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Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology online

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Sciunts sulfurascens, jyORB., Ois. Cuba, 1839, 67, pL 6.
Emcoeichla mlphurascens, '^ Gray."
Seiurus svlphurcLscenSy Bona?., Consp. Av. i, 1860, 306.
fferUeocichla sulphurascens, Gundl., Joum. fur Orn. 1866, 471.
AfUhus rherminieri, Lesson, " Rev, Zoologique 1839, 101." (Not verified

by me.)
Seiurus gossii, Bonap., Consp. Av. i, 1860, 306.
Fauvette tacheUe de la I^ouisimUy Buff., " Hist Nat Ois, v, 161 " ; PL

Eulum. No. 762, f. 1 (is the basis of Bodd.'s and Gul's names).
Figuter bnm de S. Domingue, Briss., Orn. iii, 1760, 613, No. 62, pL 28,

f. 6 (obviously this sp. ; sole basis of Mot tigrina var. ft Gm.).
Ficedida dominicensis fusca, Briss., op. loc, ciL
New York Warbler^ Lath., Syn. ii, pt ii, 1783, 436, No. 29 (= Mot. nove-

horacensis Gm.).
Spotted Yellow Warbler, var. A, Lath., Syn. ii, pt ii, 1783, 483, var. A

(= Sylvia tigrina var. ft Lath.).
Fauveite brum, V., 0. A. S., I. s. c,

Bessy Kick-up, River Pink, GossE, B. Jam. 1847, 161 (basis of 8. gossii Bp.).
Grive de rouisseavx, ou Hochequeue, Le Moine, Ois. Canad. 1861, 173.
Water Thrush, New York Water Thrush, Aquatic Wagtail, Aquatic Wood-
Wagtail, Aquatic Accentor, of Authors.

3. Sinnis motaoilla.

Turdus motacilla, Vibill., Ois. Am. Sept ii, 1807, 9, pL 66 (not of Bp.,

Seiurus motacilla, Bonap., Consp. Av. i, 1860, 306.
Henicodchla motacilla. Cab., Joum. fiir Om. 1867, 240.
Siurus motacilla, CouES, Birds Colorado Valley, 187-, (MSS. ined.).
Turdus ludovidanus, Aud., Om. Biog. i, 1832, 99, pL 19 (afterward mei^ged

in S. noveboracensis),
Seiurus ludovidanus, Bonap., Comp. Geogr. List 1838, 21,
Siurus ludovidanus, Solat., P. Z. S. 1869, 363.
Sdurus ludovidanus, Trippe, Proc. Boat Soc. xv, 1873, 234
Henicodchla ludovidana, Solat., Cat Am. B. 1860, 26.
Henicodchla major, Caban., Mus. Hein. i, 1860, 16.
Enicodchla major, Brewer, Proc Bost Soc. Nat Hist vii, 1860, 306.
Grive hochequeue, Vieill., I s. c
Louisiana or Large-hUled Water Thrush, Authors.

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The Black Tern is the most abundant representative of its family
in this State, making its appearance in the vicinity of Minneapolis
about the middle of May. Stragglers remain until the first week
in September, but the majority leave during the latter part of
August. For a short time after their arrival they are to be seen
flying leisurely around the larger lakes ; but as the nesting-season
approaches they select some prairie slough or marshy lake, and
there spend the greater part of their time untQ the young are able
to fly. Late in May or early in June the nest is built and the eggs
are laid, or the eggs are deposited without any nest, as the case
may be. Dr. Coues mentions (Birds of the Northwest, 1874) meet-
ing with a colony breeding along the Red River, and states that
there were no nests whatever, the eggs being placed on beds of
decaying reeds. Such is their habit imder some circumstances, but
only two instances of the kind have come under my notice as yet
Once, I found three eggs laid directly on the mud on an abandoned,
broken-down muskrat house in the midst of a large slough. The
same day I found another set of two eggs on a bed formed by the
bending over of the tops of some tall dead grass. They were thus
raised more than a foot above the water, which was of considerable
depth. There was no indication of a nest^ the eggs being held in
place by resting among the coarse grass. A very interesting and
valuable note on this subject occurs in a short article by Dr. P. L.
Hatch, published in the Bulletin of the Minnesota Academy of
Natural Sciences for 1876. It is an extract from a letter written
by Mr. E. W. Nelson of Chicago, and although the observations
were not made in this State, I will introduce them here : " I have
seen the eggs of Sterna plumhea deposited on masses of floating
weeds in several instances, but only for the third brood, the bird
having previously built two nests and deposited the eggs in both,
which had been removed by myself to ascertain how many they
would lay. The result was almost invariably as follows : first nest,
three eggs ; second nest, two eggs ; and the third, one egg. In

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several instances I found the nests floating in two and a half to
three feet of water without the least sign of floating rushes in the
vicinity ; in fact, there were no rushes or anything else except fine
swamp grass growing anywhere near, and of this the nests were

As already stated, they build in this section (vicinity of Minne-
apolis) in the latter part of May or early in June, usually placing
the nest in a prairie slough or marsh bordering an open pond. The
material used in the construction is short bits of grass and reeds
disposed in such a manner that a neat, but loose structure is
formed. Occasionally greater skill is displayed, longer material
being used, which is slightly interwoven, so that the nest may even
be removed alone without injuring it. These frail structures are
sometimes found upon floating masses of decayed debris, and when
so situated it is necessary, with but few exceptions, to detach a por-
tion of this underlying bed in order to remove the nest intact But
they are oftener placed upon the tops of small mounds of partially
decayed vegetable matter. These mounds, undoubtedly made by
the Terns as foundations for their nests, are seven or eight inches
in diameter, and rise one or two inches above the surface of the
water. They are placed over beds of live moss, and are partly sup-
ported by the water and partly by the moss below. It takes but a
slight motion of the water to rock them, and they would undoubt-
edly often go adrift were they not generally protected by the grass
growing around them. To obtain the nest in good condition the
hand may be inserted beneath the pile and the whole lifted u]j>.

The average external diameter of the nest of this Tern is about
five inches ; internal diameter, three inches ; while the depth varies
from a slight depression to three fourths of an inch or more. The
eggs are either two or three in number, perhaps oftener three than
two. Their ground-color varies from deep brown to greenish white.
The markings consist of blotches, dots, etc., of various shades of
brown. On some specimens there are a few, and on others numer-
ous, obscure pale spots in the shelL Frequently the markings are
nearly equally distributed over the entire surface of the eg^^ but
usually are aggregated to form a wreath around the larger end. So
fax as my observations have extended, all the eggs taken from one
nest have about the same ground-color and character of marking.
The average measurement of fifteen eggs before me is 1.35 inches
in length by .98 inches in width.

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During the day the parent birds sit on the nest very little, leav-
ing the incubation of the eggs greatly to the heat from the sun and
the warmth arising from the damp decaying vegetable matter upon
which they rest, for the nests are almost always moist inside.
When the site where a colony is breeding is approached nearer than
the parent birds deem safe, they make a great clamor, and dart
repeatedly at the head of the intruder, occasionally venturing within
a foot or two. If the nest of a pair be removed, and the birds
left to themselves, they show considerable distress at their loss.
Hovering over the spot from which the nest has been taken, they
utter incessant cries and frequently alight to look in vain for their
lost treasure. All the Terns in the neighborhood join in the cries
of the bereaved pair, and the lamentation becomes general.

I once had the fortune to meet with a young Tern of this species
which had evidently entered this world but a few hours before. It
was a curious-looking little creature, and could swim very well. The
following description may convey some idea of its appearance : body
covered with a sofl, flufiy down ; beneath, pale sooty ; above, obscure
yellow, washed with grayish, and tinged with rufous on the posterior
parts of the body. Scattered' over the upper parts were irregular
spots of black. The under surfaces of the wings, lores, and feath-
ers next the base of the upper mandible were white. The bill was
black, with a white spot at the end of the upper mandible. L^
very dark flesh-color, with a reddish tinge.

I am of the opinion that these miniature Terns leave the nest,
very soon after emeiging from the egg. The one just described
was found swimming about several feet from the nest, while just at
the time one of his brothers was working his way into the world by
neatly cutting the shell into halves with the point of his bilL

As soon as the young Terns are able to fly they are conducted to
some suitable situation aroimd a pond or lake, where they can sit
while the parent birds supply them with food. I once counted
thirty-seven sitting thus at one time on four or five panels of fence,
which extended from the shore a short distance into a lake.

Minneapolis, Minn.

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Thb following nests, preTiously unknown to science, were collected
for me by Mr. Charles A. Allen, of Nicasio, Marin County, Califor-
nia : —

1. Californian Purpli Finch (Carpodacus purpwreus Tar. calif omieuiy
Baird). Two nests of this variety of the Purple Finch taken at Nicasio,
Marin Comity, Califomia, are before me. The first, with a set of ^ye
eggs, was collected May 10, 1876. It is a somewhat smaller structure
than the nest of the Eastern bird, and is much more closely compacted.
It measures externally 5.75 inches in diameter, by 2.75 in depth. Inter-
nally 2.00 inches in diameter by 1.50 in depth. The outer framework is
composed of rather fine weed-stalks and coarse grasses firmly interwoven,
while the inner nest is fitted smoothly and warmly with a peculiar fibrous
hemp-like material of a rich bay color. This nest was found in a garden
in Nicasio. It was placed in the fork of two limbs at the height of about
eight feet above the ground. The eggs differ very materially from those of
Carpodcums purpureus var. purpwretu, and much more closely resemble eggs
of the House Finch (C frorUcUU). Their ground-color is white with a
scarcely perceptible shade of bluish, about as much, in fact, as obtains in
average eggs- of the Indigo Bird {Gyanospiza cya/nea). A very few lines
and dots of black or dark brown about the larger ends constitute the only
markings. They are in shape a blunted oval, and measure .73 of an inch
in length by .55 in breadth. The other nest contained young, and as it
was not secured imtil after they had left it, is in rather poor condition.
It, however, agrees very closely with the one just described, and is lined
with the same peculiar material. The parent bird — a male — sent with
these nests is quite typical of the variety which it represents.

2. RuFOUS-CBOWNBD SPARROW {PeuccM ruficepgy Baird). — A nest of this
species collected by Mr. Allen on Black Mountain, near Nicasio, July 10,
1875, presents the following features : It is outwardly composed of
coarse grass and weed-stalks, and lined somewhat scantily with horse-hair.
It is very loosely put together, and the original shape is so nearly de-
stroyed that measurements are almost impracticable. An approximation
woald, however, be nearly as follows : External diameter, 4 inches ; inter-
nal, 2.25 inches. External depth, 2 inches ; internal, 1.25 inches. It
contained three pure white eggs, which measure .89 of an inch in length
by .65 in breadth. The locidity was an open heathy tract on the moun-
tain-side, and the nest was placed on the ground under a bush. Mr.

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Allen, haying only his rifle with him at the time, was nnable to secure the
female, but as she sat closely and was distinctly seen by him, there seems
little reason to doubt the correctness of the identification, especially as in
position of nest, color and size of eggs, etc, we find nothing incompatible
with the corresponding breeding characteristics of the other and better-
known species of this genua.

Mr. Allen has since informed me, by letter, that a nest satisfEtctorily
determined as belonging to this species, and which agrees closely with the
one just described, was discovered by Captain Charles Bendire in Ore-
gon (?).



Although this species (Steganopus wilsani, Coues) is more or
less common iu portions of the country frequently yisited by
Ornithologists, it is remarkable that its life-history should be so
little known. The account of nearly every author who has men-
tioned the species contains more or less error, and none give any-
thing like a complete history of it. To remedy this to some
extent is the object of the present paper, since I have had abundant
opportunity for observing the bird in the field.

But first I wish to make a few quotations from and remarks upon
the principal accoimts of the species. Ord, in bis edition of ^* Wilson's
Ornithology (Vol. Ill, p. 205), states as follows : ",Our figure of this
species [Phalaropu$ lobattis, Ord] bears all the marks of haste ; it is
inaccurately drawn, and imperfectly colored ; notwithstanding, by
a diligent study of it, I have been enabled to ascertain that it is the
Coot-footed Tringa [Phalarope] of Edwards, pis. 46 and 143, to which
bird LinnsDus gave the specific denomination of lobatus" Thus ^
Ord is undoubtedly correct, as is evident by a comparison of the
plates in question. As Dr. Coues has already stated (Birds of the
Northwest, p. 467), Tringa lobata, Linn, is Lohipea hyperboreus, (L.)
Cuv., and I perfectly agree with Ord in referring Wilson's plate to
the same species ', but further on Ord describes an undoubted speci-
men of Steganopua wilsoni, taken near Philadelphia^ as being identi-
cal with Wilson's plate of lobatusy which is certainly a bad case of
mal-identification. From references I have been enabled to make, I

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think it extremely doubtful that Wilson ever saw a specimen of
S, vnl9on\.

Audubon's account fA the sexes of this bird is quite erroneous.
Concerning a pair taken near Great Egg Harbor, in June, 1829, he
states that, '' on examining the birds when we returned, I saw that
the female had been sitting " ; * and on the opposite page, '' I ob-
served scarcely any difference in the coloring of the sexes, the
female being merely larger than the male " ; and he again states :
*' The female, which is somewhat larger, is in color precisely similar
to the male." The few specimens seen by Audubcm during the
breeding-season were apparently all females, and, taking it for
granted that the males were equally bright, he so stated. In his
plate of this species he figures a *^ female ^ young of the year and
an adult *' male," which is, in reality, a female in breeding plumage.
Audubon's statement regarding the likeiiess of the sexes in the
breeding plumage has been accepted as true by subsequent authors,
eyen when they have had the opportunity to settle the matter for
themselves in the field.

Nuttall adds considerable to the known range of the species, but
makes his statements curiously conflicting, as the following quota-
tions show : '* Taking the interior of the continent for its abode, it
is seen not uncommon on the borders of lakes, in the vicinity of the
City of Mexico. In these situations, choosing the shelter of some
grassy tuft, it forms an artless nest, in which it deposits two or
three pyriform eggs, between yellowish-gray and cream-color, inter-
spersed with small roundish spots and a few larger blotches of um-
ber-brown somewhat crowded towards the obtuse end." He also
states that '' it is unknown in summer beyond the 55th par^lel,
passing the period of reproduction^ on the plains of the Saskatche-
wan, being also a stranger to the coasts of Hudson's Bay " ; and
again, that '' in the United States it can only he considered as a strag^

Dr. Coues, in his ** Birds of the Northwest," arranges the synon-
ymy of the species in a very satisfactory manner, but makes essen-
tially the same statement as Audubon regarding the sexual plum-
ages, and adds nothing of importance to the life-history of the
species. To Mr. A. L. Eumlien^ is due the credit of being the

* Birds of Amor., Vol. V, pp. 229, 280, pL 841.
+ Man. Orn., VoL II, pp. 245, 246.
t Field and Forest, July, 1876.

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first to announce the true relations of the sexes of this' species.
His statements that '^ the male attends to the duties of incubation
almost entirely alone/' and that " not only is the female much more
brilliant in plumage, but also considerably larger/' are certainly
true, but that the females " pursue " the males during the pairing-
season seems to me to be rather doubtful, imless, as might be the
case, Mr. Kumlien has mistaken for this their habit of flying rest-
lessly about the 'marsh in small parties of three or four individu-
ab, when the males are usually in advance. At these times the
nearest approach I have observed to pursuit is in a habit they have
of suddenly darting off for a short distance at right angles to their
general course, but this appears to be in mere sport, for nearly the
same relative positions are kept by the birds, and this erratic course
is rarely pursued beyond a few rods.

In fact, throughout the pairing-season I have always found the
Phalaropes very undemonstrative toward each other, the choice of
mates being conducted in a quiet, unobtrusive way, quite unlike
the usual manner among birds. Neither have I ever seen the
males " drop as if shot, within two feet of me, and feign the most
distressing pains," when the nest is discovered ; nor even when the
newly hatched young have been captured do they evince any such
emotion, and at no time have I ever seen any more anxiety shown
by the male than by the female. Mr. Kumlien describes the nest
as being built in a tilissock of grass, "much in the same manner as
the AgekeuB phoemceus^^ which is certainly a considerable variation
from the situations chosen by the birds in Northern Illinois, as a
comparison of the above statement with my description of the situ-
ation of the nest will show.

My experience with the species has been to prove that during the
breeding-season, at least, they are averse to any large body of wa-
ter, and I have never found the young away from the midst of the
grassy marshes until fully fledged. The last author before quoted,
however, states that *' the young are conducted to the shore soon
after they are hatched, and if suddenly surprised take to the water
and swim and dive with the greatest ease."

In Northern Illinois, where the following observations were made,
Wilson's Phalarope is the most conmion summer resident, occurring
about grassy marshes and low prairies, and is not exceeded in num-
bers by even the ever-present Spotted Sandpiper. As is the case
with several other species of birds, Lake Michigan appears to form

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a limit to its common occurrence in the eastern portion of its range.
On the west it extends to the Eockj Moimtains, and between these
limits it has been recorded during the breeding-season from the Sas-
katchewan to the Arkansas (Coues) and to the city of Mexico (Nut-
tall). It is more closely confined to its favorite haunts than most
water-birds, and this may, in a measure, account for the little hith-
erto known regarding its habits. During the first two weeks of
May, the exact date varying with the season, this beautiful bird
first makes its appearance in Northeastern Illinois. Its arrival is
heralded by a few females, which arrive first, and are found singly
about the marshes. At this time the females have a peculiai; harsh
note, which I have heard but a few times, and only from solitary
Individuals before the arrival of the main body.

A few days later small flocks, embracing both sexes, may be
found along the bordet^ of grassy pools, or lying at midday on the
sunny side of some warm kndl in the marsh. As the breeding-sea-
son approaches they become more restless, flying from place to
place, and finally separate into small parties of two or three pairs.
About the middle of May their love-making commences, and is at
first indicated by the increasing solicitude they show for each
other's welfare. The appearance of a person in their vicinity at
this time is the signal for all the birds near to come circling about,
though generally not within easy gunshot. By a careful approach
one may now and then find a small party swimming about in some
secluded pooL The charming grace of movement exhibited at such
times, combined with their tasteful elegance of attire, form one of
the most pleasing sights one could witness, as they swim buoyantly
firom side to side of the pool, gracefully nodding their heads ; now
pausing an instant to arrange a feather, or to daintily gather some
fragment of food, and now floating idly about, wafted by the slight
breeze which at intervals ripples the surface of the water. A more
common, but scarcely less pleasing sight is presented when, uncon-
scious of observation, they walk sedately along the border of the
water, never departing from their usual easy grace of movement.
Their food is generally found in such places, where the receding
water furnishes a bountiful supply. The only demonstrations I
have observed during the pairing-time consist of a kind of solemn
bowing of the head and body ; but sometimes, with the head low-
ered and thrust forward, they will run back and forth in front of
the object of their regard ; or again a pair may often be seen to

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salute each other bj alternately bowing or lowering their beads ;
but their courtship is characterized bj a lack of the rivalrj and
Tehemenoe usually exhibited by birds. A male is often cu3c<Hnpa-
nied by two females at firsts but as soon as his choice is made the
rejected bird joins her fortunes with some more impressible swain.

The nesting-site is usually in some thin tuft of grass on a IcTel
spot, but often in an open place concealed by only a few straggling
blades of small carices. The male scratches a shallow depressi<Hi in
the soft earth, which is usually lined with a thin layer of fragments
of old grass blades, upon which the eggs, numbering from three to
four, are deposited about the last of May or first of June. Owing
to the low situations in which the nests are placed, the first set of
eggs is often destroyed by a heavy fiJl of rain, causing the water
to rise so as to submerge the nest. In this case the sec(md set,
numbering two or three, are often deposited in a depression
scratched in the ground, as at first, but with no sign of any
lining. Accidents of this kind cause the second set of eggs to be
sometimes deposited as late as the last of June.

The young usually appear about the third week of June, and are
able to fly in about three weeks. Generally a number of pairs nest
upon the same marsh. In some instances as many as fifty may be
counted within the radius of a mile ; but, notwithstanding this,
their nests are extremely difficult to discover, the material and
the color of the eggs correspond so closely to the appearance of
the surrounding surface. If they are disturbed while building,
the nest is usually abandoned. Incubation is attended to by the
male alone.* The female, however, keeps near, and is quick to
give the alarm upon the approach of danger. The females are fre-
quently found at this time in small parties of six or eight ; and
should their breeding-ground be approached, exhibit great anxiety,
coming from every part of the marsh to meet the intruder, and, hover-
ing over his head, utter a weak nasal note, which can be heard to

* [As above stated by Mr. Nelson, Mr. Exiinlien was the first to call atten-
tion to this fact, as regards the present species, as well as to the fact of the
iemale being lai|^ and brighter-colored than the male. Eoiopean authmi
have recorded the same sexual peculiarities of plumage in ihid Red and the
Northern Phalaropes (PhalAropiis fuliearius aad Lobipes hyperhoreiu), and also,
in respect to the former, that the male alone undertakes the duties of incubation.

Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 16 of 50)