Agassiz Association. Wilson Ornithological Chapter.

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Bound at







Published by the Chapter at Oberlin, Ohio



NEARLY six 3ears ago the writer issued a call to members
of the Wilson Ornithological Chapter of the Agassiz
Association, to begin a critical study of Warbler songs (family
Mniotiltidic) . The object of this call was to secure a mass of
notes descriptive of the songs, from man}- sources, so that by
comparison and tabulation a fairly accurate representation of
each song could be put upon paper. It was also hoped that
the diurnal as well as the seasonal song period of each species
could be determined accurately, and that many other little
understood phenomena might become better known. The
author of the scheme of study well understood the wide lack
of acquaintance among the class of lay ornithologists with the
large majority of the family, and hoped that this might be
a means of awakening widespread interest in our most beauti-
ful and interesting group of birds. But the responses were
few indeed, indicating that the difficiilties were greater than
could be overcome by the average bird student. Lack of
time to devote to the swiftly passing migrants in the early
days of May was undoubtedly one great obstacle in the way
of many a willing worker.

Failing in this plan, but anxious to bring the host of
Warblers closer to those who do not already know them by
their voices, the writer has undertaken the task of bringing
together all printed descriptions of Warbler songs at his com-
mand, combining them with such contributions as have been
made in manuscript, and his own notes representing fifteen
years of study, thus presenting what is known to him of the
songs of the Warblers. On another page will be found a
complete list of the works consulted, including books and
periodicals. The writer full)' realizes that this is far from a
complete bibliography of the subject, but it will illustrate the
resources at hand.

The task of bringing together such a mass of printed and


manuscript descriptions has been second only to the task of
determining in each case what must be allowed as a margin
for the personal equation of the describer, and how much must
be allowed for variation in the species. No intelligent com-
parison of' the several descriptions could be made without a
fairly satisfactory solution of these two difficulties. The
method has been to select some species whose songs are clearlj'
distinctive and not seriously variable. Three were selected :
Oven-bird, Maryland Yellow-throat and Black-throated Green
Warbler. The variation among the individual describers,
when determined, will give the variation of the species.

There must be a large margin for mistakes allowed, par-
ticularly^ with the species whose songs are not personally
known to the writer. A little study of ones notes in successive
years will serve to show that we are prone to variations in our
methods of representing the same songs from year to year,
allowing as much as we please for variations of the individuals
composing the species. The way our ears hear bird songs is
often deterrhined by our digestion. But there is always the
possibility of finding an average for the whole series of notes.
That has been the writer's effort in the body of the paper — to
present the average of all notes of equal value.

Five years of teaching Ornithology in Oberlin College to all
sorts of students, serve to show that descriptions of color
patterns and habits are not adequate to the task of bringing
this assemblage of small birds to the notice of the average
person who becomes interested in birds. The song seems to be
the missing link in the chain of acquaintance. Both the e3'e
and the ear must be educated if one would learn the birds, and
my experience indicates that the ear is the readier learner. Is
that probably due to a tendency to color-blindness, or to weak
eyesight on the one hand, and to a long series of unconscious
ear training, on the other?

It is to the class of bird students who hope to find pleas-
ure in acquaintance wdth the Warblers, rather than to those
who already know them that this paper is addressed. It is
hoped that by arranging the species in groups according to
greater or less resemblance to each other it will enable the
student to give special attention to one group before at-
tempting the larger study of the whole group, thus some-


what simplifying the process of study. If this paper should
prove of any assistance to lay ornithologists, and to those who
find pleasure in casual notice of birds, the labor of preparing
it will be fully repaid.

Acknowledgements are gladly made to Mr. H. W. Carriger,
Sonoma, Calif. ; Mr. N. Hollister, Delavan, Wis. ; Miss Ethel
Dane Roberts, Wooster, Ohio ; and Mr. Benj. T. Gault, Glen
Ellyn, 111., for valuable manuscript notes upon original field
work. Particularly to Mr. Frank L. Burns, Berwyn, Pa., for
painstaking study of several species not accessible to the
writer, and for constant interest and encouragement when the
future of the study looked dark and forbidding. Most of all
are thanks due Professor Albert A. Wright for constant en-
couragement, and for patience and forbearance with me during
" warbler time," when the many voices from the tree-tops
proved more alluring than the duties which rightly called my
attention away from the birds. Finally, it is with real pleasure
that the writer reminds the reader of the close companionship,
so often more than hinted in former numbers of this Bulletin,
between himself and Rev. W. L. Dawson, now of Ahtanum,
Washington ; a fellowship to which the paper now presented
owes far more than appears upon its pages.

While the serial arrangement of the species* does not follow
that adopted by the American Ornithologists' Union, the
nomenclature does. The number following the name of the
species will indicate its systematic position. It has seemed
better to group the species according to their songs rather
than according to their structural relationships. The geo-
graphical range, which always closes the discussion of each
species, has been taken bodily from the A. O. U. Check List
of North American Birds.


^ I ^HE following list of books and periodicals contains only
-^ those in which something of use bearing directly upon
the subject has been found. General works on birds which con-
tain no mention of Warblers are therefore excluded, but books
treating the general subject of bird song, even tho they con-
tain nothing specifically upon the warblers, are included.
Neither here nor in the bod}^ of the report does it seem de-
sirable to cumber the pages with exact references in the
majority of cases. In many of the books the Warblers maj'
readily be found in their systematic position, arranged in the
accepted systematic order, and in nearly ever}' book the index
will prove a sujBicient guide to the page from which the
reference has been taken. With periodicals the case is some-
what different, and here specific references will be given where
they seem necessary, in the body of the paper.
American Ornithology. Alexander Wilson.
A-birding on a Bronco. Florence A. Merriam.
A Bird Lover in the West. Olive Thorne Miller.
A Dictionary- of Birds. Alfred Newton.
Bird Craft. Mabel Osgood Wright.
Birds in the Bush. Bradford Torrey.
Bird Life. Frank M. Chapman.

Bird Migration in the Mississippi Vallej-. W. W. Cooke.
Birds of Belknap and Merrimack Cos., N. H. Ned Dearborn.
Birds of Colorado. W. W. Cooke.
Birds of _ Indiana. Amos W. Butler.
Birds of Iowa. Keyes and Williams.
Birds of Maine. Ora W. Knight.
Birds of Michigan. A. J. Cook.
Birds of Minnesota. P. L. Hatch.
Birds of Ohio. J. M. Wheaton.
Birds of Okanogan Co., Wash. W. L. Dawson.
Birds of Outagamie Co., Wis. F. L. Grundtvig.


Birds of the Northwest. Elliott Coues.

Birds of Wa3'ne Co., Ohio. Harry C. Oberholser.

Birds Through an Opera Glass. Florence A. Merriam.

Bird Ways. Olive Thorne Miller.

Bulletin U S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the

Territories. Vol. IV, Nos. 1, 2, 3.
Cage Birds and Sweet Warblers. J. M. Bechstein.
Cambridge Natural History, The, Birds. A. H. Evans.
Citizen Bird. Mabel Osgood Wright.
Days Out of Doors. C. C. Abbott.
Elements of Ornithology, The. St. George Mivart.
Evolution of Bird Song. Charles A. Witchell.
Hand-book of the Birds of Eastern North America. Frank

M. Chapman.
In Bird Land. Leander S. Keyser.
Key to North American Birds. Elliott Coues.
Land and Game Birds of New England. H. D. Minot.
Eand Birds of North America. Baird, Brewer and Ridgway.
Life Histories of Birds. Thomas G. Gentry.
Manual of North American Birds, A. Robert Ridgway.
Nests and Eggs of North American Birds. Oliver Davis.
Our Birds in their Haunts. Rev. J. H. Langille.
Our Common Birds and How to Know Them. John B. Grant.
Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most

Practicable Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River

to the Pacific Ocean. House Reports. 1853-5.
Some Common Birds. P. M. Silloway.
vStory of the Birds, The. James Newton Baskett.


Atlantic Monthly, April, 1883. Bradford Torrey.

Auk. Particularly Vol. I, pp. 210-17. Eugene P. Bicknell,

The Singing of Our Birds. J. A. Allen. Ed. New York

Bird-Eore. Frank M. Chapman, Ed. Englewood, N. J.
Birds and All Nature. C. C. Marble, Ed. Chicago, 111.
Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club, now The Condor.

C. Barlow, Ed. Santa Clara, Calif.
Bulletin of the Maine Ornithological Association. O. W.

Knight, Ed. Bangor, Me.


Bulletin of the Michigan Ornithological Club. Leon J. Cole,
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Iowa Ornithologist, now Western Ornithologist. I'D. L. Sav-
age) C. C. Try on, Ed. Avoca, la.

Museum, The. W. F. Webb, Ed. Albion, N. V.

Nidologist. H. R. Taylor, Ed. Alameda, Calif.

Oologist, The. Frank H. Lattin, Ed. Albion, N. Y.

Ornithologist and Oologist. F. B. Webster, Ed. Boston, Mass.

Osprey, The. (W. A. Johnson,) (Elliott Coues, ) Theo. D.
Gill, Eds. Washington, D. C.

Wilson Bulletin. The. Lynds Jones, Ed. Oberlin, Ohio.


IN the development of birds away from the primitive
reptilian tj'pe, there has been, in general, a tendenc}^ to
decrease in size as well as to structural modifications brought
about by changing environment. In order to increase greath^
in numbers there must be a decrease in size if the world were to
contain the host. Along with decrease in size there .seems to
have developed a tendency to vocal expression, culminating at
the present day in utterances second only to speech — song.
We are unable to attribute to a bird's vocal utterances, how-
ever complex they may seem, more than a momentary state of
feeling, unless it be taught by man. Only the vSmaller birds
truly sing ; the muscles of their syrinx enabling them to give
utterance to ^'aried notes instead of a monotonous repetition of
the same note.

In the higher development of the Oscines — the singing
birds — there naturally grew differences in song just as there
grew differences in .structure and habits, producing more or
less well defined groups. We might reasonably expect that
if a group be sharply marked off from other groups structur-
ally its style of song would be sharply marked ; that it
would possess a distinct song-type ; and if there be gradations
between groups there would naturally be gradations in song
likewise. In general we find this to be true, but in particular
there are exceptions. Thus, while the Warblers certainly
possess a song-type it distinctly grades off to the Sparrows,
which are not otherwise closel}- related to them. So we are
forced to find and define the song-type and work both ways
from it out to the limits, and there .seek to cer-
tainly between the two which .seem to grade into each other.
The warbler song-tj'pe may be defined as a high pitched,
hissing whistle consisting of two well defined parts, usually-
on a different pitch. There are many and decided departures
from this type, the one extreme being a monotonous repetition

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