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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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 44 of 65)
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cheery, rising inflection.



General Characters. Bill straight, stout, conoidal ; nostrils exposed ;
rictal bristles well developed; wing of nine primaries lengthened and
pointed ; tail shorter than wings, emarginate ; tarsus not longer than mid-
dle toe, scaled.


1. Upper mandible with a tooth-like projection on cutting

2. Plumage marked with black. Fig ' 467 '

3. Plumage scarlet and black erythromelas, p. 380.

3'. Plumage red, black, and yellow .... ludoviciana, p. 379.

2'. Plumage not marked with black ; red, with grayish back and
brownish ear coverts hepatica, p. 381.

1'. Upper mandible without tooth-like projection.

Fig. 468.

2. Under parts vermilion or poppy red rubra, p. 382.

2'. Under parts rose pink cooperi, p. 382.

607. Piranga ludoviciana (Wils.). LOUISIANA TANAGER: WEST-

Upper mandible with a tooth-like projection on cutting edge. Adult
male in summer : head and neck bright orange or red ; rest of under
parts bright yellow ; upper parts black, with yellow rump and wing
patches. Adult female in summer: upper parts olive green, back and
scapulars grayish ; wing bars dull yellowish ; under parts pale grayish
yellow, becoming sulphur yellow on under tail coverts ; anterior part of
head sometimes tinged with red. Adult male in winter : like summer
female, but with head yellow or slightly tinged with red, more or less
obscured on occiput and hind neck with olive green or dusky tips to
feathers ; feathers of back usually more or less distinctly edged with yel-
lowish olive ; tertials broadly tipped with white or pale yellow ; tail feath-
ers more or less tipped with white. Young male in first autumn : like adult
female, but clearer yellow below and rump yellower. Young female in
first autumn : like adult female, but duller ; upper parts more brownish
olive, under parts washed with brownish olive ; wing bars narrower, and
buff y. Young male, first plumage : upper parts olive green ; wings black-
ish, with yellow wing bars ; tail with outer webs of feathers edged with
olive green ; throat and chest grayish, chest tinged with yellow and
streaked ; chin and under tail coverts yellow ; rest of under parts white.
Male: length (skins) 6.20-6.95, wing 3.71-3.83, tail 2.64-2.98, bill .57-.62.
Female : length (skins) 6.30-6.90, wing 3.54-3.88, tail 2.68-2.89, bill .53-

Distribution. Breeds in Canadian and Transition zones in mountains
from British Columbia to Arizona, and from northwestern Nebraska to
California ; straggles eastward in migration to the Atlantic states ; win-
ters south to Guatemala.


Nest. Usually on the horizontal branch of a fir, pine, or oak, 15 to 30
feet from the ground, made of twigs, sometimes with mosses and coarse
grass, lined with rootlets and horsehair. Eggs: 8 or 4, pale bluish
green, lightly spotted with browns and purples.

Food. Insects.

The western tanager breeds abundantly in the high mountain
forests, being common at 10,000 feet in Colorado. In the forests of
British Columbia on their first arrival the males have been found
singing at daybreak from the tops of the tallest trees, sometimes
300 feet from the ground. In the Sierra Nevada they are common
from an altitude of 3000 feet to the summit, and in the heavily tim-
bered parts, though a flash of red and yellow between the treetops
is often the most you get, their calls and songs are among the com-
monest bird notes heard.

Their song has the rough-jointed, swinging rhythm characteris-
tic of the tanagers, but there are also a chattering call which sug-
gests the scold of an oriole, rendered as pitic, pitictic, and a plaintive
tu-weep', which is particularly noticeable when the birds are going
about with their young. At that time the tanagers descend to the
lower levels. I have seen them on the scrub oak and sagebrush of
the Wasatch foothills in cottonwood hedges, and even along barbed
wire roadside fences, making sallies to the ground for insects. On
San Francisco Mountain they come to the springs for water, and I
have seen one drinking from a pan in a ranch dooryard.

The tanagers must eat a large variety of insects, for they are not
only expert fly-catchers and glean from the treetops, but are also
especially fond of caterpillars, judging by the numbers we have
seen probing tent-caterpillars' nests.

608. Piranga erythromelas Vieill SCARLET TANAGER.

Adult male in spring and summer. Brilliant scarlet ; wings and tail
deep black ; , under wing coverts white. Adult
female in spring and summer: upper parts yel-
lowish olive green, usually grayer on back and
scapulars ; under parts light yellow, washed with
olive green on sides ; under tail coverts canary
yellow. Adult male in fall and winter : similar
to adult female, but wings and tail black. Young
Fig. 469. male in Jirst autumn : like adult female, but yel-

low of under parts clearer ; wings with two yellow-
ish bands ; black first appearing on wing coverts and scapulars. Young
male, nestling plumage : upper parts olive green, faintly mottled with dusky ;
wings and tail with olive green edgings ; wings with two yellowish bands ;
under parts white, tinged with yellow behind ; chest and sides streaked.
Male: length (skins) 6.25-6.75, wing 3.62-3.91, tail 2.56-2.82, bill .S7-.62.
Female : length (skins) 6.20-6.70, wing 3.45-3.72, tail 2.52-2.77, bill .57-

Distribution. Breeds in Upper Sonoran and Transition zones of the


eastern United States from Canada and Manitoba south to the Tennessee
Mountains, and from the Atlantic west to the Plains ; casually or occa-
sionally to Colorado and Wyoming ; winters in the West Indies, eastern
Mexico, Central America, and south to northern South America ; accidental
in Bermuda.

Nest. On a horizontal branch, 10 to 30 feet from the ground, a flat,
loose structure, made of stems and plant fibers, lined with fibers and root-
lets. Eggs : 3 to 5, essentially like those of the summer tanager.

Food. Insects and wild berries.

The songs of the tanagers have a strong resemblance, but their
call-notes are very different. That of the scarlet tanager is a dis-
tinctly enunciated chip-churr, and so unique that it will identify him
when his glowing scarlet body and black wings and tail are hidden
in the greenery.

609. Piranga hepatica Swains. HEPATIC TANAGER.

Upper mandible with tooth-like projection on cutting edge. Adult male
in spring and summer : under parts scarlet, brownish on sides; ear cov-
erts brownish, with white shaft streaks ; crown bright red ; rest of upper
parts dull red ; back and scapulars tinged with grayish brown ; lower man-
dible bluish gray in life. Adult female in spring and summer : upper parts
olive green, grayer on back ; under parts olive yellow, darker on sides.
Adult male in fall and winter : back and scapulars more brownish gray ;
red of under parts duller, some of the feathers with paler tips. Adult fe-
male in fall and winter: like summer female, but brighter. Young, nest-
ling plumage : streaked, on grayish olive above, pale buff y below ; wings
with buffy bars. Male : length (skins) 6.90-7.80, wing 3.96-4.13, tail 3.12-
3.37, bill .66-.73. Female : length (skins) 6.90-7.74, wing 3.85-3.99, tail
2.94-3.34, bill .67-.71.

Remarks. The hepatic tanager may be distinguished from the Cooper
by its dull grayish red back and the scarlet tone of its under parts, com-
pared with the nearly uniform coloration and rose pink tones of the Cooper.
Its gray cheeks are a good field character. The males are three years in
acquiring the brilliant adult plumage, and breed in a mixture of the red
and yellow of their parents.

Distribution. From southwestern Texas, central New Mexico, and
Arizona south to Guatemala.

Nest. On low oak branches, a slight structure made of coarse rootlets
and dried plant stems, lined with finer materials. Eggs : 3 or 4, very pale
bluish green, lightly spotted chiefly around larger end with browns and

In the Guadalupe- Mountains, New Mexico, we found the beauti-
ful bird quite common in the oaks and pines on the edge of the
Transition zone, at about 6700 feet, especially on the rocky wooded


610. Piranga rubra (Linn.). SUMMER TANAGER.

Adult male (summer and winter). Upper parts dull dark red ; wings
and tail brownish red ; under parts vermilion or
poppy red. Adult female (summer and winter) :
upper parts plain yellowish olive ; under parts
dull yellow. Immature male : red mixed with
patches of yellowish green. Young male in first
autumn: like adult female, but colors richer,
upper parts more ochraceous ; crown, upper tail
coverts, tail, and edges of wing quills tinged
with dull orange. Male : length (skins) 6.40-

7.20, wing 3.64-3.92, tail 2.80-2.94, bill .66-.76. Female: length (skins)

6.50-7.20, wing 3.50-3.77, tail 2.62-2.91, bill .69-.72.

Distribution. Breeds in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones in the eastern

central United States, west to western Texas ; migrates to Cuba and through

eastern Mexico south to Peru.

Nest. In trees, 6 to 60 feet from the ground, made of weeds, grasses,

leaves, and catkins. Eggs : 3 or 4, green, spotted with browns and purples.

610a. P. r. cooperi Eidgw. COOPER TANAGER.

Similar to rubra, but larger, with relatively longer bill, wing, and tail,
and under parts rose pink.

Remarks. The Cooper tanager differs from the hepatic by the absence
of gray on the back and by the rose pink tone of its under parts. Male :
length (skins) 6.60-7.50, wing 3.66-4.18, tail 2.98-3.38, bill .72-.7S. Fe-
male : length (skins) 7.00-7.85, wing 3.80-4.02, tail 2.95-3.26, bill .76-.80.

Distribution. Breeds from southwestern Texas to the Colorado Valley,
California, and from Arizona and New Mexico to northwestern Mexico ;
south in winter to western Mexico ; casually to Colorado.

The Cooper tanager seems to be especially fond of the cottonwoods
of the lower levels, and migrates early in the fall.



1. Tail forked for more than length of tarsus.

2. Tail forked for about half its length.

Hirundo, p. 384.

2'. Tail forked for less than half its length.

Frog&e, p. 383.
1'. Tail forked for less than length of tarsus.

2. Under parts entirely pure white Tachycineta, p. 385.

2'. Under parts not entirely pure white.

3. Tarsus with tuft of feathers above hind toe . . Riparia, p. 386.
3'. Tarsus without tuft of feathers.
4. Wing with outer quill
hooked in male, rough-
ened in female.
Stelgidopteryx, p. 387. Fi &- 472 -

4'. Wing with outer quill normal ; forehead white, buffy, or brown.

Fetrochelidon, p. 383.



General Characters. Bill long, stout, and convex ; feet large, with
strong, curved claws ; tarsus shorter than middle toe and claw ; tail forked
for less than half its length.


1. Females with under tail coverts streaked subis, p. 383.

1'. Females with under tail coverts not streaked . . . hesperia, p. 383.

611. Progne SUbis (Linn.). PURPLE MARTIN.

Adult male. Whole body glossy blue black ; wings and tail black ;
feathers of ventral region entirely sooty grayish beneath the surface.
Adult female and immature males with forehead grayish and upper parts
sooty glossed with blue black, interrupted by grayish collar ; lower parts
grayish in front, whole under parts streaked, the feathers, especially on
chest, with distinctly sooty grayish centers. Length : 7.25-8.50, wing 5.65-
6.20, tail 3.00-3.40 (forked for .70-90).

Distribution. Temperate North America from Ontario and Hudson
Bay south to the southern end of Mexican tableland ; wintering in South

Nest. In holes of trees or about buildings and in bird boxes. Eggs :
3 to 5, plain white.

Food. Insects.

The peculiar vibrant and at the same time mouthed quality of the
martin's song tells of his presence, even when his big steel blue body
is not seen floating around overhead. His song, though unpreten-
tious, is a talkative twitter very pleasant and companionable.

But, although we usually associate him with bird boxes and towns,
large numbers, especially of the western subspecies, still nest in
hollow trees in the mountain forests.

61 la. P. S. hesperia Brewst. WESTERN MARTIN.

Adult male. Indistinguishable from male of subis. Adult female :
similar to female subis, but light gray of forehead extending back into
crown ; feathers of back and rump conspicuously edged with grayish or
pale brown; bend of wing and under coverts mottled profusely with
whitish ; anterior under parts and nuchal collar grayish white ; and whole
tract from abdomen to under tail coverts almost immaculate white.

Distribution. Breeds in Pacific coast region from Oregon south through
California and Arizona to southern Lower California ; migrates to Nica-

The examination of birds from British Columbia may show that
they should be referred to this form.


General Characters. Tail short, nearly even ; nostrils without nasal
scale, opening directly upward ; tarsus with tuft of feathers aboVe hind


1. Forehead white or pale isabella lunifrons, p. 384.

1'. Forehead rich chestnut ; rarely fawn color . melanogastra, p. 384.


612. Petrochelidon lunifrons (Say.). CLIFF SWALLOW.

Adults. Forehead white, buffy, or brown ; crown, back, and patch on
chest glossy blue black ; throat and sides of head chest-
nut; rump conspicuous pale rufous; belly white. Young:
similar, but colors duller and pattern less sharply defined ;
throat usually, and other parts of head sometimes, spotted
with white ; tertials and tail coverts edged with brown,
chestnut of head partly or wholly wanting ; upper parts
Fig 473 dul1 blackish. Length: 5-6. wing 4.05-4.55, tail 2.00-


Distribution. North America, from the limit of trees south to the
southwestern United States ; migrates to Central and South America.
Not recorded from Florida or the West Indies.

Nest. A gourd or retort shaped structure made of pellets of mud
mixed with a few straws, lined with feathers ; attached to cliffs or build-
ings. Eggs : 3 to 5, white, speckled or spotted with brown and lilac.
Food. Ants and other insects.

In regions where there are no houses, the retort-shaped nests of
the cliff swallows are usually found in colonies massed on the side
of a cliff, under the roof of a cave, or plastered to the branches of
a giant tree ; but in the settled part of the country the birds seem
to prefer eaves of barns and houses, and their nests have been
found in deserted buildings plastered to ceilings and walls.

There is such a common prejudice against these swallows that
boys are often encouraged to shoot them with sling-shots in the
cities, and ranchmen drive them away from their barns, fearing
that the parasites which infest them will spread to the stock. But,
as a matter of fact, bird parasites will not live on mammals, and
the swallows do great good by eating annoying insects.

612.2. Petrochelidon melanogastra (Swains.). MEXICAN

Like lunifrons. but " smaller, with forehead chestnut, like throat and
sides of head (rarely fawn colored), and rump deep cinnamon." (Ridg-
way.) Length : 4.50-5.00, wing 3.95-4.30, tail 2.00-2.20.

Distribution. Mexico, south to Guatemala, north to southern Arizona.

The Mexican cliff swallow has recently been added to the list of
United States birds by Dr. E. A. Mearns, who found it breeding in
southern Arizona.


613. Hirundo erythrogastra Bodd. BARN SWALLOW.

Tail forked for about half its length, outside feather tapered to point ;



From Biological Survey, TJ. 8. Dept. of


Fig. 475. Barn Swallow.

tarsus shorter than middle toe
and claw; upper part
feathered. Adults : under
Fig. 474. parts tawny brown, darkest
on throat ; forehead dark
brown, rest of upper parts glossy
steel blue ; wings and tail tinged
with purple and green ; tail feath-
ers except middle pair marked
with large whitish spots. Young :
fork of tail shorter; upper parts
paler, under parts duller, brown of
forehead indistinct or wanting ;
throat and chest light rusty.
Length : 5.75-7.75, wing 4.60-4.90,
tail 3.70-4. 10, forked in adult male
for about 1.85-2.10.

Distribution. Breeds from the
Arctic Circle south to southern end
of Mexican tableland; migrates
to Central and South America.

Nest. A bowl-shaped wall-
pocket, made of pellets of mud mixed with straws and lined with feathers,
attached to side or roof of a cave or to timbers in barns or other build-
ings. Eggs : 3 to 5, white, speckled with brown and lavender.

Food. Insects, largely flies.

The long forked tail of the barn swallow gives it a peculiarly
easy, graceful flight, and one of its favorite feats is to catch the
insects that accompany a horse and carriage along the road, easily
circling around and around them as the horse carries the wagon
along at full swing.

While the other swallows hunt more habitually in the sky, the
barn swallow is usually seen beating low over a meadow. When
resting on a telegraph wire it sings a bright, squeaky little warble.
Its call-note is given as a soft witt, witt, and its alarm-note as a
harsh Vr'r'r, t'r'r'r.

Though generally associated with barns and meadows, it is often
found in towns, and along the line of the Canadian Pacific is one of
the commonest birds seen in the mountain canyons.


General Characters. Tail forked for less than length of tarsus ; tarsus
entirely naked.


1. Upper parts metallic steel blue or greenish . . . . bicolor, p. 385.
1'. Upper parts green and purple lepida, p. 386.

614. Tachycineta bicolor (VieilL). WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW:

Adult male. Under parts pure white ; upper parts burnished steel blue ;


lores deep black; wings and tail blackish, slightly tinged with green.
Adult female : upper parts usually duller than in male,
but sexes often indistinguishable. Young : above entirely
dull brownish slate. Length : 5.00-6.25, wing about 4.50-
4.80, tail 2.30-2.50.

Distribution. Breeds from the limit of trees south to
New Jersey, the Ohio Valley, Kansas, and California;

Fig. 47(3. White- winters from South Carolina and the Gulf States south

bellied Swallow, to the West Indies and Guatemala.

Nest. In holes, usually of trees, lined with grasses,

leaves, and feathers. Eggs : usually 4 or 5, pure white.

The white-bellied swallow, with its shining w r hite breast and
metallic bluish green back, may be seen skimming over the water
or sailing about in the sky at some season in a large part of North
America. In southern California it is said to be abundant in the
lowland willow regions, especially about ponds and marshes, while
in Colorado it breeds up to an altitude of 10,000 feet.

615. Tachycineta thalassina lepida (Mearns). NORTHERN


Adult male. Top of head parrot green ; nape with a narrow purple
collar ; back bottle green, glossed with violet in some lights ; rump and
upper tail coverts violet, shaded with purple ; wing and tail quills black,
glossed with indigo ; wing coverts violet, edged with green ; rump with
white patches on sides almost confluent in life ; under parts white. Adult
female : similar, but smaller and duller. Young : like those of bicolor,
but feathers of under parts grayish beneath the surface, and bill smaller.
Length : 5.30, wing 4.65, tail 1.97, bill .26.

Distribution. Breeds in western United States to the eastern base of the
Rocky Mountains; north to Alaska; migrates to Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Nest. In cliffs or hollow trees, lined with feathers. Eggs : 4 or 5, white.

Let a violet green swallow once come fleeing down a canyon past
you, so that you see its remarkable violet back as it flashes by, and
you will always have a vivid interest in the handsome bird.

It is especially fond of the oaks and pines of the mountains, but
nests not only in hollow trees and woodpecker holes but often in the
walls of canyons. Dr. Mearns has found it breeding in limestone
cliffs about the hot springs and geysers of the Yellowstone. It is
also found about ranches, nesting in bird-houses or knot-holes in


616. Riparia riparia (Linn.). BANK SWALLOW.

Tarsus with a small tuft of feathers on back near toes ; bill
small, nostrils opening laterally; tail much shorter than
wings, emarginate. Upper parts sooty, darkest on head and
wings ; under parts white, with sooty band across chest and
sides, and sometimes sooty spot on breast. Young : similar,
but feathers of wings and rump with buffy or whitish edg-
. 477. i n g s . Length ; 4.75-5.50, wing 3.70-4.25, tail 2.10-2.25.


Distribution. Northern hemisphere ; in America breeding from the
limit of trees south to the central United States ; wintering from the
southern border of the United States south to the West Indies, Central,
and northern South America.

Nest. In horizontal holes or burrows, excavated in sand banks, cuts,
and banks of streams. Eggs : 3 to 6, white.

Food. Insects.

The colonies of chattering little bank swallows with dull colored
backs and dark chest bands seem to require little more than a sand
bank and a telegraph wire for complete happiness, and given these,
blow the wind east or blow the wind west, they gossip merrily on.


617. Stelgidopteryx serripennis (And.}. ROUGH-WINGED SWAL-

Bill small ; tail short and slightly emarginate ; tarsus slightly feath-
ered above ; lateral claws curved

and not reaching ,
beyond the base of ^

the middle claw ; Fig. 478,

outer web of outer primaries saw-toothed in male, roughened
in female. Adults : upper parts dull grayish brown, darker
,,. on wings and tail, tertials usually margined with grayish;

lg> ' under parts soiled gray, belly and under tail coverts white.
Young : like adults, but plumage more or less washed with brown ; wings
with broad cinnamon tips and margins. Length: 5.00-5.75, wing 4.00
4.70, tail 2.05-2.35.

Distribution. Breeds in Sonoran and Transition zones of British Colum-
bia, Ontario, the United States, and Mexico ; migrates to Guatemala.

Nest. In holes, usually in banks, but often in abutments of bridges,
Eggs : 3 to 6, white.

Food. Flies and other insects.

The dingy rough wings are less sociable than the bank swallows
during the nesting season, but afterwards assemble in large flocks
and are in less of a hurry to start for the south.

In Nevada, during a shower, Mr. Oberholser once found a flock
congregated about a small cliff in a cave.



1. Wings pointed Ampelis, p. 387.

1'. Wings rounded Phainopepla, p. 390.


General Characters. Head crested ; bill short, broad, flat, rather
obtuse, plainly notched near tip of each mandible ; wings long and pointed,
much longer than tail ; primaries apparently only nine, the first being


minute ; inner quills generally, and tail feathers sometimes, tipped with
red horny appendages like sealing- wax ; tail short ; feet rather weak ;
tarsus shorter than middle toe and claw.


1. Forehead and cheeks dark brown in contrast to crest.

garrulus, p. 388.
1'. Forehead and cheeks fawn color like crest . . . cedrorum, p. 388.

618. Ampelis garrulus Linn. BOHEMIAN WAXWING.

Adults. Whole body, including high crest, soft fawn color, fading to
grayish on rump and flanks, and washed with yellowish on middle of
belly ; forehead, cheeks, and under tail coverts deep brown ; chin, lores,
and eye streak extending back under crest, velvety black ; wings and tail
blackish, wing coverts extensively tipped with whitish or yellow, the ter-
tials sometimes with red wax-like appendages ; tail with a terminal band
of yellow. Young : duller ; under parts streaked. Length : 7.40-8.75,
wing 4.40-4.60, tail 2.75-2.90.

Distribution. Northern parts of northern hemisphere ; breeds in north-
ern North America to Fort Churchill, Hudson Bay ; migrates into the
United States as far as Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado, and California.

Nest. In trees, 6 to 20 feet from the ground, bulky, made of twigs,
rootlets, leaves, grass stems, and sometimes lichens and mosses ; lined with
rootlets, grasses, and feathers. Eggs : 3 to 5, bluish white to purplish
gray, spotted with lilac and dark brown, most thickly about the larger

Food. Insects, fruits, and berries, including juniper and mountain ash

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 44 of 65)