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

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ation in size among North American birds holds true also in respect to

* This is the most northern locality ia Maine at which I have known the Yel-
low-throated Vireo to occur.

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their eggs. I find, for instance, in Icteria viridis var. Umgicaudaia, that
in the vicinity of Fort Lapham, Idaho Territory, where the species breeds
abundantly, that they almost invariably lay four eggs ; while near Tucson,
Arizona, where I took at least eighty of their nests, they lay only three,
and the size of the eggs is so very much smaller, in some cases fully
one h&U^ that they might easily be taken for eggs of an entirely different
species. I find that the farther south you go, the eggs of the same species
become smaller, and the number laid as a full nest complement is also
less, as a rule. Of course there are some exceptions.** He says later, in
reply to further inquiries from me respecting this matter, that his atten-
tion was first drawn to this subject by the disparity in size and number of
the ^gs of this species at northern and southern localities. " Of course,"
he continues, "there is considerable variation in size even in the same
localities when a number of sets of the same species are compared, but the
assertion that in the North the ^gs, as well as the birds, average larger
than in the South is perfectly correct I have abundant material in my
own collection to prove this conclusively. Another illustration of the dif;
ference in size of eggs from points North and South is the following : Six
eggs of Molothru-8 pecorii from the New England States measure as follows :
(1) .99 X .65 ; (2) .97 X .67 ; (3) .88 X .67 ; (4) .90 X .68 ; (6) .85 X
.64 ; (6) .76 X .63. Ten specimens of M. pecoris var. obscurusy from Ari-
zona, measure as follows : (1) .82 X .60 ; (2) .81 X .59 ; (3) .73 X .65 ;
(4) .75 X .61 ; (5) .74 X .58 ; (6) .73 X .58 ; (7) .72 X .58 ; (8) .70 X
.58 ; (9) .70 X .56 ; (10) .67 X .51." This gives an average of .90 X .66
for the New England specimens, and .74 X .59 for those from Arizona.

The greater part of Captain Bendire's collection being now stored in St
Louis, while he is himself stationed in Oregon, prevents the presentation
by him of other comparative measurements with which to further sub-
stantiate the above-given generalization of the smaller size of the eggs of
birds of the same species at southern as compared with northern locali-
ties. His other statement of the smaller number of eggs laid at the south-
ward is also one of great importance, and touches a point respecting which
little has as yet been written.

Mr. C. J. Maynard, in his " Birds of Florida " (p. 24), refers to the
"singular fact" that many species lay a smaller number of eggs at the
South than at the North, and informs me that he has also noticed the fact
of their smaller size at the southward. — J. A. Allkn.

The Nest and Eggs of Traill's Flycatcher, as observed in
Maine. — The structure of the nest, its situation, and the eggs of this
species {Empidonax traillit), as found in the above-named State, are all
quite different from Mr. H. W. Henshaw's description of them, as given
in the first number of this ** Bulletin." The nest is built between the
upright shoots of low bushes, from one to five feet from the ground, and
is loosely constructed of grasses throughout, including the lining. It is a
much 1^ compact nest even than that of the Indigo Bird^ though perhaps

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smaller in the average. The eggs are of a pale creamy white, with red-
dish-brown dots, spots, or blotches of two shades, disposed chiefly about
the larger end. This brief account is based on specimens obtained about
Lake Umbagog, Upton, and at Bethel, Maine, by Messrs. William Brewster
and H. B. Bailey, and at Gorham, N. H., by Messrs. George Welch and
Duxbury Moon. I have lately seen nests and eggs of both E, acadicv4
and E, VraiUvi collected at Columbus, Ohio, by Dr. J. M. Wheaton. Sin-
gularly enough, that of the former {E, acadicus) bears a close resemblance
in its structure to that of Maine specimens of TrailFs Flycatcher, while
the compact felted character of the latter (E, traUlii) is entirely unlike any
nest of this species from the Canadian fauna. The eggs of the Ohio nests
are in each case of a decided buff color as compared with Northern ones.
In this connection I would ask if it has been observed whether the
ground color and markings of the eggs of species breeding in northern
latitudes are of a lighter tint than those of the same kind laid in austral
limits, — that is, does intensity of color hold good in eggs -as it does in
plumage 1 — H. A. Purdib.

Singular Food op the Least Bittebn. — Upon examining the
stomach of a male Least Bittern {Ardetta exilis) shot at Belmont, Mass.,
May 11, 1876, I found that organ fairly crammed with white, clean cotton
wool The greater portion had evidently been swallowed in one lump,
but there were several smaller flakes. Among them were several slender
white worms, and many others of a similar appearance were coiled around
the intestines. Under such conditions one would hardly expect the post-
prandial sensations of the bird to be of an agreeable nature^ but the
bird seemed to be in good health and spirits, — William Brewster.

Intblliqence of a Crow. — A tame Crow (Corvm americanus) in my.
possession has repeatedly amused me by the novel method he adopts to
rid himself of j^arasites. For this purpose he deliberately takes his stand
upon an ant-mound, and permits the ants to crawl dver him and carry
away the troublesome vermin. The operation seems mutually agreeable
to all parties the ants quickly seizing upon the parasites and bearing them
away. I have also noticed the same habit in another tame Crow that I
formerly had in my possession. — Abbott M. Frazar.

The Great Carolina Wren in Massachusetts. — The Great Caro-
lina Wren {Thryothorus ludomcianui) has not previously been recorded
as a visitor to Massachusetts, but there are at present two apparently pass-
ing the summer in a small wooded swamp near Boston. It is believed
that they ha^'e arrived since the 4th of July, soon after which time my
attention was attracted by their loud notes, which I immediately recog-
niied, through their general likeness to the notes of other Wrens, and the
descriptions of Wilson and Audubon. It is further believed that they are
now building, or have recently built, their nest, since they remain per-
sistently in one neighborhood, the female being rarely seen, though the
male often visits the shrubbery about the house. — H. D. Minot.

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Vol L NOVEMBER, 2876. No. 4-



In the h<^ of eliciting from some of the many readers of The
Bulletin further information oonceming the hreeding hahits of the
American Kinglets, or at least of patting them upon the alert for
farther information, I have deemed it well to bring together what
is at present known respecting the nidification of these birds.

Of the breeding of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regius calendula,
licht.) not much is known, although the bird is found, at different
seasons, in all parts of North America. In the Rocky Mountains
it breeds among the most elevated forests. Mr. J.' A. Allen found
young in July near Mount Lincoln, CoL ; Mr. Ridgway gives it as
breeding among the peaks of Northern Utah ; and Mr. Henshaw in
Arizona. It is also supposed to breed in Northern New Jersey, in
Western New York, in Maine, and in the islands of the Bay of
Fundy. In Western New York a nest which ccmtained young was
reported to have been built in the fork of a tree. Males and
females have both been observed in summer about Chestnut Hill,
Philadelphia, and Mr. Gentry thinks it nests on the wooded heights
along the Wissahiokon. Dr. Coues, in his " Birds of the North-
west," considers that he has sufficient evidence to show a breeding-
range throughout the mountains of the West, from nine thousand
feet upward, thence trending eastward along the northern boundary
of the United States to Maine and Labrador, and probably sending
a spnr soathward along the Alleghany Mountains. Northwestward
it reaches Alaska.

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The most satisfactory information is furnished by Mr. J. H. Batty,
who found a nest near the Buffalo Mountains in Colorado, on June
21, 1873, which contained five young and one egg. The nest was
on the branch of a spruce-tree, about fifteen feet from the ground,
and was so large '' that it could scarcely be got into a good-sized
coffee-cup." It is described as '' a loosely woven mass of hair and
feathers, mixed with moss and some short bits of straw." The egg,
Mr. Batty tells me, was very much like that of the common House
Wren, but a little lighter in color. Both parents were assiduously
bringing larvse of insects to the young, whose appetites were un-
appeasable. Mr. Henry W. Henshaw also reports finding a neatly
finished nest on a mountain near Fort Garland, Col. It was built
on a low branch of a pine, and the male was singing directly over-
head ; but although he waited some time, Mr. Henshaw did not see
the female. " The nest was a somewhat bulky structure, very large
for the size of the bird, externally composed of strips of bark, and
lined thickly with feathers of the Grouse." Of the eggs of this
Kinglet nothing further is known.

Little more can be said in respect to the Golden-crested Kinglet
{Regulua satrapa, Licht). Its range is nearly as extensive, but more
northerly ; it does not descend in winter beyond Mexico. Nothing
is known with certainty of its breeding anywhere in the United
States, although it may be found to do so in the northern moun-
tainous portions. Mr. Thomas G. Gentry is confident that it nidi-
ficates in cavitied in the tall trees which crown the heights of Eastern
Pennsylvania, despite the generally accepted notion that it follows
its foreign cousin in building a pensile nest and laying white eggs,
finely sprinkled with buff dots, in size about equal to those ot
Humming-birds. It has also been inferred that this Kinglet raises
two broods in a season. Mr. Nuttall and Dr. Cooper both found it
feeding full-fledged young on the Columbia River, on May 21 ; and
Audubon observed the same thing in Labrador in August. Mr.
Maynard found it common at Lake Umbagog, Me., in June ; he
says it breeds there, and that, judging from the condition of female
specimens dissected, it deposits its eggs about June 1. Several
pairs were found in the thick woods there, but no nests could be
discovered ; he thought they built, probably, in the long hanging-
moss so abundant on the trees in those northern forests. Mr. Her-
rick puts it down positively as breeding on the island of Grand Menan,
and Dr. Brewer in Maine. Mr. Allen informs me that he met with

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young, attended bj the parents, the third week in August, 1876,
on Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, which he has no doubt
were hatched in the immediate yicinitj. Mr. J. E. Lord states that
these birds were abundant on Yancouyer^s Island and the adjacent
coast, where he found them building pensile nests suspended from
the tips of high pine branches, in which they laid from five to seven
eggs. He does not describe the eggs, which was hardly to be ex-
pected, perhaps, considering the half-use he seems to have made of
his opportunities.

Herr F. W. Baedeker has figured the egg in the '' Journal fiir
Omithologie " (1856, p. 33, PI. I, Fig. 8), and also in his large work
on the eggs of the birds of Europe. Dr. Coues observes, in a pri-
vate communication to me, " The plate indicates a rather roundish
egg, though the two specimens figured difier noticeably in size and
shape ; they are spoken of in the text as * niedliche kleine Eirchen
mit lehmgelben ben Flekschen auf weissen Grunde,' and compared
with those of other species illustrated on the same plate."

Itegxdus cuviert, described by Audubon from a specimen taken
near the banks of the Schuylkill River, has remained unknown to
ornithologists ever since.



Thb little fellows who require such a triple scientific name, ac-
cording to the latest fashion in nomenclature, have this year ex-
hibited in my garden a remarkable characteristic or habit, which,
if not confined to the western race, has never been recorded of those
mdividuals found in the northeastern section of the Union, though
it may be looked for in the longer summers of the southern and
interior States.

The well-known &ct that during the season of incubation the
males usually busy themselves in building several nests in places
where they seem quite unnecessary, has always been attributed to
a sort of whim or desire for occupation, or to a judicious foresight ;
providing thus against a possible destruction of the first nest

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But it seems that here, at least, one extra nest is sometimes vm^
for the pmpose of raising an additional family by a single pair ef
wrens simultaneouslj with the first brood f This would scareelj
appear credible if not made certain by dose obsenration of the pair
during the whole breeding season, while no others were seen within
a circuit of a quarter of a mile. Like aB other summer yisitors^
these birds arriyed much later this year than last, none appearing
until about April 20, though some winter within one hundred miles
to the southward. Whether the same pair returned, mentioned to
have built here last year (in my article in the " American Natnnd-
ist " for Februaiy, 1876, p. 90), is uncertain. I believe that one of
that pair was killed by a cat, and the brood of young were certainly
destroyed, June 14, by an unusually late and heavy rain, whidi ran
from the eaves of my house into their box, after which the remain-
ing parent bird disappeared. The present pair, however, lost no
time in building, and, as if suspicious of their former home, built
first in a house on the top of a post twelve feet high, which was
occupied by a pair of Hirundo hicolcr last summer. As soon as the
nest was finished, the male began to build another in the old resi-
dence, which I had moved to a safer place, where rdn could not
reach it. The female rarely assisted in this work, though I occa-
sionally saw both there, and in due time the second nest was
finished. Soon after the young in the first nest were hatched, and
although needing much attention, the old birds still frequented the
new nest, and I began to suspect that one of them was sitting on
eggs there. This suspicion was soon verified by hearing the young,
and seeing them fed. In this case each parent must have been
sitting at the same time on a nest, perhaps taking turns, ^uring the
week that elapsed before the first hatching.

The day after the first brood of six left its house, they reappeared
at evening under the lead of the female, and all roosted there, the
male meanwhile continuing to feed the other brood, and singing at
almost every visit to them, fix>m which circumstance I distinguished
him. The next day, however, he seems to have taken charge of the
fledged family and led them away to the groves, out of the reach of
town cats, as after that the songless female alone attended to the
remaining brood.

As confirming the probability of one pair being able to raise two
broods, I may quote from Dr. Brewer the experiment by which one
female was induced to lay twenty-five eggs in one season, eighteen

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being saccesBively takon, and the remaining seven hatclied. I have
not seen anj eyidenoe of a second brood being raised here after the
first, Teiy few birds of any kind doing this, on account of the
scarcity of insect-food after the dry season is advanced, or in July.

The first brood left the nest June 5; the second on the 16th,
which also consisted of sii.



A vmtT remarkable variation in colors, accompanied by less
striking difference of size, from east to west^ in this species, was
first brought to my notice by a casual examination of the specimens
contained in the National Museum, specimens from the Atlantic
States appearing at first sight to be very much brighter colored than
those from the Mississippi Valley, with somewhat different markings,
and also larger in size. Examples fix>m the West Indies, where, in
part, the species passes the winter, are, so fiur as seen, entirely re*
ferable to the western form, as are also those from Western and
Southern Florida* The circumstance that West-Indian specimens
are identical with those firom the Mississippi Valley is conspicuously
in contrast with the case of D, daminicOy in which the relationship
is reversed, West-Indian specimens being identical with those fix)m
the Atlantic States, while examples from the interior States agree
with those taken in Mexico and Honduras. The D. donUnica, how^
ever, is resident in the southern portions of its range, while 2>.
palmarum is one of those species which pass mainly north of the
United States to breed.* Another fact in connection with the present
bird is the notable exception which it constitutes in the matter of
dimaiic variation to certain laws under this head, it bemg usual for
specimens firom the Mississippi Valley to be, if any different, brighter
than those from corresponding latitudes on the Atlantic Coast.
The variation would therefore appear to be entirely with longitude,
so far as geographical considerations are concerned, and not to be
explained by any known climatic laws.

This is written with the most positive assurance that such a wide

* D. pcUmarum has not been recorded from any part of Mexico or Central

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difference does exist in this species between specimens from the
country eastward of the Alleghanies and those from the Western
"States of the Eastern Sub-region, for not only does the ample series
of specimens examined indicate such a difference, but evidence ac-
cumulated by correspondence confirms it. After examining all the
material accessible I deemed it prudent, in order to make sure that
the variations noted were not in part of an individual character, to
call the attention of others to the subject. Accordingly, a pair of
the western form (frx>m Southern Illinois), in spring plumage, of
which the male was unusually bright, were despatched to Mr.
William Brewster, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the request
that they be compared with his New England series, as well as with
other local collections in Cambridge, while at the same time a typical
example of the eastern style was mailed to Mr. E. W. Nelson, of
Chicago, Illinois, with the same request. The replies of these gen-
tlemen have been repeived, and fully establish my previous conclu-
sion that the differences were strictly geographical. Mr. Brewster's
letter reads as follows : —

" I have very carefully compared the birds sent with my series
of twenty Massachusetts specimens, and find that they differ widely
ftova any that I have ever taken here. The decided yellow of the
entire under parts and the chestnut markings are congtmU in our
bird, and subject to but a limited amount of variation, and this
chiefly sexual. The dullest fall female in my series is much brighter
beneath than your spring male. Again, your birds are clear brown
above, from the occiput to the rump, while mine all have a greenish-
yellow cast ; the lower eyelid in your specimens is white, while in
mine it is as decidedly yellow as the superciliary stripe ; and, lastly,
the markings on the lower parts, though more numerous, are brown
instead of chestnut, and of a different shape, being mostly linear

instead of tear-shaped A pair of these birds from Florida

agree very well with your specimens, after making due allowance for
difference of season, they being winter birds. I saw at a glance
that the birds you sent were totally different in color frt>m any that
are ever taken here, and as I have probably examined one hundred
Massachusetts specimens altogether, I can assure you positively
that the form you sent never occurs here at any season."

Mr. Kuthven Deane, of Cambridge, also examined the pair sent
for inspection, and has this to say of them : ** I have compared
your two specimens of D. palmarum with mine, and find that they
differ in the respects of which Mr. Brewster has written you. The

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back of jour specimens is considerably darker than in Massachusetts
birds, and lacks the sprinkling of the yellowish feathers ; the mark-
ings on the breast are much finer and less conspicuous in your
specimens, and the stripe under the ^eye is invariably yellow in
Massachusetts specimens. In fact, your birds are considerably dif-
ferent at a glance, and if they are typical of the Illinois bird I should
think they represent a well-marked variety." Mr. Nelson's reply,
received at the same time, is equally to the point : " The speci-
men of D, palmarum came to hand this morning. There is a great
difference in intensity of coloration between this specimen and any
I have seen or taken here, the one from Baltimore showing much
brighter and purer yellow on the under parts, while the crown and
spots on the breast are much clearer and brighter chestnut. I do
not remember ever taking a specimen here in which the markings
on the breast were so few, and confined to the sides, western speci-
mens having the streaks extending uniformly across instead of hav-
ing a nearly immaculate space between the two clusters of spots at
the bend of the wing. As to fall specimens, the only observable
difference is that they are much duller in color, more like the femlde
of Perissoghssa tigrinu.** Mr. A. L. Kumlien, of Busseyville, Wis-
consin, an experienced coUector and accurate observer, examined
the series with me, and stated his belief that no such specimens as
those before him from the Atlantic States ever occurred in Wiscon-
sin, and was positive he had never seen similar ones from that por-
tion of the country.

The following are the specific characters of Dendrceca palmarum,
and the diagnoses of the two subspecies, or geographical faces : —

Ck>MMON (specific) Characters. — No distinct bands on wing-coverta.
Inner webs of two outer tail-feathers with large terminal patch of white.
Crissnm clear yellow. Adult : Below more or less yellow, the sides of
breast streaked ; a yellow or whitish saperciliary stripe. Pileum uniform
chestnut in spring and summer, or brownish streaked with dusky in fall
and winter, but usually with more or less of chestnut beneath the surface.
Above nearly uniform olive, becoming brighter, more yellowish-green, on
rump and edges of tail-feathers. Young : Above dull grayish, streaked
everywhere with dusky ; below dirty whitish, tinged with yellow, the
throat, breast, and sides heavily streaked with dusky ; wing-coverts slightly
tipped with buff. Wing, 2.36 - 280.

SuBSPEGiFic Characters.

Subsp. palmarum.'- Wing, 2.36-2.65 (2.52) ; tail, 2.05-2.45 (2.24) ;
bill, from nostril, .27 -.32 (.29) ; tarsus, .71 - .80 (.76). Yellow of lower

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parts intenrapted bj a whitiidi abdominal area ; breast streaked uniformlf
across, the,streaks being linear, and dusky, with little if any tinge of chest-
nut ; lower eyelid whitish ; back dull olive-brown. HabiUU. Mississippi
Valley (north to Great Slave Lake) and West Indies. Casual in certain
Atlantic States.

Subsp. hypochrysea. — Wing, 2.50 - 2.80 (2.69) ; tail, 2.25 - 2.55 (2.43) ;
bill, from nostril, .28- .32 (.30) ; tarsus, .75 - .80 (.79). Yellow of lower
parts entirely continuous, and much brighter ; streaks confined mostly or
wholly, to sides of breast, broadly tear-shaped, wholly reddish-chestnut ;
lower eyelid bright yellow ; back greemsh^>live. HahitaU Atlantic
States, from East Florida to Nova Scotia.

Dendroioa palmamm.

Qnhepedes palmarum.

Le BimbeUj ou la Fauae LinottCy Buffon, Ois., V, p. 330 (St Domingo).

Palm Warbler, Lath., Synop., II, pt 2, p. 498.

Motacilla paimarum, Qmel., S. N., 1, 1788, p. 951. Dendrccca palmarumf
Baibd, Birds N. Am., 1858, 488 ; et AucT. (part).

Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 9 of 50)