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

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In these species the male is said to show much greater, devotion to the yofung,
when exposed to danger, than does the female. — J. A. Allen.]



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ORNITHOLOGICAL CLUB. 43

only a short distanoe. This note, which is possessed bj both sexes,
is nearly always made while the birds are in the air, and its pro-
duction requires apparently considerable effort ; the head and neck
being inclined downward, and then suddenly raised as the note is
uttered, the flight being at the same time momentarily dhecked.
The movements of the birds usually render it an easy matter to
decide whether or not they have nests in the immediate vicinity.
After the first alarm, those having nests at a distance disperse,
while the others take their course in the form of an ellipse, some*
times several hundred yards in length, with the object of their
suspicion in the centre; and, with long strokes of their wings,
much like the flight of a KiUdeer, they move back and forth. As
their nests are approached the length of their flight is gradually
lessened, until at last they are joined by the males, when the whole
party hover low over the intruder's head, uttering their peculiar
note of alarm. At this time they have an ingenious mode of mis-
leading the novice, by flying off to a short distance and hovering
anxiously over a particular spot in the marsh, as though there were
concealed the objects of their solicitation. Should they be fol-
lowed, however, and a search be there made, the manoeuvre is re-
peated in another place still farther from the real location of the
nest. But should this ruse prove unavailing, they return and
seem to become fairly desperate, flying about one's head almost
' within reach, manifesting great distress. If possible, still greater
agitation is shown when they have unfledged young, — they even
betraying their charge into the hands of the enemy by their too
obvious solicitude, they then hovering directly over the young, and
uttering their notes of distress. The young have a fine, wiry peep,
inaudible beyonc^ a few feet. They are very pretty little creatures,
covered with yellowish-buff-colored down, with black spots on the
tipper surface of the body. Even when first hatched they are quite
lively and difficult to capture.

About the middle of July the females suddenly disappear, and a
little later the males and the young also leave, with the exception
of a few stragglers, which occasionally remain until the last of
August. The main portion rarely remain as late as the 10th,
and are usually gone by the 5th. The males commence their fall
moult before they leave; but I have never taken a specimen in
which the winter plumage was very evident.



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44 BULLETIN OF THE NUTTALL



A DEFENCE OF HIS CATALOGUE OF THE BIRDS OF NEW

ENGLAND.

BT T. IC BBEWEB.

Messrs. Editors : — There were two objects set prominently in view
in mj list, and distinctly stated. One was to furnish a list that shall
be reliable to far as it goes. The other was to present a separate list of
tiiose birds attributed to New England, but in r^ard to which, up to May,
1875, 1 could * ^' find no evidence that would warrant me in retaining
them.'' These statements seem sufficiently intelligible. The one sug-
gests the incompleteness of the list and my expectation of additional facts.
The other explains the challenged list as one given, after many years of
careful investigations, as my own conclusions, for which I alone am
responsible. It is my indisputable right, having made my own investiga-
tions, to form and to express my own conclusions.

In confining myself to what is reliable I necessarily had to omit all
generalizations where the data were open to conflicting constructions.
Thus in referring to seven species I confined myself to the single promi-
nent feature in their New England life, their residence here in summer.
The record shows (North American Birds, passim) that I was ako well
aware of their more or less limited presence in winter. To my mind their
occasional presence does not necessarily prove them to be, properly speak- .
ing, resident, a term only applicable to cases where the same individuals
are both generally and constantly present It should not be applied, ex-
cept with careful qualifications, to species where this presence is limited
to a small proportion, or where it may be altogether doubtfuL

♦ My friend Mr. Deanc, in recording the capture of Sterna fuligvnoaa near
lAwrence, Mass., speaks of my having for some unknown reason vnthdrawn
this species from the New England list and of its being now replaced. I object
to this phraseology as calculated to give an erroneous impression. If the bird
had been rightfully in the list,, it was not in my power to withdraw it. If there
is no evidence in favor of this right, it cannot be rq)1aced. It was first men-
tioned by Mr. Samuels as breeding in Muskegat Every one familiar with that
island knows that there is not even a probability that it has ever done so. The
whole statement was obviously incorrect. So well satisfied was Mr. Samnels
himself of the incorrectness of his information that in his " Ornithology of New
England " he omits* this species. This Tern is now generally regarded as a cos-
mopolitan, intertropical species, rarely occurring north or south of the two
tropical lines, and is not known to have occurred on Long Island, the coast of
New Jersey, or anywhere north of the Chesapeake prior to the present record.



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ORNITBOLOOICAL CLUB. 45

To my mind it is simply an absurdity to speak of a species as resident
when not one individual of the entire species resides in any part of New
England more than a fraction of the year. The word " race " is still a
good English word, the meaning of which is so obvious that there is no
occasion for misunderstanding it. According to Worcester it is '^ a series
of descendants from one stock." In this sense, and in this only, our Sum^
mer and our Winter Rolnns are of different races, though specifically the
same.

Corvui wmericanus, considered as a bird of att New England, is almost
exclusively a summer resident The few that winter are the exception,
not the rule ; are restricted to a very small part of New England ; and are
probably merely winter visitants from beyond our borders, and therefore
not residents. What your correspondent quotes from my language in ref-
erence to Pictu viUesus had reference to all the United States, and not ex-
clusively to New England, though in a more restricted sense it is also
i^pplicable. I cheerfully admit that in this case it would have been
more correct, on my part, to have given it qualified as partially a resident

It is not safe to assume, because a limited number of individuals of the
other four species named are occasionally taken here in the winter, that
they are necessarily resident Without attempting to generalize, on data
to my mind insufficient, I confined myself to that feature in their New
England life in regard to which there would not be two opinions, leaving
in abeyance all that admits of controversy. These birds are probably
only winter visitants, and in no proper sense resident, or only very ex-
ceptionally resident

Your correspondent takes up nearly a third of his second article with
various opinions as to the occurrence in New England of the five species
that formed the subject of his interrogation in his first article. But when
I ask for bread he gives me only a stone. I ask for factSj and he gives me
only opinions. He does not cite a single reference that I had not already
fully considered. In one instance, while he goes back several years to cite
opinions then expressed, but long since given up, he omits to quote the
views now entertained by the same party, and in entire variance with
what he does cite. In reference to Quiscaltts major, he quotes Dr. Coues's
opinion given in 1868. Twice since then Dr. Coues has publicly given
his opinion against the occurrence of this species north of the Carolinas ;
first, in his admirable biography (Ibis, IV. 1870) of this bird, where he
speaks of it as " restricted to a narrow belt along the coast of the ocean
and gulf from North Carolina to Mexico, and as rarely ever occurring
north of the Carolinas''; secondly, in a work with which, judging from
his quotations, your correspondent seems to be sufficiently familiar (Birds
of the Northwest, p. 204), where he speaks of it as " not authentic in New
England.** Why rake up an opinion given nine years ago and long since
disclaimed 1 Why omit his real opinion now ? Dr. Linsley was a cor*
respondent of mine, and from his own account of this species I was satis-



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46 BULLETIN OF THE NUTTALL

fied that his opinions as to its occurrence were based wholly on hearsay
and unreliable testimony, and subsequent claims, when tested, were inva-
riably of the same vague, inconsistent, and contradictory character. Posi-
tive proof, such as the preservation of the alleged species or reliable wit-
nesses, was never forthcoming. The occurrence of this pecub'arly semi-
tropical and local species in New England, when totally unknown north
of the Chesapeake, was in itself so improbable that in the absence of any
proof I could only discredit such claims. In this opinion I am fully sua-
tained by your correspondents strongest witness, Dr. Couee.

The same is eminently true of Corvus ossifragui. Your correspondent
can cite only opinions. Even Mr. Brewster's record of its occurrence,
though he is an expert as little likely to be mistaken as any one, does not
even now, to my view, bring this species into the list of those whose occur-
rence with us has been indisputably proven, though it may make its future
capture more probable.

In regard to jEgialitis vnlsonitu, we have the opinion of Mr. Linsley,
which rested upon no evidence ; of Dr. Coues, given inferentially and with
a "perhaps" ; of Dr. "Wood, on Long Island (!) ; of Mr. Allen ; and again
of Dr. Coues, the latter again speaking qualifiedly ("probably"). What
I have said of this species still stands uncontroverted by anjfactSy and
the opinions cited are in full accordance with my own given in my list
Nettion crecca, as I state, " is a bird liable to occur in New England," but
the only instance cited was founded in error on hasty, and, as I satisfied
myself at the time, incorrect conclusions. The specimen had been taken in
North Carolina and not in Massachusetts. StUa fiber, from Mr. linsley'a
own account of the specimen, which was not preserved, proved to be an
immature SiUa boMana. Mr. Putnam wrote me that he could give me
no authority for his reference.

Your correspondent is skeptical in regard to .^gioUim cane$cen$, Myiodi-
octet minutus, Anser gambeliy Bemicla hutchinsi, Lagopue aXbm, In regard
to the last-named I feel somewhat doubtful myself. The first rests on the
high authority of Mr. G. A. Boardman ; the second, waiving the specimen
I took myself in 1836, and which was identified by Mr. Audubon, rests
on the excellent authority of a good ornithologist. Dr. Charles Pickering,
confirmed by no less authority than that of Mr. Nuttall himself. Anter
gamheli, between 1836 and 1846, was much more common than it ap-
parently is now, but even now there is no lack of evidence of its pres-
ence, though it may have escaped your correspondent's notice. A fine
specimen in immature plumage has been recently taken in Gloucester,
and is now in the collection of Mr. William Jefiries of Boston. In the
winter of 1836-1837, Hutchins's Goose was abundant in our market from
this neighborhood, as was also the Pied Duck, the Harlequin, and others
now rarely seen. Several specimens were procured by me, preserved in
alcohol, and sent to London for Mr. Audubon's anatomical investigations.



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ORNITHOLOGICAL CLUB. 47

' In my list aie six or seven species given without defining the extent of
their distribution^ — some of them, though found to my certain knowledge
all over New England, and beyond its borders, are only found in favorable
localities ; others probably have a more restricted range. In regard to all
these, my views as to the extent of their range are fully given elsewhere,
and, as your correspondent shows, are sufficiently known to him. Yet in
spite of this knowledge he did not scruple to attribute to me views which
he now shows he knew I did not entertain. This is especially noticeable
in the case of Vireo noveboracemis. Here, as it seems, he knew that it is
my recorded opinion that this bird rarely, if ever, goes north of Massachu-
setts, yet he professes to understand me as signifying cUl New England,
when I had not said so, and when I had elsewhere — unrestricted as to
space — stated that I did not bo believe f

And where are hia facts demonstrating that HelmiTUhophaga ckrysoptera
is not a rare bird in New England ? We have again only an opinion that a
bird must not be called rare if it regularly breeds here in numbers. The
numbers must be very small in this case, and the finding of the fourth
nest during ten or twelve years' search by hosts of collectors, is to be
spoken of in the future tense ! A bird that has only been found in a very
restricted area, perhaps a thousandth part of New England, and so un-
common that only two or three of its nests have ever been taken, must
not be spoken of as rare !

In the case of Cohimiculm passerinus your correspondent is excusable
for xnisunderstanding my real meaning, as it is somewhat blindly ex-
pressed. What I intended to convey was, that while it is chiefly confined
to Southern New England, it is, as a general rule, rare throughout a very
extended region into which it sparsely spreads itself. Wherever found it
is a species of very irregular and imequal distribution. Jt wanders into
Northern New England, and occurs even as far to the northeast as St.
Stephen, N. R In all this extended area the localities in which it can
be said to be at all common are restricted in area and few in number.
Your correspondent refers to its being exceptionally common in Nan-
tucket All this while he well knew that the fact of its abundance on
that congenial island was well known to me. (See North American Birds,
Vol. I, p. 554, lines 20, 21 and 22.)

More than forty years ago I ventured to publish a supplementary list
of the birds of Massachusetts (Boston Jour. Nat Hist, I, 435). In this list
I placed inferentially and with a I PoliopHla ccntUea, From that day to
the time of the publication of my catalogue I have vainly sought for any
confirmation of my supposition. Your correspondent is the first to come
to my support and to confirm my conjecture, but, prior to May, 1875,
there is no " record " whatever confirmatory of its claim to be counted as
a bird of New England. Yet because, nearly two years after the prepara-
tion of my paper, your correspondent hears of its having been taken in



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48 BULLETIN OF THE NUTTALL

ConBecticut, he speaks of ^ its recoid of occurrence hftving been as good
as any of those just cited" ; that is, a wht^fpiffnt occurrence can establish
a frior record I

The same indefensible claim is made in behalf of Dendrmca ccarulea.
This was given by Mr. Putnam as a bird of Essex County, on the supposed
authority of Mr. Brickett of Portland, Mr. Brickett, when appealed to^
wrote me that he had been misunderstood, that he only referred to IX
comdescens. So D, caruUa fell to the ground, and was left with absolutely
no record. Its record is now wholly ex poit facta. The fact remains in^
disputable that there was no authentic record oi its appearance in liew
England at the time I so stated.

Having exhausted the all too insufficient limits to which I am re-
stricted, I am compelled to omit nearly all that I have written in refer-
ence to Micropakma hima/ntoptu. I will only state that in characterizing
it as " migratory, Mass.," I should have added '^ N. H.," in which it has
been taken twelve miles from our boundary line. Though invited to do
so, your correspondent is imable to give any data to show that it is migra-
tory along the entire New England coast It has not been found in any
part of that coast fifom St Andrew's to Kittery, or from Buzzard's Bay to
East River, and the sweeping statement of .your correspondent still re-
mains an entirely unsupported assumption.

Here all controversy, on my part, with your correspondent ends. What-
ever reference I may hereafter make to any £EictB or opinions bearing upon
any of our New England birds, will be without any reference to a contro-
versy that has been forced upon me, but in which I cannot do full justice
to myself without becoming an infliction upon your readers.*



^tctttt %ittvatuvt^

BuRROUGHs's "Wake-Robin." — Hurd and Houghton have reprinted
Mr. John Burroughs's charming little volume "Wake-Robin," wherein
the wild wood-life of the birds, from Washington to the Adirondacka, is
picturesquely sketched. Mr. Burroughs has a keen eye and a loving heart
towards the birds, and it is encouraging to know that this volume of his
ornithological essays finds a continued sale. The present edition differs
from the original (although it is labelled " revised ") only in the addition
of a chapter on the Bluebird, the addition of a copious index, and in the

* By some oversight which I can neither explain nor excuse, Dendroeca blacks
humim is omitted in my catalogue. It should have been given as breeding at
least as far sonth as Massachusetts. The latest instance was noticed by Mr,
Oeo. 0. Welch of Lynn last summer.



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OBNITHOLOGICAL CLUB. 49

inflertion of some wood-cut illustrations from Baird, Brewer^ and Bidgway's
kzge ifork, which, with the exception of the frontispiece, by Miss Brydges,
almost uniformly mar, rather than beautify the volume. The very first
eat is of an inconsolable Olive-sided Flycatcher, which is written down
'* Hermit Thrash " ! But this is the fault of the publishers, who also
betray their ignorance in the bad spelling of the preface, and not of the
author, who did not see the proof-sheets. It is to be hoped that Mr.
Burroughs will collect his later essays on birds into a second volume,
wldck would meet with a very hearty welcome. — K I.

Minot's " Birds of New England." ♦ — - It would not be generous, or
even just, to criticise this work as a scientific treatise or as a mature pro-
duction« We prefer to side with the youthful author, who is evidently a
lover of birds, keenly alive to the delights they are capable of affording,
and enthusiastic in the pursuit of his favorite study, who has in an in-
credibly brief period trained himself to become a really good observer,
and who shows that he possesses qualities which go to make a first-rate
ondthologist In this volume he not only imparts to others the knowl-
edge of Inrds he has acquired, but also endeavors to awaken the same
pleasurable emotions he has experienced in the acquisition : the former
design is carried out with fidelity, precision, and detail, while the fresh-
ness, naik/eUf and no little good taste which the literary execution of the
work displays will go far toward meeting the latter indication ; for the
color of personality — if it be the genuine thing, as it is in this case un-
questionably — always lends a charm to natural-history narrative. The
work, moreover, shows traces of kindly interested supervision during its
preparation, and the contributions to its pages are not the least valuable of
its contents. There is very little technicality, chiefly taken from Baird
and another writer ; the descriptions, however, are tersely original The
instructions for collecting eggs dififer i^m those ordinarily given mainly
on the score of humanity, showing what may be accomplished without
destroying the parents ; but we waver here, saying frankly that as be-
tween a bird's life and the identification of an egg we are merciless. Next
after the biographies of the birds, which are conveniently divided into
sections relating respectively to the nest and eggs, the general habits, and
the song or other notes, and which embody no little infcnmation not
already the property of ornithologists, — on the night-habits of some spe-
cies, for instance, — the most prominent and most original features of the
work are the artificial "keys,** in one of which the birds themselves
are analyzed somewhat after a method lately introduced, the eggs of

* The Land-Birds and Oame-Birds of New England, with Descriptions of the
Birdfl^ their Nests and Eggs, their Habits and Notes. By H. D. Minot Salem,.
Haas. : Nataralist's Agency. Boston : Estes and Lauriat. " 1877 " [i. e. Dec,,
1876]. 1 voL 8vo. pp. xvi, 466, figg. xylog. 29 (on 1 pi.) -|- 22 (in text).



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50 BULLETIN OF THE NUTTALL

Massachusetts birds being similarly handled in the other. Those who are
familiar with these '' short cuts " know that it is a stand-off between con-
venience and fallibility ; but the reviewer is the last person who should
find fault with them. To appreciate Mr. Minot's work as a whole, we
may say that its defects are in no way the author's fault, and that they
are of the obtrusive and superficial rather than of the grave or serious
kind, much easier to pass over than to dwell upon ungraciously ; and that
its merits entitle it to full recognition by ornithologists, while they com-
mend it very highly to the student and amateur. The mechanical execu-
tion of the volume sustains the high reputation the Salem press deserves
for good work. — E. C.



iSetreral iRititi.

Westekn Ranok of Conurus carolinensis. — Mr. E. L. Berthond,
of Qolden, Col., writes under date of December 2, 1876 : " I saw the
Carolma Parrot, at this place (lat 39*^ 46' ; long. 105*^ 8') and at Denver,
on the S. Platte, in 1860-61, and on the Little Thompson River, CoL,
in 1862. It was abundant in Kansas in 1865-67, since which year I
have seen but few, on Smoky Hill and Republican Forks. I have also
seen it near old Fort Lyon, on the Arkansas River." I am not aware
that the species has hitherto been reported as occurring so far west as Col-
orado. — Elliott Couks, Washington^ D, C.

Fecundity op the Carolina Wren (Thryo(horu8 Ivdovicianus). —
About April 25 I found " our pair of Wrens " very busy, the male being
followed by five nearly full-fledged young, and the female actively engaged
in constructing (under the rafters of our stable) another nest, in which she
soon deposited five beautiful eggs, and conunenced sitting, cheered by the
loud and happy notes of the male, who had by this time got rid of his
noisy brood. In due time five more young Wrens made their appearance,
and never did birds work harder than did their parents to supply their
insatiable appetites. Spiders, bugs, and larva of every description, were
brought in quick succession, and, as a consequence, a rapid growth was
the result, and the brood was out by the fore part of July, following the
male and " quivering " their wings in supplication for food. The female
inmiediately set herself at work on another nest, this time under the eaves
of a porch. Large quantities of dry leaves and coarse grass and weeds
were carried up, and a compact oval structure was made, with a round
cavity in the top, partly roofed over. On the 19th of July I found five
eggs in the nest, and the female again sitting. Are three broods in a sea-
son commonly reared by this species 1 —Charles Dury, Avondale^ Ham-
Uton County f Ohio,



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ORNITHOLOGICAL CLUB. 61

The Louisiana Heron in Indiana. — My friend Mr. F. T. Jencks,
of Providence, R. I., writes me that on the 26th of June, 1876, while pass-
ing through a large marsh between Pljmou^ and Hanna, on the line of
the Pittsburg and Fort Wayne Eailroad, in Northern Indiana, he saw a
fine adult specimen of Demiegretta ludoviciana spring up close beside the
railroad-track and fly off in full view. As Mr. Jencks is well acquainted
with the species in question, I have no doubt of the correctness of his
identification. — K W. Nelson, Chicago, III

Note on the Cinnamon Teal {Querqiudula cyanoptera), — A small
lake, which feeds one of the headwaters of the North Platte, in North
Park, Colorado, was found to be a breeding-place of large numbers of wild
Geese (Branta canadensis) and other water-fowl, among which Wigeons
(Mareea americana). Shovellers (Spatula clypeata), and the species the
name of which heads this paragraph, were the most numerous. I was
on the spot too late in the season to take eggs, but newly-fiedged birds



Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 17 of 50)