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Birds that hunt and are hunted; life histories of one hundred and seventy birds of prey, game birds and water fowls online

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BIRDS THAT HUNT
AND ARE HUNTED



BIRDS THAT HUNT
AND ARE HUNTED

LIFE HISTORIES OF ONE HUN-
DRED AND SEVENTY BIRDS OF
PREY, GAME BIRDS AND WATER-
FOWLS

BY

NELTJE BLANCHAN

AUTHOR OF "BIRD NEIGHBORS"
WITH INTRODUCTION BY

G. O. SHIELDS (COQUINA)
AND FORTY-EIGHT COLORED PLATES



NEW YORK

DOUBLEDAY & McCLURE CO,

1898



COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY
DOUBLEDAY & McCLURE CO.

COLORED PLATES COPYRIGHTED, 1897, 1898, BY

THE NATURE STUDY PUBLISHING CO.

CHICAGO, ILL.




Librifr&e
Library

>



TABLE OF CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION BY G. O. SHIELDS . . . . . vii

PREFACE . ix

LIST OF COLORED PLATES xi

PART I. WATER BIRDS ....... i

Diving Birds 3

The Grebes 8

The Loons 14

Auks, Murres, Puffins, etc. . . . 18

Long-winged Swimmers . . . , . ' 27

Jaegers and Skuas 32

Gulls 35

Terns, or Sea Swallows .... 46

Skimmers ...... 59

Tube-nosed Swimmers ..... 63

Shearwaters 67

Petrels 68

Fully Webbed Swimmers .... 73

Cormorants ...... 77

Plate-billed Swimmers . . . . . 81

Mergansers, or Fishing Ducks . . 87

River and Pond Ducks .... 93

Sea and Bay Ducks . . . . 114

Geese 134

Swans ....... 143



Table of Contents

PAGE

PART II. WADING BIRDS 14?

Herons and their Allies 149

Ibises 153

Wood Ibises and Storks . . . . 155
Herons and Bitterns . . . .157

Marsh Birds . . . "'"'. . . . 169

Cranes . . . . . . 174

Rails 177

Gallinules 184

Coots 1 86

Shore Birds 189

Phalaropes 196

Avocets and Stilts 198

Snipe, Sandpipers, etc. . . . .201

Plovers 2^7

Surf Birds and Turnstones . . . 249

Oyster-Catchers 251

PART III. GALLINACEOUS GAME BIRDS . . . .255
Bob Whites, Grouse, etc. . . .261
Turkeys 288

Columbine Birds . . . . .' .291
Pigeons and Doves . . . . . 294

PART IV. BIRDS OF PREY . . . ... .299

Vultures . . . . f. .; . 34

Kites, Hawks, Eagles, etc. . . 309

Barn Owls . . . . . -335
Horned and Hoot Owls .... 337

INDEX .. . . -353



vi



INTRODUCTION

BIRD life is disappearing from the United States and Canada
at so alarming a rate I sometimes feel it is wrong, at this day
and age of the world, to encourage the hunting and shooting of
birds of any kind. Mr. W. T. Hornaday, the Director of the New
York Zoological Society, has recently collected and compiled
statistics from more that thirty states, showing that the decrease
of birds within the past fifteen years has averaged over forty per
cent. At this rate another twenty years would witness the total
extermination of many birds in this country. Several species
have already become extinct, and others are rapidly approaching
the danger line. Conspicuous among these are the wild turkey
and the pinnated grouse, two of the noblest birds on the con-
tinent. Several species of water-fowl are also growing scarce.

Not only are game birds pursued and killed, in season and out
of season, under the name of sport and for market, but the song
birds, plumage birds, water-fowl, and many innocent birds of
prey are hunted, from the Everglades to the Arctic Circle, for the
barbaric purpose of decorating women's hats. The extent of this
traffic is simply appalling. Some of the plumes of tropical and
semi-tropical birds sell at as high a price as fifteen dollars an ounce.
No wonder the cupidity of ignorant and heartless market hunters
is tempted by such prices to pursue and kill the last one of these
birds. It seems incredible that any woman in this enlightened
and refined age, when sentiment against cruelty to animals is
strong in human nature, could be induced to wear an ornament
that has cost the life of so beautiful a creature as an egret, a
scarlet tanager, or a Baltimore oriole. What beauty can there be
in so clumsy a head decoration as an owl or a gull ? Yet we see
women whose nature would revolt at the thought or the sight
of cruelty to a horse or a dog, wearing the wings, plumes, and
heads, if not the entire carcasses of these birds. Not only is the
life of the bird sacrificed, whose plumage is to be thus worn, but
in thousands of instances the victim is the mother bird, and a
brood of young is left to starve to death in consequence of her
cruel taking off. Is it not time to check this ruthless destruction
of bird life by the enactment and enforcement of proper laws ?



Introduction

A great crusade against bird slaughter is sweeping over the
country. Thousands of progressive educators have inaugurated
courses of nature study in the schools, which include object
lessons in bird life. Bird protective associations are being formed
everywhere. The League of American Sportsmen is doing a
noble work in this direction. It is waging a relentless war on
men who kill game birds out of the legal season, or song birds
at any time. This organization stands for the highest type of
men who hunt, and it is laboring to educate the other kind up to
its standard. The surest way to promote this sentiment of bird
protection is to induce our people to study the birds. Nearly
every man, woman, and child who becomes intimately acquainted
with them learns to love and to respect them for their incalculable
benefits to mankind. The reading of such a book as this is a step
in the right direction. The next step should lead the reader into
the fields, the woods, and by the waters.

I have read the manuscript of this book carefully. It shows
the most patient and industrious research, and it is safe to say no
work of its class has been issued in modern times that contains
so much valuable information, presented with such felicity and
charm. The author avoids technicalities, and writes for the lay-
man as well as for the naturalist. While the volume caters in a
great measure to sportsmen, yet it is the hope of the author and
the editor that they may learn to hunt more and more each year
without guns; for all true sportsmen are lovers of nature. The
time has come when the camera may and should, to a great
extent, take the place of the gun. Several enthusiasts have
demonstrated that beautiful pictures of wild birds may be made
without taking their lives. How much more delight must a true
sportsman feel in the possession of a photograph of a beautiful
bird which still lives than in the mounted skin of one he has
killed ! A few trophies of this latter class are all right, and may
be reasonably and properly sought by anyone ; but the time has
passed when the man can be commended who persists in killing
every bird he can find, either for sport, for meat, or for the sake
of preserving the skins.

The colored plates in this book are true to nature, and must
prove of great educational value. By their aid alone any bird
illustrated may be readily identified.

G. O. SHIELDS.



PREFACE

THE point of view from which this book and "Bird Neigh-
bors " were written is that of a bird-lover who believes that per-
sonal, friendly acquaintance with the live birds, as distinguished
from the technical study of the anatomy of dead ones, must be
general before the people will care enough about them to rein-
force the law with unstrained mercy. To really know the birds
in their home life, how marvelously clever they are, and how
positively dependent agriculture is upon their ministrations, can-
not but increase our respect for them to such a point that wilful
injury becomes impossible.

In Audubon's day flocks of wild pigeons, so dense that they
darkened the sky, were a common sight; whereas now, for the
lack of proper legislation in former years, and quite as much be-
cause good laws now existing are not enforced, this exquisite
bird is almost extinct, like the great auk which was also seen by
Audubon in colonies numbering tens of thousands. Many other
birds are following in their wake.

England and Germany have excellent laws protecting the
birds there in summer, only for the Italians to eat during the win-
ter migration. And it is equally useless to have good game and
other bird laws in a country like ours, unless they are reinforced
in every state by public sentiment against the wanton destruction
of bird life for any purpose whatsoever.

This altruism has a solid foundation in economic facts. It is
estimated that the farmers of Pennsylvania lost over four millions
of dollars one year through the ravages of field mice, because a
wholesale slaughtering of owls had been ignorantly encouraged
by rewards the year before. Nature adjusts her balances so wisely
that we cannot afford to tamper with them.

It is a special pleasure to acknowledge indebtedness to Mr.
G. O. Shields. To his efforts, as president of the League of
American Sportsmen and as editor of Recreation, is due no small
measure of the revulsion against ruthless slaughter that has long



masqueraded under the disguise of sport. True sportsmen,
worthy of the name, are to be reckoned among the birds' friends,
and are doing effective work to help restore those happy hunting
grounds which, only a few generations ago, were the envy of the
world.

NELTJE BLANCHAN.



LIST OF COLORED PLATES

FACING PAGE

PASSENGER PIGEON Frontispiece

PIED-BILLED GREBE . . . . . . . 10

LOON . . . . ... - . . 14

BRUNNICH'S MURRE . . . . . . . 22

HERRING GULL . . . . . ... . . 40

COMMON TERN . ... . . . . . 50

BLACK TERN ..... ^. . '. . 58

WILSON'S STORMY PETREL . . . . . , 68

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER . . .... . 88

MALLARD DUCK .... . . . . . 94

BLACK DUCK . . ... . .... 98

BALD-PATE DUCK . . . ..... 100

GREEN-WINGED TEAL. ... . . ' . . 104

PIN-TAIL DUCK . . ... .... no

WOOD DUCK . . ' . ^ . " . . . . . 112

CANVASBACK DUCK . ' . >. . . . . . . 116

GOLDEN-EYE DUCK . . . . * ... 122

CANADA GOOSE . ' . . . . . . . 138

LEAST BITTERN . . . . .- . . . 158

GREAT BLUE HERON . ... . . . . 162

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON. . . . . . 168

SORA RAIL . . . 180

PURPLE GALLINULE 184

COOT OR MUD HEN . 188



List of Colored Plates

FACING PAGE

AVOCET ! 9 8

WOODCOCK 2O2

WILSON'S OR JACK SNIPE 2o6

PECTORAL SANDPIPER OR GRASS SNIPE . . . .212

LEAST SANDPIPER . . 21 ^

YELLOWLEGS ../ 22 4
BARTRAMIAN SANDPIPER OR UPLAND PLOVER . . .230

GOLDEN PLOVER 2 4

SEMIPALMATED OR RING PLOVER 244

BOB WHITE 26

DUSKY OR BLUE GROUSE 268

RUFFED GROUSE 2 7 2

PRAIRIE HEN . 2 7 8

PRAIRIE SHARP-TAILED GROUSE . . . 282

WILD TURKEY 288

MOURNING DOVE 2 9^

TURKEY VULTURE 34

MARSH HAWK 3 12

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK 3 2

SPARROW HAWK 33

OSPREY 334

SAW WHET OWL 34 2

SCREECH OWL . 344

GREAT HORNED OWL 346

SNOWY OWL 35



PART I
WATER BIRDS



TO A WATERFOWL

Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way ?

Vainly the fowler's eye

Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,

Thy figure floats along.

Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink

On the chafed ocean side?

There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,
The desert and illimitable air,

Lone wandering, but not lost.

All day thy wings have fann'd,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end ;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend

Soon o'er thy sheltered nest.

Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart,
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,

And shall not soon depart.

He who, from zone to zone,

Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,

Will lead my steps aright.

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.



DIVING BIRDS

Grebes

Loons

Auks

Murres

Puffins



DIVING BIRDS

GREBES, LOONS, AUKS, MURRES, PUFFINS
(Order Pygopodes)

The birds of this order, whose Latin name refers to their sit-
ting posture when on land, represent the highest development in
the art of swimming and diving, being the nearest lineal de-
scendants of the reptiles, the ancestors of all birds, evolutionists
tell us. The American Ornithologists' Union has classified these
divers into three distinct families.



Grebes

(Family Podicipidce)

Grebes, although similar to the loons in general structure and
economy, have peculiarly lobed and flattened-out toes connected
by webs that are their chief characteristic. In the breeding sea-
son several species wear ornamental head-dresses, colored crests
or ruffs that disappear in the winter months. Plumage, which is
thick, compact, and waterproof, has a smooth, satiny texture, es-
pecially on the under parts. Wings, though short, are powerful,
and enable the grebes to migrate long distances; but they are not
used in swimming under water, as is often asserted. The mar-
velous rapidity with which grebes dive and swim must be credited
to the feet alone. No. birds are more thoroughly at home in the
water and more helpless on land than they. By keeping only the
nostrils above the surface they are able to remain under water a
surprising length of time, which trick, with many other clever
natatorial feats, have earned for them such titles as " Hell Diver,"
"Water Witch," and "Spirit Duck." On shore the birds rest up-
right, or nearly so, owing to the position of their legs, which are

5



Diving Birds

set far back near the rudimentary tail that serves as a prop to help
support the top-heavy, awkward body.

Holbcell's Grebe

Horned Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe or Dabchick



Loons

(Family Urinatoridce)

Loons, while as famous divers and swimmers as the grebes,
are not quite so helpless on land, for they use both bill and wings
to assist them over the ground during the nesting season, almost
the only time they visit it. They dive literally like a flash, the shot
from a rifle reaching the spot sometimes a second after the loon has
disappeared into the depths of the lake, where it seems to sink like
a mass of lead. It can swim several fathoms under water; also,
just below the surface with only its nostrils exposed, and pro-
gressing by the help of the feet alone. The sexes are alike.
They are large, heavy birds, broad and flat of body, with dark
backs spotted with white, and light under parts. Owing to the
position of their legs at the back of their bodies, the loons stand in
an upright position when on land. The voice is extremely loud,
harsh, and penetrating.

Common Loon

Black-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon



Auks, Murres, Puffins

(Family Alcidce)

Unlike either the grebes or the loons, these diving birds are
strictly maritime, passing the greater part of their lives upon the
open sea and visiting the coast chiefly to nest. Enormous colonies
of them appropriate long stretches of rocky cliffs at the far north
at the breeding season, and return to the same spot generation
after generation. In spite of their short wings, which are mere
flippers, several species fly surprisingly well, although the great
auk owed its extinction chiefly to a lack of wing-power. Under
water the birds of this family do use their wings to assist in the

6



Diving Birds

pursuit of fish and other sea-food, which grebes and loons do not,
many ornithologists to the contrary notwithstanding. On land
the bird moves with a shuffling motion, laboriously and with the
underparts often dragging over the ground. Agreeing in general
aspects, the birds of this family differ greatly in the form of the
bill in almost every species. This feature often takes on odd
shapes during the nesting season, soft parts growing out of the
original bill, then hardening into a horny substance, showing
numerous ridges and furrows, and sometimes becoming brilliantly
colored, only to fade away or drop off bit by bit as winter ap-
proaches.

Puffin or Sea Parrot

Black Guillemot

Briinnich's Murre

Common Murre

Californian Murre

Razor-billed Auk

Dovekie or Sea Dove



THE GREBES, OR LOBE-FOOTED DIVERS

(Family Podicipidce)

Holboell's Grebe

(Colymbus holbcellii)

Called also: RED-NECKED GREBE

Length About 19 inches. Largest of the common grebes.

Male and Female In summer: Upper parts dusky; top of head,
small crest, and nape of neck glossy black; throat and cheeks
ashy; neck rich chestnut red, changing gradually over the
smooth, satiny breast to silvery white or gray dappled under
parts; sides also show chestnut tinge. In winter: Crests
scarcely perceptible; upper parts blackish brown; ashy tint
of cheeks and throat replaced by pure white; under parts
ashy, the mottling less conspicuous than in summer. Red
of neck replaced by variable shades of reddish brown, from
quite dark to nearly white. Elongated toes furnished with
broad lobes of skin.

Young Upper parts blackish; neck and sides grayish; throat and
under parts silvery white. Head marked with stripes.

Range Interior of North America from Great Slave Lake to South
Carolina and Nebraska. Breeds from Minnesota northward,
and migrates southward in winter.

Season Irregular migrant and winter visitor.

The American, red-necked grebe, a larger variety of the
European species, keeps so closely within the lines of family
traditions that a description of it might very well serve as a com-
posite portrait of its clan. Six members of this cosmopolitan
family, numbering in all about thirty species, are found in North
America; the others are distributed over the lakes and rivers of
all parts of the world that are neither excessively hot nor cold.

On the border of some reedy pond or sluggish stream, in a
floating mass of water-soaked, decaying vegetation that serves as
a nest, the red-necked grebe emerges from its dull white egg and

8



Grebes

instantly takes to water. Cradled on the water, nourished by
the wild grain, vegetable matter, small fish, tadpoles, and insects
the water supplies, sleeping while afloat, diving to pursue fish
and escape danger, spending, in fact, its entire time in or about
the water, the grebe appears to be more truly a water-fowl than
any of our birds. On land, where it almost never ventures, it is
ungainly and uncomfortable; in the water it is marvelously
graceful and expert at swimming and diving; quick as a flash to
drop out of sight, like a mass of lead, when danger threatens, and
clever enough to remain under water while striking out for a safe
harbor, with only its nostrils exposed above the surface. Ordi-
narily it makes a leap forward and a plunge head downward with
its body in the air for its deep dives. The oily character of its
plumage makes it impervious to moisture. Swimming is an art
all grebes acquire the day they are hatched, but their more remark-
able diving feats are mastered gradually. Far up north, where
the nesting is done, one may see a mother bird floating about
among the sedges with from two to five fledglings on her back,
where they rest from their first natatorial efforts. By a twist of
her neck she is able to thrust food down their gaping beaks with-
out losing her balance or theirs. The male bird keeps within
call, for grebes are devoted lovers and parents.

It is only in winter that we may meet with these birds in the
United States, where their habits undergo slight changes. Here
they are quite as apt to be seen near the sea picking up small fish
and mollusks in the estuaries, as in the inland ponds and streams.
During the migrations they are seen to fly rapidly, in spite of their
short wings and heavy bodies, and with their heads and feet
stretched so far apart that a grebe resembles nothing more than a
flying projectile.

Horned Grebe

(Colymbus auritus)

Called also: DUSKY GREBE; HELL DIVER; SPIRIT DUCK;
WATER WITCH; DIPPER

Length 14 inches.

Male and Female In summer: Prominent yellowish brown crests
resembling horns; cheeks chestnut; rest of head with puffy
black feathers ; back and wings blackish brown with a few



Grebes

whitish feathers in wings ; front of neck, upper breast, and
sides chestnut; lower breast and underneath, white. In
winter: Lacking feathered head-dress; upper parts grayish
black; under parts silvery white, sometimes washed with
gray on the throat and breast. Elongated toes are furnished
with broad lobes of skin.

Young Like adults in winter plumage, but with heads distinctly
striped.

Range From Northern United States northward to fur countries
in breeding season ; migrating in winter to Gulf States.

Season Plentiful during migrations in spring and autumn. Win-
ter resident.

The ludicrous-looking head-dress worn by this grebe in the
nesting season at the far north has quite disappeared by the time
we see it in the United States ; and so the bird that only a few
months before was conspicuously different from any other, is often
confounded with the pied-billed grebe, which accounts for the
similarity of their popular names. As the bird flies it is some-
times also mistaken for a duck; but a grebe may always be dis-
tinguished by its habit of thrusting its head and feet to the farthest
opposite extremes when in the air. No birds are more expert in
water than these. When alarmed they sink suddenly like lead, and
from the depth to which they appear to go is derived at least one of
their many suggestive names. Or, they may leap forward and
plunge downward; but in any case they protect themselves by
diving rather than by flight, and the maddening cleverness of
their disappearance, which can be indefinitely prolonged owing
to their habit of swimming with only the nostrils exposed above
the surface, makes it simply impossible to locate them again on
the lake.

On land, however, the grebes are all but helpless. Standing
erect, and keeping their balance by the help of a rudimentary tail,
they look almost as uncomfortable as fish out of water, which the
evolutionists would have us believe the group of diving birds
very nearly are. When the young ones are taken from a nest
and placed on land they move with the help of their wings as if
crawling on "all fours," very much as a reptile might; and the
eggs from which they have just emerged are ellipsoidal i. e.,
elongated and with both ends pointed alike, another reptilian
characteristic, it is thought. But oology is far from an exact
science. As young alligators, for example, crawl on their




PIED BILLED GREBE.



Grebes

mother's back to rest, so the young grebes may often be seen.
With an underthrust from the mother's wing, which answers
every purpose of a spring-board, the fledglings are precipitated
into the water, and so acquire very early in life the art of diving,
which in this family reaches its most perfect development. For
a while, however, the young try to escape danger by hiding in
the rushes of the lake, stream, or salt-water inlet, rather than by
diving.

Grebes are not maritime birds. Their preference is for slow-
moving waters, especially at the nesting season, since their nests
are floating ones, and their food consists of small fish, mollusks,
newts, and grain, such as the motionless inland waters abundantly
afford. In winter, when we see the birds near our coasts, they
usually feed on small fish alone. Unhappily the plumage of this
and other grebes is in demand by milliners and furriers, to supply
imaginary wants of unthinking women.



Pied-billed Grebe

(Podilymbus podiceps)

Called also: DABCH1CK; DIEDAPPER; LITTLE GREBE; HELL-
DIVER; WATER-WITCH; CAROLINA GREBE; DIPPER;
DIPCHICK

Length i 4 inches. Smallest of the grebes.

Male and Female In slimmer: Upper parts dusky, grayish brown ;
wings varied with ashy and white; throat black; upper
breast, sides of throat, and sides of body yellowish brown,
irregularly and indistinctly mottled or barred with blackish
and washed with yellowish brown ; lower breast and under-
neath glossy white. A few bristling feathers on head, but no
horns. Bill spotted with dusky and blue (pied-billed) and
crossed with a black band. Toes elongated and with broad
lobes of skin. In winter: Similar to summer plumage, ex-
cept that throat is white and the black band on bill is
lacking.

Young Like adults in winter. Heads beautifully striped with
black, white, and yellowish brown.

Range British provinces and United States and southward to
Brazil, Argentine Republic, including the West Indies and
Bermuda, breeding almost throughout its range,
ii



Grebes

Season Common migrant in spring and fall. Winters from New
Jersey and southern Illinois southward.

The most abundant species of the family in the eastern United
States, particularly near the Atlantic, the pied-billed grebes are
far from being maritime birds notwithstanding. Salt water that
finds its way into the fresh-water lagoons of the Gulf States, or



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