John James Audubon.

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History presses forward to describe an object of his own discovery, or
that may have occurred to travellers in distant countries. There seems
to be a pride, a glory in doing this, that thrusts aside every other
consideration; and I really believe that the ties of friendship itself
would not prevent some naturalists from even robbing an old acquaintance
of the merit of first describing a previously unknown object. Although I
have certainly felt very great pleasure, when, on picking up a bird, I
discovered it to be new to me, yet I have never known the desire above
alluded to. This feeling I still cherish; and in spite of the many
injunctions which I have received from naturalists far more eminent
than I can ever expect to be, I have kept, and still keep, unknown to
others, the species, which, not finding portrayed in any published work,
I look upon as new, having only given in my Illustrations a number of
them proportionate to the drawings of already known species that have
been engraved. Attached to the descriptions of these, you will find the
place and date of their discovery. I do not, however, intend to claim
any merit for these discoveries, and should have liked as well that the
objects of them had been previously known, as this would have saved
some unbelievers the trouble of searching for them in books, and the
disappointment of finding them actually new. I assure you, good reader,
that, even at this moment, I should have less pleasure in presenting
to the scientific world a new bird, the knowledge of whose habits I
do not possess, than in describing the peculiarities of one long since
discovered.

There are persons whose desire of obtaining celebrity induces them to
suppress the knowledge of the assistance which they have received in the
composition of their works. In many cases, in fact, the real author of the
drawings or the descriptions in books on Natural History is not so much
as mentioned, while the pretended author assumes to himself all the merit
which the world is willing to allow him. This want of candour I never
could endure. On the contrary, I feel pleasure in here acknowledging the
assistance which I have received from a friend, Mr WILLIAM MACGILLIVRAY,
who being possessed of a liberal education and a strong taste for the
study of the Natural Sciences, has aided me, not in drawing the figures
of my Illustrations, nor in writing the book now in your hand, although
fully competent for both tasks, but in completing the scientific details,
and smoothing down the asperities of my Ornithological Biographies.

I do not present to you the objects of which my work consists in the
order adopted by systematic writers. Indeed, I can scarcely believe
that yourself, good-natured reader, could wish that I should do so; for
although you and I, and all the world besides, are well aware that a
grand connected chain does exist in the Creator's sublime system, the
subjects of it have been left at liberty to disperse in quest of the
food best adapted for them, or the comforts that have been so abundantly
scattered for each of them over the globe, and are not in the habit of
following each other, as if marching in regular procession to a funeral
or a merry-making. He who would write a general ornithology of the world,
and is possessed of knowledge adequate to such a task, is the only one
by whom the ordination of birds could be made truly useful. When this
work is completed, and when the results of my observations have been duly
weighed and arranged, I shall reduce the whole to an order corresponding
with the improvements recently made in ornithological science, and
present to you a Synopsis of the Birds of the United States, including
the ordinal, generic and specific characters, with the distinctive habits
of each species, and references to the descriptions of other writers.

I shall therefore simply offer you the results of my own observation
with respect to each of the species, in the order in which I have
published the representations of them. Nor do I intend to annoy you
with long descriptions, including the number and shape of the feathers,
particularly in cases where the species are well known. Tables of synonyms
I have also judged superfluous. Indeed, the technical descriptions and
references you will find as appendages to the more generally interesting
descriptions of the habits of each species; so that you may read them
or not, just as you please. Yet, should you be inclined to enter into
these matters, I trust you will find in these appendages descriptions
constructed according to the strictest rules of science.

Should you, good-natured reader, be a botanist, I hope you will find
pleasure while looking at the flowers, the herbs, the shrubs, and the
trees, which I have represented; the more so, I imagine, if you have
seen them in their native woods. Should you not, the sight of them in
my Illustrations may, for aught I know, tempt you to go and partake of
the hospitality of our brethren the Aborigines of America.

* * * * *

Permit me now to address a few words to the Critic, who I fervently
hope is a good-natured reader too. This I do with much deference. He
has seen my Illustrations, and has judged favourably of them; he has
passed his keen eye over this page; he knows the very moderate strength
of my talents; and I have only to add, with my compliments, that ever
since I have known that such a person as himself exists, I have laboured
harder, with more patience and with more care, to gain his good will,
indulgence, and support.

JOHN J. AUDUBON.

EDINBURGH, }
March 1831. }




TABLE OF CONTENTS


Page

The Wild Turkey, _Meleagris Gallopavo_, 1

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, _Coccyzus Americanus_, 18

The Prothonotary Warbler, _Sylvia Protonotarius_, 22

The Purple Finch, _Fringilla purpurea_, 24

Bonaparte's Fly-catcher, _Muscicapa Bonapartii_, 27

THE OHIO, 29

The Wild Turkey. Female, _ Meleagris Gallopavo_, 33

The Purple Grakle or Common
Crow-Black-bird, _Quiscalus versicolor_, 35

The White-throated Sparrow, _Fringilla pennsylvanica_, 42

Selby's Flycatcher, _Muscicapa Selbii_, 46

The Brown Titlark, _Anthus Spinoletta_, 49

THE GREAT PINE SWAMP, 52

The Bird of Washington, _Falco Washingtonii_, 58

The Baltimore Oriole, _Icterus Baltimore_, 66

The Snow Bird, _Fringilla hyemalis_, 72

The Prairie Warbler, _Sylvia discolor_, 76

The Blue Yellow-backed Warbler, _Sylvia americana_, 78

THE PRAIRIE, 81

The Great-footed Hawk, _Falco peregrinus_, 85

The Carolina Turtle Dove, _Columba carolinensis_, 91

Bewick's Wren, _Troglodytes Bewickii_, 96

The Louisiana Water Thrush, _Turdus ludovicianus_, 99

The Blue-winged Yellow Warbler, _Sylvia solitaria_, 102

THE REGULATORS, 105

The Mocking Bird, _Turdus polyglottus_, 108

The Purple Martin, _Hirundo purpurea_, 115

The Yellow-breasted Warbler,
or Maryland Yellow-throat, _Sylvia Trichas_, 121

Roscoe's Yellow-throat, _Sylvia Roscoe_, 124

The Song Sparrow, _Fringilla melodia_, 126

IMPROVEMENTS IN THE NAVIGATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, 130

The Carolina Parrot, _Psittacus carolinensis_, 135

The Red-headed Woodpecker, _Picus erythrocephalus_, 141

The Solitary Fly-catcher, or
Vireo, _Vireo solitarius_, 147

The Towhe Bunting, _Fringilla erythrophthalma_, 150

Vigors's Warbler, _Sylvia Vigorsii_, 153

A FLOOD, 155

The White-headed Eagle, _Falco leucocephalus_, 160

The Black-billed Cuckoo, _Coccyzus erythrophthalmus_, 170

The American Goldfinch, _Fringilla tristis_, 172

The Worm-eating Warbler, _Sylvia vermivora_, 177

Children's Warbler, _Sylvia Childrenii_, 180

MEADVILLE, 182

The Stanley Hawk, _Falco Stanleii_, 186

The Golden-winged Woodpecker, _Picus auratus_, 191

The Kentucky Warbler, _Sylvia formosa_, 196

The Crested Titmouse, _Parus bicolor_, 199

The American Redstart, _Muscicapa Ruticilla_, 202

THE COUGAR, 205

The Ruffed Grouse, _Tetrao Umbellus_, 211

The Orchard Oriole, _Icterus spurius_, 221

The Cedar Bird, _Bombycilla carolinensis_, 227

The Summer Red Bird, _Tanagra æstiva_, 232

Traill's Fly-catcher, _Muscicapa Traillii_, 236

THE EARTHQUAKE, 239

The Barred Owl, _Strix nebulosa_, 242

The Ruby-throated Humming
Bird, _Trochilus colubris_, 248

The Azure Warbler, _Sylvia azurea_, 255

The Blue-green Warbler, _Sylvia rara_, 258

The Black-and-yellow Warbler, _Sylvia maculosa_, 260

THE HURRICANE, 262

The Red-tailed Hawk, _Falco borealis_, 265

Chuckwill's Widow, _Caprimulgus carolinensis_, 273

The Painted Finch, _Fringilla ciris_, 279

The Rice Bird, _Icterus agripennis_, 283

Cuvier's Regulus, _Regulus Cuvierii_, 288

KENTUCKY SPORTS, 290

The Red-shouldered Hawk, _Falco lineatus_, 296

The Loggerhead Shrike, _Lanius ludovicianus_, 300

The Hermit Thrush, _Turdus minor_, 303

The Chestnut-sided Warbler, _Sylvia icterocephala_, 306

The Carbonated Warbler, _Sylvia carbonata_, 308

THE TRAVELLER AND THE POLE-CAT, 310

The Great Horned Owl, _Strix virginiana_, 313

The Passenger Pigeon, _Columba migratoria_, 319

The White-eyed Flycatcher, or
Vireo, _Vireo noveboracensis_, 328

The Swamp Sparrow, _Fringilla palustris_, 331

The Rathbone Warbler, _Sylvia Rathbonia_, 333

DEER HUNTING, 335

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, _Picus principalis_, 341

The Red-winged Starling, or
Marsh Blackbird, _Icterus phœniceus_, 348

The Republican, or Cliff
Swallow, _Hirundo fulva_, 353

The Bay-breasted Warbler, _Sylvia castanea_, 358

Henslow's Bunting, _Emberiza Henslowii_, 360

NIAGARA, 362

The Winter Hawk, _Falco hyemalis_, 364

The Swallow-tailed Hawk, _Falco furcatus_, 368

The Wood Thrush, _Turdus mustelinus_, 372

The Indigo Bird, _Fringilla cyanea_, 377

Le Petit Caporal, _Falco temerarius_, 381

HOSPITALITY IN THE WOODS, 383

The Virginian Partridge, _Perdix virginiana_, 388

The Belted Kingsfisher, _Alcedo Alcyon_, 394

The Great Carolina Wren, _Troglodytes ludovicianus_, 399

The Tyrant Fly-catcher, _Muscicapa tyrannus_, 403

The Prairie Titlark, _Anthus pipiens_, 408

THE ORIGINAL PAINTER, 410

The Fish Hawk or Osprey, _Falco Haliaetus_, 415

Whip-poor-will, _Caprimulgus vociferus_, 422

The House Wren, _Troglodytes ædon_, 427

The Blue-grey Fly-catcher, _Muscicapa cærulea_, 431

The Yellow-throated Warbler, _Sylvia pensilis_, 434

LOUISVILLE IN KENTUCKY, 437

The Black Warrior, _Falco Harlani_, 441

The Florida Jay, _Corvus floridanus_, 444

The Autumnal Warbler, _Sylvia autumnalis_, 447

The Nashville Warbler, _Sylvia rubricapilla_, 450

The Black-and-white Creeper, _Certhia varia_, 452

THE ECCENTRIC NATURALIST, 455

The Broad-winged Hawk, _Falco pennsylvanicus_, 461

The Pigeon Hawk, _Falco columbarius_, 466

The Sea-side Finch, _Fringilla maritima_, 470

The Grass Finch or Bay-winged
Bunting, _Fringilla graminea_, 473

The Yellow-poll Warbler, _Sylvia æstiva_, 476

SCIPIO AND THE BEAR, 479

The Columbian Jay, _Corvus Bullockii_, 483

The Little Screech Owl, _Strix Asio_, 486

The White-bellied Swallow, _Hirundo bicolor_, 491

The Cow-pen Bird, _Icterus pecoris_, 493

The Marsh Wren, _Troglodytes palustris_, 500

COLONEL BOON, 503




ORNITHOLOGICAL BIOGRAPHY.




THE WILD TURKEY.

_MELEAGRIS GALLOPAVO_, LINN.

PLATE I. MALE.


The great size and beauty of the Wild Turkey, its value as a delicate
and highly prized article of food, and the circumstance of its being the
origin of the domestic race now generally dispersed over both continents,
render it one of the most interesting of the birds indigenous to the
United States of America.

The unsettled parts of the States of Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and
Indiana, an immense extent of country to the north-west of these
districts, upon the Mississippi and Missouri, and the vast regions
drained by these rivers from their confluence to Louisiana, including
the wooded parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, are the most
abundantly supplied with this magnificent bird. It is less plentiful
in Georgia and the Carolinas, becomes still scarcer in Virginia and
Pennsylvania, and is now very rarely seen to the eastward of the last
mentioned States. In the course of my rambles through Long Island, the
State of New York, and the country around the Lakes, I did not meet with
a single individual, although I was informed that some exist in those
parts. Turkeys are still to be found along the whole line of the Alleghany
Mountains, where they have become so wary as to be approached only with
extreme difficulty. While, in the Great Pine Forest, in 1829, I found a
single feather that had been dropped from the tail of a female, but saw
no bird of the kind. Farther eastward, I do not think they are now to
be found. I shall describe the manners of this bird as observed in the
countries where it is most abundant, and having resided for many years
in Kentucky and Louisiana, may be understood as referring chiefly to them.

The Turkey is irregularly migratory, as well as irregularly gregarious.
With reference to the first of these circumstances, I have to state, that
whenever the _mast_[1] of one portion of the country happens greatly to
exceed that of another, the Turkeys are insensibly led toward that spot,
by gradually meeting in their haunts with more fruit the nearer they
advance towards the place where it is most plentiful. In this manner
flock follows after flock, until one district is entirely deserted, while
another is, as it were, overflowed by them. But as these migrations are
irregular, and extend over a vast expanse of country, it is necessary
that I should describe the manner in which they take place.

About the beginning of October, when scarcely any of the seeds and fruits
have yet fallen from the trees, these birds assemble in flocks, and
gradually move towards the rich bottom lands of the Ohio and Mississippi.
The males, or, as they are more commonly called, the _gobblers_, associate
in parties of from ten to a hundred, and search for food apart from the
females; while the latter are seen either advancing singly, each with
its brood of young, then about two-thirds grown, or in connexion with
other families, forming parties often amounting to seventy or eighty
individuals, all intent on shunning the old cocks, which, even when the
young birds have attained this size, will fight with, and often destroy
them by repeated blows on the head. Old and young, however, all move
in the same course, and on foot, unless their progress be interrupted
by a river, or the hunter's dog force them to take wing. When they come
upon a river, they betake themselves to the highest eminences, and there
often remain a whole day, or sometimes two, as if for the purpose of
consultation. During this time, the males are heard _gobbling_, calling,
and making much ado, and are seen strutting about, as if to raise their
courage to a pitch befitting the emergency. Even the females and young
assume something of the same pompous demeanour, spread out their tails,
and run round each other, _purring_ loudly, and performing extravagant
leaps. At length, when the weather appears settled, and all around is
quiet, the whole party mounts to the tops of the highest trees, whence,
at a signal, consisting of a single _cluck_, given by a leader, the flock
takes flight for the opposite shore. The old and fat birds easily get
over, even should the river be a mile in breadth; but the younger and
less robust frequently fall into the water,—not to be drowned, however,
as might be imagined. They bring their wings close to their body, spread
out their tail as a support, stretch forward their neck, and, striking
out their legs with great vigour, proceed rapidly towards the shore;
on approaching which, should they find it too steep for landing, they
cease their exertions for a few moments, float down the stream until
they come to an accessible part, and by a violent effort generally
extricate themselves from the water. It is remarkable, that immediately
after thus crossing a large stream, they ramble about for some time, as
if bewildered. In this state, they fall an easy prey to the hunter.

When the Turkeys arrive in parts where the mast is abundant, they separate
into smaller flocks, composed of birds of all ages and both sexes,
promiscuously mingled, and devour all before them. This happens about
the middle of November. So gentle do they sometimes become after these
long journeys, that they have been seen to approach the farm-houses,
associate with the domestic fowls, and enter the stables and corn-cribs
in quest of food. In this way, roaming about the forests, and feeding
chiefly on mast, they pass the autumn and part of the winter.

As early as the middle of February, they begin to experience the impulse
of propagation. The females separate, and fly from the males. The
latter strenuously pursue, and begin to gobble or to utter the notes of
exultation. The sexes roost apart, but at no great distance from each
other. When a female utters a call-note, all the gobblers within hearing
return the sound, rolling note after note with as much rapidity as if
they intended to emit the last and the first together, not with spread
tail, as when fluttering round the females on the ground, or practising
on the branches of the trees on which they have roosted for the night,
but much in the manner of the domestic turkey, when an unusual or
unexpected noise elicits its singular hubbub. If the call of the female
comes from the ground, all the males immediately fly towards the spot,
and the moment they reach it, whether the hen be in sight or not, spread
out and erect their tail, draw the head back on the shoulders, depress
their wings with a quivering motion, and strut pompously about, emitting
at the same time a succession of puffs from the lungs, and stopping now
and then to listen and look. But whether they spy the female or not,
they continue to puff and strut, moving with as much celerity as their
ideas of ceremony seem to admit. While thus occupied, the males often
encounter each other, in which case desperate battles take place, ending
in bloodshed, and often in the loss of many lives, the weaker falling
under the repeated blows inflicted upon their head by the stronger.

I have often been much diverted, while watching two males in fierce
conflict, by seeing them move alternately backwards and forwards, as
either had obtained a better hold, their wings drooping, their tails
partly raised, their body-feathers ruffled, and their heads covered
with blood. If, as they thus struggle, and gasp for breath, one of them
should lose his hold, his chance is over, for the other, still holding
fast, hits him violently with spurs and wings, and in a few minutes
brings him to the ground. The moment he is dead, the conqueror treads
him under foot, but, what is strange, not with hatred, but with all the
motions which he employs in caressing the female.

When the male has discovered and made up to the female (whether such
a combat has previously taken place or not), if she be more than one
year old, she also struts and gobbles, turns round him as he continues
strutting, suddenly opens her wings, throws herself towards him, as if
to put a stop to his idle delay, lays herself down, and receives his
dilatory caresses. If the cock meet a young hen, he alters his mode of
procedure. He struts in a different manner, less pompously and more
energetically, moves with rapidity, sometimes rises from the ground,
taking a short flight around the hen, as is the manner of some Pigeons,
the Red-breasted Thrush, and many other birds, and on alighting, runs
with all his might, at the same time rubbing his tail and wings along
the ground, for the space of perhaps ten yards. He then draws near the
timorous female, allays her fears by purring, and when she at length
assents, caresses her.

When a male and a female have thus come together, I believe the connexion
continues for that season, although the former by no means confines his
attentions to one female, as I have seen a cock caress several hens,
when he happened to fall in with them in the same place, for the first
time. After this the hens follow their favourite cock, roosting in his
immediate neighbourhood, if not on the same tree, until they begin to
lay, when they separate themselves, in order to save their eggs from the
male, who would break them all, for the purpose of protracting his sexual
enjoyments. The females then carefully avoid him, excepting during a
short period each day. After this the males become clumsy and slovenly,
if one may say so, cease to fight with each other, give up gobbling or
calling so frequently, and assume so careless a habit, that the hens
are obliged to make all the advances themselves. They _yelp_ loudly
and almost continually for the cocks, run up to them, caress them, and
employ various means to rekindle their expiring ardour.

Turkey-cocks when at roost sometimes strut and gobble, but I have more
generally seen them spread out and raise their tail, and emit the pulmonic



Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 1 (of 5) → online text (page 2 of 50)