John James Audubon.

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between the birds in question, in that respect, more than in size or
shape. This might have become apparent, had he compared my figure of the
Henslow Bunting with that given by WILSON, which in my humble opinion is
incorrect. I have not represented the nest of _F. maritima_ along with
my figures of that bird, although this has been asserted.




One of the principal differences between the habits of this and some
other species, which are now called Vireos, and the Flycatchers, is, that
the former procure their food principally by moving about, and along the
branches or the twigs of the trees, by light hops, alternately changing
sides, reaching and securing their prey by an elastic extension of the
legs and neck, without the continual snapping or clicking of the bill
so common among the Muscicapæ on such occasions, and that they seldom
make sorties on the wing to any distance, for the purpose of seizing
the insects on which they usually feed. This habit is retained until
autumn, when, insects being scarce, the Vireo sallies forth to a short
distance in pursuit of them, as they may chance to pass near the tree
on which, in the silent mood of a Flycatcher, it stands erect, using the
watchful side-glances peculiar to its tribe, as it anxiously expects the
passage of its prey. Another difference is, that Vireos are generally
more musical, lively and gay, than Flycatchers, so that their society
is more welcome to man; and, as if fully conscious of their superiority
in this respect, and knowing that they commit no depredations upon his
fruit or bees, calculated to arouse his anger, they often suffer him
to approach with a carelessness that evidently proves the simplicity
of their nature. The third great difference between the Vireos and
Flycatchers is, that the former seldom, if ever, go down from the trees
to the water, for the purpose of drinking; while the latter are often
seen gliding closely over rivers and pools, from which they sip their
drink. The Vireos quench their thirst with the drops of dew or rain that
adhere to the leaves or twigs. I might add, that the quivering motions of
the wings in Flycatchers when alighted, is not exhibited by the Vireos,
at least has never been observed by me. On the other hand, the affinity
existing between the Vireos and Muscicapæ is indicated by their being
equally possessed of the power of regurgitation.

The Red-eyed Flycatcher is an inhabitant of the whole of our forests.
Now you hear its sweet, unaffected, musical, loud and free warble, from
the inner top branches of a tall tree, for hours at a time, and even
during the hottest part of the day; again, you may count each note that
it utters, the little vocalist resting as it were to enjoy the sounds
of its own music; next moment all seems hurry and bustle;—it raises its
voice, and chants on with great volubility, so loudly that one might think
the little creature intent on drowning all other sounds. The darker the
woods, the more cloudy the day, the more unremitting are its exertions.
It is one of the earliest singers in spring, and among the latest in
autumn. In the south-eastern parts of East Florida, where many spend the
winter, I have heard its notes and those of the White-eyed Vireo, even
at that season. In South Carolina, in the neighbourhood of Charleston,
I have heard and seen it early in the month of February, when scarce a
leaf was yet expanded. It is not seen in Louisiana until the beginning
of March, and I am inclined to think that perhaps an equal number of
these birds come to us from the West India Islands or from Mexico.

Few birds seem to enjoy life more than this Vireo, for at almost every
short cessation of its song, it is seen making a movement or two up
or along a branch, searching with extreme diligence for food, peeping
cautiously under the leaves, and examining each bud or blossom with a
care peculiarly its own. It may be seen flying from one tree to another
with indefatigable industry, and this not only from morning to night,
but during the whole time of its stay with us.

So abundant is this bird, and so prodigal of its song, that any one
paying the least attention is sure to hear it either from the trees
which embellish the streets of the villages and cities, or the gardens
and woods. The principal notes resemble the syllables _pewee_, _pea_,
_sho-re_, _sheire_, _chew-ree_, _piwit_. They are, as I have said, clear,
loud, and melodious.

The flight of this bird is altogether performed in a gliding manner, and
when it is engaged in pursuit of a rival or an enemy, it passes through
the woods with remarkable swiftness. It is an affectionate parent,
generally leading about its young, particularly its second brood; for
it often breeds twice in the year, even in the State of Massachusetts,
or far up on the Mississippi. On such occasions, the parents proceed
through the woods with more care, and on the least appearance of danger
utter a querulous note, the meaning of which is so well understood by
the little family, that they seldom fail to hide or become mute in an
instant. The young are fed for several weeks after they leave the nest,
and, I believe, migrate with the old ones, for I have frequently seen
them on the move until dusk, and going to roost together at nightfall.
I do not recollect ever having seen one of them on the ground.

Like the true Flycatchers, these birds eject small pellets formed of the
hard crusts of the abdomen, legs, and other parts of insects. I have
but very seldom seen them feeding on berries of any kind, although in
Louisiana I have observed them pecking at ripe figs.

The nest of the Red-eyed Vireo is small, and extremely neat. It is
generally suspended, at a moderate height, from the slender twigs
forming the fork at the end of a branch. I have found some situated so
low that I could easily look into them, while others were hung thirty
feet over head. Dog-wood trees seem to be preferred by them, although
I have found the nests on oaks, beeches, and sugar-maples, as well as
on tall grasses. The male bird frequently leads you to the discovery
of the nest, by its great anxiety about the safety of its mate. The
outer parts are firmly attached to the twigs, the fibres being warped
around them in various directions. The materials are usually the bark
of the grape-vine, the silk of large cocoons, some lichens, particles
of hornets' or wasps' nests, and decayed worm-eaten leaves. The lining,
which is beautifully disposed, consists of fibrous roots, grasses, and
now and then the hair of various quadrupeds, especially the grey squirrel
and racoon. The nest, however, differs greatly in different latitudes;
for, in the Middle States, they often use the leaves of the pine, cedar,
and hemlock, which they glue together apparently with their saliva. The
eggs are from four to six, pure white, sparingly spotted at the larger
end with reddish-brown or blackish dots. They are laid in Pennsylvania
about the first of June, and later in more northern parts.

The eyes of the Young are of an umber colour, and do not become red until
the following spring. Those of some shot in the Floridas in January,
had not changed their colour. In February I shot two, each of which had
a red and a brown eye.

This species, as well as the White-eyed Vireo, is often called to nurse
the young of the Cow Bird, which deposits its egg in the nests of either
species, assured that it will be properly treated. No difference exists
in the plumage, or even size of the sexes.

WILSON, who was a most excellent observer, was quite correct, as well
as Dr BARTON of Philadelphia, in alluding to another species of Vireo,
which, although nearly allied to this, is quite distinct. It is smaller,
has brown eyes at all times of its life, sings sweetly, lives in low
thickets, and builds a pensile nest. You will see its figure in my
fourth volume of Illustrations, when I hope to be able to give you a
good account of its habits.

VIREO OLIVACEUS, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 71.

vol. ii. p. 55. pl. 12. fig. 3.—_Nuttall_, Manual, p. 312.

Adult Male. Plate CL.

Bill of moderate length, strong, depressed at the base, compressed
towards the end, somewhat ascending. Upper mandible with the dorsal line
slightly convex, the sides convex, the edges sharp and notched towards
the end, the tip acute and suddenly deflected; lower mandible with the
dorsal line also slightly convex, the back rounded, the edges sharp and
inflected, the tip acute. Nostrils basal, lateral, oblong. Head rather
large, neck short, body rather robust. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus
compressed, anteriorly scutellate, sharp behind; toes slender, free;
claws arched, compressed, acute.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings rather long, the second and third
primaries longest; tail of ordinary length, slightly emarginate. Bristles
at the base of the bill short.

Bill brown above, pale bluish-grey beneath. Iris red. Feet bluish-grey.
The general colour of the plumage above is light yellowish-olive, the
crown of the head deep-grey, bordered on each side by a line of blackish,
below which is a line of greyish-white passing from the nostril over the
eye. Quills dusky, olivaceous on the outer margin, white on the inner.
Tail wood-brown. The lower parts are white, the breast and sides tinged
with pale yellow.

Length 5½ inches, extent of wings 9; bill along the back nearly ½, along
the edge 8/12; tarsus 8/12.

The Female resembles the Male, but is of a duller white beneath.


GLEDITSCHIA TRIACANTHOS, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 1097.
—_Pursh_, Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 221.—POLYGAMIA DIŒCIA,
_Linn._ LEGUMINOSÆ, _Juss._

See Vol. I. p. 226.


Soon after landing at St Augustine, in East Florida, I formed acquaintance
with Dr SIMMONS, Dr POCHER, Judge SMITH, the Misses JOHNSON, and other
individuals, my intercourse with whom was as agreeable as beneficial
to me. Lieutenant CONSTANTINE SMITH, of the United States army, I
found of a congenial spirit, as was the case with my amiable, but since
deceased friend, Dr BELL of Dublin. Among the planters who extended their
hospitality to me, I must particularly mention General HERNANDEZ, and
my esteemed friend JOHN BULOW, Esq. To all these estimable individuals
I offer my sincere thanks.

While in this part of the peninsula, I followed my usual avocations,
although with little success, it being then winter. I had letters from
the Secretaries of the Navy and Treasury of the United States, to the
commanding officers of vessels of war of the revenue service, directing
them to afford me any assistance in their power; and the schooner
Spark having come to St Augustine, on her way to the St John's River, I
presented my credentials to her commander Lieutenant PIERCY, who readily
and with politeness, received me and my assistants on board. We soon
after set sail, with a fair breeze. The strict attention to duty on
board even this small vessel of war, afforded matter of surprise to me.
Every thing went on with the regularity of a chronometer: orders were
given, answered to, and accomplished, before they ceased to vibrate on
the ear. The neatness of the crew equalled the cleanliness of the white
planks of the deck; the sails were in perfect condition; and, built as
the Spark was, for swift sailing, on she went gambolling from wave to

I thought that, while thus sailing, no feeling but that of pleasure could
exist in our breasts; but, alas! how fleeting are our enjoyments. When
we were almost at the entrance of the river, the wind changed, the sky
became clouded, and, before many minutes had elapsed, the little bark
was lying to "like a duck," as her commander expressed himself. It blew
a hurricane:—let it blow, reader. At the break of day we were again at
anchor within the bar of St Augustine.

Our next attempt was successful. Not many hours after we had crossed the
bar, we perceived the star-like glimmer of the light in the great lantern
at the entrance of the St John's River. This was before day-light; and,
as the crossing of the sand-banks or bars, which occur at the mouths of
all the streams of this peninsula is difficult, and can be accomplished
only when the tide is up, one of the guns was fired as a signal for
the government pilot. The good man, it seemed, was unwilling to leave
his couch, but a second gun brought him in his canoe alongside. The
depth of the channel was barely sufficient. My eyes, however, were not
directed towards the waters, but on high, where flew some thousands of
snowy Pelicans, which had fled affrighted from their resting grounds.
How beautifully they performed their broad gyrations, and how matchless,
after a while, was the marshalling of their files, as they flew past us!

On the tide we proceeded apace. Myriads of Cormorants covered the face
of the waters, and over it Fish-Crows innumerable were already arriving
from their distant roosts. We landed at one place to search for the birds
whose charming melodies had engaged our attention, and here and there
some young Eagles we shot, to add to our store of fresh provisions! The
river did not seem to me equal in beauty to the fair Ohio; the shores were
in many places low and swampy, to the great delight of the numberless
Herons that moved along in gracefulness, and the grim alligators that
swam in sluggish sullenness. In going up a bayou, we caught a great
number of the young of the latter for the purpose of making experiments
upon them.

After sailing a considerable way, during which our commander and officers
took the soundings, as well as the angles and bearings of every nook
and crook of the sinuous stream, we anchored one evening at a distance
of fully one hundred miles from the mouth of the river. The weather,
although it was the 12th of February, was quite warm, the thermometer
on board standing at 75°, and on shore at 90°. The fog was so thick
that neither of the shores could be seen, and yet the river was not a
mile in breadth. The "blind musquitoes" covered every object, even in
the cabin, and so wonderfully abundant were these tormentors, that they
more than once fairly extinguished the candles whilst I was writing my
journal, which I closed in despair, crushing between the leaves more
than a hundred of the little wretches. Bad as they are, however, these
blind musquitoes do not bite. As if purposely to render our situation
doubly uncomfortable, there was an establishment for jerking beef, on
the nearer shores to the windward of our vessel, from which the breeze
came laden with no sweet odours.

In the morning when I arose, the country was still covered with thick
fogs, so that although I could plainly hear the notes of the birds on
shore, not an object could I see beyond the bowsprit, and the air was as
close and sultry as on the previous evening. Guided by the scent of the
jerkers' works, we went on shore, where we found the vegetation already
far advanced. The blossoms of the jessamine, ever pleasing, lay steeped
in dew; the humming bee was collecting her winter's store from the snowy
flowers of the native orange; and the little warblers frisked along the
twigs of the smilax. Now, amid the tall pines of the forest, the sun's
rays began to force their way, and as the dense mists dissolved in the
atmosphere, the bright luminary at length shone forth. We explored the
woods around, guided by some friendly live-oakers who had pitched their
camp in the vicinity. After a while the Spark again displayed her sails,
and as she silently glided along, we spied a Seminole Indian approaching
us in his canoe. The poor dejected son of the woods, endowed with talents
of the highest order, although rarely acknowledged by the proud usurpers
of his native soil, has spent the night in fishing, and the morning in
procuring the superb-feathered game of the swampy thickets; and with
both he comes to offer them for our acceptance. Alas! thou fallen one,
descendant of an ancient line of freeborn hunters, would that I could
restore to thee thy birthright, thy natural independence, the generous
feelings that were once fostered in thy brave bosom. But the irrevocable
deed is done, and I can merely admire the perfect symmetry of his frame,
as he dexterously throws on our deck the trouts and turkeys which he
has captured. He receives a recompense, and without smile or bow, or
acknowledgement of any kind, off he starts with the speed of an arrow
from his own bow.

Alligators were extremely abundant, and the heads of the fishes which
they had snapped off lay floating around on the dark waters. A rifle
bullet was now and then sent through the eye of one of the largest,
which, with a tremendous splash of its tail, expired. One morning we
saw a monstrous fellow lying on the shore. I was desirous of obtaining
him to make an accurate drawing of his head, and, accompanied by my
assistant and two of the sailors, proceeded cautiously towards him.
When within a few yards, one of us fired and sent through his side an
ounce ball, which tore open a hole large enough to receive a man's hand.
He slowly raised his head, bent himself upwards, opened his huge jaws,
swung his tail to and fro, rose on his legs, blew in a frightful manner,
and fell to the earth. My assistant leaped on shore, and, contrary to
my injunctions, caught hold of the animal's tail, when the alligator,
awakening from its trance, with a last effort crawled slowly towards the
water, and plunged heavily into it. Had he thought of once flourishing
his tremendous weapon there might have been an end of his assailant's
life, but he fortunately went in peace to his grave, where we left him,
as the water was too deep. The same morning, another of equal size was
observed swimming directly for the bows of our vessel, attracted by the
gentle rippling of the water there. One of the officers, who had watched
him, fired and scattered his brain through the air, when he tumbled and
rolled at a fearful rate, blowing all the while most furiously. The river
was bloody for yards around, but although the monster passed close by
the vessel, we could not secure him, and after a while he sunk to the

Early one morning I hired a boat and two men, with the view of returning
to St Augustine by a short cut. Our baggage being placed on board,
I bade adieu to the officers, and off we started. About four in the
afternoon we arrived at the short cut, forty miles distant from our point
of departure, and where we had expected to procure a waggon, but were
disappointed. So we laid our things on the bank, and, leaving one of my
assistants to look after them, I set out, accompanied by the other, and
my Newfoundland dog. We had eighteen miles to go; and as the sun was
only two hours high, we struck off at a good rate. Presently we entered
a pine barren. The country was as level as a floor; our path, although
narrow, was well beaten, having been used by the Seminole Indians for
ages, and the weather was calm and beautiful. Now and then a rivulet
occurred, from which we quenched our thirst, while the magnolias and
other flowering plants on its banks relieved the dull uniformity of the
woods. When the path separated into two branches, both seemingly leading
the same way, I would follow one, while my companion took the other,
and unless we met again in a short time, one of us would go across the
intervening forest.

The sun went down behind a cloud, and the south-east breeze that sprung
up at this moment, sounded dolefully among the tall pines. Along the
eastern horizon lay a bed of black vapour, which gradually rose, and soon
covered the heavens. The air felt hot and oppressive, and we knew that
a tempest was approaching. Plato was now our guide, the white spots on
his skin being the only objects that we could discern amid the darkness,
and as if aware of his utility in this respect, he kept a short way
before us on the trail. Had we imagined ourselves more than a few miles
from the town, we would have made a camp, and remained under its shelter
for the night; but conceiving that the distance could not be great, we
resolved to trudge along.

Large drops began to fall from the murky mass overhead; thick,
impenetrable darkness surrounded us, and to my dismay, the dog refused
to proceed. Groping with my hands on the ground, I discovered that
several trails branched out at the spot where he lay down; and when I had
selected one, he went on. Vivid flashes of lightning streamed across the
heavens, the wind increased to a gale, and the rain poured down upon us
like a torrent. The water soon rose on the level ground so as almost to
cover our feet, and we slowly advanced, fronting the tempest. Here and
there a tall pine on fire presented a magnificent spectacle, illumining
the trees around it, and surrounded with a halo of dim light, abruptly
bordered with the deep black of the night. At one time we passed through
a tangled thicket of low trees, at another crossed a stream flushed by
the heavy rain, and again proceeded over the open barrens.

How long we thus, half-lost, groped our way, is more than I can tell
you; but at length the tempest passed over, and suddenly the clear sky
became spangled with stars. Soon after we smelt the salt-marshes, and
walking directly towards them, like pointers advancing on a covey of
partridges, we at last to our great joy descried the light of the beacon
near St Augustine. My dog began to run briskly around, having met with
ground on which he had hunted before, and taking a direct course, led us
to the great causeway that crosses the marshes at the back of the town.
We refreshed ourselves with the produce of the first orange tree that we
met with, and in half an hour more arrived at our hotel. Drenched with
rain, steaming with perspiration, and covered to the knees with mud,
you may imagine what figures we cut in the eyes of the good people whom
we found snugly enjoying themselves in the sitting room. Next morning,
Major GATES, who had received me with much kindness, sent a waggon with
mules and two trusty soldiers for my companion and luggage.




Having already, when speaking of the Black Vulture, described the
habits of the Turkey Buzzard, I shall here merely add a few observations
necessary to complete its history.

This species is far from being known throughout the United States, for
it has never been seen farther eastward than the confines of New Jersey.
None, I believe, have been observed in New York; and on asking about
it in Massachusetts and Maine, I found that, excepting those persons
acquainted with our birds generally, none knew it. On my late northern
journeys I nowhere saw it. A very few remain and spend the winter in
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where I have seen them only during summer,
and where they breed. As we proceed farther south, they become more and
more abundant. They are equally attached to maritime districts, and the
vicinity of the sea-shore, where they find abundance of food.

The flight of the Turkey Buzzard is graceful compared with that of the
Black Vulture. It sails admirably either high or low, with its wings
spread beyond the horizontal position, and their tips bent upward by
the weight of the body. After rising from the ground, which it does at
a single spring, it beats its wings only a very few times, to enable it
to proceed in its usual way of sailing. Like the Black Vultures, they
rise high in the air, and perform large circles, in company with those
birds, the Fork-tailed Hawk, Mississippi Kite, and the two species of
Crow. The Hawks, however, generally teaze them, and force them off toward
the ground.

They are gregarious, feed on all sorts of food, and suck the eggs
and devour the young of many species of Heron and other birds. In the
Floridas, I have, when shooting, been followed by some of them, to watch
the spot where I might deposit my game, which, if not carefully covered,
they would devour. They also eat birds of their own species, when they
find them dead. They are more elegant in form than the Black Vultures,
and walk well on the ground or the roofs of houses. They are daily seen
in the streets of the southern cities, along with their relatives, and
often roost with them on the same trees. They breed on the ground, or
at the bottom of hollow trees and prostrate trunks, and lay _only two

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 29 of 56)