John Richardson.

Fauna boreali-americana, or, The zoology of the northern parts of British America : containing descriptions of the objects of natural history collected on the late northern land expeditions, under command of Captain Sir John Franklin, R.N. (Volume 2) online

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presence the groves of aspen and taccamahac, which were previously almost
untenanted. Its manners, at that period of the year, were strikingly contrasted
with those of the resident Woodpeckers ; for, instead of flitting in a solitary
way from tree to tree, and assiduously boring for insects, it flew about in crowded
flocks in a restless manner, and kept up a continual chattering*. In the breeding
season it is more retired. It ranges from the sixty-first parallel of latitude to
Mexico t, from whence Mr. Swainson has received specimens.


Of a male, killed on the Saskatchewan, May 14, 1827.

Colour. — Forehead and crown, chin, and throat, arterial blood-red : both patches bor-
dered by greenish-black, which spreads out on the occiput and also on the lower part of the
neck and breast. Scapulars and wings black. Nostril feathers, a superciliary stripe, that
expands and unites with its fellow on the nape, a band from the rictus to the shoulder, a broad
oblique band from the spurious wing to the fourth greater covert, tips of most of the quills,
and a series of semicircular spots on both their webs, white (except on the outer webs of the
tertiaries, which are unspotted). Back also white, more or less tinged with yellow, crossed
on the tips by oval black spots : the tail coverts want the yellow tinge, and the upper ones
are blotched exteriorly with black. Tail feathers pitch-black ; inner webs of the central pair
white, spotted with black ; outer pair edged exteriorly with white. Belly gamboge-yellow,
blotched on the flanks with grey and blackish-brown. Bill black. Legs greenish. — R.

Form, aberrant, connecting the genus Picus with that of Melanerpes, Sw. Bill as in the
typical examples of this sub-genus : the culmen sharply carinated, and the lateral angles or
ridges placed very close to the exterior margin. fVings lengthened and obliquely pointed ;
the first or spurious quill remarkably small, being little more than three-quarters of an inch
long; the third, fourth, and fifth quills considerably longer than the rest; the two first of
these are equal, but the fifth is a little shorter ; the second and sixth are nearly equal : lesser
quills with notched tips. Feet very slender ; the two exterior toes, as in Melanerpes, are
equal, and in a slight degree shorter than the tarsus. Wings reaching nearly to the length of
the tail. — Is this the first form in Melanerpes, or the last in Picus ? — Sw.

The female wants the red on the throat. — A yearling, killed, in August, on the Saskat-
chewan, has the top of the head liver-brown, without any vestige of the red there or on the
throat ; neither is there any trace of the black gorget which exists on the breast of the adult.
The back is blackish-brown, with roundish white spots on the tips and margins of the feathers.

* How wonderfully in these habits does Nature typify the Swallows ! This, in fact, is the esculent form of Den-
drocopus, passing into the fissirostral group of the Piciance. — Sw.

f Brisson says it also inhabits Cayenne. This, however, is doubtful ; since we know not of a single species of this
family common to both sides of the equator. — Sw.


VV V,;., /


PI C U S T m 1 D A C T IT !!_, IT S .
London J 'ruiicd fir Jonx. . Uurra.if.Boo/isiJUrUtkc Jti»u.ruliv.^ ,<«^^««' /:''//'.".".

picidjE. 311

Under plumage yellowish-grey, obscurely barred with blackish-grey. It is nearly an inch
shorter than the old bird ; the members in proportion *.


Of the mature ma






Inch. Lin.

Length, total

. 9

Length of bill to rictus

. 1

2 Length of outer hind toe


„ of tail



„ of tarsus

10 „ of its nail

. 4

„ of wing

. 4


,, of middle toe


8 „ of inner hiud toe


„ of bill above

. 1

„ of middle nail

4^ „ of its nail

. 2

— R.

[104.] 5. Picus (Apternus) tridactylus. (Swainson.) Common Three-
toed Woodpecker.

Genus, Picus, Linn. Sub-genus, Apternus-f, pi. 56, Swains.

Three-toed Woodpecker {Picus Canadensis, digitis tribus). Edwards, pi. 114.

Picus tridactylus. Forster, Phil. Trans., Ixii., p. 388, No. 14.

Three-toed Woodpecker. Penn. Ant. ZooL, ii, p. 275, No. 1G8.

Picus hirsutus ? ViEii,. Ois. de VAm., ii., pi. 124.

Ch. Sp. Picus {Apternus) tridactylus, albo nigroque varius, sincipite maculato, vertice pallide croceo, rostra

maximt depresso.
Sp. Ch. Common Three-toed Woodpecker, varied with black and white; forehead spotted; crown pale

yellow ; bill considerably depressed.

This bird exists in all the forests of spruce-fir lying between Lake Superior and
the Arctic Sea, and it is the most common Woodpecker north of Great Slave
Lake. It much resembles the P. villosus in its habits, except that it seeks its
food principally on decaying trees of the pine tribe, in which it frequently makes
holes large enough to bury itself. It does not migrate. — R.

It would be tedious, and it is perhaps unnecessary, to show in what manner all
preceding ornithologists have confounded the northern three-toed Woodpeckers ;
since no two species can be more distinct than those here described and figured.
It is more than probable that the species described by Brisson, from Cayenne,
with a red crown, is different from either ; while that of Guiana, mentioned by
Bancroft as having the belly " bright crimson," is probably a fourth. The two
latter, however, for the present, must be placed among the ambiguous species,
since we know not to which of the genera of the Picianw they truly belong. — Sw.

* The markings on the wings and tail, with the comparative lengths and proportions of the quills and tarsi, and
the construction of the bill, are indubitable indications of this bird being the young of P. varitis, though it differs vei-y
materially from the beautiful figure given by Prince Charles Bonaparte, as above quoted. — Sw.

f Th. a, priv., et irlsfyo:, calx.



Of a male, killed near the sources of the Athabasca River, lat. 57°.

Colour. — Nostril feathers brown. Crown pale saffron-yellow, with white specks shining
through ; the rest of the upper surface and sides of the head velvet-black, thickly spotted
with white on the forehead, round the crown, and on the sides of the throat ; also a white
line from the eye to the nape, where it spreads out, and another from the nostrils under
the eye, dilating behind the ears. Temples and hind head unspotted. Dorsal plumage and
wings blackish-brown ; interscapulars and downy feathers on the hind part of the back barred
with white ; tips of most of the quills, and a series of spots* on their margins, also white,
the spots deficient on the outer webs of the tertiaries and of several adjoining secondaries.
Two middle pairs of tail feathers brownish-black ; two exterior pairs barred with black at the
base ; and the intermediate pair largely tipped with white. Under plumage : — chin, throat, a
line down the middle of the belly, and the under tail coverts, white; sides of the belly and
inner wing coverts barred with black. Bill bluish-grey above, whitish beneath. Legs lead-
coloured. — In some specimens there are a few white spots on the tips of the greater wing and
tail coverts. — The female is smaller than the male, and wants the yellow of the crown, the
top of the head being thickly spotted with white. The bluish and greenish-black on the
temples and hind head is very glossy. — R.

Form, typical. Bill perfectly straight, but considerably depressed, the lateral angles so
near the edge as to appear obsolete. Tarsus longer than the hind toe and its claw, which
toe is longer than the anterior one. Lateral tail feathers pointed, and not rounded, as in
Dendrocopus pubescens. — Svv.

Of the male.

Length, total
„ of tail
„ of wing
„ of bill above

Inch. Lin.
. 9 6 Length of bill to rictus

3 6 ,, of tarsus

.4 C 55 of middle toe .

1 1

Inch. Lin.

. 1 3 Length of middle nail

9^ „ ofhindtoet

. C 55 of its nail

Outermost tail feather but one.

• Seven or eight rows on the longer primaries ; in P. arcticus only five. — R.
t This is the versatile toe, the true hind toe being absent. — R.


XimA^jJ^vg^^JvrJo}ijriMAArrmf.Sf0^eUct'botlu .ichKUr&Jilf. '/(€MMuy ^ 4SZ9-


[105.] 6. Picus (Apternus) arcticus. (Swainson.) Arctic Three-toed


Genus, Picus, Linn. Sub-genus, Apterims, Swains.

Picus tridactylus. Bonap. Orn., i., p. 64, pi. 14, f. 2; the male.

Ch. Sp. Picus {Apternus) arcticus, super aterrimus nilidus: remigibus soils maculatis, subtus albus, axillis hypo-

chondriisque transverse nigro fasciatis, vertice saturate croceo.
Sp. Ch. Arctic Three-toed Woodpecker, above glossy black, with white spots on the quills only ; beneath

white ; sides of the body lineated with black ; crown saffron-yellow.

Plate lvii.

This is in every respect a larger species than the preceding : the bill is consi-
derably longer in proportion, and at the same time not so much depressed ; the
wings also are more pointed, since the sixth quill, which in the former is nearly
as long as the third, fourth, and fifth, is in this fully three-tenths of an inch
shorter. It was observed only on the eastern declivity of the Rocky Mountains,
where the common species was also procured. — Sw.


Of a male, killed near the sources of the Athabasca River, lat. 57°.

Colour. — Dorsal aspect throughout shining velvet-black, with a Prussian-blue reflexion
from the head, and a greenish one from the back. Crown bright saffron-yellow, approaching
to Dutch-orange*. Five rows of white spots on the greater quills, nearly obsolete on the
posterior lesser ones : none of the quills are tipped with white. A stripe from the rictus to
the side of the neck and the under plumage white, thickly barred with black on the sides of
the breast and belly. Tail similar to that of P. tridactylus. Colour of the hill and legs
also as in that species. The yema?e wants the yellow crown, and her bill is rather shorter than
that of the male. — R.

Form, typical. Bill less wide, and consequently stronger, than in the preceding species.
The hind toe is completely versatile, since, in one of the specimens, it has been placed
forward, and is so perfectly on a level with the others, that it would seem incapable of any
other position. None of the quills are emarginate on their tips. — Sw.


Of the male.





1, total



Length of bill to rictus

. 1


Length of middle nail

of tail

. 3


„ of tarsus .


„ of hind toe .

of wing

. 5

,, of middle toe .



„ of its uail

of bill above



• At the junction of the yellow tips with the black base of the crown feathers there is a white speck, but it is not
nearly so large and conspicuous as in P. tridactylus. The specks exist in the crests of other Woodpeckers. — R.


[106.1 1. CoLAPTES AURATUS. (Swaiiis.) Golden-s/mfted Woodpecker.

Genus, Colaptes, Swains. Sub-genus, (Typical form,) Swains.

Picus auratus. Foustee, Phil. Tram.,\x\'-L., p. 387, No. 12.

Golden-wing AVoodpecker. Penn. Arcl. Zool, ii., p. 270, No. 158. WiLS., i., p. 45,

pi. 13, i. 1. ViEiL. Ois. de I'Jm., ii., pi. 123.
Picus auratus. Sab., Frankl.Journ., -p. 666. Bonap. .%)i.. No. 36. Wagl. Pictw, No. 84.
Ootheequan-nornow. Cree Indians.

This beautifully marked bird visits the fur-countries only in the summer time,
advancing as far north as Great Slave Lake, but resorting in the greatest
numbers to the plains of the Saskatchewan. Instead of hiding itself in the depths
of the forest, like the other Woodpeckers, it frequents the open downs, and
employs itself in turning over the ant-hillocks in search of the larvae on which
it preys. Having made its repast, it often perches on the summit of a dead tree,
to repose itself, its mode of life by no means requiring the continual toil which
the Pici of the preceding pages are condemned to. It can, however, use its bill
very efficiently in excavating a hole for its nest. In the pairing season the male
frequently makes a loud rapping on the branch of a tree with its bill, which I
have conjectured to be a signal to its mate, as I did not observe that it drilled
holes at such times. Though a watchful and, in some respects, a shy bird, I
have known it to construct its nest in the natural cavity of a solitary tree,
standing near the door of a trading-post.

Of a male, killed on the Saskatchewan, May 14, 1827.

Colour. — Upper plumage nuchal crest tipped with arterial blood-red; the fore
part of the back, the scapulars, wing coverts, and lesser quills, regularly barred with black
(this colour extending also to the middles of the lesser quills). Greater quills umber-brown,
with small marginal hair-brown spots : the shafts of all the quills, the interior of the wings,
and the basal half of the tail beneath, bright saffron-yellow. Rump pure white; its sides
and the tail coverts above and below banded with black and white. Tail pitch-black, obso-
letely tipped and spotted on the edges with brownish-white. Sides of the head, chin, and
MnderpZwmajfe, fawn-coloured*, fading to greyish-white towards the vent. Maxillary band,
a gorget on the breast, and round spots over the whole ventral plumage, velvet black. Bill
bluish-black. Irides brown, ie^s greyish-blue. — The /emaZe differs merely in wanting the
maxillary band. — R.

Form, typical. Bill much compressed ; the culmen sharply ridged, and gently curved in
its whole length : there is not the least vestige of lateral ridges or angles on the upper man-

* Intermediate between yellowistirlrown and brownish-ptirple. (Light cinnamon or fawn-colour. — Wii.s.)

piciD^. 315

dible. Nostrils large, oval, only partially protected by setaceous feathers. Head not d, the tip not flexible or acutely pointed,
the under mandible exposed.











Upon the first column of analogies, which well deserves the attention of
ornithologists, we cannot at present dwell. But some highly interesting results,
which have very recently attended our investigation of the theory of analogies,
induces us to offer the above series to the notice of zoologists with some degree
of confidence.

The respective circles of the typical and sub-typical groups are complete, only
one genus among the Cinnyridce remaining to be characterized*. In regard to
the aberrant group, it is obvious that a form which presents us with the bill of a
Promerops and the feet of a Honey-sucker, would be sufficient to render the circle
not very incomplete. Such a form we actually see in the magnificent Ptiloris
paradiseus, Swains., the Rifle-bird of the Australian colonists ; some ornitho-
logists still persist in placing it with the Promeropidw, while others consider it as
belonging to the Meliphagidce. Can we have a better proof of its affinity
to both these families ?

The genus Ncctarinia, into which the sub-genus Dacnis of M, Cuvier merges,
is the fissirostral type of the Cinnyridce, and conducts us at once into the
circle of the

• Anthreptes, Nobis. — See Appendix.

•2 T



or o-enuine Humming-birds of the New Continent. The leading divisions of this
superb family we took occasion to characterize, some years ago, in another work.
A better acquaintance with the theory of variation, of which at that period,
indeed we were totally ignorant, has taken from us all confidence in the accu-
racy of the minor types which we then ventured to name ; we still, however,
believe that the primary groups succeed each other in the following series : —



Typical group.

{Bill narrow and very straight in its entire length :] ^ , ., ^ .
., , n \ ■, ( Irochilus, Linn,

tail moderate, lorked. J

2. f Bill slightly curved ; tail lengthened, much longer 1

Sub-typical group.\ than the wings, and deeply forked. J


Aberrant group.

Bill falcated ; tail lengthened, cuneated. Phaethornis, Sw.

Bill considerably depressed, and enlarged at the 1 Campy lopterus,

base ; nostrils tumid. J Sw.

Bill curved, culmen convex ; tail very broad, the 1 , • ci

■' > Lampornis, Sw.

feathers abruptly truncated. J

The only doubt we are inclined to throw upon this table (which is merely an
exposition of the typical distinctions of the five genera) relates to Campylopterus,
a name we originally confined to the broad-shafted Humming-birds. We suspect,
however, that the typical form is represented by the Trochilus cyaneus and such
other species as have a very depressed bill, considerably dilated at its base, where
it is generally red : in this division the tail is particularly variable. Unluckily,
from having broken up our own collection of TrochilidcB, we cannot, at this
moment, investigate the subject more closely. But the truth is, that the accuracy
of the above table can only be demonstrated when the circular series of each
genus has been made out*. Until this is done, we shall merely intimate our
belief that both the species now to be described belong to the typical genus,
and that the second is decidedly an aberrant form, representing the scansorial
Creepers (Certhiadw). — Sw.

* However deficient we are in this country in materials for such inquiries, tlie British ornithologist who desires to
become acquainted with this family has no need of visiting foreign museums. In the unrivalled collection of our
valued friend, George Loddiges, Esq., he will see an assemblage of these gems ; which, in point of number, perfection,
and splendour, cannot be equalled, much less surpassed, by those of any museum, public or private, in the world. We
have long meditated, with the valuable assistance of our enthusiastic friend, a complete revision of this family, and we
trust that this intention will not be long delayed. — Sw.

trochilidjE. 323

[112.] 1. Trochilus coLUBRis. (Linn.) Northern Humming-bird.

Genus, Trochilus, LiVN.

Trochilus colubris. Idem.

Red-throated Humming-bird. Edwards, i., pi. 38. Penn. Arct. Zoo!., ii., 176.

Red-throated Humming-bird. Lath. Syn., ii., p. 769. Idem, Gen. Hist^ iv., p. 344 (omitting varieties).

Trochilus colubris. Idem, /nd, i., p. 312.

Le Rubis. Vieil. Ois. de rAm., i., pi. 31 and 32.

Humming-bird {Trochilus colubris). WiLS., ii., p. 26, pi. 10, f. 3 and 4.

Trochilus colubris. Bonap. St/n., No. 155.

The migration of birds has in all ages been a matter of pleasing speculation
to the natural philosopher ; but in no instance does it appear more wonderful
than when we contemplate it as forming part of the economy of the Humming-
birds. The vast extent of space traversed by some of the winged tribes in
their way from their winter retreats to their breeding-places gives us great
ideas of their unwearied strength of wing and rapidity of flight ; but how is
our admiration of the ways of Providence increased, when we find that one of
the least of its class, clothed in the most delicate and brilliant plumage, and
apparently more fitted to flutter about in a conservatory than to brave the fury
of the blast, should yield to few birds in the extent of its migrations ! The
Northern Humming-bird, which winters to the southward of the United States^
ranges, in summer, to the fifl:y-seventh parallel, and perhaps even still farther
north*. We obtained specimens on the plains of the Saskatchewan, and Mr.
Drummond found one of its nests near the sources of the Elk River. This
nest is composed principally of the down of an anemone, bound together with a
few stalks of moss and bits of hchen, and has an internal diameter of one inch.
The eggs, two in number, of a reddish-white colour and obtuse at both ends, are
half an inch long and four lines and a quarter in transverse diameter. — R.

Of a male, killed on the plains of the Saskatchewan.

Colour. — The whole of the upper plumage shining gilded green, iflngs dusky black,
glossed with violet : lateral tail feathers the same, but considerably darker and glossed more
>vith purple, particularly beneath ; the two middle feathers entirely green, the next pair edged
with green. Under plumage : a black fillet passes from ear to ear and forms a line under the

* Kotzebne informs us that the Trochilus rufiis is found in summer as high as the sisty-first parallel on the Pacific
coast. The climate of the Pacific coast is considerably milder, howerer, than that of the country lying to the east-
ward of the Rocky Mountains. — R,

•2 T 2


chin ; the upper half of the throat is covered by scale-like feathers of a brilliant and change-
able ruby-red colour, the feathers round which, towards the breast and on the sides of the
neck, are white, which becomes more obscure on the body, vent, and under tail covers : the
sides are dusky, but glossed with green.

Form. — Bill perfectly straight in its entire length. TVinijs short ; the quills narrow, and
not reaching to the end of the tail ; the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth quills are very deeply
and obliquely notched at the tip of their outer webs, in such a marked and peculiar manner,
as to give an idea that the notch was artificial. The tail is rather short, but distinctly forked ;
the two outer feathers are nearly equal, the rest gradually diminish : they have an obtusely
pointed form, being narrowed towards their ends ; but those in the middle are broader.


Incb. Lin. Inch. Lin, Inch. Lin.

Length, total . . .36 Length of bill above . 7i Length of middle toe .02

of tail ..11 „ of bill to rictus .0 9 j „ of its nail . .0 1 j

of wing . .17 V of tarsus . . If Depth of fork of tail . .0 4

— Sw.

[113.] 2. Trochilus (Selasphorus) rufus. (Swainson.) Cinnamon, or
Noot/ea Humming-bird.

Genus, Trochilus, Linn. Swains. Sub-genus, Selasphorus*, Swains.

Ruff-necked Humming-bird. Lath. Sj/n., ii., p. 785, pi. 35. Gen. Hist., iv., p, 350.

Trochilus rufus. Gmel. Sys<., i., p. 497.

Trochilus coUaris. Lath. Ind. Orn., i., p. 318.

Ruff-necked Honey-sucker. Penn. Jrct. Zool., ii., p. 177-

Le Sasin. Vieil. Ois. dor., pi. CI, 62.

Humming-bird. Cook's Third Voyage, ii., 297.

The discovery of this superb species^ in the cold and inhospitable regions of
Nootka Sounds is due to our great navigator, Captain Cook; while to Dr. Latham
belongs the honour of first making it known to science. By a singular chance,
we have at this moment before us one of the identical specimens, in perfect
preservation, collected by the naturalists of that expedition: it was pre-
sented by the late Sir Joseph Banks to Mr. Bullock, and was purchased by us,
at a very high price, at the dispersion of that collector's museum by public
auction. We are likewise able to vouch for its geographic range, to the south-

• Th. likx(riptats, splendorem fererts.

trochilidjE. 325

ward, as far as the table-land of Mexico, near Real del Monte ; specimens from
that part having- been obligingly sent us for examination by our friend, Mr.
Taylor, and which are now in the magnificent collection of Mr. Loddiges. — Sw.

Of a full-plumaged male, in Mr. Swainson's museum.

Colour. — General tint of the upper plumage, rufous or cinnamon*, which covers the
head, ears, neck, back, rump, upper tail covers, and margins of the tail feathers ; the crown
and the wing covers, however, have a strong coppery-greenish gloss ; but which does not
extend to the ears, the upper line above the eye, or to that between the eye and bill ; the
greater and lesser quills, and the middle of the tail feathers with their tips, are all of a pale
dusky brown, slightly glossed with violet. Under plumage: the whole of the chin and throat
is covered by scale-hke feathers, of a fire-like colour and lustre, equally brilliant with the
throat of T.moschitus, but with more of a red and less of an orange gloss; the tints, however,
change in almost every direction of light, and in all are exquisitely splendid. The middle of
the breast and vent are nearly pure white ; but all the sides and the under tail covers are of
the same colour as the back. Legs and feet dark-brown. — The female, as described by Dr.

Online LibraryJohn RichardsonFauna boreali-americana, or, The zoology of the northern parts of British America : containing descriptions of the objects of natural history collected on the late northern land expeditions, under command of Captain Sir John Franklin, R.N. (Volume 2) → online text (page 41 of 64)