Chester A. (Chester Albert) Reed.

Bird guide...east of the Rockies (Volume 1-2) online

. (page 1 of 19)
Online LibraryChester A. (Chester Albert) ReedBird guide...east of the Rockies (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 1 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



I P&&


1 '* *-


Birds East of the Rockier






Water Birds



Water Birds, Game Birds and Birds of Prey




Author of

North American Birds' Eggs, and, with Frank M. Chapman, of Color Kev to North
American Birds. Curator in Ornithology, Worcester Natural History Society.



Copyrighted 1906.

Copyrighted, 191Q, CHAS. K. REED,
Worcester, Mass.


While strolling through a piece of woodland, or perhaps along the marsh
or seashore, we see a bird, a strange bird, one we never saw before. Instantly,
our curiosity is aroused, and the question arises, "What is it?" There is the
bird! How can we find out what kind it is? The Ornithologist of a few years
ago had but one course open to him, that is to shoot the bird, take it home, then
pore through pages of descriptions, until one was found to correspond with the
specimen. Obviously, such metheds cannot be pursued today, both humane and
economical reasons prohibiting. We have but one alternative left us: We must
make copious notes of all the peculiarities and markings of the bird that is be-
fore us. On our return home, we get down our bird bodks, and there are many
excellent ones. After carefully looking through the whole library, we find that,
although many of our books are well illustrated, none of them have the picture
of what we seek, so we adopt the tactics of the "Old-time" Ornithologist, before
mentioned, and pore over pages of text, until finally we know what our bird
was. It is for just such emergencies as this to identify a bird when you see
it, and where you see it, that this little pocket "Bird Guide" is prepared. May
it be the medium for saving many of today's seekers for "bird truths," from the
many trials and tribulations willingly encountered, and hard and thorny roads
gladly traveled by the author in his quest for knowledge of bird ways.

Worcester, Mass. CHESTER A. REED



The study of the birds included in this book, is much more difficult than that
of the small land birds. Many of the birds are large; seme are very rare; all
are usually shy and have keen eyesight, trained to see at a distance, in fact,
many of them have to depend upon their vigilance, for their very existence.
Therefore, you will find that the majority of these birds will have to be studied
at long range. Sometimes, by exercising care and forethought, you may be
able to approach within a few feet of the bird you seek, or induce him to comf*
to you. It is this pitting your wits against the cunning of the birds that furn-
ishes one-half of the interest in their sudy. Remember that a quick motion will
always cause a bird to fly. If you seek a flock of plover on the shore, or a heron
in the marsh, try to sneak up behind cover if possible; if not, walk very slowly,
and with as little motion as possible, directly towards them, by so doing you
often will get near, for a bird is a poor judge of distance, while a single step
sideways, would cause him to fly. Shore birds can usually best to be observed
from a small "blind," near the water's edge, where they feed. Your powers of
observation will be increased about ten-fold if you are equipped with a good
pair of field glasses; they are practically indispensable to the serious student
and add greatly to the pleasures of anyone. Any good glass, that has a wide
field of vision and magnifies three or four diameters, is suitable; we can recom-
mend the ones described in the back of this book.

WHAT TO MAKE NOTE OF. What is the nature of the locality where


seen; marsh, shore, woods, etc.? If in trees does it sit upright or horizontal?
If on' the ground, does it run or walk, easily or with difficulty? If in the water,
can it swim well, can it dive, does it swim under water, can it fly from the water
easily, or does it have to patter over the surface before flying? What does it
seem to be eating? Does it have any notes? Does it fly rapidly; with rapid
wing beats or not; in a straight line or otherwise? Does it sail, or soar? In
flocks or singly? These and hundreds of other questions that may suggest
themselves, are of great interest and importance.

A PLEA TO SPORTSMEN. Many of the birds shown in this book are
Game Birds, that is, birds that the law allows you to shoot at certain seasons
of the year. Some of these are still abundant and will be for numbers of years;
others are very scarce and if they are further hunted, will become entirely ex-
terminated in two or three years. Bow-whites are very scarce in New England;
Prairie Hens are becoming scarce in parts of the west; the small Curlew is
practically extinct, while the larger ones are rapidly going. In behalf of all
bird lovers, we ask that you refrain from killing those species that you know
are rare, and use moderation in the taking of all others. We also ask that you
use any influence that may be yours, to further laws prohibiting all traffic in
birds. The man who makes his living shooting birds, will make more, live
longer and die happier, tilling the soil than by killing God's creatures. We do
not, now, ask you to refrain from hunting entirely, but get your sport at your
traps. It takes more skill to break a clay pigeon than to kill a quail.



Characteristics of Form or Habit, That Will De-

termine to What Order or Family Birds Belong.

GREBES; Colymbidce: Form, duck-like; bill point-

ed and never flattened; no tail; legs at extreme end of
body; each flattened toe with an individual web;
wings small. Flies rapidly, but patters along the
water before taking wing. Expert divers, using
wings as well as feet, to propel them, under water.

LOONS. Family Gaviidee: Larger than Grebes;
bill, long, heavy and pointed; tail very short; feet
webbed like a duck's, but legsthin and deep; form
and habits, grebe-like.

Bills very variable; tail short; usually takes flight
when alarmed, instead of diving as do grebes and
loons. With the exception of puffins, which stand on
their feet, all birds of this order sit upon their whole
leg and tail. They are awkward on land; some can
hardly walk.

OROtR 2. -

fa^*.^3S&j&r -






SKUAS, JAEGERS. Family Stercorariida-: Ma-
rine birds of prey; bill strongly hooked, with long
scaly shield, or cere, at the base; claws strong and
curved, hawk-like; flight hawk-like; plumage often
entirely sooty-black, and always so on the back.

GULLS, TERNS. Family Larido?: Gulls have
hooked bills, usually yellowish, yellow eyes and pale,
webbed feet. Head, underparts and square tail are
white in adults, back, pearl-grey; exceptions are the
four small black-headed gulls, which also have red-
dish legs. Gulls fly with the bill straight in front,
and often rest on the water. Terns have forked tails,
black caps, and their slender, pointed bills and small
webbed feet are usually red. They fly with bill
pointed down, and dive upon their prey.



Procellariido?: Nostrils opening in a tube on top

of the hooked bill. Plumage of fulmars, gull-like;

shearwaters entirely sooty black, or white below;
petrels blackish, with white rumps, very small
birds. All seabirds.


All four toes joined by webs.

TROPIC BIRDS. Family Phaethontid<r: Bill and
form tern-like; middle tail feathers very long.

GANNETS. Family Sulidae: Bill heavy and
pointed; face and small throat pouch, bare.

SNAKE-BIRDS. Family Anhingidse: Bill slender
arid pointed; neck and tail very long, the latter
rounded; habits like those of the following.

CORMORANTS. Family Phalacrocoracido-: Bill
slender, but hooked at the tip; plumage glossy black
and brown; eyes green. They use their wings, as
well as feet, when pursuing fish under water.

PELICANS. Family Pelecanidae: Bill very long
and with a large pouch suspended below.

MAN-O'-WAR BIRDS. Family Fregatido?:
very long and strongly hooked; tail long and forked;
wholly maritime, as are all but the preceding three.





Mergansers, with slender, toothed bills, with which
to catch the fish they pursue under water.

Other ducks have rather broad bills, more or less
resembling those of the domestic duck. Their flight
is rapid and direct. River ducks have no web, or
flap, on the hind toe; they get their food without go-
ing entirely under water, by tipping up. Sea ducks
have a broad flap on the hind toe.

ORDER 6. FLAMINGOES. Odontoglossse.

Family Phoenicopteridcp: - Large, long-necked,
pink birds with a crooked box-like Dill, long legs and
webbed feet.

Long-legged, wading birds, with all four toes long,
slender and without webs. Usually found about the
muddy edges of ponds, lakes or creeks, and less
often on the sea shore. Wings large and rounded.

SPOONBILL. Family Plataleidrc: Bill long, thin
and much broadened at the end; head bare.

IBISES. Family Ibididrr: Bill long, slender and
curved down. Ibises and Spoonbills fly with the
neck fully extended.

STORKS. Family Ciconiido; : Bill long, heavy
and curved near the end; head and upper neck Dare.

dee: Bill long, straight and pointed; head usually
crested, and back often with plumes. Herons fly
with a fold in the neck, and the back of the head
resting against the shoulders.

ORDER 8. MARSH BIRDS. Paludicolse.

Birds of this order, vary greatly in size and ap-
pearance ,but all agree in having the hind toe ele-
vated, whereas that of the members of the last or-
der, leaves the foot on a level with the front toes;
neck extended in flight.

CRANES. Family Grudidce: Very large and
heron-like, but with plumage close feathered; top of
head bare; bill long, slender and obtusely pointed.

COURLANS. Family Aramido?: Size mid-way
between the cranes and rails; bill long and slender.

RAILS, ETC. Family Rallid^: Bills are varia-
ble, but toes and legs long; wings short; flight slow
and wavering; marsh skulkers, hiding in rushes.
Gallinules have a frontal shield on the forehead,
Coots have lobate-webbed feet; short, whitish bills.



ORDER 9. SHORE BIRDS. Limicolae.

Comparatively small, long legged, slender-billed
birds seen running along edges of ponds or beaches.

PHALAROPES. Phalaropodido?. Toes with lobed

AVOCETS, STILTS. Recurvirostridce: Avocet,
with slender recurved bill, and webbed feet; stilt,
with straight bill, very long legs, toes not webbed.

cid(c: Bills very variable but slender, and all, ex-
cept the Woodcock, with long pointed wings; flight
usually swift and erratic.

PLOVERS. Family Charadriido?: Bill short and
stout; three toes.

TURNSTONES. Family Aphrizidff?: Bill short,
stout and slightly up-turned; l|pur toes.

OYSTER-CATCHERS. Family Hcematopodidce:
Bill long, heavy and compressed; legs and toes stout;
three toes slightly webbed at base.

JACANAS. Family Jacanidce: Bill with leaf-like
shield at the base; legs and toes extremely long and
slender; sharp spur on wing.

ORDER 10. FOWLS Gallinae.

Ground birds of robust form; bill hen-like; wings
short and rounded; feet large and strong.

PARTRIDGES, GROUSE. Family Tetraonidee:
Legs bare in the partridges, feathered in grouse.

TURKEYS, PHEASANTS. Family Phasianidse :
Legs often spurred, or head with wattles, etc.

GUANS. Family Cracidoe: Represented by the
Chachalaca of Texas.

Family ColumbidGe: Bill slender, hard at the tip,
and with the nostrils opening in a fleshy membrane
at the base. Plumage soft grays and browns.

ORDER 12. BIRDS OF PREY. Raptores.
VULTURES. Cathartidce: Head bare; feet hen-like.

HAWKS, EAGLES. Falconidce : Bill and claws
strongly hooked; nostrils in a cere at base of bill.

BARN OWLS. Aluconidae: Black eyes in trian-
gular facial disc; middle toe-nail serrated.

HORNED OWLS, ETC. Bubonidop: Facial disc
round; some species with ears, others without.




Water Birds, Game Birds and Birds of Prey

Part 2 contains Land and Song Birds, the two books
giving every bird east of the Rocky Mountains

DIVING BIRDS Order Pygopodes
GREBES Family Colymbidae

1. ^Echmophorus occidentalis. 25 to 29 inches.

All grebes have lobate-webbed feet, that is each toe
has its individual web, being joined to its fellow only
for a short distance at the base.

This, the largest of our grebes, is frequently known
as the "Swan Grebe" because of its extremely long, thin
neck. In summer the back of the neck is black, but
in winter it is gray like the back.

Notes. Loud, quavering and cackling.

Nest. A floating mass of decayed rushes, sometimes
attached to upright stalks. The 2 to 5 eggs are pale,
bluish white, usually stained (2.40 x 1.55). They
breed in colonies.

Range. Western North America, from the Dakotas
and Manitoba to the Pacific, and north to southern
Alaska. Winters in the Pacific coast states and



2. Colymbus holbcelli. 19 inches.

This is next to the Western Grefce in size, both being
much larger than any of our others. In summer, they
are very handsomely marked with a reddish brown neck,
silvery white cheeks and throat, and black crown and
crest, but in winter they take on the usual grebe dress
of grayish above and glossy white below. Because of
their silky appearance and firm texture, grebe breasts
of all kinds have been extensively used in the past to
adorn hats of women, who were either heedless or igno-
rant of the wholesale slaughter that was carried on
that they might obtain them.

Nest. Of decayed rushes like that of the last. Not
in as large colonies; more often single pairs will be
found nesting with other varieties. Their eggs average
smaller than those of the last species (2.35x1.25).

Range. North America, breeding most abundantly in
the interior of Canada, and to some extent in the Da-
kotas. Winters in the U. S., chiefly on the coasts.


3. Colymbus auritus. 14 inches.

As is usual with grebes, summer brings a remark-
able change in the dress of these birds. The black, puffy
head is adorned with a pair of buffy white ear tufts
and the foreneck is a rich chestnut color. In winter,
they are plain gray and white but the secondaries are
always largely white, as they are in the two preceding
and the following species. The grebe diet consists al-
most wholly of small fish, which they are very expert
at pursuing and catching under water. One that 1 kept
in captivity in a large tank, for a few weeks, would
never miss catching the shiners, upon which he was fed,
at the first lightning-like dart of his slender neck. They
also eat quantities of shell fish, and I doubt if they will
refuse any kind of flesh, for they always have a keen

Nest. A slovenly built pile of vegetation floating in
the " sloughs " of western prairies. The 3 to 7 eggs are
usually stained brownish yellow (1.70x 1.15).

Range. Breeds from Northern Illinois and So. Dakota
northward; winters from northern U. S. to the Gulf of

4. Colymbus nigricollis calif or nicus. 13 inches.

This is a western species rarely found east of the
Mississippi. In summer, it differs from the last in hav-
ing the entire neck black; in winter it can always be
distinguished from the Horned Grebe by its slightly
upcurved bill, while the upper mandible of the last is
i-inivex. In powers of swimming and diving, grebes are
not surpassed by any of our water birds. They dive
at the flash of a gun and swim long distances before
coming to the surface; on this account they are often
called " devil divers." They fly swiftly when once a-wing,
but their concave wings are so small that they have to
patter over the water with their feet in order to rise.

Nest. They nest in colonies, often in the same sloughs
with Horned and Western Grebes, laying their eggs
early in June. The 4 to 7 eggs are dull white, usually
stained brownish, and cannot be separated from those
of the last.

Range. Western X. A., breeding from Texas to .Mani-
toba and British Columbia; winters in western U. S.
and Mexico.


5. Colymbus dominions brachypterus. 10 inches.

This is much smaller than any others of our grebes;
in breeding plumage it most nearly resembles the fol-
lowing species, but the bill is black and sharply pointed.
It has a black patch on the throat, and the crown and
back of the head are glossy blue black; in winter, the
throat and sides of the head are white.

Nest. Xot different from those of the other grebes.
Only comparatively few of them breed in the U. S. but
they are common in Mexico and Central America. Their
eggs, when first laid, are a pale, chalky, greenish white,
but they soon become discolored and stained so that they
are a deep brownish, more so than any of the others;
from 3 to 6 eggs is a full complement (1.40x.95).

Range. Found in the United States, only in the
Lower Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas, and south-
wards to northern South America.



6. Podilymbus podiceps. 13.5 inches.

In any plumage this species cannot be mistaken for
others, because of its stout compressed bill and brown
iris; all the others have red eyes. In summer the bill
is whitish with a black band encircling it; the throat
is black; the eye encircled by a whitish ring; the breast
and sides are brownish-gray. In winter they are brown-
ish-black above and dull white below, with the breast
and sides washed with brown. Young birds have more
or less distinct whitish stripes on the head.

Notes. A loud, ringing " kow-kow-kow-kow ( repeated
many times and ending in) kow-uh, kow-uh."

Nest. Of decayed rushes floating in reed-grown ponds
or edges of lakes. The pile is slightly hollowed and, in
this, the 5 to 8 eggs are laid; the bottom of the nest is
always wet and the eggs are often partly in the water;
they are usually covered with a wet mass when the bird
is away. Brownish-white (1.70x1.15).

Range. Whole of N. A., breeding locally and usually
in pairs or small colonies.

LOONS Family Gavidae

7. Gavia immer. 31 to 35 inches.

In form, loons resemble large grebes, but their feet
are full webbed like those of a duck; they have short,
stiff tails and long, heavy, pointed bills. They have no
tufts or ruffs in breeding season, but their plumage
changes greatly. The common loon is very beautifully
and strikingly marked with black and white above, and
white below; the head is black, with a crescent across
the throat and a ring around the neck. In winter, they
are plain gray above and white below.

Loons are fully as expert in diving and swimming as
are the grebes. They are usually found in larger, more
open bodies of water.

Notes. A loud, quavering, drawn-out " wah-hoo-o-o."

Nest. Sometimes built of sticks, and sometimes sim-
ply a hollow in the sand or bank under overhanging
bushes, usually on an island. The 2 eggs are brownish
with a few black specks ( 3.50 x 2.25 ) .

Range. N. A., breeding from northern U. S. north-
wards; winters from northern U. S. southwards.



9. Gavia arctica. 28 inches.

This loon lives in the Arctic regions and only rarely
is found, in winter, in Northern United States. In sum-
mer, it can readily be distinguished from the common
loon by the gray crown and hind-neck, as well as by
different arrangement of the black and white markings.
In winter, they are quite similar to the last species but
can be recognized by their smaller size, and can be dis-
tinguished from the winter plumaged Red-throated Loon
by the absence of any white markings on the back.
Like the grebes, loons have to run over the surface of
the water in order to take flight, and they are prac-
tically helpless when on land. Their flight is very rapid,
in a 'straight line, and their neck is carried at full
length in front. This species has red eyes, as do all
the other loons.

Nest. The same as the last species, but the two eggs
have more of an olive tint and are smaller (3.10x2.00).

Range. Arctic America, wintering in Canada and oc-
casionallv in Northern United States.


11. Gavia stellata. 25 inches.

Besides being smaller than the common loon, this
species has a more slender bill, which has a slightly
up-turned appearance owing to the straight top to the
upper mandible; in summer, its back and head are gray,
with no white spots, although the back of the head has
a few white streaks; there is a large patch of chestnut
on the fore-neck; the under parts are white. In winter,
it is gray above and white below, but the back is sprin-
kled with small white spots; at this season it can easily
be distinguished from Holbcell Grebe by the absence of
any white patch in the wings as well as by the differ-
ently shaped feet.

Nest. A depression in the sand or ground, not more
than a foot or two from the water's edge, so they can
slide from their two eggs into their natural element.
The eggs, which are laid in June, are olive-brown,
specked with black (2.90x1.75).

Range. Breeds from New Brunswick and Manitoba
north to the Arctic Ocean; winters throughout the
United States.


AUKS, MURRES and PUFFINS Family Alcidae

13. Fratercula arctica. 13 inches.

Puffins are grotesque birds, with short legs, stout
bodies and very large, thin bills, that of the common
Puffin being 2 in. in length and about the same in
height; the bill is highly colored with red and yellow,
and the feet are red; eyes, white. It will be noticed
that the blackish band across the throat does not touch
the chin, this distinguishing it from the Horned Puffin
of the Pacific coast. Adults in winter shed the greater
portion of their bill, lose the little horns that project
over the eye, and the face is blackish; they then re-
semble young birds. They live on rocky shores, the
more precipitous the better. They stand erect upon
their feet and walk with ease.

Notes. A low croak.

Nest. They breed in large colonies on rocky cliffs,
laying their single white eggs (2.50x1.75) in crevices.

Range. Breeds from Matinicus Rock, Me., northward;
winters south casually to Cape Cod. Large-billed Puffin
(F. a. naumanni ) is found in the Arctic Ocean.


27. Cepphus grylle. 13 inches.

These birds are very abundant about the rocky islands
from Maine northward. They may be seen sitting in
rows on the edges of the rocks, or pattering along the
water as they rise in flight, from its surface, at a boat's
approach. In summer the plumage is entirely black,
except the large white patches on the wings; legs red;
eyes brown. This species has the bases of the greater
coverts black, while they are white in Mandt Guillemot
(C. mandtii No. 28), which is found from Labrador
northward. In winter, these birds are mottled gray and
white above, and white below, but the patches still show.

Notes. A shrill, piercing, squealing whistle.

Nest. Guillemots lay two eggs upon the bare rock or
gravel in crevices or under piles of boulders where they
are difficult to get at. They are grayish or greenish-
white, beautifully and heavily blotched with black and
brownish (2.40x 1.60).

Range. Breeds on coasts of North Atlantic from
Maine northward; winters south to Long Island.


30. Uria troille. 16 inches.

In summer the throat is brownish black, but in win-
I ter the throat and sides of head are white; feet blackish
bill, long and stout, 1.7 in. long, while that of Brunnich
Murre (Uria lomvia No. 31), is shorter (1.25 in.) and
more swollen. The ranges and habits of the two species
are the same. Murres are very gregarious, nesting in
large colonies on northern cliffs. In summer every ledge
available at their nesting resort is lined with these
birds, sitting upright on their single eggs.

Notes. A hoarse imitation of their name " murre."

Nest. Their single eggs are laid upon the bare ledges
of cliffs. They are pear-shaped to prevent their rolling
off when the bird leaves; greenish, gray or white in

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryChester A. (Chester Albert) ReedBird guide...east of the Rockies (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 1 of 19)