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over the city. For the first few days they were only noted by ones
and twos. And then on the 24th came a closely packed flock, numbering
about thirty birds, which flew low over the city and disappeared to the
north. A few days later another such flock was observed. By the last
of May the last straggling migrants had passed, leaving only our
summer resident birds.

14. CJiaetnra pclagica. Chimney Swift. — My dates for the first

136 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 88

arrivals of Chimney Swifts at Houston for the past four years range
from March 26 to 30, averaging March 29. This year (1914) two birds
were observed on March 24. The next were noted on the 26th, but the
birds did not become common until the 28th; after that they were seen
each day, being common summer residents about the city.

15. ArcMlochus colubris. Euby-throated Hummingbird. — Prof. H. P.
Attwater first observed the Hummers in his garden in the city on March
28, but it was not until the 30th that I noted my first. By April 4 they
were fairly common and remained so until about May 2, when the migra-
tion apparently ceased, leaving a very few birds as rare and irregular
summer residents.

16. Dolichonyx oryzivorus. Bobolink. — Houston does not fall within
the ' ' fly-line ' ' of the Bobolink, but a few are generally noted during
each migration. This year two males were noted on the edge of the
Buffalo Bayou woods about a mile west of the city on April 26. On
May 2, four males and two females were observed on the south side
of the city.

17. Molothrus ater ater. Cowbird. — During the winter months small
flocks are not unconnnon on the prairies near the city. About March 30
the last wintering flocks were observed, leaving only the summer resident
birds. Whether these summer birds are M. a. ater or M. a. obscurus
(Dwarf Cowbird) has Aot yet been determined, though I feel sure they
are the latter.

18. Xanthocepliulus xanilioceplmlus. Yellow-headed Blackbird. —
Evidently quite rare in late years, for my only record for the past winter
and spring is April 5, when three of these birds were noted in a small
marshy spot near Webster, a station some 20 miles from Houston in
the southeastern part of the count}'.

19. Sturnella magna argutuUi. Southern Meadowlark. — In several
localities about the city Meadowlarks are not uncommon all winter, and
though I have not determined by collecting the birds, I am convinced
that they are S.m. magna, S. m. argutula and S. neglecta, the former
j^robably predominating.

March 1 the first migrating Meiulowlarks were noted; during the whole
of March flocks of considerable numbers were continually passing north-
ward. By the end of that month the migration dwindled and the last
straggling migratory flock was observed on April 4, after which date
only the summer resident birds remained. Migrants and summer res-
idents are S. m. argutula.

20. Eiiphagus carolinus. Eusty Blackbird. — This migrant Blackbird
seems to become more common year by year. First arrivals (1914) noted
March 1, after which date they were the most abundant of all the birds.
Throughout the month they weie migrating northward, and the last
were observed April 5. During this period they were abundant in flocks
on all prairie lands, especially to the west of the city, where I often

Spring Migration (1914) at Houston, Tex. 137

observed large droves following plows in company with the Brewer's
Blackbird and two Grackles.

21. Qniscalus quiscula acncus. Bronzed Grackle. — Quite rare in
winter, arriving in large numbers with the preceding species on March
1. Throughout March and early April they were migrating through,
after which period only the summer residents remained.

22. Astragaliiius iriHtis tristis. Goldfinch. — Fairly common migrant
and not uncommon in winter; migration apparently commenced about
March 15 and ended April 25, when the last birds were noted. During
this migration period the birds were not uncommon in and about the
shade trees of the city.

23. Spinus pinu-'^. Pine Siskin. — Quite a scarce and irregular winter
visitor in this locality. None were noted from December, 1913, to
March 28, 1914; on that date a flock of twenty was observed in a small
patch of woods on the western edge of the city. Later during the day
three more were noted. May 9 a few were observed in the woods on
Buffalo Bayou about seven miles east of the city, and on May 23 a
flock of six was noted.

24. Pooecetes gramineus gramineus. Yesper Sparrow. — Abundant
migrant and scarce winter resident. Migration commenced March 1, and
during the whole of March the birds were abundant in small flocks on
the prairies and near the woods on Buffalo Bayou. Last observed
April 4.

25. Passercnhis sandicichensis saranna. Savannah Sparrow. — 1 was
under the impression that both this form and P. s. alaudinus occurred
in this locality, but a number of skins were sent Mr. Oberholser, and he
kindly identified them for me as P. s. savanna.

Common migrant. The first were observed April 4, were common
during April and were last observed May 2. They were observed in the
newly planted shade trees of a pra'irie suburb on the western edge of
the city, and were later (after April 4) observed on the open prairies
in flocks of some numbers.

26. Ammodramus savonnarum himaculatus. Western Graf-shopper
Sparrow. — On March 14 Prof. Huxley and myself observed for some
time a small Sparrow which we could not at the time identify, but w-hich
was later found to be this bird. But it was not until May 17 that I
really became acquainted with the birds; that day Mr. L R. Tannehill,
an Ohio ornithologist, kindly accompanied me afield for the particular
purpose of ascertaining whether or not the birds occurred near Houston.
I felt sure they occurred, but that on account of their inconspicuousness
I had overlooked them. Show them to me he did, and it did not take me
long to find them common on all weedy prairies near the city, particularly
those to the west, where they are summer residents.

27. Chondestes grammacuft strigatus. Western Lark Sparrow. — Com-
mon summer resident; a few winter and in migrations a few are noted in

138 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 88

flocks, of Pipits aud Vesper Sparrows, feeding among the broom weeds
on old plowed fields near the edges of timber. Summer residents arrived
March 21, and were apparently settled down and ready for nesting
March 28.

28. Spisclla passerina passerina. Chipjiing Sparrow. — Scarce winter
resident in the vicinity of Houston, and generally observed in clearings
and along the edges of timber. Large flocks migrating northward
during February and March. Quite rare in April. Last noted May 10,

29. Spizella pusilla pusilla. Field Sparrow. — Not uncommon winter
resident; small flocks migrating northward during March. Last observed
April 18.

30. Melospisa melodia melodia. Song Sparrow.- — A few winter in
thickets near the city, but they are very shy and diflieult to observe.
Generally during migrations we see large flocks as early as February 1 ;
but this year, on account of the imusual cold of February, none were
observed until March 1. During March scattered flocks were migrating,
the birds being particularly common from the Sth to the 14th. A few
noted on April 11, and the last, a flock of eight, on April 21. During
migrations these birds leave their usual haunts and arc soon in flocks
on the prairies near edges of timber.

31. Zamelodia ludm-iciana. Eose-breasted Grosbeak. — Two males on
April 26 form my only record for this locality. They were in a small
pear orchard of a farm several miles west of the city, and on being
closely approached took refuge in a nearby thicket.

32. Eirundo erythrogastra. Barn Swallow. — This Swallow is listed in
the condensed migration report as a summer resident, for the reason
that nearly every summer a few are noted. This year they were common
and migrating during the latter part of April and early May, but none
were seen after May 30.

33. Stelgidopicryx serripeniiis. Rough -winged Swallow. — The last of
these Swallows were noted May 7. Though I have heretofore recorded
but few during the summer months, I am told by several competent
observers that they occur cjuite regularly and breed in sand banks of
Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay.

34. Bombycilla cedrorum. Cedar Waxwing. — None were observed dur-
ing the winter and I had feared they were victims of pot hunters, when
on March 1 I was surprised to note a flock of about fifty of these
birds in the wocds on Buffalo Bayou west of Houston. On March 8
Prof. J. S. Huxley and myself observed a flock of thirty-five on Bray 's

On the 15th of March Mr. W. W. Westgate and myself observed
numerous small companies in the cut-over timber lands on White Oak
Bayou, north of the city. Generally the birds Avere to be observed sitting
quietly in the topmost branches, their short tails, folded wings and crests
giving them a rather conical appearance. Then one would fly and the

Spring Migration (1914) at Houston, Tex. 139

rest would straggle after, reminding us of a flock of Bluebirds. Their
thin, beady, pulsating notes (pee-ee-ec-ee-ee, reminding one of the
screeching of a bearing that needs a visit of the oil-can) were almost
continually heard while we were in that locality.

During the last of March a few more were observed, and a few during
April, but rarely. Last observed May 9.

35. Naiunis hiemalis hiemalis. Winter Wren. — On March 28, while
wandering through the woodlands on Buffalo Bayou about a mile west
of the city, I observed a single bird of this species in a tangled brush
heap in a. mixed portion of the woods where there was nuich underbrush.
Though I watched it for some time, the bird w^as not heard to utter
a sound.

On visiting the locality April 4 I again observed the bird, or an-
other of the same species, and remained for some time to observe it.
Finally it left the brush heap and crept out on an old pine log nearby,
and, much to my surprise, sang a very pretty little song, reminding me of
the song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, though not of such a warbling
nature, containing more trills and tinkling notes.

3*3. Polioptila caerulea caerulea. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. — To me the
191i migration of Gnatcatchers was little short of wonderful. Hereto-
fore they have been quite scarce, even during migrations, and were
always observed in the tallest forest trees. This season they were
especially abundant.

On March 15, while in the cut-over timber on White Oak Bayou,
northwest of the city, Mr. Westgate and myself observed the first Gnat-
catcher of the season. We were watching a number of Myrtle Warblers
feeding, when near at hand we heard a familiar twanging note, very
thin and purring, sounding like the sping of a .22 rifle. We soon located
the bird, a male, in the branches of an oak near at hand.

Tliat afternoon five males and two females were observed.

On March 21 I walked westward from the city along the edge of the
timber which borders Buffalo Bayou on the south. Gnatcatchers were
everywhere, attracting attention by their peculiar call note. Anywhere
and everywhere I observed them : in the deepest parts of the woods, on the
lower branches of trees, on the edges of clearings and woods, and even
on the ground. Numbers were observed on the barbed wires of the
fences along the country road. They were not at all shy, frequently
allowing me to approach within two or three feet of them. On one
occasion in a small clearing in the timber I was watching a Downy
Woodpecker tapping on a dead bough in a pile of brushwood on the
ground, when a pair of Gnatcatchers lit on the brush, hopped actively
about and lit on the ground. As they moved along on terra frma they
looked for the world like a pair of miniature Mockingbirds, their long
tails and general color strengthening that impression.

In the distance of less than two miles along the old road I observed

140 Thk Wilson Bulletin — No. 88

one hundred and ten of the birds, always singly or in pairs. Tliey were
never seen away from timber.

A few more were noted during the latter part of the moutli, but by the
end of March the migration had apparently ceased, leaving only a few,
a very few birds as summer residents.

37. Planesticiis migratorius migratorius. Eobiu. — A few Avinter with
us, but they are becoming scarcer year by year {via pots). Frequent
the Avoodlands along the bayous, Avhere they are very shy. On March 1
a flock of some seventy-five was observed just west of the city, by far
the largest tlock I have noted in years. Then a few on the 21st and
28th of March and the 4th of April; and on April 26th the last, two
lone birds, were observed.

By W. J. Hayward and T. C. Stephens.*

The joy of seeing and identifying a new bird is exciting
and satisfying, but to find a pair of migratory birds building
a nest in a tree in your front yard, when to the best of your
knowledge the rest of the species were busy with this opera-
tion in the pine forests 500 or 1,000 miles to the north of us,
is more exciting and more interesting. When my young
neighbor, Ralph Whitmer, called my attention to a nest Mon-
day, April 13, 1914, in a pine tree 15 feet from his father's
front porch, 1 knew something unusual had happened in bird

In late February and early March a new bird song more
musical than the Blue Bird's contralto carol and more inspir-
ing than the Robin's "cheerily, cheerily," had come to me on
the frosty morning air. It was a new song to me, as it not
only had in it the freshness of the first south wind of spring,
but the tenderness and sympathy of the summer bird songs
as well. A half hour of quiet study with field glass and bird
guide convinced me that ray first harbinger of spring was
the Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus). A flock of twenty-five or

* Part I by INIr. Hayward, Part II by Jlr. Stephens.


142 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 88

thirty of these small migrants greeted me for a week or ten
days each morning as I stood waiting for my car. They Avere
between 4i/4 and 5 inches in length. The bird might easily
be mistaken for the Goldfinch dressed in his winter suit, as
its flight is very mnch like the Goldfinch. But the difference
in the song makes the identification comparatively easy.
When my young friend visited me the evening of April 13
and told me of the nest, I asked him what the birds looked
like and he said "summer canaries." In answer to my ques-
tion regarding their feeding habits, he replied that they
seemed to eat ' ' pine cones. ' ' Having my interest thus aroused,
I went with him to the Colorado Blue spruce {Picea pugens)
tree in the yard and near the end of a limb about nine feet
from the ground was the nest. Getting a box upon which to
stand, I could look over into the nest and see the bird. 1 had
no difficulty in satisfying myself that it was the same bird
that had so gloriously entertained me two or three weeks pre-
viously. I approached the nest with my hand, pulling aside
the branches, and my hand was within six inches of the nest
before the young housekeeper hopped to a branch no more
than three inches the other side of her artistic home. This
lack of fear seemed to be a characteristic of the bird, as she
would remain on the nest when approached, no matter how
often, but, when flushed, would return very promptly after the
intruder withdrew. When the nest was first discovered April
13 it contained three eggs. These were greenish white, speckled
with reddish brown. My young friend placed a basin of fresh
water under the tree, which both male and female used as a
bath tub and drinking fountain. But they were not tempted
by the tray of bread crumbs that was invitingly placed by
the basin of water, seemingly satisfied with the bill of fare
furnished by the seeds of old and young pine cones on the
tree. Only one of the eggs hatched, but this one bird was
tenderly reared and was seen no more after May 5, Pre-
sumably it left with its fond parents for the far North on
that date and is now being shown off to admiring relatives
as an example as to just what the delightful spring air of
Northwest Iowa can do for young Pine Siskins.

The Pine Siskin Breeding in Iowa 143

Just a word about the eonstriictioii of this unusual nest.
It was of the modern Ijungalow type. The foundation was
rather loosely saddled on a pine bough about 15 inches from
its tip, and consisted of dead pine twigs and pieces of dead
weeds, grass, pieces of cord and roots were woven in to bind
the foundation more securely. Placed rather loosely upon
this was the real living apartment. This was made of finer
roots, horse hair, and cotton. It was round like the nest of
the Goldfinch, but only one-half as deep. The peculiarity of
this nest was the lack of connection between the upper part
of the nest and the lower.

On account of the rainy weather and the overhanging
branches of the tree, it was impossible to see what kind of
food was fed the young. This we regret very much. We both
are hoping, however, that this pair of Siskins found Iowa such
a hospitable state that they will want to build and breed
here next year, and then Ave will endeavor to see just what
kind of baljy food they recommend.


No Pine Siskins had been observed all winter (1913-14),
by the present writer, until March 2, when four were seen
up the Big Sioux river, feeding on the seeds of the common
sunflower {Helianthvs annuus L).

They were next noted on March 16 on the college campus.
On this date a good sized flock was observed in the pine trees.
It was observed that on this date the pine cones were opening,
thus making the seeds accessible ; and upon these tlie Siskins
were feeding. Where had they been all winter, and how did
they manage to reach this spot on the very day the pine cones
opened ?

From this time on, until the third week in ]\Iay, they could
be seen daily in small flocks of from three or four to a dozen.
On April 20 thirty-one were counted in one flock, and on the
23d this same flock had increased to more than fifty indi-
viduals. This large flock was seen almost daily for about two
weeks ; but after May 4 only scattered individuals were noted,
the last record being May 21.

144 The Wilsox Tjulletin — No. 88

]\Ir. Hayward was kind enough to take me to see the Pine
Siskin's nest on April 14, and at that time I verified his
account of the behavior of the parent bird on the nest, as
given above, as well as his identification of the species. It
was not necessary to kill the bird to determine its identity.

After the brood had departed he very kindly turned the
vacated nest over to me for examination. A fuller description
of it may be desirable, since but few have had the privilege of
personal examination of the nest of this species.

In the available literature I am able to find a specific
account of the finding of only five nests (counting once the
report of several nests by Simpson, noted below).

Anderson, in The Birds of Iowa, makes no suggestion that
the species may breed in the state.

Kumlien & Hollister simply quote other observers who
affirm a belief that it may breed in Wisconsin. Cory adds no
information on this point.

Hatch leaves one to infer that he had definite knowledge
of the breeding of this species in northern Minnesota, but
he is vague on this point.

Barrows points to evidence that they were breeding in
Michigan, but states that no nest has been found. Davie says
they breed in Michigan.

Wheaton thinks they may breed in northern Ohio, but
Dawson says this is still undetermined. Bruner, Wolcott,
and Swenk think it may lireed in the pine forest region of
northwestern Nebraska.

Allen ^ refers to a nest having been found at Cambridge,
Mass., in May, 1859, but I have not been able to locate the
original account.

Fisher - records the finding of a Siskin 's nest at Sing Sing,
N. Y., on jNIay 25, 1883, which contained four eggs. This
nest was located in the top of the tree, twenty-four feet from
the ground. It measured 8 cm. (outside) by 5 cm. (depth).

Allen ^ gives a rather full account of the finding of a breed-
ing pair of Pine Siskins in Orange county, N. Y., in the spring

' Auk, IV, p. 28G.

- Bull. Nult. Orn. Club, VIII, p. 180.

' Auk, IV, p. 284.

The Pine Siskin Breeding in Iowa 145

of 1887. A nest which ho found in i^rocess of construction on
May 3 was later deserted. This one was only eight or ten feet
from the ground. However, by ^iay 12 another nest had been
constructed, and coutained four eggs. This nest was also in
a Norway pine, but about thirty-five feet high. This writer
also mentions the tameness of the sitting bird.

Ralph and Bagg * record the breeding of the Pine Siskin
at Remsen, N. Y., April 4-9, 1889.

R. B. Simpson ''' records the finding of ten nests of this
species in the hemlock forests and in the mountains of War-
ren county, Pennsylvania, during the spring of 1912. These
nests varied in height from 10 to 30 feet from the ground.
The first one was found on April 14; the others on through
the month of April.

One other record, which, however, is over the Canadian
line, is descril)ed by C. H. Morrell ^ as being found on jMarch
29, 1898. in Nova Scotia. This author describes the nest
somewhat fully, and also mentions the bird's lack of fear.

The nest referred to in Mr. Hay ward's paper possessed the
following dimensions, although, it should be noted, the meas-
urements were taken after the nest had been abandoned and
was in a more or less dilapidated condition. Outside diameter,
90 mm. ; inside diameter, 45 nnn. ; outside depth, 50 mm. ;
inside depth, 10 mm.

As Mr. Hayward says, the upper part, or superstructure,
was very loosely laid upon the foundation ; this, probably,
is not a general characteristic.

The foundation of the nest was rather loosely constructed
of coarse pine twigs, which were interwoven with string and
some silk thread. Numerous broken bits of roots and stems
(including stems of the tumble weed, Salsola Jiali var. tcnui-
folia) were used. The superstructure was composed of bits
of much finer roots and stems, intermingled with a great deal
of some sort of wool and human hair. More might ])e said of
this latter component, because of its rather unique occur-
rence. The amount of this material was considerable. Short

* Trans. OneUla Hist. Soc, XII. lOlJ. pp. IG-S.j.
' Oologist. XXIX. p. 372.
•"' Auk, XVI. 1S99, p. 2.52.

146 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 88

strands (40-60 mm.) of rather coarse gray hair, and longer
strands (150-200 nnn.) of somewhat finer auburn hair, seemed
to indicate two sources of material. There were a very few
still coarser black hairs, which may have been horse hairs.

The presence of this material in the Pine Siskin's nest is
of interest and significance. This bird is accustomed to nest
in localities Avhere such material is probably not available.
We find here, then, an instance of its abilit}^ and readiness
to adapt itself to new surroundings and conditions of

This pair of birds was evidently overtaken witli the breed-
ing instinct before the bulk of the species had moved north-
ward from this locality. Finding a suitable site in the spruce
trees, no doubt accentuated the developing instinct. Con-
struction was begun, and a foundation of the normal type wa.s
built from the pine twigs. Then in searching for the softer
material in the immediate vicinity, which included a human
liabitation, they came across a supply of human hair, which
they were able to recognize as suitable for their purpose.

There are, in this instance, two notcAvorthy facts. The
establishment of a record of the breeding of the Pine Siskin
in the state of Iowa ; and the interesting modifiability of habit
in response to external conditions.

Sioux City, Iowa.


A Quarterly Magazine Devoted to the Study of Birds.
Official Organ of the Wilson Ornithological Club.

Edited by LYNDS JONES.

Price in the United States, Canada and Mexico, one dollar a year, 30 cents a
number, postpaid. Price in all countries in the International Postal Union,
$1.2.5 a year, 40 cents a number. Subscriptions should be sent to P. B. Coffin,
3232 Groveland Ave., Chicago, 111.


President: Dr. T. C. Stephens, Morniugside, Sioux City, Iowa.

Vice-president: Geo. L. Fordyce, Youngstown, Ohio.

Secretary: Orpheus M. Schantz, 5215 West 24th St., Cicero, 111.

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