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Thomas Nuttall.

A popular handbook of the ornithology of the United States and Canada, based on Nuttall's Manual (Volume 1) online

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^ BOSTON UNIVERSITY ^

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Library
Gift of
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ORNITHOLOGY

OF THE

UNITED STATES AND CANADA.



IN TWO VOLUMES.
Vol. I.




''^^^^



POPULAR HANDBOOK



OF THE



ORNITHOLOGY



OF



EASTERN NORTH AMERICA

By THOMAS NUTTALL.

Ecbi0£ti anti xlnnotatctj
By MONTAGUE CHAMBERLAIN.




Vol. I.
THE LAND BIRDS.



BOSTON: ^
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
1891.



Copyright, 1S91.
Little, Brown, and Company.



^ '^ t:^^ VqvoOj^\.^X^



'-;)



5?.



John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.



rY,



PREFACE.



^ I ^HIS work is practically an edition of *' A Manual
-^ of the Ornithology of the United States and of
Canada," written by THOMAS NUTTALL, though only as
much of the original title has been retained as seemed
consistent with the changed character of the text.

Nuttall's work has been out of print for several years ;
but its popularity and real value have kept it in demand,
and the few copies recently offered for sale were dis-
posed of at high prices. A new edition was thus called
for ; but it seemed unwise to issue the work in its origi-
nal form, or to remodel it to the extent that would be
required to arrange it in harmony with the new regime
of affairs ornithological ; for the science has advanced
rapidly since the "Manual" was written, and the
changes effected have been numerous and important.
A new and entirely different system of classification has
come in vogue ; the nomenclature has been altered and
trinomials introduced ; and, indeed, little is left of
American ornithology as Nuttall knew it, except the
birds, — and even of these, two species have become
extinct, and a large number of new forms have been
discovered.

Thomas Nuttall came to this country from England
in 1808, and between 1825 and 1834 held the positions



VI PREFACE.

of Curator of the Botanic Garden and Lecturer on
Natural History at Harvard University. In 1842 he
returned to England, where he resided until his death
in 1859, at the age of seventy-three.

The first volume of the " Manual," containing an
account of the Land Birds, was published in 1832, and
a second edition, with some additional matter, appeared
in 1840. The second volume, of which one edition only
was issued, came out in 1834.

The " Manual " was the first hand-book of the subject
that had been published, and its delightful sketches of
bird-life and its fragrance of the field and forest carried
it into immediate favor. But Nuttall was more than a
mere lover of Nature, he had considerable scientific at-
tainment; and though he appears to have enjoyed the
study of bird-Hfe more than he did the musty side of
ornithology, with its dried skins and drier technicalities,
he had an eye trained for careful observation and a stu-
dent's respect for exact statement. It was this rare com-
bination that gave to Nuttall's work its real value ; and
these chapters of his are still valuable, — much too valu-
able to be lost; for if a great advance has been made in
the study of scientific ornithology, and of the species
that occur in the Western half of the continent, our
knowledge of the life-histories of most of the Eastern
birds has been advanced but little beyond that left us
by Nuttall and his contemporaries.

I must not however be understood as undervaluing
the recent work of the '' American School," as they are
styled by European writers ; for it may be said, without
exaggeration, that the present generation of workers
in this field have placed American ornithology quite



PREFACE. Vll

abreast of that of any other country; and, indeed, as
I have written elsewhere in these pages, they have been
called " the pioneers of modern ornithological science."
Besides their more technical work, the American stu-
dents have written some of the best chapters of bird
biography to be found in the entire range of ornitho-
logical literature.

While this is but a frank statement of facts, we must
concede that the older writers noted so carefully the
habits of the birds they knew that comparatively little
was left for their successors to discover.

It was suggested to me that the new might be com-
bined with the old, — that an interesting and useful
book might be prepared by taking Nuttall's biographies
and inserting brief notes relating the results of recent
determinations in distribution and habits. That is w^hat
I have attempted in the present work. The Introduc-
tion has been given exactly as it appeared in Nuttall's
second edition, and the text of the biographical matter
has been changed but little. My notes follow each
chapter in a smaller type, that they may be readily
distinguished. I have also rewritten the descriptions of
plumage, and have endeavored to phrase these in such
well-known and untechnical terms that they may be
understood by unskilled readers. To these I have
added a description of the nest and eggs of each
species. In short, an effort has been made to prepare
a work that will be useful to young students, as well
as entertaining to those who are merely interested in
birds.

The new matter has been selected with special re-
gard for the needs of these classes of readers, for I



Vill PREFACE.

have had another motive in the preparation of this
work besides that of preserving Nuttall's biographies.
Some time ago I made a promise to several Canadian
friends to prepare a book treating of Canadian birds
that would be scientifically correct and at the same time
" popular" in its style. So while writing these pages
I have kept Canadian readers constantly in mind, and
have given here an account of every species that has
been found within the Dominion east of the Manitoba
plains, together with their Canadian distribution.

The limits of a *' hand-book " demanding the most
rigid economy of space, when treating of so extensive
a subject I have been compelled to omit those species
which occur only to the westward of the Mississippi
valley, though I have endeavored to make mention of
every bird that has occurred within this Eastern Faunal
Province, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean,
and to give their distribution and breeding area so far
as these are known. Nuttall knew very little about
the Western birds, and therefore only a few short
chapters of his have been lost through restricting the
scope of the present work to Eastern forms.

The nomenclature adopted is that of the " Check-
List " issued by the American Ornithologists' Union.
The sequence of species is that arranged by Nuttall,
with some few trifling alterations ; and being radically
different from that of recent authors, the student must
be referred to other works for guidance in classification
as well as for diagnoses of the higher groups. Coues'
"Key to North American Birds" is a useful work, and
contains matter not obtainable elsewhere, though the



PREFACE. IX

system of classification now generally used is more
clearly stated in Ridgway's *' Manual of North Amer-
ican Birds." But the most complete work at present
obtainable, and one which every student should have at
hand, is " The History of North American Birds," by
Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway. With that work and the
'' A. O. U. Check-List " to guide him, the student will
be equipped for thorough study.

It only remains for me to thank many friends who
have aided me. To Mr. William Brewster and Mr.
Charles F. Batchelder, the president and the treasurer
of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, I am particularly
indebted for kind advice and assistance. Nor must I
forget to mention the name of my fellow-worker, Ernest
E. Thompson, of Toronto. A large number of the
illustrations are from drawings made especially for this
work by Mr. Thompson.

M. C.

Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
September, 1891.



C O N T E N TS.



Page

Blackbird, Red-winged . . 96
Rusty . . . .119
Yellow-headed . 102

Bluebird 285

Bobolink 109

Bunting, Indigo 310

Painted 314

Caracara, Audubon's ... 6

Cardinal 362

Catbird I95

Chat 172

Chickadee 146

Carolina . . . .150

Hudsonian . . 151

Chuck-will's-widow .... 465

Cowbird 104

Creeper, Bahama Honey . . 388

Brown 387

Crossbill, American .... 378
White-winged . . 381

Crow 126

Fish 131

Cuckoo, Black-billed .... 436
Mangrove .... 437
Yellow-billed . . . 432

DiCKCissEL 298

Eagle, Bald 19

Golden 15

Gray Sea 26

Finch, Purple 372

Flicker 43^



Flycatcher, Acadian .
Crested .
Least . .
Olive-sided
Traill's . .
Yellow-bellied



Gnatcatcher . . .
Goldfinch

American .

Goshawk

Grackle, Boat-tailed .

Purple
Grosbeak, Blue . . .

Evening .

Pine . . .

Rose-breasted
Gyrfalcon ....



Hawk, Broad-winged
Cooper's .
Duck . .
Harris's
Marsh . .
Pigeon . .
Red-shouldered
Red-tailed . .
Rough-legged
Sharp-shinned
Short-tailed .
Sparrow . .

Humming Bird . . .



Jay, Blue 133

Canada 138



Page
425
413
421
410
424
426



170

353
348

31
114

115

371
367
375
369
7

49

34

9

46

51
II

43
46
41
35
50
13
457



Xll



CONTENTS.



Jay, Florida . . .
Junco, Slate-colored



Kingbird

Gray
Kingfisher ....
Kinglet, Golden-crowned

Ruby-crowned
Kite, Everglade . .
Mississippi .
Swallow-tailed .
White-tailed . .

Lapland Longspur .

Lark, Horned . . .

Meadow . . .



Martin, Purple . .
Maryland Yellow-throat
Mocking Bird . . .



NiGHTHAWK ....

Nuthatch, Brown-headed
Red-breasted
White-breasted



Oriole, Baltimore
Orchard .
Osprey ....
Oven Bird . . .
Owl, Barn . . .

Barred . . .

Burrowing

Great Gray .

Great Horned

Hawk . . .

Long-eared .

Richardson's

Saw-whet . .

Screech . .

Short-eared .

Snowy . . .



Paroquet, Carolina
Pewee, Wood . .

Phoebe

Pipit



Page

339

404
414

461

283

281
40

31
39
38

304
294

79

391

249
187

47P
386

385
383

83
93

27

215

75

70

78
64
61

53
66

7Z
72

57
68

55

428
419
415



Page

Raven 120

Kedpoll 355

Hoary 358

Redstart 164

Robin 198

Sapsucker 450

Shrike, Loggerhead . . . .162

Northern 159

Siskin, Pine 351

Skylark 297

Snowflake 300

Sparrow, Acadian Sharp-tailed 345
Bachman's . . . .327
Chipping ■ ... 333

Field 336

Fox 338

Grasshopper . . .329
Henslow's .... 330

House 354

Ipswich 326

Lail< 3^7

Le Conte's .... 331
Lincoln's .... 328
Nelson's .... 346
Savanna .... 325

Seaside 346

Sharp-tailed . . . 344

Song 322

Swamp 342

Tree 332

Vesper 320

White-crowned . -315
White-throated . . 318

Swallow, Bank 401

Barn 394

Cliff 396

Rough-winged . . . 403
Tree 399

Swift, Chimney 463

Tanager, Scarlet 306

Summer .... 309

Thrasher, Brown 192

Thrush, Bicknell's 212

Gray-cheeked . . .211
Hermit 205



CONTENTS.



Xlll



Page

Thrush, Louisiana Water . .214

Olive-backed . . .211

Water 212

Wilson's 207

Wood 202

Titmouse, Tufted ^4-

Towhee 359

ViREO, Blue-headed . . . .176
Philadelphia .... 186
Red-eyed .... 182

Warbling 180

White-eyed . . . .178
Yellow-throated . . 174

Vulture, Black 4

Turkey i



Warbler,



Bachman's . .
Bay-breasted
Black and white
Blackburnian ,
Black-poll . ,
Black-throated Blue
Black-throated

Green . .
Blue-winged .
Canadian . .
Cape May
Cerulean . .
Chestnut-sided
Connecticut .
Golden-winged
Hooded . .
Kentucky . .
Kirtland's



261

'^37
389
232
238
245

230
258
227
226
247
235
253
260

167
246
265



Warbler, Magnolia
Mourning
Myrtle .
Nashville
Orange-crowned
Parula . . .
Pine . . .
Prairie . .
Prothonotary
Swainson's .
Tennessee
Wilson's . .
Worm-eating
Yellow . .
Yellow Palm
Yellow-throated

Waxwing, Bohemian

Cedar . . .

Wheatear

Whip-poor-will ....

Woodpecker, American
toed .



Arctic three-toed 455



Downy . .

Hairy . .

Ivory-billed

Pileated .

Red-bellied

Red-cockaded

Red-headed

W>en, Bewick's . . .

Carolina . . .

House . ■ . . .

Long-billed Marsh

Short-billed Marsh

Winter ....



Page
. 224
. 251
. 217
. 263
. 264

• 244

• 239
. 242

• 257
. 256
. 261
. 168

• 255
. 230
. 219
. 228

• 152

• 154
. 290

• 467



three-



456



• 452

• 451

• 441

• 444
. 448

. 454

• 446
. 276
. 272
. 266

• 279
. 277
. 270






ms^^f^^^^^'^^^^'^^^



INTRODUCTION.



Of all the classes of animals by which we are surrounded in
the ample field of Nature, there are none more remarkable in
their appearance and habits than the feathered inhabitants of
the air. They play around us like fairy spirits, elude approach
in an element which defies our pursuit, soar out of sight in the
yielding sky, journey over our heads in marshalled ranks, dart
like meteors in the sunshine of summer, or, seeking the solitary
recesses of the forest and the waters, they glide before us like
beings of fancy. They diversify the still landscape with the
most lively motion and beautiful association ; they come and
go with the change of the season ; and as their actions are di-
rected by an uncontrollable instinct of provident Nature, they
may be considered as concomitant with the beauty of the sur-
rounding scene. With what grateful sensations do we involun-
tarily hail the arrival of these faithful messengers of spring and
summer, after the lapse of the dreary winter, which compelled
them to forsake us for more favored climes. Their songs, now
heard from the leafy groves and shadowy forests, inspire de-
light, or recollections of the pleasing past, in every breast.
How volatile, how playfully capricious, how musical and happy,
are these roving sylphs of Nature, to whom the air, the earth,
and the waters are alike habitable ! Their lives are spent in
boundless action ; and Nature, with an omniscient benevo-
lence, has assisted and formed them for this wonderful display
of perpetual life and vigor, in an element almost their own.



xvi INTRODUCTION.

If we draw a comparison between these inhabitants of the
air and the earth, we shall perceive that, instead of the large
head, formidable jaws armed with teeth, the capacious chest,
wide shoulders, and muscular legs of the quadrupeds, they
have bills, or pointed jaws destitute of teeth ; a long and pliant
neck, gently swelling shoulders, immovable vertebrae ; the fore-
arm attenuated to a point and clothed with feathers, forming
the expansive vving, and thus fitted for a different species of
motion ; likewise the wide extended tail, to assist the general
provision for buoyancy throughout the whole anatomical frame.
For the same general purpose of lightness, exists the contrast
of slender bony legs and feet. So that, in short, we perceive
in the whole conformation of this interesting tribe, a structure
wisely and curiously adapted for their destined motion through
the air. Lightness and buoyancy appear in every part of the
structure of birds : to this end nothing contributes more than
the soft and delicate plumage with which they are so warmly
clad ; and though the wings (or great organs of aerial motion
by which they swim, as it were, in the atmosphere) are formed
of such light materials, yet the force with which they strike the
air is so great as to impel their bodies with a rapidity unknown
to the swiftest quadruped. The same grand intention of form-
ing a class of animals to move in the ambient desert they
occupy above the earth, is likewise visible in their internal
structure. Their bones are light and thin, and all the muscles
diminutive but those appropriated for moving the wings. The
lungs are placed near to the back-bone and ribs ; and the air
is not, as in other animals, merely confined to the pulmonary
organs, but passes through, and is then conveyed into a num-
ber of membranous cells on either side the external region of
the heart, communicating with others situated beneath the
chest. In some birds these cells are continued down the
wings, extending even to the pinions, bones of the thighs, and
other parts of the body, which can be distended with air at
the pleasure or necessity of the animal. This diffusion of air
is not only intended to assist in lightening and elevating the
body, but also appears necessary to prevent the stoppage or



INTRODUCTION.



xvii



interruption of respiration, which would otherwise follow th^
rapidity of their motion through the resisting atmosphere ; and
thus the Ostrich, though deprived of the power of flight, runs
almost with the swiftness of the wind, and requires, as he
possesses, the usual resources of air conferred on other birds.
Were it possible for man to move with the rapidity of a Swal-
low, the resistance of the air, without some such peculiar pro-
vision as in birds, would quickly bring on suffocation. I'he
superior vital heat of this class of beings is likewise probably
due to this greater aeration of the vital fluid.

Birds, as well as quadrupeds, may be generally distinguished
into two great classes from the food on which they are destined
to subsist ; and may, consequently, be termed carnivorous and
granivorous. Some also hold a middle nature, or partake of
both. The granivorous and herbivorous birds are provided
with larger and longer intestines than those of the carnivorous
kinds. Their food, consisting chiefly of grain of various sorts,
is conveyed whole into the craw or first stomach, where it is
softened and acted upon by a peculiar glandular secretion
thrown out upon its surface ; it is then again conveyed into a
second preparatory digestive organ ; and finally transmitted
into the true stomach, or gizzard, formed of two strong muscles
connected externally with a tendinous substance, and lined in-
ternally with a thick membrane of great power and strength ;
and in this place the unmasticated food is at length completely
triturated, and prepared for the operation of the gastric juice.
The extraordinary powers of the gizzard in comminuting food,
to prepare it for digestion, almost exceeds the bounds of cred-
ibility. Turkeys and common fowls have been made to swal-
low sharp angular fragments of glass, metallic tubes, and balls
armed with needles, and even lancets, which were found
broken and compressed, without producing any apparent pain
or wounds in the stomach. The gravel pebbles swallowed by
this class of birds with so much avidity, thus appear useful in
bruising and comminuting the grain bhey feed on, and prepar-
ing it for the solvent action of the digestive organs.

Those birds which live chiefly on grain and vegetable sub-



xviii INTRODUCTION.

stances partake in a degree of the nature and disposition of
herbivorous quadrupeds. In both, the food and the provision
for its digestion are very similar. Ahke distinguished for
sedentary habits and gentleness of manners, their lives are
harmlessly and usefully passed in collecting seeds and fruits,
and ridding the earth of noxious and destructive insects ; they
live wholly on the defensive with all the feathered race, and
are content to rear and defend their offspring from the attacks
of their enemies. It is from this tractable and gentle race, as
well as from the amphibious or aquatic tribes, that man has
long succeeded in obtaining useful and domestic species,
which, from their prolificacy and hardihood, afford a vast
supply of wholesome and nutritious food. Of these, the Hen,
originally from India ; the Goose, Duck, and Pigeon of
Europe ; the Turkey of America ; and the Pintado, or Guinea-
hen of Africa, are the principal : to which may also be ad-
ded, as less useful, or more recently naturalized, the Peacock
of India, the Pheasant of the same country, the Chinese
and Canada Goose, the Muscovy Duck, and the European
Swan.

Carnivorous birds by many striking traits evince the destiny
for which they have been created ; they are provided with
wings of great length, supported by powerful muscles, which
enable them to fly with energy and soar with ease at the
loftiest elevations. They are armed with strong hooked bills
and with the sharp and formidable claws of the tiger ; they are
also further distinguished by their large heads, short necks,
strong muscular thighs in aid of their retractile talons, and
a sight so piercing as to enable them, while soaring at the
greatest height, to perceive their prey, upon which they some-
times descend, like an arrow, with undeviating aim. In these
birds the stomach is smaller than in the granivorous kinds, and
their intestines are shorter. Like beasts of prey, they are of a
fierce and unsociable nature ; and so far from herding together
like the inoffensive tribes, they drive even their offspring from
the eyry, and seek habitually the shelter of desert rocks, ne-
glected ruins, or the solitude of the darkest forest, from whence



INTRODUCTION. XIX

they utter loud, terrific, or piercing cries, in accordance with
the gloomy rage and inquietude of their insatiable desires.

Besides these grand divisions of the winged nations, there
are others, which, in their habits and manners, might be com-
pared to the amphibious animals, as they live chiefly on the
water, and feed on its productions. To enable them to swim
and dive in quest of their aquatic food, their toes are con-
nected by broad membranes or webs, with which, like oars,
they strike the water, and are impelled with force. In this way
even the seas, lakes, and rivers, abounding with fish, insects,
and seeds, swarm with birds of various kinds, which all obtain
an abundant supply. There are other aquatic birds, frequent-
ing marshes and the margins of lakes, rivers, and the sea,
which seem to partake of an intermediate nature between the
land and water tribes. Some of these feed on fishes and rep-
tiles ; others, with long and sensible bills and extended necks,
seek their food in wet and muddy marshes. These birds are
not made for swimming ; but, famihar with water, they wade,
and many follow the edge of the retiring waves of the sea,
gleaning their insect prey at the recession of the tides : for
this kind of life Nature has provided them with long legs, bare
of feathers even above the knees ; their toes, unconnected by
webs, are only partially furnished with membranous appen-
dages, just sufficient to support them on the soft and boggy
grounds they frequent. To this tribe belong the Cranes, Snipes,
Sandpipers, Woodcocks, and many others.

In comparing the senses of animals in connection with their
instinct, we find that of sight to be more extended, more acute,
and more distinct in birds, in general, than in quadrupeds. I
say " in general," for there are some birds, such as the Owls,
whose vision is less clear than that of quadrupeds ; but this
rather results from the extreme sensibility of the eye, which,
though dazzled with the glare of full day, nicely distinguishes
even small objects by the aid of twilight. In all birds the
organ of sight is furnished with two membranes, — an external
and internal, — additional to those which occur in the human
subject. The former, membrana nictitans, or external mem-



XX INTRODUCTION.

brane, is situated in the larger angle of the eye, and is, in
fact, a second and more transparent eyelid, whose motions are
directed at pleasure, and its use, besides occasionally cleaning
and polishing the cornea, is to temper the excess of light and
adjust the quantity admitted to the extreme delicacy of the
organ. The other membrane, situated at the bottom of the
eye, appears to be an expansion of the optic nerve, which, re-
ceiving more immediately the impressions of the light, must be
much more sensible than in other animals ; and consequently
the sight is in birds far more perfect, and embraces a wider
range. Facts and observations bear out this conclusion ; for a
Sparrow-hawk, while hovering in the air, perceives a Lark or
other small bird, sitting on the ground, at twenty times the dis-
tance that such an object would be visible to a man or dog.
A Kite, which soars beyond the reach of human vision, yet
distinguishes a lizard, field-mouse, or bird, and from this iofty
station selects the tiny object of his prey, descending upon it
in nearly a perpendicular line. But it may also be added that
this prodigious extent of vision is likewise accompanied with
equal accuracy and clearness ; for the eye can dilate or con-
tract, be shaded or exposed, depressed or made protuberant,
so as readily to assume the precise form suited to the degree
of hght and the distance of the object ; the organ thus answer-
ing, as It were, the purpose of a self-adjusting telescope, with a
shade for examining the most luminous and dazzling objects ;



Online LibraryThomas NuttallA popular handbook of the ornithology of the United States and Canada, based on Nuttall's Manual (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 41)