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along with the Green Heron.

The flight of this bird exhibits long and decided undulation, repeated
at intervals of about forty yards, it being performed at a considerable
elevation, and protracted to a great distance. It flies in loose flocks,
when it never ceases to utter its peculiar cry of _kirrick, crick,
crick_. In autumn, or as soon as the females and their broods associate
with the males, their movements are regular from south to north, while
returning towards their roosting places, and the reverse next morning
when going out to look for food. They seldom rise from the rushes in
compact bodies, unless they should happen to be surprised. At the report
of a gun they fly to a great distance, and are always extremely shy
and wary. The female does not carry her tail so deeply incurved as the
male. During the breeding season they return to their stand, after a
chase, with a quivering motion of the wings, and the tail is more deeply
incurved than at any other season.

The notes of these birds are harsh, resembling loud shrill whistles,
frequently accompanied with their ordinary cry of _crick, crick, cree_.
In the love season they are more pleasing, being changed into sounds
resembling _tirit, tirit, titiri, titiri, titireē_, rising from low to
high with great regularity and emphasis. The young when first able to
fly emit a note not unlike the whistling cry of some of our frogs.

Some of these Grakles migrate from the Carolinas and Georgia, although
fully a third remain during the winter. At that season they frequently
associate with the Fish Crow, and alight on stakes in the mud flats
close to the cities, where they remain for a considerable time emitting
their cry. They are fond of the company of cattle, walking among them
in the manner of the European Starling and our own Cow Bunting, but they
never enter the woods. On the ground they walk in a stately and graceful
manner, with their tail rather elevated, and jetting it at each cluck.

The males often attack birds of other species, driving them from their
nest, and sucking their eggs. I have seen seven or eight of them teasing
a Fish Hawk for nearly an hour, before they gave up the enterprise.
When brought to the ground wounded, they run off at once, make for the
nearest tree, assist themselves by the bushes about it, and endeavour
to get to the top branches, moving all the while so nimbly, that it is
difficult to secure them. They bite and scratch severely, often bringing
blood from the hand.

They are courageous birds, and often give chase to Hawks and Turkey
Buzzards. My friend Dr SAMUEL WILSON of Charleston, attempted to raise
some from the nest, having found four young ones in two nests, and for
some weeks fed them on fresh meat, but they became so infested with
insects that notwithstanding all his care they died.

In the plate are represented a pair in full spring plumage. I have placed
them on their favourite live-oak tree.

QUISCALUS MAJOR, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the
United States, p. 54.

Amer. Ornith. vol. i. p. 35. pl. 4. fig. 1. Male, fig. 2.
Female.—_Nuttall_, Manual, part i. p. 192.

Adult Male. Plate CLXXXVII. Fig. 1.

Bill long, straight, strong, tapering, compressed from the base; upper
mandible encroaching a little on the forehead, slightly declinate at the
tip, its dorsal line almost straight, the sides convex, the edges sharp
and slightly inflected; lower mandible straight in its dorsal outline,
convex on the sides, the edges sharp and involute, the tip acute and
very slightly deflected, the gap-line slightly deflected at the base,
and reaching to beneath the eye. Nostrils basal oval, half closed by a
membrane. Head of moderate size, flattened, neck of moderate length, body
rather slender, the whole form elegant. Feet of moderate length; tarsus
compressed, anteriorly covered with seven scutella, sharp behind; toes
rather long, scutellate above, the hind toe stronger, the lateral toes
nearly equal, the middle one much longer; claws rather long, slightly
arched, compressed, acute.

Plumage soft, blended, silky, highly glossed. Wings of ordinary length;
third quill longest, second scarcely shorter, first and fourth about
equal; the second, third, fourth, and fifth, cut out on the outer web
towards the end; secondaries abruptly rounded with an acumen. Tail very
long, graduated, broadly rounded at the end, of twelve rounded feathers,
of which the two middle have their webs slightly bent upwards, the shafts
and webs of all transversely undulated.

Bill, feet, and claws, black. Iris pale yellow. The general appearance
of the plumage is black; but the head and upper parts of the neck all
round are splendent deep bluish-purple, the back and breast anteriorly
steel-blue, posteriorly bluish-green; the rump and tail-coverts darker.
The abdomen, and lower tail-coverts and tibial feathers, plain black.
Quills and tail black, slightly glossed with green on the outer webs.

Length 15⅞, extent of wings 23¾; bill along the ridge 1-5/12, along the
edge 1¾; tarsus 1-10/12; tail-feathers 8½; weight 7½ ounces.

Adult Female. Plate CLXXXVII. Fig. 2.

The female is smaller. Her plumage is soft and blended, but is not
glossed beneath, and on the upper parts is so only in a comparatively
slight degree. The tail is graduated as in the male, but much shorter.
The general colour of the upper parts is dusky, with slight tints of
green and blue; the head and neck dull brown, with a paler band over
the eye; the lower parts light reddish-brown, the tibial feathers and
lower tail-coverts dusky.

Length 12⅝ inches, extent of wings 18; bill along the ridge 1-2/12,
along the edge 1⅜; tarsus 1-7/12; tail-feathers 4¾; weight 3¾ ounces.

Individuals of both sexes, but especially males, differ greatly in size,
from the time they obtain their full plumage until they are several years
old, the difference sometimes amounting to several inches in the length
of the birds, and affording an excellent opportunity of manufacturing
new species.

THE LIVE OAK, QUERCUS VIRENS, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 425.
_Pursh_, Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. ii. p. 626.—MONŒCIA POLYANDRIA,
_Linn._ AMENTACEÆ, _Juss._

The Live Oak has already been spoken of in the article entitled "The
Live-Oakers" (p. 236). When left growing detached and free from all
other forest trees, it attains a great size, spreading out its large
arms to the distance sometimes of twenty yards, but seldom reaching
to a proportionate height. Splendid avenues of this valuable tree are
frequently seen in Georgia, South Carolina, and many of the sea islands,
leading to the planters' houses. A few miles below New Orleans are some,
probably centuries old, which are the finest I have seen. I have not
observed this tree far above the city of Natchez on the Mississippi,
nor farther eastward than the central maritime parts of North Carolina.
It prefers flat rich soils, and is rarely found at any great distance
from rivers or the sea-shore. The leaves are evergreen, leathery,
oblong-elliptical, obtuse at the base, acute at the tip, with the edges
revolute, and the lower surface downy; the cupule is turbinate, with
short scales; the acorn oblong, sweet, and to the taste of some equal
to the hazel-nut.




This species seldom if ever resorts to the Southern States during winter,
and to the westward of the Alleghany mountains scarcely proceeds farther
down the Ohio than the neighbourhood of Louisville in Kentucky; so that
it may be considered as quite a northern bird. It reaches Massachusetts
at the approach of winter, and is more frequent in the maritime districts
of that State than in the interior, where, however, it is met with in
considerable numbers. In the beginning of October, if the weather be
cold, the Tree Sparrow is seen among the magnificent elm trees that
ornament the beautiful city of Boston and its neighbouring villages;
and, like the hardy, industrious, and enterprising people among whom it
seems to spend the severe season by choice, it makes strenuous efforts
to supply itself with the means of subsistence. Many remove as far south
as Pennsylvania, and even Maryland; but I never observed one in either
of the Carolinas. Their return to the north is marked by a lingering
disposition to wait each day for a finer and warmer morrow. They appear,
indeed, so perfectly aware of the danger to be encountered during a
forced march in the early spring, that on the least change from mild
weather to cold, they immediately return to their loved winter quarters.
By the middle of May, however, they have begun to move regularly, and
their songs announce the milder season at every resting place at which
they tarry.

The Tree Sparrow sings sweetly during the love season. I have frequently
listened to their musical festivals near Eastport, in the State of
Maine, while gazing upon them with an ardent desire to follow them in
their progress northward. Twenty or more, perched on the same tree,
often delighted me with their choruses, now and then varied with the
still clearer notes of one or two White-throated Finches, that, like
leaders of an orchestra, seemed to mark time for the woodland choristers.
Toward the close of the day their single notes were often repeated, and
sounded like those of a retreat. They seemed to hop and dance about among
the branches, mixing with the "White-throats," and enjoying a general
conversation, when the pipings of two or three frogs would suspend
their entertainment. At early dawn they were all on the alert, and if
the rising sun announced a fine day, group after group would ascend in
the air, and, with joyful feelings, immediately proceed towards their
breeding-places in the distant north.

I followed them as far as the Magdeleine Isles, saw some in Newfoundland,
and all the countries between it and Maine, but did not find a single
individual in Labrador. On the islands above mentioned I saw them arriving
in flocks of from five to a dozen, flying widely apart. They dived towards
the ground, and at once threw themselves among the thickest coverts of
the tangled groves, where, although I could hear their single _chip_,
I could seldom see them afterwards. Their flight is more elegant and
elevated than that of most of our Sparrows, and they pass through the
air in rapid undulations, more regular and continued than those of any
other bird of the genus, except the Fox-coloured Sparrow.

On opening several of these birds, I found their stomach to contain very
minute shell-fish, the remains of coleopterous insects, some hard seeds,
small berries, and grains of sand.

Many of the Tree Sparrows breed in New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia, and,
I have reasons for believing, in the northern portions of the State of
Maine. A nest given me by Professor MACCULLOCH, had been found a few
feet from the ground, on the horizontal branch of a fir tree, not far
from the stem. It was principally formed of rough grass, and lined with
fibrous roots, hairs of various quadrupeds, and some from the horse. It
contained five eggs, of a uniform deep blue, so closely resembling those
of the Common Chipping Sparrow, that, had they not been much larger, I
might have concluded them to be those of that bird. I suspect that, in
a country where the summer is so short, the Tree Sparrow seldom if ever
breeds more than once in the season.

When we returned to the United States late in August, the Tree Sparrows
with their young were already moving southward. A mere intimation of
the rich chestnut colour of the head of the adult in summer was seen.
They had already tuned their pipes, which sounded in my ear as their
affectionate farewell to a country, where these sweet little creatures
had met with all of happiness that their nature could desire.

The pair represented in the plate, and which have been placed on a twig
of the Barberry bush, were procured at Boston. The drawing from which
it has been copied was made by my youngest son.

FRINGILLA CANADENSIS, _Lath._ Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 434.—_Ch.
Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 109.

Fauna Bor.-Amer. vol. ii. p. 252.

TREE SPARROW, FRINGILLA ARBOREA, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. ii.
p. 123. pl. 16. fig. 3.—F. CANADENSIS, _Nuttall_, Manual,
part i. 495.

Adult Male. Plate CLXXXVIII. Fig. 1.

Bill short, strong, conical, acute; upper mandible rather narrower
than the lower, with the dorsal outline very slightly convex, the sides
rounded, the edges sharp and inflected, the tip very slightly declinate;
lower mandible also slightly convex in its dorsal line, the sides rounded,
the edges involute; the gap-line slightly deflected at the base. Nostrils
basal, roundish, concealed by the feathers. The general form rather
robust. Legs of moderate length, slender; tarsus compressed, anteriorly
covered with a few long scutella, sharp behind; toes scutellate above,
free, the lateral ones nearly equal; claws slender, slightly arched,
that of the hind-toe considerably larger, much compressed, acute.

Plumage soft, blended. Wings of moderate length; the third and fourth
quills longest and equal, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth are
about the same length, and slightly cut out on the outer edge; secondaries
emarginate. Tail long, emarginate, nearly straight, of twelve rather
narrow, obliquely pointed feathers.

Bill black above, reddish-yellow beneath, with the tip blackish. Iris
brown. Legs dusky-brown, the toes blackish-brown. Upper part of the head
bright bay; a band of greyish-white passes over the eye, lighter at its
commencement near the upper mandible, and gradually shaded into ash-grey;
sides of the head and neck ash-grey, the latter with some streaks of
bay, of which a short band proceeds from the eye backwards. Middle of
the back streaked with deep brown, bay, and pale yellowish-grey; rump
light yellowish-grey. Wing-coverts similar to the back, the first row of
small coverts, and the secondary coverts broadly edged with bright bay
and largely tipped with white, of which there are thus two conspicuous
bands across the wing; quills dusky, margined the outer with dull white,
the inner with pale bay, the three inner secondaries broadly margined
towards the end with white. Tail-feathers also dusky, margined externally
and internally with greyish-white, the edge of the outermost pure white.
Fore-neck pale grey, the sides yellowish-grey, the breast and abdomen
white, tinged with cream-colour, the under tail-coverts white. An obscure
spot of dark brown on the middle of the breast; and the feathers that
cover the flexure of the wing, when closed, are bay.

Length 6¼ inches, extent of wings 8¾; bill along the back 4/12, along
the edge 6/12; tarsus 10/12.

Adult Female. Plate CLXXXVIII. Fig. 2.

The female resembles the male, but is paler in its tints, and rather

The species is very closely allied to the Field Sparrow and the Chipping
Sparrow, which are at least as much Emberizæ as Fringillæ; but as the
generic characters and affinities of species cannot be conveniently
detailed in a work like this, I must for the present defer the grouping
of these, and the numerous birds allied to them.


BERBERIS CANADENSIS, _Willd._ Sp. Pl. vol. ii. p. 227. _Pursh_,
Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 219.—HEXANDRIA MONOGYNIA, _Linn._

This species of Barberry is very abundant in Maine and Massachusetts,
as well as in the British provinces. It is an erect shrub, from five
to eight feet in height, with triple prickles, simple obovate remotely
serrated leaves, short corymbose racemes; yellow flowers, and pendulous
oblong red berries, having an agreeable acid taste.




As soon as the cold blasts of winter have stiffened the earth's surface,
and brought with them the first snow-clouds, millions of these birds,
driven before the pitiless storm, make their way towards milder climes.
Their wings seem scarcely able to support their exhausted, nay almost
congealed bodies, which seem little larger than the great feathery
flakes of the substance from which these delicate creatures have borrowed
their name. In compressed squadrons they are seen anxiously engaged in
attempting to overcome the difficulties which beset them amid their
perilous adventures. They now glide low over the earth, relax the
closeness of their phalanx, and with amazing swiftness sweep over the
country in search of that food, without which they must all shortly
perish. Disappointed in their endeavours, the travellers again ascend,
close their files, and continue their journey. At last, when nearly
exhausted by fatigue and hunger, some leader espies the wished-for
land, not yet buried in snow. Joyful notes are heard from the famished
voyagers, while with relaxed flight, and wings and tail expanded, they
float as it were in broad circles, towards the spot where they are to
find relief. They alight, disperse, run nimbly in masses from the foot of
one corn stalk to the next, scratch the ground here, pick up a dormant
insect there, or nibble the small seeds of the withered grass, mixing
them with a portion of gravel. Now two meet, and contend for the scanty
morsel; the weaker gives way, for hunger, it seems, acts on birds as on
other beings, rendering them selfish and unfeeling.

The Snow Birds enter the eastern portions of the Union sometimes early
in November, and remain in such parts as suit them best until the month
of March. They now and then alight on trees, frequently on fences,
and sometimes on the roofs of low buildings, in such compact bodies
or continued lines, as to render it easy for the sportsman who may be
inclined to shoot them, to procure a great number at once.

This species, while in the United States, never enters the woods, but
prefers either the barreny portions of our elevated table-lands, or the
vicinity of the sea, lakes, or rivers, where much loose sand, intermixed
with small clumps of bushes and grasses, is to be found. To such places
I have thought that the Snow Birds endeavour to return each successive
winter, unless compelled by the weather to proceed still farther south.
I have seen them on the borders of Lake Erie, and on some of the barrens
of Kentucky, for several successive seasons in the same neighbourhood.
At Louisville I saw a flock each winter, on a piece of open ground
between that city and the village of Shippingport, when their movements
seldom extended beyond a space half a mile in diameter. It was there
that one morning I caught several which were covered with hoarfrost,
and so benumbed, that they were unable to fly. At that season, they kept
company with the Shore-larks, the Lark-finches, and several species of
Sparrow. They frequently alighted on trees, particularly the sweet gum,
of which they eat the seeds.

The flight of this bird has a considerable resemblance to that of the
Shore-lark, being rapid, elevated, and greatly protracted. It glides,
as it were, through the air, in long and easy undulations, repeating a
soft whistling call-note at each of these curves. While on the ground
they run nimbly, and if wounded make off with great celerity, hiding
in the grass, where it is difficult to find them, as they lie close and
silent until danger is over.

When they first arrive, they are usually gentle and easily approached;
but as their flesh is savoury, and their appearance attractive, they are
shot in immense numbers, so that they soon become shy and wary. During
moderate weather, they become more careless, appear to stray farther
from each other, and if by the middle of the day the sun shines out
warm, the male birds sing a few plaintive but soft and agreeable notes.

Only a single nest of this bird has been found within the limits of
the United States. It was seen by WRIGHT BOOTH, Esq. of Boston, on a
declivity of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in the month of July
1831. That gentleman described it to me as being fixed on the ground
amid low bushes, and formed like that of the Song Sparrow. It contained
young ones.

Whilst with us, these birds are found in all varieties of plumage,
excepting the pure white and black, which form their summer dress. I
have not seen any having these colours, even among those procured late
in March when they usually leave the United States. In Labrador and
Newfoundland, they are known by the name of the "White Bird." Their
food there consists of grass seeds, insects of various kinds, and minute
testaceous mollusca. They not unfrequently alight on the wild oats growing
on the borders of lakes and ponds, to feed on its seeds, and with all
these substances they mix a proportion of fine sand or gravel.

EMBERIZA NIVALIS, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 308.—_Ch.
Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 103.

Richards._ Fauna Boreal.-Amer. vol. ii. p. 247.

SNOW BUNTING, EMBERIZA NIVALIS, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. iii.
p. 86. pl. 21. fig. 2.

Adult in winter. Plate CLXXXIX. Fig. 1, 2.

Bill short, robust, tapering, somewhat compressed; upper mandible
slightly convex in its dorsal line, the sides rounded, the sharp edges
inflected; the palate with a convex prominence; lower mandible broader,
with involute sharp edges; the gap-line deflected at the base. Nostrils
basal, rounded, open, partly concealed by the feathers. The general form
is rather robust. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus compressed, anteriorly
covered with a few long scutella, sharp behind; toes scutellate above,
granulate beneath, compressed, lateral toes equal; claws slightly arched,
compressed, rather obtuse, with a short deep groove on each side at the
base, the hind claw much longer.

Plumage soft and blended, the feathers somewhat distinct on the back
only. Wings long, pointed, first quill longest, second scarcely shorter,
second and third slightly cut out on the outer edge towards the end;
secondaries emarginate. Tail of moderate length, deeply emarginate.

Bill yellow, the tips brown. Iris brown. Feet brownish-black. Head
brownish-white, the crown and ear-coverts pale chestnut. Hind neck greyish
white, tinged with chestnut. Feathers of the back brownish, margined
and broadly tipped with light yellowish-red; the rump feathers white,
tipped with the latter colour. The whole under surface is white, the
sides of the neck and breast tinged with reddish-brown. Wing-coverts
on both sides, and six outer secondaries, white; primary coverts white,
tipped with brownish-black, primaries brownish-black, slightly margined
and tipped with white, and having a broad band of the same extending
over the base, and enlarging inwards, inner secondaries brownish-black,
margined with pale reddish. Three outer tail-feathers on each side white,
excepting towards the end, where they are brownish-black, of which colour
are the other feathers, all being tipped and edged with whitish; upper
tail-coverts brownish-black, with a large white tip.

Length 7 inches, extent of wings 13; bill along the back nearly 5/12,
along the edge 7/12; tarsus 9½/12.

Young bird in winter. Plate CLXXXIX. Fig. 3.

The young bird in autumn and winter has the bill of a more rufous tint,
the legs dusky brown, the head deep reddish-brown tinged with grey, a
rufous band across the fore part of the breast, the back streaked with
blackish-brown and light red; the wing coverts dark coloured, and the
white of the quills less extended. On the lower parts the white is also
less pure.




This beautiful species returns to Louisiana and the other Southern States,
about the beginning of October. It remains there during the winter, and
takes its departure before the beginning of April, after which period
I have never observed it in these districts. It is seen in Kentucky,
and a few breed there; but the greater number return to the middle and
especially the northern parts of the Union. During the winter months, it
associates with the Hairy, the Red-bellied, and the Downy Woodpeckers.
Its notes, which are extremely plaintive, differ widely from those of
any other species, and are heard at a considerable distance in the woods.

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 49 of 56)