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During the autumn of 1833, these birds were uncommonly abundant in the
State of Maine. My friend EDWARD HARRIS of New York, THOMAS LINCOLN, and
others, killed a great number; and the last mentioned gentleman procured
a pair alive, which were fed on oats and did well.

The flesh of this Grous is dark, and fit for being eaten only when it
has fed on berries. In winter, when it feeds on the leaves of trees and
other plants, the flesh is quite bitter and disagreeable.

TETRAO CANADENSIS, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 274.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 637.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of
Birds of the United States, p. 127.

SPOTTED GROUS, TETRAO CANADENSIS, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Amer. Ornith.
vol. iii. pl. 20. Male; pl. 21. fig. 2. Female.—_Nuttall_,
Manual, vol. i. p. 667.—_Swains. and Richards._ Fauna Boreal.-
Amer. vol. ii. p. 246.

Adult Male. Plate CLXXVI. Fig. 1, 1.

Bill short, robust, slightly arched, rather obtuse, the base covered
by feathers; upper mandible with the dorsal outline convex towards the
end, the edges sharp and overlapping, the tip declinate; lower mandible
slightly convex, in its dorsal outline, the back broad and rounded, the
sides sloping outwards, the tip rather rounded. Nostrils basal, lateral,
concealed by the short feathers. Head small, neck of ordinary length,
body full. Feet short, rather small; tarsus short, roundish, feathered;
toes scutellate above, broadly margined and pectinate, the anterior
ones connected by a web at the base, the hind toe very small, the two
lateral about equal, the middle one much longer; claws short, arched,
compressed, rather obtuse.

Plumage compact, slightly glossed. Feathers of the head very short.
Wings, short, broad, much rounded and curved, the third quill longest, the
fourth next, the second and fifth nearly equal, the first very short. Tail
ample, of ordinary length, rounded, of sixteen broad rotundato-truncate
feathers having a minute mucro.

Bill and claws brownish-black. Iris hazel. Fringed membrane over
the eyes vermilion. Toes purplish-grey. Upper plumage and flanks
brownish-black, transversely barred with brownish-grey, the tip of each
feather with two bars being of the latter colour; on the hind parts the
bars are larger, and the pale ones more tinged with brown. Quills and
larger coverts blackish-brown, the outer edges of the primaries pale
brownish-grey, and those of the secondaries minutely mottled with the
same. Tail-coverts brownish-black, minutely mottled and tipped with
greyish-white; tail-feathers darker and tipped with dull brownish-red.
Lower parts black, the feathers on the throat having a white spot near
the end, those of the lower and lateral parts of the neck unspotted,
of the breast with a broad subterminal spot, and the under tail-coverts
largely tipped with white. Inner wing-coverts clove-brown, the proximal
and axillaries tipped with white.

Length 15¾ inches, extent of wings 21¾; bill along the back 8/12, along
the edge 1-2/12; tarsus 1¼; weight 17 oz.

Adult Female. CLXXVI. Fig. 2, 2.

The Female is not much smaller. The superciliary membrane is much less,
but of the same colour. The upper parts are nearly of the same tints,
but more broadly barred; the head, sides of the neck, fore neck, and
anterior part of the breast yellowish-red, barred with brownish-black;
the lower parts greyish-black, barred with reddish-white. The tail is
minutely mottled and tipped with brownish-red. The younger females have
more of the yellowish-red tints than the old ones. In other respects
the colouring is nearly similar.

Length 15½ inches, extent of wings 21; weight 15 oz.

TRILLIUM PICTUM, _Pursh_, Flora Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 244.

This plant, as well as the other species represented, grows abundantly
in Maine, in all such secluded places as are frequented by the Spotted
Grous, which eagerly devours its berries. It has ovate acuminate
leaves of a light green colour, thin and undulated; an erect peduncle;
white flowers, veined with purple at the bottom, and having the petals
lanceolate, recurved, nearly twice the length of the calyx. The berries
are ovate and of a scarlet colour.

STREPTOPUS DISTORTUS, _Mich._ Flor. Amer. vol. i. p. 200.
_Pursh_, Flor. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 232.—HEXANDRIA MONOGYNIA,

About two feet high, with alternate, amplexicaul, ovate, acute, ribbed,
light green leaves; greenish-yellow flowers, on pedicels which are
distorted in the middle; and oval scarlet berries.




The White-headed Pigeon arrives on the Southern Keys of the Floridas,
from the Island of Cuba, about the 20th of April, sometimes not until
the 1st of May, for the purpose of residing there for a season, and
rearing its young. On the 30th of April, I shot several immediately after
their arrival from across the Gulf Stream. I saw them as they approached
the shore, skimming along the surface of the waters, flying with great
rapidity, much in the manner of the common house species, but not near
each other like the Passenger Pigeon. On nearing the land, they rose
to the height of about a hundred yards, surveyed the country in large
circles, then with less velocity gradually descended, and alighted in
the thickest parts of the mangroves and other low trees. None of them
could be easily seen in those dark retreats, and we were obliged to force
them out, in order to shoot them, which we did at this time on the wing.

In creeping among the bushes to obtain a view of them whilst alighted,
I observed that the more I advanced, the more they retired from me.
This they did by alighting on the ground from the trees, among which
they could not well make way on wing, although they could get on with
much ease below, running off and hiding at every convenient spot that
occurred. These manœuvres lasted only a few days, after which I could
see them perched on the tops of the trees, giving a preference perhaps
to dry branches, but not a marked one, as some other species are wont
to do.

They are at all times extremely shy and wary, more so in fact than
any species with which I am acquainted. The sight of a man is to them
insupportable, perhaps on account of the continued war waged against
them, their flesh being juicy, well flavoured, and generally tender, even
in old birds. Never could I get near one of them so long as it observed
me. Indeed the moment they perceive a man, off they go, starting swiftly
with a few smart raps of the wings, and realighting in a close covert
for a while, or frequently flying to another key, from which they are
sure to return to that left by them, should you pursue them. It is thus
a most toilsome task to procure specimens of these birds.

Their shyness is but partially given up even during their love season,
or while sitting on their eggs, for the moment they see you they get off
slyly from the nest, walk on the branches for some distance, and take
to wing without any noise, flying low along the edge of the mangroves,
into which they throw themselves as soon as a place of safety offers
itself, seldom on such occasions flying off to other keys. Their return
to the nest is not immediate, the heat of these latitudes not requiring
the same care in incubation as the comparative cold of more northern
regions. I have waited their return sometimes as much as half an hour,
without success.

By the first of May, the young squabs are nearly able to fly, and it is
at this period that the greatest havoc is made among them. The fishermen
and the wreckers visit the keys principally resorted to by this species,
rifle all the nests they can find, and sometimes also shoot the old birds.

The key on which I first saw this bird, lies about twenty-five miles south
of Indian Key, and is named Bahia-honda Duck Key. The farther south we
proceeded the more we saw, until we reached the low, sandy, sterile keys,
called the Tortugas, on none of which did I see a pigeon of any kind.
During my visit to the Floridas, our party procured a great number of
White-headed Pigeons. They were all either adult, or full-plumed birds,
having the upper part of the head pure white, with a deep rich brown
edging at the lateral parts of the crown. On our return from the Tortugas
to Key West, our vessel anchored close to a small key, in a snug harbour
protected from the sea winds by several long and narrow islands well
known to the navigators of those seas. Captain DAY and myself visited
this little key, which was not much more than an acre in extent, the
same afternoon. No sooner had we landed, than, to our delight, we saw
a great number of White-headed Pigeons rise, fly round the key several
times, and all realight upon it. The Captain posted himself at one end
of the key, I at the other, while the sailors walked about to raise the
birds. In less than two hours we shot thirty-six of them, mostly on the
wing. Their attachment to this islet resulted from their having nests
with eggs on it. Along with them we found Grakles, Red-winged Starlings,
Flycatchers, and a few Zenaida Doves. Having shot most of the Pigeons,
examined their nests, collected their eggs, and written memoranda, we
proceeded to other keys in search of other species, of which you will
have an account in my next volume, they being all water birds.

The next morning we thought of calling at this little key on our way,
and were surprised to find that many new comers had arrived there before
us. They were, however, very shy, and we procured only seventeen in
all. I felt convinced that this spot was a favourite place of resort
to these birds. It being detached from all other keys, furnished with
rank herbaceous plants, cactuses, and low shrubs, and guarded by a thick
hedge of mangroves, no place could be better adapted for breeding; and,
at each visit we paid it, White-headed Pigeons were procured. Allow me
here, kind reader, to tell you that the number of that strange species
of crabs called _soldiers_ was so great, that our game could not be
suffered to lie a few minutes on the ground without being either much
mangled or carried into their subterranean retreats; so that, with all
our care, we were actually deprived by them of several birds which we
had shot. These curious crabs, which belong to the genus _Pagurus_, crawl
up the trees, and no doubt often destroy the eggs or young of the Pigeons.

The principal difference between Pigeons and Doves, as to their habits,
is, according to my observation, that the former generally build their
nests close together on the same trees, which the latter never do. For
this reason I would place the present species among the Doves.

The nest is placed high or low, according to circumstances; but there
are never two on the same tree. I have found it on the top shoots of
a cactus, only a few feet from the ground, on the upper branches of a
mangrove, or quite low, almost touching the water, and hanging over it.
In general the nest resembles that of the _Columba migratoria_, but it
is more compact, and better lined. The outer part is composed of small
dry twigs, the inner of fibrous roots and grasses. The eggs are two,
opaque, white, rather roundish, and as large as those of the domestic
Pigeon. From the appearance of the eggs in the ovaria of females having
young at the time, I would infer that this species has several broods
during each season; and perhaps they may breed in Cuba, after their return
from the Florida Keys. None of these birds are found on the mainland,
although it is at no great distance.

A rather extraordinary fact relating to the habits of this species, is
that many of these birds, which breed in Cuba, or some of the Bahama
Islands, come to the Florida Keys for the purpose of procuring food
for their young, to which they return several times daily. This is
particularly observed at the time when the Sea Grape is fully ripe, or
during the month of June. The numbers of these Pigeons that resort to
the Keys, attract several species of Hawks during the breeding season,
amongst which the Peregrine and the Red-shouldered are conspicuous. On
none of the Keys unvisited by this species, did I see a Hawk of any kind.

The White-headed Pigeon exhibits little of the pomposity of the common
domestic species, in its amorous moments. The male, however, struts
before the female with elegance, and the tones of his voice are quite
sufficient to persuade her of the sincerity of his attachment. During
calm and clear mornings, when nature appears in all her purity and
brightness, the cooing of this Pigeon may be heard at a considerable
distance, mingling in full concord with the softer tones of the Zenaida
Dove. The bird standing almost erect, full-plumed, and proud of his
beauty, emits at first a loud _croohoo_, as a prelude, and then proceeds
to repeat his _coo-coo-coo_. These sounds are continued during the period
of incubation, and are at all times welcome to the ear of the visitor of
these remarkable islands. When approached suddenly, it emits a hollow,
guttural sound, precisely resembling that of the Common Pigeon on such

The young birds are at first almost black, but have tufts of a soft
buff-coloured down distributed mostly over the head and shoulders. While
yet squabs they have no appearance of white on the head, and they take
about four months before they acquire their perfect plumage. Smaller
size, and a less degree of brilliancy, distinguish the female from the
male. About the beginning of October they abound on the Keys, and return
to the West India Islands.

I have only to add the following particulars to what I have already
detailed of the history of this species. While standing perched in a
nearly upright posture, they have a continued movement of the head, with
a frequent jerking upwards of the tail. Their flight may be compared to
that of the European Cushat, being very swift and noiseless, after a
few hard flaps at starting. In captivity they are easily managed, and
readily breed. I saw several of them with my friends Dr WILSON and Mr

I have placed a pair of these Pigeons on a low, flowering tree, which is
rather scarce on the Keys. It is in full bloom during the whole year,
and its leaves, I thought, correspond with the colour of the birds,
while the brilliant hue of its flowers forms a strong contrast.

COLUMBA LEUCOCEPHALA, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 281.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 594.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of
Birds of the United States, p. 119.

Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 15. fig. 1.—_Nuttall_, Manual, part.
i. p. 625.

Adult Male. Plate CLXXVII. Fig. 1.

Bill straight, of ordinary length, rather slender, compressed; upper
mandible with a tumid fleshy covering at the base, where it is straight in
its dorsal outline, convex towards the end, with a sharp-edged, declinate,
rather obtuse tip; lower mandible with the sides sloping outwards, the
angle near the end, the edges sharp, the tip rounded. Nostrils medial,
oblique, linear. Head small and compressed, neck of ordinary length, body
full. Feet short, strong; tarsus very short, rounded, with two anterior
rows of large hexagonal scales; toes scutellate above, marginate, the
hind-toe smallest, the two lateral nearly equal, the middle toe much
larger; claws of moderate size, compressed, arched, rather acute.

Plumage rather compact above, blended beneath, on the hind neck strong,
with metallic gloss. Wings long, the third quill longest, the second
almost equal, the first not so long as the fourth, the second, third,
fourth, and most of the other primaries sinuate on the outer web, towards
the end; the secondaries broad and rounded. Tail rather long, even, of
twelve broad slightly rounded feathers.

Bill carmine at the base, bluish-white at the end. Iris yellow. Feet
carmine; claws greyish-yellow. The general colour is dusky greyish-blue,
paler beneath, the quills and tail-feathers darker. The whole upper
part of the head is pure white; the upper part of the hind neck rich
chocolate-brown, the lower part and sides green, changing to gold-colour,
each feather margined externally with deep black.

Length 14¼ inches, extent of wings 23½; bill along the back 8/12, along
the edge 11/12; tarsus 1-1/12, middle-toe and claw 1-11/12.

Adult Female. Plate CLXXVII. Fig. 2.

The female differs from the male only in having the tints a little duller
and lighter.

Length 14 inches.



This plant, on account of its large tubular scarlet flowers, is one of
the most beautiful of the West Indian trees. I saw only two individuals
at Key West, where, as was supposed, they had been introduced from Cuba.
They were about fifteen feet high, the stem having a diameter of only
five or six inches. They were in full bloom in the early part of May, and
their broad deep green leaves, and splendid red blossoms, mingled with
the variety of plants around me, rendered their appearance delightful.
Both trees were private property, and grew in a yard opposite to that of
Dr STROBEL, through whose influence I procured a large bough, from which
the drawing was made, with the assistance of Mr LEHMAN. I was informed
that they continued in flower nearly the whole summer.




This species is seen in the company of _Sylvia coronata_ and _Sylvia
petechia_, both in the Southern States, where it passes the winter,
and while crossing the Union, in early spring, on its way to those
Northeastern Districts where it breeds. It leaves Louisiana, the Floridas,
and the Carolinas, from the beginning to the end of April; is seen in the
Middle States, about the 10th of May; and reaches the State of Maine and
the British provinces by the end of that month. On its return, besides
settling in the Southern States, it spreads over the provinces of Mexico,
from whence individuals in spring migrate by the vast prairies, and along
the shores of the western parts of the Union, entering Canada in that
direction in the first days of June. The Orange-crowned Warbler is thus
very widely distributed over North America. I met with none, however,
between Halifax and Labrador, nor did I see one in the latter country.

In the summer months, it manifests a retiring disposition, keeping among
the low brushwood that borders the rivers and lakes of the Northern
Districts. While in the south, however, where it is rather common
near the sea-shore, it is less cautious, and is seen, in considerable
numbers, in the orange groves around the plantations, or even in the
gardens, especially in East Florida. Like the _Sylvia petechia_, it plays
about the piazzas, skipping on wing in front of the clapboarded house,
in quest of its prey, which it expertly seizes without alighting, or
without snapping its bill, except during the disputes that occur among
the males, as the spring advances. You find it among the branches of
the Pride-of-China, that ornaments the streets of the southern cities
and villages, as well as on those bordering the roads. From these it
descends into the smilaxes, rose-bushes, and other shrubs, all of which
yield it food and shelter. At the approach of darkness, it enters among
the foliage of the evergreen wild orange and wild peach, where, with the
_Sylvia petechia_ and _Sylvia coronata_, it quietly passes the night.
Its principal food consists of insects, partly caught on the wing, but
chiefly along the branches and twigs, where the little depredator seeks
them out with great activity.

The flight of this bird is short, rather low, and is performed by gently
curved glidings. When ascending, however, it becomes as it were uncertain
and angular.

The Orange-crowned Warbler breeds in the eastern parts of Maine, and
in the British provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Its nest is
composed of lichens detached from the trunks of trees, intermixed with
short bits of fine grass, and is lined with delicate fibrous roots and
a proportionally large quantity of feathers. The eggs, which are from
four to six, are of a pale green colour, sprinkled with small black
spots. The nest is placed not more than from three to five feet from the
ground between the smaller forks of some low fir tree. Only one brood
is raised in the season, and the birds commence their journey southward
from the middle of August to the beginning of September.

In autumn, it nearly loses the orange spot on its head, there being
then merely a dull reddish patch, which is only seen on separating the
feathers. In the breeding season, the part in question becomes as bright
as you see it in the plate, in which are represented a pair of these
birds, on a twig of the great huckleberry, which grows in East Florida.
The young do not shew any orange on the head until the following spring.

SYLVIA CELATA, _Say_, in Long's Expedition to the Rocky
Mountains, vol. i. p. 169.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds
of the United States, p. 88.

Ornith. vol. i. p. 45. pl. 5. fig. 2.—_Nuttall_, Manual,
part i. p. 413.

Adult Male. Plate CLXXVIII. Fig. 1.

Bill longish, slender, straight, tapering to a very sharp point. Nostrils
basal, oval, feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus compressed, covered
anteriorly with a few long scutella, sharp-edged behind, longer than
the middle-toe; toes scutellate above, free; claws arched, slender,
compressed, acute.

Plumage blended, the feathers soft and tufty. Wings rather short, the
second and third quills longest. Tail slightly emarginate, of ordinary
length, the twelve feathers rather narrow, and tapering broadly to a

Bill dusky above, pale greyish-blue beneath. Iris hazel. Feet and claws
dusky. The general colour of the plumage above is dull brownish-green,
the rump and tail-coverts light yellowish-green, the edge of the wing
at the flexure yellow. On the crown is a spot of bright reddish-orange,
more distinct when the feathers are raised. The under parts are of a
dull olivaceous yellow, the lower tail-coverts bright yellow. The quills
and tail-feathers dark brown, slightly margined with paler.

Length 5½ inches, extent of wings 7-11/12; bill along the ridge 5/12,
along the edge ½; tarsus 9/12.

Adult Female. Plate CLXXVIII. Fig. 2.

Bill and feet of the same colour as in the male, the former inclined to
yellowish-grey beneath. The female wants the orange spot on the crown,
but in other respects resembles the male in colour, although the rump
and upper tail-coverts are of a darker tint.

Length slightly less than that of the male.

This species appears to form the transition from the Sylviæ to the
Reguli; or rather to be allied to the Reguli on the one hand, and to
the Slender-billed Finches on the other.


VACCINIUM FRONDOSUM, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. ii. p. 352. _Pursh_, Flor.
Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 285.—DECANDRIA MONOGYNIA, _Linn._ ERICÆ, _Juss._

This plant has already been described at p. 129. of Vol. I. It is very
abundant in the pine barrens of the Floridas, where it is in full flower
in February, and attains a height of from four to eight feet.




Although I feel much pleasure in introducing this new species to you,
I regret that I am yet unable to speak with certainty of its summer
haunts, or of the extent of its migration in the United States. A family
of Wrens of this species were shot by my sons in a deep wood, eight or
ten miles from Eastport in Maine, in the summer of 1832. The young were
following their parents through the dark and tangled recesses of their
favourite places of abode, busily engaged in search of their insect prey;
but their nest was not seen. Some weeks afterwards three adult birds of
the same kind were shot near Dennisville in the same district; and, on
shewing them to my young and intelligent friend THOMAS LINCOLN, Esq. he
told me that they bred in hollow logs in the woods, and seldom if ever
approached the farms. He had seen the eggs, but, considering it a common
species there, had made no notes of their number or colour; nor had he
attended to the form or materials of their nest. My drawing was made at

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 43 of 56)