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dark-brown, margined with pale olive-green. Tail similarly edged.

Length 5¼ inches, extent of wings 8½; bill along the ridge 4/12, along
the edge 6/12; tarsus 8/12.

Adult Female. Plate CXVIII. Fig. 2.

The Female, which is slightly smaller, resembles the male in colouring.


MAGNOLIA GLAUCA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. ii. p. 1256.—_Pursh_,
Flor. Amer. Sept. vol. ii. p. 381.—_Mich._ Arbr. Forest. de
l'Amer. Septentr. vol. iii. p. 78. pl. 2.—POLYANDRIA POLYGYNIA,
_Linn._ MAGNOLIÆ, _Juss._

The Swamp Magnolia is abundant in all marshy places from Louisiana
to Connecticut, growing in groves in and around the swamps. It seldom
exceeds twenty feet in height, and is more usually eight or ten. The
flowers have an agreeable odour, but are of short duration, although
the tree continues blooming for several months. It is not unfrequent to
find it, in the Southern States, in flower during autumn. The species
is characterized by its ovate leaves, which are glaucous beneath, and
its obovate petals, narrowed at the base. It bears different names in
the different States, such as _Swamp Laurel_, _Swamp Sassafras_, _Sweet
Bay_, _White Bay_, &c.




While the small White-eyed Vireo rambles among the low bushes and brambles
of the fields of all parts of the United States, the Yellow-throated
species takes possession of the forest, and gleans with equal ease among
the branches of the tallest trees, to which it seems to give a marked
preference during the spring and summer. It is fond of the quietest
solitudes, and in its habits is nearly allied to the Red-eyed Vireo. Like
it also, it is a slow, careful, and industrious bird, never imitating
the petulant, infantile, and original (if I may so speak) freaks of
its gay relative, the White-eyed. It is more silent than either of the
species above mentioned, although its notes have a strong resemblance to
those of the Red-eyed. These notes are more measured and plaintive than
those of any of its tribe, sometimes consisting of sounds resembling
the syllables _prēe-ā, preē-ā_, rising and falling in sweet modulation.
One might imagine them the notes of a bird lost in the woods, and they
make a strong impression on the mind of the listener. Now and then the
sight of his mate seems to animate the male, when he repeats the same
syllables eight or ten times in succession. When sitting pensively on
a twig, as if waiting for an invitation to sing, it utters a kind of
whining sound, and in autumn, as well as during its retrograde march
towards the south, it becomes quite silent.

When searching for food, it ascends the branches of trees by regular short
hops, examining with care every leaf and bud in its way, never leaving
a branch for another until it is quite assured that nothing remains
on it. When flying to some distance, its motions, although quick, are
irregular, and it passes among the boughs at a moderate height.

This species is at all times extremely rare in Louisiana, where I
have seen it only during early spring or late in the autumn. My friend
BACHMAN, has never observed it in South Carolina. Indeed, it is only from
Pennsylvania eastward that it is met with in any quantity. During summer
it feeds entirely on insects, devouring with equal pleasure caterpillars,
small moths, wasps, and wild bees. The summer over, it ranges among the
low bushes in search of berries, accompanied by its young, and at that
time enters the orchards and gardens even of our villages and cities.
It arrives in Pennsylvania and New Jersey about the end of April, and
in Massachusetts and Maine about a month later.

The nest of the Yellow-throated Vireo is truly a beautiful fabric. It
sometimes extends to five or six inches in depth, and as it is always
placed at the extremity of small twigs, it is very conspicuous. It is
attached to these twigs with much care by slender threads of vines, or
those of other trees at its upper edges, mixed with the silk of different
caterpillars, and enclosed with lichens, so neatly attached by means
of saliva, that the whole outer surface seems formed of them, while
the inner bed, which is about two and a half inches in diameter, by an
inch and a half in depth, is lined with delicate grasses, between which
and the bottom coarser materials, are employed to fill the space, such
as bits of hornets' nests, dry leaves, and wool. The eggs, which are
four or five in number, are of an elongated form, white, spotted with
reddish-brown or black. The young are out about the beginning of July.
In Maine it raises one brood only, but farther south not unfrequently two.

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

YELLOW-THROATED FLYCATCHER, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 117.
pl. 7. fig. 3.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, _Nuttall_, Manual, vol. i. p. 302.

Adult Male. Plate CXIX.

Bill of moderate length, broad and depressed at the base, compressed
towards the tip, acute; upper mandible with the sides convex, the edges
sharp, the tip deflected; lower mandible straight, the back rounded,
the edges sharp, the tip acute. Nostrils basal, lateral, oblong. Head
rather large, neck short, body robust. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus
compressed, anteriorly scutellate, sharp behind; toes slender, free;
claws slightly arched, compressed, acute.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings of ordinary length, the second and third
primaries longest. Tail of ordinary length, emarginate. Basirostral
bristles short.

Bill brownish-black above, the greater part of the lower mandible pale
blue, the tip dusky. Iris dark brown. Feet lead-colour. The upper parts
of a deep greenish-olive, the quills and coverts deep brown, the latter
tipped with white, the primaries and some of the secondaries edged with
the same, as are the tail-feathers. Throat, fore-neck, and anterior
part of the breast, with a short line over the eye, rich lemon-yellow;
posterior half of the breast, the abdomen, and the lower tail-coverts,

Length 5¾ inches, extent of wings 9½; bill along the ridge 5/12, along
the edge 8/12; tarsus ¾.

The Female resembles the male in external appearance.


HYDRANGEA QUERCIFOLIA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. ii. p. 634.
_Pursh_, Flor. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 309.—DECANDRIA DIGYNIA,
_Linn._ SAXIFRAGÆ, _Juss._

This plant is found on the broken sandy banks bordering small
water-courses, and is abundant in such situations in the uplands of
Louisiana. It seldom grows beyond the size of a bush. The blossoms
are lasting, and although without odour, are pleasing to the eye, on
account of their pure white colour when first expanded; they dry on the
stalks, retaining their form, and remaining until winter. The species
is characterized by its oblong, deeply sinuate leaves, which are downy
beneath, and its radiated loosely thyrsiform cymes.




Connected with the biography of this bird are so many incidents relative
to my own, that could I with propriety deviate from my proposed method,
the present volume would contain less of the habits of birds than of
those of the youthful days of an American woodsman. While young, I
had a plantation that lay on the sloping declivities of a creek, the
name of which I have already given, but as it will ever be dear to my
recollection, you will, I hope, allow me to repeat it—the Perkioming.
I was extremely fond of rambling along its rocky banks, for it would
have been difficult to do so either without meeting with a sweet flower,
spreading open its beauties to the sun, or observing the watchful
King's-fisher perched on some projecting stone over the clear water
of the stream. Nay, now and then, the Fish Hawk itself, followed by
a White-headed Eagle, would make his appearance, and by his graceful
aerial motions, raise my thoughts far above them into the heavens,
silently leading me to the admiration of the sublime Creator of all.
These impressive, and always delightful, reveries often accompanied my
steps to the entrance of a small cave scooped out of the solid rock by
the hand of nature. It was, I then thought, quite large enough for my
study. My paper and pencils, with now and then a volume of EDGEWORTH'S
natural and fascinating Tales or LAFONTAINE'S Fables, afforded me ample
pleasures. It was in that place, kind reader, that I first saw with
advantage the force of parental affection in birds. There it was that I
studied the habits of the Pewee; and there I was taught most forcibly
that to destroy the nest of a bird, or to deprive it of its eggs or
young, is an act of great cruelty.

I had observed the nest of this plain-coloured Flycatcher fastened, as
it were, to the rock immediately over the arched entrance of this calm
retreat. I had peeped into it: although empty, it was yet clean, as if
the absent owner intended to revisit it with the return of spring. The
buds were already much swelled, and some of the trees were ornamented
with blossoms, yet the ground was still partially covered with snow,
and the air retained the piercing chill of winter. I chanced one morning
early to go to my retreat. The sun's glowing rays gave a rich colouring
to every object around. As I entered the cave, a rustling sound over my
head attracted my attention, and, on turning, I saw two birds fly off,
and alight on a tree close by:—the Pewees had arrived! I felt delighted,
and fearing that my sudden appearance might disturb the gentle pair, I
walked off, not, however, without frequently looking at them. I concluded
that they must have just come, for they seemed fatigued:—their plaintive
note was not heard, their crests were not erected, and the vibration of
the tail, so very conspicuous in this species, appeared to be wanting in
power. Insects were yet few, and the return of the birds looked to me as
prompted more by their affection to the place, than by any other motive.
No sooner had I gone a few steps than the Pewees, with one accord glided
down from their perches and entered the cave. I did not return to it any
more that day, and as I saw none about it, or in the neighbourhood, I
supposed that they must have spent the day within it. I concluded also
that these birds must have reached this haven, either during the night,
or at the very dawn of that morn. Hundreds of observations have since
proved to me that this species always migrates by night.

Filled with the thoughts of the little pilgrims, I went early next
morning to their retreat, yet not early enough to surprise them in it.
Long before I reached the spot, my ears were agreeably saluted by their
well-known note, and I saw them darting about through the air, giving
chase to some insects close over the water. They were full of gaiety,
frequently flew into and out of the cave, and while alighted on a
favourite tree near it, seemed engaged in the most interesting converse.
The light fluttering or tremulous motions of their wings, the jetting
of their tail, the erection of their crest, and the neatness of their
attitudes, all indicated that they were no longer fatigued, but on the
contrary refreshed and happy. On my going into the cave, the male flew
violently towards the entrance, snapped his bill sharply and repeatedly,
accompanying this action with a tremulous rolling note, the import of
which I soon guessed. Presently he flew into the cave and out of it
again, with a swiftness scarcely credible: it was like the passing of
a shadow.

Several days in succession I went to the spot, and saw with pleasure that
as my visits increased in frequency, the birds became more familiarized
to me, and, before a week had elapsed, the Pewees and myself were quite
on terms of intimacy. It was now the 10th of April; the spring was
forward that season, no more snow was to be seen, Redwings and Grakles
were to be found here and there. The Pewees, I observed, began working
at their old nest. Desirous of judging for myself, and anxious to enjoy
the company of this friendly pair, I determined to spend the greater part
of each day in the cave. My presence no longer alarmed either of them.
They brought a few fresh materials, lined the nest anew, and rendered
it warm by adding a few large soft feathers of the common goose, which
they found strewn along the edge of the water in the creek. There was a
remarkable and curious twittering in their note while both sat on the
edge of the nest at those meetings, and which is never heard on any
other occasion. It was the soft, tender expression, I thought, of the
pleasure they both appeared to anticipate of the future. Their mutual
caresses, simple as they might have seemed to another, and the delicate
manner used by the male to please his mate, rivetted my eyes on these
birds, and excited sensations which I can never forget.

The female one day spent the greater part of the time in her nest; she
frequently changed her position; her mate exhibited much uneasiness, he
would alight by her sometimes, sit by her side for a moment, and suddenly
flying out, would return with an insect, which she took from his bill with
apparent gratification. About three o'clock in the afternoon, I saw the
uneasiness of the female increase; the male showed an unusual appearance
of despondence, when, of a sudden, the female rose on her feet, looked
sidewise under her, and flying out, followed by her attentive consort,
left the cave, rose high in the air, performing evolutions more curious
to me than any I had seen before. They flew about over the water, the
female leading her mate, as it were, through her own meanderings. Leaving
the Pewees to their avocations, I peeped into their nest, and saw there
their first egg, so white and so transparent—for I believe, reader, that
eggs soon lose this peculiar transparency after being laid—that to me
the sight was more pleasant than if I had met with a diamond of the same
size. The knowledge that in an enclosure so frail, life already existed,
and that ere many weeks would elapse, a weak, delicate, and helpless
creature, but perfect in all its parts, would burst the shell, and
immediately call for the most tender care and attention of its anxious
parents, filled my mind with as much wonder as when, looking towards
the heavens, I searched, alas! in vain, for the true import of all that
I saw.

In six days, six eggs were deposited; but I observed that as they
increased in number, the bird remained a shorter time in the nest. The
last she deposited in a few minutes after alighting. Perhaps, thought
I, this is a law of nature, intended for keeping the eggs fresh to the
last. Kind reader, what are your thoughts on the subject? About an hour
after laying the last egg, the female Pewee returned, settled in her
nest, and, after arranging the eggs, as I thought, several times under
her body, expanded her wings a little, and fairly commenced the arduous
task of incubation.

Day after day passed by. I gave strict orders that no one should go near
the cave, much less enter it, or indeed destroy any bird's nest on the
plantation. Whenever I visited the Pewees, one or other of them was on
the nest, while its mate was either searching for food, or perched in
the vicinity, filling the air with its loudest notes. I not unfrequently
reached out my hand near the sitting bird; and so gentle had they both
become, or rather so well acquainted were we, that neither moved on such
occasions, even when my hand was quite close to it. Now and then the
female would shrink back into the nest, but the male frequently snapped
at my fingers, and once left the nest as if in great anger, flew round
the cave a few times, emitting his querulous whining notes, and alighted
again to resume his labours.

At this very time, a Pewee's nest was attached to one of the rafters of
my mill, and there was another under a shed in the cattle-yard. Each
pair, any one would have felt assured, had laid out the limits of its
own domain, and it was seldom that one trespassed on the grounds of its
neighbour. The Pewee of the cave generally fed or spent its time so far
above the mill on the creek, that he of the mill never came in contact
with it. The Pewee of the cattle-yard confined himself to the orchard,
and never disturbed the rest. Yet I sometimes could hear distinctly
the notes of the three at the same moment. I had at that period an idea
that the whole of these birds were descended from the same stock. If not
correct in this supposition, I had ample proof afterwards that the brood
of young Pewees, raised in the cave, returned the following spring, and
established themselves farther up on the creek, and among the outhouses
in the neighbourhood.

On some other occasion, I will give you such instances of the return of
birds, accompanied by their progeny, to the place of their nativity, that
perhaps you will become convinced, as I am at this moment, that to this
propensity every country owes the augmentation of new species, whether
of birds or of quadrupeds, attracted by the many benefits met with, as
countries become more open and better cultivated: but now I will, with
your leave, return to the Pewees of the cave.

On the thirteenth day, the little ones were hatched. One egg was
unproductive, and the female, on the second day after the birth of her
brood, very deliberately pushed it out of the nest. On examining this
egg I found it containing the embryo of a bird partly dried up, with
its vertebræ quite fast to the shell, which had probably occasioned its
death. Never have I since so closely witnessed the attention of birds
to their young. Their entrance with insects was so frequently repeated,
that I thought I saw the little ones grow as I gazed upon them. The
old birds no longer looked upon me as an enemy, and would often come
in close by me, as if I had been a post. I now took upon me to handle
the young frequently; nay, several times I took the whole family out,
and blew off the exuviæ of the feathers from the nest. I attached light
threads to their legs: these they invariably removed, either with their
bills, or with the assistance of their parents. I renewed them, however,
until I found the little fellows habituated to them; and at last, when
they were about to leave the nest, I fixed a light silver thread to the
leg of each, loose enough not to hurt the part, but so fastened that no
exertions of theirs could remove it.

Sixteen days had passed, when the brood took to wing; and the old birds,
dividing the time with caution, began to arrange the nest anew. A second
set of eggs were laid, and in the beginning of August a new brood made
its appearance.

The young birds took much to the woods, as if feeling themselves more
secure there than in the open fields; but before they departed, they all
appeared strong, and minded not making long sorties into the open air,
over the whole creek, and the fields around it. On the 8th of October,
not a Pewee could I find on the plantation: my little companions had all
set off on their travels. For weeks afterwards, however, I saw Pewees
arriving from the north, and lingering a short time, as if to rest, when
they also moved southward.

At the season when the Pewee returns to Pennsylvania, I had the
satisfaction to observe those of the cave in and about it. There again,
in the very same nest, two broods were raised. I found several Pewees'
nests at some distance up the creek, particularly under a bridge, and
several others in the adjoining meadows, attached to the inner part of
sheds erected for the protection of hay and grain. Having caught several
of these birds on the nest, I had the pleasure of finding that two of
them had the little ring on the leg.

I was now obliged to go to France, where I remained two years. On my
return, which happened early in August, I had the satisfaction of finding
three young Pewees in the nest of the cave; but it was not the nest
which I had left in it. The old one had been torn off from the roof, and
the one which I found there was placed above where it stood. I observed
at once that one of the parent birds was as shy as possible, while the
other allowed me to approach within a few yards. This was the male bird,
and I felt confident that the old female had paid the debt of nature.
Having inquired of the miller's son, I found that he had killed the old
Pewee and four young ones, to make bait for the purpose of catching fish.
Then the male Pewee had brought another female to the cave! As long as
the plantation of Mill Grove belonged to me, there continued to be a
Pewee's nest in my favourite retreat; but after I had sold it, the cave
was destroyed, as were nearly all the beautiful rocks along the shores
of the creek, to build a new dam across the Perkioming.

This species is so peculiarly fond of attaching its nest to rocky caves,
that, were it called the Rock Flycatcher, it would be appropriately
named. Indeed I seldom have passed near such a place, particularly during
the breeding season, without seeing the Pewee, or hearing its notes. I
recollect that, while travelling in Virginia with a friend, he desired
that I would go somewhat out of our intended route, to visit the renowned
Rock Bridge of that State. My companion, who had passed over this natural
bridge before, proposed a wager that he could lead me across it before I
should be aware of its existence. It was early in April; and, from the
descriptions of this place which I had read, I felt confident that the
Pewee Flycatcher must be about it. I accepted the proposal of my friend
and trotted on, intent on proving to myself that, by constantly attending
to one subject, a person must sooner or later become acquainted with
it. I listened to the notes of the different birds, which at intervals
came to my ear, and at last had the satisfaction to distinguish those
of the Pewee. I stopped my horse, to judge of the distance at which the
bird might be, and a moment after told my friend that the bridge was
short of a hundred yards from us, although it was impossible for us to
see the spot itself. The surprise of my companion was great. "How do you
know this?" he asked, "for," continued he, "you are correct."—"Simply,"
answered I, "because I hear the notes of the Pewee, and know that a
cave, or a deep rocky creek, is at hand." We moved on; the Pewees rose
from under the bridge in numbers; I pointed to the spot and won the wager.

This rule of observation I have almost always found to work, as
arithmeticians say, both ways. Thus the nature of the woods or place in
which the observer may be, whether high or low, moist or dry, sloping
north or south, with whatever kind of vegetation, tall trees of particular
species, or low shrubs, will generally disclose the nature of their

The flight of the Pewee Flycatcher is performed by a fluttering light
motion, frequently interrupted by sailings. It is slow when the bird
is proceeding to some distance, rather rapid when in pursuit of prey.
It often mounts perpendicularly from its perch after an insect, and
returns to some dry twig, from which it can see around to a considerable
distance. It then swallows the insect whole, unless it happen to be
large. It will at times pursue an insect to a considerable distance,
and seldom without success. It alights with great firmness, immediately
erects itself in the manner of hawks, glances all around, shakes its
wings with a tremulous motion, and vibrates its tail upwards as if by a
spring. Its tufty crest is generally erected, and its whole appearance
is neat, if not elegant. The Pewee has its particular stands, from which
it seldom rambles far. The top of a fence stake near the road is often
selected by it, from which it sweeps off in all directions, returning
at intervals, and thus remaining the greater part of the morning and
evening. The corner of the roof of the barn suits it equally well, and
if the weather requires it, it may be seen perched on the highest dead
twig of a tall tree. During the heat of the day it reposes in the shade
of the woods. In the autumn it will choose the stalk of the mullein for
its stand, and sometimes the projecting angle of a rock jutting over a
stream. It now and then alights on the ground for an instant, but this
happens principally during winter, or while engaged during spring in
collecting the materials of which its nest is composed, in our Southern
States, where many spend their time at this season.

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 14 of 56)