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autumn, when they are fat and juicy. Now and then at this season, they
plunge through the air, but the rustling sound of their wings at this
or any other time after the love season is less remarkable.

In the Middle States, about the 20th of May, the Night-Hawk, without much
care as to situation, deposits its two, almost oval, freckled eggs, on
the bare ground, or on an elevated spot in the ploughed fields, or even
on the naked rock, sometimes in barren or open places in the skirts of
the woods, never entering their depths. No nest is ever constructed,
nor is the least preparation made by scooping the ground. They never, I
believe, raise more than one brood in a season. The young are for some
time covered with a soft down, the colour of which, being a dusky brown,
greatly contributes to their safety. Should the female be disturbed
during incubation, she makes her escape, pretending lameness, fluttering
and trembling, until she feels assured that you have lost sight of her
eggs or young, after which she flies off, and does not return until you
have withdrawn, but she will suffer you to approach her, if unseen,
until within a foot or two of her eggs. During incubation, the male
and female sit alternately. After the young are tolerably grown, and
require less warmth from their parents, the latter are generally found
in their immediate neighbourhood, quietly squatted on some fence, rail,
or tree, where they remain so very silent and motionless that it is no
easy matter to discover them.

When wounded they scramble off very awkwardly, and if taken in the hand
immediately open their mouth to its full extent repeatedly, as if the
mandibles moved on hinges worked by a spring. They also strike with
their wings in the manner of pigeons, but without any effect.

The food of the Night-Hawk consists entirely of insects, especially
those of the Coleopterous order, although they also seize on moths and
caterpillars, and are very expert at catching crickets and grasshoppers,
with which they sometimes gorge themselves, as they fly low over the
ground with great rapidity. They now and then drink whilst flying closely
over the water, in the manner of swallows.

None of these birds remain during the winter in any portion of the United
States. The Chuck-will's-widow alone have I heard, and found far up the
St John's River, in East Florida, in January. Frequently during autumn,
at New Orleans, I have known some of these birds to remain searching for
food over the meadows and river until the rainy season had begun, and
then is the time at which the sportsmen shoot many of them down; but the
very next day, if the weather was still drizzly, scarcely one could be
seen there. When returning from the northern districts at a late period
of the year, they pass close over the woods, and with so much rapidity,
that you can obtain only a single glimpse of them.

While at Indian Key, on the coast of Florida, I saw a pair of these
birds killed by lightning, while they were on wing, during a tremendous
thunder-storm. They fell on the sea, and after picking them up I examined
them carefully, but failed to discover the least appearance of injury
on the feathers or in the internal parts.

CAPRIMULGUS VIRGINIANUS, _Lath._ Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 585.
—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States,
p. 62.

part. i. p. 62.

p. 65. pl. 40. fig. 1. Male; fig. 2. Female.—_Nuttall_,
Manual, part. i. p. 619.

Adult Male. Plate CXLVII. Fig. 1.

Bill extremely short, feeble, opening to beyond the eyes, the mouth,
when open, appearing of enormous width; upper mandible, in its dorsal
outline straight at first, deflected at the end, very broad at the base,
and suddenly contracted towards the tip, which is compressed and rather
obtuse; lower mandible a little recurved at the tip. Nostrils basal, oval,
prominent, covered above by a membrane. Head large, depressed. Eyes and
ears very large. Neck short, body rather slender. Feet very short and
feeble; tarsus partly feathered, anteriorly scutellate below; fore-toes
three, connected by webs as far as the second joint, scutellate above;
claws very small, curved, compressed, acute; that of the middle larger,
curved outwards, with the inner edge expanded and pectinate.

Plumage blended, soft, but with the feathers distinct, slightly glossed.
Upper mandible margined with short bristles. Wings very long, somewhat
falcate, narrow, the first and second quills longest, and almost equal.
Tail rather long, ample, forked, of ten broad, rounded feathers.

Bill black. Iris dark-brown. Feet purplish-brown, the claws dark-brown.
Head and upper surface in general brownish-black, mottled with white
and pale reddish-brown. Secondary quills tipped with brownish-white. A
conspicuous white bar extending across the inner web of the first, and
the whole breadth of the second, third, fourth, and fifth primaries.
Tail-feathers barred with brownish-grey, the four outer on each side
plain brownish-black towards the end, with a white spot. Sides of the
head and fore-neck mottled like the back; a broad white band, in the form
of the letter V reversed, on the throat and sides of the neck. The rest
of the under parts greyish-white, transversely, marked with undulating
bars of dark-brown; lower tail-coverts white, with a few dark bars;
under wing-coverts blackish-brown, with white tips.

Length 9½ inches, extent of wings 23½; bill along the back ¼, along the
edge 1-1/12; tarsus ½.

Adult Female. Plate CXLVII. Fig. 2. 2.

The colouring of the Female is similar to that of the Male, but the dark
parts of the former are browner, and the white parts more tinged with
red; the white wing-spot smaller, the band on the throat brownish-white,
and the white spots on the tail-feathers wanting.

Length 9.

The full-fledged young bird resembles the female.


QUERCUS ALBA, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. p. 449. _Pursh_, Fl. Amer.
Sept. vol. ii. p. 633. _Mich._ Arbr. Forest. vol. ii. p. 13.

Leaves oblong, pinnatifido-sinuate, downy beneath, their lobes oblong,
obtuse; fruit rather large, with a cup-shaped tubercular cupule, and ovate
acorn. The White Oak is abundant in most parts of the United States from
Maine to Louisiana, and is one of the most useful trees of the genus,
the wood being strong and lasting; and, as it is of large dimensions,
it is employed for numerous purposes, especially ship building, and
the manufacture of carriage-wheels, and domestic utensils. It attains
a height of seventy or eighty feet, with a diameter of six or seven.




I have met with this homely and humble little Warbler, on the low, almost
submersed Keys of the Floridas, about Key West, in considerable numbers.
This happened in the month of April. One was caught in a house at Indian
Key some days before. In a short time, however, they all disappeared.
Like many other species of this extensive and interesting family, they
seem to cross directly from Cape Florida to Cape Hatteras, as none were
seen in Louisiana, Georgia, or the lower parts of the Carolinas. It is
not improbable that it comes from the West Indies, resting a few days on
the lower islets of Florida, before proceeding northward. In the early
part of May, I have found it in New Jersey, as well as in Pennsylvania,
particularly in the Great Pine Forest, where I drew a pair of them, and
found their nest. During my progress eastward, I saw them frequently.
In the State of Maine, I found them exceedingly abundant near Eastport,
and on the other islands in that vicinity; but there their progress
appeared to have stopped, for I did not see one of them beyond the Island
of Grand Manan, while on my way to Labrador.

The Pine-Swamp Warbler delights in the dark, humid parts of thick
underwood, by the sides of small streams. It is very active, seizing
much of its prey on wing, as well as among the leaves and bark of low
trees. During the breeding-season, the male utters a few clear notes,
resembling the syllables _wheet-te-tee-hŭ_, the last note being the
loudest and shortest. At all other times, it is a very silent bird.

The nest which I found in the Pine Forest was placed in one of the forks
of a low bush, not more than five feet from the ground. It was neat,
compact, of small size, and formed of moss, stripes of vine-bark, and
fibres of a kind of wild hemp, with a lining of fine bent-grass, and a
few horse-hairs or fibres of moss. The eggs were five, roundish, of a
delicate buff-colour, with a few spots at the larger end, where they
appeared to be all collected. The female was so gentle that I put my
hand close over her before she moved; and when she did so, she flew only
a few feet, returning to her eggs whenever I retired a few yards. The
male expressed his sorrow by a low tweet, but made no attempt to molest

Their food consists entirely of insects. Their flight is short, low,
with a tremulous motion of the wings, unless when in pursuit of their
prey. They all retire southward in the beginning of October.

SYLVIA SPHAGNOSA, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 85.

PINE SWAMP WARBLER, SYLVIA PUSILLA, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. v.
p. 100. pl. 43. fig. 4.—_Nuttall_, part i. p. 406.

Adult Male. Plate CXLVIII. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, nearly straight, broader than deep at the base,
tapering, compressed toward the acute tip. Nostrils basal, oval, exposed.
Head of ordinary size, neck short, body rather full. Feet of ordinary
length, slender; tarsus compressed, covered anteriorly with a few long
scutella, sharp behind; toes free, scutellate above; claws arched, much
compressed, acute.

Plumage soft and blended, slightly glossed. Wings of ordinary length,
the first quill longest. Tail longish, slightly emarginate, the feathers

Bill black above. Iris dark-brown. Legs flesh-coloured. The general colour
of the plumage above is a rich olive-green, the quills and tail-feathers
margined with paler; at the base of the primary quills a white spot,
part of which is apparent beyond the primary coverts. A yellowish-white
line over the eye, and a spot of the same beneath it. Cheeks and sides
of the neck olivaceous. The under parts ochre-yellow, tinged with brown
below the wings.

Length 5½ inches, extent of wings 7½; bill along the ridge 4/12, along
the edge ½; tarsus ¾.

Adult Female. Plate CXLVIII. Fig. 2.

The Female resembles the male, but is paler in its tints.


VIBURNUM LANTANOIDES, _Mich._ Fl. Amer. vol. i. p. 179. _Pursh_,
Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 202.—PENTANDRIA MONOGYNIA, _Linn._

This species, which grows in the woods, from Canada to Virginia, is
characterized by its large suborbicular, subcordate, unequally serrate,
acute leaves, its dense cymes, and ovate berries, which are at first
red, but ultimately black.




This species and the _Fringilla maritima_ spend the winter among the
salt marshes of South Carolina, where I have observed thousands of both
late in December, and so numerous are they, that I have seen more than
forty of the latter killed at one shot. At that season, the neighbourhood
of Charleston seems to be peculiarly suited to their habits, and there
they are found in great abundance along the mouths of all the streams
that flow into the Atlantic. When the tide is out, they resort to the
sedgy marshes, but on the approach of the returning waters, they take
wing and alight along the shores and on the artificial banks formed for
the protection of the rice fields.

The flight of this species is so different from that of any other finch,
that one can easily know them at first sight, if he only observes that
when flying from one spot to another, they carry the tail very low. During
winter, both species are provided with an extra quantity of feathers on
the rump. This circumstance has not a little surprised me, when I found
them residing in a climate where the Blue Heron (_Ardea cærulea_) also
is now and then to be seen in the young state during winter. I am indeed
of opinion that most birds of this species and of the other remain here
the whole year, and that if some go farther south, they must be the
weaker and younger birds, whose constitution is unable to bear the least
degree of cold.

These Finches keep so much about the water, that they walk upon the
floating weeds as unconcernedly as if on land, or on any drifting garbage
raised from the mud at high tides; they congregate and feed together, and
doubtless are constant companions until the spring, when these species
separate for the purpose of breeding.

The Sharp-tailed Finch is rather silent, a single _tweet_ being all that
I have heard it utter. In spring their attempts to sing can hardly be
said to produce a series of notes that can be dignified by the name of
song. They feed on the smaller species of shell-fish, on shrimps, and
aquatic insects or crustacea, as well as on the seeds of the grasses
growing on the grounds which they inhabit.

Within a few years this species has extended its range towards the
eastern portions of the Union, as far as the vicinity of Boston, perhaps
farther. I doubt, however, that they ever reach the State of Maine and
the British provinces, chiefly because the shores of those countries are
rocky, and because very few salt marshes are to be met with there. None
were seen by me in Newfoundland, Labrador, or the intervening islands.

The young birds of this species are considerably lighter in the tints
of their plumage, during winter, than their parents. Some shot on the
11th of December, in the neighbourhood of Charleston in South Carolina,
were so pale as almost to tempt one to pronounce them of a different
species. At that period, the mornings were very cold, the ground being
covered with a thick white frost. So very intent are they on visiting
the interior of the broadest salt-marshes, that on returning, when the
tide declined, to the same banks where we had seen so many at the time
of flowing, we could scarcely find an individual. They are, however,
less addicted to search into the muddy recesses along the creeks and
bayous than the Sea-side Finches.

The nest is placed on the ground, as represented in my plate, at the
distance of a few feet from high-water mark, and generally in a place
resembling a portion of a newly mown meadow. A slight hollow is scraped,
in which are placed the delicate grasses forming the nest, disposed
rather loosely in a circular form. The eggs are from four to six, rather
small, dull white, sprinkled with light brown dots, more numerous towards
the greater end. About Cape May and Great Egg Harbour, two broods are
usually raised in a season; but from the immense numbers seen in autumn,
when they begin to congregate, I am inclined to believe that in many
instances they have three broods in the same year, especially in South
Carolina and Georgia. I saw none of these birds on the eastern coast
of the Floridas. They are most easily shot on the wing, for while among
the sedges and tall grasses, they move with great celerity, gliding from
one blade to another, or suddenly throwing themselves amid the thickest
parts of the weeds, where it is impossible to see them.

FRINGILLA CAUDACUTA, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 110.

vol. iv. pl. 70. fig. 3.

p. 504.

Adult Male. Plate CXLIX. Fig. 1.

Bill shortish, strong, conical, acute; upper mandible of the same breadth
as the lower, convex on the sides, the tip acute and slightly declinate;
lower mandible convex on the back and sides, and both involute on the
sharp edges. Nostrils basal, roundish, open, partially concealed by the
feathers. Head rather large, neck short, body rather robust. Legs of
moderate length, slender; tarsus compressed, anteriorly scutellate, sharp
behind; toes rather large, free, scutellate above, the lateral nearly
equal, the hind toe strong; claws arched, much compressed, longish,
acute, that of the hind toe larger.

Plumage ordinary, soft and blended beneath. Wings short and much curved;
the second and third primaries longest and equal, the fourth scarcely
shorter, the first and fifth about equal. Tail of ordinary length,
graduated, slender, the feathers narrow and pointed.

Bill brownish-black above, the sides of the upper mandible yellow, the
lower mandible light bluish-grey. Iris hazel. Feet pale brown. Crown of
the head bluish-grey in the middle, deep brown at the sides, the feathers
black along the centre. Hind neck dull grey, tinged with brown; back
brown, tinged with grey, some of the feathers marked with black and edged
with greyish-white. Primary quills wood-brown, secondary dark brown,
edged with reddish-brown; the secondary and small coverts principally
of the latter colour. Tail-feathers wood-brown, with a central line of
blackish-brown, excepting the lateral, which are plain and paler. A broad
band of light yellowish-red from the base of the mandible over the eye;
ear-coverts grey; fore neck pale yellowish-red, the throat paler and
unspotted, the rest streaked with dusky. The sides of the same tint, but
paler, and similarly streaked; the middle of the breast and the abdomen
greyish white; under tail-coverts pale yellowish-red.

Length 5 inches, extent of wings 7¼; bill along the back 4½/12, along
the edge 9½/12; tarsus 9/12.

Adult Female. Plate CXLIX. Fig. 2.

The female is coloured like the male, but the tints are a little fainter.

This species is allied in form and habits to the Sea-side Finch,
_Fringilla maritima_, with which, however, it cannot possibly be
confounded by any person possessing the least observation. The description
of that species in my first volume being defective in several particulars,
I here subjoin a more accurate account of its colouring and dimensions
taken from a number of specimens.

Bill dark brown above, paler on the sides; the lower mandible bluish-grey,
but in some individuals dusky. Iris hazel. Feet and claws greyish-blue,
tinged with brown. Crown of the head bluish-grey in the middle, deep-brown
at the sides, the feathers black along the centre. Hind neck dull grey,
tinged with brown; back dark brown tinged with grey, some of the feathers
edged with greyish-white. Primary quills wood-brown, secondary dark brown
edged with reddish-brown; the secondary and smaller coverts principally of
the latter colour; the edge of the wing yellow. Tail-feathers wood-brown,
with a central line of blackish-brown, excepting the lateral, which are
plain and paler. A broad yellowish-brown streak from the base of the
bill over the eye, but not extending beyond it. Throat and fore neck
greyish-white, with a streak of bluish-grey on each side. Breast and
sides dull greyish-white, tinged with yellowish-red, and streaked with
dusky; the middle of the breast and the abdomen greyish-white; under
tail-coverts pale yellowish-brown, streaked with dusky.

Length 6¼ inches, extent of wings 8; bill along the back 5/12, along
the edge 7/12; tarsus 10/12.

_Fringilla maritima_ is a much larger bird than _F. caudacuta_; the bill
is proportionally more elongated; instead of the broad yellowish-red band
over the eye, it has a narrow and much shorter one of a duller tint; the
band of the same colour beneath the eye is wanting, and the under parts
are differently coloured and much duller. The third and fourth quills
are longest in _F. maritima_, the second and third in _F. caudacuta_,
while in the former the first is much shorter, and in the latter very

* * * * *

Another species of Finch, belonging to the same group, and which, like
_F. maritima_ and _F. caudacuta_, is found abundantly in the salt marshes
of the Carolinas, has been discovered by my most worthy friend the Rev.
JOHN BACHMAN of Charleston, who has presented me with a dozen specimens
of it. With his approval, I have named it after a gentleman who, besides
being my friend, is possessed, not only of a technical, but also of a
practical knowledge of ornithology, and of whom I may safely say, that he
is unquestionably the best portrayer of the feathered race that I know.
It was my intention to have had the figures of this newly discovered
species, which were drawn at Charleston by my son JOHN WOODHOUSE, engraved
for the second volume of "The Birds of America;" but the drawing did not
reach London in time. The plate, however, is finished, and will appear
in the fourth and last volume of that work. In the mean time, I subjoin
a brief description.



Bill rather long, in other respects similar to those of the two species
mentioned above, as are the proportions of the different parts, and the
texture of the plumage. The second, third, and fourth quills are equal
and longest, and the tail is rounded.

Bill dusky-brown above, the sides of the upper mandible paler, the
lower mandible bluish-grey. Iris hazel. Feet dark brown. The colouring
is similar to that of _F. maritima_ in the upper parts, and to that of
_F. caudacuta_ in the lower, but is darker above than the former, and
duller beneath than the latter. Feathers of the head brownish-black
margined with dull greyish-brown, but not grey in the middle nor darker
towards the sides, as in the other species. Hind neck and back of the
same colour, the middle of the latter having some of the margins pale
reddish-brown. Primary quills hair-brown; secondary dark brown, edged
with reddish-brown; the secondary and smaller coverts like the latter;
the edge of the wing white, slightly tinged with yellow. Tail-feathers
hair-brown at the edges, the centre blackish-brown, except the lateral,
which are plain, but scarcely paler. A yellowish-brown streak from
the nostrils over the eye. Throat and fore neck greyish-white, with
an indistinct dusky streak on each side. Breast and sides pale dull
yellowish-brown, marked with brownish-black streaks. The middle of the
breast and the abdomen greyish-white, tinged with yellowish-brown.

Length 5½ inches, extent of wings 7¾; bill along the back 6½/12, along
the edge 8/12; tarsus 11/12.

* * * * *

The different species can be readily distinguished by attending to the
above particulars. Macgillivray's Finch is in size intermediate between
the other two, and in colouring it resembles both, as has been stated

When the three are together it is very easy to distinguish that species
from the rest, by the greater length of the bill and tarsus, and the
greater breadth of the black band along the middle of each tail-feather.
In all the species, the bills of individuals differ greatly in length,
old birds having them much longer than younger ones.

In the republication of WILSON'S Ornithology, by Sir WILLIAM JARDINE,
Bart., the editor makes the following statement.—"Mr AUDUBON has figured
a bird very closely allied in plumage, under the name of _Ammodramus
Henslowii_, and, in the letter press, has described it as Henslow's
Bunting, _Emberiza Henslowii_. It will evidently come under the first
genus, and if new and distinct, will form a third North American species.
It is named after Professor HENSLOW of Cambridge, and was obtained near
Cincinnati. There is no account of its history and habits."—Vol. ii. p. 78.
I have already shewn that the species is a perfectly distinct one,
but its affinities are not with _Ammodramus_. During my last three years'
rambles in the United States, my friends, my assistants, and myself,
procured hundreds of specimens of the Henslow's Bunting, and gained much
information respecting its habits, which are totally different from those
of _Fringilla caudacuta_ or _F. maritima_. The HENSLOW Bunting is never
found near salt water marshes, as these species always are, but spends
its life on dry elevated meadows and in sandy open pine forests, where
it passes the winter in the Southern and Western Districts. As to the
similarity of colouring alluded to, I cannot see the least resemblance

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 28 of 56)