Copyright
Nuttall Ornithological Club.

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

. (page 27 of 50)
Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 27 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


geners, and that within its own area no specimens occur which are
not sufficiently characteristic to be readily referable to it. As to
the relative size of wing and tail in the two forms, the individual
variation is never sufficient to alter the proportion, the tail being
always in excess of wing.

Leaving now, for the moment, the two forms (sehutaeea and
megarhyncha) just considered, and taking up the two remaining
members of the group (iliaca and totmsendt), we note, first, that
their habitats are, in the extreme northwest, in close relation, —
iliaca being one of the several eastern birds that in the far north
span the continent, and reach the Pacific Ocean in Alaska. Totm-
sendi is a Pacific-slope form, being found in its typical condition
from the Columbia River region north to Sitka, Kodiak, etc.
Whether the habitats of the two actually join is not at present



* Mr. Ridgway informs me that speciraeDS collected by him in this vicinity
in spring show no trace of yellow, but have the typically bluish-white under
mandiUe. •



Digitized by



Google



6 Hbnshaw on the Species of the Oenus Passerella,

known with certainty. It seems probable that they do, and certain
specimens, now to be noted, suggest in their . intermediate char-
acters such a union of the respective regions. These are comprised
in a series of sixteen specimens collected in California by myself
during the fall of 1875. While these are all referable to town-
sendif not one is typically like that bird, as its characters are illus-
trated by many examples in the Smithsonian from Sitka, Kodiak,
and the contiguous regions. The variation inclines from a quite
near approach to the dark olive-brown of toumsendi, with its un-
streaked dorsum, to a shade approaching suspiciously close to the
ferruginous color of iltaca ; these latter individuals show appreci-
able though obsolete streakings on the back, and may be fairly
compared with the latter bird. In this connection a single speci-
men in the Smithsonian Collection from California is very inter-
esting, since it was named '^ iliaca " by Mr. Ridgway, and thought
to be a straggler of this species. On the strength of this speci-
men, Dr. Coues, in his " Birds of the Northwest," gives iliaca as
'^ accidental in California." In the light of the series now at hand
the specimen in question assumes a new significance, and is seen to
exhibit but a somewhat nearer approach to tVtoca than the extreme
of the above suite ; with them it is to be considered as indicating the
intermediate condition of color between the two, and hence of their
intergradation.

If the same test be applied to schistacea and Umnsendi it results,
without going into unnecessary details, in the same way. Theu-
complete inosculation as to color may readily be proven. A series
of measurements to illustrate the relation in size of the four forms
gives the average of the parts as follows. Space forbids our giving
full tables of measurements, as would have been desirable.

P, iliaca. Average of ten specimens from Eastern United States, Alaska,

etc. : wing, 3.40 ; tail, 3.07 ; bill, .32 ; tarsus, .93.
P. tovmsmdi. Average of twenty- three specimens : wing, 3.20 ; tail, 3.15 ;

bill, .49 ; tarsus, .94.
P. schistacea. Average of nine specimens : wing, 3.13 ; tail, 3.37 ; bill^

.44 ; tarsus, .91.
P. megarhyncha. Average of eight specimens : wing, 3.21 ; tail, 3.58 ; bill,

.51 ; tarsus, .93.

As will be seen from the above-given average measurements,
iliaca and townsendi agree in having the wing longer than (in some



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Henshaw on the Sptdes of the Genus Passerella. 7

specimens of toumsendt equalling) the tai] ; while in schutacea and
townsendi the tail is very considerably in excess of the wing. The
importance which I was at first disposed to attach to these differ-
ent proportions was somewhat modified upon ascertaining that in
respect to proportion of these parts towniendi, with its wing nearly
equal to tail, evidently marked the first step towards ichistaceoj in
which the tail becomes the longer, a tendency carried still further
in megarhyncha.

One curious and to me unexpected fact brought out by these
measurements is that, not only does the tail become longer in the
three western varieties, — a variation well shown in other species
whose habitat extends from the eastern into the western province,
— but also the wing is found to be aetxtally shorter; so that the dif-
ferent proportions which ensue result from two causes : first, actual
increase in the length of tail ; second, actual decrease in the length
of wing. I am not aware that this fact has been noted in the case
of any other western bird, though I find a similar but slight ten-
dency in this direction in the Pipilo var. megalonyx, the western
form of the P. eryihropkthalmuB, A careful examination of other
species may reveal a similar tendency.

By the above arrangement the four forms will require to stand
as follows : —

Passerella iliaoa (Merr). Habitat, Eastern Province of North America.
Breeds from British America northward ; across to mouth of Yukon.
In migrations to eastern edge of great plains ; occasional in spring in
Colorado (Maxwell) ,/W« Ridgway.

Passerella iliaoa townsendi (Aud.). Hahitaty Pacific Province.
Breeds in Northern Sierras ; Southern California in winter ; confined to
western slope of Sierras.

Passerella iliaoa schistacea, Bd. Habitat, Middle Province, re-
stricted by western edge of plains and eastern slope of Sierras; a rare
straggler in Kansas and California in falL

Passerella iliaoa megarhyncha, Bd. Habitat, southern Sierras,
eastern as well as western slope. Probably resident wherever found.



Digitized by



Google



Cooper on Ned and Eggz of



NOTES ON THE BREEDING HABITS OF CARPODACUS PUR-
PURE US VAR. CALIFORNICUS, WITH A DESCRIPTION OF
ITS NEST AND EGGS.

BT WILLIAM A. COOPER.

Mt attention was called to an article in the April number of
" The Nuttall Bulletin " relative to the nest and eggs of the Cali-
fornia Purple Finch. As my experience does not corroborate the
description there given, but differs widely from it, I send the follow-
ing account of several nests and sets of eggs, fearing the article in
question may mislead many whose knowledge may be restricted
to published information. About ten nests of this bird have come
imder my observation during the last ten years. Of each of these
the framework was loosely constructed, a portion of each nest being
formed of pieces of Scrophularia nodosay some of these being en-
tirely of this plant. I have never found a nest in a fork, and they
are usually placed at a considerable distance from the ground.
Fayorite situations are the tops of tall willows, alders, trees covered
with climbing ivy, and horizontal branches of redwoods. The var.
calif omicus is as abundant around Santa Cruz as is the C, frontalis ;
but while the latter breeds in the gardens throughout the city, the
former retires to the wooded river-bottoms, or the hills back of the
town. Being unacquainted with the particulars concerning the cap-
ture of the male parent bird, or with its captor (Mr. C. A. Allen), I
am uuwilling to take the ground that the nest and eggs referred to
are not genuine ; but the chances of a mistaken parentage appear
quite probable.

Four nests and sets of eggs of var. calif omicus give the following
characters : —

1. May 30, 1875, I found a nest containing five eggs; incuba-
tion a few days advanced. The nest measured 6 inches in diame-
ter outside, 2.50 inside, depth 2.5Q outside, 1^38 inside ; the frame-
work was of fine dried tops of Scrophularia, loosely put together ;
the inner consisted of fine denuded vegetable fibres, soft woolly sub-
stances, compactly made, lined with a few hairs. The nest was
placed on a horizontal branch of an alder-tree, forty feet high, built
on the top of a limb and barely fastened to it. One egg was
broken ; the remaining four measure .80 x .58, .80 x .55, .80 x ,55,



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Carpodacus purpwretcs vctr. calif orniem. 9

.77 X .64. They are of a bluish-green color, marked with spots of
brown and dull purple, chiefly around the larger end.

2. The same day I found another nest, containing four eggs,
which had been incubated about the same length of time as the
former. This was placed on one of the topmost branches of an
alder-tree fifty feet high. Framework of fine stems, among them
Scrophularia ; also a few pine roots ; inner portions of fine fibres,
lined with wool and hair. The ground-color of eggs is similar to
that of set No. 1 ; the markings, however, are quite different, being
of a dull brownish-purple, minute and confluent, forming a ring
around the end of two eggs, and a large spot on the end of the
remaining two, one of the latter b^ing also spotted over the entire
surface, less abundantly than on the end ; they measure .83 x .67,
.81 X M, .81 X .66, .80 x .64.

3. May 3, 1876, I found a nest with four fresh eggs. It was
placed twenty feet from the ground, in a thick bunch of willow
sprouts, near a small creek. The female bird was ofi the nest, and
would not leave till I almost touched her. The eggs are of a light
emerald-green color, spotted similarly to those of set No. 1, the
markings forming a more decided ring around the end ; the form is
more pointed, and the ground-color is deeper than in sets one and
two. Measurements, .76 x .66, .73 x .66, .72 x .66, .71 x .67. The
framework of the nest consists entirely of Scrophularia ; the inner
nest of roots and bark, lined with fine bark and hair.

4. May, 1876, George H. Ready found a nest containing four
fresh eggs. The nest, similar to those above described, was placed
on a horizontal branch of an apple-tree in Mission Orchard.
These eggs are of an emerald-green color, and are more pointed
than any of the other specimens; the markings are finer than
those of sets one and three, and darker, some being almost black ;
a perfect ring is formed around the end of each, and the whole sur-
face of one is spotted. They measure, .80 x .69, .77 x .68, .77 x .66,
.76 X .67.

I have on several occasions seen these Finches in trees wherein
were nests of C frontalis. The most faded egg I have is much
more deeply colored than any egg I have ever seen of Cyanospiza
cyanea. The markings are always plentiful, forming a ring around
the end of many specimens. The only egg I have of Carpodacus
purpureus is hardly distinguishable from those of var. califomicus,

I may here add that Carpodacus pwrpureus var. califomicus is



Digitized by VjOOQIC



10 Ridgway's Description of a New Wren,

the most destructiye bird we have, visiting our orchards and de-
stroying young buds, blossoms, and fruit. I have swept up a bas-
ketful of cherry-blossoms from under one tree in a single day, the
heart of the blossoms being the food sought.
Somta Oru»f California,

Note. — In reference to Mr. Cooper's alluidon in the foregoing article to my
paper on the nest and eggs of the California Purple Finch, I will add that the
bird sent with the nest is positively Garpodaeua purpuretu var. eali/omieus, and
in view of the improbability of Mr. Allen's having shot a bird not the parent of
the eggs I am led to believe that these eggs are abnormal specimens, possibly
representing what may be termed an albinistic tendency, like occaMonal white
eggs of our common Bluebird. — W. Brewster.



DESCRIPTION OF A NEW WREN FROM THE TRE3 MARIAS

ISLANDS.

BT ROBERT BIDOWAT.

In casually examining the series of Wrens in the National Mu-
seum collection, I happened to notice certain differences between
specimens of so-called Thryotkorus fdix from the Tres Marias
Islands, off the western coast of Af exico, and examples typical of the
species collected on the adjoining mainland, in the vicinity of Ma-
zatlan. These specimens were all obtained subsequent to the pub-
lication of Professor Baird's "Review of American Birds" (1864-
1866) ; and since Mr. Lawrence makes no mention of the difference
alluded to, in either of his recent papers on the ornithology of
Western Mexico, I presume that gentleman had no opportunity of
making a direct comparison of the series from the two localities.

The new form is clearly a derivative from the mainland species,
but is so far differentiated as to require a distinctive name. I
therefore propose to name it Thryoihx>ru9 lawrendi, in honor of the
distinguished ornithologist referred to above. Its characters are
as follows : —

Thryothonui fellz, j9. lawrenoli, Ridgwat, MSS.
Char. — Above light grayish-brown, without appreciable bars any-
where, except on the tail ; pileum decidedly more reddish, and inclin-
ing to light cinnamon-brown. Tail similar in color to the hack, but



Digitized by



Google



Hekshaw on SelasphoTus alleni 11

crossed hj numerous (seven or eight, the number rather indefinite, how-
ever) bars of black ; these bars becoming broken towards the ends, and
gradually obsolete at the bases of the feathers ; the ground-color occasion-
ally paler along the posterior edge of the blackish bar. Whole side of the
head and entire lower parts white, the sides faintly tinged with buff. A
distinct dusky stripe along uppe^ edge of auriculars, below the very con-
spicuous and continuous white superciliary stripe. Bill and feet plum-
beous-dusky. Wing, 2.30-2.45; tail, 2.30-2.45; bill, from nostril,
.45 - .48 ; culmen, .75 - .78 ; tarsus, .80 ; middle toe, .50.

Haintai, Tres Marias Islands, off the western coast of Mexico.

Types. 37,329, S (Jan. 1865), 50,817, and 50,818 (U. S. Nat Mus.
Catal.), Tres Marias ; CoL A. J. Grayson. '

The principal characteristics of this form and the typical one may be
contrasted as follows : —

a. felix. Throat bordered along each side by a wide and conspicuous
stripe of black ; whole sides of neck and also auriculars distinctly streaked
with black ; entire lower parts, except throat, buff, deepest along sides.
Wing, 2.10-2.35 ; tail, 2.25-2.35 ; bill, from nostril, .39 -.42 ; tarsus,
.80-.90 ; middle toe, .50-52.* Hah,, mainland of Western Mexico, from
Mazatlan to Oaxaca.

j9. lawrenoiL Black markings of cheeks, etc., usually entirely absent,
very rarely barely indicated ; lower parts, except sides, pure white. Wing,
2.30-2.45; tail, 2.30-2.45; bill, from nostril, .45 -.48; tarsus, .80;
middle toe, .50.t fla6., Tres Marias Islands, Western Mexico.



ADDITIONAL REMARKS ON SELASPHORUS ALLENI.

BT H. W. HENSHAW.

In his remarks on Selaspkarus alleni^ in the October number of
the Bulletin, Mr. D. 0. Elliot attempts to prove that in selecting this,
the (xreen-backed,:^ or, as he calls it, the Califomian form, for naming,
I committed an error, this, according to him, being the bird described
by Gmelin as the Trockilus rufus, and hence, as he claims, it was

* Five specimens measured, cUlfrom Mazatlan,

t Three specimens measured.

t In this article, by the Green-backed Hummer will be understood the
recently recognized form from California ; the Rufous-backed bird being the
old and better known form from Mexico and the West Coast generally. The
eoloring of the adult males renders these names sufficiently appropriate.



Digitized by



Google



12 Hensr^W (m SelasphoruB aUeni.

the other, or Rufous-backed, form which required christening. A
careful perusal of Mr. Elliot's paper fails to convince me of my
supposed mistake, and I think a short review of the matter with a
few critical remarks on his paper, may be made to show that my
critic is the one who has been misled into the erroneouB identifica-
tion of Gmelin's bird.

From lack of space, I refrain from quoting Gmelin*s and Swain-
son's descriptions, nor will this be necessary. It may be stated,
however, that the accounts of these authors, as well as Latham's,
upon which Gmelin's was based, apply in every particular to
the Rufous-backed bira, the assumption that it was this form
these writers intended to describe not being controverted by a
word in either. Mr. Elliotts opinion that it was the other or
Green-backed form involved in their accounts is based chiefly on the
fact of an omission, no mention being made of the notched rectricee
which are present in the Rufous-backed form, and also because the
description of the outer tail-feathers is more applicable to the latter.
That Gmelin and Swainson should have overlooked the notch in
the rectrices next the middle pair will not appear so very singular
in the light of the fact that it has since been repeatedly overlooked
by authors with equal and perhaps better claims to accuracy than
can be conceded to either of the above. Both Audubon and Baird,
who describe the outer tail-feathers of their S, rufus in terms similar
to the earlier writers, making no mention of notched rectrices, and
both of whom, as my critic implies, must necessarily, therefore,
have had the Green-backed bird under consideration, actually did
have perfectly typical examples of the Rufous-backed bird. Audu-
bon's type, at present in the Smithsonian, was before me when my
article was written, as were also Professor Baird's specimens. They
are all, with one exception, fine examples of the Rufous form. This
exception is the adult male, No. 6059, mentioned by Professor Baird
on page 184, Vol. IX, P. R. R. Reports, as having the back covered
with metallic green. This specimen, as I ascertain by inspection, is
the true Green-backed form, our S, allenu Professor Baird appeared
to regard this peculiar coloration as presenting merely a notable
exception to the rule, and passes it by without further comment
His description was based on typical specimens of the Rufous form.
The more recent authorities then, notwithstanding Mr. Elliot's
opinion to the contrary, having overlooked the fact of a notch in the
rectrix, it is not too much to suppose a similar result at the hands



Digitized by VjOOQIC



Hjsnshaw on Sdasphorvs aUeni. 13

of the earlier and, as a rule, far less particular compiler^ The
pariictdcLrly narrow outer rectrices mentioned in all the accounts,
upon which so much stress is laid by Mr. £lliot, by no means
necessarily refers to the Green-backed form, though, as a matter
of fact, the outer tail-feathers are much narrower in this species
than in the other. The term is evidently one of contrast, the
comparison being suggested by the extreme narrowness of the outer
feathers as compared with the inner^ which are really very broad.
In fact, there was nothing else to inyite this particularity here.
There being but one species known to all these authors, there was
hence no need of comparative diagnosis other than that suggested
by the parts themselves.

Gould, in his Monograph of the Trochtltdce, after describing what
was unquestionably the true Rufous-backed bird of Gmelin, the
male with its ^* back cinnamon brown," adds : '* The above is the
usual coloring, but I have occasionally seen fully adidt males with
the rich gorget in which the coloring of the back was totally dif-
erent, being of a golden green* and presenting so great a contrast
as almost to induce a belief that they were of a different species.''
This latter allusion, as in the case of Professor Baird's, is without
doubt to the Green-backed form, its peculiarities of color beinff evi-
dently the only difiference noted by him. His figures, it is true,
do not show the notched rectrix belonging to the Kufous form,
whence Mr. £lliot concludes that they must represent the other bird.
But in color, as also, it is to be particularly noted, in the shape and
size of the outer rectrices, they correspond exactly with the Rufous-
back and^difibr irreconcilably from the Green-back. In short, they
would not serve to identify the latter bird at all, but are good figures
of the former in all respects except in the omission of the notch in
the tail-feathers, in which particular they merely repeat the over-
si^t of the other authors.

The Smithsonian possesses several specimens of the Rufous-backed
form with its notched tail-feathers received directly from Mr. Gould.
That his collection contained this form is therefore certain, if in-
deed further confirmatory proof were necessary. The peculiarity
of the notched tail-feathers was simply overlooked.

But to return to the earlier writers ; the selection of Gmelin's
Bame is of itself suggestive that the bird he had in hand could

* Italics my own.



Digitized by



Google



14 Henshaw on Sdatphoms aUeni.

not have been the one with the bright green back. " Trochilus
rufus subtus exalbidus " points at once to the Rufous-backed form.
The other bird with the small amount of rufous below would
scarcely have suggested this name. Referring to Swainson's ac-
count, which was, as Mr. Elliot remarks, in all probability based upon
one of Gmelin's original specimens, possibly his type, we find his
description beginning thus, "General tint of the upper plumage
rufous or cinnamon, which covers the head, ears, neck, back,

rump, upper tail-coverts, and margins of the tail-feathers "

This applies perfectly to the Rufous-backed form, but in no wise
meets the necessities of the other bird. For while color is not the
most desirable test, and may often prove unreliable, yet in the case
of the males of these two birds the variation In color, while consid-
erable, as pointed out in my former article, is never sufficient to
obliterate their specific distinctness. They may be invariably told
by the color of the back alone.

Mr. Elliot appears to have overlooked much of Swainson's article.
For in his remarks that author states, after indicating that he has
before him one of Gmelin's original specimens as correctly quoted
by Mr. Elliot, " We are likewise able to vouch for its geographic
range to the southward as far as the table-land of Mexico, near Real
del Monte ; specimens from that part having been obligingly sent

us for examination " Thus Swaiuson vouches for the identity

of Gmelin's original specimen, perhaps type, with the Mexican
form, which is, as Mr. Elliot says, the Rufous-backed bird. Could
stronger proof be asked t

Mr. Elliot's discrimination in the color of the ruffs of the two
species I have not been able to verify. The differences he appears
to have found in his specimens I am sure, after having ex-
amined numerous individuals, are not constant, and hence are
of no use as diagnostic features. Mr. Elliot says, " I do not
think that the females have any metallic feathers on the throat*'
In this he is mistaken. Adult females invariably have a metallic
patch on the median line of the throat. The young males are very
differently marked, and have the metallic feathers, which become
brownish towards the chin, distributed quite evenly over the throat,
the space occupied by them often indicating the extent of the ruff
of the following year. The young females alone have the throat
almost immaculate, or faintly flecked with brown.

Ranob. We have no proof at the present time showing that the



Digitized by



Google



Brewster's Descriptums of First Plumages, 15

Green-backed form, S, aUeni^ exteDds north of Califomia. Some
pretty strong evidence to the contrary, of a negative character,
may be advanced. The Smithsonian collection contains quite a
number of specimens of the Rufous bird from Oregon, Wash-
ington Territory, Vancouver Island, and Sitka, a region faunally
quite the same as Nootka Sound, which is on the southwest-
em shore of Vancouver Island. The presumptive evidence is
quite strong that if the Green-backed form were really present it
would have appeared in the numerous collections from this region
received by the Smithsonian. From the above proof it seems clear
that Gmelin's bird was the Rufous-backed form, which of course re-
tains his name rufus^ thus leaving to the Green-backed form the
name Selasphonts alUni given by me in the July number of this
Bulletin (VoL II, No. 2).



DESCRIPTIONS OF THE FIRST PLUMAGE IN VARIOUS SPE-
CIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS.

Bt William Brewster.



The first plumage assumed by nearly all young Altrices (birds
which are reared in the nest) at or about the time of leaving the
nest, though representing a universal, and, in the majority of cases,
well-defined stage, has been almost entirely ignored by Ornithologi-
cal writers, or, if referred to at all, in such comprehensive and in-
definite terms as to afford information of little distinctive value.
Thus under the general term " young," we find described sometimes
the real nesUing, but more frequently the young in autumnal dress.

My attention was called to this fact some years since by the ex-
treme difficulty, and too often impossibility, of identifying by '' the



Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 27 of 50)