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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The Bohemian waxwing, though an irregular wanderer from the
north, is not uncommon in the mountains of Colorado in winter,
going as high as 8000 feet. It comes in November and leaves in
February or March.

619. Ampelis cedrorum (Vieill.). CEDAR WAXWING.

Adults. Streak through eye velvety black ; crest, head, and under
parts fawn color, fading to olive yellow on flanks ; upper parts olive gray
becoming blackish on wing quills and tail ; tail tipped with yellow and
both wing and tail sometimes tipped with red wax-like appendages. Young :
similar, but duller, and under parts strongly, upper parts lightly, streaked.
Length : 6.50-7.50, wing 3.60-3.90, tail 2.30-2.60.

Remarks. The Cedar waxwing differs from the Bohemian in being
smaller, and in lacking the dark brown of forehead, cheeks, and under tail
coverts, and the yellow and white wing markings.

Distribution. Breeds mainly in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones of
North America, from Saskatchewan south to Virginia, western North
Carolina, and the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona ; winters from
the northern border of the United States to the West Indies and Costa Rica.

Nest. In bushes or low trees, a deep, bulky structure, made of twigs,
weed stems, grasses, and vegetable fibers, lined with leaves and fine
rootlets. Eggs . usually 4, bluish or purplish gray, spotted with brown or

Food. Insects, including elm-leaf beetles and bark or scale lice, with
seeds or berries of trees, such as pepper, juniper, mulberry, and mistletoe.



Fig. 480. Cedar Waxwing.

Like the Bohemian waxwing the cedar-birds are wanderers, travel-
ing over the country in flocks except during their late breeding sea-
son. Sometimes they appear in small bands of less than a score, at
others in such large companies that when they alight in a pepper-
tree and fall to eating the berries their plump, moving forms seen
through the foliage make the trees seem alive with their numbers.

Though they all talk at once, as they usually do, their sibilant
notes are so soft and subdued .that a passer-by would scarcely heed
their presence.

However much romance there may be in the famous stories recit-
ing the politeness and affection of these gentle birds, they merit all



the study that can be given them, and if watched through a nesting
season win their own place in the affections of the bird-lover.


620. Phainopepla nitens (Swains.). PHAINOPEPLA.

Jlead with long thin occipital crest ; wing rounded, of ten feathers, but

first only about half as long
as second ; tail long and fan-
shaped ; hind toe very short.
Adult male : glossy blue
black except for white
patch on inner webs of pri-
maries. In winter : many of
the feathers bordered with
white. Adult female and
young: plain brownish gray,
lighter below ; white on pri-
maries restricted, but wing
coverts, secondaries, and
lower tail coverts with whit-
ish edgings. Length : 7.00-
7.75, wing 3.60-3.80, tail

Eemarks. In the field the
Phainopepla may be recog-
nized at a distance by his
black body and white wing

Distribution. Breeds in
arid Lower Sonoran zone
from southwestern Texas to
the Pacific, and from south-
ern Utah, Nevada, and Cali-
fornia south to Cape St. Lucas and the Valley of Mexico.

Nest. Saucer shaped, compactly made of plant fibers, stems, and
blossoms, small twigs and plant down ; placed in elders, peppers, oaks,
and blue gums, and often in parasitic plants. Eggs : 2 or 3, grayish or
greenish white, thickly spotted with brown, blackish, or faint lilac.

Food. Insects and berries such as those of the pepper, choke cherry,
elder, sumac, the mistletoe and other parasitic plants.

The phainopepla is a bird of the southwest desert country, and in
Arizona Mr. Scott has found flocks of fifty or more gathered in
juniper covered canyons when the berries were ripe; but when a
single individual strays up to the foothills of the Sierra it is a de-
lightful surprise to meet him. In southern California the phaino-
pepla seems as much at home on the telegraph wires of Pasadena and
in the parks of Riverside as in the canyons, and wherever found is
the same dashing distinguished beauty.

When flying at an intruder he lowers his crest threateningly, but
ordinarily it stands as a high plume adding distinction to his refined,


dignified presence. Though so reserved in bearing he is full of
vivacity and song, and will sometimes dart up in the air and come
down singing.

His sallies often appear to be made for insects, being in regular
kingbird manner, and at times in southern California when the
brush is full of millers, the birds seem to be catching them. But
berries are their ordinary food, the mistletoe, pepper, and juniper
being prime favorites.

In the breeding season in leaving the trees to go back to their
nesting grounds, they often rise obliquely for perhaps a hundred
feet and then fly on evenly straight to their destination, though
sometimes while flying level and high they change their course by
odd, sudden jerks. When near the nest the male often closes his
wings and shoots obliquely down with tilting tail.

About the nest the birds have a variety of notes. The commonest,
which resembles the call of a young robin, is given by both male
and female, with a flash of the tail. The male has also a scold, a
meadowlark-like note, and a harsh alarm-call drawn out like ca-rack
or ca-rac-ack. His ordinary song, though with weak, squeaky
notes, has phrases of rich quality suggesting the o-ka-lee of the red-
wing ; and taken as a whole, jumbled notes, flutelike tones, musical
outbursts, and all, the song is most pleasing because of its vivacity
and brightness.

The nests of the few individuals I have watched were built mainly
by the males, the females of a brush patch going off by themselves
while their lords worked at home.



General Characters. Bill large and powerful, notched, toothed, and
hooked ; wing with ten primaries ; wing and tail rounded ; feet large and
strong ; tarsus distinctly scaled.


Fig. 482.

1. Lores and nasal tufts never wholly black .... borealis, p. 392.
1'. Lores and nasal tufts always wholly black.

2. Under parts pure white . excubitorides, p. 392.

2'. Under parts dull white, grayish, or brownish, often finely barred with

3. Upper parts tinged with brownish gambeli, p. 393.

3'. Upper parts dark slate gray anthonyi, p. 393.


621. Lanius borealis Vieill. NORTHERN SHRIKE.

Adults in summer. Wide streak on side of head, and wings and tail
black, wings and tail extensively marked with white ; under parts white,
barred or undulated with grayish; upper parts pale ash gray becoming
whitish on forehead, superciliary, and rump; lores black and grayish,
a whitish spot on lower eyelid. Adults in winter : similar, but basal half
of lower mandible light brownish horn color, grayish in life, and lores

From Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Fig. 483.

chiefly light grayish or whitish. Young : largely washed with brownish.
Length: 9.25-10.75, wing 4.35-4.60, tail 4.50-4.70, bill from nostril .50-.55.

Distribution. Breeds from Labrador, Hudson Bay, and Cook Inlet,
Alaska, northward ; migrates south in winter as far as Virginia, Kansas,
Arizona, and northern California.

Nest. In bushes or thorny trees, a rude, bulky structure of twigs,
grasses, and stems, lined with mosses, lichens, and feathers. Eggs : 4 to
6, pale bluish green, spotted with brown and purple.

Food. In winter, mice, English sparrows, grasshoppers, and other
birds and insects.

The northern shrikes reach Colorado in October, Prof. Cooke
says, first appearing on the mountains above timberline. Some of
them winter as high as 9500 feet in the mountain parks, but most
of them work their way down to the plains, where they find abun-
dant food in the shape of horned larks. In other regions they are
often tempted to visit cities by the unfailing supply of English
sparrows, for in habits they are miniature birds of prey.

622a. Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides Swains. WHITE-


Adults. Bill, lores, and nasal tufts wholly black ; upper parts light slate

gray ; upper tail coverts whitish ;
under parts pure white, very lightly,
if at all, marked. Young : like adults,
but base of lower mandible light-
Fig. 484. colored, general colors less strongly


contrasted, washed with brown and narrowly barred, the wing coverts
tipped with buffy. Length: 8-10, wing 3.75-4.10, tail 3.75-4.30, bill from
nostril .42-.50, depth of bill at base .30-.35.

Distribution. Breeds from British Columbia and Hudson Bay south to
Lower California and over the northern tablelands of Mexico.

Nest. In thorn-trees, hedges, briers, and cactus ; bulky, made of sticks
and stems, leaves, wool, and feathers; lined with stems of grass and
weeds, and sometimes hairs. Eggs: 4 to 6, grayish to yellowish white,
spotted with brown and lilac.

Food. Mice, birds, and insects chiefly grasshoppers.

A shrike may be recognized as far as seen by his level flight, the
beating of his short little wings, and the way he holds up his big
head ; and when he alights his clear grays and sharply contrasting
blacks and whites mark him afar. He is partial to Sarcobatus flats,
hedges, thorny bushes, and barbed wire fences, even when not using
the barbs as letter files for his superfluous catch of grasshoppers. In
spite of all accusations the shrike probably impales his victims less
because of original sin than because of original scarcity of supplies,
and only a short time ago he was seen by a California observer re-
turning to his catch and eating it with marked relish. (The Condor,
iv. 49.) Nor is he such a villain as to be wanting in sound domestic
virtues, and harsh and strident as his voice may be in the main, it
has interesting if not musical moments.

622b. L. 1. gambeli Eidgw. CALIFORNIA SHRIKE.

Upper parts slate gray, tinged with brownish ; upper tail coverts some-
times abruptly whitish as in excubitorides ; under parts dull white or gray-
ish, darker on sides, breast usually distinctly vermiculated and sometimes
ting-ed with pale brown. Length : 8-10, wing 3.70-4.00, tail 3.75-4.50, bill
from nostril .43-.4S, depth at base .30-35.

Remarks. The California shrike may be distinguished from the white-
rumped by the darker coloration of the under parts. In excubitorides they
are pure white, in gambeli usually vermiculated, darkened on the sides and
sometimes tinged with pale brown.

Distribution. Coast region of California.

Nest. 5 to 30 feet from the ground in willows, cypress, or oak ; bulky,
made of coarse twigs and soft materials such as straw, grass, feathers,
cotton, and wool. Eggs : 4 to 7, gray, sometimes tinged with green, spotted
with light brown and sometimes purple, usually heaviest around the larger

Mr. Grinnell says that the California shrike is such a persistent
destroyer of the Jerusalem cricket and other injurious insects that
it is undoubtedly one of our most beneficial birds from the agricul-
turalist's standpoint and should be protected.

622c. L. 1. anthonyi Mearns. ISLAND SHRIKE.

Similar to gambeli, but much darker and smaller ; under parts gray, be-
coming white on throat and under tail coverts ; upper parts dark slate gray ;
white areas on wings and tail more restricted than in any of the ludovi-
cianus group. Length : 8.77, wing 3.74, tail 4.00, bill .63.

Distribution. Santa Barbara Islands, California.




General Characters. Bill similar to that of the shrikes, distinctly
hooked and notched at tip ; rictal bristles conspicuous ; wings equal to or
longer than tail ; tail nearly even ; claws stout, strongly curved ; side toes
unequal in length.


1. Head strikingly marked.

2. Lores and orbital ring white in sharp contrast to gray or black of

3. Top and sides of head black, atricapillus, p. 397.

Fig. 485.
3'. Top and sides of head gray.

4. Back gray. Southern Rocky Mountain region.

plumbeus, p. 397.
4'. Back olive green.

5. Brighter olive green. Eastern United States.

solitarius, p. 396.

5'. Duller olive green. Western United States.
cassinii, p. 396.

Fig. 486.

2'. Lores and orbital ring not white in sharp contrast to

3. Sides and flanks tinged with olive gray.

olivaceus, p. 395.

Fig. 487.

3'. Sides and flanks bright olive yellow . . . flavoviridis, p. 395.
1'. Head not strikingly marked.
2. Upper parts gray. Western Texas to southern California.

vicinior, p. 400.

2'. Upper parts bright olive green or tinged with olive.
3. Upper parts bright olive green.

4. Larger and brighter noveboracensis, p. 398.

4'. Smaller and duller. Rio Grande Valley . . micrus, p. 399.
3'. Upper parts tinged with olive green. <^S98^

4. Wings unmarked gilvus, p. 395. ^W

4'. Wings marked with white. Fig. 488.

5. Wing about 2.18.

6. Wing with two distinct bands. Mississippi Valley and Plains,

bellii, p. 399.

6'. Wing usually with only one band. Arizona and California.

pusillus, p. 400.
5'. Wing about 2.50.
6. Wing bars white.


7. Darker, wing bars narrower. California.

huttoni, p. 399.

7'. Paler and grayer, wing bars broader. Texas and Arizona.

Stephens!, p. 399.

6'. Wing bars tinged with yellow. Washington and Oregon,
wintering in California obscurus. p. 399.

Subgenus Vireosylva.

Spurious primary if present decidedly shorter than tarsus ; wing without
light bands.

624. Vireo olivaceus (Linn.). RED-EYED VIREO.

Adults. Top of head gray, conspicuously bordered by white superciliary
and narrow black line ; -blackish line through eye ; rest of
upper parts olive green; wings without bands or spurious
primary ; under parts clear white. Young : similar, but back
brownish ash ; sides washed with brown. Length : 5.50-6.50,
Fig. 489. wing about 3.10-3.30, tail 2.15-2.30, exposed culmen, .50-


Distribution. Breeds from the arctic regions south chiefly in the north-
eastern United States, but extending through Florida and to the Gulf of
Mexico ; west to Montana and Washington ; migrates to South America. 1

Nest. Hung rather low from a forked twig of a tree, made of strips
of birch and inner bark, dead leaves, and vegetable fibers, often patched
with bits of wasp nest and lined with pine needles, or stems and rootlets.
Eggs : 3 to 5, white, lightly specked with reddish brown, chiefly around
the larger end.

Food. Insects and small berries.

The eastern red-eyed vireo is found occasionally in Colorado at the
base of the foothills, and has been recorded as far west as British

625. Vireo flavoviridis (Cass.). YELUOW-GREEN VIREO.

Like olivaceus, but sides and flanks bright olive green, axillars and
under tail coverts sulphur yellow. Length : 6.25-6.75, wing 2.80-3.20, tail

Distribution. Valley of the Lower Rio Grande in Texas, south to South
America ; accidental in Quebec and at Riverside, California.

627. Vireo gilvus (VieilL). WARBLING VIREO.

Adults. Upper parts olive gray, grayest on head and most olive on rump
and upper tail coverts ; white streak through eye ; wings and
tail dusky brown, unmarked, wing with a well-developed spu-
rious primary ; sides of head pale brownish or buffy ; under
parts white, shaded with olive yellow on sides. Young : top
Fig. 490. of head and hind neck pale grayish buff ; rest of upper parts
buffy, wings with buffy bars ; under parts pure white, except
for yellowish tail coverts. Length: 5.00-5.50, wing 2.65-2.95, tail 2.10-
2.40, bill from nostril .30-.32, depth at base .15-.18.

Distribution. North America in general from Great Slave Lake to
northern Mexico ; breeds throughout the greater part of this range. In
winter to southern Mexico.

Nest. Similar to that of the red-eye, but smoother and more compact ;
hung in trees, usually at a considerable height, in open copses, along banks


of streams, or in shade-trees along- streets. Eggs : 4 or 5, white, spotted
around larger end with reddish, dark brown, and lilac.

Colorless as this small leaf- tinted bird may seem in coat, character,
and song, its voice is nevertheless one of the sunny warbled rounds
that gives good cheer to the western mountain forests.

In Colorado, Prof. Cooke says, it breeds sparingly on the plains
and abundantly in the mountains up to 10,000 feet, especially in the
aspens. On San Francisco Mountain, Arizona, Dr. Mearns found it
in fall in the rank growth of annuals along streams in company with
terrestrial warblers.

But, though a mountain dweller, the little vireo is also a village
bird, leaning over and craning its neck to examine the leaves for
worms as carefully in a Utah garden as in the retirement of the

Subgenus Lanivireo.

Spurious primary if present decidedly shorter than tarsus ; wing with two
white bars.

629. Vireo solitarius (Wils.). BLUE-HEADED VIREO.

Adults. Top and sides of head dark gray in sharp contrast to white loral
streak, orbital ring and throat ; back olive green ; wings with two white bars ;
under parts clear white, shaded with olive and yellow on sides and flanks.
Young in first winter : anterior upper parts grayish brown, under parts dull
buffy white. Length : 5-6, wing 2.90-3.00, tail 2.10-2.20, bill from nostril

Distribution. Breeds from Great Slave Lake and Hudson Bay to south-
ern. New England and the northern part of the lake states, and from the
Atlantic coast to Dakota ; migrates to Guatemala.

Nest. In woods, in undergrowth, or hung from lower branches of small
trees, like that of the red-eye, but often decorated with catkins. Eggs :
usually 5, white, spotted mainly with reddish brown around the larger end.

Food. Chiefly insects.

629a. V. s. cassinii (Xantus). CASSIN VEREO.
Adults. Top and sides of head gray in sharp contrast to white of loral
streak, orbital ring, and throat; back dull
olive green ; wings with two clear white
bands ; under parts clear white, washed
with yellow and olive on sides and flanks.
Young in first winter : dull grayish brown
above, dull buffy below. Length : 5.00
5.60, wing 2.85-3.00, tail 2.10-2.30, bill
from nostril .28-.31, tarsus .70-.78.

Distribution. Breeds from British Co-
lumbia and Idaho south along the Pacific
coast region and Nevada to Lower Cali-
Fig. 491. f ornia ; migrates to Arizona, New Mexico,

and northern Mexico.

Nest. In oaks, manzanita, and buck brush, pendant, compactly woven
and lined with light-colored grasses, decorated with pieces of white cocoon.
Eggs : 4 or 5.


The Cassin vireo is more often heard in the oaks and conifers than
the warbling, though it also frequents alders and aspens. In south-
ern California, Mr. Grinnell finds it breeding in the mountain canyons
from the foothills to 4000 feet, and Mr. Anthony, writing from Ore-
gon, says, "Its clear, metallic notes ring through our forests from
earliest dawn until dark."

629b. V. S. plumbeus (Coues). PLUMBEOUS VIREO.

Adults. Entire upper parts and sides of head dark gray, in sharp con-
trast to white loral streak, orbital ring, throat, and wing bars ; under
parts white, sides and flanks strongly tinged with olive gray. Young :
similar, but upper parts more or less tinged with brown, and sides with
more olivaceous. Length: 5.75-6.15, wing 3.05-3.30, tail 2.30-2.55, bill
from nostril .30-35.

Remarks. In the plumbeous vireo the contrasts between the gray and
white markings of the head and under parts are the same as in other
members of the solitarius group, but in plumbeus there is hardly a trace of
the olive on back and sides which mark the other members of the group.

Distribution. Breeds in the southern Rocky Mountain region from the
Black Hills westward to the desert ranges of the Great Basin ; also in
northern Mexico ; migrates from southern Wyoming to southern Mexico.

Nest. In pine or oak, pendant, made of inner bark and vegetable fibers,
lined with fine grass stems and rootlets, and decorated with lichen, cocoon
cases, web, plant blossoms, and sometimes feathers. Eggs : often 4, white,
lightly specked around the larger end with black and brown.

In the wooded canyons of the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas the
loud, rich whistle of plumbeus often calls your attention to the gray
bird with the white eye rings who stops his work to sing in a sunny
pine top. There is something peculiarly attractive about him ; it
may be the harmony of his quaker garb with his sweet, rich voice
and quiet ways.

In New Mexico, through the breeding season, Mr. Henshaw found
the birds as high as 10,000 feet ; but in migration he found that they
scattered over the country, taking to the deciduous trees along

Subgenus Vireo.

Spurious primary equal to or longer than tarsus.

630. Vireo atricapillus Woodh. BLACK-CAPPED VIREO.

Adult male. Top and sides of head black in sharp contrast to white
loral streak, orbital ring, and median under parts ;
back bright olive green ; wing bar yellowish white.
Adult female : similar, but duller, and black of
head usually slaty. Young in first winter : top and
sides of head dull brownish ; lores, orbital ring,
and median under parts dull buffy ; upper parts
brownish green. Length : 4.40-4.75, wing 2. 15-
2.30, tail 1.80-2.00.

Distribution. Breeds from southwestern Kan- Fig 490.

sas to central and western Texas ; winters in south-
ern Mexico.


Nest. Hung in thickets, in bushes, or small trees, 2 to 6 feet from the
ground, made of dry leaves, cocoons, and spiders' webs, lined with fibers of
grass and bark. Eggs : usually 3, plain white.

Food. (3 stomachs) caterpillars.

At Pecos High Bridge, in the bottom of the Pecos River canyon,
which rang with the songs of an hepatic tanager, canyon wrens, and
cardinals, we were delighted to find the rare little spectacled black-
cap actually common, adding his loud song to the rich canyon
chorus. His song was unusually varied for a vireo, though of the
general character of the white-eye or bellii type rather than that of
gilvus. One song contained a run, and its last notes were liquid,
loud, and emphatic, something like come here, right -now -quick' , or
there now, wait-a-bit. The alarm-note was hoarse.

The calm deliberation of the vireo blood seems wanting in the
black-cap even though he does live in Texas. He hops about or
flies around in the most alert, energetic way. A pair were busy
building in a dense vine grown thicket against one of the canyon
walls, that is to say, the male was busy singing near by while his
mate worked on the nest, weaving spider web over the skeleton
leaves and cocoon cases.

Though the black-caps are partial to ravines, Mr. Bailey found
them common on scrub-oak ridges about Kerrville, hunting low in
the scrub oaks and junipers.

631. Vireo noveboracensis (GmeL). WHITE-EYED VDREO.

Adults. Upper parts bright olive green, wings with two sharply
marked bands ; lores, forehead, and orbital ring bright yellow ; throat and
chest white, sides and flanks bright sulphur yellow. Young : olive gray,
greener posteriorly ; wings crossed with two buffy bands ; under parts
white, buffy on flanks ; loral streak white. Length : 4.50-5.00, wing 2.35-
2.50, tail 1.90-2.10, bill from base .55-. 58, bill from nostril .27-.30, tarsus

Distribution. Breeds in Upper and Lower Sonoran zones from New
England south to Louisiana and northern Texas, west to the Rocky Moun-
tains ; winters from Florida to Guatemala and Honduras.

Nest. Hung in bushes or vines, in thickets or along borders of woods
or swamps, seldom over 4 feet from the ground ; made of vegetable fibers,
leaves, mosses, and lichens, lined with stems of weeds and grasses. Eggs :
4 or 5, white, lightly spotted with purple and reddish brown around the
larger end.

Food. Insects and their larvae.

The white-eyed vireo ranges west as far as the Rocky Mountains,
and in Kansas, Colonel Goss says, lives in thickets of briars and
vines on the low prairies, and also on the edges of woods bordering
streams and swamps. In Bermuda, where its jolly little relative
abounds, it is known as the ' chick of the village/ and its song is
rendered as Chick-a-dee-chick' -de-mllet.


63 Ic. V. n. micrus Nelson. SMALL WHITE-EYED VIKEO.

Like noveboracensis, but smaller and duller colored, with a paler wash
of yellow on flanks. Wing : 2.29, tail 1.97, bill .38, tarsus .78.

Distribution. Rio Grande Valley, Texas, to central Tamaulipas, Mex-

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 45 of 65)