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reddish-brown, the quills dusky on their inner webs, and the wings crossed
with two white bars margined anteriorly with black, being on the tips of
the smaller and secondary coverts. The lower parts are yellowish-white,
the breast and sides marked with triangular dark-brown spots, the lower
tail-coverts pale brownish-red.

Length 11½ inches, extent of wings 13; bill along the back 1, along the
edge 1-3/12; tarsus 1-4/12.


Adult Female. Plate CXVI. Fig. 2. 2.

The female resembles the male, the bars on the wings being narrower,
and the spots on the breast lighter. The dimensions are nearly the same.


THE BLACK JACK OAK.

QUERCUS NIGRA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 442. _Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. Sept. vol. ii. p. 629.

QUERCUS FERRUGINEA, _Mich._ Arbr. Forest. vol. i. p. 92. pl. 18.
MONŒCIA POLYANDRIA, _Linn._ AMENTACEÆ, _Juss._

Leaves coriaceous, dilated at the end and three-lobed, when young
mucronate, smooth above, covered with a rust-like powder beneath, the
cupule turbinate, its scales obtuse and scarious, the acorn shortly
ovate. This tree forms the principal growth of the open barrens of
Kentucky, and is also met with in all our Southern Districts. It is of
small height, and extremely crooked in its growth, so as to be of little
service, excepting as fire-wood; but it bears abundantly, producing fine
mast for hogs.


THE BLACK SNAKE.

This Snake is possessed of great activity, climbs with ease over bushes
and along the trunks of trees, and glides so swiftly over the ground
as easily to elude pursuit. It feeds on birds, eggs, frogs, and small
quadrupeds, and evinces great antipathy towards all other species of
Serpent, with most of which, although destitute of poison fangs, it
fights on the least provocation. It occurs abundantly from Louisiana to
Connecticut, but I have not observed it in Maine or the British provinces.






THE MISSISSIPPI KITE.

_FALCO PLUMBEUS_, GMEL.

PLATE CXVII. MALE AND FEMALE.


When, after many a severe conflict, the southern breezes, in alliance
with the sun, have, as if through a generous effort, driven back for a
season to their desolate abode the chill blasts of the north; when warmth
and plenty are insured for a while to our happy lands; when clouds of
anxious Swallows, returning from the far south, are guiding millions of
Warblers to their summer residence; when numberless insects, cramped in
their hanging shells, are impatiently waiting for the full expansion of
their wings; when the vernal flowers, so welcome to all, swell out their
bursting leaflets, and the rich-leaved Magnolia opens its pure blossoms
to the Humming Bird;—then look up, and you will see the Mississippi Kite,
as he comes sailing over the scene. He glances towards the earth with
his fiery eye; sweeps along, now with the gentle breeze, now against it;
seizes here and there the high-flying giddy bug, and allays his hunger
without fatigue to wing or talon. Suddenly he spies some creeping thing
that changes, like the chameleon, from vivid green to dull-brown, to
escape his notice; It is the red-throated panting lizard that has made
its way to the highest branch of a tree in quest of food. Casting upwards
a sidelong look of fear, it remains motionless, so well does it know
the prowess of the bird of prey: but its caution is vain; it has been
perceived, its fate is sealed, and the next moment it is swept away.

The Mississippi Kite thus extends its migrations as high as the city of
Memphis, on the noble stream whose name it bears, and along our eastern
shores to the Carolinas, where it now and then breeds, feeding the while
on lizards, small snakes, and beetles, and sometimes, as if for want
of better employ, teaching the Carrion Crows and Buzzards to fly. At
other times, congregating to the number of twenty or more, these birds
are seen sweeping around some tree, catching the large locusts which
abound in those countries at an early part of the season, and reminding
one of the Chimney Swallows, which are so often seen performing similar
evolutions, when endeavouring to snap off the little dried twigs of
which their nests are composed.

Early in May, the thick-leaved Bay-Tree (_Magnolia grandiflora_), affords
in its high tops a place of safety, in which the Hawk of the South may
raise its young. These are out by the end of July, and are fed by the
parent birds until well practised in the art of procuring subsistence.
About the middle of August, they all wing their way southward.

The affection which the old birds display towards their young, and the
methods which they occasionally employ to insure the safety of the
latter, are so remarkable, that, before I proceed to describe their
general habits, I shall relate a case in which I was concerned.

Early one morning, whilst I was admiring the beauties of nature, as the
vegetable world lay embalmed in dew, I heard the cry of a bird that I
mistook for that of a Pewee Flycatcher. It was prolonged, I thought,
as if uttered in distress. After looking for the bird a long time in
vain, an object which I had at first supposed to be something that had
accidentally lodged in a branch, attracted my attention, as I thought
I perceived it moving. It did move distinctly, and the cry that had
ceased from the time when I reached the spot where I stood, was repeated,
evidently coming from the object in view. I now took it for a young one
of the Chuck-Will's-Widow, as it sat lengthwise on the branch. I shot
at it, but perhaps did not hit it, as it only opened and closed its
wings, as if surprised. At the report of the gun, the old bird came,
holding food in her claws. She perceived me, but alighted, and fed her
young with great kindness. I shot at both, and again missed, or at least
did not succeed, which might have happened from my having only small
shot in my gun. The mother flew in silence, sailed over head just long
enough to afford me time to reload, returned, and to my great surprise
gently lifted her young, and sailing with it to another tree, about
thirty yards distant, deposited it there. My feelings at that moment
I cannot express. I wished I had not discovered the poor bird; for who
could have witnessed, without emotion, so striking an example of that
affection which none but a mother can feel; so daring an act, performed
in the midst of smoke, in the presence of a dreaded and dangerous enemy.
I followed, however, and brought both to the ground at one shot, so keen
is the desire of possession!

The young had the head of a fawn-colour, but I took little more notice
of it, depositing the two birds under a log, whence I intended to remove
them on my return, for the purpose of drawing and describing them. I
then proceeded on my excursion to a lake a few miles distant. On coming
back, what was my mortification, when I found that some quadruped had
devoured both! My punishment was merited.

The Mississippi Kite arrives in Lower Louisiana about the middle of April
in small parties of five or six, and confines itself to the borders of
deep woods, or to those near plantations, not far from the shores of
the rivers, lakes, or bayous. It never moves into the interior of the
country, and in this respect resembles the _Falco furcatus_. Plantations
lately cleared, and yet covered with tall dying girted trees, placed
near a creek or bayou, seemed to suit it best.

Its flight is graceful, vigorous, protracted, and often extended to a
great height, the Forked-tailed Hawk being the only species that can
compete with it. At times it floats in the air, as if motionless, or sails
in broad regular circles, when, suddenly closing its wings, it slides
along to some distance, and renews its curves. Now it sweeps in deep and
long undulations, with the swiftness of an arrow, passing almost within
touching distance of a branch on which it has observed a small lizard,
or an insect it longs for, but from which it again ascends disappointed.
Now it is seen to move in hurried zig-zags, as if pursued by a dangerous
enemy, sometimes seeming to turn over and over like a Tumbling Pigeon.
Again it is observed flying round the trunk of a tree to secure large
insects, sweeping with astonishing velocity. While travelling, it moves
in the desultory manner followed by Swallows; but at other times it
is seen soaring at a great elevation among the large flocks of Carrion
Crows and Turkey Buzzards, joined by the Forked-tailed Hawk, dashing at
the former, and giving them chase, as if in play, until these cowardly
scavengers sweep downwards, abandoning this to them disagreeable sport
to the Hawks, who now continue to gambol undisturbed. When in pursuit of
a large insect or a small reptile, it turns its body sidewise, throws
out its legs, expands its talons, and generally seizes its prey in an
instant. It feeds while on wing, apparently with as much ease and comfort,
as when alighted on the branch of a tall tree. It never alights on the
earth; at least I have never seen it do so, except when wounded, and
then it appears extremely awkward. It never attacks birds or quadrupeds
of any kind, with the view of destroying them for food, although it will
chase a fox to a considerable distance, screaming loudly all the while,
and soon forces a Crow to retreat to the woods.

The nest of this species is always placed in the upper branches of the
tallest trees. I thought it gave the preference to those tall and splendid
magnolias and white oaks, which adorn our Southern States. The nest
resembles that of the dilapidated tenement of the Common American Crow,
and is formed of sticks slightly put together, along with branches of
Spanish moss (_Usnea_), pieces of vine bark, and dried leaves. The eggs
are two or three, almost globular, of a light greenish tint, blotched
thickly over with deep chocolate-brown and black. Only one brood is
raised in the season, and I think the female sits more than half the
time necessary for incubation. The young I also think obtain nearly
the full plumage of the old bird before they depart from us, as I have
examined these birds early in August, when the migration was already
begun, without observing much difference in their general colour, except
only in the want of firmness in the tint of the young ones.

Once, early in the month of May, I found a nest of this bird placed on a
fine tall white oak near a creek, and observed that the female was sitting
with unceasing assiduity. The male I saw bring her food frequently. Not
being able to ascend the tree, I hired a Negro, who had been a sailor
for some years, to climb it and bring down the eggs or young. This he
did by first mounting another tree, the branches of which crossed the
lower ones of the oak. No sooner had he reached the trunk of the tree
on which the nest was placed, than the male was seen hovering about
and over it in evident displeasure, screaming and sweeping towards the
intruder the higher he advanced. When he attained the branch on which
the nest was, the female left her charge, and the pair, infuriated at
his daring, flew with such velocity, and passed so close to him, that I
expected every moment to see him struck by them. The black tar, however,
proceeded quietly, reached the nest, and took out the eggs, apprising
me that there were three. I requested him to bring them down with care,
and to throw off the nest, which he did. The poor birds, seeing their
tenement cast down to the ground, continued sweeping around us so low
and so long, that I could not resist the temptation thus offered of
shooting them.

The Mississippi Kite is by no means a shy bird, and one may generally
depend on getting near it when alighted; but to follow it while on wing
were useless, its flight being usually so elevated, and its sweeps over
a field or wood so rapid and varied, that you might spend many hours
in vain in attempting to get up with it. Even when alighted, it perches
so high, that I have sometimes shot at it, without producing any other
effect than that of causing it to open its wings and close them again,
as if utterly ignorant of the danger to which it had been exposed, while
it seemed to look down upon me quite unconcerned. When wounded, it comes
to the ground with great force, and seldom attempts to escape, choosing
rather to defend itself, which it does to the last, by throwing itself
on its back, erecting the feathers of its head, screaming loudly in
the manner of the Pigeon Hawk, disgorging the contents of its stomach,
stretching out its talons, and biting or clenching with great vigour.
It is extremely muscular, the flesh tough and rigid.

These birds at times search for food so far from the spot where their
nest has been placed, that I have on several occasions been obliged to
follow their course over the woods, as if in search of a wild bee's hive,
before I could discover it. There is scarcely any perceptible difference
between the sexes as to size, and in colour they are precisely similar,
only the female has less of the ferruginous colour on her primaries than
the male. The stomach is thin, rugous, and of a deep orange colour.


FALCO PLUMBEUS, _Gmel._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 283.—_Lath._
Index Ornith. vol. i. p. 49.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds
of the United States, p. 90.—_Nuttall_, Manual, vol. i. p. 92.

MISSISSIPPI KITE, FALCO MISSISSIPPIENSIS, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith.
vol. iii. p. 80. fig. 1. Male.


Adult Male. Plate CXVII. Fig. 1.

Bill short, as broad as deep at the base, the sides convex, the dorsal
outline convex from the base; upper mandible cerate, the edges sharp,
with an obtuse lobe towards the curvate, the tip trigonal, deflected,
very acute; lower mandible inflected at the edges, rounded at the end.
Nostrils round, lateral, basal, with a central papilla. Head rather
large, the general form robust. Legs of moderate length, strong; tarsus
stout, covered anteriorly with scutella, rounded behind; toes scutellate
above, scaly on the sides, scabrous and tuberculate beneath; middle and
outer toe connected at the base by a small membrane; claws roundish,
curved, very acute.

Plumage compact, imbricated; feathers of the head narrow, pointed, and
rather loose; tibial feathers elongated. Wings long and pointed, the
third quill longest. Tail long, straight, retuse.

Bill black, as are the cere, lore, and a narrow band round the eye.
Iris blood-red. Feet purplish, the scutella deep red; claws black. The
head, the neck all round, and the under parts in general bluish-white.
The back and wing-coverts are of a dark leaden colour, the ends of the
secondary coverts white. The primaries black, margined externally with
bright bay; the tail also deep black, as is the rump.

Length 14 inches, extent of wings 36; bill along the ridge 11/12, along
the edge 11/12; tarsus 1¾.


Adult Female. Plate CXVII. Fig. 2.

The female differs little from the male in colour, and is not much larger.

Length 15 inches.




THE WARBLING FLYCATCHER OR VIREO.

_VIREO GILVUS_, BONAP.

PLATE CXVIII. MALE AND FEMALE.


While at the little village, now the city, of Camden, in New Jersey,
where I had gone for the purpose of watching the passage of certain
Warblers on their way north early in the month of May, I took lodgings
in a street ornamented with a long avenue of tall Lombardy poplars, one
of which almost touched my window. On it too I had the pleasure shortly
afterwards of finding the nest of this interesting little bird. Never
before had I seen it placed so low, and never before had I an opportunity
of examining it, or of observing the particular habits of the species
with so much advantage. The nest, although formed nearly in the same
manner as several others, which I have since obtained by cutting them
down with rifle balls, from the top twigs of the tall trees to which
they were attached, instead of being fastened in the fork of a twig, was
fixed to the body of the tree, and that of a branch coming off at a very
acute angle. The birds were engaged in constructing it during eight days,
working chiefly in the morning and evening. Previous to their selecting
the spot, I frequently saw them examining the tree, warbling together as
if congratulating each other on their good fortune in finding so snug
a place. One morning I observed both of them at work; they had already
attached some slender blades of grass to the knots on the branch and
the bark of the trunk, and had given them a circular disposition. They
continued working downwards and outwards, until the structure exhibited
the form of their delicate tenement. Before the end of the second day,
bits of hornets' nests and particles of corn-husks had been attached
to it by pushing them between the rows of grass, and fixing them with
silky substances. On the third day, the birds were absent, nor could I
hear them anywhere in the neighbourhood, and thinking that a cat might
have caught them from the edge of the roof, I despaired of seeing them
again. On the fourth morning, however, their notes attracted my attention
before I rose, and I had the pleasure of finding them at their labours.
The materials which they now used consisted chiefly of extremely slender
grasses, which the birds worked in a circular form within the frame
which they had previously made. The little creatures were absent nearly
an hour at a time, and returned together bringing the grass, which I
concluded they found at a considerable distance. Going into the street
to see in what direction they went, I watched them for some time, and
followed them as they flew from tree to tree towards the river. There
they stopped, and looked as if carefully watching me, on which I retired
to a small distance, when they resumed their journey, and led me quite
out of the village, to a large meadow, where stood an old hay stack.
They alighted on it, and in a few minutes each had selected a blade of
grass. Returning by the same route, they moved so slowly from one tree
to another, that my patience was severely tried. Two other days were
consumed in travelling for the same kind of grass. On the seventh I saw
only the female at work, using wool and horse hair. The eighth was almost
entirely spent by both in smoothing the inside. They would enter the nest,
sit in it, turn round, and press the lining, I should suppose a hundred
times or more in the course of an hour. The male had ceased to warble,
and both birds exhibited great concern. They went off and returned so
often that I actually became quite tired of this lesson in the art of
nest-building, and perhaps I should not have looked at them more that
day, had not the cat belonging to the house made her appearance just
over my head, on the roof, within a few feet of the nest, and at times
so very near the affrighted and innocent creatures, that my interest was
at once renewed. I gave chase to grimalkin, and saved the Flycatchers
at least for that season.

In the course of five days, an equal number of eggs was laid. They
were small, of a rather narrow oval form, white, thinly spotted with
reddish-black at the larger end. The birds sat alternately, though not
with regularity as to time, and on the twelfth day of incubation the
young came out. I observed that the male would bring insects to the
female, and that after chopping and macerating them with her beak, she
placed them in the mouth of her young with a care and delicacy which
were not less curious than pleasing to me. Three or four days after,
the male fed them also, and I thought that I saw them grow every time
I turned from my drawing to peep at them.

On the fifteenth day, about eight in the morning, the little birds all
stood on the border of the nest, and were fed as usual. They continued
there the remainder of the day, and about sunset re-entered the nest.
The old birds I had frequently observed roosted within about a foot above
them. On the sixteenth day after their exclusion from the egg, they took
to wing, and ascended the branches of the tree, with surprising ease and
firmness. They were fed another day after, on the same tree, and roosted
close together in a row on a small twig, the parents just above them.
The next morning they flew across the street, and betook themselves to
a fine peach-orchard several hundred yards from my lodging. Never had
HUBER watched the operations of his bees with more intentness than I
had employed on this occasion, and I bade them adieu at last with great
regret.

The principal food of this species consists of small black caterpillars,
which that season infested all the poplars in the street. They searched
for them in the manner of the Red-eyed Flycatcher and Blue-eyed Yellow
Warbler, moving sidewise along the twigs, like the latter, now and then
balancing themselves on the wing opposite their prey, and snapping it in
the manner of the _Muscicapa Ruticilla_, sometimes alighting sidewise
on the tree, seldom sallying forth in pursuit of insects more than a
few yards, and always preferring to remain among the branches. I never
saw either of the old birds disgorge pellets, as I have seen Pewees do.

I observed that they now and then stood in a stiffened attitude, balancing
their body from side to side on the joint of the tarsus and toes, as
on a hinge, but could not discover the import of this singular action.
During the love days of the pair mentioned above, the male would spread
its little wings and tail, and strut in short circles round the female,
pouring out a low warble so sweet and mellow that I can compare it only
to the sounds of a good musical box. The female received these attentions
without coyness, and I have often thought that these birds had been
attached to each other before that season.

No name could have been imposed upon this species with more propriety
than that of the Warbling Flycatcher. The male sings from morning to
night, so sweetly, so tenderly, with so much mellowness and softness
of tone, and yet with notes so low, that one might think he sings only
for his beloved, without the least desire to attract the attention of
rivals. In this he differs greatly from most other birds. Even its chiding
notes—_tschĕ, tschĕ_, were low and unobtruding. The nestlings uttered
a lisping sound, not unlike that of a young mouse. The only time I saw
the old birds ruffled, was on discovering a brown lizard ascending their
tree. They attacked it courageously, indeed furiously, and although I
did not see them strike it, compelled it to leave the place.

The flight of the Warbling Flycatcher is performed by gentle glidings,
and seldom extends to a greater length than a hundred yards at a time.
I never saw it on the ground.

It was never observed by me in Louisiana or Kentucky, nor does it pass
along the maritime districts of Georgia or the Carolinas; but from
Virginia to Maine it is not uncommon, although I saw none farther north.
It arrives in the Jerseys and Pennsylvania about the first of May, some
years perhaps a little earlier, and proceeds farther east as the season
advances. I do not think that it raises more than one brood each season,
although I have observed it as late as the 15th of October in the Middle
Districts, where I believe the greater number of these birds spend the
summer. Not one could I see during the winter in the Floridas, where,
however, the White-eyed and Red-eyed Flycatchers were frequently heard
in full song.


VIREO GILVUS, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United
States, p. 70.

WARBLING FLYCATCHER, MUSCICAPA MELODIA, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith.
vol. v. p. 85. pl. 42. fig. 2.

WARBLING VIREO, _Nuttall_, Manual, vol. i. p. 309.


Adult Male. Plate CXVIII.

Bill rather short, depressed at the base, subtriangular, compressed toward
the tip, acute; upper mandible with the sides convex, notched towards
the end, and deflected at the tip. Nostrils basal, lateral, oblong. Head
rather large, neck short, body ovate. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus
compressed, anteriorly scutellate, sharp behind; toes slender, free;
claws small, slightly arched, compressed, acute.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings of ordinary length, the second and third
primaries longest, first and fifth about equal. Tail of ordinary length,
slightly emarginate. Basirostral bristles rather short.

Bill lead-colour above, flesh-colour beneath. Iris dark hazel. Feet
lead-colour. The general colour of the plumage above is pale olive-green,
tinged with ash on the neck and shoulders. A white line over the eye;
space beneath it and the under parts generally of the same colour,
the sides tinged with pale greenish-yellow. Quills and their coverts



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