Neltje Blanchan.

Bird neighbors : an introductory acquaintance with one hundred and fifty birds commonly found in the gardens, meadows, and woods about our homes online

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BIRD NEIGHBORS



By tke Same Author



NATURE'S GARDEN

32 colored plates, 48 black and tvhitt
plates of wild flowers. $3.00 net.

BIRDS THAT HUNT AND ARE
HUNTED

48 colored plates of game biro's, water
fowl and birds of prey. $2.00,




3-OLDFINCH.

'_ I,i I. -size.






I f



BIRD NEIGHBORS. AN

INTRODUCTORY ACQUAINTANCE
WITH ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY
BIRDS COMMONLY FOUND IN
THE GARDENS, MEADOWS, AND
WOODS ABOUT OUR HOMES

BY

NELTJE BLANCHAN

WITH INTRODUCTION BY

JOHN BURROUGHS

AND FORTY-EIGHT COLORED PLATES

[FIFTY-TWO THOUSAND]



NEW YORK

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & CO.
1 903



COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY
DOUBLEDAY & McCLURE CO.

COLORED PLATES COPYRIGHTED, 1897. BY

THE NATURE STUDY PUBLISHING CO.

CHICAGO, ILL.

Thirteenth Edition.




TABLE OF CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION BY JOHN BURROUGHS ... vii

PREFACE ' x

LIST OF COLORED PLATES .... xi

I. BIRD FAMILIES:

Their Characteristics and the Representatives of Each

Family included in " Bird Neighbors" i

II. HABITATS OF BIRDS . . '7

III. SEASONS OF BIRDS ... 25

IV. BIRDS GROUPED ACCORDING TO SIZE . . 33

V. DESCRIPTIONS OF BIRDS GROUPED ACCORDING TO COLOR :

Birds Conspicuously Black . 39

Birds Conspicuously Black and White . . 51

Dusky, Gray, and Slate-colored Birds ... 65

Blue and Bluish Birds 97

Brown, Olive' 'of .Grayish Srown, and Brown and

Gray Sparrowy Birds 'j . . . 113
Green, Greenish Grayi Olive, and Yellowish Olive

Birds I *':-,- . .167

Birds Conspicuously Yellow and Orange . 187
Birds Conspicuously Red of any Shade . .213

INDEX



INTRODUCTION

I WRITE these few introductory sentences to this volume only
to second so worthy an attempt to quicken and enlarge the gen-
eral interest in our birds. The book itself is merely an introduc-
tion, and is only designed to place a few clews in the reader's
hands which he himself or herself is to follow up. I can say that
it is reliable and is written in a vivacious strain and by a real
bird lover, and should prove a help and a stimulus to any one
who seeks by the aid of its pages to become better acquainted
with our songsters. The pictures, with a few exceptions, are
remarkably good and accurate, and these, with the various group-
ing of the birds according to color, season, habitat, etc., ought to
render the identification of the birds, with no other weapon than
an opera glass, an easy matter.

When I began the study of the birds I had access to a copy
of Audubon, which greatly stimulated my interest in the pursuit,
but I did not have the opera glass, and I could not take Audubon
with me on my walks, as the reader may this volume, and he
will find these colored plates quite as helpful as those of Audubon
or Wilson.

But you do not want to make out your bird the first time;
the book or your friend must not make the problem too easy for
you. You must go again and again, and see and hear your bird
under varying conditions and get a good hold of several of its
characteristic traits. Things easily learned are apt to be easily for-
gotten. Some ladies,- beginning tfie study of birds, once wrote to
me, asking if I would not please come and help them, and set
them right about certain' "hire's m dispute. I replied that that
would be getting their know'edge too easily; that what 1 and
any one else told them ; thsy would IV very apt to forget, but that
the things they found out themselves they would always remem-
ber. We must in a way earn what we have or keep. Only thus
docs it become ours, a real part of us.

Not very long afterward I had the pleasure of walking with
one of the ladies, and 1 found her eye and ear quite as sharp as
my own, and that she was in a fair way to conquer the bird king-
dom without any outside help. She said that the groves and
fields, through which she used to walk with only a languid inter-



est, were now completely transformed to her and afforded her
the keenest pleasure; a whole new world of interest had been
disclosed to her; she felt as if she was constantly on the eve of
some new discovery; the next turn in the path might reveal to
her a new warbler or a new vireo. I remember the thrill she
seemed to experience when 1 called her attention to a purple finch
singing in the tree-tops in front of her house, a rare visitant she
had not before heard. The thrill would of course have been
greater had she identified the bird without my aid. One would
rather bag one's own game, whether it be with a bullet or an
eyebeam.

The experience of this lady is the experience of all in whom
is kindled this bird enthusiasm. A new interest is added to life;
one more resource against ennui and stagnation. If you have
only a city yard with a few sickly trees in it, you will find great
delight in noting the numerous stragglers from the great army of
spring and autumn migrants that find their way there. If you
live in the country, it is as if new eyes and new ears were given
you, with a correspondingly increased capacity for rural enjoyment.

The birds link themselves to your memory of seasons and
places, so that a song, a call, a gleam of color, set going a
sequence of delightful reminiscences in your mind. When a soli-
tary great Carolina wren came one August day and took up its
abode near me and sang and called and warbled as 1 had heard it
long before on the Potomac, how it brought the old days, the
old scenes back again, and made me for the moment younger by
all those years!

A few seasons ago I feared the tribe of bluebirds were on
the verge of extinction from the enormous number of them that
perished from cold ;uid hunger in the Sbl;'th in the winter of '94.
For two summers not a blue win^, not a blue warble. I seemed
to miss something kindred and precious from my environment
the visible embodiment of the tender sky and the wistful soil.
What a loss, I said, to the ovping generations of dwellers in the
country no bluebird in the spring ! What will the farm-boy
date from ? But the fear was groundless: the birds are regaining
their lost ground; broods of young blue-coats are again seen
drifting from stake to stake or from mullen-stalk to mullen-stalk
about the fields in summer, and our April air will doubtless again
be warmed and thrilled by this lovely harbinger of spring.

JOHN BURROUGHS.

August 17, '97.

viii



PREFACE

NOT to have so much as a bowing acquaintance with the
birds that nest in our gardens or under the very eaves of our
houses; that haunt our wood-piles; keep our fruit-trees free from
slugs; waken us with their songs, and enliven our walks along
the roadside and through the woods, seems to be, at least, a
breach of etiquette toward some of our most kindly disposed
neighbors.

Birds of prey, game and water birds are not included in the
book. The following pages are intended to be nothing more than
a familiar introduction to the birds that live near us. Even in the
principal park of a great city like New York, a bird-lover has found
more than one hundred and thirty species; as many, probably,
as could be discovered in the same sized territory anywhere.

The plan of the book is not a scientific one, if the term
scientific is understood to mean technical and anatomical. The
purpose of the writer is to give, in a popular and accessible form,
knowledge which is accurate and reliable about the life of our
common birds. This knowledge has not been .collected from the
stuffed carcasses of birds in museums, but gleaned afield. In a
word, these short narrative descriptions treat of the bird's char-
acteristics of size, color, and flight; its peculiarities of instinct
and temperament; its nest and home life; its choice of food; its
songs; and of the season in which we may expect it to play its
part in the great panorama Nature unfolds with faithful precision
year after year. They are an attempt to make the bird so live
before the reader that, when seen out of doors, its recognition
shall be instant and cordial, like that given to a friend.

The coloring described in this book is sometimes more vivid
than that found in the works of some learned authorities, whose
conflicting testimony is often sadly bewildering to the novice.
In different parts of the country, and at different seasons of the
year, the plumage of some birds undergoes many changes. The
reader must remember, therefore, that the specimens examined
and described were not, as before stated, the faded ones in our
museums, but live birds in their fresh, spring plumage, studied
afield.



The birds have been classed into color groups in the belief
that this method, more than any other, will make identification
most easy. The color of the bird is the first, and often the only,
characteristic noticed. But they have also been classified accord-
ing to the localities for which they show decided preferences and
in which they are most likely to be found. Again, they have
been grouped according to the season when they may be expected.
In the brief paragraphs that deal with groups of birds separated
into the various families represented in the book, the characteristics
and traits of each clan are clearly emphasized. By these several
aids it is believed the merest novice will be able to quickly identify
any bird neighbor that is neither local nor rare.

To the uninitiated or uninterested observer, all small, dull-
colored birds are "common sparrows." The closer scrutiny of
the trained eye quickly differentiates, and picks out not only the
Song, the Canada, and the Fox Sparrows, but finds a dozen other
familiar friends where one who "has eyes and sees not" does
not even suspect their presence. Ruskin says: "The more I
think of it, 1 find this conclusion more impressed upon me, that
the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see
something. . . . Hundreds of people can talk for one who
can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see
clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion all in one."

While the author is indebted to all the time-honored standard
authorities, and to many ornithologists of the present day, too
many for individual mention, it is to Mr. John Burroughs her
deepest debt is due. To this clear-visioned prophet, who has
opened the blind eyes of thousands to the delights that Nature
holds within our easy reach, she would gratefully acknowledge
many obligations: first of all, for the plan on which " Bird Neigh-
bors " is arranged; next, for his patient kindness in reading and
annotating the manuscript of the book; and, not least, for the
inspiration of his perennially charming writings that are so largely
responsible for the ready-made audience now awaiting writers on
out-of-door topics.

NELTJE BLANCHAN.



LIST OF COLORED PLATES

FACING PAGE

GOLDFINCH Frontispiece

KINGBIRD 4

MOCKING-BIRD 12

CROW 41

BRONZED CRACKLE ... . . .44

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD ... 48

DOWNY WOODPECKER 54

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER . . . . 56

TOWHEES 58

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS 60

BOBOLINKS 62

BLACK AND WHITE CREEPING WARBLER . 64

CHIMNEY SWIFT 67

WOOD PEWEE 68

PHCEBE 72

CHICKADEE 76

CATBIRD 80

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH 84

NORTHERN SHRIKE 86

MYRTLE WARBLER .92

INDIGO BIRD 100

KINGFISHER 102

BLUE JAY 104

BARN SWALLOW 106

HOUSE WREN 115

LONG-BILLED MARSH WRENS 118



FACING PAGE

WILSON'S THRUSH ... . 122

HERMIT THRUSH .124

FLICKER 130

MEADOWLARK 132

WHIPPOORWILL ... .... i ^6

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO . .142

CEDAR WAXWING . 144

BROWN CREEPER 146

SONG SPARROW . . ' . . . . 1 58

RUBY-THROATED HUMMING-BIRDS 170

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET .172

RED-EYED VIREO ... .176

WARBLING VIREO . ... .178

BLUE-WINGED YELLOW WARBLER . ... 192

YELLOW WARBLER . 204

YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT ... ... 206

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER 208

BALTIMORE ORIOLE .... 210

CARDINAL 21 5

SCARLET TANAGER .218

RED CROSSBILLS 220

ORCHARD ORIOLE 226



BIRD FAMILIES

THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND THE
REPRESENTATIVES OF EACH FAMILY
INCLUDED IN "BIRD NEIGHBORS"



BIRD FAMILIES



THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND THE REPRESENTATIVES OF EACH
FAMILY INCLUDED IN "BIRD NEIGHBORS"



Order Coccyges: CUCKOOS AND KINGFISHERS
Family Cuculidce : CUCKOOS

Long, pigeon-shaped birds, whose backs are grayish brown
with a bronze lustre and whose under parts are whitish. Bill long
and curved. Tail long ; raised and drooped slowly while the
bird is perching. Two toes point forward and two backward.
Call-note loud and like a tree-toad's rattle. Song lacking. Birds
of low trees and undergrowth, where they also nest ; partial to
neighborhood of streams, or wherever the tent caterpillar is
abundant. Habits rather solitary, silent, and eccentric. Migratory.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Black-billed Cuckoo.

Family Alcedinidce : KINGFISHERS

Large, top-heavy birds of streams and ponds. Usually seen
perching over the water looking for fish. Head crested ; upper
parts slate-blue ; underneath white, and belted with blue or
rusty. Bill large and heavy. Middle and outer toes joined for
half their length. Call-note loud and prolonged, like a policeman's
rattle. Solitary birds ; little inclined to rove from a chosen local-
ity. Migratory.

Belted Kingfisher.



Order Pici : WOODPECKERS
Family Puida- : WOODPECKERS

Medium-sized and small birds, usually with plumage black
and white, and always with some red feathers about the head.

3



Bird Families

(The flicker is brownish and yellow instead of black and white.)
Stocky, high-shouldered build ; bill strong and long for drilling
holes in bark of trees. Tail feathers pointed and stiffened to
serve as a prop. Two toes before and two behind for clinging.
Usually seen clinging erect on tree-trunks ; rarely, if ever, head
downward, like the nuthatches, titmice, etc. Woodpeckers feed
as they creep around the trunks and branches. Habits rather
phlegmatic. The flicker has better developed vocal powers than
other birds of this class, whose rolling tattoo, beaten with their
bills against the tree-trunks, must answer for their love-song.
Nest in hollowed-out trees.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.

Flicker.



Order Macrochires : GOATSUCKERS, SWIFTS, AND HUM-
MING-BIRDS

Family Caprimulgidce : NIGHTHAWKS, WHIPPOORWILLS,

ETC.

Medium-sized, mottled brownish, gray, black, and white
birds of heavy build. Short, thick head ; gaping, large mouth ;
very small bill, with bristles at base. Take insect food on the
wing. Feet small and weak ; wings long and powerful. These
birds rest lengthwise on their perch while sleeping through the
brightest daylight hours, or on the ground, where they nest.

Nighthawk.

Whippoorwill.

Family Micropolidcr : SWIFTS

Sooty, dusky birds seen on the wing, never resting except
in chimneys of houses, or hollow trees, where they nest. Tips
of tail feathers with sharp spines, used as props. They show their
kinship with the goatsuckers in their nocturnal as well as diurnal
habits, their small bills and large mouths for catching insects on

4



Bird Families

the wing, and their weak feet. Gregarious, especially at the

nesting season.

Chimney Swift.

Family TrocbiliJce : HUMMING-BIRDS

Very small birds with green plumage (iridescent red or
orange breast in males); long, needle-shaped bill for extracting
insects and nectar from deep-cupped flowers, and exceedingly
rapid, darting flight. Small feet.

Ruby-throated Humming-bird.



Order Passeres : PERCHING BIRDS
Family Tyrannidce : FLYCATCHERS

Small and medium-sized dull, dark-olive, or gray birds, with
big heads that are sometimes crested. Bills hooked at end, and
with bristles at base. Harsh or plaintive voices. Wings longer
than tail ; both wings and tails usually drooped and vibrating
when the birds are perching. Habits moody and silent when
perching on a conspicuous limb, telegraph wire, dead tree, or
fence rail and waiting for insects to fly within range. Sudden,
nervous, spasmodic sallies in midair to seize insects on the wing.
Usually they return to their identical perch or lookout. Pug-
nacious and fearless. Excellent nest builders and devoted mates.

Kingbird.

Phcebe.

Wood Pewee.

Acadian Flycatcher.

Great Crested Flycatcher.

Least Flycatcher.

Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

Say's Flycatcher.

Family Alaudidce : LARKS

The only true larks to be found in this country are the two
species given below. They are the kin of the European skylark,
of which several unsuccessful attempts to introduce the bird have

5



Bird Families

been made in this country. These two larks must not be con-
fused with the meadow larks and titlarks, which belong to the
blackbird and pipit families respectively. The horned larks are
birds of the ground, and are seen in the United States only in the
autumn and winter. In the nesting season at the North their
voices are most musical. Plumage grayish and brown, in color
harmony with their habitats. Usually found in flocks ; the first
species on or near the shore.

Horned Lark.

Prairie Horned Lark.

Family Corvidce : CROWS AND JAYS

The crows are large black birds, walkers, with stout feet
adapted for the purpose. Fond of shifting their residence at dif-
ferent seasons rather than strictly migratory, for, except at the
northern limit of range, they remain resident all the year. Gre-
garious. Sexes alike. Omnivorous feeders, being partly car-
nivorous, as are also the jays. Both crows and jays inhabit
wooded country. Their voices are harsh and clamorous ; and
their habits are boisterous and bold, particularly the jays. De-
voted mates ; unpleasant neighbors.

Common Crow.

Fish Crow.

Northern Raven.

Blue Jay.

Canada Jay.

Family Icteridce : BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES, ETC.

Plumage black or a brilliant color combined with black.
(The meadow lark a sole exception.) Sexes unlike. These birds
form a connecting link between the crows and the finches. The
blackbirds have strong feet for use upon the ground, where they
generally feed, while the orioles are birds of the trees. They are
both seed and insect eaters. The bills of the bobolink and cow-
bird are short and conical, for they are conspicuous seed eaters.
Bills of the others long and conical, adapted for insectivorous
diet. About half the family are gifted songsters.

Red-winged Blackbird.

Rusty Blackbird.
6



Bird Families



Purple Crackle.
Bronzed Crackle.
Cowbird.
Meadow Lark.
Western Meadow Lark.
Bobolink.
Orchard Oriole.
Baltimore Oriole.



Family Fringillidce : FINCHES, SPARROWS, GROSBEAKS,
BUNTINGS, LINNETS, AND CROSSBILLS

Generally fine songsters. Bills conical, short, and stout for
cracking seeds. Length from five to nine inches, usually under
eight inches. This, the largest family of birds that we have
(about one-seventh of all our birds belong to it), comprises birds
of such varied plumage and habit that, while certain family re-
semblances may be traced throughout, it is almost impossible to
characterize the family as such. The sparrows are comparatively
small gray and brown birds with striped upper parts, lighter
underneath. Birds of the ground, or not far from it, elevated
perches being chosen for rest and song. Nest in low bushes or
on the ground. (Chipping sparrow often selects tall trees.)
Coloring adapted to grassy, dusty habitats. Males and females
similar. Flight labored. About forty species of sparrows are
found in the United States ; of these, fourteen may be met with
by a novice, and six, at least, surely will be.

The finches and their larger kin are chiefly bright-plumaged
birds, the females either duller or distinct from males ; bills
heavy, dull, and conical, befitting seed eaters. Not so migratory
as insectivorous birds nor so restless. Mostly phlegmatic in
temperament. Fine songsters.

Chipping Sparrow.

English Sparrow.

Field Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow.

Savanna Sparrow.

Seaside Sparrow.

Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
7



Bird Families

Song Sparrow.

Swamp Song Sparrow.

Tree Sparrow.

Vesper Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow.

Lapland Longspur.

Smith's Painted Longspur.

Pine Siskin (or Finch).

Purple Finch.

Goldfinch.

Redpoll.

Greater Redpoll.

Red Crossbill.

White-winged Red Crossbill.

Cardinal Grosbeak.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Pine Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak.

Blue Grosbeak.

Indigo Bunting.

Junco.

Snowflake.

Chewink.

Family Tanagridce : TANAGERS

Distinctly an American family, remarkable for their brilliant
plumage, which, however, undergoes great changes twice a year.
Females different from males, being dull and inconspicuous.
Birds of the tropics, two species only finding their way north,
and the summer tanager rarely found north of Pennsylvania.
Shy inhabitants of woods. Though they may nest low in trees,
they choose high perches when singing or feeding upon flowers,
fruits, and insects. As a family, the tanagers have weak, squeaky
voices, but both our species are good songsters. Suffering the
fate of most bright-plumaged birds, immense numbers have been
shot annually.

Scarlet Tanager.
Summer Tanager.
8



Bird Families

Family Hirundinidce : SWALLOWS

Birds of the air, that take their insect food on the wing.
Migratory. Flight strong, skimming, darting ; exceedingly
graceful. When not flying they choose slender, conspicuous
perches like telegraph wires, gutters, and eaves of barns. Plu-
mage of some species dull, of others iridescent blues and greens
above, whitish or ruddy below. Sexes similar. Bills small ;
mouths large. Long and pointed wings, generally reaching the
tip of the tail or beyond. Tail more or less forked. Feet small
and weak from disuse. Song a twittering warble without power.
Gregarious birds.

Barn Swallow.

Bank Swallow.

Cliff (or Eaves) Swallow.

Tree Swallow.

Bough-winged Swallow.

Purple Martin.

Family Ampelidce : WAX WINGS

Medium-sized Quaker-like birds, with plumage of soft
browns and grays. Head crested ; black band across forehead
and through the eye. Bodies plump from indolence. Tail tipped
with yellow ; wings with red tips to coverts, resembling sealing-
wax. Sexes similar. Silent, gentle, courteous, elegant birds.
Usually seen in large flocks feeding upon berries in the trees or
perching on the branches, except at the nesting season. Voices
resemble a soft, lisping twitter.

Cedar Bird.

Bohemian Waxwing.

Family Laniidce : SHRIKES

Medium-sized grayish, black-and-white birds, with hooked
and hawk-like bill for tearing the flesh of smaller birds, field-
mice, and large insects that they impale on thorns. Handsome,
bold birds, the terror of all small, feathered neighbors, not ex-
cluding the English sparrow. They choose conspicuous perches
when on the lookout for prey : a projecting or dead limb of a

9



Bird Families

tree, the cupola of a house, the ridge-pole or weather-vane of a
barn, or a telegraph wire, from which to suddenly drop upon a
victim. Eyesight remarkable. Call-notes harsh and unmusical.
Habits solitary and wandering. The first-named species is resi-
dent during the colder months of the year; the latter is a summer
resident only north of Maryland.

Northern Shrike.

Loggerhead Shrike.

Family rireonidas : VIREOS OR GREENLETS

Small greenish-gray or olive birds, whitish or yellowish
underneath, their plumage resembling the foliage of the trees
they hunt, nest, and live among. Sexes alike. More deliberate
in habit than the restless, flitting warblers that are chiefly seen
darting about the ends of twigs. Vireos are more painstaking
gleaners ; they carefully explore the bark, turn their heads up-
ward to investigate the under side of leaves, and usually keep
well hidden among the foliage. Bill hooked at tip for holding
worms and insects. Gifted songsters, superior to the warblers.
This family is peculiar to America.

Red-eyed Vireo.

Solitary Vireo.

Warbling Vireo.

White-eyed Vireo.

Yellow-throated Vireo.

Family ZMniotiltidce : WOOD WARBLERS

A large group of birds, for the most part smaller than the
English sparrow ; all, except the ground warblers, of beautiful
plumage, in which yellow, olive, slate-blue, black, and white are
predominant colors. Females generally duller than males. Ex-
ceedingly active, graceful, restless feeders among the terminal
twigs of trees and shrubbery ; haunters of tree-tops in the woods


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Online LibraryNeltje BlanchanBird neighbors : an introductory acquaintance with one hundred and fifty birds commonly found in the gardens, meadows, and woods about our homes → online text (page 1 of 18)