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

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Sterna hirundo, Auct. Common Tern. " Big Strikers" of the isl
anders. Very common ; their principal breeding grounds are on the
marshes, where the drifts deposited by the early spring tides are
thickly covered with their nests. These are merely formed of dried
reeds, lined with finer pieces of the same. A few pairs ars also found
in the colonies of Least Terns, in which case they make no nest, bat
deposit their eggs in a slight depression in the sand. These are al-
ways three, and were all fresh, having been robbed by the eggera
ft-om the time of their laying about the middle of May. The Roseate
Tern (Sterna DougaUi), doubtless breeds here also, but I was
unable to detect it.

Sterna supercUiaris, var. antillarum^ Coues. Least Tern. ** Little
Striker." Colonies of about fifty pail's each of this species extend the
whole length of the island at about a distance of one mile apart.
The eggs were just laid and were all nearly fresh ; two being the
usual number in a nest, and in no case did I find over three. These
were laid in a depression in the sand among broken shells and are
very difficult to find owing to their similarity to the surroundings.

Rhynchops nigra, Linn. Black Skimmer, Called **Sea Crow."
The birds were in flocks of twenty or thirty, during my stay, as they
do not breed until the last of June. I had several sets of the eggs
sent me and the sender states that they breed in colonies on the sand
and always lay three in a nest.

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or THE


Vol. I. JULY, 1876. No. 2.


In the autumn of 1871 two young ornithologists of Cam-
bridge formed the plan of meeting weekly to "read Audu-
bon," and to compare views and notes respecting various
ornithological questions in which all were interested. After
a few weeks they were joined by other "kindred spirits,"
who continued to meet each week for the comparison of
notes and for study. For the first two years the meetings
were wholly infonnal. In 1873 an organization was effected,
under the name of the "Nuttall Ornithological Club."
This . name was selected as being a very proper one, from the
fact that the "local habitation" of the Club was amid the
scenes made classic by NuttaU, whose home for many years
was here, and whose "Manual of the Ornithology of the
United States and of Canada" abounds in allusions to local-
ities within the precincts of Cambridge. A Constitution and
By-Laws were drawn up and adopted, under which officers
were duly chosen. The membership of the Club soon em-
braced all the younger ornithologists of the vicinity, several
of whom had already gathered collections numbering hun-
dreds, and in some cases thousands, of specimens each, and
who were from time to time acquiring facts of no little scien-
tific value.

* The subjoined historical sketch of the Nuttall Ornithological Club
has been prepared for the purpose of answering some very natural questions
that may arise in the minds of the readers of its Bvllbtin, namely, What is the
NottaU Ornithological Club ? what has it done T and what are its aims ? — Eds.

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The following year (1874) the project of publishing a
Bulletin was agitated, but it was finally thought that the
time for such an undertaking had not yet arrived. The
American Spartsman was then adopted as a temporary me-
dium of publication, and during the following- year quite a
number of the more important communications read before
the Club were published in its columns. * At the same time

♦ As a matter of permanent record of the work of the Club prior to the in-
ception of the BuUetiu, the following list of the principal articles read before
the Club, and published in the American Sportsman and elsewhere, is here

1. A New Species of North American Warbler (ffelmiiUhophaga lettcobron^
eliialis). By Wm. Brewster. Araer. Sports., Vol. V, p. 88, Oct. 17, 1874.
[The first description of the species. See also Bull. Nutt. Om. Club, Vol. I.
No. 1, pp. ], 2, and Plate I.]

2. A New Species of Finch (Ammodromus melanolettcus) from Florida. By
C. J. Maynard. Amer. Sports., Vol. V, p. 248, Jan. 16, 1875. [CoUectcd in
the marshes of Salt Lake, Florida, by Mr. C. J. Maynard. This is the form of
Ammodramm previously (BuU. Essex Inst., V, p. 198, Dec., 1873) described by
Mr. R. Ridgway as A, marUimtts var. nufrescens.]

8. A New Bird (Sterna regia) to Massachusetts. By WiUiam Brewster.
Amer. Sports., VoL V, p. 249, Jan. 16, 1875. [The record of the capture of
two specimens, f and 9 1 ^^ Nantucket Island, July 1 , 1874, by Messrs. C. J.
Maynard and Wm. Brewster. The female bore marks of naving just laid.
Both specimens were in somewhat peculiar plumage.]

4. Some Notes on a New Species of North American Tern. By Wm. Brew-
ster. Amer. Sports., Vol. V, p. 249, Jan. 16, 1875. [Notice of a specimen
of Sterna porUandica, Ridgway, coUected on Muskeget Island, Mass., July 1,

5. The Loggerhead Shrike in Massachusetts. By C. J. Maynard. Amer.
Sports., Vol. V, p. 818, Feb. 13, 1875. [Record of the capture of a specimen /
of Collurio ludovicianus at Newton ville, Mass.]

6. Occurrence of the Fork-tailed Gull (Xema rnbinei) in Massachusetts. By
Wm. Brewster. Amer. Siwi-ts., Vol. V, p. 870. [Record of a specimen (the
first taken in New England and the third taken in the United States) captured
in Boston Harbor, Sept. 27, 1874.]

7. The Nidification of the Blue Crow {Oymnokitta q/anocephcUa) and of the
Gray-headed Snowbird {Junco caniceps). By Charles E. Aiken (Cor. Memb.).
Amer. Sports., VoL V, p. 370, March 13, 1875. [First description of the
nests and eggs of these two species.]

8. Occurrence of the Mocking- Bird in Massachusetts. By £. C. Greenwood.
Amer. Sjwrts., Vol. V, p. 370, March 13, 1875. [Record of the capture of spe-
cimens of Mimus polygloUua in NewtonviUe, with a notice, by Mr. Buthven
Deane, of others taken elsewhere in Eastern Massachusetts.]

9. HabiU of the Mourning Warbler. By Wul Bwwster. Rod and Gun

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the roU of membership was increased by the election, as " Cor-
responding Members," of many of the younger ornithologists
residing in other parts of the United States.

During the winter of 1875 and 1876 the interest in the
Club seemed to have somewhat abated, doubtless in great part
owing to the removal of several of its more active members
to distant parts of the country, the regular attendance at the
meetings becoming mainly limited to the few original founders
of the Club. In March, 1876, it was decided to make an
effort to increase the resident membership, and to endeavor
to awaken anew the interest of all the members, both resident
and corresponding. Hence the matter of publishing a Bul-
letin was again seriously considered. The question being
decided affirmatively, the first number of the Bulletin was
issued May 6, 1876, consisting of twenty-eight octavo pages
and a colored plate. Heretofore the Club had pursued the
policy of excluding professional ornithologists, rather, how-
ever, from a feeling of modesty than from any motive of ex-
clusiveness. Eealizing, however, that in order to establish the
Bulletin on a firm basis, it was necessary to secure all pos-

(new aeries of Amer. Sporta.), VoL VI, p. 60. [Based on observations made at
Lake Umbagog, Me.]

10. Ornithological Notes from Portland, Me. By N. C. Brown (Cor.
Memb.). Rod and Gun, Vol. VI, p. 65, May 8, 1875. [On the malformation
of the bill in a specimen of PUdrophanes nivalis^ and a record of the capture of
Paaserculus princepa at Portland, and of Henrodias egreUa in Scarborough, Me.]

11. The Burrowing Owl in Massachusetts. By Ruthven Deane. Rod and
Gun, VoL VI, p. 97, May 15, 1875, [Record of the capture of a specimen of
Speotjflc eunicularia var. hypogoea at Newburyport, Mass.]

12. IJotes on the Habits of Certain Thrushes. By C. C. Abbott, M. D.
(Cor. Memb.). Rod and Gun, Vol. VI, p. 86, May 8, 1875. [Notes on Turdua
FallasC^ T. suxiiTistmi, and T. fuaceacemt as observed at Trenton, N. J.]

IS. Partial List of the Summer Birds of Kanawha County, West Vii^nia ;
with Annotations. By W. D. Scott Proc. Boat. Soc Nat. Hist, VoL XV,
pp. 219-280, Oct. 1872. [A list of eighty-six species, with notes.]

14. Some Observations on the Birds of Ritchie County, West Vii^ginia. By
Wm. Brewster. Ann. Lye. Nat Hist N. Y., VoL XI, pp. 129-146, June,
1875. [An annotated list of one hundred species.]

15. Some Additional Light on the so-called Sterna portlandica, Ridgway.
By Wm. Brewster. Ann. Lye. Nat Hist N. Y., VoL XI, pp. 201-207,
Nov. 1875. [Its probable identity with S, macrura maintained.]

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sible aid in its support, and feeling also that the Club had
given some token of its earnestness, the leading ornithologists
of the United States were invited to co-operate with the Club
as either resident or corresponding members. Upon their
election the resident members of the Club were gratified to
receive from the gentlemen so elected not only letters accept-
ing membership, but containing expressions of the warmest
interest in the objects and prosperity of the Club, together
with offers of hearty* assistance in the maintenance of the
Bulletin as a permanent journal of Ornithology.

With the present number the Bulletin becomes somewhat
changed in its character, and greatly improved in typographical
appearance. It is hereafter intended not only to present in
each number original communications, but to give short notices
of recent ornithological publications, especially such as relate
to American Ornithology, and also a variety of notes and
general miscellany. With the promises of literary support
already received (see Prospectus), the Club publishes its second
number of the Bulletin, feeling that its establishment as a
journal creditable to American ornithologists is assured.



After having been repeatedly given as a North American species,
in consequence of the erroneous identification of some one or other
of its strictly American congeners, this common European bird has
at last a claim to be included in our fauna. Such at least is the
case according to the incontrovertible evidence presented in Mr.
Maynard's article in the last number of this Bulletin (Vol. I. No. l,
pp. 2-6). The specimen upon which these remarks are based is a
veritable B, vulgaris^ as we are fully satisfied from a personal in-
spection ; but, instead of concurring in the statement that " three
specimens of the Common Buzzard have actually been taken within
our limits," we believe, on the contrary, that only the one in ques-
tion has been procured this side of the Atlantic, so far as the

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records show ; while there is a reasonable cause for suspecting that
even this may have come into the possession of the collector in some
manner forgotten by him, and that his circumstantial account of its
capture refers to some other specimen. Mr. Maynard bases his
belief that this species "will be found of regular occurrence in the
Northwest on the supposition that the birds which Audubon
figured and described under the name of " Faico btiteo,** is of this
species. That this opinion is erroneous, and ^hat the plate and
description cited refer wholly to B, swainsmii and the young of the
Western Red-tail {B, borealis calurus), we hold to be demonstrable.
It is very evident that Audubon does not describe the same bird
which he figures, his plate representing clearly the adult female of
B. npainsoniy in the normal or white-throated dress,* while the de-
scription is as certainly taken from a specimen of a species belong-
ing to the other group. t In our assertion that the plate referred
to is a representation of the adult female of B, swahuoni^ we can
cite several points in proof: the well-defined white throat-patch,
the uniform brown pectoral area, and the numerous bars on the ,
tail, — in fact, every detail of coloration. In the second place,
Audubon expressly states at the beginning of his account that th.e
specimen from which the figure was taken " was shot by Mr.
Townsend on a rock near the Columbia River " ; it must therefore
have been one of the specimens which Nuttall subsequently de-
scribed as " Buteo montana** ("White-throated Buzzard"), and,
referring to his work (p. 112, ed. of 1840), we find that such is in-
deed the case, since he cites Audubon's plate in the following man-
ner : ''F. BuUo, Aud., pi. 372 [female]." The case is made still
plainer by the text itself, the whole of which relates, unmistakably
and very clearly, to B. twainsoni. % The wide discrepancies between
the description which follows Audubon's plate and the bird repre-
sented in the plate itself can only be explained upon the supposi-
tion tb&t the description was penned subsequently from a different
specimen, — a procedure well known to have been common with that
distinguished author. No one familiar with the different phases of

* See Pr. Ac. Nat Sci. Philad., March 30, 1876, p. 89.

t Ibid., p. 105.

X Mr. Cassin identified Nuttall's bird as the light-colored phase of tie West-
em Red-tail, to which throughout his writings he gave the name ** BtUeo
montanus, Nutt" The error was first corrected in Coues'a "Key to North
American Birds," 1872, p. 217.

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B. stoainsom and B. vulgaris, would think of referring the plate to
the latter, but would instantly recognize in it the adult female of the
former in the ordinary light phase of plumage.* The identification
of the bird described is not so readily made, but we will attempt it
by a careful analysis of the text.

The first two paragraphs of the description referred to may as well
be passed over, since they are only an enumeration of generic charac-
ters; the third paragraph also contains little to the point, save
the following clause : " Fourth quill longest, the third next, the
fifth very little shorter, the second longer than the fifth, the first
and seventh about equal ; first four abruptly cut on the inner web,^ t
Now as regards the coloration : " The general color of the upper
parts is chocolate-brown. The quills are of the general color exter-
nally, but the primaries are black toward the tip ; a great part of
the inner web, with the shaft, white, and barred with brownish-
black, the bars more extended on the secondaries.} The tail is
marked with about ten dusky bars on a reddish-brown ground,
tinged with gray, the last dark bar broader, the tips paler. § The
eyelids are whitish, as is the throat, which is longitudinally
streaked with dusky. || The rest of the lower parts are yellowish

• Of the distinctive characters of these two species, only one of those cntuner-
ated by Mr. Maynard holds good ; the radical difference between them in the
emargination of the primaries being the one referred to. As to the feet, they
are more slender in B. vulgaris than in B. stvainsoni, while in the latter the
under wing-coverts are often pure white, — by no means always rufous. [For
diagnosis covering all the known variations of plumage and proportions in this
species, based on the careful examination and comparison of more than a hun-
dred specimens, the reader is referred to the Proceedings of the Academy of
Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, March 30, 1876, pp. 92, 104.]

+ In B, vulgaris the third, fourth, or fifth quill is longest, usually the third
and fourth, which are generally equal ; the relative proportion of the quills is
the same in B, borealis (including all its forms), and in B. suxiinsotii the third
or fourth, usually the third, is longest ; hence on account of its vaHability
this character is not of much value.

X So far equally applicable to B, vulgaris and the young of B. borea-lis.

§ In B. vulgaris the tail is grayish- rather than reddish-brown, seldom with
a tinge of red ; the bars are always badly defined, excepting on the middle
feathers, and become more or less obsolete toward the base, — those which are
distinct being of an indefinite number, but usually aboui ten. The young of J?.
borealis frequently has the tail decidedly reddish, and the bars almost always
well-defined, and nine or ten in number.

II Will answer for either B. vulgaris or B. borealis.

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or brownish-white barred with brown.* The lower wing-coverts are
white, barred or spotted with dusky ; the white of* the inner webs
of the primaries forms 'a conspicuous patch, contrasted with the
grayish black of their terminal portion.f

" Length to end of tail, 23 inches ; wing, from flexure, 1 7 ; tail,
10 J ; bill along the ridge, 1 ^ ; along the edge of the upper mandi-
ble, 1/y ; tarsus, S^ ; hind toe, 1, its claw, 1^ ; middle toe, 1|§, its
claw, 1tV."J

From the preceding analysis of the " Falco buteo " of Audubon,
we can only conclude that his description was taken from a young
example of Buteo borealit calurus, which Mr. Townsend may hare
obtiiined somewhere in the Northwest. As an exceedingly perti-
nent fact in this connection, it may be observed that Audubon
nowhere describes the young plumage of B. borealu, nor does he
figure it. He was, therefore, apparently unacquainted with the
species in this stage, and might readily have taken it for a different
species, and the B. vulgarU would be the one most likely to suggest
itself, especially in view of the circumstance that it had been
already given as a North American bird by Swainson and Richard-

So far as the text goes, there is a probability of reference to B.
fwainsoni only in the last sentence of the paragraph following the
description. This reads as follows : " The colors, however, vary,
and in some the upper parts are deep brown, the lower reddish- or
brownish-white, barred with reddish-brown."

To those interested in this subject, descriptions of the various
phases of plumage in BuUo horealis may not be unacceptable in
this connection : we accordingly present the following, taken from
the series contained in the National Museum : —

♦ This suits the young of B. horealis very well ; in B, vulgaris the markings
of the lower parts are exceedingly variable, but they are for the most part
rather longitudinal than transverse, unless the dusky color predominates, in
which case there are rather well-defined bars of white on the abdomen.

+ Characters common to B. vulgaris and B. horealis, and often not very
dUTereiit in B, swainsoni,

t In a series of six specimens of B* vulgaris, the maximum length of wing is
16.60, the minimum being 15.50; the tail, 8.80-10.00; culmen (including
cere), 1.20-1.30; tarsus, 3.00-3.50; hind toe, .70-. 85, its claw, .90-. 95 ;
middle toe, 1.40-1.55, its claw, .75 -.78. It will thus be observed that
the measurements of Aububon's bird are decidedly too great for B. vul-
garis, while they in every way accord with those of an average specimen of B.

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Buteo vulgaris: Sp. Ch.— Wing, 15.50-16.60; tail, 8.80-10.00;
culmen, .85-.95 ; tarsus, 3.00-3.50; middle toe, 1.40-1.55. Four
outer primaries with inner webs emarginated ; third, fourth, or fifth quill
longest (usually the third and fourth) ; first shorter than seventh, eighth,
or ninth (usually intermediate between seventh and eighth). Tail even or
very slightly rounded. Tail brownish, in some examples touched with
rufous, sometimes with a narrow whitish tip, crossed by an indefinite num-
ber (about 10-13) bands of dusky, more or less indistinct basally ; the
inner webs lighter than the outer, sometimes whitish, the bars more dis-
tinct. Inner webs of the primaries usually plain white anterior to their
emargination, in marked contrast with their dusky tips, the white some-
times inmiaculate, oftener with indications of bars, especially next the
shaft, and rarely broken by a sprinkling or clouding of grayish ; outer
webs grayish-brown, with indistinct darker bars, which become gradually
obsolete towards the ends of the quills. Plumage generally a mixture of
sooty-brown and white, in varying proportionate amoimt, in some speci-
mens with occasional touches of rufous.

In this species there appear to be no well-marked growth stages,
nor does there seem to be much if any difference in plumage be-
tween the sexes ; on the other hand, the range of individual varia-
tion is very great, fully equalling that of either B, horeatis or B.
swainsoni. It is believed that the specimens contained in the Na-
tional Museum illustrate the main variations, and as no two of these
examples are alike, we will describe each one in detail : —

Adult Males.

Light Phase (No. 56,105, Germany). — Above grayish brown, broken
by whitish edges of the feathers, these most distinct on the scapulars and
middle wing-coverts ; lesser wing-coverts much spotted with deep buff,
and scapulars irregularly marked with the same ; rump distinctly spotted
with deeper buff ; remiges plain brown, very indistinctly banded with
darker, the primaries with a decided hoary cast, the secondaries and inner
primaries narrowly tipped with whitish. Outer upper tail-coverts white,
with a few brownish spots. Tail grayish-brown, of the same shade as the
secondaries, the inner webs whitish with well-defined bars towards their
ends, the outer webs with just appreciably darker narrow bands. Head,
neck, and lower parts white ; crown and nape streaked with grayish-
brown, the streaks widest on the crown ; a rictal stripe of blended streaks,
and a narrower and less distinct longitudinal series of streaks on the mid-
dle of the throat ; jugulum with a wide collar of large cordate or broadly
ovate spots of brown, with black shafts, the patch interrupted in the mid-
dle portion ; abdomen with irregular bars and transverse spots of brown,
and fianks with larger and more irregular spots of the same ; other por-

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tiona of the lower surface unmaculate. Axillars immaculate pure white ;
lining of the wing pale cream-color, with longitudinal tear-shaped mark-
ings or streaks of rusty brown ; under primary coverts with a large patch
of grayish-brown, formed by the terminal half or more of each feather be-
ing of this color ; inner webs of the primaries immaculate white anterior
to their emargination. Wing, 15.70 ; tail, 9.00.

This specimen presents a very close general resemblance to
lighter colored examples of the young of B, horealU, the only obyi-
0U8 difference being the cluster of spots ou the jugulum (which in
horecUis is plain white), the obsolete character of the bars on the
tail, and the more slender tarsi.

Dark Phase (No. 9,689, Europe). — Prevailing color clove-brown, or
sooty grayish-brown, this entirely unbroken on the upper surface, but be-
neath slightly vari^ated with very narrow whitish streaks on the cheeks
and throat, irregular bars and spots of the same on the abdomen ; tibial
feathers with rusty tips ; crissum grayish-white with brownish spots and
bars ; white of under surface of primaries broken by a confused sprinkling
or mottling of grayish ; lining of the wing sooty-brown, irregularly spotted
with buff and rufous. Tail grayish-brown, considerably lighter than the
wings, narrowly tipped with dirty whitish, and crossed by narrow bands of
darker brown, the last of which is much the widest (about 1.00 in breadth),
the others decreasing in distinctness toward the base. Darker bars on the
remiges almost entirely obliterated. Wing, 16.40 ; tail, 9.00.

This example is almost identical in coloration with the dark
phase of Buteo swcdnsoni^* the only obvious difference being the
white bars and spots on the abdomen.

Young Male.
Light PhoM, Atbinescent 9 (No. 56,104, Germany). — Prevailing color
pure white ; head, neck, and lower parts immaculate, except a few narrow
streaks on the forehead and below the auriculars, a few scattered streaks
on the side of the breast, and a slight spotting on the sides ; occiput and
nape more distinctly streaked. Lesser wLng-coverts almost immaculate
pure white, and middle coverts so broadly bordered with white that this
color prevails ; greater coverts tipped M'ith white. Back dark brown,
the feathers narrowly bordered with white ; scapulars with broader
white margins. Entire rump and upper tail-coverts immaculate creamy
white. Remiges and rectrices as usual, but the middle pair of the latter
with their inner webs huffy white, with broken bars and spots of grayish- .

Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 4 of 50)