It is likewise much attached to orchards, 
an active borer of their trunks, and an eager hunter after in- 
sects and larvae in all kinds of decayed wood, even to stumps 
and the rails of the fences. In autumn it also feeds on berries 
and other fruits. In the month of May, accompanied by his 
mate, the male seeks out the seclusion of the woods, and 
taking possession of a hollow branch, or cutting out a cavity 
anew, he forms his nest in a deep and secure cavern, though 
sometimes a mere stake of the fence answers the purpose. In 
the Southern States these birds have usually two broods in the 
season, and raise them both in the same nest, which is not 
infrequently at no great distance from habitations. Their call 
consists in a shrill and rattling whistle, heard to a consid- 
erable distance. They also give out a single querulous note of 
recognition while perambulating the trunks for food. 

The habitat of true villosus is now considered as restricted to 
North Carolina and Eastern Canada. At the Northwest it is repre- 
sented by D. villosus leucomelas, a larger variety (length lo to ii 
inches), and at the South by D. villosus audubonii, which meas- 
ures about 8 inches in length. 



DOWNY WOODPECKER. 

Dryobates pubescens. 

Char. Similar to D. villosus, but smaller. Above, black and white, 
the back with long, slender, loose hair-like (" downy ") feathers ; beneath, 
white ; outer tail-feathers barred. Male with scarlet band at back of 
head, which in the female is black. In immature birds the crown is more 
or less tinged with red, or, sometimes, with yellow. Length dVz to 7 
inches. 

Nest. In open woodland, pasture, or orchard ; a cavity in a dead 
trunk, without lining. 

Eggs. 4-6; white and glossy; 0.80 X 0.60. 

This species, the smallest of American Woodpeckers, agrees 
almost exactly with the P. villosus in its colors and markings. 
It is likewise resident throughout the same countries. About 



DOW^'Y WOODPECKER. 453 

the middle of May also, the pair begin to look out a suitable 
deposit for their eggs and young. The entrance is in the form 
of a perfect circle, and left only just large enough for an indi- 
vidual to pass in and out. Both sexes labor for about a week 
at this task with indefatigable diligence, carrying on the burrow 
in some orchard tree, in two different directions, to the depth 
of 16 to 20 inches do^vn ; and to prevent suspicion the chips 
are carried out and strewn at a distance. The male occa- 
sionally feeds his mate while sitting ; and about the close of 
June the young are observed abroad, climbing up the tree with 
considerable address. Sometimes the crafty House Wren in- 
terferes, and, driving the industrious tenants from their hole, 
usurps possession. These birds have a shrill cackle and a reit- 
erated call, which they frequently utter while engaged in quest 
of their prey. In the autumn they feed on various kinds of 
berries as well as insects. No species can exceed the present 
in industry and perseverance. While thus regularly probing 
the bark of the tree for insects, it continues so much engaged 
as to disregard the approaches of the observer, though imme- 
diately under the tree. These perforations, made by our Sap- 
suckers, — as the present and Hairy species are sometimes 
called, — are carried round the trunks and branches of the 
orchard trees in regular circles, so near to each other that, 
according to Wilson, eight or ten of them may be covered by 
a dollar. The object of this curious piece of industry is not 
satisfactorily ascertained ; but whether it be done to taste the 
sap of the tree, or to dislodge vermin, it is certain that the 
plant escapes uninjured, and thrives as well or better than 
those which are unperforated. 

This diminutive and very industrious species is a constant 
inhabitant of the fur countries up to the 58th parallel, seeking 
its food principally on the maple, elm, and ash, and north of 
latitude 54 degrees, where the range of these trees terminates, 
on the aspen and birch. The circles of round holes which it 
makes with so much regularity round the trunks of living trees 
are no doubt made for the purpose of getting at the sweet sap 
which they contain. In the month of February, 1830, I 



454 WOODPECKERS. 

observed these borers busy tapping the small live trunks of 
several wax-myrtles {Myrica cerifera) ; and these perforations 
were carried down into the alburnum, or sap-wood, but no 
farther : no insects could be expected, of course, in such situ- 
ations, and at this season very few could be obtained anywhere. 
On examining the oozing sap, I found it to be exceedingly 
saccharine, but in some instances astringent or nearly taste- 
less. To a bird Hke the present, which relishes and devours 
also berries, I make no doubt but that this native nectar is 
sought after as agreeable and nutritious food, in the same 
manner as the Baltimore Bird collects the saccharine secretion 
of the fruit blossoms ; and in fact I have observed the Wood- 
pecker engaged in the act of sipping this sweet fluid, which so 
readily supplies it on all occasions with a temporary substitute 
for more substantial fare. Sometimes, however, on discovering 
insects in a tree, it forgets its taste for the sap, and in quest 
of its prey occasionally digs deep holes into the trees large 
enough to admit its whole body. 

The Downy Woodpecker is found throughout the eastern and 
northern portions of North America, and like its congener, the 
Hairy, is a resident, rather than a migratory species, breeding usu- 
ally wherever it is found. There is no such difference in the two 
birds as is represented by the names " hairy " and " downy ; " the 
long feathers of the back from which the names are derived are 
exactly similar. The differentiation lies in the size of the birds 
and in some markings on the tail-feathers. 



THE RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER. 

Dryobates borealis. 

Char. Above, black and white, barred transversely; crown, black; 
sides of head with white patch, bordered, above, by red stripe ; beneath, 
white, sides streaked with black. Length 7^4 to ZVi inches. 

Nest. In pine woods ; an excavation in a decayed trunk or living tree. 

Egg^- 4-6 ; white, with but little gloss ; 0.95 X 0.70. 

This species, remarkable for the red stripe on the side of 
its head, was discovered by Wilson in the pine woods of 



ARCTIC THREE-TOED WOODPECKER. 455 

North Carolina, whence it occurs to the coast of the Mexican 
Gulf, and as far to the north and west as New Jersey and 
Tennessee. It is a very active and noisy species, gliding with 
alertness along the trunks and branches of trees, principally 
those of oak and pine. At almost every move it utters a short, 
shrill, and clear note, audible at a considerable distance. In 
the breeding season its call, still more lively and petulant, is 
reiterated through the pine forests, where it now chiefly dwells. 
These birds are frequently seen by pairs in the company of 
the smaller Woodpeckers and Nuthatches in the winter sea- 
son, and they now feed by choice principally upon ants and 
small coleoptera. 

In Florida they are already mated in the month of January, 
and prepare their burrows in the following month. The nest 
is frequently in a decayed trunk 20 to 30 feet from the 
ground. In the winter season, and in cold and wet weather, 
this bird is in the habit of roosting in its old nests or in the 
holes of decayed trees, and frequently retreats to such places 
when wounded or pursued. 

The habitat of this species as at present determined is the South- 
eastern States, including North Carolina and Tennessee, and West- 
ward to Indian Territory. 



ARCTIC THREE-TOED WOODPECKER. 

BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER. 
PiCOIDES ARCTICUS. 

Char. Only three toes. Above, black ; white stripe on side of head ; 
outer tail-feathers white; beneath, white barred with black. Adult male 
with square patch of yellow on the crown. Length 9% to 10 inches. 

Nest. In a deep forest, an excavation in a dead tree. 

Eggs. 4-6; white and glossy; 0.95 X 0.75. 

This species is an inhabitant of the northern regions from 
Maine to the fur countries, dwelling among deep forests in 
mountainous regions. Its voice and habits are indeed pre- 
cisely similar to those of the Spotted Woodpeckers, to which it 



456 WOODPECKERS. 

is closely allied. Its food consists of insects, their eggs and 
larvae, to which it sometimes adds, according to the season, 
seeds and berries. Audubon had the good fortune to meet 
with it in the pine forests of the Pokono Mountains in Penn- 
sylvania. It is, however, sufficiently common in the dreary 
wilds around Hudson Bay and Severn River. It is remarkable 
that a third species, so nearly allied to the present as to have 
been confounded with it merely as a variety, is found to inhabit 
the woods of Guiana. In this (the Picus undulatiis of Vieillot) 
the crown, however, is red instead of yellow ; the tarsi are also 
naked, and the black of the back undulated with white. 

This species occurs somewhat sparingly in winter in northern 
New England and southern Canada, and sometimes wanders in 
numbers to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York State. 
Occasionally one is met in summer in northern Maine and New 
Brunswick. 



AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER. 

BANDED-BACKED WOODPECKER. 

PiCOIDES AAIERICANUS. 

Char. Only three toes. Above, black, thickly spotted with white 
about the head and neck ; back barred with white ; beneath, white ; 
sides barred with black. Adult male with yellow patch on the crown. 
Length about 9 inches. 

Nest. In a deep forest ; an excavation in a dead tree. 

Eggs. 4- ?; cream white; 0.90 X 0.70. 

According to Richardson, this bird exists as a permanent 
resident in all the spruce-forests between Lake Superior and 
the Arctic Sea, and is the most common Woodpecker north 
of Great Slave Lake. It resembles P. villosus in its habits, 
seeking its food, however, principally on decaying trees of the 
pine tribe, in which it frequently burrows holes large enough 
to bury itself. 

This is an uncommon winter visitor as far south as northern 
New England, though it has been taken in Massachusetts, and 
Dr. Merriam has found a nest in the Adirondacks. 




RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD. 

Trochilus colubris. 

Char. Above, metallic green ; wings and tail brownish violet or 
bronzy ; chin velvety black ; throat rich ruby, reflecting various hues 
from brownish black to bright crimson ; belly whitish. Female and young 
without red on the throat, which is dull gray; tail-feathers barred with 
black and tipped with white. Length 3 to 3^ inches. 

Nest. In an orchard or open woodland ; placed on a horizontal branch 
or in a crotch ; made of plant down firmly felted and covered exteriorly 
with lichens. 

Eggs. 2- ? ; white, with rosy tint when fresh ; 0.50 X 0.30. 

This wonderfully diminutive and brilliant bird is the only 
one of an American genus of more than a hundred species, 
which ventures beyond the Hmit of tropical climates. Its 
approaches towards the north are regulated by the advances of 
the season. Fed on the honeyed sweets of flowers, it is an 
exclusive attendant on the varied bounties of Flora. By the 
loth to the 20th of March, it is already seen in the mild 
forests of Louisiana and the warmer maritime districts of 
Georgia, where the embowering and fragrant Gelsemium, the 
twin-leaved Bignonia, with a host of daily expanding flowers, 
invite our little sylvan guest to the retreats it had reluctantly 



458 HUMMING BIRDS. 

forsaken. Desultory in its movements, roving only through 
the region of blooming sweets, its visits to the Northern States 
are delayed till the month of May. Still later, as if deter- 
mined that no flower shall " blush unseen, or waste its sweet- 
ness on the desert air," our little sylph, on wings as rapid as 
the wind, at once launches without hesitation into the flowery 
wilderness of the north. 

The first cares of the little busy pair are now bestowed on 
their expected progeny. This instinct alone propelled them 
from their hibernal retreat within the tropics ; strangers amidst 
their numerous and brilliant tribe, they seek only a transient 
asylum in the milder regions of their race. With the earhest 
dawn of the northern spring, in pairs, as it were with the celer- 
ity of thought, they dart at intervals through the dividing 
space, till they again arrive in the genial and more happy re- 
gions of their birth. The enraptured male is now assiduous 
in attention to his mate ; forgetful of selfish wants, he feeds 
his companion with nectared sweets, and jealous of danger 
and interruption to the sole companion of his delights, he often 
almost seeks a quarrel with the giant birds which surround him : 
he attacks even the Kingbird, and drives the ghding Martin 
to the retreat of his box. The puny nest is now prepared in 
the long-accustomed orchard or neighboring forest. It is con- 
cealed by an artful imitation of the mossy branch to which 
it is firmly attached and incorporated. Bluish-gray lichens, 
agglutinated by saliva and matched with surrounding objects, 
instinctively form the deceiving external coat ; portions of the 
cunning architecture, for further security, are even tied down 
to the supporting station. Within are laid copious quantities of 
the pappus or other down of plants ; the inner layer of this 
exquisite bed is finished with the shortwood of the budding 
Platanus, the mullein, or the soft clothing of unfolding fern- 
stalks. Incubation, so tedious to the volatile pair, is completed 
in the short space of ten days, and in the warmer States a 
second brood is raised. When the nest is approached, the 
parents dart around the intruder, within a few inches of his 
face ; and the female, if the young are out, often resumes her 



RUBY-THROATED HUMMING BIRD. 459 

seat, though no more than three or four feet from the observer. 
In a single week the young are on the wing, and in this situa- 
tion still continue to be fed with their nursing sweets by the 
assiduous parents. 

Creatures of such delicacy and uncommon circumstances, 
the wondrous sports of Nature, everything appears provided 
for the security of their existence ; the brood are introduced 
to life in the warmest season of the year : variation of tempera- 
ture beyond a certain medium would prove destructive to 
these exquisite forms. The ardent heats of America have 
alone afforded them support ; no region so cool as the United 
States produces a set of feathered beings so delicate and 
tender; and, consequently, any sudden extremes, by produ- 
cing chill and famine, are fatal to our Humming Birds. In the 
remarkably wet summer of 1831 very few of the young were 
raised in New England. In other seasons they comparatively 
swarm, and the numerous and almost gregarious young are 
then seen, till the close of September, eagerly engaged in sip- 
ping the nectar from various showy and tubular flowers, partic- 
ularly those of the trumpet Bignonia and wild balsam, with 
many other conspicuous productions of the fields and gardens. 
Sometimes they may also be seen collecting dimunitive in- 
sects, or juices from the tender shoots of the pine-tree. While 
thus engaged in strife and employment, the scene is peculiarly 
amusing. Approaching a flower, and vibrating on the wing 
before it, with the rapidity of lightning the long, cleft, and 
tubular tongue is exerted to pump out the sweets, while the 
buzzing or humming of the wings reminds us of the approach 
of some larger sphinx or droning bee. No other sound or 
song is uttered, except occasionally a slender chirp while flit- 
ting from a flower, until some rival bird too nearly approaches 
the same plant ; a quick, faint, and petulant squeak is then 
uttered, as the little glowing antagonists glide up in swift and 
angry gyrations into the air. The action at the same time is so 
sudden, and the flight so rapid, that the whole are only traced 
for an instant, like a gray line in the air. Sometimes, without 
any apparent provocation, the little pugnacious vixen will, for 



460 HUMMING BIRDS. 

mere amusement, pursue larger birds, such as the Yellow Bird 
and Sparrows. To man they show but httle either of fear or 
aversion, often quietly feeding on their favorite flowers when 
so nearly approached as to be caught. They hkewise fre- 
quently enter the green houses and windows of dwellings 
where flowers are kept in sight. After feeding for a time, the 
individual settles on some small and often naked bough or 
slender twig, and dresses its feathers with great composure, 
particularly preening and clearing the plumes of the wing. 

The old and young are soon reconciled to confinement. In 
an hour after the loss of liberty the cheerful little captive will 
often come and suck diluted honey, or sugar and water, from 
the flowers held out to it ; and in a few hours more it becomes 
tame enough to sip its favorite beverage from a saucer, in the 
interval flying backwards and forwards in the room for mere 
exercise, and then resting on some neighboring elevated object. 
In dark or rainy weather it seems to pass the time chiefly 
dozing on the perch. It is also soon so familiar as to come to 
the hand that feeds it. In cold nights, or at the approach of 
frost, the pulsation of this little dweller in the sunbeam be- 
comes nearly as low as in the torpid state of the dormouse ; 
but on applying warmth, the almost stagnant circulation 
revives, and slowly increases to the usual state. 

Near the Atlantic this frail creature nests regularly as far north 
as the Laurentian hills of Quebec, and breeds in more or less 
abundance southward to Florida and westward to the Plains. It 
is an abundant summer resident of the Maritime Provinces. 

The fact that insects form a staple diet of these diminutive birds 
has been satisfactorily proved, though formerly they were sup- 
posed to feed entirely on honey. Honey doubtless forms a part 
of their food, and they also drink freely of the sweet sap which the 
Woodpeckers draw from the maple and birch. 

Another mistake regarding the Humming Birds, — that they 
never alight while feeding, — has been rectified by several trust- 
worthy observers. The birds have been seen to alight on the 
leaves of the trumpet-flower while gathering honey, and also to 
rest on the tapped trees while they leisurely drank of the flowing 
sap. 

The young birds are fed by regurgitation. 




BELTED KINGFISHER. 

Ceryle alcyon. 

Char. Above, slaty blue; head with long crest; beneath, white. 
Male with blue band across breast. Female and young with breast-band 
and sides of belly pale chestnut. Length I2 to 13 inches. 

A^est. An excavation in a sandbank, — usually by the side of a stream j 
lined with grass and feathers. 

^SS^- 6-8; white and glossy; 1.35 X 1.05. -^ 

This wild and grotesque-looking feathered angler is a well- 
known inhabitant of the borders of fresh waters from the re- 
mote fur countries in the 67th parallel to the tropics. Its 
delight is to dwell amidst the most sequestered scenes of 
uncultivated nature, by the borders of running rivulets, near 
the roar of the waterfall, or amidst the mountain streamlets 
which abound with the small fish and insects that constitute 
its accustomed fare. Mill-dams and the shelving and friable 
banks of watercourses, suited for the sylvan retreat of its 
brood, have also peculiar and necessary attractions for our re- 
tiring Kingfisher. By the broken, bushy, or rocky banks of 



462 KINGFISHERS. 

its solitary and aquatic retreat, this bird may often be seen 
perched on some dead and projecting branch, scrutinizing the 
waters for its expected prey. If unsuccessful, it quickly courses 
the meanders of the streams or borders of ponds just above 
their surface, and occasionally hovers for an instant, with rap- 
idly moving wings, over the spot where it perceives the gliding 
quarry ; in the next instant, descending with a quick spiral 
sweep, a fish is seized from the timid fry, with which it returns 
to its post and swallows in an instant. When startled from 
the perch, on which it spends many vacant hours digesting its 
prey, it utters commonly a loud, harsh, and grating cry, very 
similar to the interrupted creakings of a watchman's rattle, and 
almost, as it were, the vocal counterpart to the watery tumult 
amidst which it usually resides. 

The nest — a work of much labor — is now burrowed in some 
dry and sandy or more tenacious bank of earth, situated be- 
yond the reach of inundation. At this task both the parties 
join with bill and claws, until they have horizontally perforated 
the bank to the depth of 5 or 6 feet. With necessary precau- 
tion, the entrance is only left sufficient for the access of a 
single bird. The extremity, however, is rounded like an oven, 
so as to allow the individuals and their brood a sufficiency of 
room. This important labor is indeed prospective, as the same 
hole is employed for a nest and roost for many succeeding 
years. Here the eggs are deposited. Incubation, in which 
both parents engage, continues for sixteen days; and they 
exhibit great solicitude for the safety of their brood. The 
mother, simulating lameness, sometimes drops on the water, 
fluttering as if wounded, and unable to rise from the stream. 
The male also, perched on the nearest bough, or edge of the 
projecting bank, jerks his tail, elevates his crest, and passing to 
and fro before the intruder, raises his angry and vehement 
rattle of complaint (Audubon). At the commencement of 
winter, the frost obliges our humble Fisher to seek more open 
streams, and even the vicinity of the sea; but it is seen to 
xetum to Pennsylvania by the commencement of April. 




CHIMNEY SWIFT. 

CHIMNEY SWALLOW. 
CH/ETURA PELAGICA. 

Char. General color sooty brown, paler on the throat and breast, 
tinged with green above. Length about 5X inches. 

N'est. Usually in a chimney, sometimes in a hollow tree or a barn; 
made of twigs cemented with saliva. 

Eggs. 4-5; white; 0.70 X 0.50. 

This singular bird, after passing the winter in tropical Amer- 
ica, arrives in the Middle and Northern States late in April or 
early in May. Its migrations extend at least to the sources 
of the Mississippi, where it was observed by Mr. Say. More 
social than the foreign species, which frequents rocks and ruins, 
our Swift takes advantage of unoccupied and lofty chimneys, 
the original roost and nesting situation being tall, gigantic 
hollow trees such as the elm and buttonwood {Flafafius). 
The nest is formed of slender twigs neatly interlaced, some- 
what like a basket, and connected sufficiently together by a 
copious quantity of adhesive gum or mucilage secreted by the 
stomach of the curious architect. This rude cradle of the 
young is small and shallow, and attached at the sides to 
the wall of some chimney or the inner surface of a hollow 



464 SWIFTS. 

tree; it is wholly destitute of lining. They have commonly 
two broods in the season. So assiduous are the parents that 
they feed the young through the greater part of the night ; 
their habits, however, are nearly nocturnal, as they fly abroad 
most at and before sunrise, and in the twilight of evening. 
The noise which they make while passing up and down the 
chimney resembles almost the rumbling of distant thunder. 
When the nests get loosened by rains so as to fall down, the 
young, though blind, find means to escape, by creeping up and 
clinging to the sides of the chimney walls; in this situation 
they continue to be fed for a week or more. Soon tired of 
their hard cradle, they generally leave it long before they are 
capable of flying. 

On their first arrival, and for a considerable time after, the 
males, particularly, associate to roost in a general resort. This 
situation, in the remote and unsettled parts of the country, is 
usually a large hollow tree, open at top. These well-known 
Swallow trees are ignorantly supposed to be the winter quar- 
ters of the species, where, in heaps, they doze away the cold 
season in a state of torpidity ; but no proof of the fact is ever 
adduced. The length of time such trees have been resorted 
to by particular flocks may be conceived, perhaps, by the 
account of a hollow tree of this kind described by the Rev. Dr. 
Harris in his Journal. The Plata^ius alluded to, grew in the 
upper part of Waterford, in Ohio, two miles from the Muskin- 
gum, and its hollow trunk, now fallen, of the diameter of 5^ 
feet, and for nearly 15 feet upwards, contained an entire mass 
of decayed Swallow feathers, mixed with brownish dust and 
the exuviae of insects. In inland towns these birds have been 
known to make their general roost in the chimney of the 
court-house. Before descending, they fly in large flocks, mak- 
ing many ample and circuitous sweeps in the air ; and as the 
point of the vortex falls, individuals drop into the chimney 
by degrees, until the whole have descended, which generally 
takes place in the dusk of the evening. They all, however, 
disappear about the first week in August. Like the rest of the 
tribe, the Chimney Swift flies very quick, and with but slight 



chuck-will's-widow. 465 

vibrations of its wings, appearing as it were to swim in the air 
in widening circles, shooting backwards and forwards through 
the ambient space at great elevations, and yet scarcely moving 
its wings. Now and then it is heard to utter, in a hurried 
manner, a sound like tsip istp tsip tsee tsee. It is never seen to 
alight but in hollow trees or chimneys, and appears always 
most gay and active in wet and gloomy weather. 

Near the Atlantic border this species is found north to 50°, but 
in the West it ranges still farther northward. 



CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW. 
Antrostomus carolinensis. 

Char. Gape extremely wide, the rictal bristles with lateral filaments. 
General color reddish brown mottled with black, white, and tawny ; throat 
with collar of pale tawny, terminal third of outer tail-feathers white or 
buffy; under parts tawny white. Length 11 to 12 inches. 

A-est. In open woods or dense thicket. No attempt is made at build- 
ing a receptacle for the eggs, which are laid on the bare ground or upon 
fallen leaves. 

Eggs. 2; white* or bufifish, marked with brown and lavender; 1.40 
X 1. 00. 

The Carolina Goatsucker is seldom seen to the north of 
Virginia, though in the interior its migrations extend up the 
shores of the Mississippi to the 38th degree. After wintering 
in some part of the tropical continent of America, it arrives in 
Georgia and Louisiana about the middle of March, and in Vir- 
ginia early in April. Like the following species, it commences 
its singular serenade of ' chuck- w UP s -widow in the evening 
soon after sunset, and continues it with short interruptions for 
several hours. Towards morning the note is also renewed 
until the opening dawn. In the day, like some wandering 
spirit, it retires to secrecy and silence, as if the whole had only 
been a disturbed dream. In a still evening this singular call 
may be heard for half a mile, its tones being slower, louder, 
and more full than those of the Whip-poor-will. The species 
is particularly numerous in the vast forests of the Mississippi, 

VOL. I. — 30 



466 GOATSUCKERS. 

where throughout the evening its echoing notes are heard in 
the soHtary glens and from the surrounding and silent hills, 
becoming almost incessant during the shining of the moon ; 
and at the boding sound of its elfin voice, when familiar and 
strongly reiterated, the thoughtful, superstitious savage becomes 
sad and pensive. Its flight is low, and it skims only a few feet 
above the surface of the ground, frequently settling on logs 
and fences, whence it often sweeps around in pursuit of flying 
moths and insects, which constitute its food. Sometimes these 
birds are seen sailing near the ground, and occasionally descend 
to pick up a beetle, or flutter lightly around the trunk of a tree 
in quest of some insect crawling upon the bark. In rainy and 
gloomy weather they remain silent in the hollow log which 
affords them and the bats a common roost and refuge by day. 
When discovered in this critical situation, and without the 
means of escape, they ruflle up their feathers, spread open 
their enormous mouths, and utter a murmur almost like the 
hissing of a snake, thus endeavoring, apparently, to intimidate 
their enemy when cut ofl" from the means of escape. 

This species also lays its eggs, two in number, merely on the 
ground, and usually in the woods ; if they be liandled, or even 
the young, the parents, suspicious of danger, remove them to 
some other place. As early as the middle of August, accord- 
ing to Audubon, these birds retire from the United States; 
though some winter in the central parts of East Florida. 

The general habitat of this species is the South Atlantic and 
Gulf States and the lower Mississippi valley. Near the Atlantic 
the bird ranges to North Carolina, and Mr. Ridgeway reports it 
not uncommon in southern Illinois. It winters in the Gulf States 
and southward. 



WHIP-POOR-WILL. 467 

WHIP-POOR-WILL. 

Antrostomus vociferus. 

Char. Gape extremely wide; rictal bristles without lateral filaments. 
General color .dull gray brown, mottled with black, white, and tawny ; 
throat with collar of white or tawny ; outer tail-feathers partly white ; 
under parts gray mottled with black. Length 934 to 10 inches. 

Nest. In dense woods or shady dells ; eggs laid on the ground or 
amid dry leaves. 

^ggs. 2; white or buffy marked brown and lavender ; 1.12 X 0.85. 

This remarkable and well-known nocturnal bird arrives in 
the Southern States in March, and in the Middle States about 
the close of April or the beginning of May, and proceeds in 
its vernal migrations along the Atlantic States to the centre 
of Massachusetts, being seldom seen beyond the latitude of 
43° -y and yet in the interior of the continent, according to 
Vieillot, it continues as far as Hudson Bay, and was heard, as 
usual, by Mr. Say at Pembino, in the high latitude of 49°. In 
all this vast intermediate space, as far south as Natchez on the 
Mississippi, and the interior of Arkansas, these birds familiarly 
breed and take up their temporary residence. Some also pass 
the winter in the interior of East Florida, according to Audu- 
bon. In the eastern part of Massachusetts, however, they are 
uncommon, and always affect sheltered, wild, and hilly situa- 
tions, for which they have in general a preference. About 
the same time that the sweetly echoing voice of the Cuckoo is 
first heard in the north of Europe, issuing from the leafy 
groves as the sure harbinger of the flowery month of May, 
arrives amongst us, in the shades of night, the mysterious 
Whip-poor-will. The well-known saddening sound is first 
only heard in the distant forest, re-echoing from the lonely glen 
or rocky cHff ; at length the oft- told solitary tale is uttered from 
the fence of the adjoining field or garden, and sometimes the 
slumbering inmates of the cottage are serenaded from the low 
roof or from some distant shed. Superstition, gathering terror 
from every extraordinary feature of nature, has not suffered 
this harmless nocturnal babbler to escape suspicion, and his 



468 GOATSUCKERS. 

familiar approaches are sometimes dreaded as an omen of 
misfortune. 

In the lower part of the State of Delaware, I have found 
these birds troublesomely abundant in the breeding season, so 
that the reiterated echoes of 'whip-whip-pdor-will, 'whip-peri- 
will, issuing from several birds at the same time, occasioned 
such a confused vociferation as at first to banish sleep. This 
call, except in moonlight nights, is continued usually till mid- 
night, when they cease until again aroused, for a while, at the 
commencement of twilight. The first and last syllables of 
this brief ditty receive the strongest emphasis, and now and 
then a sort of guttural cluck is heard between the repetitions ; 
but the whole phrase is uttered in little more than a second 
of time. 

Although our Whip-poor-will seems to speak out in such 
plain English, to the ears of the aboriginal Delaware its call was 
wecodlis, though this was probably some favorite phrase or 
interpretation, which served it for a name. The Whip-poor- 
will, when engaged in these nocturnal rambles, is seen to fly 
within a few feet of the surface in quest of moths and other 
insects, frequently, where abundant, alighting around the house. 
During the day the birds retire into the darkest woods, usually 
on high ground, where they pass the time in silence and 
repose, the weakness of their sight by day compelling them 
to avoid the glare of the light. 

The female commences laying about the second week in 
May in the Middle States, considerably later in Massachusetts ; 
she is at no pains to form a nest, though she selects for her 
deposit some unfrequented part of the forest near a pile of 
brush, a heap of leaves, or the low shelving of a hollow rock, 
and always in a dry situation ; here she lays two eggs, without 
any appearance of an artificial bed. This deficiency of nest is 
amply made up by the provision of nature, for, like Partridges, 
the young are soon able to run about after their parents ; and 
until the growth of their feathers they seem such shapeless 
lumps of clay-colored down that it becomes nearly impossible 
to distinguish them from the ground on which they repose. 



WHIP-POOR-WILL. 469 

Were a nest present in the exposed places where we find the 
young, none would escape detection. The mother also, faith- 
ful to her charge, deceives the passenger by prostrating herself 
along the ground with beating wings, as if in her dying agony. 
The activity of the young and old in walking, and the absence 
of a nest, widely distinguishes these birds from the Swallows, 
with which they are associated. A young fledged bird of this 
species, presented to me, ran about with great celerity, but 
refused to eat, and kept continually calling out at short inter- 
vals pe-ugh in a low, mournful note. 

After the period of incubation, or about the middle of June, 
the vociferations of the males cease, or are but rarely given. 
Towards the close of summer, previously to their departure, 
they are again occasionally heard, but their note is now languid 
and seldom uttered ; and cirly in September they leave us for 
the more genial climate of tropical America, being there found 
giving their usual lively cry in the wilds of Cayenne and 
Demerara. They enter the United States early in March, but 
are some weeks probably in attaining their utmost northern 
limit. 

Their food appears to be large moths, beetles, grasshoppers, 
ants, and such insects as frequent the bark of decaying timber. 
Sometimes, in the dusk, they will skim within a few feet of a 
person, making a low chatter as they pass. They also, in com- 
mon with other species, flutter occasionally around the domes- 
tic cattle to catch any insects which approach or rest upon 
them ; and hence the mistaken notion of their sucking goats, 
while they only cleared them of molesting vermin. 

The Whip-poor-will is a common summer resident throughout 
New England, and is not uncommon in the Maritime Provinces. It 
is common also in Ontario, and Dr. Robert Bell reports finding it 
In the southern parts of the Hudson Bay region. Mr. Thompson 
reports it common in Manitoba. These birds winter in Florida and 
southward. 




NIGHTHAWK. 

GOATSUCKER. BULL BAT. 

Chordeiles virginianus. 

Char. Male : above, dull black mottled with brown and gray ; wings 
brown, a patch of white on five outer primaries; tail dusky, with bars of 
gaay and a patch of white near the extremity; lower parts reddish white 
with bars of brown ; throat with patch of white. Female : similar, but 
without white on the tail. Length about 9)^ inches. 

Nest. Usually in open woods ; the eggs generally laid upon a rock or 
on the turf, — sometimes they are laid on a gravel roof in a city. 

Eggs. 2 ; dull white or buff, thickly mottled with brown, slate, and 
lilac; 1.25 X 0.85. 

Towards the close of April the Nighthawks arrive in the 
Middle States, and early in May they are first seen near the 
sea-coast of Massachusetts, which at all times appears to be a 
favorite resort. In the interior of the continent they penetrate 
as far as the sources of the Mississippi, the Rocky Mountains, 
and the Territory of Oregon ; they are likewise observed 
around the dreary coasts of Hudson Bay and the remotest 
Arctic islands, breeding in the whole intermediate region to 
the more temperate and elevated parts of Georgia. They are 
now commonly seen towards evening, in pairs, sailing round in 
sweeping circles high in the air, occasionally descending lower 



NIGHTHAWK. 47 1 

to capture flying insects, chiefly of the larger kind, such as 
wasps, beetles, and moths. About the middle of May, or 
later, the female selects some open spot in the woods, the 
corner of a corn-field or dry gravelly knoll, on which to 
deposit her eggs, which are only two, and committed to the 
bare ground, where, however, from the similarity of their tint 
with the soil, they are, in fact, more secure from observation 
than if placed in a nest. Here the male and his mate reside 
during the period of incubation, roosting at a distance from 
each other on the ground or in the neighboring trees ; and in 
consequence of the particular formation of their feet, like the 
rest of the genus, they roost or sit lengthwise on the branch. 
During the progress of incubation the female is seen frequently, 
for some hours before nightfall, playing about in the air over 
the favorite spot, mounting in wide circles, occasionally pro- 
pelled by alternate quick and slow vibrations of the wings, 
until at times he nearly ascends beyond the reach of sight, 
and is only known by his sharp and sudden squeak, which 
greatly resembles the flying shriek of the towering Swift. At 
other times he is seen suddenly to precipitate himself down- 
wards for 60 or 80 feet, and wheeling up again as rapidly ; at 
which instant a hollow whirr, like the rapid turning of a 
spinning-wheel or a strong blowing into the bung-hole of an 
empty hogshead, is heard, and supposed to be produced by 
the action of the air on the wings or in the open mouth of the 
bird. He then again mounts as before, playing about in his 
ascent and giving out his harsh squeak till in a few moments 
the hovering is renewed as before ; and at this occupation the 
male solely continues till the close of twilight. The Euro- 
pean Goatsucker is heard to utter the hollow whirr when 
perched and while holding it head downwards, so that it does 
not appear to be produced by the rushing of the air. The 
female, if disturbed while sitting on her charge, will suffer the 
spectator to advance within a foot or two of her before she 
leaves the nest ; she then tumbles about and flutters with an 
appearance of lameness to draw off the observer, when at 
length she mounts into the air and disappears. On other 



472 GOATSUCKERS. 

occasions the parent, probably the attending male, puffs him- 
self up as it were into a ball of feathers; at the same time 
striking his wings on the ground and opening his capacious 
mouth to its full extent, he stares wildly and utters a blowing 
hiss like that of the Barn Owl when surprised in his hole. On 
observing this grotesque manoeuvre, and this appearance so 
unlike that of a volatile bird, we are struck with the propriety 
of the metaphorical French name of Crapaud volans, or 
Flying Toad, which this bird indeed much resembles while 
thus shapelessly tumbling before the astonished spectator. 
The same feint is also made when he is wounded, on being 
approached. Like some of the other species, instinctively 
vigilant for the safety of their misshapen and tender brood, 
these birds also probably convey them or the eggs from the 
scrutiny of the meddling observer. In our climate they have 
no more than a single brood. 

Sometimes the Nighthawk, before his departure, is seen to 
visit the towns and cities, sailing in circles and uttering his 
squeak as he flies high and securely over the busy streets, 
occasionally sweeping down, as usual, with his whirring notes ; 
and at times he may be observed, even on the tops of chim- 
neys, uttering his harsh call. In gloomy weather these birds 
are abroad nearly the whole day, but are most commonly in 
motion an hour or two before dusk. Sometimes indeed they 
are seen out in the brightest and hottest weather, and occa- 
sionally, while basking in the sun, find means to give chase to 
the Cicindelij Carabij and other entirely diurnal insects, as 
well as grasshoppers, with which they often gorge themselves 
in a surprising manner ; but they probably seldom feed more 
than an hour or two in the course of the day. On Wappatoo 
Island, at the estuary of the Wahlamet, they were till the loth 
of September numerous and familiar, alighting often close to 
the dwellings, in quest probably of crawling insects which come 
out in the dark. 

About the middle of August they begin their migrations 
towards the south, on which occasion they may be seen in the 
evening moving in scattered flocks consisting of several hun- 



NIGHTHAWK. 473 

dreds together, and darting after insects or feeding leisurely as 
they advance towards more congenial climes. For two or 
three weeks these processions along the rivers and their banks, 
tending towards their destination, are still continued. Mingled 
with the wandering host are sometimes also seen the different 
species of Swallow, — a family to which they are so much allied 
in habits and character ; but by the 20th of September the 
whole busy troop have disappeared for the season. 

I have observed Nighthawks flying over the city of St. John, in 
New Brunswick, during most of the summer months, and have 
known of the eggs being found frequently on gravel roofs in that 
city. 

Note. — The Florida Nighthawk (C. virgi7iianus chap- 
mani), a smaller race, breeds in Florida and westward on the 
Gulf coast. 



Pl.XI 




1-2 



Rock Ptarmigan 



3 . Partridoe. 



4^-5. Passenoer Pioeon 
6. Ruffed Grouse. 



PART II. 
GAME AND WATER BIRDS. 



Part II. 
GAME AND WATER BIRDS. 

CONTENTS. 



Page 

Albatross, Yellow-nosed . . 277 

Wandering . . 278 

Auk, Great 414 

Razor-billed . ._ . . . 410 

Avocet 106 

Baldpate 311 

Bittern 99 

Cory's Least .... 102 

Least loi 

Bob-White 23 

Booby 379 

Brant 293 

BufBe-head 347 

Coot 197 

Cormorant 369 

Double-crested . . 372 
Crane, Little Brown .... 76 

Sandhill 77 

Whooping 73 

Curlew, Eskimo 122 

Hudsonian . . . .120 
Long-billed . . . .118 

Dove, Ground 13 

Mourning 11 

Zenaida 10 

Dovekie 403 

Dowitcher 169 

Duck, Black 315 

Canvas-back .... 336 

Harlequin 352 

Labrador 302 

Lesser Scaup .... 345 

Ring-necked .... 346 



Page 



Duck, Ruddy . 


. 


, 




. 3.34 


Scaup 








• .34.3 


Wood . 








• 317 


Egret .... 








. 84 


Reddish . 








. 88 


Eider .... 








324 


Kmg . . 








.329 


Northern . 








329 


Flamingo . . . 








104 


Fulmar 








269 


Lesser . 








271 


Gadwall . . . 








307 


Gallinule, Florida . 








203 


Purple . 








201 


Gannet .... 








.37 S 


Godwit, Hudsoniar 








168 


Marbled . 








166 


Golden-eye . . . 








349 


Barrow 


's . . 






3SI 


Goose, Blue . . . 








283 


Canada . 








285 


Greater Snow 






281 


Hutchins's . . 






290 


White-fronted 






284 


Grebe, Holbcell's . . . 






384 


Horned . . . . 






.383 


Pied-billed . . . 






386 


Grouse, Canada . . . 






41 


Ruffed. . . . 






30 


Sharp-tailed . . 






39 


Guillemot, Black . . . 






39 S 


Gull, Bonaparte's . . . 






238 


Franklin's . . 








238 



IV 



CONTENTS. 



Page 

Gull, Glaucous 248 

Great Black-backed . . 252 

Herring 246 

Iceland 250 

Ivory 244 

Kumlien's 251 

Laughing 236 

Ring-billed 243 

Ross's 239 

Sabine's 234 

Hen, Heath 38 

Prairie 35 

Heron, Black-crowned Night . 91 

Great Blue .... 78 

Great White .... 82 

Green 97 

Little Blue .... 94 

Louisiana 96 

Snowy 86 

Ward's 82 

Yellow-crowned Night 90 

Ibis, Glossy 114 

Scarlet 112 

White 112 

W'ood no 

Jaeger, Long-tailed . . . .259 

Parasitic 258 

Pomarine 257 

KiLLDEER 62 

Kittiwake 241 

Knot 140 

LiMPKiN 102 

Loon 388 

Black-throated . . . .391 
Red-throated 393 

Mallard 303 

Man-of-war Bird 373 

Merganser 358 

Hooded .... 363 
Red-breasted . . . 360 

Murre 398 

Briinnich's 401 



Page 
Noddy 232 

Old-squaw 355 

Oyster-catcher 54 

Pelican, Brown 368 

White 364 

Petrel, Leach's 263 

Stormy 267 

Wilson's 264 

Phalarope, Northern .... 207 

Red 205 

Wilson's . . . .211 

Pheasant, English 22 

Pigeon, Passenger i 

White-crowned ... 7 

Pintail 309 

Plover, Black-bellied .... 68 
Golden 57 

Pip""'g 59 

Ringed 66 

Semi-palmated ... 64 

Wilson's 61 

Prairie Hen 35 

Ptarmigan, Rock 47 

Welch's .... 48 

Willow .... 43 

Puffin 406 

QuAiL-DovE, Blue-headed . . 14 
Key West . . 9 

Rail, Black 196 

Clapper 183 

King 188 

Virginia 180 

Yellow 194 

Redhead . 340 

Ruff .' . . 150 

Sanderling 49 

Sandpiper, Baird's .... 142 
Bartramian . . . 164 
Buff -breasted . .132 
Curlew .... 125 

Least 136 

Pectoral . . . .130 
Purple .... 134 



CONTENTS. 



Sandpiper, Red-backed . 
Semi-palmated 
Solitary 
Spotted 
Stilt . 
White-rumped 
Scoter, American . . 
Suif. . . . 
White-winged 
Shearwater, Audubon's 
Cory's 
Greater 
Sooty 
Shoveller .... 
Skimmer, Black . 

Skua 

Snipe, Wilson's 

Sera 

Spoonbill, Roseate 

Stilt, Black-necked 

Swan, Trumpeter . 

Whistling . 



Page 
126 
143 

160 

145 
129 

333 
33^ 
334 
275 
274 
272 

275 
300 
260 

255 
172 
189 
108 
52 
299 
296 i 



Page 

Teal, Blue-winged . . . .319 

Green-winged . . . .321 

Tern, Arctic 220 

Black -, . 230 

Cabot's 222 

Caspian , 227 

Common 213 

Forster's 216 

Gull-billed 218 

Least 225 

Roseate 223 

Royal 217 

Sooty 228 

Tropic Bird, Red-billed . . .381 

Turkey, Wild 15 

Turnstone 71 

Widgeon 313 

Willet ...,....-. 146 
Woodcock ....... 176 

Yellow-legs ..... 154 
Greater . . .152 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN PART II. 



COLORED PLATES. 



Plate XI. . . . Frontispiece 

1. Rock Ptarmigan (Male). 

2. Rock Ptarmigan (Female). 

3. Partridge. 

4. Wild Pigeon (Male). 

5. Wild Pigeon (Female) 

6. Ruffed Grouse. 

Plate XII Page 42 

1. Piping Plover. 

2. Semi-Palmated Plover. 

3. Golden Plover. 

4. Prairie Hen. 

5. Canada Grouse. 

Plate XIII Page 100 

1. White-Rumped Sandpiper. 

2. Knot. 

3. Bittern 

4. Sanderling. 

5. KiLLDEER. 

Plate XIV Page 152 

1. Greater Yellow-Legs. 

2. Reddish Egret. 

3. Red-Breasted Snipe. 
4 Long-Billed Curlew. 



Plate XV Page 182 

1. SORA. 

2. Virginia Rail. 

3. Clapper Rail. 

4. Yellow Rail. 

5. Flamingo. 

Plate XVI Page 238 

1. Northern Phalarope. 

2. Bonaparte's Gull. 

3. Wilson's Tern. 

4. Herring Gull (Adult Male). 

5. Herring Gull (Young, First 

Autumn). 

Plate XVII. . . . Page 264 

1. Brant. 

2. Wilson's Petrel. 

3. Roseate Tern. 

4. Canada Goose. 

Plate XVIII. . . . Page 316 

1. Woodcock. 

2. Canvas-Back Duck. 

3. Mallard Duck. 

4. Black Duck. 

5. Ruddy Duck. 



Vlll 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



Plate XIX Page 350 

1. Gadwall Duck. 

2. Scaup Duck. 

3. American Golden-Eye. 

4. Harlequin Duck. 

5. Surf Duck. 



Plate XX Page yjz 

1. Double-Crested Cormor- 

ant. 

2. Loon. 

3. Brunnich's Murre. 

4. Puffin. 

5. King Eider. 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT. 



No. Page 

87. Passenger Pigeon . . i 

88. Key West Quail-Dove 9 

89. Mourning Dove . . 11 

90. Wild Turkey ... 15 

91. Bob-White .... 23 

92. Prairie Hen .... 35 

93. Sharp-Tailed Grouse 39 

94. Sanderling .... 49 

95. American Oyster- 

Catcher .... 54 

96. Ring Plover .... 66 

97. Black-Bellied Plover 68 

98. Turnstone 71 

99. Snowy Heron ... 86 
100. Black-Crowned Night 

Heron 91 

loi. Flamingo 104 

102. Roseate Spoonbill . 108 

103. Wood Ibis no 

104. Glossy Ibis .... 114 

105. Hudsonian Curlew . 120 

106. Curlew Sandpiper . 125 

107. Buff-Breasted Sand- 

piper 132 

108. Purple Sandpiper . . 134 

109. Knot 140 

no. Semi-Palmated Sand- 
piper 143 

111. Willet 146 

112. Ruff 150 

113. Solitary Sandpiper . 157 

114. Spotted Sandpiper . 160 



No. 




Page 


lis. 


Marbled Godwit . . 


166 


116. 


Wilson's Snipe . . . 


172 


117. 


Virginia Rail . . . 


180 


118. 


King Rail 


188. 


119. 


Yellow Rail. . . . 


194 


120. 


American Coot . . . 


T97 


121. 


Red Phalarope . . . 


205 


122. 


Common Tern . . . 


213 


123. 


Gull-Billed Tern. . 


218 


124. 


Arctic Tern . . . . 


220 


125. 


Caspian Tern . . . 


227 


126. 


Black Tern .... 


230 


127. 


Sabine's Gull . . . 


234 


128. 


Laughing Gull . . 


236- 


129. 


Kittiwake 


241 


130. 


Ivory Gull .... 


244 


131- 


Herring Gull . . . 


246 


132. 


Glaucous Gull . . . 


248 


133- 


Great Black-Backed 






Gull 


252 


134. 


Skua 


25s 


135- 


PoMARiNE Jaeger . . 


257 


136. 


Leach's Petrel . . . 


263 


137. 


Fulmar 


269 


138. 


Greater Shearwater 


272 


139- 


Yellow-Nosed Alba- 






tross 


277 


140. 


Greater Snow Goose 


281 


141. 


American White- 






Fronted Goose . . 


284 


142. 


Canada Goose . . . 


285 


143- 


Brant 


293 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



IX 



No. 
144. 

145- 
146. 
147. 
148. 
149. 
150. 
151. 
152. 
153- 
154. 

ass- 
ise. 

157- 

158. 



Page 
300 

309 
311 

321 
324 
331 
340 

American Scaup Duck 343 
Buffle-Head • • . . 347 
Harlequin Duck . . 352 
Old Squaw • • • • 355 
Hooded Merganser . 363 



Shoveller . 
Gadwall . 
Pintail . . 
Baldpate . 
Widgeon 
Wood Duck 
Green-Winged Teal 
American Eider . 
Surf Scoter . . . 
Redhead .... 



iVo. 

159- 
160. 
161. 



162. 
163. 
164. 
165. 
166. 
167. 
168. 
169. 
170. 
171. 
172. 



Cormorant . . . 

Gannet 

Red-Billed Tropic 

Bird 

Horned Grebe . . 
Pied-Billed Grebe 

Loon 

Red-Throated Loon 
Black Guillemot , 

MURRE 

Brunnich's Murre 

DOVEKIE 

Puffin 

Razor-Billed Auk 
Great Auk . . „ 



Page 
369 
375 

381 
383 
386 
388 
393 
395 
398 
401 

403 
406 
410 
414 




PASSENGER PIGEON. 

WILD PIGEON. 
ECTOPISTES MIGRATORIUS. 

Char. Above, grayish blue, deeper on head and rump, back tinged 
with brown ; primaries blackish with border of pale blue ; middle tail- 
feathers dusky, the remainder shading through blue to white ; neck with 
metallic reflections of golden purple and wine color; under parts brown- 
ish red with a purple tint shading through purplish pink to white. 

Nest. In tree, — a frail platform of twigs. 

Eggs. I or 2; dull white; 1.45 X 1.05. 

The Wild Pigeon of America, so wonderful for its gregarious 
habits, is met with more or less according to circumstances 

VOL. II. — 1 



2 PIGEON TRIBE. 

from Mexico to Hudson Bay, in which inhospitable region 
it is seen even in December, weathering the severity of the 
climate with indifference, and supporting itself upon the 
meagre buds of the juniper when the ground is hidden by 
inundating snows. To the west it is found to the base of the 
Northern Andes, or Rocky Mountains, but does not appear 
to be known beyond this natural barrier to its devious 
wanderings. As might be supposed from its extraordinary 
history, it is formed with peculiar strength of wing, moving 
through the air with extreme rapidity, urging its flight also by 
quick and very muscular strokes. During the season of 
amorous address it often flies out in numerous hovering cir- 
cles ; and while thus engaged, the tips of the great wing- 
feathers are heard to strike against each other so as to produce 
a very audible sound. 

The almost incredible and unparalleled associations which 
the species form with each other appear to have no relation 
with the usual motives to migration among other birds. A 
general and mutual attachment seems to occasion this congre- 
gating propensity. Nearly the whole species, which at any one 
time inhabit the continent, are found together in the same 
place ; they do not fly from climate, as they are capable of 
enduring its severity and extremes. They are even found to 
breed in the latitude of 5 1 degrees, round Hudson Bay and 
the interior of New Hampshire, as well as in the 3 2d degree in 
the dense forests of the great valley of the Mississippi. The 
accidental situation of their food alone directs all their move- 
ments ; while this continues to be suppHed they sometimes 
remain sedentary in a particular district, as in the dense forests 
of Kentucky, where the great body remained for years in suc- 
cession, and were scarcely elsewhere to be found ; and here, 
at length, when the mast happened to fail, they disappeared 
for several years. 

The rapidity of flight, so necessary in their vast domestic 
movements, is sufficiently remarkable. The Pigeons killed 
near the city of New York have been found with their crops 
full of rice collected in the plantations of Georgia or Carolina ; 



PASSENGER PIGEON. 3 

and as this kind of food is digested by them entirely in twelve 
hours, they must have travelled probably three or four hundred 
miles in about the half of that time, or have sped at the rate of 
a mile in a minute. With a velocity like this, our Pigeon might 
visit the shores of Europe in less than three days ; and, in fact, 
according to Flemming, a straggler was actually shot in Scot- 
land in the winter of 1825. Associated with this rapidity of 
flight must also be the extent and acuteness of its vision, or 
otherwise the object of its motions would be nugatory; so 
that while thus darting over the country almost with the 
velocity of thought, it still keeps up a strict survey for its 
fare, and in passing over a sterile region sails high in the air 
with a widely extended front, but instantly drops its flight at 
the prospect of food, flying low tiU it alights near an ample 
supply. 

The associated numbers of Wild Pigeons, the numerous 
flocks which compose the general swarm, are without any 
other parallel in the history of the feathered race ; they can 
indeed alone be compared to the finny shoals of herrings, 
which, descending from the Arctic regions, discolor and fill 
the ocean to the extent of mighty kingdoms. Of their amaz- 
ing numbers and the circumstances attendant on this fact, the 
reader wiU do well to consult the indefatigable Wilson and the 
celebrated Audubon. Our limits and more bounded personal 
information will not allow us to enlarge on this curious and 
extraordinary subject. To talk of hundreds of millions of 
individuals of the same species habitually associated in feed- 
ing, roosting, and breeding, without any regard to climate or 
season as an operating cause in these gregarious movements, 
would at first appear to be wholly incredible if not borne out 
by the numerous testimony of all the inhabitants o