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This is the second volume of a series intended to present, in accurate
colored portraiture, and in popular and juvenile biographical text, a
very considerable portion of the common birds of North America, and
many of the more interesting and attractive specimens of other
countries, in many respects superior to all other publications which
have attempted the representation of birds, and at infinitely less
expense. The appreciative reception by the public of Vol. I deserves
our grateful acknowledgement. Appearing in monthly parts, it has been
read and admired by thousands of people, who, through the life-like
pictures presented, have made the acquaintance of many birds, and have
since become enthusiastic observers of them. It has been introduced
into the public schools, and is now in use as a text book by hundreds
of teachers, who have expressed enthusiastic approval of the work and
of its general extension. The faithfulness to nature of the pictures,
in color and pose, have been commended by such ornithologists and
authors as Dr. Elliott Coues, Mr. John Burroughs, Mr. J. W. Allen,
editor of _The Auk_, Mr. Frank M. Chapman, Mr. J. W. Baskett, and

The general text of BIRDS - the biographies - has been conscientiously
prepared from the best authorities by a careful observer of the
feather-growing denizens of the field, the forest, and the shore,
while the juvenile autobiographies have received the approval of the
highest ornithological authority.

The publishers take pleasure in the announcement that the general
excellence of BIRDS will be maintained in subsequent volumes. The
subjects selected for the third and fourth volumes - many of them - will
be of the rare beauty in which the great Audubon, the limner _par
excellence_ of birds, would have found "the joy of imitation."




We made several early morning excursions into the woods and fields
during the month of June, and were abundantly rewarded in many
ways - by beholding the gracious awakening of Nature in her various
forms, kissed into renewed activity by the radiance of morn; by the
sweet smelling air filled with the perfume of a multitude of opening
flowers which had drunk again the dew of heaven; by the sight of
flitting clouds across the bluest of skies, patching the green earth
with moving shadows, and sweetest of all, by the twittering, calling,
musical sounds of love and joy which came to the ear from the throats
of the feathered throng. How pleasant to lie prone on one's back on
the cool grass, and gaze upward through the shady green canopy of
boughs, watching the pretty manoeuvers, the joyous greetings, the
lively anxieties, the graceful movements, and even the sorrowful
happenings of the bird-life above us.

Listen to the variety of their tones, as manifest as the difference of
form and color. What more interesting than to observe their habits,
and discover their cosy nests with their beautiful eggs in the
green foliage? Strange that so many persons think only of making a
collection of them, robbing the nests with heartless indifference to
the suffering of the parents, to say nothing of the invasion which
they make of the undoubted rights the birds have from nature to
protection and perpetuation.

Strictly speaking, there are few birds to which the word "singing"
can properly be applied, the majority of them not having more than
two or three notes, and they with little suggestion of music in them.
Chanticleer crows, his spouse cackles or clucks, as may be suitable to
the occasion. To what ear are these noises musical? They are rather
language, and, in fact, the varying notes of every species of bird
have a significance which can alone be interpreted by its peculiar
habits. If careful note be made of the immediate conduct of the male
or female bird, as the case may be, after each call or sound, the
meaning of it becomes plain.

A hen whose chicks are scattered in search of food, upon seeing a
hawk, utters a note of warning which we have all heard, and the young
scamper to her for protection beneath her wings. When she has laid an
egg, _Cut-cut-cut-cut-ot-cut!_ announces it from the nest in the barn.
When the chicks are hatched, her _cluck, cluck, cluck_, calls them
from the nest in the wide world, and her _chick, chick, chick_,
uttered quickly, selects for them the dainty which she has found, or
teaches them what is proper for their diet. A good listener will
detect enough intonations in her voice to constitute a considerable
vocabulary, which, if imitated



Here is the picture of a remarkable bird. We know him better by the
name Fish Hawk. He looks much like the Eagle in July "BIRDS." The
Osprey has no use for Mr. Eagle though.

You know the Bald Eagle or Sea Eagle is very fond of fish. Well, he is
not a very good fisherman and from his lofty perch he watches for the
Fish Hawk or Osprey. Do you ask why? Well, when he sees a Fish Hawk
with his prey, he is sure to chase him and take it from him. It is for
this reason that Ospreys dislike the Bald Eagle.

Their food is fish, which as a rule they catch alive.

It must be interesting to watch the Osprey at his fishing. He wings
his way slowly over the water, keeping a watch for fish as they appear
near the surface.

When he sees one that suits him, he hovers a moment, and then, closing
his wings, falls upon the fish.

Sometimes he strikes it with such force that he disappears in the
water for a moment. Soon we see him rise from the water with the prey
in his claws.

He then flies to some tall tree and if he has not been discovered by
his enemy, the Eagle, can have a good meal for his hard work.

Look at his claws; then think of them striking a fish as they must
when he plunges from on high.

A gentleman tells of an Osprey that fastened his claws in a fish that
was too large for him.

The fish drew him under and nothing more was seen of Mr. Osprey. The
same gentleman tells of a fish weighing six pounds that fell from the
claws of a Fish Hawk that became frightened by an Eagle.

The Osprey builds his nest much like the Bald Eagle. It is usually
found in a tall tree and out of reach.

Like the Eagle, he uses the same nest each year, adding to it.
Sometimes it measures five feet high and three feet across. One nest
that was found, contained enough sticks, cornstalks, weeds, moss, and
the like, to fill a cart, and made a load for a horse to draw. Like
the Crows and Blackbirds they prefer to live together in numbers. Over
three hundred nests have been found in the trees on a small island.

One thing I want you to remember about the Osprey. They usually remain
mated for life.

[Illustration: From col. F. M. Woodruff.


An interesting bird, "Winged Fisher," as he has been happily called,
is seen in places suited to his habits, throughout temperate North
America, particularly about islands and along the seacoast. At Shelter
Island, New York, they are exceedingly variable in the choice of a
nesting place. On Gardiner's Island they all build in trees at a
distance varying from ten to seventy-five feet from the ground; on
Plum Island, where large numbers of them nest, many place their nests
on the ground, some being built up to a height of four or five feet
while others are simply a few sticks arranged in a circle, and the
eggs laid on the bare sand. On Shelter Island they build on the
chimneys of houses, and a pair had a nest on the cross-bar of a
telegraph pole. Another pair had a nest on a large rock. These were
made of coarse sticks and sea weed, anything handy, such as bones,
old shoes, straw, etc. A curious nest was found some years ago on the
coast of New Jersey. It contained three eggs, and securely imbedded
in the loose material of the Osprey's nest was a nest of the Purple
Grackle, containing five eggs, while at the bottom of the Hawk's nest
was a thick, rotten limb, in which was a Tree Swallow's nest of seven

In the spring and early autumn this familiar eagle-like bird can be
seen hovering over creek, river, and sound. It is recognized by its
popular name of Fish-Hawk. Following a school of fish, it dashes from
a considerable height to seize its prey with its stout claws. If the
fish is small it is at once swallowed, if it is large, (and the Osprey
will occasionally secure shad, blue fish, bass, etc., weighing five or
six pounds,) the fish is carried to a convenient bluff or tree and
torn to bits. The Bald Eagle often robs him of the fish by seizing it,
or startling him so that he looses his hold.

The Osprey when fishing makes one of the most breezy, spirited
pictures connected with the feeding habits of any of our birds, as
often there is a splashing and a struggle under water when the fish
grasped is too large or the great talons of the bird gets entangled.
He is sometimes carried under and drowned, and large fish have been
washed ashore with these birds fastened to them by the claws.

Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright says: "I found an Osprey's nest in a crooked
oak on Wakeman's Island in late April, 1893. As I could not get close
to the nest (the island is between a network of small creeks, and the
flood tides covered the marshes,) I at first thought it was a
monstrous crow's nest, but on returning the second week in May I saw a
pair of Ospreys coming and going to and fro from the nest. I hoped the
birds might return another season, as the nest looked as if it might
have been used for two or three years, and was as lop-sided as a
poorly made haystack. The great August storm of the same year broke
the tree, and the nest fell, making quite a heap upon the ground.
Among the debris were sticks of various sizes, dried reeds, two bits
of bamboo fishing rod, seaweeds, some old blue mosquito netting, and
some rags of fish net, also about half a bushel of salt hay in various
stages of decomposition, and malodorous dirt galore."

It is well known that Ospreys, if not disturbed, will continue
indefinitely to heap rubbish upon their nests till their bulk is very
great. Like the Owls they can reverse the rear toe.


Various are the names required to distinguish the little slate-colored
Carolina Rail from its brethren, Sora, Common Rail, and, on the
Potomac river, Ortolan, being among them. He is found throughout
temperate North America, in the weedy swamps of the Atlantic states in
great abundance, in the Middle states, and in California. In Ohio he
is a common summer resident, breeding in the extensive swamps and wet
meadows. The nest is a rude affair made of grass and weeds, placed on
the ground in a tussock of grass in a boggy tract of land, where there
is a growth of briers, etc., where he may skulk and hide in the wet
grass to elude observation. The nest may often be discovered at a
distance by the appearance of the surrounding grass, the blades of
which are in many cases interwoven over the nest, apparently to shield
the bird from the fierce rays of the sun, which are felt with
redoubled force on the marshes.

The Rails feed on both vegetable and animal food. During the months of
September and October, the weeds and wild oats swarm with them. They
feed on the nutricious seeds, small snail shells, worms and larvae of
insects, which they extract from the mud. The habits of the Sora Rail,
its thin, compressed body, its aversion to take wing, and the
dexterity with which it runs or conceals itself among the grass and
sedge, are exactly similar to those of the more celebrated Virginia

The Sora frequents those parts of marshes preferably where fresh water
springs rise through the morass. Here it generally constructs its
nest, "one of which," says an observer, "we had the good fortune to
discover. It was built in the bottom of a tuft of grass in the midst
of an almost impenetrable quagmire, and was composed altogether of old
wet grass and rushes. The eggs had been flooded out of the nest by the
extraordinary rise of the tide in a violent northwest storm, and lay
scattered about the drift weed. The usual number of eggs is from six
to ten. They are of a dirty white or pale cream color, sprinkled with
specks of reddish and pale purple, most numerous near the great end."

When on the wing the Sora Rail flies in a straight line for a short
distance with dangling legs, and suddenly drops into the water.

The Rails have many foes, and many nests are robbed of their eggs by
weasels, snakes, Blackbirds, and Marsh Hawks, although the last cannot
disturb them easily, as the Marsh Hawk searches for its food while
flying and a majority of the Rails' nests are covered over, making it
hard to distinguish them when the Hawk is above.

[Illustration: From col. Chi. Acad. Sciences.


This is one of our fresh-water marsh birds. I show you his picture
taken where he spends most of his time.

If it were not for the note calls, these tall reeds and grasses would
keep from us the secret of the Rail's home.

Like most birds, though, they must be heard, and so late in the
afternoon you may hear their clear note, ker-wee.

From all parts of the marsh you will hear their calls which they keep
up long after darkness has set in.

This Rail was just about to step out from the grasses to feed when the
artist took his picture. See him - head up, and tail up. He steps along
carefully. He feels that it is risky to leave his shelter and is ready
at the first sign of danger, to dart back under cover.

There are very few fresh-water marshes where the Rail is not found.

When a boy, I loved to hear their note calls and would spend hours on
the edge of a marsh near my home.

It seemed to me there was no life among the reeds and cat-tails of the
marsh, but when I threw a stone among them, the Rails would always
answer with their _peeps_ or _keeks_.

And so I used to go down to the marsh with my pockets filled with
stones. Not that I desired or even expected to injure one of these
birds. Far from it. It pleased me to hear their calls from the reeds
and grass that seemed deserted.

Those of you who live near wild-rice or wild-oat marshes have a good
chance to become acquainted with this Rail.

In the south these Rails are found keeping company with the Bobolinks
or Reed-birds as they are called down there.


Although this bird is called the Kentucky Warbler, we must not think
he visits that state alone.

We find him all over eastern North America. And a beautiful bird he

As his name tells you he is one of a family of Warblers.

I told you somewhere else that the Finches are the largest family of
birds. Next to them come the Warblers.

Turn back now and see how many Warblers have been pictured so far.

See if you can tell what things group them as a family. Notice their
bills and feet.

This bird is usually found in the dense woods, especially where there
are streams of water.

He is a good singer, and his song is very different from that of any
of the other Warblers.

I once watched one of these birds - olive-green above and yellow
beneath. His mate was on a nest near by and he was entertaining her
with his song.

He kept it up over two hours, stopping only a few seconds between his
songs. When I reached the spot with my field-glass I was attracted by
his peculiar song. I don't know how long he had been singing. I stayed
and spent two hours with him and he showed no signs of stopping. He
may be singing yet. I hope he is.

You see him here perched on a granite cliff. I suppose his nest is
near by.

He makes it of twigs and rootlets, with several thicknesses of leaves.
It is neatly lined with fine rootlets and you will always find it on
or near the ground.

In the September and October number of "BIRDS" you will find several
Warblers and Finches. Try to keep track of them and may be you can do
as many others have done - tell the names of new birds that come along
by their pictures which you have seen in "BIRDS."

[Illustration: From col. F. M. Woodruff.


Between sixty and seventy warblers are described by Davie in his
"Nests and Eggs of North American Birds," and the Kentucky Warbler is
recognized as one of the most beautiful of the number, in its manners
almost the counterpart of the Golden Crowned Thrush (soon to delight
the eyes of the readers of BIRDS), though it is altogether a more
conspicuous bird, both on account of its brilliant plumage and
greater activity, the males being, during the season of nesting, very
pugnacious, continually chasing one another about the woods. It lives
near the ground, making its artfully concealed nest among the low
herbage and feeding in the undergrowth, the male singing from some old
log or low bush, his song recalling that of the Cardinal, though much

The ordinary note is a soft _schip_, somewhat like the common call of
the Pewee. Considering its great abundance, says an observer, the nest
of this charmer is very difficult to find; the female, he thought,
must slyly leave the nest at the approach of an intruder, running
beneath the herbage until a considerable distance from the nest, when,
joined by her mate, the pair by their evident anxiety mislead the
stranger as to its location.

It has been declared that no group of birds better deserves the
epithet "pretty" than the Warblers. Tanagers are splendid, Humming
Birds refulgent, others brilliant, gaudy, or magnificent, but Warblers
alone are pretty.

The Warblers are migratory birds, the majority of them passing rapidly
across the United States in spring on the way to their northern
nesting grounds, and in autumn to their winter residence within the
tropics. When the apple trees bloom they revel among the flowers,
vieing in activity and numbers with the bees; "now probing the
recesses of a blossom for an insect, then darting to another, where,
poised daintily upon a slender twig, or suspended from it, they
explore hastily but carefully for another morsel. Every movement is
the personification of nervous activity, as if the time for their
journey was short; as, indeed, appears to be the case, for two or
three days at most suffice some species in a single locality."

We recently saw a letter from a gentleman living at Lake Geneva, in
which he referred with enthusiasm to BIRDS, because it had enabled him
to identify a bird which he had often seen in the apple trees among
the blossoms, particularly the present season, with which he was
unacquainted by name. It was the Orchard Oriole, and he was glad to
have a directory of nature which would enable him to add to his
knowledge and correct errors of observation. The idea is a capitol
one, and the beautiful Kentucky Warbler, unknown to many who see it
often, may be recognized in the same way by residents of southern
Indiana and Illinois, Kansas, some localities in Ohio, particularly in
the southwestern portion, in parts of New York and New Jersey, in the
District of Columbia, and in North Carolina. It has not heretofore
been possible, even with the best painted specimens of birds in the
hand, to satisfactorily identify the pretty creatures, but with BIRDS
as a companion, which may readily be consulted, the student cannot be
led into error.


Why this duck should be called red-breasted is not at first apparent,
as at a distance the color can not be distinguished, but seen near,
the reason is plain. It is a common bird in the United States in
winter, where it is found in suitable localities in the months of May
and June. It is also a resident of the far north, breeding abundantly
in Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. It is liberally
supplied with names, as Red-Breasted Goosander or Sheldrake, Garbill,
Sea Robin, etc.

There is a difference in opinion as to the nesting habits of the
Red-Breast, some authorities claiming that, like the Wood Duck, the
nest is placed in the cavity of a tree, others that it is usually
found on the ground among brushwood, surrounded with tall grasses and
at a short distance from water. Davie says that most generally it is
concealed by a projecting rock or other object, the nest being made of
leaves and mosses, lined with feathers and down, which are plucked
from the breast of the bird. The observers are all probably correct,
the bird adapting itself to the situation.

Fish is the chief diet of the Merganser, for which reason its flesh is
rank and unpalatable. The Bird's appetite is insatiable, devouring its
food in such quantities that it has frequently to disgorge several
times before it is able to rise from the water. This Duck can swallow
fishes six or seven inches in length, and will attempt to swallow
those of a larger size, choking in the effort.

The term Merganser is derived from the plan of the bird's bill, which
is furnished with saw teeth fitting into each other.

The eggs of the Red-Breasted Merganser vary from six to twelve, are
oval in shape, and are of a yellowish or reddish-drab, sometimes a
dull buffy-green.

You may have seen pictures of this Duck, which frequently figures in
dining rooms on the ornamental panels of stuffed game birds, but none
which could cause you to remember its life-like appearance. You here
see before you an actual Red-Breasted Merganser.

[Illustration: From col. J. G. Parker, Jr.

BIRD SONG - Continued from page 41.

with exactness, will deceive Mistress Pullet herself.

To carry the idea further, we will take the notes of some of the birds
depicted in this number of BIRDS. The Osprey, or Fish-Hawk, has been
carefully observed, and his only discovered note is a high, rapidly
repeated whistle, very plaintive. Doubtless this noise is agreeable
and intelligible to his mate, but cannot be called a song, and has no
significance to the listener.

The Vulture utters a low, hissing sound when disturbed. This is its
only note. Not so with the Bald Eagle, whose scream emulates the rage
of the tempest, and implies courage, the quality which associates him
with patriotism and freedom. In the notes of the Partridge there is a
meaning recognizable by every one. After the nesting season, when the
birds are in bevies, their notes are changed to what sportsmen term
"scatter calls." Not long after a bevy has been flushed, and perhaps
widely scattered, the members of the disunited family may be heard
signaling to one another in sweet minor calls of two and three notes,
and in excitement, they utter low, twittering notes.

Of the Sora Rails, Mr. Chapman says, "knowing their calls, you have
only to pass a May or June evening near a marsh to learn whether they
inhabit it. If there, they will greet you late in the afternoon with
a clear whistled _ker-wee_, which soon comes from dozens of invisible
birds about you, and long after night has fallen, it continues like a
springtime chorus of piping hylas. Now and again it is interrupted by
a high-voiced, rolling whinney, which, like a call of alarm, is taken
up and repeated by different birds all over the marsh."

Poor Red-Breasted Merganser! He has only one note, a croak. Perhaps
it was of him that Bryant was thinking when he wrote the stanzas "To
a Water-Fowl."

"The sentiment of feeling awakened by any of the aquatic fowls is
pre-eminently one of loneliness," says John Burroughs. "The Wood Duck
(see July BIRDS) which you approach, starts from the pond or the
marsh, the Loon neighing down out of the April sky, the Wild Goose,
the Curlew, the Stork, the Bittern, the Sandpiper, etc., awaken quite
a different train of emotions from those awakened by the land birds.
They all have clinging to them some reminiscence and suggestion of the
sea. Their cries echo its wildness and desolation; their wings are the

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Online LibraryVariousBirds, Illustrated by Color Photography, Vol. 2, No. 2 → online text (page 1 of 3)