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agility, lowering its body as if to evade your view, and when in danger
hiding as closely as a mouse, nay, seldom taking to wing, unless much
alarmed or suddenly surprised. It is fondest of dry, rather elevated
situations, not very distant from the sea shore, and although it travels
much, I have never found one in deep woods. During winter it associates
with the Field Sparrow and Bay-winged Sparrow, and with these it is often
seen in open plains of great extent, scantily covered with tall grasses
or low clumps of trees and briars. Regardless of man, it approaches the
house, frequents the garden, and alights on low buildings with as little
concern as if in the most retired places.

It migrates by day, when it suffers from the attacks of the Marsh, the
Pigeon and the Sharp-shinned Hawks, and rests on the ground by night,
when it is liable to be preyed upon by the insidious Minx. Its flight,
although rather irregular, is considerably protracted, for it crosses I
believe without resting the broad expanse of the Gulf of St Lawrence. In
June 1833, I found it gradually moving northward as I advanced towards
the country of Labrador; and although a great number tarry and breed in
all intermediate places from Maryland to that dreary region, I saw them
there in abundance.

The nest of the Savannah Finch is placed on the ground at the foot of a
tuft of rank grass, or of a low bush. It is formed of dry grasses, and is
imbedded in the soil, or among the grass, the inner part being finished
with straw and blades of a finer texture. The eggs, from four to six in
number, are of a pale bluish colour, softly mottled with purplish-brown.
Some eggs have a broadish circle of these spots near the large end,
while the extremity itself is without any markings. It generally breeds
twice every season in the Middle States, but never more than once to
the eastward of Massachusetts. While searching for the nests of this and
many other species, I observed that the artifices used by the female to
draw intruders away, are seldom if ever practised until after incubation
has commenced.

Although this little Finch cannot be said to have a song, it is yet
continually pouring out its notes. You see it perched on a fence rail,
the top of a stone, or a tall grass or bush, mimicking as it were the
sounds of the Common Cricket. Indeed, when out of sight of the performer,
one might readily imagine it was that insect he heard. During winter,
it now and then repeats a cheep, which, although more sonorous, is not
more musical. In spring, when disturbed and forced from its perch, it
flies quite low over the ground in a whirring manner, and re-alights as
soon as an opportunity offers.

Like all the other land-birds that resort to Labrador in summer, it
returns from that country early in September.

FRINGILLA SAVANNA, _Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United
States, p. 109.

SAVANNAH FINCH, FRINGILLA SAVANNA, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. iv.
p. 72. Pl. 34. fig. 4, Male; and vol. iii. p. 55. Pl. 22.
fig. 3, Female.—_Nuttall_, Manual, vol. i. p. 489.

Adult Male. Plate CIX. Fig. 1.

Bill short, conical, acute; upper mandible straight in its dorsal outline,
rounded on the sides, as is the lower, which has the edges sharp and
inflected; the gap line straight, not extending to beneath the eye.
Nostrils basal, roundish, open, concealed by the feathers. Head rather
large. Neck short. Legs of moderate length, slender; tarsus longer than
the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a few longish scutella; toes
scutellate above, free, the lateral ones nearly equal; claws slender,
compressed, acute, slightly arched; that of the hind toe a little larger.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings shortish, curved, rounded, the third
and fourth quills longest. Tail short, emarginate.

Bill pale-brown beneath, dusky above. Iris brown. Feet light flesh-colour.
Cheeks and space over the eye light citron-yellow. The general colour of
the plumage above is pale reddish-brown, spotted with brownish-black,
the edges of the feathers being of the former colour. The lower parts
are white, the breast marked with small deep brown spots, the sides with
long streaks of the same.

Length 5½ inches; extent of wings 8½; bill along the ridge 5/12, along
the gap 6/12; tarsus 10/12.

Adult Female. Plate CIX. Fig. 2.

The Female resembles the Male, the tints of the plumage being merely a
little lighter.

Length 5½ inches; extent of wings 8½.


SPIGELIA MARILANDICA, _Pursh_, Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 139.
of the Plate.

Stem tetragonal, all the leaves opposite, ovate, acuminate. Perennial.
This plant grows in damp meadows, along rivulets, and even in the depth
of the woods. It is abundant in Kentucky, as well as on the eastern
ranges of the Alleghany Mountains, even to the vicinity of the Atlantic.
Its rich carmine flowers have no scent.

PHLOX ARISTATA, _Mich._ Fl. Amer. vol. i. p. 144.—_Pursh_,
Fl. Amer. Sept. vol. i. p. 150.—PENTANDRIA MONOGYNIA, _Linn._
POLEMONIA, _Juss._ Fig. 2. of the Plate.

See vol. i. p. 361.




In many parts of our woods, the traveller, as he proceeds, cannot help
stopping to admire the peaceful repose that spreads its pleasing charm
on all around. The tall trees are garlanded with climbing plants, which
have entwined their slender stems around them, creeping up the crevices
of the deeply furrowed bark, and vying with each other in throwing forth
the most graceful festoons, to break the straight lines of the trunks
which support them; while here and there from the taller branches,
numberless grape-vines hang in waving clusters, or stretch across from
tree to tree. The underwood shoots out its branches, as if jealous of
the noble growth of the larger stems, and each flowering shrub or plant
displays its blossoms, to tempt the stranger to rest a while, and enjoy
the beauty of their tints, or refresh his nerves with their rich odours.
Reader, add to this scene the pure waters of a rivulet, and you may have
an idea of the places in which you will find the Hooded Warbler.

The Southern and Western States are those to which this beautiful bird
gives a preference. It abounds in Louisiana, along the Mississippi, and
by the Ohio nearly to Cincinnati. It is equally plentiful in the northern
parts of the Floridas, Georgia, and the two Carolinas, after which it
becomes rare. None, I believe, are ever seen east of the State of New
York. It enters the lower parts of Louisiana about the middle of March,
and by the beginning of May has laid its eggs, or sometimes even hatched
them. It arrives in South Carolina in April, immediately constructs its
nest, and has young quite as soon as in Louisiana.

The Hooded Flycatcher is one of the liveliest of its tribe, and is almost
continually in motion. Fond of secluded places, it is equally to be met
with in the thick cane brakes of the high or low lands, or amid the rank
weeds and tangled bushes of the lowest and most impenetrable swamps. You
recognise it instantly on seeing it, for the peculiar graceful opening
and closing of its broad tail distinguishes it at once, as it goes on
gambolling from bush to bush, now in sight, now hid from your eye, but
constantly within hearing.

Its common call-note so resembles that of the Painted Finch or Nonpareil,
that it requires a practised ear to distinguish them. Its song, however,
is very different. It is rather loud, lively yet mellow, and consists
of three notes, resembling the syllables _weet_, _weet_, _weeteē_, a
marked emphasis being laid on the last. Although extremely loquacious
during the early part of spring, it becomes almost silent the moment it
has a brood; after which its notes are heard only while the female is
sitting on her eggs; for they raise two, sometimes three, broods in a

Full of activity and spirit, it flies swiftly after its insect prey,
securing the greater part of it on wing. Its flight is low, gliding,
and now and then protracted to a considerable distance, as it seldom
abandons the pursuit of an insect until it has obtained it.

The nest of this gay bird is always placed low, and is generally attached
to the forks of small twigs. It is neatly and compactly formed of mosses,
dried grasses, and fibrous roots, and is carefully lined with hair, and
not unfrequently a few large feathers. The eggs are from four to six,
of a dull white, spotted with reddish-brown towards the larger end. The
male and female sit by turns, and show extreme anxiety for the safety
of their eggs or young.

My worthy friend JOHN BACHMAN, gave me the following account of
the courageous disposition and strength of attachment of the Hooded
Flycatcher. "I found a nest of these birds in a low piece of ground, so
entangled with smilax and briars that it was difficult for me to pass
through it. The nest was not placed more than two feet from the ground.
This was in the month of May, and the parents were engaged in feeding
the young it contained. Not far from that spot, whilst on a _stand_,
waiting for a deer to pass, I saw another pair of the Hooded Flycatcher
collecting materials to build a nest. The female was the most active, and
yet the male was constantly near to her. A Sharp-shinned Hawk suddenly
pounced upon them, seized the female, and flew off with her. The male, to
my surprise, followed close after the Hawk, flying within a few inches
of him, and darting at him in all directions, as if fully determined to
make him drop his prey. The pursuit continued thus until the birds were
quite out of my sight!"

This species, like many of its delicate tribe, appears to suffer so much
from occasional cold, that, although at all other times a shy and wary
bird, when chilly weather surprises it, it becomes at once careless of
its safety. On such occasions I have approached them near enough to touch
them with my gun. By the middle of September they all retire farther

The plant on which I have represented a pair of these birds, is common
in the localities which they usually prefer. Although richly coloured,
it has no scent.

vol. iii. p. 101. Pl. 26. Fig. 3. Male.—_Nuttall_, Manual,
vol. i. p. 373.

SYLVIA MITRATA, _Lath._ Index Ornith. vol. ii. p. 528.
—_Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 79.

Adult Male. Plate CX. Fig. 1.

Bill of moderate length, straight, subulato-conical, acute, nearly
as deep as broad at the base, the edges acute, the gap line a little
deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, elliptical, lateral, half-closed
by a membrane. Head rather small. Neck short. Body rather slender. Feet
of ordinary length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered
anteriorly by a few scutella, the uppermost long; toes scutellate above,
the inner free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed,
acute, arched.

Plumage soft and blended. Wings short, a little rounded, the second and
third quills longest. Tail longish, slightly emarginate. Rather strong
bristles at the base of the bill.

Bill blackish above, paler below. Iris brown. Feet flesh-coloured.
Forehead, sides of the head, and the chin deep yellow, as are the breast
and belly. Hind-head, throat, and lower part of the neck black. The
general colour of the upper parts is yellowish-olive; wings dusky; three
lateral tail-feathers white on the terminal half of their inner webs.

Length 5½, extent of wings 8; bill along the ridge nearly 5/12.

Adult Female. Plate CX. Fig. 2.

The Female has the forehead, the sides of the head, and all the lower
parts yellow, the hind part of the head dusky; in other respects she
resembles the male.

Dimensions nearly the same as in the male.

This species more resembles a Flycatcher than a Sylvia in its habits, as
well as in the bristles at the base of the bill, and, in fact, is very
nearly allied to the _Muscicapa Selbii_, vol. i. p. 46.


A "Live-oaker" employed on the St John's River, in East Florida, left
his cabin, situated on the banks of that stream, and, with his axe on
his shoulder, proceeded towards the swamp in which he had several times
before plied his trade of felling and squaring the giant trees that
afford the most valuable timber for naval architecture and other purposes.

At the season which is the best for this kind of labour, heavy fogs not
unfrequently cover the country, so as to render it difficult for one to
see farther than thirty or forty yards in any direction. The woods, too,
present so little variety, that every tree seems the mere counterpart of
every other; and the grass, when it has not been burnt, is so tall that
a man of ordinary stature cannot see over it, whence it is necessary for
him to proceed with great caution, lest he should unwittingly deviate
from the ill-defined trail which he follows. To increase the difficulty,
several trails often meet, in which case, unless the explorer be perfectly
acquainted with the neighbourhood, it would be well for him to lie down,
and wait until the fog should disperse. Under such circumstances, the
best woodsmen are not unfrequently bewildered for a while; and I well
remember that such an occurrence happened to myself, at a time when I
had imprudently ventured to pursue a wounded quadruped, which led me
some distance from the track.

The live-oaker had been jogging onwards for several hours, and became
aware that he must have travelled considerably more than the distance
between his cabin and the "hummock" which he desired to reach. To his
alarm, at the moment when the fog dispersed, he saw the sun at its
meridian height, and could not recognise a single object around him.

Young, healthy, and active, he imagined that he had walked with more
than usual speed, and had passed the place to which he was bound. He
accordingly turned his back upon the sun, and pursued a different route,
guided by a small trail. Time passed, and the sun headed his course:
he saw it gradually descend in the west, but all around him continued
as if enveloped with mystery. The huge grey trees spread their giant
boughs over him, the rank grass extended on all sides, not a living
being crossed his path, all was silent and still, and the scene was
like a dull and dreary dream of the land of oblivion. He wandered like
a forgotten ghost that had passed into the land of spirits, without yet
meeting one of his kind with whom to hold converse.

The condition of a man lost in the woods is one of the most perplexing
that could be imagined by a person who has not himself been in a like
predicament. Every object he sees, he at first thinks he recognises, and
while his whole mind is bent on searching for more that may gradually lead
to his extrication, he goes on committing greater errors the farther he
proceeds. This was the case with the live-oaker. The sun was now setting
with a fiery aspect, and by degrees it sunk in its full circular form,
as if giving warning of a sultry morrow. Myriads of insects, delighted
at its departure, now filled the air on buzzing wings. Each piping frog
arose from the muddy pool in which it had concealed itself; the squirrel
retired to its hole, the crow to its roost, and, far above, the harsh
croaking voice of the heron announced that, full of anxiety, it was
wending its way to the miry interior of some distant swamp. Now the
woods began to resound to the shrill cries of the owl; and the breeze,
as it swept among the columnar stems of the forest-trees, came laden
with heavy and chilling dews. Alas, no moon with her silvery light shone
on the dreary scene, and the Lost One, wearied and vexed, laid himself
down on the damp ground. Prayer is always consolatory to man in every
difficulty or danger, and the woodsman fervently prayed to his Maker,
wished his family a happier night than it was his lot to experience,
and with a feverish anxiety waited the return of day.

You may imagine the length of that cold, dull, moonless night. With
the dawn of day came the usual fogs of those latitudes. The poor man
started on his feet, and with a sorrowful heart, pursued a course which
he thought might lead him to some familiar object, although, indeed, he
scarcely knew what he was doing. No longer had he the trace of a track
to guide him, and yet, as the sun rose, he calculated the many hours of
day-light he had before him, and the farther he went continued to walk
the faster. But vain were all his hopes: that day was spent in fruitless
endeavours to regain the path that led to his home, and when night
again approached, the terror that had been gradually spreading over his
mind, together with the nervous debility induced by fatigue, anxiety,
and hunger, rendered him almost frantic. He told me that at this moment
he beat his breast, tore his hair, and, had it not been for the piety
with which his parents had in early life imbued his mind, and which had
become habitual, would have cursed his existence. Famished as he now
was, he laid himself on the ground, and fed on the weeds and grass that
grew around him. That night was spent in the greatest agony and terror.
"I knew my situation," he said to me. "I was fully aware that unless
Almighty God came to my assistance, I must perish in those uninhabited
woods. I knew that I had walked more than fifty miles, although I had
not met with a brook, from which I could quench my thirst, or even allay
the burning heat of my parched lips and blood-shot eyes. I knew that if
I should not meet with some stream I must die, for my axe was my only
weapon, and although deer and bears now and then started within a few
yards or even feet of me, not one of them could I kill; and although I
was in the midst of abundance, not a mouthful did I expect to procure,
to satisfy the cravings of my empty stomach. Sir, may God preserve you
from ever feeling as I did the whole of that day!"

For several days after, no one can imagine the condition in which he
was, for when he related to me this painful adventure, he assured me that
he had lost all recollection of what had happened. "God," he continued,
"must have taken pity on me one day, for, as I ran wildly through those
dreadful pine barrens, I met with a tortoise. I gazed upon it with
amazement and delight, and, although I knew that were I to follow it
undisturbed, it would lead me to some water, my hunger and thirst would
not allow me to refrain from satisfying both, by eating its flesh, and
drinking its blood. With one stroke of my axe the beast was cut in two,
and in a few moments I dispatched all but the shell. Oh, Sir, how much
I thanked God, whose kindness had put the tortoise in my way! I felt
greatly renewed. I sat down at the foot of a pine, gazed on the heavens,
thought of my poor wife and children, and again, and again thanked my
God for my life, for now I felt less distracted in mind, and more assured
that before long I must recover my way, and get back to my home."

The Lost One remained and passed the night, at the foot of the same
tree under which his repast had been made. Refreshed by a sound sleep,
he started at dawn to resume his weary march. The sun rose bright, and
he followed the direction of the shadows. Still the dreariness of the
woods was the same, and he was on the point of giving up in despair, when
he observed a racoon lying squatted in the grass. Raising his axe, he
drove it with such violence through the helpless animal, that it expired
without a struggle. What he had done with the turtle, he now did with the
racoon, the greater part of which he actually devoured at one meal. With
more comfortable feelings, he then resumed his wanderings—his journey
I cannot say,—for although in the possession of all his faculties, and
in broad daylight, he was worse off than a lame man groping his way in
the dark out of a dungeon, of which he knew not where the door stood.

Days, one after another, passed,—nay, weeks in succession. He fed now
on cabbage-trees, then on frogs and snakes. All that fell in his way was
welcome and savoury. Yet he became daily more emaciated, until at length
he could scarcely crawl. Forty days had elapsed, by his own reckoning,
when he at last reached the banks of the river. His clothes in tatters,
his once bright axe dimmed with rust, his face begrimmed with beard, his
hair matted, and his feeble frame little better than a skeleton covered
with parchment, there he laid himself down to die. Amid the perturbed
dreams of his fevered fancy, he thought he heard the noise of oars far
away on the silent river. He listened, but the sounds died away on his
ear. It was indeed a dream, the last glimmer of expiring hope, and now
the light of life was about to be quenched for ever. But again, the
sound of oars awoke him from his lethargy. He listened so eagerly, that
the hum of a fly could not have escaped his ear. They were indeed the
measured beats of oars, and now, joy to the forlorn soul! the sound of
human voices thrilled to his heart, and awoke the tumultuous pulses of
returning hope. On his knees did the eye of God see that poor man by
the broad still stream that glittered in the sunbeams, and human eyes
soon saw him too, for round that headland covered with tangled brushwood
boldly advances the little boat, propelled by its lusty rowers. The Lost
One raises his feeble voice on high;—it was a loud shrill scream of
joy and fear. The rowers pause, and look around. Another, but feebler
scream, and they observe him. It comes,—his heart flutters, his sight
is dimmed, his brain reels, he gasps for breath. It comes,—it has run
upon the beach, and the Lost One is found.

This is no tale of fiction, but the relation of an actual occurrence,
which might be embellished, no doubt, but which is better in the plain
garb of truth. The notes by which I recorded it were written, in the
cabin of the once lost live-oaker, about four years after the painful
incident occurred. His amiable wife, and loving children, were present at
the recital, and never shall I forget the tears that flowed from them as
they listened to it, albeit it had long been more familiar to them than
a tale thrice told. Sincerely do I wish, good reader, that neither you
nor I may ever elicit such sympathy, by having undergone such sufferings,
although no doubt such sympathy would be a rich recompense for them.

It only remains for me to say, that the distance between the cabin and
the live-oak hummock to which the woodsman was bound, scarcely exceeded
8 miles, while the part of the river at which he was found, was 38
miles from his house. Calculating his daily wanderings at 10 miles, we
may believe that they amounted in all to 400. He must, therefore, have
rambled in a circuitous direction, which people generally do in such
circumstances. Nothing but the great strength of his constitution, and
the merciful aid of his Maker, could have supported him for so long a




It would be difficult for me to say in what part of our extensive country
I have not met with this hardy inhabitant of the forest. Even now, when
several species of our birds are becoming rare, destroyed as they are,
either to gratify the palate of the epicure, or to adorn the cabinet of
the naturalist, the Pileated Woodpecker is every where to be found in
the wild woods, although scarce and shy in the peopled districts.

Wherever it occurs it is a permanent resident, and, like its relative
the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, it remains pretty constantly in the place
which it has chosen after leaving its parents. It is at all times a shy
bird, so that one can seldom approach it, unless under cover of a tree,
or when he happens accidentally to surprise it while engaged in its daily
avocations. When seen in a large field newly brought into tillage, and
yet covered with girdled trees, it removes from one to another, cackling
out its laughter-like notes, as if it found delight in leading you a
wild-goose chase in pursuit of it. When followed it always alights on
the tallest branches or trunks of trees, removes to the side farthest
off, from which it every moment peeps, as it watches your progress in
silence; and so well does it seem to know the distance at which a shot
can reach it, that it seldom permits so near an approach. Often when you

Online LibraryJohn James AudubonOrnithological Biography, Volume 2 (of 5) → online text (page 9 of 56)