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flutters still more slowly through the air, singing all the while. It
is sprightly, active, vigilant, and courageous. It delights in being
near and about the gardens, orchards, and the habitations of man, and is
frequently found in abundance in the very centre of our eastern cities,
where many little boxes are put up against the walls of houses, or the
trunks of trees, for its accommodation, as is also done in the country.
In these it nestles and rears its young. It is seldom, however, at a
loss for a breeding place, it being satisfied with any crevice or hole
in the walls, the sill of a window, the eaves, the stable, the barn, or
the upper side of a piece of timber, under the roof of a piazza. Now and
then, its nest may be seen in the hollow branch of an apple tree. I knew
of one in the pocket of an old broken-down carriage, and many in such
an old hat as you see represented in the plate, which, if not already
before you, I hope you will procure, and look at the little creatures
anxiously peeping out or hanging to the side of the hat, to meet their
mother, which has just arrived with a spider, whilst the male is on the
lookout, ready to interpose should any intruder come near. The same nest
is often resorted to for several successive years, merely receiving a
little mending.

The familiarity of the House Wren is extremely pleasing. In Pennsylvania
a pair of these birds had formed a nest, and the female was sitting in
a hole of the wall, within a few inches of my (literally so-called)
drawing-room. The male was continually singing within a few feet of
my wife and myself, whilst I was engaged in portraying birds of other
species. When the window was open, its company was extremely agreeable,
as was its little song, which continually reminded us of its happy life.
It would now and then dive into the garden at the foot of the window,
procure food for its mate, return and creep into the hole where it had
its nest, and be off again in a moment. Having procured some flies and
spiders, I now and then threw some of them towards him, when he would
seize them with great alacrity, eat some himself, and carry the rest
to his mate. In this manner, it became daily more acquainted with us,
entered the room, and once or twice sang whilst there. One morning I
took it in to draw its portrait, and suddenly closing the window, easily
caught it, held it in my hand, and finished its likeness, after which
I restored it to liberty. This, however, made it more cautious, and it
never again ventured within the window, although it sang and looked at
us as at first. It is it which you see placed on the hat.

The antipathy which the House Wren shews to cats is extreme. Although
it does not attack puss, it follows and scolds her until she is out of
sight. In the same manner, it makes war on the Martin, the Blue Bird
and the House Swallow, the nest of any of which it does not scruple to
appropriate to itself, whenever occasion offers. Its own nest is formed
of dry crooked twigs, so interwoven as scarcely to admit entrance to
any other bird. Within this outer frame-work grasses are arranged in a
circular manner, and the whole is warmly lined with feathers and other
equally soft materials. The eggs are five or six, of a regularly oval
form, and uniform pale reddish colour. Two broods are raised in the

The male seems to delight in attempting to surpass in vocal powers others
of his species, during the time of incubation; and is frequently seen
within sight of another, straining his little throat, and gently turning
his body from side to side, as if pivoted on the upper joints of his
legs. For a moment he conceives the musical powers of his rival superior
to his own, and darts towards him, when a battle ensues, which over, he
immediately resumes his song, whether he has been the conqueror or not.

When the young issue from the nest, it is interesting to see them follow
the parents amongst the currant bushes in the gardens, like so many mice,
hopping from twig to twig, throwing their tail upwards, and putting
their bodies into a hundred different positions, all studied from the
parents, whilst the latter are heard scolding, even without cause, but
as if to prevent the approach of enemies, so anxious are they for the
safety of their progeny. They leave Pennsylvania about the 1st of October.

TROGLODYTES ÆDON, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 92.

HOUSE WREN, SYLVIA DOMESTICA, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. i.
p. 129, Pl. 8. fig. 3.

Adult Male. Plate LXXXIII. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, nearly straight, slender, acute, subtrigonal
at the base, compressed towards the tip; upper mandible with the ridge
obtuse, the sides convex towards the end, concave at the base, the edges
acute and overlapping; under mandible with the back and sides convex.
Nostrils oblong, straight, basal, with a cartilaginous lid above, open
and bare. Head ovate, eyes of moderate size, neck of ordinary length,
body ovate, nearly equal in breadth and depth. Legs of ordinary length;
tarsus longer then the middle toe, compressed, covered anteriorly with
six scutella, posteriorly with a long plate forming an acute angle. Toes
scutellate above, inferiorly granulate, second and fourth nearly equal,
the hind toe almost equal to the middle one, third and fourth united
as far as the second joint; claws long, slender, acute, arcuate, much

Plumage soft, tufty, slightly glossed. No bristly feathers about the
beak. Wings shortish, broad, rounded: first quill half the length of the
second, which is very little shorter than the third and fourth. Tail of
ordinary length, of twelve narrow, lax feathers.

Bill dark brown above, yellowish-brown beneath. Iris hazel. Feet
flesh-colour. The general colour of the upper parts is reddish-brown,
darker on the head, brighter on the tail-coverts, indistinctly barred
with dark brown; wings and tail undulatingly banded, tips of the larger
wing-coverts whitish. A yellowish-grey line from the upper mandible over
the eye; cheeks of the same colour, mottled with brownish-red. Under parts
brownish-grey; sides barred with brown, as are the under tail-coverts.

Length 4¼ inches, extent of wings 5½; bill along the ridge ½, along the
gap ¾; tarsus ⅔, middle toe 7/12.

Adult Female. Plate LXXXIII. Fig. 2.

The female scarcely differs from the male in external appearance.

Young Birds. Plate LXXXIII. Fig. 3.

The young are of a lighter brown, more indistinctly barred, but resemble
the old birds in the general distribution of their colouring.

* * * * *

This species differs from the Winter Wren, chiefly in having the bill a
little stouter, the tail considerably longer, and the under parts less
distinctly barred.




This diminutive lively bird is rendered peculiarly conspicuous by its
being frequently the nurse or foster-parent of the young Cow Bunting,
the real mother of which drops her egg in its nest. A few individuals
of this species remain in Louisiana during spring and summer, and breed
there; but the greater number proceed far eastward, and spread over the
United States, although they are not common in any part.

The Blue-grey Fly-catcher arrives in the neighbourhood of New Orleans
about the middle of March, when it is observed along the water-courses,
flitting about and searching diligently, amidst the branches of the
Golden Willow, for the smaller kinds of winged insects, devouring amongst
others great numbers of moschettoes. Its flight resembles that of the
Long-tailed Titmouse of Europe. It moves to short distances, vibrating
its tail while on wing, and, on alighting, is frequently seen hanging
to the buds and bunches of leaves, at the extremities of the branches
of trees. It seldom visits the interior of the forests, in any portion
of our country, but prefers the skirts of woods along damp or swampy
places, and the borders of creeks, pools, or rivers. It seizes insects
on wing with great agility, snapping its bill like a true Fly-catcher,
now and then making little sallies after a group of those diminutive
flies that seem as if dancing in the air, and cross each other in their
lines of flight, in a thousand various ways.

When it has alighted, its tail is constantly erected, its wings droop, and
it utters at intervals its low and uninteresting notes, which resemble
the sounds _Tsee, Tsee_. It seldom if ever alights on the ground, and
when thirsty prefers procuring water from the extremities of branches,
or sips the rain or dewdrops from the ends of the leaves.

Its nest is composed of the frailest materials, and is light and small
in proportion to the size of the bird. It is formed of portions of
dried leaves, the husks of buds, the silky fibres of various plants and
flowers, and light grey lichens, and is lined with fibres of Spanish Moss
or horse-hair. I have found these nests always attached to two slender
twigs of Willow. The eggs are four or five, pure white, with a few reddish
dots at the larger end. Two broods are reared in a season. The young and
old hunt and migrate together, passing amongst the tops of the highest
trees, from one to another. They leave the State of Louisiana in the
beginning of October, the Middle States about the middle of September. I
have seen some of these birds on the border line of Upper Canada, along
the shores of Lake Erie. I have also observed them in Kentucky, Indiana,
and along the Arkansas River.

In the plate is represented, along with a pair of these delicate birds,
a twig of one of our most valuable trees, with its pendulous blossoms.
This tree, the Black Walnut, grows in almost every part of the United
States, in the richest soils, and attains a great height and diameter.
The wood is used for furniture of all sorts, receives a fine polish,
and is extremely durable. The stocks of muskets are generally made of
it. The Black Walnut is plentiful in all the alluvial grounds in the
vicinity of our rivers. The fruit is contained in a very hard shell,
and is thought good by many people.

SYLVIA CÆRULEA, _Lath._ Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 540.—_Ch.
Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 85.

MOTACILLA CÆRULEA, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 337.

CÆRULEAN WARBLER, _Lath._ Synops. vol. iv. p. 490.

vol. ii. p. 164. Pl. 18. fig. 5.

Adult Male. Plate LXXXIV. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, straight, subulato-conical, depressed at the
base, acute; upper mandible with the edges acute and overlapping, notched
close to the end, the tip slightly declinate. Head rather large. Neck
short, body ovate. Legs of ordinary length; tarsus slender, compressed,
scutellate before, acute behind; toes free, scutellate; claws arched,
compressed, acute.

Plumage soft, blended, tufty. Basirostral bristles distinct. Wings short,
much curved, the third quill longest. Tail longish, rounded, of twelve
rounded feathers.

Bill bluish-black. Iris hazel. Feet greyish-blue. The general colour
of the upper parts is bright blue, approaching to ultramarine, deeper
on the head, and fading on the tail-coverts. Quills and primary coverts
brownish-black, margined externally with blue; secondary coverts slightly
tipped with greyish. Tail blackish, the lateral feathers nearly all
white, the two next tipped with the same colour. A narrow band of black
on the forehead, extending over the eyes. Under parts greyish-white,
the sides of the neck bright blue, the sides greyish-blue.

Length 4¼ inches, extent of wings 6½; bill along the ridge ⅓, along the
gap a little more than ½; tarsus 7/12.

Adult Female. Plate LXXXIV. Fig. 2.

The female is much duller in colouring, the bright blue of the male being
in her light greyish-blue. The black band on the forehead is also wanting.


JUGLANS NIGRA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 456. _Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 636. _Mich._ Arbr. Forest. de l'Amer.
Sept. vol. i. p. 157. Pl. 1.—MONŒCIA POLYANDRIA, _Linn._

This species belongs to the division with simple, polyandrous male
catkins, and is distinguished by its numerous ovato-lanceolate,
subcordate, serrated leaflets, narrowed towards the end, somewhat downy
beneath, as are the petioles; its globular scabrous fruits, and wrinkled
nuts. The leaves have seven or eight nearly opposite pairs of leaflets.
The male catkins are pendent. The fruits are sometimes from six to eight
inches in circumference, the kernel brown and corrugated, and, although
eaten, inferior to the Common Walnut. The bark of the trunk is thick,
blackish, and cracked; the wood of a very dark colour.




This beautiful bird absents itself from the State of Louisiana only for
two months in the year, December and January. When they return in the
beginning of February, they throw themselves by thousands into all the
cypress woods and cane-brakes, where they are heard singing from the
first of March until late in autumn, sometimes in November.

Their habits are very different from those of the Warblers, and are
more in general accordance with those of the Certhiæ. They move up and
down, sidewise and spirally, along the trunks, branches, and even twigs
of the tallest and largest Cypresses, or such other trees as are found
intermingled with them. They are extremely active, in fact, fully as much
so as the little Brown Creeper itself. Like it, they suddenly leave the
uppermost branches or higher parts of the trunks, and diving downwards
alight on the roots, and renew their search after small insects and
larvæ. I never saw any of them pursue insects on wing.

The nest of this species is prettily constructed. Its outer parts
are composed of grey lichens and soft mosses, the interior of silky
substances and a few fibres of the Spanish moss. The female lays four
pure white eggs, having two or three purple dots near the larger end. I
think they raise two broods during their stay in Louisiana, but cannot
speak of this as certain. The nest is placed on a horizontal branch of
a Cypress, twenty, thirty, or even fifty feet above the ground, and is
with difficulty discovered from below, as it resembles a knot or a tuft
of moss.

The song of the Yellow-throated Warbler would please you, kind reader.
Of this I have not a doubt, as it is soft and loud, and is continued for
two or three minutes at a time, not unlike that of the Painted Finch,
or Indigo Bird. As it is heard in all parts of our most dismal Cypress
Swamps, it contributes to soothe the mind of a person whose occupation
may lead him to such places. I never saw this species on the ground. The
male and the female are nearly alike in plumage, but the young birds,
which hunt for insects in company, in the manner of Creepers or Titmice,
do not acquire the yellow on the throat, nor the full brilliancy of
their plumage, until the first spring.

These birds confine themselves to the Southern States, seldom moving
farther towards the Middle Districts than North Carolina. They do not
even ascend the Mississippi farther than the Walnut Hills. They are
abundant in the neighbourhood of the Red River, and probably do not go
farther south than Mexico, during their short absence from the United

Happening to shoot several of these birds on a large Chinquapin tree,
growing on the edge of a hill close to a swamp, I have put a male on
one of its twigs, which is furnished with a few fruits quite ripe and
ready to leave their husks. In the Southern States this tree is rare.
It generally prefers elevated places, and rocky declivities, with an
arid soil. The wood resembles that of the Chestnut, but the trees being
generally small, little use is made of it as timber. The fruit is eaten
by children. This tree is abundant along the greater part of the range
of the Alleghanies and its branches.

SYLVIA PENSILIS, _Lath._ Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 520.—_Ch.
Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 79.

PENSILE WARBLER, _Lath._ Synops. vol. iv. p. 441.

Ornith. vol. ii. p. 64. Pl. 4. fig. 6.

Adult Male. Plate LXXXV.

Bill shortish, nearly straight, subulato-conical, acute, as deep as broad
at the base, the edges acute, the gap line a little deflected at the
base. Nostrils basal, elliptical, lateral, half-closed by a membrane.
Head rather small. Neck short. Body slender. Feet of ordinary length,
slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly by a few
scutella, the uppermost long; toes scutellate above, the inner free,
the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed, acute, arched.

Plumage soft, blended, tufty. Wings of ordinary length, acute, the second
quill longest. Tail longish, slightly emarginate.

Bill brownish-black. Iris dark-brown. Feet yellowish-brown. The general
colour of the upper parts is light greyish-blue, the head darker. A white
line from the base of the upper mandible over the eye. Forehead, loral
space, a line behind the eye, and a patch including the ear-coverts,
descending along the neck, and terminating acutely, black. Under eyelid
white. Wing-coverts dusky, tipped with white. Quills blackish, externally
margined with light greyish-green. Tail-feathers black, the middle ones
edged with greenish-blue, the outer white along the outer margin, and
with the next two having a white patch on the inner web towards the end.
Throat and fore-neck bright yellow, as is a spot before the eye. The
rest of the under parts white, the sides mottled with dusky.

Length 5½ inches, extent of wings 8½; bill along the ridge nearly ½,
along the gap 7/12; tarsus ⅚, middle toe ⅔.

The female is similar to the male, but has the colours somewhat duller.


CASTANEA PUMILA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 461. _Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 625. _Mich._ Arbr. Forest. de l'Amer.
Sept. vol. ii. p. 166. Pl. 7.—MONŒCIA POLYANDRIA, _Linn._

This species of Chestnut is characterized by its oblong, acute,
sharply-serrated leaves, which are whitish and downy beneath. The fruit
is very agreeable, and is a favourite food of Squirrels, and birds of
different species, such as Pigeons, Jays, Turkeys, and Woodpeckers.


Louisville in Kentucky has always been a favourite place of mine. The
beauty of its situation, on the banks of _La Belle Rivière_, just at
the commencement of the famed rapids, commonly called the Falls of the
Ohio, had attracted my notice, and when I removed to it, immediately
after my marriage, I found it more agreeable than ever. The prospect
from the town is such that it would please even the eye of a Swiss. It
extends along the river for seven or eight miles, and is bounded on the
opposite side by a fine range of low mountains, known by the name of the
Silver Hills. The rumbling sound of the waters, as they tumble over the
rock-paved bed of the rapids, is at all times soothing to the ear. Fish
and game are abundant. But, above all, the generous hospitality of the
inhabitants, and the urbanity of their manners, had induced me to fix
upon it as a place of residence; and I did so with the more pleasure
when I found that my wife was as much gratified as myself, by the kind
attentions which were shewn to us, utter strangers as we were, on our

No sooner had we landed, and made known our intention of remaining, than
we were introduced to the principal inhabitants of the place and its
vicinity, although we had not brought a single letter of introduction, and
could not but see, from their unremitting kindness, that the Virginian
spirit of hospitality displayed itself in all the words and actions
of our newly-formed friends. I wish here to name those persons who so
unexpectedly came forward to render our stay among them agreeable, but
feel at a loss with whom to begin, so equally deserving are they of our
gratitude. The CROGHANS, the CLARKS (our great traveller included),
the BOOTHS, form but a small portion of the long list which I could
give. The matrons acted like mothers towards my wife, the daughters
proved agreeable associates, and the husbands and sons were friends and
companions to me. If I absented myself on business or otherwise, for
any length of time, my wife was removed to the hospitable abode of some
friend in the neighbourhood until my return, and then, kind reader,
I was several times obliged to spend a week or more with these good
people, before they could be prevailed upon to let us return to our own
residence. We lived for two years at Louisville, where we enjoyed many
of the best pleasures which this life can afford; and whenever we have
since chanced to pass that way, we have found the kindness of our former
friends unimpaired.

During my residence at Louisville, much of my time was employed in my
ever favourite pursuits. I drew and noted the habits of every thing which
I procured, and my collection was daily augmenting, as every individual
who carried a gun, always sent me such birds or quadrupeds as he thought
might prove useful to me. My portfolios already contained upwards of two
hundred drawings. Dr W. C. GALT, being a botanist, was often consulted
by me, as well as his friend Dr FERGUSON. M. GILLY drew beautifully, and
was fond of my pursuits. So was my friend, and now relative, N. BERTHOUD.
As I have already said, our time was spent in the most agreeable manner,
through the hospitable friendship of our acquaintance.

One fair morning, I was surprised by the sudden entrance into our
counting-room of Mr ALEXANDER WILSON, the celebrated author of the
"American Ornithology," of whose existence I had never until that moment
been apprised. This happened in March 1810. How well do I remember him,
as he then walked up to me! His long, rather hooked nose, the keenness
of his eyes, and his prominent cheek-bones, stamped his countenance with
a peculiar character. His dress, too, was of a kind not usually seen
in that part of the country; a short coat, trowsers, and a waistcoat of
grey cloth. His stature was not above the middle size. He had two volumes
under his arm, and as he approached the table at which I was working,
I thought I discovered something like astonishment in his countenance.
He, however, immediately proceeded to disclose the object of his visit,
which was to procure subscriptions for his work. He opened his books,
explained the nature of his occupations, and requested my patronage.

I felt surprised and gratified at the sight of his volumes, turned over
a few of the plates, and had already taken a pen to write my name in his
favour, when my partner rather abruptly said to me in French, "My dear
AUDUBON, what induces you to subscribe to this work? Your drawings are
certainly far better, and again you must know as much of the habits of
American birds as this gentleman." Whether Mr WILSON understood French
or not, or if the suddenness with which I paused, disappointed him, I
cannot tell; but I clearly perceived that he was not pleased. Vanity and
the encomiums of my friend prevented me from subscribing. Mr WILSON asked
me if I had many drawings of birds. I rose, took down a large portfolio,
laid it on the table, and shewed him, as I would shew you, kind reader,
or any other person fond of such subjects, the whole of the contents,
with the same patience with which he had shewn me his own engravings.

His surprise appeared great, as he told me he never had the most distant
idea that any other individual than himself had been engaged in forming
such a collection. He asked me if it was my intention to publish, and
when I answered in the negative, his surprise seemed to increase. And,
truly, such was not my intention; for, until long after, when I met
the Prince of Musignano in Philadelphia, I had not the least idea of
presenting the fruits of my labours to the world. Mr WILSON now examined
my drawings with care, asked if I should have any objections to lending
him a few during his stay, to which I replied that I had none: he then
bade me good morning, not, however, until I had made an arrangement to
explore the woods in the vicinity along with him, and had promised to
procure for him some birds, of which I had drawings in my collection,

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 1 (of 5) → online text (page 41 of 50)