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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ern United States, west to the Rocky Mountains, and Texas ; migrates to
Cuba and South America.

Nest. Basket-like, sometimes pensile, woven of fresh grass and placed
in bushes or trees usually 12 to 20 feet from the ground. Eggs : usually 4
to 6, bluish white, marked most heavily about the larger end with blotches
and scrawls of browns and purples.

Food. Mainly small beetles, plant lice, flies, hairless caterpillars, cab-
bage worms, grasshoppers, rose bugs, and Iarva3.

In the prairie states, Major Bendire says, the orchard oriole is
found mainly in trees and shrubbery along streams. When living in
orchards and gardens it makes itself most useful by destroying the
insects with which the fruit and vegetable grower have to contend.

Subgenus Yphantes.

507. Icterus galbula (Linn.). BALTIMORE ORIOLE.

Adult male in spring and summer. Under parts and hinder part of
back bright orange or orange red ; head, neck, and fore parts of back black ;
wings with yellow shoulder patch and
white wing bar ; tail black with
yellow corners. Adult male in winter :
like summer male, but scapulars and
interscapulars edged with dull orange ;
orange of rump and upper tail coverts
more or less obscured with olive ;
white wing edgings broader. Adult
female in summer : under parts orange
or brownish yellow, varying from
almost unmarked to the black color
pattern of male in duller, less uni-
form Style; upper parts yellowish From Biological Survey, U. S. l>ept. of

olive, streaked more or less with ^T^ST

black, if not with solid black of male ;

rump yellowish, tail greenish yellow ; wings brownish, with whitish wing
bars. Adult female in winter: like summer female, but plumage softer and
back tinned with gray. Immature male : varying between adult male and
female or indistinguishable from female. Young in first fall and winter :
similar to adult females, which are without black on throat. Young, first
plumage: like lighter colored female, but upper parts grayer and under
parts with softe? colors. Male: length (skins fSO-7 ^ wmg ?.6(MX)2,
tail 2.78-3.15, bill .69-.7S. Female: length (skins) 6.20-6. <0, wing 3.35-
3.62, tail 2.*60-2.S3, bill .63-.71. .

Distribution. Breeds in Transition zone of eastern North America from
latitude 55 in Saskatchewan to Texas, west to the Rocky Mountains;
migrates through eastern Mexico to Panama.


Nest. Long, bag-shaped, hung from the rim, usually to slender
branches 8 to 50 feet from the ground; woven of hemp, horsehair, or
twine, lined largely with hair and grass. Eggs : 4 to 6, grayish, irregu-
larly streaked and blotched, most heavily about the larger end, with black,
brown, and lavender.

Food. Mainly noxious insects and larvae, including click beetles,
locusts, grasshoppers, weevils, ants, plant lice, and caterpillars.

The Baltimore oriole goes as far west as Colorado and Montana,
but bullocki, its western congener, is more abundant west of the

508. Icterus bullocki (Swains.). BULLOCK ORIOLE.

Adult male in summer. Under parts, sides of head and neck, and su-
perciliary orange ; narrow throat patch, crown, back of neck, back, and

stripe through eye, black ;
wings with conspicuous white
patch and edgings ; tail with
middle feathers black, chan-
ging to almost pure yellow on
outer feathers. Adult male
in winter : like summer male,
but scapulars and interscapu-
lars edged with gray, feath-
ers of rump and upper tail
coverts tipped with gray, of
under parts edged with whit-
Fig. 365. ish. Adult female : under
parts lemon yellow, fading

to gray on belly ; throat usually with more or less of black ; upper parts
olivaceous, fading to brownish and sometimes streaked with black on
back, but brightening to olive yellow or deeper on rump and tail ; wings
with white bands. Immature male in second year : similar to adult female,
but lores and median line of throat black. Young in first plumage :
similar to female, but colors duller, washed more or less with buffy, with no
trace of black on the throat, and yellow sometimes almost wanting. Male :
length (skins) 6.75-7.60, wing 3.82-4.03, tail 2.98-3.22, bill .65-.81. Fe-
male: length (skins) 6.60-7.50, wing 3.52-3.87, tail 2.73-3.12, bill .67-.7S.
Distribution. Breeds in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones of western
North America from southern parts of British Columbia, Alberta, and
Assiniboia, south to western Texas and Lower California ; and from Da-
kota and Texas to the Pacific ; migrates to the valley of Mexico and

Nest. Hung by rim and fastened to sides of a branch 6 to 40 feet from
the ground, often in bunches of mistletoe in cotton woods, poplars, and
mesquites, woven of horsehair or vegetable fibers and inner bark, lined
with horsehair, down, and wool. Eggs : 3 to 6, grayish or bluish white or
pale buffy, marked with irregular hair lines, mainly around the larger

Food. Principally injurious insects and larvae, with a few wild berries.

In southern California, where the Arizona hooded and Bullock
orioles occur together, the light, yellow-headed nelsoni usually comes
north later and lives largely in the chaparral, while the dark orange


bullocki lives in the treetops. The neighborhood of water is not
considered a necessity by the Bullock, but in irrigated districts it is
especially fond of the sunny cotton wood hedges bordering irrigation
ditches, and abounds on the rolling prairie country, finding most
congenial nesting grounds in the groves that fringe the streams. It
also nests in towns, as the Baltimore oriole does in the east. When
possible it hangs its nest from a tall sycamore or other large decidu-
ous tree, but if nothing better offers builds in low willows. In the
bottom lands near Chinese Camp, on the Yosemite Valley road, we
have seen small willows fairly hung with the bag-like nests. The
young birds are much less skilful builders than the adults, Mr. Illing-
worth notes, their nests being loosely supported and made of coarse
vegetable fibers instead of horsehair and twine.

In general habits as well as appearance bullocki resembles the Balti-
more oriole. The ranges of the two birds overlap along the eastern
part of the range of bullobki.

In regard to the food of the hooded and Bullock orioles Mr. Illing-
worth says : ' ' The orioles are very beneficial to the horticulturist,
although they eat some early fruit, such as berries, cherries, etc., but
no fruit man will begrudge them these if he thoroughly understands
their habits. The chief food of the orioles consists of insects and
injurious caterpillars, and I have often watched them while they
were searching among the branches for this latter food. They are
particularly fond of a small green caterpillar that destroyed the foli-
age of the prune-trees a few years ago. The orioles are often seen
in the berry patches, but they are usually in search of insects, as is
proven by the examination of a great number of stomachs." (The
Condor, July, 1901, p. 100.)

In Phoenix, Arizona, they have been seen eating a tree caterpillar,
which was a pest at the time.


General Characters. Bill not longer than head, slender like that of a
robin, tip decurved, cutting edges bent in ; wings pointed, longer than
tail ; side toes short, with moderate claws.


1. Plumage glossy black with faint greenish luster ; bill stout. Nebraska

to the Pacific cyanocephalus, p. 300.

1'. Plumage glossy greenish black ; bill slender. Colorado to Atlantic.

carolinus, p. 299.

509. Scolecophagus carolinus (Mutt.). RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

Adult male in summer. Uniform glossy black, with bluish luster on
head and neck and bluish green luster on body ; under tail coverts more
or less edged with whitish. Adult male in winter : black, more or less


obscured by rusty brown above and buffy below. Adult female in summer:
brownish slate, faintly glossed with bluish green on upper parts. Adult
female in winter : brownish gray or slaty, washed with rusty above and
buffy beneath. Young : like female in winter, but colors duller and plum-
age looser ; wings with rusty bands. Male : length (skins) 8.25-9.30, wing
4.50-4.60, tail 3.39-3.65, bill .72-.7S. Female : length (skins) 7.80-8.30,
wing 4.21-4.39, tail 3.11-3.30, bill .6S-.75.

Distribution. Breeds in Boreal zone from Alaska and Hudson Bay
south to northern New York, New England, and Michigan, and west in the
United States to western Nebraska and Colorado ; migrates to the Gulf of

Nest. A bulky structure of dried twigs, shreds of bark, and mosses,
placed in bushes. Eggs : 2 to 8, pale bluish green, olive, or rusty brown,
speckled or blotched with brown.

Food. Preferably animal matter, including insects, especially beetles
and grasshoppers ; also grain and weed seed.

The rusty blackbird is mainly a bird of the eastern states, but
occasionally goes as far west as the eastern slope of the Rocky
Mountains. Unlike most other blackbirds, it is fond of forests.

510. Scolecophagus cyanocephalus (WagL). BREWER

Adult male in summer. Glossy greenish black, head and neck purplish

black. Adult male in winter : similar
to summer male, but more highly
glossed. Adult female in summer :
head, neck, and under parts brown-
ish gray, faintly glossed with violet

on head and neck and with green on under parts ; upper parts darker,
wings and tail more glossed with bluish green. Adult female in winter :
similar to summer female, but paler, more buffy gray anteriorly. Imma-
ture male injirst winter: like adult male, but feathers largely tipped with
grayish brown. Young : like winter females, but feathers with different
texture and without gloss. Male : length (skins) 8.40-9.75, wing 4.73-5.27,
tail 3.62-4.22, bill .S3-.93. Female : length (skins) 7.80-8.70, wing 4.56-
4.71, tail 3.43-3.65, bill .75-. 82.

Distribution. Transition and Upper Sonoran zone from Manitoba and
British Columbia south in the mountains to Lower California and Guate-
mala, and from northwestern Minnesota and Nebraska west to the Pacific.
Nest. Low, in trees or bushes made of sticks, plant stalks, grass,
bark, and rootlets, generally cemented with earth or manure, and lined
with rootlets or hair. Eggs : usually 4 to 6, grayish or greenish ground
color, variably marked but usually profusely blotched, streaked, and
spotted with browns and lavender.

Food. Largely grain, weed seed, and grasshoppers.

The Brewer blackbird, whose glossy blue black coat makes him
one of the handsomest of his race, is the dooryard blackbird of city
and country. He often nests in oaks beside ranch houses, and lords
it over the barnyard fowls with great airs of proprietorship.

Like all blackbirds he has mannerisms. When disturbed at the
nest he spreads his tail nervously and calls chack, and when sitting


on a fence sometimes looks at you out of his pale yellow eyes and
then bristles up and gives a loud shrill whistle.

Although quick to appreciate the advantages of civilization,
cyanocephalus is by no means exclusively a dooryard bird, nesting
principally, indeed, in unsettled districts, in willows in the pine
belt of Arizona and in sagebrush around the edges of marshes in
the arid Great Basin country. It nests in much smaller colonies
than many of the blackbirds, five to ten pairs being the common

After the breeding season the birds may be seen as high as tirn-
berline on Mt. Shasta, solemnly walking over the rocks around snow
streams, or as low down as sea-level, at places like Santa Cruz,
where they run around on the hard sand beach, feeding and bathing
in the shallows filled with seaweed.

Their food varies with the season and the locality. On ranches
they do a great deal of good by following the plough and destroying
grubs, but after the nesting season they gather in large flocks and
often do serious harm in the grain fields.


General Characters. Bill about as long as head, crow-like, but more
tapering and acute ; tail graduated and folded laterally ; feet stout ; tar-
sus about equal to middle toe and claw.


1. Body bronzy, size medium geneua, p. 301.

1'. Body greenish, size very large macrourus, p. 302.

Subgenus Quiscalus,

5 lib. Quiscalus quiscula seneus (Eidgw.). BRONZED

Adult male. Whole head and neck purple, dark peacock blue or
green, in sharp contrast to uni-
form bronze of body ; wings and
tail plum purple, not metallic.
Adult female : similar, but smaller
and duller. Young : from plain
dark brown to colors of adults.
Male: length (skins) 10.90-12.50,
wing 5.38-6.03, bill 1.21-1.32.
Female : length (skins) 9.25-
10.60, wing 4.83-5.18, tail 4.16-
4.46, bill 1.13-1.23.

Distribution. From Great
Slave Lake south to Louisiana
and western Texas, and from the From Biological Sur ve y , u. s. Dept. of Agriculture.
Alleghanies and northern New Fig. 367.

England west to the Rocky Moun-
tains; migrating to the southeastern states except the coast districts.
Breeds throughout its range, but chiefly north of its winter range.


Nest. A coarse and bulky but compact structure of dried grasses,
built in trees (often cavities). Eggs: 3 to 7, pale green or greenish blue,
olive or olive whitish, coarsely spotted and irregularly lined with brown
and black.

Food. Largely noxious insects, corn, and the small grains.

The bronzed grackles may be seen as far west as the eastern base
of the Rocky Mountains. Like all the grackles they spend a good
share of their time on the ground walking over the grass, turning
their heads this way and that, when the sun glances from their hand-
some bronzy backs. When they fly their tails turn into rudders, and
they move along with as straight and steady a course as a skill-
fully guided boat. Their gurgling, squeaky notes cannot be called
musical, but have a crisp spring sound, and their clatter has a
hearty social ring as they fill a treetop or scatter over a park lawn.
Although they do considerable damage when descending in hordes
on grain fields, their steady work through the year balances on the
right side, for they are not only assiduous in following the plough
for grubs, but devote themselves largely to catching grasshoppers,
crickets, locusts, and other destructive insects.

Subgenus Megaquiscalus

513a. Quiscalus major macrourus (Swains.). GREAT-TAILED

Adult male. Head, neck, and breast purple, changing through steel
blue to greenish on belly and back. Adult female : under parts hair brown ;
head dark brown, darkening on back to blackish, glossed with green and
purple. Immature male (first year) : upper parts black, more or less
glossed with bluish green ; under parts sooty black. Young : like adult
female, but browner, without gloss above, more buffy below. Male:
length (skins) 15.50-18.00, wing 7.25-7.83, tail 7.70-9.25, bill 1.56-1.89.
Female: length (skins) 11.20-14.00, wing 5.60-6.24, tail 5.08-6.50, bill

Distribution. Southern Texas and south through Mexico (west to edge
of plateau) to northern South America.

Nest. Bulky, made largely of dried grass and Spanish moss, usually
with an inside coating of mud; built in low trees or bushes, often in
swampy places, sometimes in towns. Eggs : 3 to 5, pale bluish or green-
ish, drab, olive, or purplish gray, grotesquely marked with brown and
black lines.

Food. Insects and their larvae, crustaceans, dead fish, seeds, and

The jackdaws, as the grackles are called in southern Texas, nest
in the ' oak motts ' of the shin oak prairie between Corpus Christi
and Brownsville. We found them building the last of April at San
Ignatia mott, an oasis-like grove in the middle of the prairie. They
made the noisiest blackbird colony one could wish to camp below ;
and when to their squeaking clangor and hubbub was added the


shrill clatter of the scissor-tail flycatchers, the rattle of woodpeckers,
the vociferations of mockingbirds, the cooing of doves, the piping
notes of the vermilion flycatcher, and the voices of passing birds, it
was quite like camping in an aviary. Though usually visited by
only an occasional Mexican, the birds went about their business as
if camp-fires were an everyday occurrence, and paid little heed to
us except when we shot a rattlesnake or made other undue signs of
our presence.

Much to our surprise the blackbirds sang in notes that were sweet
and astonishingly like the call-notes of the' goldfinch, But they
appeared particularly fond of making a noise that sounded like the
breaking of sticks, and it took a prominent part in a ludicrous per-
formance which they went through. Seated on an oak top, where
his humble spouse could see him to the best advantage, an old male
would begin by spreading his wings and tail to their fullest
breadth and making a crackling ' breaking brush ' sound which he
evidently considered a striking prelude. This done he would
quiver his wings frantically and opening wide his bill emit a high
falsetto squeal, quee-ee, quee-ee, quee-ee, quee-ee, perhaps attuned to
the feminine blackbird ear. But his coup d'etat, which should have
wrung admiration from the most unappreciative mate, consisted in
striking an attitude, his long bill pointed as nearly straight to the
sky as his neck would permit. Posed in this way he would sit like
a statue, with a most ludicrous air of greatness. Incredible as it
may appear, instead of standing spellbound before him, his spouse,
practical housewife that she was, whatever her secret admiration
may have been, through all his lordship's play calmly went about
gathering sticks.



1. Wing conspicuously long and pointed, prima-
ries exceeding secondaries by nearly or 3
more than twice the length of tarsus.

rig. ooo.

2. Tips of bill crossed in adults Loxia, p. 313.

2'. Tips of bill not crossed.

. Depth of bill at base greater than length of hind toe with
claw Coccothraustes, p. 307.

Fig' 370. 3'. Depth of bill at base much less than length of hind toe

with claw.
4. Hind claw longer than its toe.


5. Wing 2.75-3.10 Acanthis, p. 318.

Fig. 371.

5'. Wing 3.80-4.50.

6. Nostril wholly concealed; plumage blackish or
brown, sometimes marked with rose or white.

Leucosticte, p. 315.

6.' Nostril partly exposed . . . Passerina, p. 325.
Fig. 372.

4'. Hind claw shorter than its toe.

5. Upper tail coverts pointed.

Rhynchophanes, p. 328.

5'. Upper tail coverts not pointed ; males largely reddish,
(part of) Carpodacus, p. 309.
1'. Wing not conspicuously long and pointed, primaries exceeding

secondaries by less than twice the length of tarsus.
2. Primaries exceeding secondaries by more than length of

3. Outer tail feathers marked with white or yellow.

lUP^* 4. Tail marked with yellow .... Spinus, p. 323.
Fig. 374. 4'. Tail mar ked with white.

^^^B ^ 5. Under wing coverts yellow or rose ; plumage largely

^HpJgF black in males, streaked in females.

^?r Zamelodia, p. 371.

Fig. 375.

5'. Under wing coverts not yellow

or rose.
6. Tail graduated.

Chondestes, p. 336.
6'. Tail nearly even or emargi-

nate. Fig. 376.

3 7. Hind claw longer than its toe, and not sharply
curved Calcarius, p. 325.

Fig. 377.

7'. Hind claw shorter than its toe, and sharply

8. Plumage streaked, largely brown.

Pooecetes, p. 329.

8'. Plumage unstreaked, summer males yellow
beneath .... Astragalinus, p. 319.


3'. Outer tail feathers not marked with white or yellow.
4. Upper parts streaked.

5. Under parts more or less yellow . . Spiza, p. 377.

5'. Under parts mainly gray ;

Fig. 379. males with chin and throat ______ ___

black . Passer, p. 324. Fig 380

4'. Upper parts not streaked.

5. Nostrils concealed, plumage rose, or gray mixed with
orange brown Pinicola, p. 308.

Pig. 381.

5'. Nostrils exposed, males blue . . Guiraca, p. 373.
2'. Primaries exceeding secondaries by less than length of

3. Head crested.

4. Upper mandible

greatly curved.
Pyrrhuloxia, p. 370. Fig. 382.

4'. Upper mandible only slightly curved.

Card in alls, p.

Fig. 383.

3'. Head not crested.

4. Tarsus longer than middle toe with claw.
5. Hind claw longer than its toe.

6. Tail with white
outer tips (ex-
cept fuscus'
Pipilo, p. 363. Fig 384.


6'. Tail with white edges, plumage largely gray or
black Junco, p. 345.

5'. Hind claw shorter than its toe.

6. Tail black Amphispiza, p. 350.

6'. Tail not black.

7. Tail olive green . . . Arremonops, p. 363.
7'. Tail brown.

8. Tail deeply emarginate . Spizella, p. 341
8'. Tail rounded or graduated.



Fig. 389.

9. Wing rounded or truncate at

Fi g r386.

10. Edge of wing yellow . Feucaea, p. 352.
10'. Edge of wing white or grayish.

Aimophila, p. 353.

9'. Wing rather pointed at tip (except Z. albi-
collisj in which tarsus is same length as
middle toe with claw).
Fig. 387. Zonotrichia, p. 337.

4'. Tarsus about equal to middle toe with claw.
5. Inner claw reaching beyond tip of middle toe.

6. Wings and tail green.

Oreospiza, p.

6'. Wings and tail rufous.

Fasserella, p. 3CO.

w not reaching to tip of middle toe.

6. Length about 8 to 9.

(fuscus group) Pipilo, p. 363.

6'. Length less than 8.
7. Wing with whitish patches Fig. 390.

(summer males black) Calamospiza, p. 377.
7'. Wing without white patches.

8. Under mandible decidedly deeper than upper ;
2 adult males with blue, and sometimes red,

Fig. 391. green, or purple . . Cyanospiza, p. 374.

8'. Upper mandible deeper or equal to under.
9. Tail feathers sharp-pointed at tip.
10. Bill sharply curved.

Sporophila, p. 376.
10'. Bill not sharply curved.

Ammodramus, p. 330.

'. Tail feathers not sharp-pointed at tip.
10. Tail graduated . Melospiza, p. 355.

10'. Tail even or emarginate, adult males with
plumage partly reddish.

Carpodacus, p. 309.



Subgenus Hesperiphona.

514a. Coccothraustes vespertinus montanus (Eidgw.).

Bill large, swollen, depth at base greater than length of hind toe with
claw; wing- long, pointed, more than five times as long as tarsus; tail
short, emarginate ; feet small and
weak ; tarsus little if any longer
than culmen. Adult male : forehead
and superciliary bright yellow ;
crown, wings, and tail black, wings
with large white patches; rest of
upper parts olive, grading through
yellowish green to yellow on rump ;
under parts greenish yellow, be-
coming lemon yellow on under wing
and tail coverts. Adult female :
prevailing color yellowish or yellow-
ish brown ; throat bordered by
dusky; whitish patch on wings.
Young : similar to female, but duller
and markings less defined. Male :
length (skins), 6.70-7.30, wing 4.18-
4.59, tail 2.50-2.87, bill .7S-.89,
width of bill at base .49-.60. Fe-
male : length (skins), 6.50-7.30, wing
4, 10-4.40, tail 2.40-2.78, bill .74-
83, width of bill at base, 51.-57.

Distribution. Breeds in Cana-
dian and Hudsonian zones in western United States from the Plains to the
Pacific, and south through mountains of northwestern Mexico.

Nest. 15 to 50 feet from the ground in the top of a conifer or thick
willow, a comparatively flat, slight structure of small sticks, roots, and
sometimes tree lichens lined with finer roots. Eggs : 3 or 4, clear green,
blotched with pale brown.

Food. Insects, such as caterpillars ; seeds, and the fruit or buds of mis-
tletoe, hackberry, box elder, juniper, maple, ash, alder, and related

In the Canadian zone forests after the nesting season you occa-
sionally see a wandering flock of evening grosbeaks. Sometimes
there will be only seven or eight in the flock, sometimes twenty-five
or more. Their commonest call, as they pass over or light in a fir top,
is a short whistle that can always be recognized by its wild, free
quality, but they have also a loud ' beady ' note something like
that of the waxwing.

In the mountains of Arizona the grosbeaks breed in canyons and
near water, Dr. Mearns says, afterwards descending to the oaks of
the foothills with their young.

In winter, grosbeaks are very common in Portland, Oregon, where
Mr. Anthony says large flocks feed in the maples, picking up the
fallen seeds at the feet of passers-by.

From Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of

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 35 of 65)