Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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504. Northern Parula Warbler, head 406

505. Warbler (Dendroica), foot 407

506. Blackburnian Warbler, head 407

507. Yellow Warbler, head . .407

508. Magnolia Warbler, head 408

509. Olive Warbler 408

510. Black-throated Blue Warbler, head 408

511. Black-throated Gray Warbler, head 408

512. Hermit Warbler, head 408

513. Black-throated Green Warbler, head 408

514. Golden-cheeked Warbler, head 408

515. Townsend Warbler, head 408

516. Black-poll Warbler, head 409

517. Yellow-rumped Warbler, head 409

518. Chestnut-sided Warbler, head 409

519. Olive Warbler 410

520. Yellow Warbler, head 411

521. Black-throated Blue Warbler, head 412

522. Yellow-rumped Warbler, head 412

523. Audubon Warbler 413

524. Magnolia Warbler, head 415

525. Chestnut-sided Warbler, head . . . - . . . .416

526. Black-poll Warbler, head 417


527. Blackburnian Warbler, head 417

528. Black-throated Gray Warbler, head ...... 419

529. Golden-cheeked Warbler, head 419

530. Black-throated Green Warbler, head 420

531. Townsend Warbler, head 421

532. Hermit Warbler, head 421

533. Oven-bird, head . .423

534. GrinneR Water-Thrush . . . . . . . .423

535. Macgillivray Warbler, head 425

536. Western Yellow-throat, head 425

537. Long-tailed Chat 426

538. Wilson Warbler, head 428

539. Canadian Warbler, head .429

540. Redstart, head . . . . . . . . .429

541. Pipit 431

542. Pipit, foot 431

543. Sprague Pipit, foot 432

544 Water Ouzel . . . 432

545. Sage Thrasher 433

546. Brown Thrasher, head 434

547. California Thrasher, bill ,434

548. Mockingbird, head 434

549. Catbird, head 434

550. Cactus Wren 434

551. Canyon Wren 434

552= Rock Wren 434

553. Western Winter Wren 434

554. House Wren, head . 434

555. Long-billed Marsh Wren, head 434

556. Carolina Wren, head . 435

557. Sage Thrasher 435

558. Eastern Mocker 436

559. Catbird 437

560. Brown Thrasher 433

561. Sennett Thrasher 433

562. Curve-billed Thrasher 439

563. Palmer Thrasher 439

564. Bendire Thrasher 440

565. Californian Thrashe? . 440

566. Leconte Thrasher . . 441

567. Crissal Thrasher . 442

568. Cactus Wren 442

569. Rock Wren. . . ! 443

570. Canyon Wren 445

571. Carolina Wren, heail . . 446


572. Vigors Wren 447

573. Parkman Wren . 448

574. Western Winter Wren 449

575. Brown Creeper, bill ... 451

576. Brown Creeper, tail 451

577. Calif ornian Creeper 452

578. Slender- billed Nuthatch, feather 453

579. White-breasted Nuthatch, feather 453

580. White-breasted Nuthatch, head .... .. 453

581. Red-breasted Nuthatch, head . 454

582. Plain Titmouse 456

583. Bridled Titmouse, head 457

584. Chickadee, head 457

585. Wren-Tit . 46C

586. Bush-Tit 461

587. Lloyd Bush-Tit 462

588. Kinglet, bill 463

589. Golden-crowned Kinglet, head . 463

590. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, head 464

591. Gnatcatcher, tail 465

592. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, head 465

593. Plumbeous Gnatcatcher, feather ....... 465

594. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher,, feather 465

595. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 465

596. Plumbeous Gnatcatcher 466

597. Townsend Solitaire 467

598. Wood Thrush 469

599. Robin, bill 472

600. Robiia 472

601. Bluebird . 475


THE classification, nomenclature, and numeration used in this
book are those of the A. 0. U, Check-List of North American Birds,
except that modern scientific usage has been followed in dropping
the possessive form in the vernacular names of species, as Clarke
nutcracker and Steller jay, instead of Clarke's nutcracker and Stel-
ler's jay. The rulings of the nomenclature committee of the Amer-
ican Ornithologists' Union have been followed, but new species upon
which the committee has not yet ruled have been included in foot-
notes under their proper places.

In the matter of authorities, Ridgway's Manual of North Ameri-
can Birds, his Hummingbird paper, and Birds of North and Middle
America (Parts I. and II.) have been used at all points as standard
authorities, and the substance of keys and descriptions frequently

In the general treatment of species various authorities have been

General Characters. These summaries of technical characters
have been abridged from the generic descriptions in Parts I. and II.
of Ridgway's Birds of North and Middle America, his monograph
on the Hummingbirds, and Coues's Key to North American Birds.

Measurements. The measurements have been taken from the
second edition of Ridgway's Manual of North American Birds, from
Parts I. and II. of North and Middle America, with the millimeters
converted into inches, and, in the case of species not included in
these books, from the original descriptions.

Nest and Eggs. Descriptions of nests and eggs are taken mainly
from Bendire's Life Histories of North American Birds, Ridgway's
Manual, second edition, The Auk, The Condor, The Osprey, The
Nidologist, The Ornithologist and Oologist, Goss's Birds of Kansas,
The Biological Survey Records, and from specimens in the Bendire
and Ralph collections of the United States National Museum.


Pood. Food notes have been made up mainly from Bendire's
Life Histories, Fisher's Hawks and Owls of the United States, Goss's
Birds of Kansas, and the records of the Biological Survey.

Distribution. The distributions have been compiled from the
manuscript maps and reports of the Biological Survey, and the North
American Fauna, (3) San Francisco Mountain, Arizona ; (7) Death
Valley, and (16) Mount Shasta, California; (22) Hudson Bay; (5)
Idaho; (21) The Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia; and
(14) The Tres Marias Islands, Mexico; TJie A. 0. U. CJieck-List of
North American Birds; Belding's Land Birds of California; Bendire's
Life Histories of North American Birds; Bruner's Birds of Nebraska ;
Bryant's Birds and Eggs of the Farallon Islands; Cooke's Bird Mi-
gration in the Mississippi Valley, and Birds of Colorado; Fannin's
Check- List of British Columbia Birds; Goss's Birds of Kansas; Grin-
nell's Birds of the Pacific Slope of Los Angeles County; Loonris's Cali-
fornia Water Birds; Macoun's Catalogue of Canadian Birds; Mc-
Gregor's Pacific Coast Avifauna; and Silloway's Summer Birds of
FlatJiead Lake, Montana; together with local lists in The Auk, The
Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club, The Condor, and The

Illustrations. The new heads and full figures of birds are by
Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the outlines by Miss Franceska Weiser, the
old material from drawings of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Ernest Thomp-
son Seton, Robert Ridgway, John L. Ridgway, and Frank Bond,
published previously by the Smithsonian Institution, the Biological
Survey, The Auk, The Osprey, and Houghton, Mifflin & Company
in Birds of Village and Field and A-Birding on a Bronco.



Collecting Birds. Our present knowledge of birds and their
classification has come from a study of specimens, of the dead bird
in the flesh, of crops and stomachs, stuffed skins, and skeletons ;
and without this foundation the study of birds would not have its
deep interest and meaning nor its practical bearing on the economy
of our lives. Even our enjoyment of the birds in life, their beauty,
song, and friendship, would be far less than it is without the un-
derlying knowledge of their life history, the place they fill, and
their importance to us.


Naturalist collectors are far from being the ruthless destroyers of
life they are often supposed to be. It is, indeed, those who collect
the birds, study them most deeply, and know them best, who are
doing the most for their protection. Most ornithologists have begun
their study of birds by making private collections, and have turned
the knowledge thus gained to the best good of the birds, while their
collections have finally gone to museums, where they could benefit
the greatest number of students.

In most museums, it is true, there are large collections of bird
skins, often hundreds of specimens of a single species, showing
every shade of variation due to age, sex, season, moult, and wear of
plumage, and endless geographic variation over a wide range of
country ; but to many of those who have the best chance to study
the birds in life these collections are inaccessible.

There are still unknown, rare, and little known species of birds
that must be obtained before our knowledge of our own species can
be approximately complete and our system of classification firmly
established. But the more immediate and pressing question before
the young ornithologist is how to identify the obscure species and
the females and young of better known birds. In many cases the
bird must be shot to be identified, and not infrequently it must be
sent to some large museum collection for comparison for satisfactory
determination. Collecting, therefore, has not only a legitimate but
fundamental place in ornithology as a scientific study.

Measurements. It should be borne in mind that measurements
are not infallible, and even where the maximum and minimum of a
series are given, still larger or smaller specimens may be found.
In many cases measurements are useless in determining characters,
but in others they are the all important differences between species
and subspecies. The total length is the most variable measurement,
and when taken from a skin instead of a bird in the flesh is only
intended to give a general idea of the size of the bird. In quoting
Mr. Ridgway's measurements throughout this book the word
'about' has been omitted from his lengths, as it applies to all length
measurements. Lengths are taken from the birds in the flesh, if not
specifically stated to be from skins. All measurements in the book
are in inches. Wing, tail, bill, and tarsus measurements are the
important ones in most species, especially so because they can be
taken from the dry skin as well as from the fresh specimens. Mea-
surements should be taken in the following manner:

Length. From tip of bill to tip of tail. To get this lay the


bird on its back on a rule or tape-measure, with neck and body

Wing. From the front of the bend of the wrist joint of the
wing to the tip of the longest feather. This can be taken with either
tape or dividers.

Tail. From the extreme base of the tail to its tip. To get this
exactly place one point of the dividers at the base of the tail be-
tween the two middle tail feathers, and the other point of th
dividers at the tip of the tail.

Bill. From edge of feathers on top of bill to tip
of bill. When it would be necessary to part the
feathers to reach the base of the bill the expression
' exposed culmen ' is used for the mea-

Tarsus. From heel joint to angle
of toe with tarsus. If this is difficult
to determine, put the dividers on the outside and
bend the toes.

Middle toe. From angle of tarsus and toes to base of claw, the
length of the claw not being taken unless specified.

Such measurements as length of toes, depth of bill at base, at
nostril, etc., and relative lengths of certain feathers and spots and
markings can usually be taken most accurately and conveniently
with dividers.

Making bird skins. For making bird skins a few simple tools
and materials are needed, two sizes of scalpels or slender-bladed
knives for skinning, a pair of stout, sharp scissors, and a pair of
forceps, some powdered arsenic and corn-meal, cotton (for large
species tow), a round-pointed needle, thread, and labels.

The English sparrow is a good bird to begin with and practice on
until skins can be made that are worth keeping, an end not attained
without patient and painstaking effort.

Having shot a bird, examine it for bloody or soiled spots, and
sprinkle any that are found with corn-meal or fine sand, and plug
the throat with cotton to keep any blood or liquids from coming out
and soiling the feathers. If an eye is broken remove it with the
forceps, and fill the orifice with cotton and corn-meal, to prevent the
fluids from soiling the feathers of the head. To keep the bird from
injury until you can skin it, make a paper cornucopia, and after
smoothing the feathers drop the bird in bill first ; then fold together
the gaping edges of the cornucopia, and your bird will carry safely
in your game-bag or hunting-coat pocket.


Skinning. Place the bird on its back with its bill to your left,
and part the feathers along the breast and belly. In most species a
strip of naked skin will appear. Holding the feathers' back with
the thumb and finger of the left hand, cut with a down stroke of the
scalpel just through the skin from about the middle of the sternum
back to the vent. Catch the edge of the skin at one side, and with
the end of the scalpel handle or your fingers work it back from the
body until the knee-joint of the leg appears, sprinkling in plenty of
corn-meal as you go to absorb blood and juices and keep your fingers
dry and the feathers from sticking. Cut the bone at the knee-joint
with scissors or knife, and draw it up out of the flesh, which can
be cut off nearer the heel and left fast to the carcass. Loosen the
skin farther back, then treat the other side in the same manner, fre-
quently using corn-meal.

Then turn the bird's bill from you, and cut across below the tail
to the bone, and either unjoint or snip the bone with the scissors
just in front of the base of the quills, keeping the forefinger of the left
hand at a point opposite on the outside as a guide to prevent cut-
ting the skin, and work the skin up over the rump. At this point
a small hook, suspended in front and hooked into the bird's rump,
will help the beginner, but he will soon learn to hold up the body
between the tips of the first two fingers of the left hand, using the
thumb and third or little finger of the same hand to draw down the
skin as he cuts with the scalpel in the right. Work the skin from
the edges, being careful not to stretch it. As the wings are reached
draw them back out of the skin to near the second joint, break the
first bone in the middle and remove the flesh. Keep the body well
sprinkled with meal, and work the skin carefully down over the
neck to the head until the ears appear, picking them out rather
than cutting them off ; then working the skin along mainly with the
finger nails over the eyes (cutting the transparent membrane without
injury to the lids), and carrying it down to the base of the bill.

Next remove the eyes and cut off the base and lower part of the
skull, which can be done so as to leave brains, tongue, and fleshy
part of mouth attached to the neck, and the skull and bill clean and
free attached to the skin. If any bits of flesh or fat have been left
on the skin, remove them, and then dust dry arsenic over the inside
of the skin, fill the eye sockets with pellets of cotton, and reverse
the skin by pushing the bill carefully back through the neck. With
the beginner the skin will become dry before it is ready to be
turned back, and will need moistening, but after some practice the


whole process of skinning should take only from two to four min-

As soon as the skin is turned back, the feathers should be smoothed
and arranged, the eyelids adjusted, and the edges of the opening of
the skin laid together before it is put down.

Stuffing. For the sparrow, take a short thick piece of cotton
tow for large birds that will make a form the size of the body
that has been removed from the skin, and press it firmly together
with the fibers all one way. To fill the skull and make a firm neck,
pinch one end of the cotton flat and double it over twice, holding it
firmly after each time between the thumb and finger of the left
hand. Then catch the hard compact point of cotton between the
forceps in a position to hold it securely and push it into the bird
skin, forcing the point up through the neck and base of the skull,
catching it again with the left thumb and finger in the mouth of
the bird. Loosen and draw out the forceps, but hold the cotton in
the mouth until the skin is drawn back and adjusted over the
stuffing, and superfluous bits of cotton removed or tucked in.

Then draw together the edges of the skin and catch with a couple
of stitches. When the wings have been put in place under the
feathers at the sides, and the feathers properly arranged and
smoothed, the skin is ready to be labeled and wrapped in a thin
film of cotton. Then the bill can be tied shut with a thread and
the bird laid away to dry.

A beginner's skins are often greatly distorted, and only practice
can teach the correct amount of cotton to use and its proper form
and proportions. The best way is to keep in mind the size and
form of the bird's body, and try to reproduce them. Be careful not
to make bulging or weak necks. Leave each skin straight and
symmetrical when put away to dry, and each feather back in its
original place.

Labeling. Skins should be fully labeled with locality, date, sex,
number, and collector's name, while such additional data as color of
eyes, bill, feet, or any parts that fade, notes on breeding or locality
where taken, stomach contents, etc., can be placed on the back of
the label or kept in a catalogue under the number of each specimen.

j Collection of Vernon Bailey.


sj Washington, D. C. Mou \^\ 1902 Y. B.

Sexing. To determine the sex, cut through the side of the ab-
dominal wall, push away the intestines, and close against the small


of the back, if the bird is a male, you will see the two oval, usually
light colored testes, in the breeding season large and conspicuous,
at other seasons small, and, in immature specimens, often difficult to
find. If the bird is a female, in place of the two oval bodies there
will be the ovary, a mass of spherical ovules, large or small ac-
cording to the season, and often obscure in immature specimens.
The male sign is Mars' arrow ( ), the female, Venus' mirror (9).

Collecting and preserving eggs. Egg collecting is justifiable only
when the collector's earnestness of purpose warrants the sacrifice of
happy bird homes, and no amount of pains and care should be
spared to make each set a permanent and valuable illustration of
the life history of the species. So far as possible only complete
sets of fresh eggs should be taken. An incomplete set is of sec-
ondary importance, and eggs in which incubation is advanced are
not worth troubling with unless very rare.

The first step is to identify the nest positively, which, in cases of
rare species, can often be done only by collecting one or both of the
birds. Eggs are worse than worthless if there is any question of
their identity.

The next step should be to photograph the nest from at least two
points, one to show general setting and one at closer range to give
detail of form and structure. Then notes should be made on the
position, structure, and materials of the nest, the actions of the old
birds, and the manner of identification, etc. When possible the
nest should also be collected.

Each egg should be wrapped in cotton and each set packed snugly
in a wooden box with plenty of cotton for carrying home.

The tools necessary for blowing eggs are a slender blowpipe and
two drills, large and small, which can be bought of any dealer in
naturalist's supplies.

For drilling, hold the egg lightly between the thumb and two
fingers of the left hand, and placing the sharp point of the drill
against the side twirl it evenly with a slight pressure until it sinks
into the shell, grinding out a smooth round hole which points down-
ward, from the size of a pin-head in a fresh sparrow's egg to an
eighth of an inch in diameter in a larger or partly incubated egg.
In much incubated eggs it is often necessary to make a much larger
opening. A fine stream of air should be forced into the egg without
touching the blowpipe to the opening, and the contents gently forced
out. When the shell is empty, with mouth full of water blow a
stream into it and rinse out thoroughly, afterwards blowing all the
water out and laying carefully away to dry.


Incubated eggs, though almost at the point of hatching, are
made by experts into nearly perfect specimens. Following their
methods, drill the hole and then coat the shell with flexible collodion.
After removing a small part of the fluid, if the egg is small, insert
a solution of pepsin or of chlorinated soda, Labarraque's solution,
and let the egg stand for a few hours, after which blow out the
softened portion of the contents. Add more of the solution, and
let the eggs stand again, keeping on until you have emptied the
shell. Large eggs may be treated with a solution of caustic potash,
care being necessary not to allow the alkali to touch the shell. To
prevent accident it is well to have a basin of water near in which to
immerse the egg if necessary. The collodion is removed after the
completion of the work by the use of ether.

Each set of eggs and each nest should be kept in a box, with a label
something like the following, from the Bendire and Ralph collection
in the National Museum :

A. O. U. No. Scientific name,

Private No Common name,.



Date, No. of Eggs in Set,.

Identification, Incubation,

NEST : Diameter, Depth,

Composed of


Of whom and when received,.

Nests should be kept in boxes to fit their size. Great care
should be taken to protect them from moths and other destructive


insects, as not only wool but hair and all other animal substances will
be eaten and the nests ruined if they are not well looked after. The
best protection for a nest is a spray of a solution of corrosive sub-
limate, which can be used in a common atomizer, with a warning
red label, bearing the word ' POISON.'


The value of collections is increased many fold by the field-notes
which accompany the specimens, and the bird lover who does not
collect may add most valuable material to our meagre knowledge of
the life histories of our birds.

A compact, statistical journal may be made, as Mr. Chapman 1
and Mr. Felger 2 suggest by means of a ' roll or time book,' or any
sheets ruled in squares in pad form and punched along the sides to
fasten into a cardboard cover. The squares should be used for daily
records, the top or top and margin being used for headings, such as
locality, zone, zonal plants and trees, slope exposure, temperature,
condition of weather, direction and force of wind, amount of rainfall
or snowfall, advance of vegetation, new insects abroad, indications
of mating and of nest-building, number of nests found with eggs
and with nestlings, number of young on the wing, condition of
plumage, stage of moult, food, food habits, stomach contents of
specimens taken, time spent in field, number of birds seen in flocks,
number seen in migration flights.

For more detailed life history notes, card catalogues, with family,
generic, and specific divisions, are popular with many ornithologists.
A convenient form of field journal is a pad punched at the sides to
fit into a stiff cover, each sheet to be devoted to a species so that
the sheets can be slipped out and arranged by species, alphabeti-
cally. On the return from the field these can be dropped into box
manuscript trays and arranged by the check -list.


The physical geographies have long taught the division of the
earth into life zones, from the arctic to the tropical regions, with
the corresponding vertical divisions from the tropical base of equa-
torial mountains to their snow-clad arctic summits, and naturalists
have long since worked out the distribution of animals and plants

1 Handbook of Birds of Eastern North. America, pp. 20-22.
* " Plan for Recording Field Notes," The Auk, xix. 189-193.


along these lines in Europe and eastern North America. But it is
only within recent years that the Biological Survey carried on by
the government has studied the old familiar generalizations in the
western states in detail and mapped the life zones of the United
States as a whole.

The generally accepted theory that the distribution of mammals,
birds, reptiles, insects, and plants depends on temperature has been
demonstrated by Dr. Merriam as a physical law that "the northward
distribution of terrestrial animals and plants is governed by the sum
of the positive temperatures for the entire season of growth and

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 2 of 65)