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nests belonging to this species in large hollows of decayed trees, and
twice in the fissures of rocks. In all these cases, little preparation
had been made previous to the laying of the eggs, as I found only a few
grasses and feathers placed under them.

The Great Horned Owl lives retired, and it is seldom that more than
one is found in the neighbourhood of a farm, after the breeding season;
but as almost every detached farm is visited by one of these dangerous
and powerful marauders, it may be said to be abundant. The havock which
it commits is very great. I have known a plantation almost stripped of
the whole of the poultry raised upon it during spring, by one of these
daring foes of the feathered race, in the course of the ensuing winter.

This species is very powerful, and equally spirited. It attacks Wild
Turkeys when half-grown, and often masters them. Mallards, Guinea-fowls,
and common barn fowls, prove an easy prey, and on seizing them it
carries them off in its talons from the farm-yards to the interior of
the woods. When wounded, it exhibits a revengeful tenacity of spirit,
scarcely surpassed by any of the noblest of the Eagle tribe, disdaining
to scramble away like the Barred Owl, but facing its enemy with undaunted
courage, protruding its powerful talons, and snapping its bill, as long
as he continues in its presence. On these occasions, its large goggle
eyes are seen to open and close in quick succession, and the feathers
of its body, being raised, swell out its apparent bulk to nearly double
the natural size.

You have before you, kind reader, a male and a female of this species,
which I hope will give you a more perfect idea of the size and form of
the Great Horned Owl than any description could do.


STRIX VIRGINIANA, _Gmel._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 287.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. i. p. 52.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds
of the United States, p. 37.

VIRGINIAN EARED OWL, _Lath._ Synops. vol. i. p. 119.

GREAT HORNED OWL, STRIX VIRGINIANA, _Wilson_, Americ. Ornith.
vol. vi. p. 52. Pl. 50. fig. 1.


Adult Male. Plate LXI. Fig. 1.

Bill short, compressed, curved, acute, with a cere at the base; upper
mandible with its dorsal outline curved from the base, the edges acute,
the point trigonal, very acute, deflected; lower mandible with the edges
acute and inflected, obtuse at the tip. Nostrils oval, in the fore part
of the cere. Head disproportionately large, as are the eyes and external
ears. Body short. Legs of ordinary length; tarsus and toes feathered;
toes papillar and tuberculate beneath; claws curved, rounded, long,
extremely sharp.

Plumage very soft and downy, somewhat distinct above, tufty and loose
beneath. Long bristly feathers at the base of the bill, stretching
forwards. Eyes surrounded by circles of compact feathers; auricular
coverts forming a ruff. Two erectile tufts of feathers on the head, one
on each side. Wings ample, the fourth quill longest, the first short.
Tail of ordinary length, rounded, of twelve broad feathers.

Bill black. Iris yellow. Claws black. Upper part of the head
brownish-black, mottled with light brown, the tufts or horns of the
same colour, margined with brown. Face brownish-red, with a circle of
blackish-brown. The upper parts are undulatingly banded and minutely
mottled with brownish-black and brownish-red, the ground colour on
the lower part of the back tinged with grey. Wings and tail light
brownish-yellow, barred and mottled with blackish-brown and light
brownish-red. Chin white, upper part of the throat light reddish, spotted
with black, a band of white across the middle of the fore neck; lower
fore neck and breast light yellowish-red, barred with deep brown, as are
the under parts generally, some of the feathers being nearly white, but
barred; several longitudinal brownish-black patches on the lower fore
neck; tarsal feathers light yellowish-red, obscurely barred.

Length 23 inches; extent of wings 56; bill along the ridge 2; tufts on
the head 3.


Adult Female. Plate LXI. Fig. 2.

The female is considerably larger than the male, and is duller and lighter
in colouring, although the distribution of the tints is similar. The
white of the chin is less pure, and the broad band of the same colour
on the fore neck is wanting.




THE PASSENGER PIGEON.

_COLUMBA MIGRATORIA_, LINN.

PLATE LXII. MALE AND FEMALE.


The Passenger Pigeon, or, as it is usually named in America, the Wild
Pigeon, moves with extreme rapidity, propelling itself by quickly
repeated flaps of the wings, which it brings more or less near to the
body, according to the degree of velocity which is required. Like the
Domestic Pigeon, it often flies, during the love season, in a circling
manner, supporting itself with both wings angularly elevated, in which
position it keeps them until it is about to alight. Now and then, during
these circular flights, the tips of the primary quills of each wing are
made to strike against each other, producing a smart rap, which may be
heard at a distance of thirty or forty yards. Before alighting, the Wild
Pigeon, like the Carolina Parrot and a few other species of birds, breaks
the force of its flight by repeated flappings, as if apprehensive of
receiving injury from coming too suddenly into contact with the branch
or the spot of ground on which it intends to settle.

I have commenced my description of this species with the above account of
its flight, because the most important facts connected with its habits
relate to its migrations. These are entirely owing to the necessity
of procuring food, and are not performed with the view of escaping
the severity of a northern latitude, or of seeking a southern one for
the purpose of breeding. They consequently do not take place at any
fixed period or season of the year. Indeed, it sometimes happens that a
continuance of a sufficient supply of food in one district will keep these
birds absent from another for years. I know, at least, to a certainty,
that in Kentucky they remained for several years constantly, and were
nowhere else to be found. They all suddenly disappeared one season when
the mast was exhausted, and did not return for a long period. Similar
facts have been observed in other States.

Their great power of flight enables them to survey and pass over an
astonishing extent of country in a very short time. This is proved
by facts well known in America. Thus, Pigeons have been killed in the
neighbourhood of New York, with their crops full of rice, which they must
have collected in the fields of Georgia and Carolina, these districts
being the nearest in which they could possibly have procured a supply
of that kind of food. As their power of digestion is so great that they
will decompose food entirely in twelve hours, they must in this case
have travelled between three hundred and four hundred miles in six hours,
which shews their speed to be at an average about one mile in a minute.
A velocity such as this would enable one of birds, were it so inclined,
to visit the European continent in less than three days.

This great power of flight is seconded by as great a power of vision,
which enables them, as they travel at that swift rate, to inspect the
country below, discover their food with facility, and thus attain the
object for which their journey has been undertaken. This I have also
proved to be the case, by having observed them, when passing over a
sterile part of the country, or one scantily furnished with food suited
to them, keep high in the air, flying with an extended front, so as
to enable them to survey hundreds of acres at once. On the contrary,
when the land is richly covered with food, or the trees abundantly hung
with mast, they fly low, in order to discover the part most plentifully
supplied.

Their body is of an elongated oval form, steered by a long well-plumed
tail, and propelled by well-set wings, the muscles of which are very
large and powerful for the size of the bird. When an individual is seen
gliding through the woods and close to the observer, it passes like a
thought, and on trying to see it again, the eye searches in vain; the
bird is gone.

The multitudes of Wild Pigeons in our woods are astonishing. Indeed,
after having viewed them so often, and under so many circumstances, I
even now feel inclined to pause, and assure myself that what I am going
to relate is fact. Yet I have seen it all, and that too in the company
of persons who, like myself, were struck with amazement.

In the autumn of 1813, I left my house at Henderson, on the banks of
the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. In passing over the Barrens a few
miles beyond Hardensburgh, I observed the pigeons flying from north-east
to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them
before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass
within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an
eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock
that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken
impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose,
and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in
twenty-one minutes. I travelled on, and still met more the farther
I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of
noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not
unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a
tendency to lull my senses to repose.

Whilst waiting for dinner at YOUNG's inn at the confluence of Salt-River
with the Ohio, I saw, at my leisure, immense legions still going by, with
a front reaching far beyond the Ohio on the west, and the beech-wood
forests directly on the east of me. Not a single bird alighted; for
not a nut or acorn was that year to be seen in the neighbourhood. They
consequently flew so high, that different trials to reach them with a
capital rifle proved ineffectual; nor did the reports disturb them in
the least. I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial
evolutions, when a Hawk chanced to press upon the rear of a flock. At
once, like a torrent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into
a compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the centre. In these
almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines,
descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity,
mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and, when high,
were seen wheeling and twisting within their continued lines, which then
resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.

Before sunset I reached Louisville, distant from Hardensburgh fifty-five
miles. The Pigeons were still passing in undiminished numbers, and
continued to do so for three days in succession. The people were all in
arms. The banks of the Ohio were crowded with men and boys, incessantly
shooting at the pilgrims, which there flew lower as they passed the
river. Multitudes were thus destroyed. For a week or more, the population
fed on no other flesh than that of Pigeons, and talked of nothing but
Pigeons. The atmosphere, during this time, was strongly impregnated with
the peculiar odour which emanates from the species.

It is extremely interesting to see flock after flock performing exactly
the same evolutions which had been traced as it were in the air by a
preceding flock. Thus, should a Hawk have charged on a group at a certain
spot, the angles, curves, and undulations that have been described by
the birds, in their efforts to escape from the dreaded talons of the
plunderer, are undeviatingly followed by the next group that comes up.
Should the bystander happen to witness one of these affrays, and, struck
with the rapidity and elegance of the motions exhibited, feel desirous
of seeing them repeated, his wishes will be gratified if he only remain
in the place until the next group comes up.

It may not, perhaps, be out of place to attempt an estimate of the number
of Pigeons contained in one of those mighty flocks, and of the quantity
of food daily consumed by its members. The inquiry will tend to shew the
astonishing bounty of the great Author of Nature in providing for the
wants of his creatures. Let us take a column of one mile in breadth,
which is far below the average size, and suppose it passing over us
without interruption for three hours, at the rate mentioned above of one
mile in the minute. This will give us a parallelogram of 180 miles by
1, covering 180 square miles. Allowing two pigeons to the square yard,
we have One billion, one hundred and fifteen millions, one hundred and
thirty-six thousand pigeons in one flock. As every pigeon daily consumes
fully half a pint of food, the quantity necessary for supplying this
vast multitude must be eight millions seven hundred and twelve thousand
bushels per day.

As soon as the Pigeons discover a sufficiency of food to entice them
to alight, they fly round in circles, reviewing the country below.
During their evolutions, on such occasions, the dense mass which they
form exhibits a beautiful appearance, as it changes its direction, now
displaying a glistening sheet of azure, when the backs of the birds come
simultaneously into view, and anon, suddenly presenting a mass of rich
deep purple. They then pass lower, over the woods, and for a moment are
lost among the foliage, but again emerge, and are seen gliding aloft.
They now alight, but the next moment, as if suddenly alarmed, they take
to wing, producing by the flappings of their wings a noise like the roar
of distant thunder, and sweep through the forests to see if danger is
near. Hunger, however, soon brings them to the ground. When alighted,
they are seen industriously throwing up the withered leaves in quest of
the fallen mast. The rear ranks are continually rising, passing over
the main-body, and alighting in front, in such rapid succession, that
the whole flock seems still on wing. The quantity of ground thus swept
is astonishing, and so completely has it been cleared, that the gleaner
who might follow in their rear would find his labour completely lost.
Whilst feeding, their avidity is at times so great that in attempting
to swallow a large acorn or nut, they are seen gasping for a long while,
as if in the agonies of suffocation.

On such occasions, when the woods are filled with these Pigeons, they
are killed in immense numbers, although no apparent diminution ensues.
About the middle of the day, after their repast is finished, they settle
on the trees, to enjoy rest, and digest their food. On the ground they
walk with ease, as well as on the branches, frequently jerking their
beautiful tail, and moving the neck backwards and forwards in the most
graceful manner. As the sun begins to sink beneath the horizon, they
depart _en masse_ for the roosting-place, which not unfrequently is
hundreds of miles distant, as has been ascertained by persons who have
kept an account of their arrivals and departures.

Let us now, kind reader, inspect their place of nightly rendezvous.
One of these curious roosting-places, on the banks of the Green River
in Kentucky, I repeatedly visited. It was, as is always the case, in
a portion of the forest where the trees were of great magnitude, and
where there was little underwood. I rode through it upwards of forty
miles, and, crossing it in different parts, found its average breadth
to be rather more than three miles. My first view of it was about a
fortnight subsequent to the period when they had made choice of it, and
I arrived there nearly two hours before sunset. Few Pigeons were then
to be seen, but a great number of persons, with horses and waggons, guns
and ammunition, had already established encampments on the borders. Two
farmers from the vicinity of Russelsville, distant more than a hundred
miles, had driven upwards of three hundred hogs to be fattened on the
pigeons which were to be slaughtered. Here and there, the people employed
in plucking and salting what had already been procured, were seen sitting
in the midst of large piles of these birds. The dung lay several inches
deep, covering the whole extent of the roosting-place, like a bed of
snow. Many trees two feet in diameter, I observed, were broken off at no
great distance from the ground; and the branches of many of the largest
and tallest had given way, as if the forest had been swept by a tornado.
Every thing proved to me that the number of birds resorting to this part
of the forest must be immense beyond conception. As the period of their
arrival approached, their foes anxiously prepared to receive them. Some
were furnished with iron-pots containing sulphur, others with torches of
pine-knots, many with poles, and the rest with guns. The sun was lost
to our view, yet not a Pigeon had arrived. Every thing was ready, and
all eyes were gazing on the clear sky, which appeared in glimpses amidst
the tall trees. Suddenly there burst forth a general cry of "Here they
come!" The noise which they made, though yet distant, reminded me of a
hard gale at sea, passing through the rigging of a close-reefed vessel.
As the birds arrived and passed over me, I felt a current of air that
surprised me. Thousands were soon knocked down by the pole-men. The
birds continued to pour in. The fires were lighted, and a magnificent,
as well as wonderful and almost terrifying, sight presented itself. The
Pigeons, arriving by thousands, alighted everywhere, one above another,
until solid masses as large as hogsheads were formed on the branches all
round. Here and there the perches gave way under the weight with a crash,
and, falling to the ground, destroyed hundreds of the birds beneath,
forcing down the dense groups with which every stick was loaded. It was
a scene of uproar and confusion. I found it quite useless to speak, or
even to shout to those persons who were nearest to me. Even the reports
of the guns were seldom heard, and I was made aware of the firing only
by seeing the shooters reloading.

No one dared venture within the line of devastation. The hogs had been
penned up in due time, the picking up of the dead and wounded being left
for the next morning's employment. The Pigeons were constantly coming,
and it was past midnight before I perceived a decrease in the number of
those that arrived. The uproar continued the whole night; and as I was
anxious to know to what distance the sound reached, I sent off a man,
accustomed to perambulate the forest, who, returning two hours afterwards,
informed me he had heard it distinctly when three miles distant from the
spot. Towards the approach of day, the noise in some measure subsided,
long before objects were distinguishable, the Pigeons began to move off
in a direction quite different from that in which they had arrived the
evening before, and at sunrise all that were able to fly had disappeared.
The howlings of the wolves now reached our ears, and the foxes, lynxes,
cougars, bears, raccoons, oppossums and pole-cats were seen sneaking off,
whilst eagles and hawks of different species, accompanied by a crowd of
vultures, came to supplant them, and enjoy their share of the spoil.

It was then that the authors of all this devastation began their entry
amongst the dead, the dying, and the mangled. The pigeons were picked up
and piled in heaps, until each had as many as he could possibly dispose
of, when the hogs were let loose to feed on the remainder.

Persons unacquainted with these birds might naturally conclude that
such dreadful havock would soon put an end to the species. But I have
satisfied myself, by long observation, that nothing but the gradual
diminution of our forests can accomplish their decrease, as they not
unfrequently quadruple their numbers yearly, and always at least double
it. In 1805 I saw schooners loaded in bulk with Pigeons caught up the
Hudson River, coming in to the wharf at New York, when the birds sold
for a cent a piece. I knew a man in Pennsylvania, who caught and killed
upwards of 500 dozens in a clap-net in one day, sweeping sometimes twenty
dozens or more at a single haul. In the month of March 1830, they were so
abundant in the markets of New York, that piles of them met the eye in
every direction. I have seen the Negroes at the United States' Salines
or Saltworks of Shawanee Town, wearied with killing Pigeons, as they
alighted to drink the water issuing from the leading pipes, for weeks at
a time; and yet in 1826, in Louisiana, I saw congregated flocks of these
birds as numerous as ever I had seen them before, during a residence of
nearly thirty years in the United States.

The breeding of the Wild Pigeons, and the places chosen for that
purpose, are points of great interest. The time is not much influenced
by season, and the place selected is where food is most plentiful
and most attainable, and always at a convenient distance from water.
Forest-trees of great height are those in which the Pigeons form their
nests. Thither the countless myriads resort, and prepare to fulfil one
of the great laws of nature. At this period the note of the Pigeon is a
soft _coo-coo-coo-coo_, much shorter than that of the domestic species.
The common notes resemble the monosyllables _kee-kee-kee-kee_, the
first being the loudest, the others gradually diminishing in power. The
male assumes a pompous demeanour, and follows the female whether on the
ground or on the branches, with spread tail and drooping wings, which
it rubs against the part over which it is moving. The body is elevated,
the throat swells, the eyes sparkle. He continues his notes, and now and
then rises on the wing, and flies a few yards to approach the fugitive
and timorous female. Like the domestic Pigeon and other species, they
caress each other by billing, in which action, the bill of the one
is introduced transversely into that of the other, and both parties
alternately disgorge the contents of their crop by repeated efforts.
These preliminary affairs are soon settled, and the Pigeons commence
their nests in general peace and harmony. They are composed of a few dry
twigs, crossing each other, and are supported by forks of the branches.
On the same tree from fifty to a hundred nests may frequently be seen:—I
might say a much greater number, were I not anxious, kind reader, that
however wonderful my account of the Wild Pigeon is, you may not feel
disposed to refer it to the marvellous. The eggs are two in number, of
a broadly elliptical form, and pure white. During incubation, the male
supplies the female with food. Indeed, the tenderness and affection
displayed by these birds towards their mates, are in the highest degree
striking. It is a remarkable fact, that each brood generally consists
of a male and a female.

Here again, the tyrant of the creation, man, interferes, disturbing the
harmony of this peaceful scene. As the young birds grow up, their enemies,
armed with axes, reach the spot, to seize and destroy all they can. The
trees are felled, and made to fall in such a way that the cutting of
one causes the overthrow of another, or shakes the neighbouring trees
so much, that the young Pigeons, or _squabs_, as they are named, are
violently hurried to the ground. In this manner also, immense quantities
are destroyed.

The young are fed by the parents in the manner described above; in other
words, the old bird introduces its bill into the mouth of the young
one in a transverse manner, or with the back of each mandible opposite
the separations of the mandibles of the young bird, and disgorges the
contents of its crop. As soon as the young birds are able to shift for
themselves, they leave their parents, and continue separate until they
attain maturity. By the end of six months they are capable of reproducing
their species.

The flesh of the Wild Pigeon is of a dark colour, but affords tolerable
eating. That of young birds from the nest is much esteemed. The skin
is covered with small white filmy scales. The feathers fall off at the
least touch, as has been remarked to be the case in the Carolina Turtle.
I have only to add, that this species, like others of the same genus,
immerses its head up to the eyes while drinking.

In March 1830, I bought about 350 of these birds in the market of New
York, at four cents a piece. Most of these I carried alive to England,
and distributed amongst several noblemen, presenting some at the same
time to the Zoological Society.


COLUMBA MIGRATORIA, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 285.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 612.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of



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