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Its sojourn is of short duration in Louisiana, for it moves gradually
eastward as the season advances, leaving nothing but the recollection of
its passage through the land. Its migration, in as far as I have been
able to ascertain, is principally performed during the night. I have
observed many in the course of one day in a place, which, next day, if
the weather had become warm, scarcely contained a single individual. It
never breeds in the district mentioned above, nor even in the State of
Mississippi. A few breed in Kentucky, more in Ohio, and their nests in
this manner increase the farther you proceed eastward. I have seen many
of these birds, as well as their nests, on the Genessee River; but in the
States of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia,
they may be found in every orchard and garden, and even in the streets,
among the foliage of our trees.

The males chase each other with great courage, and fight for a few
moments, to establish their claim to any particular spot or tree, after
which they are seen climbing up and down among the twigs and smaller
branches, looking keenly among the leaves and blossoms for insects.
Careless of the presence of man, the Blue-eyed Warbler is easily
approached. The same carelessness makes it build its little nest almost
always within reach of the latter. The parents are very assiduous in the
discharge of their duties. They construct a nest about the middle of May,
in the forked branches of a small tree, often within a few paces of a
house. The nest is strongly fastened to the twigs, is formed externally
of hemp, flax, or woolly substances, and is well lined with different
kinds of hair, intermixed with softer materials. It breeds twice during
the summer, and returns southward in the beginning of autumn, in small
parties, shifting chiefly by night. During the breeding-season, this
little bird, when approached, shews great anxiety for the preservation
of its eggs or young, and tries, with all the artifices employed by
many other species, to entice the aggressor away from its nest. They are
seen, on their return to the south, passing through Louisiana in October.

I made my drawing of this species near Natchez, and having killed the
specimen while it was searching for insects among the flowers of a large
climbing plant, I have figured part of the latter also. This plant I
have never seen, excepting in low, damp or marshy places. It there runs
over decayed trees, spreading in the form of a bower, and hanging in
graceful festoons. The long pendulous clusters of pale purple flowers
are destitute of odour.

SYLVIA ÆSTIVA, _Gmel._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 996.—_Lath._ Ind.
Ornith. vol. ii. p. 551.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of
the United States, p. 83.

YELLOW-POLL WARBLER, _Lath._ Syn. vol. iv. p. 515.

vol. ii. p. 111. Pl. 15. fig. 6.

Bill about as long as the head, slender, straight, subulate, as deep as
broad at the base. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half closed by a
membrane. Head rather small. Neck short. Body ovate, rather slender. Feet
of ordinary length, 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 soft, blended, tufty, a few bristles at the base of the bill.
Wings of ordinary length, acute. Tail longish, slightly forked.

Bill dark blue, the lower mandible edged with yellow. Iris brown.
Feet and claws pale brown. Hind head and upper parts generally pale
yellowish-green, the tail-coverts more yellow. The fore part of the head,
the cheeks, the throat, and the sides of the neck, pure golden-yellow;
the rest of the lower parts yellow, the breast and sides streaked with
brownish-red. Quills and alula deep brown, their outer webs yellowish,
as are the margins of the large coverts. Tail-feathers deep brown, with
yellow margins.

Length 5¼ inches, extent of wings 10; bill 5/12 along the ridge, ¾ along
the gap.

The female differs from the male only in having the colours less bright,
and the streaks on the breast somewhat broader and fewer.


The Black Bear (_Ursus americanus_), however clumsy in appearance, is
active, vigilant, and persevering; possesses great strength, courage,
and address; and undergoes with little injury the greatest fatigues and
hardships in avoiding the pursuit of the hunter. Like the Deer, it changes
its haunts with the seasons, and for the same reason, namely, the desire
of obtaining suitable food, or of retiring to the more inaccessible
parts, where it can pass the time in security, unobserved by man, the
most dangerous of its enemies. During the spring months, it searches
for food in the low rich alluvial lands that border the rivers, or by
the margins of such inland lakes as, on account of their small size, are
called by us ponds. There it procures abundance of succulent roots, and
of the tender juicy stems of plants, upon which it chiefly feeds at that
season. During the summer heat, it enters the gloomy swamps, passes much
of its time in wallowing in the mud, like a hog, and contents itself with
crayfish, roots, and nettles, now and then, when hard pressed by hunger,
seizing on a young pig, or perhaps a sow, or even a calf. As soon as the
different kinds of berries which grow on the mountains begin to ripen,
the Bears betake themselves to the high grounds, followed by their cubs.
In such retired parts of the country where there are no hilly grounds,
it pays visits to the maize fields, which it ravages for a while. After
this, the various species of nuts, acorns, grapes, and other forest
fruits, that form what in the Western Country is called _mast_, attract
its attention. The Bear is then seen rambling singly through the woods
to gather this harvest, not forgetting meanwhile to rob every _Bee-tree_
it meets with, Bears being, as you well know, expert at this operation.
You also know that they are good climbers, and may have been told, or at
least may now be told, that the Black Bear now and then _houses_ itself
in the hollow trunks of the larger trees for weeks together, when it is
said to suck its paws. You are probably not aware of a habit in which
it indulges, and which, being curious, must be interesting to you.

At one season, the Black Bear may be seen examining the lower part of
the trunk of a tree for several minutes with much attention, at the
same time looking around, and snuffing the air, to assure itself that
no enemy is near. It then raises itself on its hind legs, approaches
the trunk, embraces it with its fore legs, and scratches the bark with
its teeth and claws for several minutes in continuance. Its jaws clash
against each other, until a mass of foam runs down on both sides of the
mouth. After this it continues its rambles.

In various portions of our country, many of our woodsmen and hunters
who have seen the Bear performing the singular operation just described,
imagine that it does so for the purpose of leaving behind it an indication
of its size and power. They measure the height at which the scratches
are made, and in this manner can, in fact, form an estimate of the
magnitude of the individual. My own opinion, however, is different. It
seems to me that the Bear scratches the trees, not for the purpose of
shewing its size or its strength, but merely for that of sharpening its
teeth and claws, to enable it better to encounter a rival of its own
species during the amatory season. The Wild Boar of Europe clashes its
tusks and scrapes the earth with its feet, and the Deer rubs its antlers
against the lower part of the stems of young trees or bushes, for the
same purpose.

Being one night sleeping in the house of a friend, I was wakened by a
Negro servant bearing a light, who gave me a note, which he said his
master had just received. I ran my eye over the paper, and found it to
be a communication from a neighbour, requesting my friend and myself to
join him as soon as possible, and assist in killing some Bears at that
moment engaged in destroying his corn. I was not long in dressing, you
may be assured, and, on entering the parlour, found my friend equipt and
only waiting for some bullets, which a Negro was employed in casting.
The overseer's horn was heard calling up the Negroes from their different
cabins. Some were already engaged in saddling our horses, whilst others
were gathering all the cur-dogs of the plantation. All was bustle.
Before half an hour had elapsed, four stout Negro men, armed with axes
and knives, and mounted on strong nags of their own (for you must know,
kind reader, that many of our slaves rear horses, cattle, pigs and
poultry, which are exclusively their own property), were following us at
a round gallop through the woods, as we made directly for the neighbour's
plantation, a little more than five miles off.

The night was none of the most favourable, a drizzling rain rendering
the atmosphere thick and rather sultry; but as we were well acquainted
with the course, we soon reached the house, where the owner was waiting
our arrival. There were now three of us armed with guns, half a dozen
servants, and a good pack of dogs of all kinds. We jogged on towards
the detached field, in which the Bears were at work. The owner told us
that for some days several of these animals had visited his corn, and
that a Negro who was sent every afternoon to see at what part of the
enclosure they entered, had assured him there were at least five in the
field that night. A plan of attack was formed: the bars at the usual gap
of the fence were to be put down without noise; the men and dogs were
to divide, and afterwards proceed so as to surround the Bears, when, at
the sounding of our horns, every one was to charge towards the centre of
the field, and shout as loudly as possible, which it was judged would so
intimidate the animals, as to induce them to seek refuge upon the dead
trees with which the field was still partially covered.

The plan succeeded. The horns sounded, the horses galloped forward,
the men shouted, the dogs barked and howled. The shrieks of the Negroes
were enough to frighten a legion of Bears, and those in the field took
to flight, so that by the time we reached the centre they were heard
hurrying towards the tops of the trees. Fires were immediately lighted
by the Negroes. The drizzling rain had ceased, the sky cleared, and the
glare of the crackling fires proved of great assistance to us. The Bears
had been so terrified, that we now saw several of them crouched at the
junction of the larger boughs with the trunks. Two were immediately shot
down. They were cubs of no great size, and being already half dead, we
left them to the dogs, which quickly dispatched them.

We were anxious to procure as much sport as possible, and having observed
one of the Bears, which from its size we conjectured to be the mother,
ordered the Negroes to cut down the tree on which it was perched, when it
was intended the dogs should have a tug with it, while we should support
them, and assist in preventing the bear from escaping by wounding it in
one of the hind legs. The surrounding woods now echoed to the blows of
the axemen. The tree was large and tough, having been girded more than
two years, and the operation of felling it seemed extremely tedious.
However, it began to vibrate at each stroke; a few inches alone now
supported it; and in a short time it came crashing to the ground, in so
awful a manner that Bruin must doubtless have felt the shock as severe
as we should feel a shake of the globe produced by the sudden collision
of a comet.

The dogs rushed to the charge, and harassed the Bear on all sides. We
had remounted, and now surrounded the poor animal. As its life depended
upon its courage and strength, it exercised both in the most energetic
manner. Now and then it seized a dog, and killed him by a single stroke.
At another time, a well administered blow of one of its fore-legs sent
an assailant off yelping so piteously, that he might be looked upon as
_hors de combat_. A cur had daringly ventured to seize the Bear by the
snout, and was seen hanging to it, covered with blood, whilst a dozen
or more scrambled over its back. Now and then, the infuriated animal
was seen to cast a revengeful glance at some of the party, and we had
already determined to dispatch it, when, to our astonishment, it suddenly
shook off all the dogs, and before we could fire, charged upon one of the
Negroes, who was mounted on a pied horse. The Bear seized the steed with
teeth and claws, and clung to its breast. The terrified horse snorted
and plunged. The rider, an athletic young man, and a capital horseman,
kept his seat, although only saddled on a sheep's skin tightly girthed,
and requested his master not to fire at the Bear. Notwithstanding his
coolness and courage, our anxiety for his safety was raised to the
highest pitch, especially when in a moment we saw rider and horse come
to the ground together; but we were instantly relieved on witnessing
the masterly manner in which SCIPIO dispatched his adversary, by laying
open his skull with a single well-directed blow of his axe, when a deep
growl announced the death of the Bear, and the valorous Negro sprung to
his feet unhurt.

Day dawned, and we renewed our search. Two of the remaining Bears were
soon discovered, lodged in a tree about a hundred yards from the spot
where the last one had been overpowered. On approaching them in a circle,
we found that they manifested no desire to come down, and we resolved
to try _smoking_. We surrounded the tree with a pile of brushwood and
large branches. The flames ascended and caught hold of the dry bark. At
length the tree assumed the appearance of a pillar of flame. The Bears
mounted to the top branches. When they had reached the uppermost, they
were seen to totter, and soon after, the branch cracking and snapping
across, they came to the ground, bringing with them a mass of broken
twigs. They were cubs, and the dogs soon worried them to death.

The party returned to the house in triumph. SCIPIO's horse, being severely
wounded, was let loose in the field, to repair his strength by eating
the corn. A cart was afterwards sent for the game. But before we had
left the field, the horses, dogs, and bears, together with the fires,
had destroyed more corn within a few hours, than the poor Bear and her
cubs had during the whole of their visits.




The genus _Corvus_ consists of birds which differ considerably in their
appearance and manners. This circumstance has given rise to various
separations and groupings. It may, in fact, be considered analogous to
the great genera _Falco_, _Psittacus_ and _Columba_, which, although
the species composing them exhibit great diversity, may be allowed to
retain their integrity, because the gradations between the species are
so minute that each group presents an uninterrupted series. Were one to
compare the Golden Eagle with the Swallow-tailed Hawk, the Red Macaw with
the Ground Parrot of New Holland, or the Great Crested Pigeon with the
Turtle Dove, he might doubtless find reasons for separating these birds
into genera, could he but forget that the intermediate gradations are to
be seen. It is so with the Crows and Jays. The former are characterized
by a certain gravity of aspect; their flight is regular, protracted, and
performed by easy flappings and sailings; they frequent open places, and
feed on almost all kinds of food indiscriminately; their cry is a dull
croak or scream. The latter are much smarter in their appearance, more
lively in their motions; their flight is less protracted, and performed
by short flappings; they frequent woods and thickets, and live chiefly
on fruits; and their notes are emitted in noisy chatterings. The bill of
the Crows is large, robust, cultriform, covered at the base with long,
stiff, closely adpressed, reversed, bristly feathers; that of some of the
Jays is much smaller, not robust, and approaching to the form of that of
Thrushes and Nutcrackers, and the basirostral feathers are diminished
in size and rigidity. The Crows have shortish, even or rounded tails,
with long and sometimes rather sharp wings. The Jays have the tail often
greatly elongated and cuneiform or graduated, with short, much rounded,
concave wings. Numerous other contrasts are afforded, the Crows, for
example, being generally dull and uniform in their colours, the Jays
variegated and often brilliant. All these circumstances I intend to
discuss in another work, and in the mean time retain the usual generic
name for the present splendid species, which has the bill of nearly
the same form as the true Crows, combined with the elongated tail, and
lively colouring of the Jays.

Were I to relate to you, good reader, the various accounts which I have
heard respecting this splendid bird, I should have enough to say; but
as I have resolved to confine myself entirely to the results of my own
observation, I must for the present remain silent on the subject.

The specimen from which the drawings were taken was presented to me by
a friend who had received it from the Columbia River, and is the only
individual represented in the volume which I did not myself procure on
the spot. However, as I expect to ramble again through our vast forests
and extensive territories, I may yet be enabled to give you a full
account of this beautiful bird, which, from the splendour of its plumage,
deserves all the attention of the naturalist. In the mean time I adjoin
a notice respecting it, with which I have lately been favoured by my
friend, the Prince of Musignano. "Le superbe geai, dont vous me parlez,
est sans doute l'oiseau que WAGLER a fait connaître le premier, sous
le nom de _Pica Bullockii_, et que TEMMINCK a figuré dans ses planches
coloriées, sous celui de _Garrula Gubernatrix_. Son nom legitime, suivant
mes principes, sera _Garrulus Bullockii_, mais vous avez raison de dire
qu'il ne se trouve pas dans mon Synopsis: ce n'est que par votre lettre
que j'ai appris qu'il se trouvait dans le territoire des Etats-unis.
Jusqu'a prèsent on ne l'avait trouve qu'au Mexique et à la Californie.
Il n'est pas etonnant qu'il se retrouve sur la rivière Columbia. Mais
comment l'avez-vous obtenu et avez-vous pu le dessiner vivant? Trois
autres especes de geais, qui ne sont pas dans mon Synopsis, habitent
l'extremité nord de l'Amerique, et il est probable, qu'outre votre
superbe _geai commandeur_, plusieurs autres des especes Mexicaines se
retrouvent dans sa partie occidentale."


Bill of ordinary length, straight, robust, compressed; upper mandible
with the dorsal outline straightish at the base, declinate and convex
towards the tip, which is deflected, the sides convex, the edges rather
sharp; lower mandible with the dorsal outline slightly concave towards
the base, convex and ascending towards the tip. Nostrils basal, oval,
partly concealed by short bristly feathers. Proportions of parts ordinary.
Feet of ordinary length, rather strong; tarsus compressed, about the
length of the middle toe, anteriorly scutellate, covered behind with two
longitudinal plates, meeting at an acute angle; toes free, scutellate
above; claws of ordinary size, arched, convex above, canaliculate beneath.

Plumage compact, glossy. Feathers of the head elongated into a crest,
the posterior ones recurvate. Wings longish, the third and fourth quills
longest, the first short. Tail very long, graduated, of twelve feathers,
of which the two central are slightly curved, and greatly exceed the
rest in length.

Bill and feet brownish-black. Iris hazel. The general colour of the
plumage is bright blue, with purple reflections. The fore neck and
anterior part of the breast black; the rest of the under parts white.
The inner webs of the quills dusky, the four outer feathers of the tail
white towards the tip.

Length 31 inches, extent of wings 26; bill along the ridge 1⅓, tarsus
2, middle toe 2.




This Owl, although found in the Southern States, is there very rare.
During a long residence in Louisiana, I have not met with more than
two individuals. On advancing towards the confluence of the Ohio and
Mississippi, we find them becoming rather more numerous; above the Falls
of the former, they increase in number; and as the traveller advances
towards the sources of that noble river, their mournful notes are heard
in every quarter during mild and serene nights. In Virginia, Maryland,
and all the Eastern Districts, the bird is plentiful, particularly during
the autumnal and winter months, and is there well known under the name
of the _Screech Owl_.

You are presented, kind reader, with three figures of this species, the
better to shew you the differences which exist between the young and the
full-grown bird. The contrast of colouring in these different stages I
have thought it necessary to exhibit, as the _Red Owl_ of WILSON and
other naturalists is merely the young of the bird called by the same
authors the _Mottled Owl_, and which, in fact, is the adult of the
species under consideration. The error committed by the author of the
"American Ornithology," for many years misled all subsequent students of
nature; and the specific identity of the two birds which he had described
as distinct under the above names, was first publicly maintained by my
friend CHARLES LUCIAN BONAPARTE, although the fact was long before known
to many individuals with whom I am acquainted, as well as to myself.

The flight of the Mottled Owl is smooth, rapid, protracted and noiseless.
It rises at times above the top branches of the highest of our forest
trees, whilst in pursuit of large beetles, and at other times sails low
and swiftly over the fields, or through the woods, in search of small
birds, field-mice, moles or wood-rats, from which it chiefly derives
its subsistence. On alighting, which it does plumply, the Mottled Owl
immediately bends its body, turns its head to look behind it, performs
a curious nod, utters its notes, then shakes and plumes itself, and
resumes its flight in search of prey. It now and then, while on wing,
produces a _clicking_ sound with its mandibles, but more frequently when
perched near its mate or young. This I have thought is done by the bird
to manifest its courage, and let the hearer know that it is not to be
meddled with, although few birds of prey are more gentle when seized,
as it will suffer a person to touch its feathers and caress it, without
attempting to bite or strike with its talons, unless at rare intervals.
I carried one of the young birds represented in the Plate, in my coat
pocket, from Philadelphia to New York, travelling alternately by water
and by land. It remained generally quiet, fed from the hand, and never
attempted to escape. It was given me by my good friend Dr RICHARD HARLAN,
of Philadelphia, and was lost at sea, in the course of my last voyage
to England.

The notes of this Owl are uttered in a tremulous, doleful manner, and
somewhat resemble the chattering of the teeth of a person under the
influence of extreme cold, although much louder. They are heard at a
distance of several hundred yards, and by some people are thought to be
of ominous import.

The little fellow is generally found about farm-houses, orchards, and
gardens. It alights on the roof, the fence or the garden gate, and utters
its mournful ditty at intervals for hours at a time, as if it were in
a state of great suffering, although this is far from being the case,
the song of all birds being an indication of content and happiness. In
a state of confinement, it continues to utter its notes with as much
satisfaction as if at liberty. They are chiefly heard during the latter
part of winter, that being the season of love, when the male bird is
particularly attentive to the fair one which excites his tender emotions,
and around which he flies and struts much in the manner of the Common
Pigeon, adding numerous nods and bows, the sight of which is very amusing.

The nest is placed in the bottom of the hollow trunk of a tree, often
not at a greater height than six or seven feet from the ground, at other
times so high as from thirty to forty feet. It is composed of a few
grasses and feathers. The eggs are four or five, of a nearly globular

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 1 (of 5) → online text (page 45 of 50)