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At the Falls of the Ohio, I have seen Martins as early as the 15th of
March, arriving in small detached parties of only five or six individuals,
when the thermometer was as low as 28°, the next day at 45°, and again,
in the same week, so low as to cause the death of all the Martins, or to
render them so incapable of flying as to suffer children to catch them.
By the 25th of the same month, they are generally plentiful about that
neighbourhood.

At St Genevieve, in the State of Missouri, they seldom arrive before the
10th or 15th of April, and sometimes suffer from unexpected returns of
frost. At Philadelphia, they are first seen about the 10th of April. They
reach Boston about the 25th, and continue their migration much farther
north, as the spring continues to open.

On their return to the Southern States, they do not require to wait for
warmer days, as in spring, to enable them to proceed, and they all leave
the above-mentioned districts and places about the 20th of August. They
assemble in parties of from fifty to a hundred and fifty, about the
spires of churches in the cities, or on the branches of some large dead
tree about the farms, for several days before their final departure.
From these places they are seen making occasional sorties, uttering a
general cry, and inclining their course towards the west, flying swiftly
for several hundred yards, when suddenly checking themselves in their
career, they return in easy sailings to the same tree or steeple. They
seem to act thus for the purpose of exercising themselves, as well as
to ascertain the course they are to take, and to form the necessary
arrangements for enabling the party to encounter the fatigues of their
long journey. Whilst alighted, during these days of preparation, they
spend the greater part of the time in dressing and oiling their feathers,
cleaning their skins, and clearing, as it were, every part of their
dress and body from the numerous insects which infest them. They remain
on their roosts exposed to the night air, a few only resorting to the
boxes where they have been reared, and do not leave them until the sun
has travelled an hour or two from the horizon, but continue, during the
fore part of the morning, to plume themselves with great assiduity. At
length, on the dawn of a calm morning, they start with one accord, and
are seen moving due west or south-west, joining other parties as they
proceed, until there is formed a flock similar to that which I have
described above. Their progress is now much more rapid than in spring,
and they keep closer together.

It is during these migrations, reader, that the power of flight possessed
by these birds can be best ascertained, and more especially when they
encounter a violent storm of wind. They meet the gust, and appear to
slide along the edges of it, as if determined not to lose one inch of
what they have gained. The foremost front the storm with pertinacity,
ascending or plunging along the skirts of the opposing currents, and
entering their undulating recesses, as if determined to force their way
through, while the rest follow close behind, all huddled together into
such compact masses as to appear like a black spot. Not a twitter is
then to be heard from them by the spectator below; but the instant the
farther edge of the current is doubled, they relax their efforts, to
refresh themselves, and twitter in united accord, as if congratulating
each other on the successful issue of the contest.

The usual flight of this bird more resembles that of the _Hirundo urbica_
of LINNÆUS, or that of the _Hirundo fulva_ of VIEILLOT, than the flight
of any other species of Swallow; and, although graceful and easy, cannot
be compared in swiftness with that of the Barn Swallow. Yet the Martin
is fully able to distance any bird not of its own genus. They are very
expert at bathing and drinking while on the wing, when over a large
lake or river, giving a sudden motion to the hind part of the body, as
it comes into contact with the water, thus dipping themselves in it,
and then rising and shaking their body, like a water spaniel, to throw
off the water. When intending to drink, they sail close over the water,
with both wings greatly raised, and forming a very acute angle with each
other. In this position, they lower the head, dipping their bill several
times in quick succession, and swallowing at each time a little water.

They alight with comparative ease on different trees, particularly
willows, making frequent movements of the wings and tail as they shift
their place, in looking for leaves to convey to their nests. They also
frequently alight on the ground, where, notwithstanding the shortness
of their legs, they move with some ease, pick up a goldsmith or other
insect, and walk to the edges of puddles to drink, opening their wings,
which they also do when on trees, feeling as if not perfectly comfortable.

These birds are extremely courageous, persevering, and tenacious of what
they consider their right. They exhibit strong antipathies against cats,
dogs, and such other quadrupeds as are likely to prove dangerous to them.
They attack and chase indiscriminately every species of Hawk, Crow, or
Vulture, and on this account are much patronized by the husbandman. They
frequently follow and tease an Eagle, until he is out of sight of the
Martin's box; and to give you an idea of their tenacity, when they have
made choice of a place in which to rear their young, I shall relate to
you the following occurrences.

I had a large and commodious house built and fixed on a pole, for the
reception of Martins, in an enclosure near my house, where for some years
several pairs had reared their young. One winter I also put up several
small boxes, with a view to invite Blue-birds to build nests in them. The
Martins arrived in the spring, and imagining these smaller apartments
more agreeable than their own mansion, took possession of them, after
forcing the lovely Blue-birds from their abode. I witnessed the different
conflicts, and observed that one of the Blue-birds was possessed of as
much courage as his antagonist, for it was only in consequence of the
more powerful blows of the Martin, that he gave up his house, in which
a nest was nearly finished, and he continued on all occasions to annoy
the usurper as much as lay in his power. The Martin shewed his head at
the entrance, and merely retorted with accents of exultation and insult.
I thought fit to interfere, mounted the tree on the trunk of which the
Blue-bird's box was fastened, caught the Martin, and clipped his tail
with scissars, in the hope that such mortifying punishment might prove
effectual in inducing him to remove to his own tenement. No such thing;
for no sooner had I launched him into the air, than he at once rushed
back to the box. I again caught him, and clipped the tip of each wing
in such a manner that he still could fly sufficiently well to procure
food, and once more set him at liberty. The desired effect, however, was
not produced, and as I saw the pertinacious Martin keep the box in spite
of all my wishes that he should give it up, I seized him in anger, and
disposed of him in such a way that he never returned to the neighbourhood.

At the house of a friend of mine in Louisiana, some Martins took
possession of sundry holes in the cornices, and there reared their young
for several years, until the insects which they introduced to the house
induced the owner to think of a reform. Carpenters were employed to clean
the place, and close up the apertures by which the birds entered the
cornice. This was soon done. The Martins seemed in despair; they brought
twigs and other materials, and began to form nests wherever a hole could
be found in any part of the building; but were so chased off that after
repeated attempts, the season being in the mean time advanced, they
were forced away, and betook themselves to some Woodpeckers' holes on
the dead trees about the plantation. The next spring, a house was built
for them. The erection of such houses is a general practice, the Purple
Martin being considered as a privileged pilgrim, and the harbinger of
spring.

The note of the Martin is not melodious, but is nevertheless very
pleasing. The twitterings of the male while courting the female are
more interesting. Its notes are among the first that are heard in the
morning, and are welcome to the sense of every body. The industrious
farmer rises from his bed as he hears them. They are soon after mingled
with those of many other birds, and the husbandman, certain of a fine
day, renews his peaceful labours with an elated heart. The still more
independent Indian is also fond of the Martin's company. He frequently
hangs up a calabash on some twig near his camp, and in this cradle the
bird keeps watch, and sallies forth to drive off the vulture that might
otherwise commit depredations on the deer-skins or pieces of venison
exposed to the air to be dried. The humbled slave of the Southern States
takes more pains to accommodate this favourite bird. The calabash is
neatly scooped out, and attached to the flexible top of a cane, brought
from the swamp, where that plant usually grows, and placed close to his
hut. It is, alas! to him a mere memento of the freedom which he once
enjoyed; and, at the sound of the horn which calls him to his labour,
as he bids farewell to the Martin, he cannot help thinking how happy
he should be, were he permitted to gambol and enjoy himself day after
day, with as much liberty as that bird. Almost every country tavern has
a Martin box on the upper part of its sign-board; and I have observed
that the handsomer the box, the better does the inn generally prove to
be.

All our cities are furnished with houses for the reception of these
birds; and it is seldom that even lads bent upon mischief disturb the
favoured Martin. He sweeps along the streets, here and there seizing a
fly, hangs to the eaves of the houses, or peeps into them, as he poises
himself in the air in front of the windows, or mounts high above the
city, soaring into the clear sky, plays with the string of the child's
kite, snapping at it, as he swiftly passes, with unerring precision, or
suddenly sweeps along the roofs, chasing off grimalkin, who is probably
prowling in quest of his young.

In the Middle States, the nest of the Martin is built, or that of the
preceding year repaired and augmented, eight or ten days after its
arrival, or about the 20th of April. It is composed of dry sticks,
willow-twigs, grasses, leaves, green and dry, feathers, and whatever rags
he meets with. The eggs, which are pure white, are from four to six. Many
pairs resort to the same box to breed, and the little fraternity appear
to live in perfect harmony. They rear two broods in a season. The first
comes forth in the end of May, the second about the middle of July. In
Louisiana, they sometimes have three broods. The male takes part of the
labour of incubation, and is extremely attentive to his mate. He is seen
twittering on the box, and frequently flying past the hole. His notes
are at this time emphatical and prolonged, low and less musical than
even his common _pews_. Their food consists entirely of insects, among
which are large beetles. They seldom seize the honey-bee.

The circumstance of their leaving the United States so early in autumn,
has inclined me to think that they must go farther from them than any of
our migratory land birds. This, however, is only conjecture, of which,
kind reader, you may better judge when you have read my account of the
Cliff Swallow.


HIRUNDO PURPUREA, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 844.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 578.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synopsis of
Birds of the United States, p. 64.

PURPLE MARTIN, HIRUNDO PURPUREA, _Wils._ Americ. Ornith. p. 58,
Pl. xxxix. fig. 1. Male; fig. 2. Female.


Adult Male. Plate XXII. Fig 1, 1.

Bill short, rather robust, much depressed and very broad at the base;
compressed towards the tip; upper mandible notched near the tip, which
is rather obtuse and a little declinate; lower mandible nearly straight;
gap as wide as the head, and extending to beneath the eye. Nostrils
basal, lateral, roundish. Head large. Neck short. Body rather elongated
and depressed. Feet very short; tarsus and toes scutellate anteriorly,
lateral toes nearly equal, the outer united to the second joint; claws
short, weak, arched, rather obtuse.

Plumage silky, shining, and blended. Wings very long and slender,
sickle-shaped when closed, the first primary longest. Tail of ordinary
length, shorter than the wings, forked, when spread even, of twelve
straight, narrowish feathers.

Bill deep brownish-black. Iris dark brown. Feet purplish-black. The
plumage is generally of a deep blackish-blue, with intense purplish-blue
reflections; the quills and tail-feathers brownish-black.

Length 7½ inches, extent of wings 16; bill along the back ⅓, along the
gap 1, width of the gap ¾; tarsus ¾, middle toe the same.


Adult Female. Plate XXII. Fig. 2, 2.

Fore and upper part of the head brownish-grey, mottled with black; upper
parts generally of the same tints as the male, with more grey. Throat,
fore neck, and upper breast, dark grey, transversely lined with black.
The rest of the under parts lightish grey, longitudinally streaked with
blackish, darker and transversely streaked on the sides, and under the
tail nearly white, with slight lines.




THE YELLOW-BREASTED WARBLER, OR MARYLAND YELLOW-THROAT.

_SYLVIA TRICHAS_, LATH.

PLATE XXIII. MALE AND FEMALE.


The notes of this little bird render it more conspicuous than most of
its genus, for although they cannot be called very musical, they are far
from being unpleasant, and are uttered so frequently during the day,
that one, in walking along the briary ranges of the fences, is almost
necessarily brought to listen to its _whitititee_, repeated three or
four times every five or six minutes, the bird seldom stopping expressly
to perform its music, but merely uttering the notes after it has picked
an insect from amongst the leaves of the low bushes which it usually
inhabits. It then hops a step or two up or down, and begins again.

Although timid, it seldom flies far off at the approach of man, but
instantly dives into the thickest parts of its favourite bushes and high
grass, where it continues searching for food either along the twigs, or
among the dried leaves on the ground, and renews its little song when
only a few feet distant.

Its nest is one of those which the Cow Bunting (_Icterus pecoris_)
selects, in which to deposit one of its eggs, to be hatched by the
owners, that bird being similar in this respect to the European Cuckoo.
The nest, which is placed on the ground, and partly sunk in it, is now
and then covered over in the form of an oven, from which circumstance
children name this warbler the _Oven-bird_. It is composed externally
of withered leaves and grass, and is lined with hair. The eggs are
from four to six, of a white colour, speckled with light brown, and are
deposited about the middle of May. Sometimes two broods are reared in
a season. I have never observed the egg of the Cow Bunting in the nests
of the second brood. It is less active in its motions than most of the
Sylviæ, but makes up this deficiency by continued application, it being,
to appearance, busily employed during the whole of the day. It does
not chase insects by flying after them, but secures them by surprise.
Caterpillars and spiders form its principal food.

Although this species is found throughout the Union, the Middle States
seem to attract and detain more individuals, during the breeding season,
than any others. Very few breed in Louisiana. In Kentucky, however,
many breed in the barrens. The neighbourhood of swamps and such places
is their favourite ground, but every field provided with briar patches
or tall weeds harbours some of them. It leaves the Central Districts
about the middle of September. The male bird does not attain its full
colouring until the first spring, being for several months of the same
tints as the female.

The twig on which the male is seen, is commonly called in Louisiana the
Wild Olive. The tree is small, brittle and useless. It bears an acid
fruit, which is sometimes employed as a pickle, and eaten when ripe by
some people.

The female is perched on a twig of the Bitter-wood Tree, the wood of
which is hard, and resembles that of the Crab. This is also a small tree,
and grows along fences, amongst the briars, where the birds are found.
Both these trees I have seen in Louisiana only.


SYLVIA TRICHAS, _Lath._ Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 519.

TURDUS TRICHAS, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 293.

SYLVIA MARILANDICA, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 85.

YELLOW-BREASTED WARBLER, _Lath._ Synops, vol. iv. p. 438.

MARYLAND YELLOW-THROAT, SYLVIA MARILANDICA, _Wilson_, Americ.
Ornith. vol. i. p. 88. Pl. 6. fig. 1. Male; and vol. ii. p. 163.
Pl. 18. fig. 4. Female.


Adult Male. Plate XXIII. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, tapering, slender, nearly straight, acute.
Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half-closed by a membrane. Head
and neck of ordinary size, the latter short. Body rather short. Feet
longish, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly
with a few scutella, the uppermost long; toes scutellate above, the inner
free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed, acute,
arched.

Plumage loose, blended. Wings very short, the first quill longest. Tail
rounded.

Bill dark brown. Iris dark hazel. Feet flesh colour. A broad band of black
across the forehead, including the eyes, and terminating in a pointed
form half-way down the neck; behind which is a narrower band of very
pale blue; a slender white streak under the eye. Fore part of the neck
bright ochre-yellow, the rest of the under parts pale brownish-yellow,
fading into white on the abdomen and under tail-coverts. Upper parts
dull greyish-olive, on the head tinged with red. Inner webs of the quills
deep brown.

Length 5¼ inches, extent of wings 6½; bill along the ridge 5/12; along
the gap ⅔; tarsus 11/12.


Adult Female, Plate XXIII. Fig. 2.

The female has the upper parts lighter, the under parts tinged with
reddish-brown, and wants the two bands on the head, which is of a pale
brownish red colour.


THE SNOW-DROP TREE, SILVER-BELL TREE, OR WILD OLIVE.

HALESIA TETRAPTERA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. ii. p. 849. _Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 448.—MONADELPHIA DECANDRIA, _Linn._
GUAIACANÆ, _Juss._

Leaves ovate, acuminate, serrate; flowers with twelve stamina; the fruit
rhomboidal. It grows in shady woods, generally near rivers.


THE BITTER-WOOD TREE.

VIBURNUM PRUNIFOLIUM, _Wild._ Sp. Pl. vol. i. p. 1847. _Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. vol. i. p. 201.—PENTANDRIA DYGYNIA, _Linn._
CAPRIFOLIA, _Juss._

Glabrous; the branches spreading; the leaves roundish; crenato-serrate;
the petioles smooth; the cymes sessile; the fruit round. The flowers
are white, the berries dark purplish-blue.




ROSCOE'S YELLOW-THROAT.

_SYLVIA ROSCOE._

PLATE XXIV. MALE.


The many kind attentions which I have received from the celebrated author
of the Life of Leo the Tenth, joined to the valuable advice with which I
have been favoured by that excellent gentleman, has induced me to honour
the little bird before you with his name.

I shot it in a deep swamp not far from the River Mississippi, in the
State bearing the same name, in September 1821. It was flitting amongst
the top branches of a high Cypress, when I first observed it, moving
sideways, searching for insects, and occasionally following one on the
wing. It uttered a single _twit_ repeated at short intervals. It having
unexpectedly flown to a distant tree of the species on a branch of which
you now see it, I followed it and shot it. It was the only one of the
kind I have ever seen, although I went to the same swamp for several days
in succession. It proved a male, and was to all appearance in perfect
plumage. The gizzard was nearly filled with very minute red insects,
found on Cypresses and Pines, the wings of different flies, and the
heads of red ants.

In general appearance, this species so much resembles the preceding,
that had not its habits differed so greatly from those of the Maryland
Yellow-throat, I might have been induced to consider it as merely
an accidental variety. On examining it more closely, however, and on
comparing it with that bird, I felt, as I now feel, fully confident of
its being different.

The species of Oak, on a twig of which it stands, is commonly called the
_Swamp Oak_. It grows to a large size, always near the edges of damp or
watery places. The height is from fifty to sixty feet, its diameter from
two to three. The branches come off from the trunk at a height of eight
feet from the ground, nearly at right angles. The twigs have a similar
disposition. The wood is extremely hard and close in the texture, heavier
than that of either the Red or the White Oak, and sinks when thrown into
water. The Southern States appear to be those in which it thrives best.


SYLVIA ROSCOE.


Adult Male. Plate XXIV.

Bill of ordinary length, tapering, slender, nearly straight, acute.
Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half-closed by a membrane. Head
and neck of ordinary size, the latter short. Body rather short. Feet
of ordinary length, slender; tarsus scarcely longer than the middle
toe, covered anteriorly with a few scutella, the uppermost long; toes
scutellate above, the inner free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws
slender, compressed, acute, arched.

Plumage loose, blended. Wings very short, the first quill longest. Tail
rounded.

Bill dark flesh-colour, brown at the tip. Iris light brown. Feet
flesh-colour. General colour of the upper parts very dark olive, the
feathers edged with lighter. The inner webs of the quills dark brown.
A slender white streak over the eye and close to it; a broad band of
black from the eye downwards.

Length 5⅛ inches, extent of wings 6¼; bill along the ridge 5/12, along
the gap ⅔; tarsus ⅓.


THE SWAMP OAK.

QUERCUS AQUATICA, WATER OAK, _Mich._ Arb. Forest. vol. ii. p. 90.
Pl. 17.—MONŒCIA POLYANDRIA, _Linn._ AMENTACEÆ, _Juss._

Leaves oblongo-cuneate, tapering at the base, rounded or apiculate,
sometimes three-lobed.




THE SONG SPARROW.

_FRINGILLA MELODIA_, WILS.

PLATE XXV. MALE AND FEMALE.


The Song Sparrow is one of the most abundant of its tribe in Louisiana,
during winter. This abundance is easily accounted for by the circumstance
that it rears three broods in the year:—six, five, and three young at each
time, making fourteen per annum from a single pair. Supposing a couple
to live in health, and enjoy the comforts necessary for the bringing
up of their young families, for a period of only ten years, which is a
moderate estimate for birds of this class, you will readily conceive how
a whole flock of Song Sparrows may in a very short time be produced by
them.

Among the many desiderata connected with the study of nature, there
is one which, long felt by me, is not less so at the present moment.
I have never been able to conceive why a bird which produces more than
one brood in a season, should abandon its first nest to construct a new
one, as is the case with the present species; while other birds, such
as the Ospreys, and various species of Swallows, rear many broods in
the first nest which they have made, and to which they return, after
their long annual migrations, to repair it, and render it fit for the
habitation of the young brood. There is another fact which renders the
question still more difficult to be solved. I have generally found the
nests of this Sparrow cleaner and more perfect after the brood raised
in them have made their departure, than the nests of the other species
of birds mentioned above are on such occasions; a circumstance which
would render it unnecessary for the Song Sparrow to repair its nest.
You are aware of the cleanliness of birds with respect to their nests
during the whole period occupied in rearing their young. You know that
the parents remove the excrements to a distance from them, so long as
these excrements are contained in a filmy kind of substance, of which the
old bird lays hold with its bill for that express purpose, frequently
carrying them off to a distance of forty or fifty yards, or even more.



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