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

. (page 37 of 65)
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the body is blackish or very dark brown,

Distribution. Breeds in the Salmon River Mountains, Idaho, and
probably northern ranges ; winters in mountains of Colorado and Utah.

526. Leucosticte australis Eidgw. BROWN-CAPPED LEUCO-


Adult male in summer. Bill black, crown blackish anteriorly, shading
toward brown of back ; body light brown, becoming pink on belly, rump,
and wing coverts, and sometimes tinged with red on throat and breast.
Adult male in winter : similar, but bill yellowish, tipped with dusky ; crown
brownish gray on back and sides, and feathers with grayish edgings that
give scaled effect to head. Immature male : similar to adult, but greater
wing coverts with buffy edgings in winter, dull whitish in summer-
Adult female : similar to male, with same seasonal changes, but much
duller, and pink markings indistinct. Young : grayish buffy brown, paler
on posterior under parts ; patches on wings and tail coverts buffy. Male :
length (skins) 5.71-6.48, wing 3.99-4.40, tail 2.39-2.86, bill .40-.50. Fe.
male : length (skins) 5.63-6.15, wing 3.00-4.25, tail 2.40-2.70, bill .45-47.


Distribution. Breeds in Alpine zone on the mountains of Colorado,
descending into the lower zones of the valleys, and south to New Mexico
in winter.

In his Birds of Colorado Mr. Cooke says that the brown-capped
leucosticte is never seen below timberline in summer, and nests from
12,000 feet to the tops of the highest peaks. In August, he says,
"old and young swarm over the summits of the peaks, picking in-
sects off the snow. By the last of October or early in November
they descend to timberline and remain there through the winter,
except as they are driven a little lower by the severest storms.
At the same time a few come into the lower valleys almost to the
base of the foothills."

They have been reported from Silverton, where they came in
large flocks and were killed for food.


General Characters. Bill conical, strongly compressed toward end,
and usually acute at tip ; nasal plumules nearly covering basal half of
bill except in summer plumage ; wing long, pointed; tail long, deeply
forked ; tarsus very short, side toes much shorter than the middle.


1. Upper parts brownish, rump streaked linaria, p. 319.

1'. Upper parts whitish, rump not streaked .... exilipes, p. 318.

527a. Acanthis hornemannii exilipes (Coues). HOARY RED-

Adult male in spring. Bill dusky ; patch on top of head crimson ; chin
black ; under parts almost pure white, except for
pinkish chest and fine streaking on sides ; upper
parts grayish white streaked with dusky ; rump
Fi ^ white, tinged with pink. Adult male in winter :

similar, but bill yellowish, with dusky tip ; upper

parts tinged with buffy, dusky streaks narrower. Adult female in spring :
like male in spring but without pink on rump or chest. Adult female in
winter : similar, but upper parts more strongly tinged with buff, dusky
streaks narrower, and bill yellowish, with dusky tip. Male : length (skins)
4.60-5.40, wing 2.85-3.07, tail 2.13-2.50, bill .27-.34. Female: length
(skins) 4.59-5.16, wing 2.74-2.94, tail 2.10-2.29, bill .27-.34.

Distribution. Breeds in northeastern Asia and arctic America; south
in winter, regularly to the northern United States. Recorded from Massa-
chusetts, Illinois, Maine, and Michigan.

Nest. A rather bulky structure, composed largely of small twigs and
straws mixed with feathers and lined with feathers ; placed in bushes or
small trees. Eggs : 2 to 5, pale bluish green, speckled, chiefly around
larger end with reddish brown, sometimes mixed with a few black specks
or lines.

The hoary redpoll, Mr. Nelson says, is the most abundant of the
redpolls in northern Alaska, wb^ere it occurs in great numbers. Its


habits are identical with those of the common redpoll. Both forms
are resident, making only a partial migration into the interior in the
severest weather.

528. Acanthis linaria (Linn.). REDPOLL.

Adult male in breeding plumage. Chin patch and feathers around bill
blackish ; crown crimson ; throat, sides, and rump more or less
washed with pink or crimson ; rest of under parts white, sides
streaked with dusky ; upper parts streaked, dark brown and
huffy, lighter but streaked on rump, rump washed with pink ;
bill horn color, dusky at tip. Adult male in winter plumage : F - ^
much lighter, wing bands more or less buffy, pink paler ; bill
light yellow, black at tip. Adult female: similar to the male, but pink of
under parts replaced by buffy or whitish ; seasonal difference same as in
male. Young : like adults, but without pink or red, crown streaked and
sides and wing bands more or less buffy. Male: length (skins) 4.31-5.32,
wing 2.78-3.01, tail 1.91-2.29, bill .31-.38. Female : length (skins) 4.29-
5.43, wing 2.76-3.00, tail 1.99-2.30, bill .30-.39.

Distribution. Breeds in the -northern parts of the northern hemisphere ;
south irregularly in winter, in North America as far as California, Mis-
souri, and Alabama.

Nest. In bushes or small trees, bulky, made of twigs, straws, and
feathers. Eggs : 2 to 5, pale bluish green, speckled, chiefly around larger
end, with reddish brown, sometimes mixed with a few black specks or

Food. Buds and weed seed.

The redpolls are common in Colorado, from November to March,
from the plains to 10,000 feet. Prof. Cooke says they remain high in
the mountains, even when the temperature is thirty degrees below
zero, which does not seem strange, as most of them winter in Alaska.
In spring, Mr. Nelson tells us, "they are beautiful objects, with
their bright rosy hues and fluffy plumage. On warm sunshiny days
during April they come familiarly up to the very windows and
doors, and peer about with an odd mixture of confidence and curios-
ity, examining everything and scarcely deigning to move aside as
the people pass back and forth." After the nesting season, he says,
"they come trooping about, young and old, in large parties, with
great confidence and a peculiar pertness, taking possession of the
premises and using the roofs and fences for convenient perches,
making excursions thence to whatever point appears likely to yield
food, or chasing each other playfully about." Through July and
August they are extremely abundant in Alaska, but by the end of
September the majority have left the coast, most of them going into
the interior, where they brave the severest weather.


General Characters. Bill conical, acute ; wing long and pointed ; tail
emarginate ; tarsus as short or shorter than middle toe with claw.



1. Throat with black patch lawrencei, p. 323.

1'. Throat without black patch.
2. Back yellow.

3. Body pale yellow. Rocky Mountain plateau . pallid us, p. 321.
3'. Body bright yellow.

4. In winter, browner, with broader wing markings. Pacific coast.

salicamans, p. 321.

4'. In winter less brown, with narrower wing markings. East of
Rocky Mountains to Atlantic coast .... tristis, p. 320.
2'. Back olive green or black.

3. Back without black. Rocky Mountains to California.

psaltria, p. 322.
3'. Back wholly or partly black.

4. Back and ear coverts solid black. Mexico and Central Texas.

mexicanus, p. 322.

4'. Back or ear coverts mixed with olive green. Colorado and New
Mexico to Pacific arizonae, p. 322.

629. Astragalinus tristis (Linn.). GOLDFINCH.

Adult male in summer. Whole body canary yellow, in sharp contrast to
black crown, wings, and tail ; wings with white bars and tail feathers with
white patches. Adult female in summer: upper parts olive brown, some-
times tinged with green or gray ; wings and tail dull blackish brown ;
white markings duller; under parts grayish white, more or less tinged
with yellow. Adult male in winter : similar to female in summer, but
wings and tail deep black, broadly and clearly marked with white. Adult
female in winter: similar to summer plumage, but more tinged with
brownish, white markings broader and more tinged with buffy. Young :
similar to winter adults, but browner, wing markings and general suffusion
cinnamon ; shoulder patch mixed with black instead of unicolored as in the
male. Male : length (skins) 4.26-4.79, wing 2.78-2.96, tail 1.71-2.02, bill
.38-.41. Female: length (skins) 4.27-4.76, wing 2.59-2.79, tail 1.56-1.84,
bill .37-.41.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones from the
southern British Provinces south to Kentucky and Kansas, east of the
Rocky Mountains ; winters south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Nest. A neat cup-shaped structure of compactly woven plant fibers,
lined with down and other soft materials ; placed in tall bushes or low
trees. Eggs : 3 to 5, plain pale bluish or bluish white.

Food . Largely weed seed.

The goldfinches, or wild canaries, as they are popularly called in
their many forms, if not as cultivated songsters as their caged rela-
tives, have much sweeter call-notes and a happy round of their own.
Their indolent lisping notes have a tinge of sadness, but as they
raise their heads from a thistle or sunflower to give them, and then
flit lightly off and go sauntering in undulating flight through the
air the gentle- spirited birds seem as light-hearted as butterflies.

In their home life they are among the most charming of birds,
being tender, devoted mates and watchful parents.



Fig. 405. Goldfinch.

529a. A. t. pallidllS (Mearns). PALE. GOLDFINCH.

Adult male in summer. Similar to tristis, but larger and paler, white
markings of wings and tail more extended. Adult male in winter : much
lighter than tristis, with tints purer and white more extended. Male:
length (skins) 4.30-5.09, wing 2.81-3.08, tail 1.72-2.05, bill .3S-.43. Fe-
male : length (skins) 4.42-5.00. wing 2.71-2.92, tail 1.70-2.03, bill .39-.44.

Remarks. The principal difference between pallidus and tristris is in
winter plumage.

Distribution. Rocky Mountain plateau district from British Columbia
and Manitoba south to northern and eastern Mexico.

529b. A. t. salicamans (Grinn.). WILLOW GOLDFINCH.

Adult male in summer. Except for shorter wings and tail scarcely
distinguishable from tristis ; black cap, if anything, not so extended and


yellow not so intense ; the white edgings on wings worn off so there is
scarcely a trace of white left. Adult female in summer : much darker than
female of tristis, dull greenish yellow on throat instead of bright yellowish
green. Young: dark colored. Adult male in winter: similar to tristis,
but browner and with much broader wing markings; back dark olive
brown ; sides and flanks shaded with brown ; throat bright yellow, shad-
ing to dull green on breast and to pure white on belly. Adult female in
winter : similar to male, but wings, tail, and throat duller ; bill dusky.
Male: length (skins) 4.08-4.82, wing 2.60-2.89, tail 1.70-1.82, bill .39-42.
Female: length (skins) 4.28-4.70, wing 2.63-2.72, tail 1.70-1.79, bill

Distribution. Pacific coast, from Washington south to Lower Cali-

530. Astragalinus psaltria (Say). ARKANSAS GOLDFINCH.
Adult male. Ear coverts, and entire upper parts, including wings and
tail, black, wings with broad white edgings,
tail with most of its feathers extensively
white basally ; under parts canary yellow.
Adult female : upper parts plain dull olive
Fig. 406. Adult male. gree n ; under parts light greenish yellow ;

head without black ; wings and tail as in male, but black duller, and
white more restricted, sometimes obsolete on tail. Young : similar to fe-
male, but tinged with buffy, and wing coverts
tipped with buff. Immature : crown black,
rest of upper parts grading from olive green
to solid black on ear coverts and back ; under
Fig. 407. Immature male. par ts yellow.

Distribution. Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, except north-
western and extreme southern portions.
Nest and eggs like those of tristis.
Food. Largely weed seed.

The fact that psaltria is a long time in acquiring the black dress
of the adult male, breeding first in the green-backed immature plu-
mage has led to much confusion. The three stages of its develop-
ment (1) that in which the ear coverts and back are plain olive, (2)
that in which they are olive mixed with black, and (3) that in which
they are solid black, were each dignified by a name until enough
specimens were collected to demonstrate that the differences were
purely those of age. 1

Another source of confusion regarding psaltria is in its common
name, Arkansas Goldfinch, which suggests that it is an eastern
bird. The fact is, however, that it was named from its first discov-
ery on the Arkansas River in Colorado !

In Colorado, Professor Cooke states, it breeds from the Plains to
over 9000 feet. It is a late migrant there, scarcely reaching northern
Colorado before the middle of June, being a late breeder like the
other goldfinches.

1 See " North American forms of Astragalinus psaltria (Say)." By H. C. Oberholser.
Proc. Biol. Soc., Washington, xvi. 113-116, September 30, 1903.


530a. A. p. hesperophilus Oberh. GREEN-BACKED GOLDFINCH.

Similar to psaltria, but ear coverts, sides of neck, back, nape, and rump,
in fully adult plumage, olive green instead of black. Wing 2.46, tail 1.70
bill .35.

Distribution. Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico,
from California and Lower California to Utah, Arizona, and extreme
southwestern New Mexico.

In southern California, as Mr. Grinnell says, the green-backed
goldfinch is not only abundant about gardens, and orchards, but goes
up to 6000 feet in the mountains.

531. Astragalinus lawrencei (Cass.). LAWRENCE GOLDFINCH.

Adult male. Face and throat as well as crown black ; median under
parts yellow, surrounded by gray ; rump and
wings washed with greenish yellow. Adult
female : similar to male, but without black on
head or throat, and colors duller. In winter : Fig. 408.

both sexes colored as in summer, but colors

more subdued. Young : similar to adult female, but duller, and lower
parts indistinctly streaked. Male : length (skins) 3.92-4.66, wing 2.61-
2.76, tail 1.81-2.00, bill .31-.33. Female : length (skins) 4.04-4.50, wing
2.48^2.64, tail 1.66-1.87, bill .31-.35.

Distribution. Breeds in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones from about
latitude 40 in California, west of the Sierra Nevada, south to Lower Cali-
fornia ; occurs during winter in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Eggs. Pure white.

Food. Largely weed seed, including that of the Russian thistle.

In Los Angeles County, California, Mr. Grinnell says lawrencei is
found mainly on the mesa, in the mountain canyons, and pine for-
ests below 6000 feet. From December until the last of March small
flocks feed in weed patches along the banks of the arroyos.

533. Spinus pinus (Wils.). PINE SISKIN: PINE FINCH.

Similar to Astragalinus, but plumage streaked gray and brown, without
yellow or black except for yellow patches on wings and tail. Adults :
whole body finely streaked with brown, on brownish
ground above, on whitish below ; basal portions of seconda-
ries and tail feathers sulphur yellow. Young : upper parts
mustard yellow, tinged with brownish olive, feathers
streaked, except on belly ; wing bands and patches brown.
Male : length (skins) 4.20-4.85, wing 2.72-3.00, tail 1.57-
1.83, bill .3S-.44. Female: length (skins) 4.23-5.14, wing
2.63-2.97, tail 1.60-1.81, bill .39-.47.

Remarks. The siskin is easily recognized in the field, as the yellow
wing and tail patches show in flight.

Distribution. Breeds in Canadian and Hudsonian zone forests in the
mountains of western North America, also in the northeastern United States ;
may occur in winter in almost any part of the United States and Mexico.

Nest. Usually in coniferous trees, flatfish, made of fine twigs, rootlets,
and plant fibers, lined with fine rootlets and hair. Eggs : usually .> or 4,
pale greenish hlue. speckled, chiefly around the larger end, with reddish
brown, usually with a few small black markings.


The pine finch resembles the goldfinch in general, but its home is
in the evergreen mountain forests, and after the nesting season it
wanders erratically over the country in high-flying flocks, giving its
plaintive cha, cha, as it goes, and coming to earth when a weed
patch or the cones of an evergreen offer it a meal. It might easily
be mistaken for a striped sparrow, but as it spreads its wings and
tail to get its balance in feeding, the yellow patches identify it at a
glance. When disturbed at a meal the flocks often make short
circling flights, loath to give up their harvest..

In Colorado, Prof. Cooke says it is a common resident, abundant
along the foothills during migrations, and from 7000 feet to timber-
line in summer. Some stay near timberline through the winter,
but the bulk scatter over the lower valleys and plains. In southern
California Mr. Griimell finds it irregularly in the willow regions
and lowlands in winter.


Passer domesticus (Linn.). ENGLISH SPARROW.

Form stout and stocky ; bill very stout, curved, side outlines bulging- to
near the end ; wing pointed ; tail shorter than
wings, nearly even ; feet small. Adult male : lores,

throat, and chest patch black ; rest of under parts

Fig. 410. Male. grayish ; top of head and ear coverts grayish, with
bright chestnut patches between eye and nape ; wing

with chestnut patch and two white bands ; rest of upper parts brown, back
streaked with black ; upper parts dull brown ;
under parts dull gray. Adult female : crown and

hind neck grayish brown or olive ; entire under

Fig. 411. Female. parts brownish white or gray ; back browner, less

refuscent than in male. Length : 5.50-6.25, wing
about 2.85-3.00, tail 2.35-2.50.

Distribution. Europe in general, except Italy ; introduced and natural-
ized in Canada and the United States, from the Atlantic west to Utah and
New Mexico, with colonies in central California, Portland, Oregon, and
Seattle, Washington; also Bahamas, Cuba, Bermudas, Nova Scotia, and
southern Greenland.

Nest. About houses or in trees, bulky, made largely of dried grasses.
Eggs : 4 to 7, thickly spotted with dark brown and purplish.

"The introduction of the English sparrow is one of the most
familiar examples of acclimatization. Brought over to the United
States in 1850, the bird developed such a marvelous ability to
adapt itself to new surroundings and increased so rapidly that by
1870 it had gained a foothold in twenty states and the District of
Columbia, as well as in two provinces of Canada. At the present
time [1899] it is found in every state and territory except Alaska,
Arizona, Montana, and Nevada." (Palmer.)



534. Passerina nivalis (Linn.). SNOWFLAKE.

Under mandible thicker than upper, gonys very short, nostrils concealed
by plumules ; wing 1 nearly five times as long as tarsus ; tail emarginate,
about two thirds hidden by coverts ; hind claw about as long as its toe,
curved. Adult male in summer : white, with black on bill, middle of back,
scapulars, greater part of primaries,
and four to six middle tail feathers.
Adult male in winter : washed with rusty
on upper parts, sides of head, and chest ;
bill yellow, with dusky tip. Adult fe- Fig. 412.

male in summer: upper parts broadly

streaked with black ; wing and tail with black of male replaced by black-
ish brown ; wing with much less white. Adult female in winter : like sum-
mer female, but upper parts more or less stained with rusty brown and
feathers of back more edged with buff y. Young : under parts dull whit-
ish ; upper parts gray ; wings and tail mainly dusky and brown ; white of
wing much restricted. Male: length (skins) 5.85-7.21, wing 4.19-4.58,
tail 2.40-2.91, bill .3S-.45. Female: length (skins) 5.95-6.62, wing 3.90-
4.10, tail 2.39-2.62, bill .3S-.43.

Remarks. The September birds may be distinguished by feathers of
head, nape, and rump, which are basally white in the male, basally black
in the female.

Distribution. Breeds in the arctic regions of the northern hemisphere ;
in North America south in winter to the northern United States, irregu-
larly to Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon.

Nest. On ground, composed of dried grasses, lined with finer grasses
and feathers. Eggs: usually 5, whitish, varying from dull purplish to
greenish, speckled chiefly on larger end with shades of brown, usually
with a few small black markings.

Food. Largely weed seed, grass seed, and refuse grain in winter, and
small crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and seeds in summer.

" The snowflake is a well known summer bird in all the circum-
polar regions, and none of the various arctic expeditions have ex-
tended their explorations beyond the points where this handsome
species is found. It chooses indifferently the bleak shores of the
arctic islands encircled by an icy sea, or the warmer shores to the
south as far as the Aleutian Islands, and nearly as far on the
opposite Siberian shore of Bering Sea. Although it rears its young
far from the usual haunts of man, it passes to the south and is one
of the most familiar and well-known birds through the northern
states." (Nelson.)


General Characters. Bill small, acutely conical, deeper than broad at
base ; nostrils exposed ; wing long, pointed ; tail more than half hidden
by pointed upper coverts ; hind claw about length of its toe, slender, and
nearly straight.



1. Tail feathers chiefly white at base ornatus, p. 328.

1'. Tail feathers chiefly dusky at base.

2. Inner web of outer tail feather chiefly white . . . pictus, p. 327.
2'. Inner web of outer tail feather chiefly dusky.

3. Darker lapponicus, p'. 326.

3'. Paler alascensis, p. 327.

536. Calcarius lapponicus (Linn.). LAPLAND LONGSPUR.

Inner web of outer tail feather chiefly dusky. Adult male in summer :
fore parts black, contrasting strikingly with
white of belly, and white or buffy line from
eye to hind neck ; hind neck deep rufous ; back
streaked black, brown, buffy, and whitish;
wings dusky, with brown and whitish edg-
ings ; tail chiefly blackish brown. Adult male in winter : black area and
rufous nape patch greatly restricted, and more or less obscured by white
or brownish tips to feathers ; sides of head
mainly light brownish. Adult female in sum-
mer : like winter male but smaller, markings
sharper, black of chest more restricted, and
Fig. 414. Winter male. hind neck streaked with blackish. Adult female

in winter : similar to summer female, but browner and less sharply streaked
above ; hind neck often without trace of rufous ; under parts dingy white,
chest markings only suggested. Young : upper parts tawny buff, broadly
streaked with black except for wings and tail ; under parts pale buffy,
throat, chest, and sides broadly streaked with black. Male : length (skins)
5.68-6.80, wing 3.55-3.96, tail 2.35-2.62, bill .41-.48. Female: length
(skins) 5.34-6.20, wing 3.45-3.63, tail 2.30-2.55, bill .41-.45.

Remarks. The long, nearly straight hind claw distinguishes this genus
and Rhynchophanes from the other Fringillidce, and the black-tipped tail
marks off Rhynchophanes. In Calcarius the white breast and belly distin-
guish the Lapland from the buff -breasted Smith longspur.

Distribution. Breeds far north in the northern hemisphere ; migrates
in North America south to Texas, but most abundantly to Kansas and

Nest. On ground, composed mainly of dried grasses, lined largely with
feathers. Eggs : 3 to 6, dull whitish, spotted or speckled with brown.

Food. Insects such as weevils, grasshoppers, and beetles ; locust eggs,
weed seed, and grain.

The Lapland longspurs reach Colorado in October, Prof. Cooke
states, going up into 'the lower mountain parks at first but descend-
ing to the plains when severe weather comes.

Colonel Goss says that they wander over the prairies and treeless
plains of Kansas in enormous flocks, subsisting on seeds of weeds
and grasses. In looking for food, he says, ' ' they skim over the
ground in a wavy, zigzag form, and on alighting run swiftly and
heedlessly about, squatting close to the ground at the near approach
of an intruder and remaining motionless, hoping to be passed un-
observed. When started they rise in a quick, uncertain manner,''
which prairie falcons and other enemies often take advantage 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 37 of 65)