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´╗┐Title: Bird Neighbors
 - An Introductory Acquaintance with One Hundred and Fifty Birds Commonly Found in the Gardens, Meadows, and Woods About Our Homes
Author: Blanchan, Neltje
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bird Neighbors
 - An Introductory Acquaintance with One Hundred and Fifty Birds Commonly Found in the Gardens, Meadows, and Woods About Our Homes" ***

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Bird Neighbors

by Neltje Blanchan

American Ornithologists Union bird names as of 1998.

BIRD NEIGHBORS. An Introductory Acquaintance With One Hundred and Fifty Birds
Commonly Found in the Gardens, Meadows, and Woods About Our Homes


1897, 1904, 1922



I.   BIRD FAMILIES: Their Characteristics and the
       Representatives of Each Family included in "Bird
       Birds Conspicuously Black
       Birds Conspicuously Black and White
       Dusky, Gray, and Slate-colored Birds
       Blue and Bluish Birds
       Brown, Olive or Grayish Brown, and Brown and Gray Sparrowy
       Green, Greenish Gray, Olive, and Yellowish O1ive Birds
       Birds Conspicuously Yellow and Orange
       Birds Conspicuously Red of any Shade


I write these few introductory sentences to this volume only to second so
worthy an attempt to quicken and enlarge the general interest in our birds.
The book itself is merely an introduction, and is only designed to place a few
clews in the reader's hands which he himself or herself is to follow up. I can
say that it is reliable and is written in a vivacious strain and by a real
bird lover, and should prove a help and a stimulus to any one who seeks by the
aid of its pages to become better acquainted with our songsters. The various
grouping of the birds according to color, season, habitat, etc., ought to
render the identification of the birds, with no other weapon than an opera
glass, an easy matter.

When I began the study of the birds I had access to a copy of Audubon, which
greatly stimulated my interest in the pursuit, but I did not have the opera
glass, and I could not take Audubon with me on my walks, as the reader may
this volume.

But you do not want to make out your bird the first time; the book or your
friend must not make the problem too easy for you. You must go again and
again, and see and hear your bird under varying conditions and get a good hold
of several of its characteristic traits. Things easily learned are apt to be
easily forgotten. Some ladies, beginning the study of birds, once wrote to me,
asking if I would not please come and help them, and set them right about
certain birds in dispute. I replied that that would be getting their knowledge
too easily; that what I and any one else told them they would be very apt to
forget, but that the things they found out themselves they would always
remember. We must in a way earn what we have or keep. Only thus does it become
ours, a real part of us.

Not very long afterward I had the pleasure of walking with one of the ladies,
and I found her eye and ear quite as sharp as my own, and that she was in a
fair way to conquer the bird kingdom without any outside help. She said that
the groves and fields, through which she used to walk with only a languid
interest, were now completely transformed to her and afforded her the keenest
pleasure; a whole new world of interest had been disclosed to her; she felt as
if she was constantly on the eve of some new discovery; the next turn in the
path might reveal to her a new warbler or a new vireo. I remember the thrill
she seemed to experience when I called her attention to a purple finch singing
in the tree-tops in front of her house, a rare visitant she had not before
heard. The thrill would of course have been greater had she identified the
bird without my aid. One would rather bag one's own game, whether it be with a
bullet or an eyebeam.

The experience of this lady is the experience of all in whom is kindled this
bird enthusiasm. A new interest is added to life; one more resource against
ennui and stagnation. If you have only a city yard with a few sickly trees in
it, you will find great delight in noting the numerous stragglers from the
great army of spring and autumn migrants that find their way there. If you
live in the country, it is as if new eyes and new ears were given you, with a
correspondingly increased capacity for rural enjoyment.

The birds link themselves to your memory of seasons and places, so that A
song, a call, a gleam of color, set going a sequence of delightful
reminiscences in your mind. When a solitary great Carolina wren came one
August day and took up its abode near me and sang and called and warbled as I
had heard it long before on the Potomac, how it brought the old days, the old
scenes back again, and made me for the moment younger by all those years!

A few seasons ago I feared the tribe of bluebirds were on the verge of
extinction from the enormous number of them that perished from cold and hunger
in the South in the winter of '94. For two summers not a blue wing, not a blue
warble. I seemed to miss something kindred and precious from my environment --
the visible embodiment of the tender sky and the wistful soil. What a loss, I
said, to the coming generations of dwellers in the country -- no bluebird in
the spring! What will the farm-boy date from? But the fear was groundless: the
birds are regaining their lost ground; broods of young blue-coats are again
seen drifting from stake to stake or from mullen-stalk to mullen-stalk about
the fields in summer, and our April air will doubtless again be warmed and
thrilled by this lovely harbinger of spring. -- JOHN BURROUGHS, August 19,


Not to have so much as a bowing acquaintance with the birds that nest in our
gardens or under the very eaves of our houses; that haunt our wood-piles; keep
our fruit-trees free from slugs; waken us with their songs, and enliven our
walks along the roadside and through the woods, seems to be, at least, a
breach of etiquette toward some of our most kindly disposed neighbors.

Birds of prey, game and water birds are not included in the book. The
following pages are intended to be nothing more than a familiar introduction
to the birds that live near us. Even in the principal park of a great city
like New York, a bird-lover has found more than one hundred and thirty
species; as many, probably, as could be discovered in the same sized territory

The plan of the book is not a scientific one, if the term scientific is
understood to mean technical and anatomical. The purpose of the writer is to
give, in a popular and accessible form, knowledge which is accurate and
reliable about the life of our common birds. This knowledge has not been
collected from the stuffed carcasses of birds in museums, but gleaned afield.
In a word, these short narrative descriptions treat of the bird's
characteristics of size, color, and flight; its peculiarities of instinct and
temperament; its nest and home life; its choice of food; its songs; and of the
season in which we may expect it to play its part in the great panorama Nature
unfolds with faithful precision year after year. They are an attempt to make
the bird so live before the reader that, when seen out of doors, its
recognition shall be instant and cordial, like that given to a friend.

The coloring described in this book is sometimes more vivid than that found in
the works of some learned authorities whose conflicting testimony is often
sadly bewildering to the novice. In different parts of the country, and at
different seasons of the year, the plumage of some birds undergoes many
changes. The reader must remember, therefore, that the specimens examined and
described were not, as before stated, the faded ones in our museums, but live
birds in their fresh, spring plumage, studied afield.

The birds have been classed into color groups, in the belief that this method,
more than any other will make identification most easy. The color of the bird
is the first, and often the only, characteristic noticed. But they have also
been classified according to the localities for which they show decided
preferences and in which they are most likely to be found. Again, they have
been grouped according to the season when they may be expected. In the brief
paragraphs that deal with groups of birds separated into the various families
represented in the book, the characteristics and traits of each clan are
clearly emphasized. By these several aids it is believed the merest novice
will be able to quickly identify any bird neighbor that is neither local nor

To the uninitiated or uninterested observer, all small, dull-colored birds are
"common sparrows." The closer scrutiny of the trained eye quickly
differentiates, and picks out not only the Song, the Canada, and the Fox
Sparrows, but finds a dozen other familiar friends where one who "has eyes and
sees not" does not even suspect their presence. Ruskin says: "The more I think
of it, I find this conclusion more impressed upon me, that the greatest thing
a human soul ever does in this world is to SEE something. Hundreds of people
can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion -- all in one."

While the author is indebted to all the time-honored standard authorities, and
to many ornithologists of the present day -- too many for individual mention
-- it is to Mr. John Burroughs her deepest debt is due. To this clear-visioned
prophet, who has opened the blind eyes of thousands to the delights that
Nature holds within our easy reach, she would gratefully acknowledge many
obligations; first of all, for the plan on which "Bird Neighbors" is arranged;
next, for his patient kindness in reading and annotating the manuscript of the
book; and, not least, for the inspiration of his perennially charming writings
that are so largely responsible for the ready-made audience now awaiting
writers on out-of-door topics.

The author takes this opportunity to express her appreciation of the work the
National Association of Audubon Societies has done and is doing to prevent the
slaughter of birds in all parts of the United States, to develop bird
sanctuaries and inaugurate protective legislation. Indeed to it, more than to
all other agencies combined, is due the credit of eliminating so much of the
Prussianlike cruelty toward birds that once characterized American treatment
of them, from the rising generation. -- NELTJE BLANCHAN




Family Cuculidae: CUCKOOS

Long, pigeon-shaped birds, whose backs are grayish brown with a bronze lustre
and whose under parts are whitish. Bill long and curved. Tail long; raised and
drooped slowly while the bird is perching. Two toes point forward and two
backward. Call-note loud and like a tree-toad's rattle. Song lacking. Birds of
low trees and undergrowth, where they also nest; partial to neighborhood of
streams, or wherever the tent caterpillar is abundant. Habits rather solitary,
silent, and eccentric. Migratory.
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
  Black-billed Cuckoo.

Family Alcedinidae: KINGFISHERS

Large, top-heavy birds of streams and ponds. Usually seen perching over the
water looking for fish. Head crested; upper parts slate-blue; underneath
white, and belted with blue or rusty. Bill large and heavy. Middle and outer
toes joined for half their length. Call-note loud and prolonged, like a
policeman's rattle. Solitary birds; little inclined to rove from a chosen
locality. Migratory.
  Belted Kingfisher.


Family Picidae: WOODPECKERS

Medium-sized and small birds, usually with plumage black and white, and always
with some red feathers about the head. (The flicker is brownish and yellow
instead of black and white.) Stocky, high-shouldered build; bill strong and
long for drilling holes in bark of trees. Tail feathers pointed and stiffened
to serve as a prop. Two toes before and two behind for clinging. Usually seen
clinging erect on tree-trunks; rarely, if ever, head downward, like the
nuthatches, titmice, etc. Woodpeckers feed as they creep around the trunks and
branches. Habits rather phlegmatic. The flicker has better developed vocal
powers than other birds of this class, whose rolling tattoo, beaten with their
bills against the tree-trunks, must answer for their love-song. Nest in
hollowed-out trees.
  Red-headed Woodpecker.
  Hairy Woodpecker.
  Downy Woodpecker.
  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.



Medium-sized, mottled brownish, gray, black, and white birds of heavy build.
Short, thick head; gaping, large mouth; very small bill, with bristles at
base. Take insect food on the wing. Feet small and weak; wings long and
powerful. These birds rest lengthwise on their perch while sleeping through
the brightest daylight hours, or on the ground, where they nest.

Family Micropolidae: SWIFTS

Sooty, dusky birds seen on the wing, never resting except in chimneys of
houses, or hollow trees, where they nest. Tips of tail feathers with sharp
spines, used as props. They show their kinship with the goatsuckers in their
nocturnal as well as diurnal habits, their small bills and large mouths for
catching insects on the wing, and their weak feet. Gregarious, especially at
the nesting season.
  Chimney Swift.

Family Trochilidae: HUMMING-BIRDS

Very small birds with green plumage (iridescent red or orange breast in
males); long, needle-shaped bill for extracting insects and nectar from
deep-cupped flowers, and exceedingly rapid, darting flight. Small feet.
  Ruby-throated Humming-bird.

Order Passeres: PERCHING BIRDS

Family Tyrannidae: FLYCATCHERS

Small and medium-sized dull, dark-olive, or gray birds, with big heads that
are sometimes crested. Bills hooked at end, and with bristles at base. Harsh
or plaintive voices. Wings longer than tail; both wings and tails usually
drooped and vibrating when the birds are perching. Habits moody and silent
when perching on a conspicuous limb, telegraph wire, dead tree, or fence rail
and waiting for insects to fly within range. Sudden, nervous, spasmodic
sallies in midair to seize insects on the wing. Usually they return to their
identical perch or lookout. Pugnacious and fearless. Excellent nest builders
and devoted mates.
  Wood Pewee.
  Acadian Flycatcher.
  Great Crested Flycatcher.
  Least Flycatcher.
  Olive-sided Flycatcher.
  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.
  Say's Flycatcher.

Family Alaudidae: LARKS

The only true larks to be found in this country are the two species given
below. They are the kin of the European skylark, of which several unsuccessful
attempts to introduce the bird have been made in this country. These two larks
must not be confused with the meadow larks and titlarks, which belong to the
blackbird and pipit families respectively. The horned larks are birds of the
ground, and are seen in the United States only in the autumn and winter. In
the nesting season at the North their voices are most musical. Plumage grayish
and brown, in color harmony with their habitats. Usually found in flocks; the
first species on or near the shore.
  Horned Lark.
  Prairie Horned Lark.

Family Corvidae: CROWS AND JAYS

The crows are large black birds, walkers, with stout feet adapted for the
purpose. Fond of shifting their residence at different seasons rather than
strictly migratory, for, except at the northern limit of range, they remain
resident all the year. Gregarious. Sexes alike. Omnivorous feeders, being
partly carnivorous, as are also the jays. Both crows and jays inhabit wooded
country. Their voices are harsh and clamorous; and their habits are boisterous
and bold, particularly the jays. Devoted mates; unpleasant neighbors.
  Common Crow.
  Fish Crow.
  Northern Raven.
  Blue Jay.
  Canada Jay.


Plumage black or a brilliant color combined with black. (The meadow lark a
sole exception.) Sexes unlike. These birds form a connecting link between the
crows and the finches. The blackbirds have strong feet for use upon the
ground, where they generally feed, while the orioles are birds of the trees.
They are both seed and insect eaters. The bills of the bobolink and cowbird
are short and conical, for they are conspicuous seed eaters. Bills of the
others long and conical, adapted for insectivorous diet. About half the family
are gifted songsters.
  Red-winged Blackbird.
  Rusty Blackbird.
  Purple Grackle.
  Bronzed Grackle.
  Meadow Lark.
  Western Meadow Lark.
  Orchard Oriole.
  Baltimore Oriole.


Generally fine songsters. Bills conical, short, and stout for cracking seeds.
Length from five to nine inches, usually under eight inches. This, the largest
family of birds that we have (about one-seventh of all our birds belong to
it), comprises birds of such varied plumage and habit that, while certain
family resemblances may be traced throughout, it is almost impossible to
characterize the family as such. The sparrows are comparatively small gray and
brown birds with striped upper parts, lighter underneath. Birds of the ground,
or not far from it, elevated perches being chosen for rest and song. Nest in
low bushes or on the ground. (Chipping sparrow often selects tall trees.)
Coloring adapted to grassy, dusty habitats. Males and females similar. Flight
labored. About forty species of sparrows are found in the United States; of
these, fourteen may be met with by a novice, and six, at least, surely will

The finches and their larger kin are chiefly bright-plumaged birds, the
females either duller or distinct from males; bills heavy, dull, and conical,
befitting seed eaters. Not so migratory as insectivorous birds nor so
restless. Mostly phlegmatic in temperament. Fine songsters.
  Chipping Sparrow.
  English Sparrow.
  Field Sparrow.
  Fox Sparrow.
  Grasshopper Sparrow.
  Savanna Sparrow.
  Seaside Sparrow.
  Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
  Song Sparrow.
  Swamp Song Sparrow.
  Tree Sparrow.
  Vesper Sparrow.
  White-crowned Sparrow.
  White-throated Sparrow.
  Lapland Longspur.
  Smith's Painted Longspur.
  Pine Siskin (or Finch).
  Purple Finch.
  Greater Redpoll.
  Red Crossbill.
  White-winged Red Crossbill.
  Cardinal Grosbeak.
  Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
  Pine Grosbeak.
  Evening Grosbeak.
  Blue Grosbeak.
  Indigo Bunting.

Family Tanagridae: TANAGERS

Distinctly an American family, remarkable for their brilliant plumage, which,
however, undergoes great changes twice a year, Females different from males,
being dull and inconspicuous. Birds of the tropics, two species only finding
their way north, and the summer tanager rarely found north of Pennsylvania.
Shy inhabitants of woods. Though they may nest low in trees, they choose high
perches when singing or feeding upon flowers, fruits, and insects. As a
family, the tanagers have weak, squeaky voices, but both our species are good
songsters. Suffering the fate of most bright-plumaged birds, immense numbers
have been shot annually.
  Scarlet Tanager.
  Summer Tanager.

Family Hirundinidae. SWALLOWS

Birds of the air, that take their insect food on the wing. Migratory. Flight
strong, skimming, darting; exceedingly graceful. When not flying they choose
slender, conspicuous perches like telegraph wires, gutters, and eaves of
barns. Plumage of some species dull, of others iridescent blues and Greens
above, whitish or ruddy below. Sexes similar. Bills small; mouths large. -
Long and pointed wings, generally reaching the tip of the tail or beyond. Tail
more or less forked. Feet small and weak from disuse. Song a twittering warble
without power. Gregarious birds.
  Barn Swallow.
  Bank Swallow.
  Cliff (or Eaves) Swallow.
  Tree Swallow.
  Rough-winged Swallow.
  Purple Martin.

Family Ampelidae: WAXWINGS

Medium-sized Quaker-like birds, with plumage of soft browns and grays. Head
crested; black band across forehead and through the eye. Bodies plump from
indolence. Tail tipped with yellow; wings with red tips to coverts, resembling
sealing-wax. Sexes similar. Silent, gentle, courteous, elegant birds. Usually
seen in large flocks feeding upon berries in the trees or perching on the
branches, except at the nesting season. Voices resemble a soft, lisping
  Cedar Bird.
  Bohemian Waxwing.

Family Laniidae: SHRIKES

Medium-sized grayish, black-and-white birds, with hooked and hawk-like bill
for tearing the flesh of smaller birds,
field-mice, and large insects that they impale on thorns. Handsome, bold
birds, the terror of all small, feathered neighbors, not excluding the English
sparrow. They choose conspicuous perches when on the lookout for prey a
projecting or dead limb of a tree, the cupola of a house, the ridge-pole or
weather-vane of a barn, or a telegraph wire, from which to suddenly drop upon
a victim. Eyesight remarkable. Call-notes harsh and unmusical. Habits solitary
and wandering. The first-named species is resident during the colder months of
the year; the latter is a summer resident only north of Maryland.
  Northern Shrike.
  Loggerhead Shrike.

Family Vireonidae: VIREOS OR GREENLETS

Small greenish-gray or olive birds, whitish or yellowish underneath, their
plumage resembling the foliage of the trees they hunt, nest, and live among.
Sexes alike. More deliberate in habit than the restless, flitting warblers
that are chiefly seen darting about the ends of twigs. Vireos are more
painstaking gleaners; they carefully explore the bark, turn their heads upward
to investigate the under side of leaves, and usually keep well hidden among
the foliage. Bill hooked at tip for holding worms and insects. Gifted
songsters, superior to the warblers. This family is peculiar to America.
  Red-eyed Vireo.
  Solitary Vireo.
  Warbling Vireo.
  White-eyed Vireo.
  Yellow-throated Vireo.

Family Mniotiltidae: WOOD WARBLERS

A large group of birds, for the most part smaller than the English sparrow;
all, except the ground warblers, of beautiful plumage, in which yellow, olive,
slate-blue, black, and white are predominant colors. Females generally duller
than males. Exceedingly active, graceful, restless feeders among the terminal
twigs of trees and shrubbery; haunters of tree-tops in the woods at nesting
time. Abundant birds, especially during May and September, when the majority
are migrating to and from regions north of the United States; but they are
strangely unknown to all but devoted bird lovers, who seek them out during
these months that particularly favor acquaintance. Several species are erratic
in their migrations and choose a different course to return southward from the
one they travelled over in spring. A few species are summer residents, and
one, at least, of this tropical family, the myrtle warbler, winters at the
north. The habits of the family are not identical in every representative;
some are more deliberate and less nervous than others; a few, like the
Canadian and Wilson's warblers, are expert flycatchers, taking their food on
the wing, but not usually returning to the same perch, like true flycatchers;
and a few of the warblers, as, for example, the black-and-white, the pine, and
the worm-eating species, have the nuthatches' habit of creeping around the
bark of trees. Quite a number feed upon the ground. All are insectivorous,
though many vary their diet with blossom, fruit, or berries, and naturally
their bills are slender and sharply pointed, rarely finch-like. The
yellow-breasted chat has the greatest variety of vocal expressions. The ground
warblers are compensated for their sober, thrush-like plumage by their
exquisite voices, while the great majority of the family that are gaily
dressed have notes that either resemble the trill of
mid-summer insects or, by their limited range and feeble utterance, sadly
belie the family name.
  Bay-breasted Warbler.
  Blackburnian Warbler.
  Blackpoll Warbler.
  Black-throated Blue Warbler.
  Black-throated Green Warbler.
  Black-and-white Creeping Warbler.
  Blue-winged Warbler.
  Canadian Warbler.
  Chestnut-sided Warbler.
  Golden-winged Warbler.
  Hooded Warbler.
  Kentucky Warbler.
  Magnolia Warbler.
  Mourning Warbler.
  Myrtle Warbler.
  Nashville Warbler.
  Palm Warbler.
  Parula Warbler.
  Pine Warbler.
  Prairie Warbler.
  Wilson's Warbler.
  Worm-eating Warbler.
  Yellow Warbler.
  Yellow Palm Warbler.
  Northern Water Thrush.
  Louisiana Water Thrush.
  Maryland Yellowthroat.
  Yellow-breasted Chat.

Family Motacillidae: WAGTAILS AND PIPITS,

Only three birds of this family inhabit North America, and of
these only one is common enough, east of the Mississippi, to be
included in this book. Terrestrial birds of open tracts near the
coast, stubble-fields, and country roadsides, with brownish
plumage to harmonize with their surroundings. The American pipit,
or titlark, has a peculiar wavering flight when, after being
flushed, it reluctantly leaves the ground. Then its white tail
feathers are conspicuous. Its habit of wagging its tail when
perching is not an exclusive family trait, as the family name
might imply.
  American Pipit, or Titlark

Family Troglodytidae: THRASHERS, WRENS, ETC.


Apparently the birds that comprise this large general family are too unlike to
be related, but the missing links or intermediate species may all be found far
South. The first subfamily is comprised of distinctively American birds. Most
numerous in the tropics. Their long tails serve a double purpose-in assisting
their flight and acting as an outlet for their vivacity. Usually they inhabit
scrubby undergrowth bordering woods. They rank among our finest songsters,
with ventriloquial and imitative powers added to sweetness of tone.
  Brown Thrasher.

Subfamily Troglodytinae: WRENS

Small brown birds, more or less barred with darkest brown above, much lighter
below. Usually carry their short tails erect. Wings are small, for short
flight. Vivacious, busy, excitable, easily displeased, quick to take alarm.
Most of the species have scolding notes in addition to their lyrical, gushing
song, that seems much too powerful a performance for a diminutive bird. As a
rule, wrens haunt thickets or marshes, but at least one species is thoroughly
domesticated. All are insectivorous.
  Carolina Wren.
  House Wren.
  Long-billed Marsh Wren.
  Short-billed Marsh Wren.

Family Certhiidae: CREEPERS

Only one species of this Old World family is found in America. It is a brown,
much mottled bird, that creeps spirally around and around the trunks of trees
in fall and winter, pecking at the larvae in the bark with its long, sharp
bill, and doing its work with faithful exactness but little spirit. It uses
its tail as a prop in climbing, like the woodpeckers.
  Brown Creeper.


Two distinct subfamilies are included under this general head. The nuthatches
(Sittinae) are small, slate-colored birds, seen chiefly in winter walking up
and down the barks of trees, and sometimes running along the under side of
branches upside down, like flies. Plumage compact and smooth. Their name is
derived from their habit of wedging nuts (usually beechnuts) in the bark of
trees, and then hatching them open with their strong straight bills.
  White-breasted Nuthatch.
  Red-breasted Nuthatch.

The titmice or chickadees (Parinae) are fluffy little gray birds, the one
crested. the other with a black cap. They are also expert climbers, though not
such wonderful gymnasts as the nuthatches. These cousins are frequently seen
together in winter woods or in the evergreens about houses. Chickadees are
partial to tree-tops, especially to the highest pine cones, on which they hang
fearlessly. Cheerful, constant residents, retreating to the deep woods only to
  Tufted Titmouse.


The kinglets (Regulinae) are very small greenish-gray birds, with highly
colored crown patch, that are seen chiefly in autumn, winter, and spring south
of Labrador. Habits active; diligent flitters among trees and shrubbery from
limb to limb after minute insects. Beautiful nest builders. Song remarkable
for so small a bird.
  Golden-crowned Kinglet.
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

The one representative of the distinctly American subfamily of gnatcatchers
(Polioptilinae) that we have, is a small blue-gray bird, whitish below. It is
rarely found outside moist, low tracts of woodland, where insects abound.
These it takes on the wing with wonderful dexterity. It is exceedingly
graceful and assumes many charming postures. A bird of trees, nesting in the
high branches. A bird of strong character and an exquisitely finished though
feeble songster.
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.


This group includes our finest songsters. Birds of moderate size, stout build;
as a rule, inhabitants of woodlands, but the robin and the bluebird are
notable exceptions. Bills long and slender, suitable for worm diet. Only
casual fruit-eaters. Slender, strong legs for running and hopping. True
thrushes are grayish or olive-brown above; buff or whitish below, heavily
streaked or spotted.
  Alice's Thrush.
  Hermit Thrush.
  Olive-backed Thrush.
  Wilson's Thrush (Veery).
  Wood Thrush.


Family Columbidae: PIGEONS AND DOVES

The wild pigeon is now too rare to be included among our bird neighbors; but
its beautiful relative, without the fatally gregarious habit, still nests and
sings a-coo-oo-oo to its devoted mate in unfrequented corners of the farm or
the borders of woodland. Delicately shaded fawn-colored and bluish plumage.
Small heads, protruding breasts. Often seen on ground. Flight strong and
rapid, owing to long wings.
  Mourning or Carolina Dove.



Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Olive-sided
Flycatcher, Say's Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Kingbird, Phoebe.
Wood Pewee, Purple Martin, Chimney Swift, Barn Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff
Swallow, Tree Swallow, Rough-winged Swallow, Canadian Warbler, Blackpoll
Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, Ruby-throated
Humming-bird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.


Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Chickadee,
Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, nearly all the Warblers except the
Ground Warblers; Cedar Bird, Bohemian Waxwing, the Vireos, Robin, Red
Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Purple Grackle, Bronzed Grackle, Redstart,
Northern Shrike, Loggerhead Shrike, Crow, Fish Crow, Raven, Purple Finch, Tree
and Chipping Sparrows, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Kingbird, the Crested and other


Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, the Sparrows, the Thrushes, the
Grosbeaks, Goldfinch, Summer Yellowbird and other Warblers; the Wrens,
Bluebird, Mocking-bird, Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Maryland Yellowthroat,
Yellow-breasted Chat.


Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker,
Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, Flicker, White-breasted Nuthatch,
Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse,
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-and-white Creeping
Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blackpoll
Warbler, Whippoorwill, Nighthawk.


Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, the Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, the Kinglets, Pine
Warbler, Black-and-white Creeping Warbler and all the Warblers except the
Ground Warblers; Pine Siskin, Cedar Bird and Bohemian Waxwing (in juniper and
cedar trees), Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, the
Grackles, Crow, Raven, Pine Finch.


The Red-eyed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Solitary Vireo,
Yellow-throated Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet. Ruby-crowned Kinglet,
Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Yellow Warbler or Summer
Yellowbird, nearly all the Warblers except the Pine and the Ground Warblers;
the Flycatchers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.


Northern Shrike, Loggerhead Shrike, Kingbird, the Wood Pewee, the Phoebe and
other Flycatchers, the Swallows, Kingfisher, Crows, Grackles, Blue Jay and
Canada Jay; the Song, the White-throated, and the Fox Sparrows; the Grosbeaks,
Cedar Bird, Goldfinch, Robin, Purple Finch, Cowbird, Brown Thrasher while in


Bluebird, Robin; the English, Song, White-throated, Vesper,
White-crowned, Fox, Chipping, and Tree Sparrows; Phoebe, Wood Pewee, the Least
Flycatcher, Crested Flycatcher, Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush,
Mocking-bird, Catbird, House Wren; nearly all the Warblers, especially at
blossom time among the shrubbery and fruit trees; Cedar Bird, Purple Martin,
Eaves Swallow, Barn Swallow, Purple Finch, Cowbird, Baltimore and Orchard
Orioles, Purple Grackle, Bronzed Grackle, Blue Jay, Crow, Fish Crow, Chimney
Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the Woodpeckers, Flicker, the Nuthatches,
Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, the Cuckoos, Mourning Dove, Junco, Starling.


The Warblers almost without exception; the Thrushes, the Woodpeckers, the
Flycatchers, the Winter and the Carolina Wrens, the Tanagers, the Nuthatches
and Titmice, the Kinglets, the Water Thrushes, the Vireos, Whippoorwill,
Nighthawk, Kingfisher, Cardinal, Ovenbird, Brown Creeper, Tree Sparrow, Fox
Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Junco.


The Wrens, the Woodpeckers, the Flycatchers, the Warblers, Purple Finch, the
Cuckoos, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Cowbird, Brown Creepers, the Nuthatches
and Titmice, the Kinglets, Chewink; the White-crowned, White-throated, Tree,
Fox, and Song Sparrows; Humming-bird, Bluebird, Junco, the Crossbills, the
Grosbeaks, Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, Mourning Dove, Indigo Bird, Brown


Maryland Yellowthroat, Ovenbird (in woods); Myrtle Warbler, Mourning Warbler,
Yellow-breasted Chat, and other Warblers during the migrations; the Shrikes;
the White-throated, the Fox, the Song, and other Sparrows; Chickadee, Junco,
Chewink, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cowbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Catbird,
Mocking-bird, Wilson's Thrush, Goldfinch, Redpolls, Maryland Yellowthroat,
White-eyed Vireo, Hooded Warbler.


The Sparrows, Junco, Meadowlark, Horned Lark, Chewink, Robin, Ovenbird, Pipit
or Titlark, Redpoll, Greater Redpoll, Snowflake, Lapland Longspur, Smith's
Painted Longspur, Rusty Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbird, the Crows, Cowbird,
the Water Thrushes, Bobolink, Canada Jay, the Grackles, Mourning Dove; the
Worm-eating, the Prairie, the Kentucky, and the Mourning Ground Warblers;


The Field and Vesper Sparrows, Bobolink, Meadowlark, Horned Lark, Goldfinch,
the Swallows, Pipit or Titlark, Cowbird, Redpoll, Greater Redpoll, Snowflake,
Junco, Lapland Longspur, Smith's Painted Longspur, Rusty Blackbird, Crow, Fish
Crow, Nighthawk, Whippoorwill; the Yellow, the Palm, and the Prairie Warblers;
the Grackles, Flicker, Bluebird, Indigo Bird.


The Sparrows, Kingbird, Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bird,
Bluebird, Flicker, Goldfinch, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Robin, the Woodpeckers,
Yellow Palm Warbler, the Vireos.


Long-billed Marsh Wren, Short-billed Marsh Wren; the Swamp, the Savanna, the
Sharp-tailed, and the Seaside Sparrows; Red-winged Blackbird.


Northern Water Thrush, Louisiana Water Thrush, Ovenbird, Winter Wren, Carolina
Wren, Phoebe; Wood Pewee and the other Flycatchers; Wilson's Thrush or Veery,
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat; the Canadian, Wilson's,
Black-capped, the Maryland Yellowthroat, the Hooded, and the Yellow-throated


Fish Crow, Common Crow, Bank Swallow, Tree Swallow, Savanna Sparrow,
Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Horned Lark, Pipit or Titlark.


Kingfisher, the Swallows, Northern Water Thrush, Louisiana Water Thrush,
Phoebe, Wood Pewee, the Flycatchers, Winter Wren, Wilson's Black-capped
Warbler, the Canadian and the Yellow Warblers.


Bobolink, Meadowlark, Indigo Bird, Purple Finch, Goldfinch, Ovenbird,
Kingbird, Vesper Sparrow (rarely), Maryland Yellowthroat, Horned Lark,
Kingfisher, the Swallows, Chimney Swift, Nighthawk, Song Sparrow, Red-winged
Blackbird, Pipit or Titlark, Mocking-bird.


The latitude of New York is taken as an arbitrary division for which
allowances must be made for other localities.



  Hairy Woodpecker.              Swamp Sparrow.
  Downy Woodpecker.              Song Sparrow.
  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.     Cedar Bird.
  Red-headed Woodpecker.         Cardinal.
  Flicker.                       Carolina Wren.
  Meadowlark.                    White-breasted Nuthatch.
  Prairie Horned Lark.           Tufted Titmouse.
  Blue Jay.                      Chickadee.
  Crow.                          Robin.
  Fish Crow.                     Bluebird.
  English Sparrow.               Goldfinch.
  Social Sparrow.                Starling.



  English Sparrow.               Pine Grosbeak.
  Tree Sparrow.                  Redpoll.
  White-throated Sparrow.        Greater Redpoll.
  Swamp Sparrow.                 Cedar Bird.
  Vesper Sparrow.                Bohemian Waxwing.
  White-crowned Sparrow.         Hairy Woodpecker.
  Fox Sparrow.                   Downy Woodpecker.
  Song Sparrow.                  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.
  Snowflake.                     Flicker.
  Junco.                         Myrtle Warbler.
  Horned Lark.                   Northern Shrike.
  Meadowlark.                    White-breasted Nuthatch.
  Red-breasted Nuthatch.         Goldfinch.
  Tufted Titmouse.               Pine Siskin.
  Chickadee.                     Lapland Longspur.
  Robin.                         Smith's Painted Longspur.
  Bluebird.                      Evening Grosbeak.
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet.          Cardinal.
  Golden-crowned Kinglet.        Blue Jay.
  Brown Creeper.                 Red Crossbill.
  Carolina Wren.                 White-winged Crossbill.
  Winter Wren.                   Crow.
  Pipit.                         Fish Crow.
  Purple Finch.                  Kingfisher.



  Mourning Dove.                 Red-winged Blackbird.
  Black-billed Cuckoo.           Rusty Blackbird.
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo.          Orchard Oriole.
  Kingfisher.                    Baltimore Oriole.
  Red-headed Woodpecker.         Purple Grackle.
  Hairy Woodpecker.              Bronzed Grackle.
  Downy Woodpecker.              Crow.
  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.     Fish Crow.
  Flicker.                       Raven.
  Whippoorwill.                  Blue Jay.
  Nighthawk.                     Canada Jay.
  Chimney Swift.                 Chipping Sparrow.
  Ruby-throated Humming-bird.    English Sparrow.
  Kingbird.                      Field Sparrow.
  Wood Pewee.                    Fox Sparrow.
  Phoebe.                        Grasshopper Sparrow.
  Acadian Flycatcher.            Savanna Sparrow.
  Crested Flycatcher.            Seaside Sparrow.
  Least Flycatcher.              Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
  Olive-sided Flycatcher.        Swamp Song Sparrow.
  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.     Song Sparrow.
  Say's Flycatcher.              Vesper Sparrow.
  Bobolink.                      Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
  Cowbird.                       Blue Grosbeak.
  Indigo Bird.                   Yellow-breasted Chat.
  Scarlet Tanager.               Maryland Yellowthroat.
  Purple Martin.                 Mocking-bird.
  Barn Swallow.                  Catbird.
  Bank Swallow.                  Brown Thrasher.
  Cliff Swallow.                 House Wren.
  Tree Swallow.                  Carolina Wren.
  Rough-winged Swallow.          Long-billed Marsh Wren.
  Red-eyed Vireo.                Short-billed Marsh Wren.
  White-eyed Vireo.              Alice's Thrush.
  Solitary Vireo.                Hermit Thrush.
  Warbling Vireo.                Olive-backed Thrush.
  Yellow-throated Vireo.         Wilson's Thrush or Veery.
  Black-and-white Warbler.       Wood Thrush.
  Black-throated Green Warbler.  Meadowlark.
  Blue-winged Warbler.           Western Meadowlark.
  Chestnut-sided Warbler.        Prairie Horned Lark.
  Golden-winged Warbler.         White-breasted Nuthatch.
  Hooded Warbler.                Chickadee.
  Pine Warbler.                  Tufted Titmouse.
  Prairie Warbler.               Chewink.
  Parula Warbler.                Purple Finch.
  Worm-eating Warbler.           Goldfinch.
  Yellow Warbler.                Cardinal.
  Redstart.                      Robin.
  Ovenbird.                      Bluebird.
  Northern Water Thrush.         Cedar-Bird.
  Louisiana Water Thrush.        Loggerhead Shrike.


  The following Warblers:
  Bay-breasted.                  Nashville.
  Blackburnian.                  Wilson's Black-capped.
  Black-polled.                  Palm.
  Black-throated Blue.           Yellow Palm.
  Magnolia.                      Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
  Mourning.                      Summer Tanager.



Bluebird, Robin, the Grackles, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow,
Red-winged Blackbird, Kingfisher, Flicker, Purple Finch.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Cowbird, Meadowlark, Phoebe; the Field,
the Vesper, and the Swamp Sparrows.


The White-throated and the Chipping Sparrows, the Tree and the Barn Swallows,
Rusty Blackbird, the Red-headed and the Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers, Hermit
Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pipit; the Pine, the Myrtle, and the Yellow Palm
Warblers; Goldfinch.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Brown Thrasher; Alice's, the
Olive-backed, and the Wood Thrushes; Chimney Swift, Whippoorwill, Chewink, the
Purple Martin, and the Cliff and the Bank Swallows; Least Flycatcher; the
Black-and-white Creeping, the Parula, and the Black-throated Green Warblers;
Ovenbird, House Wren, Catbird.

MAY 1 TO 15

Increased numbers of foregoing group; Wilson's Thrush or Veery; Nighthawk,
Ruby-throated Humming-bird, the Cuckoos, Crested Flycatcher, Kingbird, Wood
Pewee, the Marsh Wrens, Bank Swallow, the five Vireos, the Baltimore and
Orchard Orioles, Bobolink, Indigo Bird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet
Tanager, Maryland Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, the Water Thrushes; and
the Magnolia, the Yellow, the Black-throated Blue, the Bay-breasted, the
Chestnut-sided, and the Golden-winged Warblers.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Mocking-bird,
Summer Tanager; and the Blackburnian, the Blackpoll, the Worm-eating, the
Hooded, Wilson's Blackcapped, and Canadian Warblers.


In June few species of birds are not nesting, in July they may rove about more
or less with their increased families, searching for their favorite foods;
August finds them moulting and moping in silence, but toward the end of the
month, thoughts of returning southward set them astir again.


Bobolink, Cliff Swallow, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Purple
Martin; the Blackburnian, the Worm-eating, the Bay-breasted, the
Chestnut-sided, the Hooded, the Mourning, Wilson's Black-capped, and the
Canadian Warblers; Baltimore Oriole. Humming-bird.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Wilson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, Kingbird,
Wood Pewee, Crested Flycatcher; the Least, the Olive-sided, and the Acadian
Flycatchers; the Marsh Wrens, the Cuckoos, Whippoorwill, Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Indigo Bird; the Warbling, the Solitary, and the
Yellow-throated Vireos; the Black-and-white Creeping, the Golden-winged, the
Yellow, and the Black-throated Blue Warblers; Maryland Yellowthroat,
Yellow-breasted Chat, Redstart.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Hermit Thrush, Catbird, House Wren,
Ovenbird, the Water Thrushes, the Red-eyed and the White-eyed Vireos, Wood
Pewee, Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, Cowbird, Horned Lark, Winter Wren, Junco; the
Tree, the Vesper, the
White-throated, and the Grasshopper Sparrows; the Blackpoll, the Parula, the
Pine, the Yellow Palm, and the Prairie Warblers; Chickadee; Tufted Titmouse.


Increased numbers of foregoing group; Wood Thrush, Wilson's Thrush or Veery,
Alice's Thrush, Olive-backed Thrush, Robin, Chewink, Brown Thrasher, Phoebe,
Shrike; the Fox, the Field, the Swamp, the Savanna, the White-crowned, the
Chipping, and the Song Sparrows; the Red-winged and the Rusty Blackbirds;
Meadowlark, the Grackles, Flicker, the Red-headed and the Yellow-bellied
Woodpeckers; Purple Finch, the Kinglets. the Nuthatches, Pine Siskin.



  Humming-bird.                  The Redpolls.
  The Kinglets.                  Goldfinch.
  The Wrens.                     Pine Siskin.
  All the Warblers not           Savanna Sparrow.
    mentioned elsewhere.         Grasshopper Sparrow.
  Redstart.                      Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
  Ovenbird.                      Chipping Sparrow.
  Chickadee.                     Field Sparrow.
  Tufted Titmouse.               Swamp Song Sparrow.
  Red-breasted Nuthatch.         Indigo-Bunting.
  White-breasted Nuthatch.       Warbling Vireo.
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.         Yellow-throated Vireo.
  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.     Red-eyed Vireo.
  Acadian Flycatcher.            White-eyed Vireo.
  Least Flycatcher.              Brown Creeper.


  Purple Finch.                  Junco.
  The Crossbills.                Song Sparrow.
  The Longspurs.                 Solitary Vireo.
  Vesper Sparrow.                The Water-thrushes.
  Seaside Sparrow.               Pipit or Titlark.
  Tree Sparrow.                  Downy Woodpecker.


  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.     Kingbird.
  Chimney Swift (apparently).    Crested Flycatcher.
  The Swallows (apparently).     Phoebe.
  Olive-sided Flycatcher,        Snowflake.
  Wood Pewee.                    White-crowned Sparrow.
  Horned Lark                    White-throated Sparrow.
  Bobolink.                      Fox Sparrow
  Cowbird.                       The Tanagers
  Orchard Oriole.                Cedar Bird.
  Baltimore Oriole.              Bohemian Waxwing.
  The Grosbeaks: Evening, Blue,  Yellow-breasted Chat.
    Pine, Rose-breasted,         The Thrushes.
    and Cardinal.                Bluebird.


  Red-headed Woodpecker.         Northern Shrike.
  Hairy Woodpecker.              Mocking-bird.
  Red-winged Blackbird.          Catbird.
  Rusty Blackbird.               Chewink.
  Loggerhead Shrike.             Purple Martin (apparently).


  Mourning Dove.                 Blue Jay.
  The Cuckoos.                   Canada Jay.
  Kingfisher.                    Meadowlark.
  Flicker.                       Whippoorwill (apparently).
  Raven.                         Nighthawk (apparently).
  Crow.                          The Grackles.
  Fish Crow.                     Brown Thrasher.




  Common Crow.
  Fish Crow.
  American Raven.
  Purple Grackle.
  Bronzed Grackle.
  Rusty Blackbird.
  Red-winged Blackbird.
  Purple Martin.

See also several of the Swallows; the Kingbird, the Phoebe, the Wood Pewee and
other Flycatchers; the Chimney Swift; and the Chewink.



(Corvus americanus) Crow family

Called also: CORN THIEF; [AMERICAN CROW, AOU 1998]

Length -- 16 to 17.50 inches.
Male -- Glossy black with violet reflections. Wings appear
  saw-toothed when spread, and almost equal the tail in length.
Female -- Like male, except that the black is less brilliant.
Range -- Throughout North America, from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.
Migrations -- March. October. Summer and winter resident.

If we have an eye for the picturesque, we place a certain value upon the
broad, strong dash of color in the landscape, given by a flock of crows
flapping their course above a corn-field, against an October sky; but the
practical eye of the farmer looks only for his gun in such a case. To him the
crow is an unmitigated nuisance, all the more maddening because it is clever
enough to circumvent every means devised for its ruin. Nothing escapes its
rapacity; fear is unknown to it. It migrates in broad daylight, chooses the
most conspicuous perches, and yet its assurance is amply justified in its
steadily increasing numbers.

In the very early spring, note well the friendly way in which the crow follows
the plow, ingratiating itself by eating the larvae, field mice, and worms
upturned in the furrows, for this is its one serviceable act throughout the
year. When the first brood of chickens is hatched, its serious depredations
begin. Not only the farmer's young fledglings, ducks, turkeys, and chicks, are
snatched up and devoured, but the nests of song birds are made desolate, eggs
being crushed and eaten on the spot, when there are no birds to carry off to
the rickety, coarse nest in the high tree top in the woods. The fish crow,
however, is the much greater enemy of the birds. Like the common crows, this,
their smaller cousin, likes to congregate in winter along the seacoast to feed
upon shell-fish and other sea-food that the tide brings to its feet.

Samuels claims to have seen a pair of crows visit an orchard and destroy the
young in two robins' nests in half an hour. He calculates that two crows kill,
in one day alone, young birds that in the course of the season would have
eaten a hundred thousand insects. When, in addition to these atrocities, we
remember the crow's depredations in the corn-field, it is small wonder that
among the first laws enacted in New York State was one offering a reward for
its head. But the more scientific agriculturists now concede that the crow is
the farmer's true friend.

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus) Crow family

Length -- 14 to 16 inches. About half as large again as the
Male and Female -- Glossy black, with purplish-blue reflections,
  generally greener underneath. Chin naked.
Range -- Along Atlantic coast and that of the Gult of Mexico,
  northward to southern New England. Rare stragglers or) the
  Pacific coast.
Migrations -- March or April. September. Summer resident only at
  northern limit of range. Is found in Hudson River valley about
  half-way to Albany.

Compared with the common crow, with which it is often confounded, the fish
crow is of much smaller, more slender build. Thus its flight is less labored
and more like a gull's, whose habit of catching fish that may be swimming near
the surface of the water it sometimes adopts. Both Audubon and Wilson, who
first made this species known, record its habit of snatching food as it flies
over the southern waters -- a rare practice at the north. Its plumage, too,
differs slightly from the common crow's in being a richer black everywhere,
and particularly underneath, where the "corn thief" is dull. But it is the
difference between the two crows' call-note that we chiefly depend upon to
distinguish these confusing cousins. To say that the fish crow says car-r-r
instead of a loud, clear caw, means little until we have had an opportunity to
compare its hoarse, cracked voice with the other bird's familiar call.

From the farmer's point of view, there is still another distinction: the fish
crow lets his crops alone. It contents itself with picking up refuse on the
shores of the sea or rivers not far inland; haunting the neighborhood of
fishermen's huts for the small fish discarded when the seines are drawn, and
treading out with its toes the shell-fish hidden in the sand at low tide. When
we see it in the fields it is usually intent upon catching field-mice, grubs,
and worms, with which it often varies its fish diet. It is, however, the worst
nest robber we have; it probably destroys ten times as many eggs and young
birds as its larger cousin.

The fishermen have a tradition that this southern crow comes and goes with the
shad and herring -- a saw which science unkindly disapproves.


(Corvus corax principalis) Crow family


Length -- 26 to 27 inches. Nearly three times as large as a
Male and Female -- Glossy black above, with purplish and greenish
  reflections. Duller underneath. Feathers of the throat and
  breast long and loose, like fringe.
Range -- North America, from polar regions to Mexico. Rare along
  Atlantic coast and in the south. Common in the west, and very
  abundant in the northwest.
Migrations -- An erratic wanderer, usually resident where it
  finds its way.

The weird, uncanny voice of this great bird that soars in wide circles above
the evergreen trees of dark northern forests seems to come out of the skies
like the malediction of an evil spirit. Without uttering the words of any
language -- Poe's "Nevermore" was, of course, a poetic license -- people of
all nationalities appear to understand that some dire calamity, some wicked
portent, is being announced every time the unbirdlike creature utters its
rasping call. The superstitious folk crow with an "I told you so," as they
solemnly wag their heads when they hear, of some death in the village after
"the bird of ill-omen" has made an unwelcome visit to the neighborhood--it
receives the blame for every possible misfortune.

When seen in the air, the crow is the only other bird for which the raven
could be mistaken; but the raven does more sailing and less flapping, and he
delights in describing circles as he easily soars high above the trees. On the
ground, he is seen to be a far larger bird than the largest crow. The curious
beard or fringe of feathers on his breast at once distinguishes him.

These birds show the family instinct for living in flocks large and small, not
of ravens only, but of any birds of their own genera. In the art of nest
building they could instruct most of their relatives. High up in evergreen
trees or on the top of cliffs, never very near the seashore, they make a
compact, symmetrical nest of sticks, neatly lined with grasses and wool from
the sheep pastures, adding soft, comfortable linings to the old nest from year
to year for each new brood. When the young emerge from the eggs, which take
many curious freaks of color and markings, they are pied black and white,
suggesting the young of the western white-necked raven, a similarity which, so
far as plumage is concerned, they quickly outgrow. They early acquire the
fortunate habit of eating whatever their parents set before them
-- grubs, worms, grain, field-mice; anything, in fact, for the raven is a
conspicuously omnivorous bird.

PURPLE GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula) Blackbird family


Length -- 12 to 13 inches. About one-fourth as large again as the
Male -- Iridescent black, in which metallic violet, blue, copper,
  and green tints predominate. The plumage of this grackle has
  iridescent bars. Iris of eye bright yellow and conspicuous.
  Tail longer than wings.
Female -- Less brilliant black than male, and smaller.
Range -- Gulf of Mexico to 57th parallel north latitude.
Migrations -- Permanent resident in Southern States. Few are
  permanent throughout range. Migrates in immense flocks in March
  and September.

This "refined crow" (which is really no crow at all except in appearance) has
scarcely more friends than a thief is entitled to; for, although in many
sections of the country it has given up its old habit of stealing Indian corn
and substituted ravages upon the grasshoppers instead, it still indulges a
crow-like instinct for pillaging nests and eating young birds.

Travelling in immense flocks of its own kind, a gregarious bird of the first
order, it nevertheless is not the social fellow that its cousin, the
red-winged blackbird, is. It especially holds aloof from mankind, and mankind
reciprocates its suspicion.

The tallest, densest evergreens are not too remote for it to build its home,
according to Dr. Abbott, though in other States than New Jersey, where he
observed them, an old orchard often contains dozens of nests. One peculiarity
of the grackles is that their eggs vary so much in coloring and markings that
different sets examined in the same groups of trees are often wholly unlike.
The average groundwork, however, is soiled blue or greenish, waved, streaked,
or clouded with brown. These are laid in a nest made of miscellaneous sticks
and grasses, rather carefully constructed, and lined with mud. Another
peculiarity is the bird's method of steering itself by its tail when it wishes
to turn its direction or alight.

Peering at you from the top of a dark pine tree with its staring yellow eye,
the grackle is certainly uncanny. There, very early in the spring, you may
hear its cracked and wheezy whistle, for, being aware that however much it may
look like a crow it belongs to another family, it makes a ridiculous attempt
to sing. When a number of grackles lift up their voices at once, some one has
aptly likened the result to a "good wheel-barrow chorus!" The grackle's mate
alone appreciates his efforts as, standing on tiptoe, with half-spread wings
and tail, he pours forth his craven soul to her through a disjointed larynx.
With all their faults, and they are numerous, let it be recorded of both crows
and grackles that they are as devoted lovers as turtle-doves. Lowell
characterizes them in these four lines:

  "Fust come the black birds, clatt'rin' in tall trees,
  And settlin' things in windy Congresses;
  Queer politicians, though, for I'll be skinned
  If all on 'em don't head against the wind."

The Bronzed Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula aeneus) differs from the preceding
chiefly in the more brownish bronze tint of its plumage and its lack of
iridescent bars. Its range is more westerly, and in the southwest it is
particularly common; but as a summer resident it finds its way to New England
in large numbers. The call-note is louder and more metallic than the purple
grackle's. In nearly all respects the habits of these two birds are identical.

RUSTY BLACKBIRD (Scolecophagus carolinus) Blackbird family


Length -- 9 to 9.55 inches. A trifle smaller than the robin.
Male -- In full plumage, glossy black with metallic reflections,
  intermixed with rusty brown that becomes more pronounced as the
  season advances. Pale straw-colored eyes.
Female -- Duller plumage and more rusty, inclining to gray. Light
  line over eye. Smaller than male.
Range -- North America, from Newfoundland to Gulf of Mexico and
  westward to the Plains.
Migrations -- April. November. A few winter north.

A more sociable bird than the grackle, though it travel in smaller flocks, the
rusty blackbird condescends to mingle freely with other feathered friends in
marshes and by brooksides. You can identify it by its rusty feathers and pale
yellow eye, and easily distinguish the rusty-gray female from the female
redwing that is conspicuously streaked.

In April flocks of these birds may frequently be seen along sluggish, secluded
streams in the woods, feeding upon the seeds of various water or brookside
plants, and probably upon insects also. At such times they often indulge in a
curious spluttering, squeaking, musical concert that one listens to with
pleasure. The breeding range is mostly north of the United States. But little
seems to be known of the birds' habits in their northern home.

Why it should ever have been called a thrush blackbird is one of those
inscrutable mysteries peculiar to the naming of birds which are so frequently
called precisely what they are not. In spite of the compliment implied in
associating the name of one of our finest songsters with it, the rusty
blackbird has a clucking call as unmusical as it is infrequent, and only very
rarely in the spring does it pipe a note that even suggests the sweetness of
the redwing's.


(Agelaius Phamiceus) Blackbird family


Length -- Exceptionally variable--7.50 to 9.80 inches. Usually
  about an inch smaller than the robin.
Male -- Coal-black. Shoulders scarlet, edged with yellow.
Female -- Feathers finely and inconspicuously speckled with
  brown, rusty black, whitish, and orange. Upper wing-coverts
  black, tipped with white, or rufous and sometimes spotted with
  black and red.
Range -- North America. Breeds from Texas to Columbia River, and
  throughout the United States. Commonly found from Mexico to
  57th degree north latitude.
Migrations -- March. October. Common summer resident.

In oozy pastures where a brook lazily finds its way through the farm is the
ideal pleasure ground of this "bird of society." His notes, "h'-wa-ker-ee" or
"con-quer-ee" (on an ascending scale), are liquid in quality, suggesting the
sweet, moist, cool retreats where he nests. Liking either heat or cold (he is
fond of wintering in Florida, but often retreats to the north while the
marshes are still frozen); enjoying not only the company of large flocks of
his own kind with whom he travels, but any bird associates with whom he can
scrape acquaintance; or to sit quietly on a tree-top in the secluded,
inaccessible bog while his mate is nesting; satisfied with cut-worms, grubs,
and insects, or with fruit and grain for his food -- the blackbird is an
impressive and helpful example of how to get the best out of life.

Yet, of all the birds, some farmers complain that the blackbird is the
greatest nuisance. They dislike the noisy chatterings when a flock is simply
indulging its social instincts. They complain, too, that the blackbirds eat
their corn, forgetting that having devoured innumerable grubs from it during
the summer, the birds feel justly entitled to a share of the profits. Though
occasionally guilty of eating the farmer's corn and oats and rice, yet it has
been found that nearly seven-eighths of the redwing's food is made up of
weed-seeds or of insects injurious to agriculture. This bird builds its nest
in low bushes on the margin of ponds or low in the bog grass of marshes. From
three to five pale-blue eggs, curiously streaked, spotted, and scrawled with
black or purple, constitute a brood. Nursery duties are soon finished, for in
July the young birds are ready to gather in flocks with their elders.

  "The blackbirds make the maples ring
   With social cheer and jubilee;
   The red-wing flutes his '0-ka-lee!'"

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis) Swallow family

Length -- 7 to 8 inches. Two or three inches smaller than the
Male -- Rich glossy black with bluish and purple reflections;
  duller black on wings and tail. Wings rather longer than the
  tail, which is forked.
Female -- More brownish and mottled; grayish below.
Range -- Peculiar to America. Penetrates from Arctic Circle to
  South America.
Migrations -- Late April. Early September. Summer resident.

In old-fashioned gardens, set on a pole over which honeysuckle and roses
climbed from a bed where China pinks, phlox, sweet Williams, and hollyhocks
crowded each other below, martin boxes used always to be seen with a pair of
these large, beautiful swallows circling overhead. Bur now, alas! the boxes,
where set up at all, are quickly monopolized by the English sparrow, a bird
that the martin, courageous as a kingbird in attacking crows and hawks,
tolerates as a neighbor only when it must.

Bradford Torrey tells of seeing quantities of long-necked squashes dangling
from poles about the negro cabins all through the South. One day he asked an
old colored man what these squashes were for.

"Why, deh is martins' boxes," said Uncle Remus. "No danger of hawks carryin'
off de chickens so long as de martins am around."

The Indians, too, have always had a special liking for this bird. They often
lined a hollowed-out gourd with bits of bark and fastened it in the crotch of
their tent poles to invite its friendship. The Mohegan Indians have called it
"the bird that never rests"--a name better suited to the tireless barn
swallow, Dr. Abbott thinks.

Wasps, beetles, and all manner of injurious garden insects constitute its diet
-- another reason for its universal popularity. It is simple enough to
distinguish the martins from the other swallows by their larger size and
iridescent dark coat, not to mention their song, which is very soft and sweet,
like musical laughter, rippling up through the throat.

COWBIRD (Molothrus ater) Blackbird family


Length -- 7 to 8 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.
Male -- Iridescent black, with head, neck, and breast glistening
  brown. Bill dark brown, feet brownish.
Female -- Dull grayish-brown above, a shade lighter below, and
  streaked with paler shades of brown.
Range -- United States, from coast to coast. North into British
  America, south into Mexico.
Migrations -- March. November. Common summer resident.

The cowbird takes its name from its habit of walking about among the cattle in
the pasture, picking up the small insects which the cattle disturb in their
grazing. The bird may often be seen within a foot or two of the nose of a cow
or heifer, walking briskly about like a miniature hen, intently watching for
its insect prey.

Its marital and domestic character is thoroughly bad. Polygamous and utterly
irresponsible for its offspring, this bird forms a striking contrast to other
feathered neighbors, and indeed is almost an anomaly in the animal kingdom. In
the breeding season an unnatural mother may be seen skulking about in the
trees and shrubbery, seeking for nests in which to place a surreptitious egg,
never imposing it upon a bird of its size, but selecting in a cowardly way a
small nest, as that of the vireos or warblers or chipping sparrows, and there
leaving the hatching and care of its young to the tender mercies of some
already burdened little mother. It has been seen to remove an egg from the
nest of the red-eyed vireo in order to place one of its own in its place. Not
finding a convenient nest, it will even drop its eggs on the ground, trusting
them to merciless fate, or, still worse, devouring them. The eggs are nearly
an inch long, white speckled with brown or gray.

Cowbirds are gregarious. The ungrateful young birds, as soon as they are able
to go roaming, leave their foster-parents and join the flock of their own
kind. In keeping with its unclean habits and unholy life and character, the
cowbird's ordinary note is a gurgling, rasping whistle, followed by a few
sharp notes.

STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)

[Called also: EUROPEAN STARLING, AOU 1998]

Length -- 8 to 9 inches. Weight about equals that of robin, but
  the starling, with its short, drooping tail, is chunkier in
Male -- Iridescent black with glints of purple, green, and blue.
  On back the black feathers, with iridescence of green and
  bronze, are tipped with brown, as are some of the tail and wing
  feathers. In autumn and early winter feathers of sides of head,
  breast, flanks and underparts are tipped with white, giving a
  gray, mottled appearance. During the winter most of the white
  tips on breast and underparts wear off. Until the first moult
  in late summer the young birds are a dark olive-brown in color,
  with white or whitish throat. These differences in plumage at
  different seasons and different ages make starlings hard to
  identify. Red-winged blackbirds and grackles are often mistaken
  for them. From early spring till mid-June, starling's rather
  long, sharp bill is yellow. Later in summer it darkens. No
  other black bird of ours has this yellow bill at any season.
Female -- Similar in appearance.
Range -- Massachusetts to Maryland. Not common beyond 100 miles
  inland. (Native of northern Europe and Asia.)
Migrations -- Permanent resident, but flocks show some tendency
  to drift southward in winter.

This newcomer to our shores is by no means so black as he has been painted.
Like many other European immigrants he landed at or near Castle Garden, New
York City, and his descendants have not cared to wander very far from this
vicinity, preferring regions with a pretty numerous human population. The
starlings have increased so fast in this limited region since their first
permanent settlement in Central Park about 1890 that farmers and suburban
dwellers have feared that they might become as undesirable citizens as some
other Europeans -- the brown rat, the house mouse, and the English sparrow.
But a very thorough investigation conducted by the United States Bureau of
Biological Survey (Bulletin No. 868, 1921) is most reassuring in its results.

Let us first state the case for the prosecution: (1) the starling must plead
guilty to a fondness for cultivated cherries; (2) he is often a persecutor of
native birds, like the bluebird and flicker; (3) his roosts, where he
sometimes congregates in thousands in the autumn, are apt to become public
nuisances, offensive alike to the eye, the nose and the ear.

But these offences are not so very serious after all. He does not eat so many
cherries as our old friend the robin, though his depredations are more
conspicuous, for whereas the robins in ones and twos will pilfer steadily from
many trees for many days without attracting notice, a crowd of starlings is
occasionally observed to descend en masse upon a single tree and strip it in a
few hours. Naturally such high-handed procedure is observed by many and deeply
resented by the owner of the tree, who suffers the steady but less spectacular
raids of the robins without serious disquiet,

Less can be said in defense of the starling's scandalous treatment of some
native birds. "Unrelenting perseverance dominates the starling's activities
when engaged in a controversy over a nesting site. More of its battles are won
by dogged persistence in annoying its victim than by bold aggression, and its
irritating tactics are sometimes carried to such a point that it seems almost
as if the bird were actuated more by a morbid pleasure of annoying its
neighbors than by any necessity arising from a scarcity of nesting sites...

"In contests with the flicker the starling frequently makes up in numbers what
disadvantage it may have in size. Typical of such combats was the one observed
on May 9, at Hartford, Conn., where a group of starlings and a flicker were in
controversy over a newly excavated nest. The number of starlings varied, but
as many as 6 were noted at one time. Attention was first attracted to the
dispute by a number of starlings in close proximity to the hole and by the
sounds of a tussle within. Presently a flicker came out dragging a starling
after him. The starling continued the battle outside long enough to allow one
of its comrades to slip into the nest. Of course the flicker had to repeat the
entire performance. He did this for about half an hour, when he gave up,
leaving the starlings in possession of the nest...

"Economically considered, the starling is the superior of either the flicker,
the robin, or the English sparrow, three of the species with which it comes in
contact in its breeding operations. The eggs and young of bluebirds and wrens
may be protected by the use of nest boxes with circular openings 1 1/2 inches
or less in diameter. This leaves the purple martin the only species readily
subject to attack by the starling, whose economic worth may be considered
greater than that of the latter, but in no case was the disturbance of a
well-established colony of martins noted."

As for the nuisance of a big established roost of starlings, it may be abated
by nightly salvos of Roman candles or blank cartridges, continued for a week
or at most ten days.

So much for the starling in his aspect as an undesirable citizen. Government
investigators, by a long-continued study, have discovered that his good deeds
far outnumber his misdemeanors. Primarily he feeds on noxious insects and
useless wild fruits. Small truck gardens and individual cherry trees may be
occasionally raided by large flocks with disastrous results in a small way.
But on the whole he is a useful frequenter of our door-yards who 'pays his way
by destroying hosts of cut-worms and equally noxious' insects. "A thorough
consideration of the evidence at hand indicates that, based on food habits,
the adult starling is the economic superior of the robin, catbird, flicker,
red-winged blackbird, or grackle." Need more be said for him?


  Red-headed Woodpecker
  Hairy Woodpecker
  Downy Woodpecker
  Yellow-bellied Woodpecker
  Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  Black-poll Warbler
  Black-and-white Creeping Warbler

See also the Swallows; the Shrikes; Nuthatches and Titmice, the Kingbird and
other Flycatchers; the Nighthawk; the Redstart; and the following Warblers:
the Myrtle; the Bay-breasted, the Blackburnian; and the Black-throated Blue


RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) Woodpecker

Called also: TRI-COLOR, RED-HEAD

Length -- 8.50 to 9.75 inches. An inch or less smaller than the
Male and Female -- Head, neck, and throat crimson; breast and
  underneath white; back black and white; wings and tail blue
  black, with broad white band on wings conspicuous in flight.
Range -- United States, east of Rocky Mountains and north to
Migrations -- Abundant but irregular migrant. Most commonly seen
  in Autumn, and rarely resident.

In thinly populated sections, where there are few guns about, this is still
one of the commonest as it is perhaps the most conspicuous member of the
woodpecker family, but its striking glossy black-and-white body and its still
more striking crimson head, flattened out against the side of a tree like a
target, where it is feeding, have made it all too tempting a mark for the
rifles of the sportsmen and the sling-shots of small boys. As if sufficient
attention were not attracted to it by its plumage, it must needs keep up a
noisy, guttural rattle, ker-r-ruck,
ker-r-ruck, very like a tree-toad's call, and flit about among the trees with
the restlessness of a fly-catcher. Yet, in spite of these invitations for a
shot to the passing gunner, it still multiplies in districts where nuts
abound, being "more common than the robin" about Washington, says John

All the familiar woodpeckers have two characteristics most prominently
exemplified in this red-headed member of their tribe. The hairy, the downy,
the crested, the red-bellied, the sapsucker, and the flicker have each a red
mark somewhere about their heads as if they had been wounded there and bled a
little -- some more, some less; and the figures of all of them, from much
flattening against tree-trunks, have become high-shouldered and long-waisted.

The red-headed woodpecker selects, by preference, a partly decayed tree in
which to excavate a hole for its nest, because the digging is easier, and the
sawdust and chips make a softer lining than green wood. Both male and female
take turns in this hollowing-out process. The one that is off duty is allowed
twenty minutes for refreshments, "consisting of grubs, beetles, ripe apples or
cherries, corn, or preferably beech-nuts. At a loving call from its mate in
the hollow tree, it returns promptly to perform its share of the work, when
the carefully observed time is up." The heap of sawdust at the bottom of the
hollow will eventually cradle from four to six glossy-white eggs.

This woodpecker has the thrifty habit of storing away nuts in the knot-holes
of trees, between cracks in the bark, or in decayed fence rails--too often a
convenient storehouse at which the squirrels may help themselves. But it is
the black snake that enters the nest and eats the young family, and that is a
more deadly foe than even the sportsman or the milliner.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus) Woodpecker family

Length--9 to 10 inches. About the size of the robin.
Male--Black and white above, white beneath. White stripe down the
  back, composed of long hair-like feathers. Brightred band on
  the nape of neck. Wings striped and dashed with black and
  white. Outer tail feathers white, without bars. White stripe
  about eyes and on sides of the head.
Female--Without the red band on head, and body more brownish than
  that of the male.
Range--Eastern parts of United States, from the Canadian border
  to the Carolinas.
Migrations--Resident throughout its range.

The bill of the woodpecker is a hammering tool, well fitted for its work. Its
mission in life is to rid the trees of insects, which hide beneath the bark,
and with this end in view, the bird is seen clinging to the trunks and
branches of trees through fair and wintry weather, industriously scanning
every inch for the well-known signs of the boring worm or destructive fly.

In the autumn the male begins to excavate his winter quarters, carrying or
throwing out the chips, by which this good workman is known, with his beak,
while the female may make herself cosey or not, as she chooses, in an
abandoned hole. About her comfort he seems shamefully unconcerned. Intent only
on his own, he drills a perfectly round hole, usually on the underside of a
limb where neither snow nor wind can harm him, and digs out a horizontal
tunnel in the dry, brittle wood in the very heart of the tree, before turning
downward into the deep, pear-shaped chamber, where he lives in selfish
solitude. But when the nesting season comes, how devoted he is temporarily to
the mate he has neglected and even abused through the winter! Will she never
learn that after her clear-white eggs are laid and her brood raised he will
relapse into the savage and forget all his tender wiles?

The hairy woodpecker, like many another bird and beast, furnishes much
doubtful weather lore for credulous and inexact observers. "When the
woodpecker pecks low on the trees, expect warm weather" is a common saying,
but when different individuals are seen pecking at the same time, one but a
few feet from the ground, and another among the high branches, one may make
the prophecy that pleases him best.

The hairy woodpeckers love the deep woods. They are drummers, not singers; but
when walking in the desolate winter woods even the drumming and tapping of the
busy feathered workmen on a resonant limb is a solace, giving a sense of life
and cheerful activity which is invigorating.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens) Woodpecker family

Length -- 6 to 7 inches. About the size of the English sparrow.
Male -- Black above, striped with white. Tail shaped like a wedge
  Outer tail feathers white, and barred with black. Middle tail
  feathers black. A black stripe on top of head, and distinct
  white band over and under the eyes. Red patch on upper side of
  neck. Wings, with six white bands crossing them transversely;
  white underneath.
Female -- Similar, but without scarlet on the nape, which is
Range -- Eastern North America, from Labrador to Florida.
Migrations -- Resident all the year throughout its range.

The downy woodpecker is similar to his big relative, the hairy woodpecker, in
color and shape, though much smaller. His outer tail feathers are white,
barred with black, but the hairy's white outer tail feathers lack these
distinguishing marks.

He is often called a sapsucker -- though quite another bird alone merits that
name -- from the supposition that he bores into the trees for the purpose of
sucking the sap; but his tongue is ill adapted for such use, being barbed at
the end, and most ornithologists consider the charge libellous. It has been
surmised that he bores the numerous little round holes close together, so
often seen, with the idea of attracting insects to the luscious sap. The
woodpeckers never drill for insects in live wood. The downy actually drills
these little holes in apple and other trees to feed upon the inner milky bark
of the tree -- the cambium layer. The only harm to be laid to his account is
that, in his zeal, he sometimes makes a ring of small holes so continuous as
to inadvertently damage the tree by girdling it. The bird, like most others,
does not debar himself entirely from fruit diet, but enjoys berries,
especially poke-berries.

He is very social with birds and men alike. In winter he attaches himself to
strolling bands of nuthatches and chickadees, and in summer is fond of making
friendly visits among village folk, frequenting the shade trees of the streets
and grapevines of back gardens. He has even been known to fearlessly peck at
flies on window panes.

In contrast to his large brother woodpecker, who is seldom drawn from timber
lands, the little downy member of the family brings the comfort of his cheery
presence to country homes, beating his rolling tattoo in spring on some
resonant limb under our windows in the garden with a strength worthy of a
larger drummer.

This rolling tattoo, or drumming, answers several purposes: by it he
determines whether the tree is green or hollow; it startles insects from their
lurking places underneath the bark, and it also serves as a love song.

YELLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Sphyrapicus varius) Woodpecker family


Length -- 8 to 8.6 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the
Male -- Black, white, and yellowish white above, with bright-red
  crown, chin, and throat. Breast black, in form of crescent A
  yellowish-white line, beginning at bill and passing below eye,
  merges into the pale yellow of the bird underneath. Wings
  spotted with white, and coverts chiefly white. Tail black;
  white on middle of feathers.
Female -- Paler, and with head and throat white.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Labrador to Central America.
Migrations -- April. October. Resident north of Massachusetts.
  Most common in autumn.

It is sad to record that this exquisitely marked woodpecker, the most jovial
and boisterous of its family, is one of the very few bird visitors whose
intimacy should be discouraged. For its useful appetite for slugs and insects
which it can take on the wing with wonderful dexterity, it need not be wholly
condemned. But as we look upon a favorite maple or fruit tree devitalized or
perhaps wholly dead from its ravages, we cannot forget that this bird, while a
most abstemious fruit-eater, has a pernicious and most intemperate thirst for
sap. Indeed, it spends much of its time in the orchard, drilling holes into
the freshest, most vigorous trees; then, when their sap begins to flow, it
siphons it into an insatiable throat, stopping in its orgie only long enough
to snap at the insects that have been attracted to the wounded tree by the
streams of its heart-blood now trickling down its sides. Another favorite
pastime is to strip the bark off a tree, then peck at the soft wood underneath
-- almost as fatal a habit. It drills holes in maples in early spring for sap
only. If it drills holes in fruit trees it is for the cambium layer, a soft,
pulpy, nutritious under-bark.

These woodpeckers have a variety of call-notes, but their rapid drumming
against the limbs and trunks of trees is the sound we always associate with
them and the sound that Mr. Bicknell says is the love-note of the family.

Unhappily, these birds, that many would be glad to have decrease in numbers,
take extra precautions for the safety of their young by making very deep
excavations for their nests, often as deep as eighteen or twenty inches.

THE CHEWINK (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) Finch family


Length -- 8 to 8.5 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the
Male -- Upper parts black, sometimes margined with rufous. Breast
  white; chestnut color on sides and rump. Wings marked with
  white. Three outer feathers of tail striped with white,
  conspicuous in flight. Bill black and stout. Red eyes; feet
Female -- Brownish where the male is black. Abdomen shading from
  chestnut to white in the centre.
Range -- From Labrador, on the north, to the Southern States;
  West to the Rocky Mountains.
Migrations -- April. September and October. Summer resident. Very
  rarely a winter resident at the north.

The unobtrusive little chewink is not infrequently mistaken for a robin,
because of the reddish chestnut on its under parts. Careful observation,
however, shows important distinctions. It is rather smaller and darker in
color; its carriage and form are not those of the robin, but of the finch. The
female is smaller still, and has an olive tint in her brown back. Her eggs are
inconspicuous in color, dirty white speckled with brown, and laid in a sunken
nest on the ground. Dead leaves and twigs abound, and form, as the anxious
mother fondly hopes, a safe hiding place for her brood. So careful
concealment, however, brings peril to the fledglings, for the most cautious
bird-lover may, and often does, inadvertently set his foot on the hidden nest.

The chewink derives its name from the fancied resemblance of its note to these
syllables, while those naming it "towhee" hear the sound to-whick, to-whick,
to-whee. Its song is rich, full, and pleasing, and given only when the bird
has risen to the branches above its low foraging ground.

It frequents the border of swampy places and bushy fields. It is generally
seen in the underbrush, picking about among the dead leaves for its steady
diet of earthworms and larvae of insects, occasionally regaling itself with a
few dropping berries and fruit.

When startled, the bird rises not more than ten or twelve feet from the earth,
and utters its characteristic calls. On account of this habit of flying low
and grubbing among the leaves, it is sometimes called the ground robin. In the
South our modest and useful little food-gatherer is often called grasel,
especially in Louisiana, where it is white-eyed, and is much esteemed, alas!
by epicures.

SNOWFLAKE (Plectrophenax nivalis) Finch family


Length -- 7 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male and Female -- Head, neck, and beneath soiled white, with a
  few reddish-brown feathers on top of head, and suggesting an
  imperfect collar. Above, grayish brown obsoletely streaked with
  black, the markings being most conspicuous in a band between
  shoulders. Lower tail feathers black; others, white and all
  edged with white. Wings brown, white, and gray. Plumage
  unusually variable. In summer dress (in arctic regions) the
  bird is almost white.
Range -- Circumpolar regions to Kentucky (in winter only).
Migrations -- Midwinter visitor; rarely, if ever, resident south
  of arctic regions.

These snowflakes (mentioned collectively, for it is impossible to think of the
bird except in great flocks) are the "true spirits of the snowstorm," says
Thoreau. They are animated beings that ride upon it, and have their life in
it. By comparison with the climate of the arctic regions, no doubt our
hardiest winter weather seems luxuriously mild to them. We associate them only
with those wonderful midwinter days when sky, fields, and woods alike are
white, and a "hard, dull bitterness of cold" drives every other bird and beast
to shelter. It is said they often pass the night buried beneath the snow. They
have been seen to dive beneath it to escape a hawk.

Whirling about in the drifting snow to catch the seeds on the tallest stalks
that the wind in the open meadows uncovers, the snowflakes suggest a lot of
dead leaves being blown through the all-pervading whiteness. Beautiful soft
brown, gray, and predominating black-and-white coloring distinguish these
capricious visitors from the slaty junco, the "snowbird" more commonly known.
They are, indeed, the only birds we have that are nearly white; and rarely, if
ever, do they rise far above the ground their plumage so admirably imitates.

At the far north, travellers have mentioned their inspiriting song, but in the
United States we hear only their cheerful twitter. Nansen tells of seeing an
occasional snow bunting in that desolation of arctic ice where the Fram
drifted so long.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Habia ludoviciana) Finch family

Length -- 7.75 to 8.5 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the
Male -- Head and upper parts black. Breast has rose-carmine
  shield-shaped patch, often extending downward to the centre of
  the abdomen. Underneath, tail quills, and two spots on wings
  white. Conspicuous yellow, blunt beak.
Female -- Brownish, with dark streakings, like a sparrow. No
  rose-color. Light sulphur yellow under wings. Dark brown, heavy
Range -- Eastern North America, from southern Canada to Panama.
Migrations -- Early May. September. Summer resident.

A certain ornithologist tells with complacent pride of having shot over
fifty-eight rose-breasted grosbeaks in less than three weeks (during the
breeding season) to learn what kind of food they had in their crops. This kind
of devotion to science may have quite as much to do with the growing scarcity
of this bird in some localities as the demands of the milliners, who, however,
receive all of the blame for the slaughter of our beautiful songsters. The
farmers in Pennsylvania, who, with more truth than poetry, call this the
potato-bug bird, are taking active measures, however, to protect the neighbor
that is more useful to their crop than all the insecticides known. It also
eats flies, wasps, and grubs.

Seen upon the ground, the dark bird is scarcely attractive with his clumsy
beak overbalancing a head that protrudes with stupid-looking awkwardness; but
as he rises into the trees his lovely rose-colored breast and under-wing
feathers are seen, and before he has had time to repeat his delicious,
rich-voiced warble you are already in love with him. Vibrating his wings after
the manner of the mocking-bird, he pours forth a marvellously sweet, clear,
mellow song (with something of the quality of the oriole's, robin's, and
thrush's notes), making the day on which you first hear it memorable. This is
one of the few birds that sing at night. A soft, sweet, rolling warble, heard
when the moon is at its full on a midsummer night, is more than likely to come
from the rose-breasted grosbeak.

It is not that his quiet little sparrow-like wife has advanced notions of
feminine independence that he takes his turn at sitting upon the nest, but
that he is one of the most unselfish and devoted of mates. With their combined
efforts they construct only a coarse, unlovely cradle in a thorn-bush or low
tree near an old, overgrown pasture lot. The father may be the poorest of
architects, but as he patiently sits brooding over the green, speckled eggs,
his beautiful rosy breast just showing above the grassy rim, he is a succulent
adornment for any bird's home.

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) Blackbird family


Length -- 7 inches. A trifle larger than the English sparrow.
Male -- In spring plumage: black, with light-yellow patch on
  upper neck, also on edges of wings and tail feathers. Rump and
  upper wings splashed with white. Middle of back streaked with
  pale buff. Tail feathers have pointed tips. In autumn plumage,
  resembles female.
Female -- Dull yellow-brown, with light and dark dashes on back.
  wings, and tail. Two decided dark stripes on top of head.
Range -- North America, from eastern coast to western prairies.
  Migrates in early autumn to Southern States, and in winter to
  South America and West Indies.
Migrations -- Early May. From August to October. Common summer

Perhaps none of our birds have so fitted into song and story as the bobolink.
Unlike a good child, who should "be seen and not heard," he is heard more
frequently than seen. Very shy, of peering eyes, he keeps well out of sight in
the meadow grass before entrancing our listening ears. The bobolink never
soars like the lark, as the poets would have us believe, but generally sings
on the wing, flying with a peculiar self-conscious flight horizontally thirty
or forty feet above the meadow grass. He also sings perched upon the fence or
tuft of grass. He is one of the greatest poseurs among the birds.

In spring and early summer the bobolinks respond to every poet's effort to
imitate their notes. "Dignified 'Robert of Lincoln' is telling his name," says
one; "Spink, spank, spink," another hears him say. But best of all are Wilson
Flagg's lines:

           ". . .Now they rise and now they fly;
   They cross and turn, and in and out; and down the middle and
     wheel about,
   With a 'Phew, shew, Wadolincon; listen to me Bobolincon!"

After midsummer the cares of the family have so worn upon the jollity of our
dashing, rollicking friend that his song is seldom heard. The colors of his
coat fade into a dull yellowish brown like that of his faithful mate, who has
borne the greater burden of the season, for he has two complete moults each

The bobolinks build their nest on the ground in high grass. The eggs are of a
bluish white. Their food is largely insectivorous: grasshoppers, crickets,
beetles, spiders, with seeds of grass especially for variety.

In August they begin their journey southward, flying mainly by night. Arriving
in the Southern States, they become the
sad-colored, low-voiced rice or reed bird, feeding on the rice fields, where
they descend to the ignominious fate of being dressed for the plate of the

Could there be a more tragic ending to the glorious note of the gay songster
of the north?

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Dendroica striata) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 5.5 to 6 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Black cap; cheeks and beneath grayish white, forming a
  sort of collar, more or less distinct. Upper parts striped
  gray, black, and olive. Breast and under parts white, with
  black streaks. Tail olive-brown, with yellow-white spots.
Female -- Without cap. Greenish-olive above, faintly streaked
  with black. Paler than male. Bands on wings, yellowish.
Range -- North America, to Greenland and Alaska. In winter, to
  northern part of South America.
Migrations -- Last of May. Late October.

A faint "screep, screep," like "the noise made by striking two pebbles
together," Audubon says, is often the only indication of the blackpoll's
presence; but surely that tireless bird-student had heard its more
characteristic notes, which, rapidly uttered, increasing in the middle of the
strain and diminishing toward the end, suggest the shrill, wiry burn of some
midsummer insect. After the opera-glass has searched him out we find him by no
means an inconspicuous bird. A dainty little fellow, with a glossy black cap
pulled over his eyes, he is almost hidden by the dense foliage on the trees by
the time he returns to us at the very end of spring. Giraud says that he is
the very last of his tribe to come north, though the bay-breasted warbler has
usually been thought the bird to wind up the spring procession.

The blackpoll has a certain characteristic motion that distinguishes him from
the black-and-white creeper, for which a hasty glance might mistake him, and
from the jolly little chickadee with his black cap. Apparently he runs about
the tree-trunk, but in reality he so flits his wings that his feet do not
touch the bark at all; yet so rapidly does he go that the flipping wing-motion
is not observed. He is most often seen in May in the apple trees, peeping into
the opening blossoms for insects, uttering now and then his slender, lisping,
brief song.

Vivacious, a busy hunter, often catching insects on the wing like the
flycatchers, he is a cheerful, useful neighbor the short time he spends with
us before travelling to the far north, where he mates and nests. A nest has
been found on Slide Mountain, in the Catskills, but the hardy evergreens of
Canada, and sometimes those of northern New England, are the chosen home of
this little bird that builds a nest of bits of root, lichens, and sedges,
amply large for a family twice the size of his.

BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) Wood Warbler


Length -- 5 to inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Upper parts white, varied with black. A white stripe
  along the summit of the head and back of the neck, edged
  with black. White line above and below the eye. Black cheeks
  and throat, grayish in females and young. Breast white in
  middle, with black stripes on sides. Wings and tail rusty
  black, with two white cross-bars on former, and soiled white
  markings on tail quills.
Female -- Paler and less distinct markings throughout.
Range -- Peculiar to America. Eastern United States and westward
  to the plains. North as far as the fur countries. Winters in
  tropics south of Florida.
Migrations -- April. Late September. Summer resident.

Nine times out of ten this active little warbler is mistaken for the downy
woodpecker, not because of his coloring alone, but also on account of their
common habit of running up and down the trunks of trees and on the under side
of branches, looking for insects, on which all the warblers subsist. But
presently the true warbler characteristic of restless flitting about shows
itself. A woodpecker would go over a tree with painstaking, systematic care,
while the black-and-white warbler, no less intent upon securing its food,
hurries off from tree to tree, wherever the most promising menu is offered.

Clinging to the mottled bark of the tree-trunk, which he so closely resembles,
it would be difficult to find him were it not for these sudden fittings and
the feeble song, "Weachy, weachy, weachy, 'twee, 'twee, 'tweet," he half
lisps, half sings between his dashes after slugs. Very rarely indeed can his
nest be found in an old stump or mossy bank, where bark, leaves. and hair make
the downy cradle for his four or five tiny babies.


  Chimney Swift
  Wood Pewee
  Phoebe and Say's Phoebe
  Crested Flycatcher
  Olive-sided Flycatcher
  Least Flycatcher
  Tufted Titmouse
  Canada Jay
  White-breasted Nuthatch
  Red-breasted Nuthatch
  Loggerhead Shrike
  Northern Shrike
  Bohemian Waxwing
  Bay-breasted Warbler
  Chestnut-sided Warbler
  Golden-winged Warbler
  Myrtle Warbler
  Parula Warbler
  Black-throated Blue Warbler

See also the Grayish Green and the Grayish Brown Birds, particularly the Cedar
Bird, several Swallows, the Acadian and the Yellow-bellied Flycatchers;
Alice's and the Olive-backed Thrushes; the Louisiana Water Thrush; the
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; and the Seaside Sparrow. See also the females of the
following birds: Pine Grosbeak; White-winged Red Crossbill; Purple Martin; and
the Nashville, the Pine, and the Magnolia Warblers.


CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica) Swift family


Length -- to 5.45 inches. About an inch shorter than the English
  sparrow. Long wings make its length appear greater.
Male and Female --  Deep sooty gray; throat of a trifle lighter
  gray. Wings extend an inch and a half beyond the even tail,
  which has sharply pointed and very elastic quills, that serve
  as props. Feet are muscular, and have exceedingly sharp claws.
Range -- Peculiar to North America east of the Rockies, and from
  Labrador to Panama.
Migrations -- April. September or October. Common summer

The chimney swift is, properly speaking, not a swallow at all, though chimney
swallow is its more popular name. Rowing towards the roof of your house, as if
it used first one wing, then the other, its flight, while swift and powerful,
is stiff and mechanical, unlike the swallow's, and its entire aspect suggests
a bat. The nighthawk and whippoorwill are its relatives, and it resembles them
not a little, especially in its nocturnal habits.

So much fault has been found with the misleading names of many birds, it is
pleasant to record the fact that the name of the chimney swift is everything
it ought to be. No other birds can surpass and few can equal it in its
powerful flight, sometimes covering a thousand miles in twenty-four hours, it
is said, and never resting except in its roosting places (hollow trees or
chimneys of dwellings), where it does not perch, but rather clings to the
sides with its sharp claws, partly supported by its sharper tail. Audubon
tells of a certain plane tree in Kentucky where he counted over nine thousand
of these swifts clinging to the hollow trunk.

Their nest, which is a loosely woven twig lattice, made of twigs of trees,
which the birds snap off with their beaks and carry in their beaks, is glued
with the bird's saliva or tree-gum into a solid structure, and firmly attached
to the inside of chimneys, or hollow trees where there are no houses about.
Two broods in a season usually emerge from the pure white, elongated eggs.

What a twittering there is in the chimney that the swifts appropriate after
the winter fires have died out! Instead of the hospitable column of smoke
curling from the top, a cloud of sooty birds wheels and floats above it. A
sound as of distant thunder fills the chimney as a host of these birds,
startled, perhaps, by some indoor noise, whirl their way upward. Woe betide
the happy colony if a sudden cold snap in early summer necessitates the
starting of a fire on the hearth by the unsuspecting householder! The glue
being melted by the fire, "down comes the cradle, babies and all" into the
glowing embers. A prolonged, heavy rain also causes their nests to loosen
their hold and fall with the soot to the bottom.

Thrifty New England housekeepers claim that bedbugs, commonly found on bats,
infest the bodies of swifts also, which is one reason why wire netting is
stretched across the chimney tops before the birds arrive from the South.

KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus) Flycatcher family

  AOU 1998]

Length -- 8 inches. About two inches shorter than the robin.
Male -- Ashy black above; white, shaded with ash-color, beneath
  A concealed crest of orange-red on crown. Tail black,
  Terminating with a white band conspicuous in flight. Wing
  feathers edged with white. Feet and bill black.
Female -- Similar to the male, but lacking the crown.
Range -- United States to the Rocky Mountains. British provinces
  To Central and South America.
Migrations -- May. September. Common summer resident.

If the pugnacious propensity of the kingbird is the occasion of its royal
name, he cannot be said to deserve it from any fine or noble qualities he
possesses. He is a born fighter from the very love of it, without provocation,
rhyme, or reason. One can but watch with a degree of admiration his bold
sallies on the big, black crow or the marauding hawk, but when he bullies the
small inoffensive birds in wanton attacks for sheer amusement, the charge is
less entertaining. Occasionally, when the little victim shows pluck and faces
his assailant, the kingbird will literally turn tail and show the white
feather. His method of attack is always when a bird is in flight; then he
swoops down from the telegraph pole or high point of vantage, and strikes on
the head or back of the neck, darting back like a flash to the exact spot from
which he started. By these tactics he avoids a return blow and retreats from
danger. He never makes a fair hand-to-hand fight, or whatever is equivalent in
bird warfare. It is a satisfaction to record that he does not attempt to give
battle to the catbird, but whenever in view makes a grand detour to give him a
wide berth.

The kingbird feeds on beetles, canker-worms, and winged insects, with an
occasional dessert of berries. He is popularly supposed to prefer the honeybee
as his favorite tidbit, but the weight of opinion is adverse to the charge of
his depopulating the beehive, even though he owes his appellation bee martin
to this tradition. One or two ornithologists declare that he selects only the
drones fur his diet, which would give him credit for marvellous sight in his
rapid motion through the air. The kingbird is preeminently a bird of the
garden and orchard. The nest is open, though deep, and not carefully
concealed. Eggs are nearly round, bluish white spotted with brown and lilac.
With truly royal exclusiveness, the tyrant favors no community of interest,
but sits in regal state on a conspicuous throne, and takes his grand flights
alone or with his queen, but never with a flock of his kind.

WOOD PEWEE (Contopus virens) Flycatcher family

Length -- 6.50 inches. A trifle larger than the English sparrow.
Male -- Dusky brownish olive above, darkest on head; paler on
  throat, lighter still underneath, and with a yellowish tinge on
  the dusky gray under parts. Dusky wings and tail, the wing
  coverts tipped with soiled white, forming two indistinct bars.
  Whitish eye-ring. Wings longer than tail.
Female -- Similar, but slightly more buff underneath.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Florida to northern British
  provinces. Winters in Central America.
Migrations -- May. October. Common summer resident

The wood pewee, like the olive-sided flycatcher, has wings decidedly longer
than its tail, and it is by no means a simple matter for the novice to tell
these birds apart or separate them distinctly in the mind from the other
members of a family whose coloring and habits are most confusingly similar.
This dusky haunter of tall shady trees has not yet learned to be sociable like
the phoebe; but while it may not be so much in evidence close to our homes, it
is doubtless just as common. The orchard is as near the house as it often
cares to come. An old orchard, where modern insecticides are unknown and
neglect allows insects to riot among the decayed bark and fallen fruit, is a
happy hunting ground enough; but the bird's real preferences are decidedly for
high tree-tops in the woods, where no sunshine touches the feathers on his
dusky coat. It is one of the few shade-loving birds. In deep solitudes, where
it surely retreats by nesting time, however neighborly it may be during the
migrations, its pensive, pathetic notes, long drawn out, seem like the
expression of some hidden sorrow. Pe-a-wee, pe-a-wee, pewee-ah-peer is the
burden of its plaintive song, a sound as depressing as it is familiar in every
walk through the woods, and the bird's most prominent characteristic.

To see the bird dashing about in his aerial chase for insects, no one would
accuse him of melancholia. He keeps an eye on the "main chance," whatever his
preying grief may be, and never allows it to affect his appetite. Returning to
his perch after a successful sally in pursuit of the passing fly, he repeats
his "sweetly solemn thought" over and over again all day long and every day
throughout the summer.

The wood pewees show that devotion to each other and to their home,
characteristic of their family. Both lovers work on the construction of the
flat nest that is saddled on some mossy or lichen-covered limb, and so
cleverly do they cover the rounded edge with bits of bark and lichen that
sharp eyes only can detect where the cradle lies. Creamy-white eggs, whose
larger end is wreathed with brown and lilac spots, are guarded with fierce

Trowbridge has celebrated this bird in a beautiful poem.

PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe) Flycatcher family


Length -- 7 inches. About an inch longer than the English
Male and Female -- Dusky olive -- brown above darkest on head,
  Which is slightly crested. Wings and tail dusky, the outer
  edges of some tail feathers whitish. Dingy yellowish white
  underneath. Bill and feet black.
Range -- North America, from Newfoundland to the South Atlantic
  States, and westward to the Rockies. Winters south of the
  Carolinas, into Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies.
Migrations -- March. October. Common summer resident.

The earliest representative of the flycatcher family to come out of the
tropics where insect life fairly swarms and teems, what does the friendly
little phoebe find to attract him to the north in March while his prospective
dinners must all be still in embryo? He looks dejected, it is true, as he sits
solitary and silent on some projecting bare limb in the garden, awaiting the
coming of his tardy mate; nevertheless, the date of his return will not vary
by more than a few days in a given locality year after year. Why birds that
are mated for life, as these are said to be, and such devoted lovers, should
not travel together on their journey north, is another of the many mysteries
of bird-life awaiting solution.

The reunited, happy couple go about the garden and outbuildings like
domesticated wrens, investigating the crannies on piazzas, where people may be
coming and going, and boldly entering barn-lofts to find a suitable site for
the nest that it must take much of both time and skill to build.

Pewit, phoebe, phoebe; pewit, phoebe, they contentedly but rather monotonously
sing as they investigate all the sites in the neighborhood. Presently a
location is chosen under a beam or rafter, and the work of collecting moss and
mud for the foundation and hair and feathers or wool to line the exquisite
little home begins. But the labor is done cheerfully, with many a sally in
midair either to let off superfluous high spirits or to catch a morsel on the
wing, and with many a vivacious outburst of what by courtesy only we may name
a song.

When not domesticated, as these birds are rapidly becoming, the phoebes dearly
love a cool, wet woodland retreat. Here they hunt and bathe; here they also
build in a rocky bank or ledge of rocks or underneath a bridge, but always
with clever adaptation of their nest to its surroundings, out of which it
seems a natural growth. It is one of the most finished, beautiful nests ever

A pair of phoebes become attached to a spot where they have once nested; they
never stray far from it, and return to it regularly, though they may not again
occupy the old nest. This is because it soon becomes infested with lice from
the hen's feathers used in lining it, for which reason too close relationship
with this friendly bird-neighbor is discouraged by thrifty housekeepers. When
the baby birds have come out from the four or six little white eggs, their
helpless bodies are mercilessly attacked by parasites, and are often so
enfeebled that half the brood die. The next season another nest will be built
near the first, the following summer still another, until it would appear that
a colony of birds had made their homes in the place.

Throughout the long summer -- for as the phoebe is the first flycatcher to
come, so it is the last to go -- the bird is a tireless hunter of insects,
which it catches on the wing with a sharp click of its beak like the other
members of its dexterous family.

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) is the Western representative of the Eastern
species, which it resembles in coloring and many of its habits. It is the bird
of the open plains, a tireless hunter in midair sallies from an isolated
perch, and has the same vibrating motion of the tail that the Eastern phoebe
indulges in when excited. This bird differs chiefly in its lighter coloring,
but not in habits, from the black pewee of the Pacific slope.

GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus) Flycatcher family


Length -- 8.50 to 9 inches. A little smaller than the robin.
Male and female --  Feathers of the head pointed and erect. Upper
  parts dark grayish-olive, inclining to rusty brown on wings and
  tail. Wing coverts crossed with two irregular bars of yellowish
  white. Throat gray, shading into sulphur-yellow underneath,
  that also extends under the wings. Inner vane of several tail
  quills rusty red. Bristles at base of bill.
Range -- From Mexico, Central America, and West Indies northward
  to southern Canada and westward to the plains. Most common in
  Mississippi basin; common also in eastern United States, south
  of New England.
Migrations -- May. September. Common summer resident.

The most dignified and handsomely dressed member of his family, the crested
flycatcher has, nevertheless, an air of pensive melancholy about him when in
repose that can be accounted for only by the pain he must feel every time he
hears himself screech. His harsh, shrill call, louder and more disagreeable
than the kingbird's, cannot but rasp his ears as it does ours. And yet it is
chiefly by this piercing note, given with a rising inflection, that we know
the bird is in our neighborhood; for he is somewhat of a recluse, and we must
often follow the disagreeable noise to its source in the tree-tops before we
can catch a glimpse of the screecher. Perched on a high lookout, he appears
morose and sluggish, in spite of his aristocratic-looking crest, trim figure,
and feathers that must seem rather gay to one of his dusky tribe. A low
soliloquy, apparently born of discontent, can be overheard from the foot of
his tree. But another second, and he has dashed off in hot pursuit of an
insect flying beyond our sight, and with extremely quick, dexterous evolutions
in midair, he finishes the hunt with a sharp click of his bill as it closes
over the unhappy victim, and then he returns to his perch. On the wing he is
exceedingly active and joyous; in the tree he appears just the reverse. That
he is a domineering fellow, quite as much of a tyrant as the notorious
kingbird, that bears the greater burden of opprobrium, is shown in the fierce
way he promptly dashes at a feathered stranger that may have alighted too near
his perch, and pursues it beyond the bounds of justice, all the while
screaming his rasping cry into the intruder's ears, that must pierce as deep
as the thrusts from his relentless beak. He has even been known to drive off
woodpeckers and bluebirds from the hollows in the trees that he, like them,
chooses for a nest, and appropriate the results of their labor for his
scarcely less belligerent mate. With a slight but important and indispensable
addition, the stolen nest is ready to receive her four cream-colored eggs,
that look as if a pen dipped in purple ink had been scratched over them.

The fact that gives the great-crested flycatcher a unique interest among all
North American birds is that it invariably lines its nest with snake-skins if
one can be had. Science would scarcely be worth the studying if it did not set
our imaginations to work delving for plausible reasons for Nature's strange
doings. Most of us will doubtless agree with Wilson (who made a special study
of these interesting nests and never found a single one without cast
snake-skins in it, even in districts where snakes were so rare they were
supposed not to exist at all), that the lining was chosen to terrorize all
intruders. The scientific mind that is unwilling to dismiss any detail of
Nature's work as merely arbitrary and haphazard, is greatly exercised over the
reason for the existence of crests on birds. But, surely, may not the sight of
snake-skins that first greet the eyes of the fledgling flycatchers as they
emerge from the shell be a good and sufficient reason why the feathers on
their little heads should stand on end? "In the absence of a snake-skin, I
have found an onion skin and shad scales in the nest," says John Burroughs,
who calls this bird "the wild Irishman of the flycatchers."

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contotus borealis) Flycatcher family

Length -- 7 to inches. About an inch longer than the English
Male and Female -- Dusky olive or grayish brown above; head
  darkest. Wings and tail blackish brown, the former sometimes,
  but not always, margined and tipped with dusky white. Throat
  yellowish white; other under parts slightly lighter shade than
  above. Olive-gray on sides. A tuft of yellowish-white, downy
  feathers on flanks. Bristles at base of bill.
Range -- From Labrador to Panama. Winters in the tropics. Nests
  usually north of United States, but it also breeds in the
Migrations -- May. September Resident only in northern part of
  Its range.

Only in the migrations may people south of Massachusetts hope to see this
flycatcher, which can be distinguished from the rest of its kin by the darker
under parts, and by the fluffy,
yellowish-white tufts of feathers on its flanks. Its habits have the family
characteristics: it takes its food on the wing, suddenly sallying forth from
its perch, darting about midair to seize its prey, then as suddenly returning
to its identical point of vantage, usually in some distended, dead limb in the
tree-top; it is pugnacious, bold, and tyrannical; mopish and inert when not on
the hunt, but wonderfully alert and swift when in pursuit of insect or
feathered foe. The short necks of the flycatchers make their heads appear
large for their bodies, a peculiarity slightly emphasized in this member of
the family. High up in some evergreen tree, well out on a branch, over which
the shapeless mass of twigs and moss that serves as a nest is saddled, four or
five buff-speckled eggs are laid, and by some special dispensation rarely fall
out of their insecure cradle.

A sharp, loud whistle, wheu--o-wheu-o-wheu-o, rings out from the throat of
this olive-sided tyrant, warning all intruders off the premises; but however
harshly he may treat the rest of the feathered world, he has only gentle
devotion to offer his brooding mate.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus) Flycatcher family

Called also: CHEBEC

Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Gray or olive-gray above, paler on wings and lower part
  of back, and a more distinct olive-green on head. Underneath
  grayish white, sometimes faintly suffused with pale yellow.
  wings have whitish bars. White eye-ring. Lower half of bill
  horn color.
Female is slightly more yellowish underneath.
Range -- Eastern North America, from tropics northward to Quebec,
Migrations -- May. September. Common summer resident.

This, the smallest member of its family, takes the place of the more southerly
Acadian flycatcher, throughout New England and the region of the Great Lakes.
But, unlike his Southern relative, he prefers orchards and gardens close to
our homes for his hunting grounds rather than the wet recesses of the forests.
Che-bec, che-bec, the diminutive olive-pated gray sprite calls out from the
orchard between his aerial sallies after the passing insects that have been
attracted by the decaying fruit, and chebec is the name by which many New
Englanders know him.

While giving this characteristic call-note, with drooping jerking tail,
trembling wings, and uplifted parti-colored bill, he looks unnerved and limp
by the effort it has cost him. But in the next instant a gnat flies past. How
quickly the bird recovers itself, and charges full-tilt at his passing dinner!
The sharp click of his little bill proves that he has not missed his aim; and
after careering about in the air another minute or two, looking for more game
to snap up on the wing, he will return to the same perch and take up his
familiar refrain. Without hearing this call-note one might often mistake the
bird for either the wood pewee or the phoebe, for all the three are similarly
clothed and have many traits in common. The slightly large size of the phoebe
and pewee is not always apparent when they are seen perching on the trees.
Unlike the "tuft of hay" to which the Acadian flycatcher's nest has been
likened, the least flycatcher's home is a neat, substantial cup-shaped cradle
softly lined with down or horsehair, and placed generally in an upright crotch
of a tree, well above the ground.

THE CHICKADEE (Parus atricapillus) Titmouse family


Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Not crested. Crown and nape and throat black.
  Above gray, slightly tinged with brown. A white space,
  beginning at base of bill, extends backwards, widening over
  cheeks and upper part of breast, forming a sort of collar that
  almost surrounds neck. Underneath dirty white. with pale rusty
  brown wash on sides. Wings and tail gray. with white edgings.
  Plumage downy.
Range -- Eastern North America. North of the Carolinas to
  Labrador. Does not migrate in the North.
Migrations -- Late September. May. Winter resident; permanent
  resident in northern parts of the United States.

No "fair weather friend" is the jolly little chickadee. In the depth of the
autumn equinoctial storm it returns to the tops of the trees close by the
house, where, through the sunshine, snow, and tempest of the entire winter,
you may hear its cheery, irrepressible chickadee-dee-dee-dee or day-day-day as
it swings Around the dangling cones of the evergreens. It fairly overflows
with good spirits, and is never more contagiously gay than in a snowstorm. So
active, so friendly and cheering, what would the long northern winters be like
without this lovable little neighbor?

It serves a more utilitarian purpose, however, than bracing faint-hearted
spirits. "There is no bird that compares with it in destroying the female
canker-worm moths and their eggs," writes a well-known entomologist. He
calculates that as a chickadee destroys about 5,500 eggs in one day, it will
eat 138,750 eggs in the twenty-five days it takes the canker-worm moth to
crawl up the trees. The moral that it pays to attract chickadees about your
home by feeding them in winter is obvious. Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright, in her
delightful and helpful book "Birdcraft," tells us how she makes a sort of a
bird-hash of finely minced raw meat, waste canary-seed, buckwheat, and cracked
oats, which she scatters in a sheltered spot for all the winter birds. The way
this is consumed leaves no doubt of its popularity. A raw bone, hung from an
evergreen limb, is equally appreciated.

Friendly as the chickadee is and Dr. Abbott declares it the tamest bird we
have it prefers well-timbered districts, especially where there are red-bud
trees, when it is time to nest. It is very often clever enough to leave the
labor of hollowing out a nest in the tree-trunk to the woodpecker or nuthatch,
whose old homes it readily appropriates; or, when these birds object, a
knot-hole or a hollow fence-rail answers every purpose. Here, in the summer
woods, when family cares beset it, a plaintive, minor whistle replaces the
chickadee-dee-dee that Thoreau likens to "silver tinkling" as he heard it on a
frosty morning.

    "Piped a tiny voice near by,
     Gay and polite, a cheerful cry
     Chick-chickadeedee! saucy note
     Out of sound heart and merry throat,
     As if it said, 'Good-day, good Sir!
     Fine afternoon, old passenger!
     Happy to meet you in these places
     Where January brings few faces.'"
                                    -- Emerson.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Parus bicolor) Titmouse family


Length -- 6 to 6. inches. About the size of the English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Crest high and pointed. Leaden or ash-gray
  above; darkest on wings and tail. Frontlet, bill, and shoulders
  black; space between eyes gray. Sides of head dull white. Under
  parts light gray; sides yellowish, tinged with red.
Range -- United States east of plains, and only rarely seen so
  far north as New England.
Migrations -- October. April. Winter resident, but also found
  throughout the year in many States.

"A noisy titmouse is Jack Frost's trumpeter" may be one of those few
weather-wise proverbs with a grain of truth in them. As the chickadee comes
from the woods with the frost, so it may be noticed his cousin, the crested
titmouse, is in more noisy evidence throughout the winter.

One might sometimes think his whistle, like a tugboat's, worked by steam. But
how effectually nesting cares alone can silence it in April!

Titmice always see to it you are not lonely as you walk through the woods.
This lordly tomtit, with his jaunty crest, keeps up a persistent whistle at
you as he flits from tree to tree, leading you deeper into the forest, calling
out "Here-here-here!', and looking like a pert and jaunty little blue jay,
minus his gay clothes. Mr. Nehrling translates one of the calls
"Heedle-deedle-deedle-dee!" and another "Peto-peto-peto-daytee-daytee!" But it
is at the former, sharply whistled as the crested titmouse gives it, that
every dog pricks up his ears.

Comparatively little has been written about this bird, because it is not often
found in New England, where most of the bird litterateurs have lived. South of
New York State, however, it is a common resident, and much respected for the
good work it does in destroying injurious insects, though it is more fond of
varying its diet with nuts, berries, and seeds than that all-round benefactor,
the chickadee.

CANADA JAY (Perisoreus canadensis) Crow and Jay family

  JAY, AOU 1998]

Length -- 11 to 12 inches. About two inches larger than the
Male and Female -- Upper p arts gray; darkest on wings and tail;
  back of the head and nape of the neck sooty, almost black.
  Forehead, throat, and neck white, and a few white tips on wings
  and tail. Underneath lighter gray. Tail long. Plumage fluffy.
Range -- Northern parts of the United States and British
  Provinces of North America.
Migrations -- Resident where found.

The Canada jay looks like an exaggerated chickadee, and both birds are equally
fond of bitter cold weather, but here the similarity stops short. Where the
chickadee is friendly the jay is impudent and bold; hardly less of a villain
than his blue relative when it comes to marauding other birds' nests and
destroying their young. With all his vices, however, intemperance cannot be
attributed to him, in spite of the name given him by the Adirondack lumbermen
and guides. "Whisky John" is a purely innocent corruption of
"Wis-ka-tjon," as the Indians call this bird that haunts their camps and
familiarly enters their wigwams. The numerous popular names by which the
Canada jays are known are admirably accounted for by Mr. Hardy in a bulletin
issued by the Smithsonian Institution.

"They will enter the tents, and often alight on the bow of a canoe, where the
paddle at every stroke comes within eighteen inches of them. I know nothing
which can be eaten that they will not take, and I had one steal all my
candles, pulling them out endwise, one by one, from a piece of birch bark in
which they were rolled, and another peck a large hole in a keg of castile
soap. A duck which I had picked and laid down for a few minutes, had the
entire breast eaten out by one or more of these birds. I have seen one alight
in the middle of my canoe and peck away at the carcass of a beaver I had
skinned. They often spoil deer saddles by pecking into them near the kidneys.
They do great damage to the trappers by stealing the bait from traps set for
martens and minks and by eating trapped game. They will sit quietly and see
you build a log trap and bait it, and then, almost before your back is turned,
you hear their hateful ca-ca-ca! as they glide down and peer into it. They
will work steadily, carrying off meat and hiding it. I have thrown out pieces,
and watched one to see how much he would carry off. He flew across a wide
stream, and in a short time looked as bloody as a butcher from carrying large
pieces; but his patience held out longer than mine. I think one would work as
long as Mark Twain's California jay did trying to fill a miner's cabin with
acorns through a knot-hole in the root. They are fond of the berries of the
mountain ash, and, in fact, few things come amiss; I believe they do not
possess a single good quality except industry."

One virtue not mentioned by Mr. Hardy is their prudent saving from the summer
surplus to keep the winter storeroom well supplied like a squirrel's. Such
thrift is the more necessary when a clamorous, hungry family of young jays
must be reared while the thermometer is often as low as thirty degrees below
zero at the end of March. How eggs are ever hatched at all in a temperature
calculated to freeze any sitting bird stiff, is one of the mysteries of the
woods. And yet four or five fluffy little jays, that look as if they were
dressed in gray fur, emerge from the eggs before the spring sunshine has
unbound the icy rivers or melted the snowdrifts piled high around the

CATBIRD (Galcoscoptes carolinensis ) Mocking-bird family


Length -- 9 inches. An inch shorter than the robin.
Male and Female -- Dark slate above; below somewhat paler; top of
  head black. Distinct chestnut patch under the tail, which is
  black; feet and bill black also. Wings short, more than two
  inches shorter than the tail.
Range -- British provinces to Mexico; west to Rocky Mountains,
  to Pacific coast. Winters in Southern States, Central
  America, and Cuba.
Migrations -- May. November. Common summer resident,

Our familiar catbird, of all the feathered tribe, presents the most contrary
characteristics, and is therefore held in varied estimation -- loved, admired,
ridiculed, abused. He is the veriest "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" of birds.
Exquisitely proportioned, with finely poised black head and satin-gray coat,
which he bathes most carefully and prunes and prinks by the hour, he appears
from his toilet a Beau Brummell, an aristocratic-looking, even dandified
neighbor. Suddenly, as if shot, he drops head and tail and assumes the most
hang-dog air, without the least sign of self-respect; then crouches and
lengthens into a roll, head forward and tail straightened, till he looks like
a little, short gray snake, lank and limp. Anon, with a jerk and a sprint,
every muscle tense, tail erect, eyes snapping, he darts into the air intent
upon some well-planned mischief. It is impossible to describe his various
attitudes or moods. In song and call he presents the same opposite
characteristics. How such a bird, exquisite in style, can demean himself to
utter such harsh, altogether hateful catcalls and squawks as have given the
bird his common name, is a wonder when in the next moment his throat swells
and beginning phut-phut-coquillicot, he gives forth a long glorious song, only
second to that of the wood thrush in melody. He is a jester, a caricaturist, a

The catbird's nest is like a veritable scrap-basket, loosely woven of coarse
twigs, bits of newspaper, scraps, and rags, till this rough exterior is softly
lined and made fit to receive the four to six pretty dark green-blue eggs to
be laid therein.

As a fruit thief harsh epithets are showered upon the friendly, confiding
little creature at our doors; but surely his depredations may be pardoned, for
he is industrious at all times and unusually adroit in catching insects,
especially in the moth stage.

THE MOCKING-BIRD (Mimus polyglottus) Mocking-bird family


Length -- 9 to 10 inches. About the size of the robin.
Male and Female -- Gray above; wings and wedge-shaped; tail
  brownish; upper wing feathers tipped with white; outer tail
  quills white, conspicuous in flight; chin white; underneath
  light gray, shading to whitish.
Range -- Peculiar to torrid and temperate zones of two Americas.
Migrations -- No fixed migrations: usually resident where seen.

North of Delaware this commonest of Southern birds is all too rarely seen
outside of cages, yet even in midwinter it is not unknown in Central Park, New
York. This is the angel that it is said the catbird was before he fell from
grace. Slim, neat, graceful, imitative, amusing, with a rich, tender song that
only the thrush can hope to rival, and with an instinctive preference for the
society of man, it is little wonder he is a favorite, caged or free. He is a
most devoted parent, too, when the four or six speckled green eggs have
produced as many mouths to be supplied with insects and berries.

In the Connecticut Valley, where many mocking-birds' nests have been found,
year after year, they are all seen near the ground, and without exception are
loosely, poorly constructed affairs of leaves, feathers, grass, and even rags.

With all his virtues, it must be added, however, that this charming bird is a
sad tease. 'There is no sound, whether made by bird or beast about him, that
he cannot imitate so clearly as to deceive every one but himself. Very rarely
can you find a mocking-bird without intelligence and mischief enough to
appreciate his ventriloquism. In Sidney Lanier's college note-book was found
written this reflection: "A poet is the mocking-bird of the spiritual
universe. In him are collected all the individual songs of all individual
natures." Later in life, with the same thought in mind, he referred to the
bird as "yon slim Shakespeare on the tree." His exquisite stanzas, "To Our
Mocking-bird," exalt the singer with the immortals:

   "Trillets of humor, -- shrewdest whistle -- wit --
    Contralto cadences of grave desire,
    Such as from off the passionate Indian pyre
    Drift down through sandal-odored flames that split
    About the slim young widow, who doth sit
    And sing above, -- midnights of tone entire, --
    Tissues of moonlight, shot with songs of fire; --
    Bright drops of tune, from oceans infinite
    Of melody, sipped off the thin-edged wave
    And trickling down the beak, -- discourses brave
    Of serious matter that no man may guess, --
    Good-fellow greetings, cries of light distress --
    All these but now within the house we heard:
    O Death, wast thou too deaf to hear the bird?
    . . . . .
   "Nay, Bird; my grief gainsays the Lord's best right.
    The Lord was fain, at some late festal time,
    That Keats should set all heaven's woods in rhyme,
    And Thou in bird-notes. Lo, this tearful night
    Methinks I see thee, fresh from Death's despite,
    Perched in a palm-grove, wild with pantomime
    O'er blissful companies couched in shady thyme.
    Methinks I hear thy silver whistlings bright
    Meet with the mighty discourse of the wise, --
    'Till broad Beethoven, deaf no more, and Keats,
    'Midst of much talk, uplift their smiling eyes
    And mark the music of thy wood-conceits,
    And half-way pause on some large courteous word,
    And call thee 'Brother,' O thou heavenly Bird!"

JUNCO (Junco hyemalis) Finch family

  AOU 1998]

Length -- 5.5 to 6.5 inches. About the size of the English
Male -- Upper parts slate-colored; darkest on head and neck,
  which are sometimes almost black and marked like a cowl. Gray
  on breast, like a vest. Underneath white. Several outer tall
  feathers white, conspicuous in flight.
Female -- Lighter gray, inclining to brown.
Range -- North America. Not common in warm latitudes. Breeds in
  the Catskills and northern New England.
Migrations -- September. April. Winter resident.

"Leaden skies above; snow below," is Mr. Parkhurst's suggestive description of
this rather timid little neighbor, that is only starved into familiarity. When
the snow has buried seed and berries, a flock of juncos, mingling sociably
with the sparrows and chickadees about the kitchen door, will pick up scraps
of food with an intimacy quite touching in a bird naturally rather shy. Here
we can readily distinguish these "little gray-robed monks and nuns," as Miss
Florence Merriam calls them.

They are trim, sprightly, sleek, and even natty; their dispositions are genial
and vivacious, not quarrelsome, like their sparrow cousins, and what is
perhaps best about them, they are birds we may surely depend upon seeing in
the winter months. A few come forth in September, migrating at night from the
deep woods of the north, where they have nested and moulted during the summer;
but not until frost has sharpened the air are large numbers of them seen.
Rejoicing in winter, they nevertheless do not revel in the deep and fierce
arctic blasts, as the snowflakes do, but take good care to avoid the open
pastures before the hard storms overtake them.

Early in the spring their song is sometimes heard before they leave us to woo
and to nest in the north. Mr. Bicknell describes it as "a crisp call-note, a
simple trill, and a faint, whispered warble, usually much broken, but not
without sweetness."

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis) Nuthatch family


Length -- 5.5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Upper parts slate-color. Top of head and nape
  black. Wings dark slate, edged with black, that fades to brown.
  Tail feathers brownish black, with white bars. Sides of head
  and underneath white, shading to pale reddish under the tail.
  (Female's head leaden.) Body flat and compact. Bill longer than
Range -- British provinces to Mexico. Eastern United States.
Migrations -- October. April. Common resident. Most prominent in

  "Shrewd little haunter of woods all gray,
   Whom I meet on my walk of a winter day --
   You're busy inspecting each cranny and hole
   In the ragged bark of yon hickory bole;
   You intent on your task, and I on the law
   Of your wonderful head and gymnastic claw!

   The woodpecker well may despair of this feat --
   Only the fly with you can compete!
   So much is clear; but I fain would know
   How you can so reckless and fearless go,
   Head upward, head downward, all one to you,
   Zenith and nadir the same in your view?"
                                        -- Edith M. Thomas.

Could a dozen lines well contain a fuller description or more apt
characterization of a bird than these "To a Nuthatch"?

With more artless inquisitiveness than fear, this lively little acrobat stops
his hammering or hatcheting at your approach, and stretching himself out from
the tree until it would seem he must fall off, he peers down at you, head
downward, straight into your upturned opera-glasses. If there is too much snow
on the upper side of a branch, watch how he runs along underneath it like a
fly, busily tapping the bark, or adroitly breaking the decayed bits with his
bill, as he searches for the spider's eggs, larvae, etc., hidden there; yet
somehow, between mouthfuls, managing to call out his cheery quank! quank!
hank! hank!

Titmice and nuthatches, which have many similar characteristics, are often
seen in the most friendly hunting parties on the same tree. A pine woods is
their dearest delight. There, as the mercury goes down, their spirits only
seem to go up higher. In the spring they have been thought by many to migrate
in flocks, whereas they are only retreating with their relations away from the
haunts of men to the deep, cool woods, where they nest. With infinite patience
the nuthatch excavates a hole in a tree, lining it with feathers and moss, and
often depositing as many as ten white eggs speckled with red and lilac) for a
single brood.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) Nuthatch family


Length -- 4 to 4.75 inches. One-third smaller than the English
Male -- Lead-colored above; brownish on wings and tail. Head,
  neck, and stripe passing through eye to shoulder, black.
  Frontlet, chin, and shoulders white; also a white stripe over
  eye, meeting on brow. Under parts light, rusty red. Tail
  feathers barred with white near end, and tipped with pale
Female -- Has crown of brownish black, and is lighter beneath
  than male.
Range -- Northern parts of North America. Not often seen south of
  the most northerly States.
Migrations -- November. April. Winter resident.

The brighter coloring of this tiny, hardy bird distinguishes from the other
and larger nuthatch, with whom it is usually seen, for the winter birds have a
delightfully social manner, so that a colony of these Free masons is apt to
contain not only both kinds of nuthatches and chickadees, but kinglets and
brown creepers as well. It shares the family habit of walking about the trees,
head downward, and running along the under side of limbs like a fly. By
Thanksgiving Day the quank! quank! of the white-breasted species is answered
by the tai-tai-tait! of the red-breasted cousin in the orchard, where the
family party is celebrating with an elaborate menu of slugs, insects' eggs,
and oily seeds from the evergreen trees.

For many years this nuthatch, a more northern species than the white-breasted
bird, was thought to be only a spring and autumn visitor, but latterly it is
credited with habits like its congener's in nearly every particular.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus) Shrike family

Length -- 8.5 to 9 inches. A little smaller than the robin.
Male and Female -- Upper parts gray; narrow black line across
  forehead, connecting small black patches on sides of head at
  base of bill. Wings and tail black, plentifully marked with
  white, the outer tail feathers often being entirely white and
  conspicuous in flight. Underneath white or very light gray.
  Bill hooked and hawk-like.
Range -- Eastern United States to the plains.
Migrations -- May. October. Summer resident.

It is not easy, even at a slight distance, to distinguish the loggerhead from
the Northern shrike. Both have the pernicious habit of killing insects and
smaller birds and impaling them on thorns; both have the peculiarity of
flying, with strong, vigorous flight and much wing-flapping, close along the
ground, then suddenly rising to a tree, on the lookout for prey. Their harsh,
unmusical call-notes are similar too, and their hawk-like method of dropping
suddenly upon a victim on the ground below is identical. Indeed, the same
description very nearly answers for both birds. But there is one very
important difference. While the Northern shrike is a winter visitor, the
loggerhead, being his Southern counterpart, does not arrive until after the
frost is out of the ground, and he can be sure of a truly warm welcome. A
lesser distiction between the only two representatives of the shrike family
that frequent our neighborhood -- and they are two too many -- is in the
smaller size of the loggerhead and its lighter-gray plumage. But as both these
birds select some high commanding position, like a distended branch near the
tree-top, a cupola, house-peak, lightning-rod, telegraph wire, or
weather-vane, the better to detect a passing dinner, it would be quite
impossible at such a distance to know which shrike was sitting up there
silently plotting villainies, without remembering the season when each may be

NORTHERN SHRIKE (Lanius borealis) Shrike family


Length -- 9.5 to 10.5 inches. About the size of the robin.
Male -- Upper parts slate-gray; wing quills and tail black,
  edged and tipped with white, conspicuous in flight; a white
  spot on centre of outer wing feathers. A black band runs
  from bill, through eye to side of throat. Light gray below,
  tinged with brownish, and faintly marked with waving lines
  of darker gray. Bill hooked and hawk-like.
Female -- With eye-band more obscure than male's, and with
  More distinct brownish cast on her plumage.
Range -- Northern North America. South in winter to middle
  Portion of United States.
Migrations -- November, April. A roving winter resident.

"Matching the bravest of the brave among birds of prey in deeds of daring, and
no less relentless than reckless, the shrike compels that sort of deference,
not unmixed with indignation, we are accustomed to accord to creatures of
seeming insignificance whose exploits demand much strength, great spirit, and
insatiate love for carnage. We cannot be indifferent to the marauder who takes
his own wherever he finds it -- a feudal baron who holds his own with
undisputed sway -- and an ogre whose victims are so many more than he can eat,
that he actually keeps a private graveyard for the balance." Who is honestly
able to give the shrikes a better character than Dr. Coues, just quoted? A few
offer them questionable defence by recording the large numbers of English
sparrows they kill in a season, as if wanton carnage were ever justifiable.

Not even a hawk itself can produce the consternation among a flock of sparrows
that the harsh, rasping voice of the butcherbird creates, for escape they well
know to be difficult before the small ogre swoops down upon his victim, and
carries it off to impale it on a thorn or frozen twig, there to devour it
later piecemeal. Every shrike thus either impales or else hangs up, as a
butcher does his meat, more little birds of many kinds, field-mice,
grasshoppers, and other large insects than it can hope to devour in a week of
bloody orgies. Field-mice are perhaps its favorite diet, but even snakes are
not disdained.

More contemptible than the actual slaughter of its victims, if possible, is
the method by which the shrike often lures and sneaks upon his prey. Hiding in
a clump of bushes in the meadow or garden, he imitates with fiendish
cleverness the call-notes of little birds that come in cheerful response,
hopping and flitting within easy range of him. His bloody work is finished in
a trice. Usually, however, it must be owned, the shrike's hunting habits are
the reverse of sneaking. Perched on a point of vantage on some tree-top or
weather-vane, his hawk-like eye can detect a grasshopper going through the
grass fifty yards away.

What is our surprise when, some fine warm day in March, just before our
butcher, ogre, sneak, and fiend leaves us for colder regions, to hear him
break out into song! Love has warmed even his cold heart, and with sweet,
warbled notes on the tip of a beak that but yesterday was reeking with his
victim's blood, he starts for Canada, leaving behind him the only good
impression he has made during a long winter's visit.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Ampelis garrulus) Waxwing family


Length -- 8 to 9.5 inches. A little smaller than the robin.
Male and Female -- General color drab, with faint brownish wash
  above, shading into lighter gray below. Crest conspicuous.
  being nearly an inch and a half in length; rufous at the base,
  shading into light gray above, velvety-black forehead, chin,
  and line through the eye. Wings grayish brown, with very dark
  quills, which have two white bars; the bar at the edge of the
  upper wing coverts being tipped with red sealing-wax-like
  points, that give the bird its name. A few wing feathers tipped
  with yellow on outer edge. Tail quills dark brown, with yellow
  band across the end, and faint red streaks on upper and inner
Range -- Northern United States and British America. Most common
  in Canada and northern Mississippi region.
Migrations -- Very irregular winter visitor.

When Charles Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, who was the first to count this
common waxwing of Europe and Asia among the birds of North America, published
an account of it in his "Synopsis," it was considered a very rare bird indeed.
It may be these waxwings have greatly increased, but however uncommon they may
still be considered, certainly no one who had ever seen a flock containing
more than a thousand of them, resting on the trees of a lawn within sight of
New York City, as the writer has done, could be expected to consider the birds
"very rare."

The Bohemian waxwing, like the only other member of the family that ever
visits us, the cedar-bird, is a roving gipsy. In Germany they say seven years
must elapse between its visitations, which the superstitious old cronies are
wont to associate with woful stories of pestilence -- just such tales as are
resurrected from the depths of morbid memories here when a comet reappears or
the seven-year locust ascends from the ground.

The goings and comings of these birds are certainly most erratic and
infrequent; nevertheless, when hunger drives them from the far north to feast
upon the juniper and other winter berries of our Northern States, they come in
enormous flocks, making up in quantity what they lack in regularity of visits
and evenness of distribution.

Surely no bird has less right to be associated with evil than this mild
waxwing. It seems the very incarnation of peace and harmony. Part of a flock
that has lodged in a tree will sit almost motionless for hours and whisper in
softly hissed twitterings, very much as a company of Quaker ladies, similarly
dressed, might sit at yearly meeting. Exquisitely clothed in silky-gray
feathers that no berry juice is ever permitted to stain, they are dainty,
gentle, aristocratic-looking birds, a trifle heavy and indolent, perhaps, when
walking on the ground or perching; but as they fly in compact squads just
above the tree-tops their flight is exceedingly swift and graceful.

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Dendroica castanea) Wood Warbler family

Length. -- 5.25 to 5.75 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male -- Crown, chin, throat, upper breast, and sides dull
  chestnut. Forehead, sides of head, and cheeks black. Above
  olive-gray, streaked with black. Underneath buffy. Two white
  wing-bars. Outer tail quills with white patches on tips. Cream
  white patch on either side of neck.
Female -- Has more greenish-olive above.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Hudson's Bay to Central
  America. Nests north of the United States. Winters in tropical
  limit of range.
Migrations -- May. September. Rare migrant

The chestnut breast of this capricious little visitor makes him look like a
diminutive robin. In spring, when these warblers are said to take a more
easterly route than the one they choose in autumn to return by to Central
America, they may be so suddenly abundant that the fresh green trees and
shrubbery of the garden will contain a dozen of the busy little hunters.
Another season they may pass northward either by another route or leave your
garden unvisited; and perhaps the people in the very next town may be counting
your rare bird common, while it is simply perverse.

Whether common or rare, before your acquaintance has had time to ripen into
friendship, away go the freaky little creatures to nest in the tree-tops of
the Canadian coniferous forests.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Dendroica pennsylvanica) Wood Warbler


Length -- About 5 inches. More than an inch shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Top of head and streaks in wings yellow. A black line
  running through the eye and round back of crown, and a black
  spot in front of eye, extending to cheeks. Ear coverts, chin,
  and underneath white. Back greenish gray and slate, streaked
  with black. Sides of bird chestnut. Wings, which are streaked
  with black and yellow, have yellowish-white bars. Very dark
  tail with white patches on inner vanes of the outer quills.
Female -- Similar, but duller. Chestnut sides are often scarcely
Range -- Eastern North America, from Manitoba and Labrador to the
  tropics, where it winters.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident, most common in

In the Alleghanies, and from New Jersey and Illinois northward, this restless
little warbler nests in the bushy borders of woodlands and the undergrowth of
the woods, for which he forsakes our gardens and orchards after a very short
visit in May. While hopping over the ground catching ants, of which he seems
to be inordinately fond, or flitting actively about the shrubbery after grubs
and insects, we may note his coat of many colors
-- patchwork in which nearly all the warbler colors are curiously combined.
With drooped wings that often conceal the bird's chestnut sides, which are his
chief distinguishing mark, and with tail erected like a redstart's, he hunts
incessantly. Here in the garden he is as refreshingly indifferent to your
interest in him as later in his breeding haunts he is shy and distrustful. His
song is bright and animated, like that of the yellow warbler.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Helminthophila chrysoptera) Wood Warbler

Length -- About 5 inches. More than an inch shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Yellow crown and yellow patches on the wings. Upper parts
  bluish gray, sometimes tinged with greenish. Stripe through the
  eye and throat black. Sides of head chin, and line over the eye
  white. Underneath white, grayish on sides. A few white markings
  on outer tail feathers.
Female -- Crown duller; gray where male is black, with olive
  Upper parts and grayer underneath.
Range -- From Canadian border to Central America, where it
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

After one has seen a golden-winged warbler fluttering hither and thither about
the shrubbery of a park within sight and sound of a great city's distractions
and with blissful unconcern of them all, partaking of a hearty lunch of
insects that infest the leaves before one's eyes, one counts the bird less
rare and shy than one has been taught to consider it. Whoever looks for a
warbler with gaudy yellow wings will not find the golden-winged variety. His
wings have golden patches only, and while these are distinguishing marks, they
are scarcely prominent enough features to have given the bird the rather
misleading name he bears. But, then, most warblers' names are misleading. They
serve their best purpose in cultivating patience and other gentle virtues in
the novice.

Such habits and choice of haunts as characterize the blue-winged warbler are
also the golden-winged's. But their voices are quite different, the former's
being sharp and metallic, while the latter's zee, zee, zee comes more lazily
and without accent.

MYRTLE WARBLER (Dendroica coronata) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- In summer plumage: A yellow patch on top of head, lower
  back, and either side of the breast. Upper parts bluish slate,
  streaked with black. Upper breast black; throat white; all
  other under parts whitish, streaked with black. Two white wing
  bars, and tail quills have white spots near the tip. In winter:
  Upper parts olive-brown, streaked with black; the yellow spot
  on lower back the only yellow mark remaining. Wing-bars
Female -- Resembles male in winter plumage.
Range -- Eastern North America. Occasional on Pacific slope.
  Summers from Minnesota and northern New England northward to
  Fur Countries. Winters from Middle States south ward into
  Central America; a few often remaining at the northern United
  States all the winter.
Migrations -- April. October. November. Also, but more rarely, a
  winter resident.

The first of the warblers to arrive in the spring and the last to leave us in
the autumn, some even remaining throughout the northern winter, the myrtle
warbler, next to the summer yellowbird, is the most familiar of its
multitudinous kin. Though we become acquainted with it chiefly in the
migrations, it impresses us by its numbers rather than by any gorgeousness of
attire. The four yellow spots on crown, lower back, and sides are its
distinguishing marks; and in the autumn these marks have dwindled to only one,
that on the lower back or rump. The great difficulty experienced in
identifying any warbler is in its restless habit of flitting about.

For a few days in early May we are forcibly reminded of the Florida peninsula,
which fairly teems with these birds; they become almost superabundant, a
distraction during the precious days when the rarer species are quietly
slipping by, not to return again for a year, perhaps longer, for some warblers
are notoriously irregular in their routes north and south, and never return by
the way they travelled in the spring.

But if we look sharply into every group of myrtle warblers, we are quite
likely to discover some of their dainty, fragile cousins that gladly seek the
escort of birds so fearless as they. By the last of May all the warblers are
gone from the neighborhood except the constant little summer yellowbird and

In autumn, when the myrtle warblers return after a busy enough summer passed
in Canadian nurseries, they chiefly haunt those regions where juniper and
bay-berries abound. These latter (Myrica cerifera), or the myrtle wax-berries,
as they are sometimes called, and which are the bird's favorite food, have
given it their name. Wherever the supply of these berries is sufficient to
last through the winter, there it may be found foraging in the scrubby bushes.
Sometimes driven by cold and hunger from the fields, this hardiest member of a
family that properly belongs to the tropics, seeks shelter and food close to
the outbuildings on the farm.

PARULA WARBLER (Compsothlypis americana) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 4.5 to 4.75 inches. About an inch and a half shorter
  than the English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Slate-colored above, with a greenish-yellow or
  bronze patch in the middle of the back. Chin, throat, and
  breast yellow. A black, bluish, or rufous band across the
  breast, usually lacking in female. Underneath white, sometimes
  marked with rufous on sides, but these markings are variable.
  Wings have two white patches; outer tail feathers have white
  patch near the end.
Range -- Eastern North America. Winters from Florida southward.
Migrations -- April. October. Summer resident.

Through an open window of an apartment in the very heart of New York City, a
parula warbler flew this spring of 1897, surely the daintiest, most
exquisitely beautiful bird visitor that ever voluntarily lodged between two
brick walls.

A number of such airy, tiny beauties flitting about among the blossoms of the
shrubbery on a bright May morning and swaying on the slenderest branches with
their inimitable grace, is a sight that the memory should retain into old age.
They seem the very embodiment of life, joy, beauty, grace; of everything
lovely that birds by any possibility could be. Apparently they are wafted
about the garden; they fly with no more effort than a dainty lifting of the
wings, as if to catch the breeze, that seems to lift them as it might a bunch
of thistledown. They go through a great variety of charming posturings as they
hunt for their food upon the blossoms and tender fresh twigs, now creeping
like a nuthatch along the bark and peering into the crevices, now gracefully
swaying and balancing like a goldfinch upon a slender, pendent stem. One
little sprite pauses in its hunt for the insects to raise its pretty head and
trill a short and wiry song.

But the parula warbler does not remain long about the gardens and orchards,
though it will not forsake us altogether for the Canadian forests, where most
of its relatives pass the summer. It retreats only to the woods near the
water, if may be, or to just as close a counterpart of a swampy southern
woods, where the Spanish or Usnea "moss" drapes itself over the cypresses, as
it can find here at the north. Its rarely [found,] beautiful nest, that hangs
suspended from a slender branch very much like the Baltimore oriole's, is so
woven and festooned with this moss that its concealment is perfect.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Dendroica caerulescens) Wood Warbler

Length -- 5.30 inches. About an inch shorter than the English
Male -- Slate-color, not blue above; lightest on forehead and
  darkest on lower back. Wings and tail edged with bluish.
  Cheeks, chin, throat, upper breast, and sides black. Breast and
  underneath white. White spots on wings, and a little white on
Female -- Olive-green above; underneath soiled yellow. Wing-spots
  inconspicuous. Tail generally has a faint bluish tinge.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Labrador to tropics, where
  It winters.
Migrations -- May. September. Usually a migrant only in the
  United States.

Whoever looks for this beautifully marked warbler among the bluebirds, will
wish that the man who named him had possessed a truer eye for color. But if
the name so illy fits the bright slate-colored male, how grieved must be his
olive-and-yellow mate to answer to the name of black-throated blue warbler
when she has neither a black throat nor a blue feather! It is not easy to
distinguish her as she flits about the twigs and leaves of the garden in May
or early autumn, except as she is seen in company with her husband, whose name
she has taken with him for better or for worse. The white spot on the wings
should always be looked for to positively identify this bird.

Before flying up to a twig to peck off the insects, the birds have a pretty
vireo trick of cocking their heads on one side to investigate the quantity
hidden underneath the leaves. They seem less nervous and more deliberate than
many of their restless family.

Most warblers go over the Canada border to nest, but there are many records of
the nests of this species in the Alleghanies as far south as Georgia, in the
Catskills, in Connecticut, northern Minnesota and Michigan. Laurel thickets
and moist undergrowth of woods in the United States, and more commonly pine
woods in Canada, are the favorite nesting haunts. A sharp zip, zip, like some
midsummer insect's noise, is the bird's call-note, but its love-song, zee,
zee, zee, or twee, twea, twea-e-e, as one authority writes it, is only rarely
heard in the migrations. It is a languid, drawling little strain, with an
upward slide that is easily drowned in the full bird chorus of May.


  Indigo Bunting
  Belted Kingfisher
  Blue Jay
  Blue Grosbeak
  Barn Swallow
  Cliff Swallow
  Mourning Dove
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Look also among Slate-colored Birds in preceding group, particularly among the
Warblers there, or in the group of Birds conspicuously Yellow and Orange.


THE BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis) Thrush family


Length -- 7 inches. About an inch longer than the English
Male -- Upper parts, wings, and tail bright blue, with rusty wash
  in autumn. Throat, breast, and sides cinnamon-red. Underneath
Female -- Has duller blue feathers, washed with gray, and a paler
  breast than male.
Range -- North America, from Nova Scotia. and Manitoba to Gulf of
  Mexico. Southward in winter from Middle States to Bermuda and
  West Indies.
Migrations -- March. November. Summer resident. A few sometimes
  remain throughout the winter.

With the first soft, plaintive warble of the bluebirds early in March, the
sugar camps, waiting for their signal, take on a bustling activity; the farmer
looks to his plough; orders are hurried off to the seedsmen; a fever to be out
of doors seizes one: spring is here. Snowstorms may yet whiten fields and
gardens, high winds may howl about the trees and chimneys, but the little blue
heralds persistently proclaim from the orchard and garden that the spring
procession has begun to move.Tru-al-ly, tru-al-ly, they sweetly assert to our
incredulous ears.

The bluebird is not always a migrant, except in the more northern portions of
the country. Some representatives there are always with us, but the great
majority winter south and drop out of the spring procession on its way
northward, the males a little ahead of their mates, which show housewifely
instincts immediately after their arrival. A pair of these rather
matter-of-fact lovers go about looking for some deserted woodpecker's hole in
the orchard, peering into cavities in the fence-rails, or into the bird-houses
that, once set up in the
old-fashioned gardens for their special benefit, are now appropriated too
often by the ubiquitous sparrow. Wrens they can readily dispossess of an
attractive tenement, and do. With a temper as heavenly as the color of their
feathers, the bluebird's sense of justice is not always so adorable. But
sparrows unnerve them into cowardice. The comparatively infrequent nesting of
the bluebirds about our homes at the present time is one of the most
deplorable results of unrestricted sparrow immigration. Formerly they were the
commonest of bird neighbors.

Nest-building is not a favorite occupation with the bluebirds, that are
conspicuously domestic none the less. Two, and even three, broods in a season
fully occupy their time. As in most cases, the mother-bird does more than her
share of the work. The male looks with wondering admiration at the housewifely
activity, applauds her with song, feeds her as she sits brooding over the
nestful of pale greenish-blue eggs, but his adoration of her virtues does not
lead him into emulation.

             "Shifting his light load of song,
         From post to post along the cheerless fence,"

Lowell observed that he carried his duties quite as lightly.

When the young birds first emerge from the shell they are almost black; they
come into their splendid heritage of color by degrees, lest their young heads
might be turned. It is only as they spread their tiny wings for their first
flight from the nest that we can see a few blue feathers.

With the first cool days of autumn the bluebirds collect in flocks, often
associating with orioles and kingbirds in sheltered, sunny places where
insects are still plentiful. Their steady, undulating flight now becomes
erratic as they take food on the wing -- a habit that they may have learned by
association with the kingbirds, for they have also adopted the habit of
perching upon some conspicuous lookout and then suddenly launching out into
the air for a passing fly and returning to their perch. Long after their
associates have gone southward, they linger like the last leaves on the tree.
It is indeed "good-bye to summer" when the bluebirds withdraw their touch of
brightness from the dreary November landscape.

The bluebirds from Canada and the northern portions of New England and New
York migrate into Virginia and the Carolinas, the birds from the Middle States
move down into the Gulf States to pass the winter. It was there that countless
numbers were cut off by the severe winter of 1894-95, which was so severe in
that section.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) Finch family

Called also: INDIGO BIRD

Length -- 5 to 6 inches. Smaller than the English sparrow, or the
  size of a canary.
Male -- In certain lights rich blue, deepest on head. In another
  light the blue feathers show verdigris tints. Wings, tail, and
  lower back with brownish wash, most prominent in autumn
  plumage. Quills of wings and tail deep blue, margined with
Female -- Plain sienna-brown above. Yellowish on breast and
  shading to white underneath, and indistinctly streaked. Wings
  and tail darkest, sometimes with slight tinge of blue in outer
  webs and on shoulders.
Range -- North America, from Hudson Bay to Panama. Most common in
  eastern part of United States. Winters in Central America and
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

The "glowing indigo" of this tropical-looking visitor that so delighted
Thoreau in the Walden woods, often seems only the more intense by comparison
with the blue sky, against which it stands out in relief as the bird perches
singing in a tree-top. What has this gaily dressed, dapper little cavalier in
common with his dingy sparrow cousins that haunt the ground and delight in
dust-baths, leaving their feathers no whit more dingy than they were before,
and in temper, as in plumage, suggesting more of earth than of heaven?
Apparently he has nothing, and yet the small brown bird in the roadside
thicket, which you have misnamed a sparrow, not noticing the glint of blue in
her shoulders and tail, is his mate. Besides the structural resemblances,
which are, of course, the only ones considered by ornithologists in
classifying birds, the indigo buntings have several sparrowlike traits. They
feed upon the ground, mainly upon seeds of grasses and herbs, with a few
insects interspersed to give relish  to the grain; they build grassy nests in
low bushes or tall, rank grass; and their flight is short and labored. Borders
of woods, roadside thickets, and even garden shrubbery, with open pasture lots
for foraging grounds near by, are favorite haunts of these birds, that return
again and again to some preferred spot. But however close to our homes they
build theirs, our presence never ceases to be regarded by them with anything
but suspicion, not to say alarm. Their metallic cheep, cheep, warns you to
keep away from the little blue-white eggs, hidden away securely in the bushes;
and the nervous tail twitchings and jerkings are pathetic to see. Happily for
the safety of their nest, the brooding mother has no tell-tale feathers to
attract the eye. Dense foliage no more conceals the male bird's brilliant coat
than it can the tanager's or oriole's.

With no attempt at concealment, which he doubtless understands would be quite
impossible, he chooses some high, conspicuous perch to which he mounts by easy
stages, singing as he goes; and there begins a loud and rapid strain that
promises much, but growing weaker and weaker, ends as if the bird were either
out of breath or too, weak to finish. Then suddenly he begins the same song
over again, and keeps up this continuous performance for nearly half an hour.
The noonday heat of an August day that silences nearly every other voice,
seems to give to the indigo bird's only fresh animation and timbre.

THE BELTED KINGFISHER (Ceryle alcyon) Kingfisher family

Called also: THE HALCYON

Length -- 12 to 13 inches. About one-fourth as large again as the
Male -- Upper part grayish blue, with prominent crest on head
  reaching to the nape. A white spot in front of the eye. Bill
  longer than the head, which is large and heavy. Wings and the
  short tail minutely speckled and marked with broken bands of
  white. Chin, band around throat, and underneath white. Two
  bluish bands across the breast and a bluish wash on sides.
Female -- Female and immature specimens have rufous bands where
  The adult male's are blue. Plumage of both birds oily.
Range -- North America, except where the Texan kingfisher
  replaces it in a limited area in the Southwest. Common from
  Labrador to Florida, east and west. Winters chiefly from
  Virginia southward to South America.
Migrations -- March. December. Common summer resident. Usually a
  winter resident also.

If the kingfisher is not so neighborly as we could wish, or as he used to be,
it is not because he has grown less friendly, but because the streams near our
homes are fished out. Fish he must and will have, and to get them nowadays it
is too often necessary to follow the stream back through secluded woods to the
quiet waters of its source: a clear, cool pond or lake whose scaly inmates
have not yet learned wisdom at the point of the sportsman's fly.

In such quiet haunts the kingfisher is easily the most conspicuous object in
sight, where he perches on some dead or projecting branch over the water,
intently watching for a dinner that is all unsuspectingly swimming below.
Suddenly the bird drops -- dives; there is a splash, a struggle, and then the
"lone fisherman" returns triumphant to his perch, holding a shining fish in
his beak. If the fish is small it is swallowed at once, but if it is large and
bony it must first be killed against the branch. A few sharp knocks, and the
struggles of the fish are over, but the kingfisher's have only begun. How he
gags and writhes, swallows his dinner, and then, regretting his haste, brings
it up again to try another wider avenue down his throat I The many abortive
efforts he makes to land his dinner safely below in his stomach, his grim
contortions as the fishbones scratch his throat-lining on their way down and
up again, force a smile in spite of the bird's evident distress. It is small
wonder he supplements his fish diet with various kinds of the larger insects,
shrimps, and fresh-water mollusks.

Flying well over the tree-tops or along the waterways. the kingfisher makes
the woodland echo with his noisy rattle, that breaks the stillness like a
watchman's at midnight. It is, perhaps, the most familiar sound heard along
the banks of the inland rivers. No love or cradle song does he know. Instead
of softening and growing sweet, as the voices of most birds do in the nesting
season, the endearments uttered by a pair of mated kingfishers are the most
strident, rattly shrieks ever heard by lovers it sounds as if they were
perpetually quarrelling, yet they are really particularly devoted.

The nest of these birds, like the bank swallow's, is excavated in the face of
a high bank, preferably one that rises from a stream; and at about six feet
from the entrance of the tunnel six or eight clear, shining white eggs are
placed on a curious nest. All the fish bones and scales that, being
indigestible, are disgorged in pellets by the parents, are carefully carried
to the end of the tunnel to form a prickly cradle for the unhappy fledglings.
Very rarely a nest is made in the hollow trunk of a tree; but wherever the
home is, the kingfishers become strongly attached to it, returning again and
again to the spot that has cost them so much labor to excavate. Some observers
have accused them of appropriating the holes of the water-rats.

In ancient times of myths and fables, kingfishers or halcyons were said to
build a floating nest on the sea, and to possess some mysterious power that
calmed the troubled waves while the eggs were hatching and the young birds
were being reared, hence the term "halcyon days," meaning days of fair

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata) Crow and Jay family

Length -- 11 to 12 inches. A little larger than the robin.

Male and Female -- Blue above. Black band around the neck,
  joining some black feathers on the back. Under parts dusky
  white. Wing coverts and tail bright blue, striped transversely
  with black. Tail much rounded. Many feathers edged and tipped
  with white. Head finely crested; bill, tongue, and legs black.
Range -- Eastern coast of North America to the plains, and from
  northern Canada to Florida and eastern Texas.
Migrations -- Permanent resident. Although seen in flocks moving
  southward or northward, they are merely seeking happier hunting
  grounds, not migrating.

No bird of finer color or presence sojourns with us the year round than the
blue jay. In a peculiar sense his is a case o. "beauty covering a multitude of
sins." Among close students of bird traits, we find none so poor as to do him
reverence. Dishonest, cruel, inquisitive, murderous, voracious, villainous,
are some of the epithets applied to this bird of exquisite plumage. Emerson,
however, has said in his defence he does "more good than harm," alluding, no
doubt, to his habit of burying nuts and hard seeds in the ground, so that many
a waste place is clothed with trees and shrubs, thanks to his propensity and

He is mischievous as a small boy, destructive as a monkey, deft at hiding as a
squirrel. He is unsociable and unamiable, disliking the society of other
birds. His harsh screams, shrieks, and most aggressive and unmusical calls
seem often intended maliciously to drown the songs of the sweet-voiced

From April to September, the breeding and moulting season, the blue jays are
almost silent, only sallying forth from the woods to pillage and devour the
young and eggs of their more peaceful neighbors. In a bulky nest, usually
placed in a tree-crotch high above our heads, from four to six eggs,
olive-gray with brown spots, are laid and most carefully tended.

Notwithstanding the unlovely characteristics of the blue jay, we could ill
spare the flash of color, like a bit of blue sky dropped from above, which is
so rare a tint even in our land, that we number not more than three or four
true blue birds, and in England, it is said, there is none.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Guiraca carulea) Finch family

Length -- 7 inches. About an inch larger than the English
Male -- Deep blue, dark, and almost black on the back; wings and
  tail black, slightly edged with blue, and the former marked
  with bright chestnut. Cheeks and chin black. Bill heavy and
Female -- Grayish brown above, sometimes with bluish tinge on
  head, lower back, and shoulders. Wings dark olive-brown, with
  faint buff markings; tail same shade as wings, but witb bluish
  gray markings. Underneath brownish cream-color, the breast
  feathers often blue at the base.
Range -- United States, from southern New England westward to the
  Rocky Mountains and southward into Mexico and beyon d.M ost
  common in the Southwest. Rare along the Atlantic seaboard.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

This beautiful but rather shy and solitary bird occasionally wanders eastward
to rival the bluebird and the indigo bunting in their rare and lovely
coloring, and eclipse them both in song. Audubon, we remember, found the nest
in New Jersey. Pennsylvania is still favored with one now and then, but it is
in the Southwest only that the blue grosbeak is as common as the evening
grosbeak is in the Northwest. Since rice is its favorite food, it naturally
abounds where that cereal grows. Seeds and kernels of the hardest kinds, that
its heavy, strong beak is well adapted to crack, constitute its diet when it
strays beyond the rice-fields.

Possibly the heavy bills of all the grosbeaks make them look stupid whether
they are or not -- a characteristic that the blue grosbeak's habit of sitting
motionless with a vacant stare many minutes at a time unfortunately

When seen in the roadside thickets or tall weeds, such as the field sparrow
chooses to frequent, it shows little fear of man unless actually approached
and threatened, but whether this fearlessness comes from actual confidence or
stupidity is by no means certain. Whatever the motive of its inactivity, it
accomplishes an end to be desired by the cleverest bird; its presence is
almost never suspected by the passer-by, and its grassy nest on a tree-branch,
containing three or four pale bluish-white eggs, is never betrayed by look or
sign to the marauding small boy.

BARN SWALLOW (Chelidon erythrogaster) Swallow family

Length -- 6.5 to 7 inches. A trifle larger than the English
  sparrow. Apparently considerably larger, because of its wide
Male -- Glistening steel-blue shading to black above. Chin,
  breast, and underneath bright chestnut-brown and brilliant buff
  that glistens in the sunlight. A partial collar of steel-blue.
  Tail very deeply forked and slender.
Female -- Smaller and paler, with shorter outer tail feathers,
  making the fork less prominent.
Range -- Throughout North America. Winters in tropics of both
Migrations -- April. September. Summer resident.

Any one who attempts to describe the coloring of a bird's plumage knows how
inadequate words are to convey a just idea of the delicacy, richness, and
brilliancy of the living tints. But, happily, the beautiful barn swallow is
too familiar to need description. Wheeling about our barns and houses,
skimming over the fields, its bright sides flashing in the sunlight, playing
"cross tag" with its friends at evening, when the insects, too, are on the
wing, gyrating, darting, and gliding through the air, it is no more possible
to adequately describe the exquisite grace of a swallow's flight than the
glistening buff of its breast.

This is a typical bird of the air, as an oriole is of the trees and a sparrow
of the ground. Though the swallow may often be seen perching on a telegraph
wire, suddenly it darts off as if it had received a shock of electricity, and
we see the bird in its true element.

While this swallow is peculiarly American, it is often confounded with its
European cousin Hirundo rustica in noted ornithologies.

Up in the rafters of the barn, or in the arch of an old bridge that spans a
stream, these swallows build their bracket-like nests of clay or mud pellets
intermixed with straw. Here the noisy little broods pick their way out of the
white eggs curiously spotted with brown and lilac that were all too familiar
in the marauding days of our childhood.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon lunifrons) Swallow family


Length -- 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English sparrow.
  Apparently considerably larger because of its wide wingspread.
Male and Female -- Steel-blue above, shading to blue-black on
  crown of head and on wings and tail. A brownish-gray ring
  around the neck. Beneath dusty white, with rufous tint.
  Crescent-like frontlet. Chin, throat, sides of head, and tail
  coverts rufous.
Range -- North and South America. Winters in the tropics.
Migrations -- Early April. Late September. Summer resident.

Not quite so brilliantly colored as the barn swallow, nor with tail so deeply
forked, and consequently without so much  grace in flying, and with a squeak
rather than the really musical twitter of the gayer bird, the cliff swallow
may be positively identified by the rufous feathers of its tail coverts, but
more definitely by its crescent-shaped frontlet shining like a new moon; hence
its specific Latin name from luna = moon, and frons = front.

Such great numbers of these swallows have been seen in the far West that the
name of Rocky Mountain swallows is sometimes given to them; though however
rare they may have been in 1824, when DeWitt Clinton thought he "discovered"
them near Lake Champlain, they are now common enough in all parts of the
United States.

In the West this swallow is wholly a cliff-dweller, but it has learned to
modify its home in different localities. As usually seen, it is gourd-shaped,
opened at the top, built entirely of mud pellets ("bricks without straw"),
softly lined with feathers and wisps of grass, and attached by the larger part
to a projecting cliff or eave.

Like all the swallows, this bird lives in colonies, and the clay-colored nests
beneath the eaves of barns are often so close together that a group of them
resembles nothing so much as a gigantic wasp's nest. It is said that when
swallows pair they are mated for life; but, then, more is said about swallows
than the most tireless bird-lover could substantiate. The tradition that
swallows fly low when it is going to rain may be easily credited, because the
air before a storm is usually too heavy with moisture for the winged insects,
upon which the swallows feed, to fly high.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaidura macroura) Pigeon family


Length -- 12 to 13 inches. About one-half as large again as the
Male -- Grayish brown or fawn-color above, varying to bluish
  gray. Crown and upper part of head greenish blue, with green
  and golden metallic reflections on sides of neck. A black spot
  under each ear. Forehead and breast reddish buff; lighter
  underneath. (General impression of color, bluish fawn.) Bill
  black, with tumid, fleshy covering; feet red; two middle tail
  feathers longest; all others banded with black and tipped with
  ashy white. Wing coverts sparsely spotted with black. Flanks
  and underneath the wings bluish.
Female -- Duller and without iridescent reflections on neck.
Range -- North America, from Quebec to Panama, and westward to
  Arizona. Most common in temperate climate, east of Rocky
Migrations -- March. November. Common summer resident not
  Migratory south of Virginia.

The beautiful, soft-colored plumage of this incessant and rather melancholy
love-maker is not on public exhibition. To see it we must trace the a-coo-o,
coo-o, coo-oo, coo-o to its source in the thick foliage in some tree in an
out-of-the-way corner of the farm, or to an evergreen near the edge of the
woods. The slow, plaintive notes, more like a dirge than a love-song,
penetrate to a surprising distance. They may not always be the same lovers we
hear from April to the end of summer, but surely the sound seems to indicate
that they are. The dove is a shy bird, attached to its gentle and refined mate
with a devotion that has passed into a proverb, but caring little or nothing
for the society of other feathered friends, and very little for its own kind,
unless after the nesting season has passed. In this respect it differs widely
from its cousins, the wild pigeons, flocks of which, numbering many millions,
are recorded by Wilson and other early writers before the days when netting
these birds became so fatally profitable.

What the dove finds to adore so ardently in the "shiftless housewife," as Mrs.
Wright calls his lady-love, must pass the comprehension of the phoebe, that
constructs such an exquisite home, or of a bustling, energetic Jenny wren,
that "looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of
idleness." She is a flabby, spineless bundle of flesh and pretty feathers,
gentle and refined in manners, but slack and incompetent in all she does. Her
nest consists of few loose sticks. without rim or lining; and when her two
babies emerge from the white eggs, that somehow do not fall through or roll
out of the rickety lattice, their tender little naked bodies must suffer from
many bruises. We are almost inclined to blame the inconsiderate mother for
allowing her offspring to enter the world unclothed -- obviously not her
fault, though she is capable of just such negligence. Fortunate are the baby
doves when their lazy mother scatters her makeshift nest on top of one that a
robin has deserted, as she frequently does. It is almost excusable to take her
young birds and rear them in captivity, where they invariably thrive, mate,
and live happily, unless death comes to one, when the other often refuses food
and grieves its life away.

In the wild state, when the nesting season approaches, both birds make curious
acrobatic flights above the tree-tops; then, after a short sail in midair,
they return to their perch. This appears to be their only giddiness and
frivolity, unless a dust-bath in the country road might be considered a

In the autumn a few pairs of doves show slight gregarious tendencies, feeding
amiably together in the grain fields and retiring to the same roost at

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila coerulea) Gnatcatcher family


Length -- 4.5 inches. About two inches smaller than the English
Male -- Grayish blue above, dull grayish white below. Grayish
  tips on wings. Tail with white outer quills changing gradually
  through black and white to all black on centre quills. Narrow
  black band over the forehead and eyes. Resembles in manner and
  form a miniature catbird.
Female -- More grayish and less blue, and without the black on
Range -- United States to Canadian border on the north, the
  Rockies on the west, and the Atlantic States, from Maine to
  Florida most common in the Middle States. A rare bird north of
  New Jersey. Winters in Mexico and beyond.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

In thick woodlands, where a stream that lazily creeps through the mossy, oozy
ground attracts myriads of insects to its humid neighborhood, this tiny hunter
loves to hide in the denser foliage of the upper branches. He has the habit of
nervously flitting about from twig to twig of his relatives, the kinglets, but
unhappily he lacks their social, friendly instincts, and therefore is rarely
seen. Formerly classed among the warblers, then among the flycatchers, while
still as much a lover of flies, gnats, and mosquitoes as ever, his vocal
powers have now won for him recognition among the singing birds. Some one has
likened his voice to the squeak of a mouse, and Nuttall says it is "scarcely
louder," which is all too true, for at a little distance it is quite
inaudible. But in addition to the mouse-like call-note, the tiny bird has a
rather feeble but exquisitely finished song, so faint it seems almost as it
the bird were singing in its sleep.

If by accident you enter the neighborhood of its nest, you soon find out that
this timid, soft-voiced little creature can be roused to rashness and make its
presence disagreeable to ears and eyes alike as it angrily darts about your
unoffending head, pecking at your face and uttering its shrill squeak close to
your very ear-drums. All this excitement is in defence of a dainty,
lichen-covered nest, whose presence you may not have even suspected before,
and of four or five bluish-white, speckled eggs well beyond reach in the

During the migrations the bird seems not unwilling to show its delicate, trim
little body, that has often been likened to a diminutive mocking-bird's, very
near the homes of men. Its graceful postures, its song and constant motion,
are sure to attract attention. In Central Park, New York City, the bird is not


House Wren                    Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Carolina Wren                 Bank Swallow and
Winter Wren                   Rough-winged Swallow
Long-billed Marsh Wren        Cedar Bird
Short-billed Marsh Wren       Brown Creeper
Brown Thrasher                Pine Siskin
Wilson's Thrush or Veery      Smith's Painted Longspur
Wood Thrush                   Lapland Longspur
Hermit Thrush                 Chipping Sparrow
Alice's Thrush                English Sparrow
Olive-backed Thrush           Field Sparrow
Louisiana Water Thrush        Fox Sparrow
Northern Water Thrush         Grasshopper Sparrow
Flicker                       Savannah Sparrow
Meadowlark and Western        Seaside Sparrow
  Meadowlark                  Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Horned Lark and Prairie       Song Sparrow
  Horned Lark                 Swamp Song Sparrow
Pipit or Titlark              Tree Sparrow
Whippoorwill                  Vesper Sparrow
Nighthawk                     White-crowned Sparrow
Black-billed Cuckoo           White-throated Sparrow

See also winter plumage of the Bobolink, Goldfinch, and Myrtle Warbler. See
females of Red-winged Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, the Grackles, Bobolink,
Cowbird, the Redpolls, Purple Finch, Chewink, Bluebird, Indigo Bunting,
Baltimore Oriole, Cardinal, and of the Evening, the Blue, and the
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. See also Purple Finch, the Redpolls, Mourning Dove,
Mocking-bird, Robin.


HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) Wren family

Length -- 4.5 to 5 inches. Actually about one-fourth smaller than
  the English sparrow; apparently only half as large because of
  its erect tail.
Male and Female -- Upper parts cinnamon-brown. Deepest shade on
  head and neck; lightest above tail, which is more rufous. Back
  has obscure, dusky bars; wings and tail are finely barred.
  Underneath whitish, with grayish-brown wash and faint bands
  Most prominent on sides.
Range -- North America, from Manitoba to the Gulf. Most common in
  the United States, from the Mississippi eastward. Winters south
  of the Carolinas.
Migrations -- April October. Common summer resident.

Early some morning in April there will go off under your window that most
delightful of all alarm-clocks -- the tiny, friendly house wren, just returned
from a long visit south. Like some little mountain spring that, having been
imprisoned by winter ice, now bubbles up in the spring sunshine, and goes
rippling along over the pebbles, tumbling over itself in merry cascades, so
this little wren's song bubbles, ripples, cascades in a miniature torrent of

Year after year these birds return to the same nesting places: a box set up
against the house, a crevice in the barn, a niche under the eaves; but once
home, always home to them. The nest is kept scrupulously clean; the
house-cleaning, like the house-building and renovating, being accompanied by
the cheeriest of songs, that makes the bird fairly tremble by its intensity.
But however angelic the voice of the house wren, its temper can put to flight
even the English sparrow. Need description go further.

Six to eight minutely speckled, flesh-colored eggs suffice to keep the
nervous, irritable parents in a state bordering on frenzy whenever another
bird comes near their habitation. With tail erect and head alert, the father
mounts on guard, singing a perfect ecstasy of love to his silent little mate,
that sits upon the nest if no danger threatens; but both rush with passionate
malice upon the first intruder, for it must be admitted that Jenny wren is a
sad shrew.

While the little family is being reared, or, indeed, at any time, no one is
wise enough to estimate the millions of tiny insects from the garden that find
their way into the tireless bills of these wrens.

It is often said that the house wren remains at the north all the year, which,
though not a fact, is easily accounted for by the coming of the winter wrens
just as the others migrate in the autumn, and by their return to Canada when
Jenny wren makes up her feather-bed under the eaves in the spring.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus) Wren family

Called also: MOCKING WREN

Length -- 6 inches. Just a trifle smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Chestnut-brown above. A whitish streak,
  beginning at base of bill, passes through the eye to the nape
  of the neck. Throat whitish. Under parts light buff-brown Wings
  and tail finely barred with dark.
Range -- United States, from Gulf to northern Illinois and
  Southern New England.
Migrations -- A common resident except at northern boundary of
  range, where it is a summer visitor.

This largest of the wrens appears to be the embodiment of the entire family
characteristics: it is exceedingly active, nervous, and easily excited,
quick-tempered, full of curiosity, peeping into every hole and corner it
passes, short of flight as it is of wing, inseparable from its mate till
parted by death, and a gushing lyrical songster that only death itself can
silence. It also has the wren-like preference for a nest that is roofed over,
but not too near the homes of men.

Undergrowths near water, brush heaps, rocky bits of woodland, are favorite
resorts. The Carolina wren decidedly objects to being stared at, and likes to
dart out of sight in the midst of the underbrush in a twinkling while the
opera-glasses are being focussed.  To let off some of his superfluous
vivacity, Nature has provided him with two safety-valves: one is his voice,
another is his tail. With the latter he gesticulates in a manner so expressive
that it seems to be a certain index to what is passing in his busy little
brain -- drooping it, after the habit of the catbird, when he becomes limp
with the emotion of his love-song, or holding it erect as, alert and
inquisitive, he peers at the impudent intruder in the thicket below his perch.

But it is his joyous, melodious, bubbling song that is his chief fascination.
He has so great a variety of strains that many people have thought that he
learned them from other birds, and so have called him what many ornithologists
declare that he is not --  a mocking wren. And he is one of the few birds that
sing at night -- not in his sleep or only by moonlight, but even in the total
darkness, just before dawn, he gives us the same wide-awake song that
entrances us by day.

WINTER WREN (Troglodytes biemalis) Wren family

Length -- 4 to 4.5 inches. About one-third smaller than the
  English sparrow. Apparently only half the size.
Male and Female -- Cinnamon-brown above, with numerous short,
  dusky bars. Head and neck without markings. Underneath rusty,
  dimly and finely barred with dark brown. Tail short.
Range -- United States, east and west, and from North Carolina to
  the Fur Countries
Migrations -- October, April. Summer resident. Commonly a winter
  resident in the South and Middle States only.

It all too rarely happens that we see this tiny mouse-like wren in summer,
unless we come upon him suddenly and overtake him unawares as he creeps shyly
over the mossy logs or runs literally "like a flash" under the fern and
through the tangled underbrush of the deep, cool woods. His presence there is
far more likely to be detected by the ear than the eye.

Throughout the nesting season music fairly pours from his tiny throat; it
bubbles up like champagne; it gushes forth in a lyrical torrent and overflows
into every nook of the forest, that seems entirely pervaded by his song. While
music is everywhere, it apparently comes from no particular point, and, search
as you may, the tiny singer still eludes, exasperates, and yet entrances.

If by accident you discover him balancing on a swaying twig, never far from
the ground, with his comical little tail erect, or more likely pointing
towards his head, what a pert, saucy minstrel he is! You are lost in amazement
that so much music could come from a throat so tiny.

Comparatively few of his admirers, however, hear the exquisite notes of this
little brown wood-sprite, for after the nesting season is over he finds little
to call them forth during the bleak, snowy winter months, when in the Middle
and Southern States he may properly be called a neighbor. Sharp hunger, rather
than natural boldness, drives him near the homes of men, where he appears just
as the house wren departs for the South. With a forced confidence in man that
is almost pathetic in a bird that loves the forest as he does, he picks up
whatever lies about the house or barn in the shape of food-crumbs from the
kitchen door, a morsel from the dog's plate, a little seed in the barn-yard,
happily rewarded if he can find a spider lurking in some sheltered place to
give a flavor to the unrelished grain. Now he becomes almost tame, but we feel
it is only because he must be.

The spot that decided preference leads him to, either winter or summer, is
beside a bubbling spring. In the moss that grows near it the nest is placed in
early summer, nearly always roofed over and entered from the side, in true
wren-fashion; and as the young fledglings emerge from the creamy-white eggs,
almost the first lesson they receive from their devoted little parents is in
the fine art of bathing. Even in winter weather, when the wren has to stand on
a rim of ice, he will duck and splash his diminutive body. It is recorded of a
certain little individual that he was wont to dive through the icy water on a
December day. Evidently the wrens, as a family, are not far removed in the
evolutionary scale from true water-birds.

LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris) Wren family

[Called also: MARSH WREN, AOU 1998]

Length -- 4.5 to 5.2 inches. Actually a little smaller than the
  English sparrow. Apparently half the size.
Male and Female -- Brown above, with white line over the eye, and
  the back irregularly and faintly streaked with white. Wings and
  tail barred with darker cinnamon-brown. Underneath white. Sides
  dusky. Tail long and often carried erect. Bill extra long and
Range -- United States and southern British America.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

Sometimes when you are gathering cat-tails in the river marshes an alert,
nervous little brown bird rises startled from the rushes and tries to elude
you as with short, jerky flight it goes deeper and deeper into the marsh,
where even the rubber boot may not follow. It closely resembles two other
birds found in such a place, the swamp sparrow and the short-billed marsh
wren; but you may know by its long, slender bill that it is not the latter,
and by the absence of a bright bay crown that it is not the shyest of the

These marsh wrens appear to be especially partial to running water; their
homes are not very far from brooks and rivers, preferably those that are
affected in their rise and flow by the tides. They build in colonies, and
might be called inveterate singers, for no single bird is often permitted to
finish his bubbling song without half the colony joining in a chorus.

Still another characteristic of this particularly interesting bird is its
unique architectural effects produced with coarse grasses woven into globular
form and suspended in the reeds. Sometimes adapting its nest to the building
material at hand, it weaves it of grasses and twigs, and suspends it from the
limb of a bush or tree overhanging the water, where it swings like an
oriole's. The entrance to the nest is invariably on the side.

More devoted homebodies than these little wrens are not among the feathered
tribe. Once let the hand of man desecrate their nest, even before the tiny
speckled eggs are deposited in it, and off go the birds to a more inaccessible
place, where they can enjoy their home unmolested. Thus three or four nests
may be made in a summer.

SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN (Cistothorus stellaris) Wren family

[Called also: SEDGE WREN, AOU 1998]

Length -- 4 to 5 inches. Actually about one-third smaller than
  the English sparrow, but apparently only half its size.
Male and Female -- Brown above, faintly streaked with white,
  black, and buff. Wings and tail barred with same. Underneath
  white, with buff and rusty tinges on throat and breast. Short
Range -- North America, from Manitoba southward in winter to Gulf
  of Mexico. Most common in north temperate latitudes.
Migrations -- Early May. Late September.

Where red-winged blackbirds like to congregate in oozy pastures or near boggy
woods, the little short-billed wren may more often be heard than seen, for he
is more shy, if possible, than his long-billed cousin, and will dive down into
the sedges at your approach, very much as a duck disappears under water. But
if you see him at all, it is usually while swaying to and fro as he clings to
some tall stalk of grass, keeping his balance by the nervous, jerky tail
motions characteristic of all the wrens, and singing with all his might.
Oftentimes his tail reaches backward almost to his head in a most exaggerated

Samuels explains the peculiar habit both the long-billed and the short-billed
marsh wrens have of building several nests in one season, by the theory that
they are made to protect the sitting female, for it is noticed that the male
bird always lures a visitor to an empty nest, and if this does not satisfy his
curiosity, to another one, to prove conclusively that he has no family in

Wild rice is an ideal nesting place for a colony of these little marsh wrens.
The home is made of sedge grasses, softly lined with the softer meadow grass
or plant-down, and placed in a tussock of tall grass, or even upon the ground.
The entrance is on the side. But while fond of moist places, both for a home
and feeding ground, it will be noticed that these wrens have no special
fondness for running water, so dear to their long-billed relatives. Another
distinction is that the eggs of this species, instead of being so densely
speckled as to look brown, are pure white.

BROWN THRASHER (Harporhynchus rufus) Thrasher and Mocking-bird


Length -- 11 to 11.5 inches. Fully an inch longer than the robin.
Male -- Rusty red-brown or rufous above; darkest on wings, which
  have two short whitish bands. Underneath white, heavily
  streaked (except on throat) with dark-brown, arrow-shaped
  spots. Tail very long. Yellow eyes. Bill long and curved at
Female -- Paler than male.
Range -- United States to Rockies. Nests from Gulf States to
  Manitoba and Montreal. Winters south of Virginia.
Migrations -- Late April. October. Common summer resident

     "There's a merry brown thrush sitting up in a tree;
      He is singing to me! He is singing to me!
      And what does he say, little girl, little boy?
      'Oh, the world's running over with joy!'"

The hackneyed poem beginning with this stanza that delighted our nursery days,
has left in our minds a fairly correct impression of the bird. He still proves
to be one of the perennially joyous singers, like a true cousin of the wrens,
and when we study him afield, he appears to give his whole attention to his
song with a self-consciousness that is rather amusing than the reverse. "What
musician wouldn't be conscious of his own powers," he seems to challenge us,
"if he possessed such a gift?" Seated on a conspicuous perch, as if inviting
attention to his performance, with uplifted head and drooping tail he repeats
the one exultant, dashing air to which his repertoire is limited, without
waiting for an encore. Much practice has given the notes a brilliancy of
execution to be compared only with the mockingbird's; but in spite of the name
"ferruginous mocking-bird" that Audubon gave him, he does not seem to have the
faculty of imitating other birds' songs. Thoreau says the Massachusetts
farmers, when planting their seed, always think they hear the thrasher say,
"Drop it, drop it -- cover it up, cover it up -- pull it up, pull it up, pull
it up."

One of the shatterings of childish impressions that age too often brings is
when we learn by the books that our "merry brown thrush" is no thrush at all,
but a thrasher -- first cousin to the wrens, in spite of his speckled breast,
large size, and certain thrush-like instincts, such as never singing near the
nest and shunning mankind in the nesting season, to mention only two.
Certainly his bold, swinging flight and habit of hopping and running over the
ground would seem to indicate that he is not very far removed from the true
thrushes. But he has one undeniable wren-like trait, that of twitching,
wagging, and thrashing his long tail about to help express his emotions. It
swings like a pendulum as he rests on a branch, and thrashes about in a most
ludicrous way as he is feeding on the ground upon the worms, insects, and
fruit that constitute his diet.

Before the fatal multiplication of cats, and in unfrequented, sandy locations
still, the thrasher builds her nest upon the ground, thus earning the name
"ground thrush" that is often given her; but with dearly paid-for wisdom she
now most frequently selecting a low shrub or tree to cradle the two broods
that all too early in the summer effectually silence the father's delightful

WILSON'S THRUSH (Turdus fuscescens) Thrush family

Called also: VEERY {AOU 1998]; TAWNY THRUSH

Length -- 7 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male and Female -- Uniform olive-brown, with a tawny cast above.
  Centre of the throat white, with cream-buff on sides of throat
  and upper part of breast, which is lightly spotted with
  wedge-shaped, brown points. Underneath white, or with a faint
  grayish tinge.
Range -- United States, westward to plains.
Migrations -- May. October. Summer resident.

To many of us the veery, as they call the Wilson's thrush in New England, is
merely a voice, a sylvan mystery, reflecting the sweetness and wildness of the
forest, a vocal "will-o'-the-wisp" that, after enticing us deeper and deeper
into the woods, where we sink into the spongy moss of its damp retreats and
become entangled in the wild grape-vines twined about the saplings and
underbrush, still sings to us from unapproachable tangles. Plainly, if we want
to see the bird, we must let it seek us out on the fallen log where we have
sunk exhausted in the chase.

Presently a brown bird scuds through the fern. It is a thrush, you guess in a
minute, from its slender, graceful body. At first you notice no speckles on
its breast, but as it comes nearer, obscure arrow-heads are visible -- not
heavy, heart-shaped spots such as plentifully speckle the larger wood thrush
or the smaller hermit. It is the smallest of the three commoner thrushes, and
it lacks the ring about the eye that both the others have. Shy and elusive, it
slips away again in a most unfriendly fashion, and is lost in the wet tangle
before you have become acquainted. You determine, however, before you leave
the log, to cultivate the acquaintance of this bird the next spring, when,
before it mates and retreats to the forest, it comes boldly into the gardens
and scratches about in the dry leaves on the ground for the lurking insects
beneath. Miss Florence Merriam tells of having drawn a number of veeries about
her by imitating their call-note, which is a whistled wheew, whoit, very easy
to counterfeit when once heard. "Taweel-ah, taweel-ah, twil-ah, twil-ah!"
Professor Ridgeway interprets their song, that descends in a succession of
trills without break or pause; but no words can possibly convey an idea of the
quality of the music. The veery, that never claims an audience, sings at night
also, and its weird, sweet strains floating through the woods at dusk, thrill
one like the mysterious voice of a disembodied spirit.

Whittier mentions the veery in "The Playmate":

     "And here in spring the veeries sing
      The song of long ago."

WOOD THRUSH (Turdus mustelinus) Thrush family


Length -- 8 to 8.3 inches. About two inches shorter than the
Male and Female -- Brown above, reddish on head and shoulders,
  shading into olive-brown on tail. Throat, breast, and
  underneath white, plain in the middle, but heavily marked on
  sides and breast with heart-shaped spots of very dark brown.
  Whitish eye-ring.
Migrations -- Late April or early May. October. Summer resident.

When Nuttall wrote of "this solitary and retiring songster," before the
country was as thickly settled as it is to-day, it possibly had not developed
the confidence in men that now distinguishes the wood thrush from its shy
congeners that are distinctly wood birds, which it can no longer strictly be
said to be. In city parks and country places, where plenty of trees shade the
village streets and lawns, it comes near you, half hopping, half running, with
dignified unconsciousness and even familiarity, all the more delightful in a
bird whose family instincts should take it into secluded woodlands with their
shady dells. Perhaps, in its heart of hearts, it still prefers such retreats.
Many conservative wood thrushes keep to their wild haunts, and it must be
owned not a few liberals, that discard family traditions at other times, seek
the forest at nesting time. But social as the wood thrush is and abundant,
too, it is also eminently high-bred; and when contrasted with its tawny
cousin, the veery, that skulks away to hide in the nearest bushes as you
approach, or with the hermit thrush, that pours out its heavenly song in the
solitude of the forest, how gracious and full of gentle confidence it seems!
Every gesture is graceful and elegant; even a wriggling beetle is eaten as
daintily as caviare at the king's table. It is only when its confidence in you
is abused, and you pass too near the nest, that might easily be mistaken for a
robin's, just above your head in a sapling, that the wood thrush so far
forgets itself as to become excited. Pit, pit, pit, sharply reiterated, is
called out at you with a strident quality in the tone that is painful evidence
of the fearful anxiety your presence gives this gentle bird.

Too many guardians of nests, whether out of excessive happiness or excessive
stupidity, have a dangerous habit of singing very near them. Not so the wood
thrush. "Come to me," as the opening notes of its flute-like song have been
freely translated, invites the intruder far away from where the blue eggs lie
cradled in ambush.  is as good a rendering into syllables of the luscious song
as could very well be made. Pure, liquid, rich, and luscious, it rings out
from the trees on the summer air and penetrates our home like
"Uoli-a-e-o-li-noli-nol-aeolee-lee! strait of music from a stringed quartette.

HERMIT THRUSH (Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii) Thrush family


Length  -- 7.25 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male and Female -- Upper parts olive-brown, reddening near the
  tail, which is pale rufous, quite distinct from the color of
  the back. Throat, sides of neck, and breast pale buff. Feathers
  of throat and neck finished with dark arrow-points at tip;
  feathers of the breast have larger rounded spots. Sides
  brownish gray. Underneath white. A yellow ring around the eye.
  Smallest of the thrushes.
Range -- Eastern parts of North America. Most common in the
  United States to the plains. Winters from southern Illinois and
  New Jersey to Gulf.
Migrations -- April. November. Summer resident.

The first thrush to come and the last to go, nevertheless the hermit is little
seen throughout its long visit north. It may loiter awhile in the shrubby
roadsides, in the garden or the parks in the spring before it begins the
serious business of life in a nest of moss, coarse grass, and pine-needles
placed on the ground in the depths of the forest, but by the middle of May its
presence in the neighborhood of our homes becomes only a memory. Although one
never hears it at its best during the migrations, how one loves to recall the
serene, ethereal evening hymn! "The finest sound in Nature," John Burroughs
calls it. "It is not a proud, gorgeous strain like the tanager's or the
grosbeak's," he says; "it suggests no passion or emotion -- nothing personal,
but seems to be the voice of that calm, sweet solemnity one attains to in his
best moments. It realizes a peace and a deep, solemn joy that only the finest
souls may know."

Beyond the question of even the hypercritical, the hermit thrush has a more
exquisitely beautiful voice than any other American bird, and only the
nightingale's of Europe can be compared with it. It is the one theme that
exhausts all the ornithologists' musical adjectives in a vain attempt to
convey in words any idea of it to one who has never heard it, for the quality
of the song is as elusive as the bird itself. But why should the poets be so
silent? Why has it not called forth such verse as the English poets have
lavished upon the nightingale? Undoubtedly because it lifts up its heavenly
voice in the solitude of the forest. whereas the nightingales, singing in loud
choruses in the moonlight under the poet's very window, cannot but impress his
waking thoughts and even his dreams with their melody.

Since the severe storm and cold in the Gulf States a few winters ago, where
vast numbers of hermit thrushes died from cold and starvation, this bird has
been very rare in haunts where it used to be abundant. The other thrushes
escaped because they spend the winter farther south.

ALICE'S THRUSH (Turdus alicia) Thrush family

Called also: GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH; [now separated into two
  species: the more mid-western GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH and the New
  England and Adirondack BICKNELL'S THRUSH, AOU 1998]

Length -- 7.5 to 8 inches. About the size of the bluebird.
Male and Female --  Upper parts uniform olive-brown. Eye-ring
  whitish. Cheeks gray; sides dull grayish white. Sides of the
  throat and breast pale cream-buff, speckled with arrow-shaped
  points on throat and with half-round dark-brown marks below.
Range -- North America, from Labrador and Alaska to Central
Migrations -- Late April or May. October. Chiefly seen in
  migrations, except at northern parts of its range.

One looks for a prettier bird than this least attractive of all the thrushes
in one that bears such a suggestive name. Like the olive-backed thrush, from
which it is almost impossible to tell it when both are alive and hopping about
the shrubbery, its plumage above is a dull olive-brown that is more protective
than pleasing.

Just as Wilson hopelessly confused the olive-backed thrush with the hermit, so
has Alice's thrush been confounded by later writers with the olive-backed,
from which it differs chiefly in being a trifle larger, in having gray cheeks
instead of buff, and in possessing a few faint streaks on the throat. Where it
goes to make a home for its greenish-blue speckled eggs in some low bush at
the northern end of its range, it bursts into song, but except in the nesting
grounds its voice is never heard. Mr. Bradford Torrey, who heard it singing in
the White Mountains, describes the song as like the thrush's in quality, but
differently accented: "Wee-o-wee-o-tit-ti-wee-o!"

In New England and New York this thrush is most often seen during its autumn
migrations. As it starts up and perches upon a low branch before you, it
appears to have longer legs and a broader, squarer tail than its congeners.

OLIVE-BACKED THRUSH (Turdus ustulatus swainsonii) Thrush family

Called also: SWAINSON'S THRUSH [AOU 1998]

Length -- 7 to 7.50 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male and Female -- Upper parts olive-brown. Whole throat and
  breast yellow-buff, shading to ashy on sides and to white
  underneath. Buff ring around eye. Dark streaks on sides of
  throat (none on centre), and larger, more spot-like marks on
Range -- North America to Rockies; a few stragglers on Pacific
  slope. Northward to arctic countries.
Migrations -- April. October. Summer resident in Canada. Chiefly
  a migrant in United States.

Mr. Parkhurst tells of finding this "the commonest bird in the Park (Central
Park, New York), not even excepting the robin," during the last week of May on
a certain year; but usually, it must be owned, we have to be on the lookout to
find it, or it will pass unnoticed in the great companies of more conspicuous
birds travelling at the same time. White-throated sparrows often keep it
company on the long journeys northward, and they may frequently be seen
together, hopping sociably about the garden, the thrush calling out a rather
harsh note -- puk! puk! --  quite different from the liquid, mellow calls of
the other thrushes, to resent either the sparrows' bad manners or the
inquisitiveness of a human disturber of its peace. But this gregarious habit
and neighborly visit end even before acquaintance fairly begins, and the
thrushes are off for their nesting grounds in the pine woods of New England or
Labrador if they are travelling up the east coast, or to Alaska, British
Columbia, or Manitoba if west of the Mississippi. There they stay all summer,
often travelling southward with the sparrows in the autumn, as in the spring.

Why they should prefer coniferous trees, unless to utilize the needles for a
nest, is not understood. Low trees and bushes are favorite building sites with
them as with others of the family, though these thrushes disdain a mud lining
to their nests. Those who have heard the olive-backed thrush singing an
even-song to its brooding mate compare it with the veery's, but it has a break
in it and is less simple and pleasing than the latter's.

LOUISIANA WATER THRUSH (Seiurus motacilla) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 6 to 6.28 inches. Just a trifle smaller than the
  English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Grayish olive-brown upper parts, with
  conspicuous white line over the eye and reaching almost to the
  nape. Underneath white, tinged with pale buff. Throat and line
  through the middle, plain. Other parts streaked with very dark
  brown, rather faintly on the breast, giving them the speckled
  breast of the thrushes. Heavy, dark bill.
Range -- United States, westward to the plains; northward to
  southern New England. Winters in the tropics.
Migrations -- Late April. October. Summer resident.

This bird, that so delighted Audubon with its high-trilled song as he tramped
with indefatigable zeal through the hammocks of the Gulf States, seems to be
almost the counterpart of the Northern water thrush, just as the loggerhead is
the Southern counterpart of the Northern shrike. Very many Eastern birds have
their duplicates in Western species, as we all know, and it is most
interesting to trace the slight external variations that different climates
and diet have produced on the same bird, and thus differentiated the species.
In winter the Northern water thrush visits the cradle of its kind, the swamps
of Louisiana and Florida, and, no doubt, by daily contact with its congeners
there, keeps close to their cherished traditions, from which it never deviates
farther than Nature compels, though it penetrate to the arctic regions during
its summer journeys.

With a more southerly range, the Louisiana water thrush does not venture
beyond the White Mountains and to the shores of the Great Lakes in summer, but
even at the North the same woods often contain both birds, and there is
opportunity to note just how much they differ. The Southern bird is slightly
the larger, possibly an inch; it is more gray, and it lacks a few of the
streaks, notably on the throat, that plentifully speckle its Northern
counterpart; but the habits of both of these birds appear to be identical.
Only for a few days in the spring or autumn migrations do they pass near
enough to our homes for us to study them, and then we must ever be on the
alert to steal a glance at them through the opera-glasses, for birds more shy
than they do not visit the garden shrubbery at any season. Only let them
suspect they are being stared at, and they are under cover in a twinkling.

Where mountain streams dash through tracts of mossy, spongy ground that is
carpeted with fern and moss, and overgrown with impenetrable thickets of
underbrush and tangles of creepers -- such a place is the favorite resort of
both the water thrushes. With a rubber boot missing, clothes torn, and temper
by no means unruffled, you finally stand over the Louisiana thrush's nest in
the roots of an upturned tree immediately over the water, or else in a mossy
root-belaced bank above a purling stream. A liquid-trilled warble, wild and
sweet, breaks the stillness, and, like Audubon, you feel amply rewarded for
your pains though you may not be prepared to agree with him in thinking the
song the equal of the European nightingale's.

NORTHERN WATER THRUSH (Seiurus noveboracensis) Wood Warbler


Length -- 5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Uniform olive or grayish brown above. Pale
  buff line over the eye. Underneath, white tinged with sulphur
  yellow, and streaked like a thrush with very dark brown arrow
  headed or oblong spots that are also seen underneath wings.
Range -- United States, westward to Rockies and northward through
  British provinces. Winters from Gulf States southward.
Migrations -- Late April. October. Summer resident.

According to the books we have before us, a warbler; but who, to look at his
speckled throat and breast, would ever take him for anything but a diminutive
thrush; or, studying him from some distance through the opera-glasses as he
runs in and out of the little waves along the brook or river shore, would not
name him a baby sandpiper? The rather unsteady motion of his legs, balancing
of the tail, and sudden jerking of the head suggest an aquatic bird rather
than a bird of the woods. But to really know either man or beast, you must
follow him to his home, and if you have pluck enough to brave the swamp and
the almost impenetrable tangle of undergrowth where the water thrush chooses
to nest, there "In the swamp in secluded recesses, a shy and hidden bird is
warbling a song;" and this warbled song that Walt Whitman so adored gives you
your first clue to the proper classification of the bird. It has nothing in
common with the serene, hymn-like voices of the true thrushes; the bird has no
flute-like notes, but an emphatic smacking or chucking kind of warble. For a
few days only is this song heard about the gardens and roadsides of our
country places. Like the Louisiana water thrush, this bird never ventures near
the homes of men after the spring and autumn migrations, but, on the contrary,
goes as far away from them as possible, preferably to some mountain region,
beside a cool and dashing brook, where a party of adventurous young climbers
from a summer hotel or the lonely trout fisherman may startle it from its
mossy nest on the ground.

FLICKER (Colaptes auratus) Woodpecker family


Length -- 12 to 13 inches. About one-fourth as large again as the
Male and Female -- Head and neck bluish gray, with a red crescent
  across back of neck and a black crescent on breast. Male has
  black cheek-patches, that are wanting in female. Golden brown
  shading into brownish-gray, and barred with black above.
  Underneath whitish, tinged with light chocolate and thickly
  spotted with black. Wing linings, shafts of wing, and tail
  quills bright yellow. Above tail white, conspicuous when the
  bird flies.
Range -- United States, east of Rockies; Alaska and British
  America, south of Hudson Bay. Occasional on Pacific slope.
Migrations -- Most commonly seen from April to October. Usually

If we were to follow the list of thirty-six aliases by which this largest and
commonest of our woodpeckers is known throughout its wide range, we should
find all its peculiarities of color, flight, noises, and habits indicated in
its popular names. It cannot but attract attention wherever seen, with its
beautiful plumage, conspicuously yellow if its outstretched wings are looked
at from below, conspicuously brown and white if seen upon the ground. At a
distance it suggests the meadowlark. Both birds wear black, crescent breast
decorations, and the flicker also has the habit of feeding upon the ground,
especially in autumn, a characteristic not shared by its relations.

Early in the spring this bird of many names and many voices makes itself known
by a long, strong, sonorous call, a sort of proclamation that differs from its
song proper, which Audubon. calls "a prolonged jovial laugh" (described by
Mrs. Wright as "Wick, wick, wick, wick!") and differs also from its rapidly
repeated, mellow, and most musical cub, cub, cub, cub, cub, uttered during the
nesting season.

Its nasal kee-yer, vigorously called out in the autumn, is less
characteristic, however, than the sound it makes while associating with its
fellows on the feeding ground -- a sound that Mr. Frank M. Chapman says can be
closely imitated by the swishing of a willow wand.

A very ardent and ridiculous-looking lover is this bird, as, with tail stiffly
spread, he sidles up to his desired mate and bows and bobs before her, then
retreats and advances, bowing and bobbing again, very often with a rival lover
beside him (whom he generously tolerates) trying to outdo him in grace and
general attractiveness. Not the least of the bird's qualities that must
commend themselves to the bride is his unfailing good nature, genial alike in
the home and in the field.

The "high-holders" have the peculiar and silly habit of boring out a number of
superfluous holes for nests high up in the trees, in buildings, or hollow
wooden columns, only one of which they intend to use. Six white eggs is the
proper number for a household, but Dr. Coues says the female that has been
robbed keeps on laying three or even four sets of eggs without interruption.

MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna) Blackbird family


Length -- 10 to 11 inches. A trifle larger than the robin.
Male -- Upper parts brown, varied with chestnut, deep brown, and
  black. Crown streaked with brown and black, and with a
  cream-colored streak through the centre. Dark-brown line
  apparently running through the eye; another line over eye,
  yellow. Throat and chin yellow; a large conspicuous black
  crescent on breast. Underneath yellow, shading into buffy
  brown, spotted or streaked with very dark brown, Outer tail
  feathers chiefly white, conspicuous in flight. Long, strong
  legs and claws, adapted for walking. Less black in winter
  plumage, which is more grayish brown.
Female -- Paler than male.
Range -- North America, from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico,
  and westward to the plains, where the Western meadowlark takes
  its place. Winters from Massachusetts and Illinois southward.
Migrations -- April. Late October. Usually a resident, a few
  remaining through the winter.

In the same meadows with the red-winged blackbirds, birds of another feather,
but of the same family, nevertheless, may be found flocking together, hunting
for worms and larvae, building their nests, and rearing their young very near
each other with the truly social instinct of all their kin.

The meadowlarks, which are really not larks at all, but the blackbirds' and
orioles' cousins, are so protected by the coloring of the feathers on their
backs, like that of the grass and stubble they live among, that ten blackbirds
are noticed for every meadowlark although the latter is very common. Not until
you flush a flock of them as you walk along the roadside or through the
meadows and you note the white tail feathers and the black crescents on the
yellow breasts of the large brown birds that rise towards the tree-tops with
whirring sound and a flight suggesting the quail's, do you suspect there are
any birds among the tall grasses.

Their clear and piercing whistle, "Spring o' the y-e-a-r, Spring o' the year!"
rings out from the trees with varying intonation and accent, but always sweet
and inspiriting. To the bird's high vantage ground you may not follow, for no
longer having the protection of the high grass, it has become wary and flies
away as you approach, calling out peent-peent and nervously flitting its tail
(again showing the white feather), when it rests a moment on the pasture

It is like looking for a needle in a haystack to try to find a meadowlark's
nest, an unpretentious structure of dried grasses partly arched over and
hidden in a clump of high timothy, flat upon the ground. But what havoc snakes
and field-mice play with the white-speckled eggs and helpless fledglings! The
care of rearing two or three broods in a season and the change of plumage to
duller winter tints seem to exhaust the high spirits of the sweet whistler.
For a time he is silent, but partly regains his vocal powers in the autumn,
when, with large flocks of his own kind, he resorts to marshy feeding grounds.
In the winter he chooses for companions the horned larks, that walk along the
shore, or the snow buntings and sparrows of the inland pastures, and will even
include the denizens of the barn-yard when hunger drives him close to the
haunts of men.

The Western Meadowlark or Prairie Lark (Sturnella magna neglecta), which many
ornithologists consider a different species from the foregoing [as does AOU
1998], is distinguished chiefly by its lighter, more grayish-brown plumage, by
its yellow cheeks, and more especially by its richer, fuller song. In his
"Birds of Manitoba" Mr. Ernest E. Thompson says of this meadowlark: "In
richness of voice and modulation it equals or excels both wood thrush and
nightingale, and in the beauty of its articulation it has no superior in the
whole world of feathered choristers with which I am acquainted."

HORNED LARK (Otocoris alpestris) Lark family

Called also: SHORE LARK

Length -- 7.5 to 8 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the
Male -- Upper parts dull brown, streaked with lighter on edges
  and tinged with pink or vinaceous; darkest on back of head
  neck, shoulders, and nearest the tail. A few erectile feathers
  on either side of the head form slight tufts or horns that are
  wanting in female. A black mark from the base of the bill
  passes below the eye and ends in a horn-shaped curve on cheeks,
  which are yellow. Throat clear yellow. Breast has crescent
  shaped black patch. Underneath soiled white, with dusky spots
  on lower breast. Tail black, the outer feathers margined with
  white, noticed in flight.
Female -- Has yellow eye-stripe; less prominent markings,
  especially on head, and is a trifle smaller.
Range -- Northeastern parts of North America, and in winter from
  Ohio and eastern United States as far south as North Carolina.
Migrations -- October and November. March. Winter resident

Far away to the north in Greenland and Labrador this true lark, the most
beautiful of its genus, makes its summer home. There it is a conspicuously
handsome bird with its pinkish-gray and chocolate feathers, that have greatly
faded into dull browns when we see them in the late autumn. In the far north
only does it sing, and, according to Audubon, the charming song is flung to
the breeze while the bird soars like a skylark. In the United States we hear
only its call-note.

Great flocks come down the Atlantic coast in October and November, and
separate into smaller bands that take up their residence in sandy stretches
and open tracts near the sea or wherever the food supply looks promising, and
there the larks stay until all the seeds, buds of bushes, berries, larvae, and
insects in their chosen territory are exhausted. They are ever conspicuously
ground birds, walkers, and when disturbed at their dinner, prefer to squat on
the earth rather than expose themselves by flight. Sometimes they run nimbly
over the frozen ground to escape an intruder, but flying they reserve as a
last resort. When the visitor has passed they quickly return to their dinner.
If they were content to eat less ravenously and remain slender, fewer victims
might be slaughtered annually to tickle the palates of the epicure. It is a
mystery what they find to fatten upon when snow covers the frozen ground. Even
in the severe midwinter storms they will not seek the protection of the woods,
but always prefer sandy dunes with their scrubby undergrowth or open meadow
lands. Occasionally a small flock wanders toward the farms to pick up seeds
that are blown from the hayricks or scattered about the barn-yard by overfed
domestic fowls.

The Prairie Horned Lark (Otocoris alpestris praticola) is similar to the
preceding, but a trifle smaller and paler, with a white instead of a yellow
streak above the eye, the throat yellowish or entirely white instead of
sulphur-yellow, and other minor differences. It has a far more southerly
range, confined to northern portions of the United States from the Mississippi
eastward. Once a distinctly prairie bird, it now roams wherever large
stretches of open country that suit its purposes are cleared in the East, and
remains resident. This species also sings in midair on the wing, but its song
is a crude, half-inarticulate affair, barely audible from a height of two
hundred feet.

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus pensilvanicus) Wagtail family


Length -- 6.38 to 7 inches. About the size of a sparrow.
Male and Female -- Upper parts brown; wings and tail dark
  olive-brown; the wing coverts tipped with buff or whitish, and
  ends of outer tail feathers white, conspicuous in flight. White
  or yellowish eye-ring, and line above the eye. Underneath light
  buff brown, with spots on breast and sides, the under parts
  being washed with brown of various shades. Feet brown. Hind
  toe-nail as long as or longer than the toe.
Range -- North America at large. Winters south of Virginia to
  Mexico and beyond.
Migrations -- April. October or November. Common in the United
  States, chiefly during the migrations.

The color of this bird varies slightly with age and sex, the under parts
ranging from white through pale rosy brown to a reddish tinge; but at any
season, and under all circumstances, the pipit is a distinctly brown bird,
resembling the water thrushes not in plumage only, but in the comical tail
waggings and jerkings that alone are sufficient to identify it. However the
books may tell us the bird is a wagtail, it certainly possesses two strong
characteristics of true larks: it is a walker, delighting in walking or
running, never hopping over the ground, and it has the angelic habit of
singing as it flies.

During the migrations the pipits are abundant in salt marshes or open
stretches of country inland, that, with lark-like preference, they choose for
feeding grounds. When flushed, all the flock rise together with uncertain
flight, hovering and wheeling about the place, calling down dee-dee, dee-dee
above your head until you have passed on your way, then promptly returning to
the spot from whence they were disturbed. Along the roadsides and pastures,
where two or three birds are frequently seen together, they are too often
mistaken for the vesper sparrows because of their similar size and coloring,
but their easy, graceful walk should distinguish them at once from the hopping
sparrow. They often run to get ahead of some one in the lane, but rarely fly
if they can help it, and then scarcely higher than a fence-rail. Early in
summer they are off for the mountains in the north. Labrador is their chosen
nesting ground, and they are said to place their grassy nest, lined with
lichens or moss, flat upon the ground -- still another lark trait. Their eggs
are chocolate-brown scratched with black.

WHIPPOORWILL (Antrostomus vociferus) Goatsucker family

[Called also: WHIP-POOR-WILL, AOU 1998]

Length -- 9 to 10 inches. About the size of the robin. Apparently
  much larger, because of its long wings and wide wingspread.
Male -- A long-winged bird, mottled all over with reddish brown,
  grayish black, and dusky white; numerous bristles fringing the
  large mouth. A narrow white band across the upper breast. Tail
  quills on the end and under side white.
Female -- Similar to male, except that the tail is dusky in color
  where that of the male is white. Band on breast buff instead of
Range -- United States, to the plains. Not common near the sea.
Migrations -- Late April to middle of September. Summer resident.

The whippoorwill, because of its nocturnal habits and plaintive note, is
invested with a reputation for occult power which inspires a chilling awe
among superstitious people, and leads them insanely to attribute to it an evil
influence; but it is a harmless, useful night prowler, flying low and catching
enormous numbers of hurtful insects, always the winged varieties, in its
peculiar fly-trap mouth.

It loves the rocky, solitary woods, where it sleeps all day; but it is seldom
seen, even after painstaking search, because of its dull, mottled markings
conforming so nearly to rocks and dry leaves, and because of its unusual habit
of stretching itself length-wise on a tree branch or ledge, where it is easily
confounded with a patch of lichen, and thus overlooked. If by accident one
happens upon a sleeping bird, it suddenly rouses and flies away, making no
more sound than a passing butterfly -- a curious and uncanny silence that is
quite remarkable. When the sun goes down and as the gloaming deepens, the
bird's activity increases, and it begins its nightly duties, emitting from
time to time, like a sentry on his post or a watchman of the night, the
doleful call which has given the bird its common name. It

     "Mourns unseen, and ceaseless sings
      Ever a note of wail and woe,"

that our Dutch ancestors interpreted as "Quote-kerr-kee," and so called it.
They had a tradition that no frost ever appeared after the bird had been heard
calling in the spring, and that it wisely left for warmer skies before frost
came in the autumn. Prudent bird, never caught napping!

It is erratic in its choice of habitations, even when rock and solitude seem
suited to its taste. Very rarely is this odd bird found close to the seashore,
and in the Hudson River valley it keeps a half mile or more back from the

The eggs, generally two in number, are creamy white, dashed with dark and
olive spots, and laid on the ground on dry leaves, or in a little hollow in
rock or stump -- never in a nest built with loving care. But in extenuation of
such carelessness it may be said that, if disturbed or threatened, the mother
shows no lack of maternal instinct, and removes her young, carrying them in
her beak as a cat conveys her kittens to secure shelter.

NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles virginianus) Goatsucker family


Length -- 9 to 10 inches. About the same length as the robin, but
  apparently much longer because of its very wide wing-spread.
Male and Female -- Mottled blackish brown and rufous above, with
  a multitude of cream-yellow spots and dashes. Lighter below,
  with waving bars of brown on breast and underneath. White mark
  on throat, like an imperfect horseshoe; also a band of white
  across tail of male bird. These latter markings are wanting in
  female. Heavy wings, which are partly mottled, are brown on
  shoulders and tips, and longer than tail. They have large white
  spots, conspicuous in flight, one of their distinguishing marks
  from the whippoorwill. Head large and depressed, with large
  eyes and ear-openings. Very small bill.
Range -- From Mexico to arctic islands.
Migrations -- May. October. Common summer resident.

The nighthawk's misleading name could not well imply more that the bird is
not: it is not nocturnal in its habits, neither is it a hawk, for if it were,
no account of it would be given in this book, which distinctly excludes birds
of prey. Stories of its chicken-stealing prove to be ignorant rather than
malicious slanders. Any one disliking the name, however, surely cannot
complain of a limited choice of other names by which, in different sections of
the country, it is quite as commonly known.

Too often it is mistaken for the whippoorwill. The night hawk does not have
the weird and woful cry of that more dismal bird, but gives instead a harsh,
whistling note while on the wing, followed by a vibrating, booming, whirring
sound that Nuttall likens to "the rapid turning of a spinning wheel, or a
strong blowing into the bung-hole of an empty hogshead." This peculiar sound
is responsible for the name nightjar, frequently given to this curious bird.
It is said to be made as the bird drops suddenly through the air, creating a
sort of stringed instrument of its outstretched wings and tail. When these
wings are spread, their large white spots running through the feathers to the
under side should be noted to further distinguish the nighthawk from the
whippoorwill, which has none, but which it otherwise closely resembles. This
booming sound, coming from such a height that the bird itself is often unseen,
was said by the Indians to be made by the shad spirits to warn the scholes of
shad about to ascend the rivers to spawn in the spring, of their impending

The flight of the nighthawk is free and graceful in the extreme. Soaring
through space without any apparent motion of its wings, suddenly it darts with
amazing swiftness like an erratic bat after the fly, mosquito, beetle, or moth
that falls within the range of its truly hawk-like eye.

Usually the nighthawks hunt in little companies in the most sociable fashion.
Late in the summer they seem to be almost gregarious. They fly in the early
morning or late afternoon with beak wide open, hawking for insects, but except
when the moon is full they are not known to go a-hunting after sunset. During
the heat of the day and at night they rest on limbs of trees, fence-rails,
stone walls, lichen-covered rocks or old logs -- wherever Nature has provided
suitable mimicry of their plumage to help conceal them.

With this object in mind, they quite as often choose a hollow surface of rock
in some waste pasture or the open ground on which to deposit the two
speckled-gray eggs that sixteen days later will give birth to their family.
But in August, when family cares have ended for the season, it is curious to
find this bird of the thickly wooded country readily adapting itself to city
life, resting on Mansard roofs, darting into the streets from the housetops,
and wheeling about the electric lights, making a hearty supper of the little,
winged insects they attract.

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythrophthalmus) Cuckoo family

Called also: RAIN CROW

Length -- 11 to 12 inches. About one-fifth larger than the robin.
Male -- Grayish brown above, with bronze tint in feathers.
  Underneath grayish white; bill, which is long as head and
  black, arched and acute. Skin about the eye bright red. Tail
  long, and with spots on tips of quills that are small and
Female -- Has obscure dusky bars on the tail.
Range -- Labrador to Panama; westward to Rocky Mountains.
Migration -- May. September. Summer resident.

     "O cuckoo! shalt I call thee bird?
      Or but a wandering voice?"

From the tangled shrubbery on the hillside back of Dove Cottage, Keswick,
where Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy listened for the coming of this
"darling of the spring"; in the willows overhanging Shakespeare's Avon; from
the favorite haunts of Chaucer and Spenser, where

     "Runneth meade and springeth blede,"

we hear the cuckoo calling; but how many on this side of the Atlantic are
familiar with its American counterpart? Here, too, the cuckoo delights in
running water and damp, cloudy weather like that of an English spring; it
haunts the willows by our river-sides, where as yet no "immortal bard" arises
to give it fame. It "loud sings" in our shrubbery, too. Indeed, if we cannot
study our bird afield, the next best place to become acquainted with it is in
the pages of the English poets. But due allowance must be made for differences
of temperament. Our cuckoo is scarcely a "merry harbinger"; his talents, such
as they are, certainly are not musical. However, the guttural cluck is not
discordant, and the black-billed species, at least, has a soft, mellow voice
that seems to indicate an embryonic songster.

"K-k-k-k, kow-kow-ow-kow-ow!" is a familiar sound in many localities, but the
large. slim,, pigeon-shaped, brownish-olive bird that makes it, securely
hidden in the low trees and shrubs that are its haunts, is not often
personally known. Catching a glimpse only of the grayish-white under parts
from where we stand looking up into the tree at it, it is quite impossible to
tell the bird from the yellow-billed species. When, as it flies about, we are
able to note the red circles about its eyes, its black bill, and the absence
of black tail feathers, with their white "thumb-nail" spots, and see no bright
cinnamon feathers on the wings (the yellow-billed specie's distinguishing
marks), we can at last claim acquaintance with the black-billed cuckoo. Our
two common cuckoos are so nearly alike that they are constantly confused in
the popular mind and very often in the writings of ornithologists. At first
glance the birds look alike. Their haunts are almost identical; their habits
are the same; and, as they usually keep well out of sight, it is not
surprising if confusion arise.

Neither cuckoo knows how to build a proper home; a bunch of sticks dropped
carelessly into the bush, where the hapless babies that emerge from the
greenish eggs will not have far to fall when they tumble out of bed, as they
must inevitably do, may by courtesy only be called a nest. The cuckoo is said
to suck the eggs of other birds; but, surely, such vice is only the rarest
dissipation. Insects of many kinds and "tent caterpillars" chiefly are their
chosen food.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus) Cuckoo family

Called also: RAIN CROW

Length -- 11 to 12 inches. About one-fifth longer than the robin.
Male and Female -- Grayish brown above, with bronze tint in
  feathers. Underneath grayish white. Bill, which is as tong as
  head, arched, acute, and more robust than the black-billed
  species, and with lower mandible yellow. Wings washed with
  bright cinnamon-brown. Tail has outer quills black,
  conspicuously marked with white thumb-nail spots.
Female larger.
Range -- North America, from Mexico to Labrador. Most common in
temperate climates. Rare on Pacific slope.
Migrations -- Late April. September. Summer resident.

"Kak, k-kuh, k-kuk, k-kuk!" like an exaggerated tree-toad's rattle, is a sound
that, when first heard, makes you rush out of doors instantly to "name" the
bird. Look for him in the depths of the tall shrubbery or low trees, near
running water, if there is any in the neighborhood, and if you are more
fortunate than most people, you will presently become acquainted with the
yellow-billed cuckoo. When seen perching at a little distance, his large, slim
body, grayish brown, with olive tints above and whitish below, can scarcely be
distinguished from that of the black-billed species. It is not until you get
close enough to note the yellow bill, reddish-brown wings, and black tail
feathers with their white "thumb-nail" marks, that you know which cuckoo you
are watching. In repose the bird looks dazed or stupid, but as it darts about
among the trees after insects, noiselessly slipping to another one that
promises better results, and hopping along the limbs after performing a series
of beautiful evolutions among the branches as it hunts for its favorite "tent
caterpillars," it appears what it really is: an unusually active, graceful,
intelligent bird.

A solitary wanderer, nevertheless one cuckoo in an apple orchard is worth a
hundred robins in ridding it of caterpillars and inch-worms, for it delights
in killing many more of these than it can possibly eat. In the autumn it
varies its diet with minute fresh-water shellfish from the swamp and lake.
Mulberries, that look so like caterpillars the bird possibly likes them on
that account, it devours wholesale.

Family cares rest lightly on the cuckoos. The nest of both species is a
ramshackle affair -- a mere bundle of twigs and sticks without a rim to keep
the eggs from rolling from the bush, where they rest, to the ground. Unlike
their European relative, they have the decency to rear their own young and not
impose this heavy task on others; but the cuckoos on both sides of the
Atlantic are most erratic and irregular in their nesting habits. The
overworked mother-bird often lays an egg while brooding over its nearly
hatched companion, and the two or three half-grown fledglings already in the
nest may roll the large greenish eggs out upon the ground, while both parents
are off searching for food to quiet their noisy clamorings. Such distracting
mismanagement in the nursery is enough to make a homeless wanderer of any
father. It is the mother-bird that tumbles to the ground at your approach from
sheer fright; feigns lameness, trails her wings as she tries to entice you
away from the nest. The male bird shows far less concern; a no more devoted
father, we fear, than he is a lover. It is said he changes his mate every

Altogether, the cuckoo is a very different sort of bird from what our fancy
pictured. The little Swiss creatures of wood that fly out of the doors of
clocks and call out the bed-hour to sleepy children, are chiefly responsible
for the false impressions of our mature years. The American bird does not
repeat its name, and its harsh, grating "kuk, kuk," does not remotely suggest
the sweet voice of its European relative.

BANK SWALLOW (Clivicola riparia) Swallow family


Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch shorter than the English
  sparrow, but apparently much larger because of its wide
Male and Female -- Grayish brown or clay-colored above. Upper
  wings and tail darkest. Below, white, with brownish band
  across chest. Tail, which is rounded and more nearly square
  than the other swallows, is obscurely edged with white.
Range -- Throughout North America south of Hudson Bay.
Migrations -- April. October. Summer resident.

Where a brook cuts its way through a sand bank to reach the sea is an ideal
nesting ground for a colony of sand martins. The face of the high bank shows a
number of clean, round holes indiscriminately bored into the sand, as if the
place had just received a cannonading; but instead of war an atmosphere of
peace pervades the place in midsummer, when you are most likely to visit it.
Now that the young ones have flown from their nests that your arm can barely
reach through the tunnelled sand or clay, there can be little harm in
examining the feathers dropped from gulls, ducks, and other water-birds with
which the grassy home is lined.

The bank swallow's nest, like the kingfisher's, which it resembles, is his
home as well. There he rests when tired of flying about in pursuit of insect
food. Perhaps a bird that has been resting in one of the tunnels, startled by
your innocent housebreaking, will fly out across your face, near enough for
you to see how unlike the other swallows he is: smaller, plainer, and with
none of their glinting steel-blues and buffs about him. With strong, swift
flight he rejoins his fellows, wheeling, skimming, darting through the air
above you, and uttering his characteristic "giggling twitter," that is one of
the cheeriest noises heard along the beach. In early October vast numbers of
these swallows may be seen in loose flocks along the Jersey coast, slowly
making their way South. Clouds of them miles in extent are recorded.

Closely associated with the sand martin is the Rough-winged Swallow
(Stelgidopteryx serripennis), not to be distinguished from its companion on
the wing, but easily recognized by its dull-gray throat and the absence of the
brown breast-band when seen at close range.

CEDAR BIRD (Ampelis cedrorum) Waxwing family


Length -- 7 to 8 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.
Male -- Upper parts rich grayish brown, with plum-colored tints
  showing through the brown on crest, throat, breast, wings, and
  tail. A velvety-black line on forehead runs through the eye and
  back of crest. Chin black; crest conspicuous; breast lighter
  than the back, and shading into yellow underneath. Wings have
  quill-shafts of secondaries elongated, and with brilliant
  vermilion tips like drops of sealing-wax, rarely seen on tail
  quills, which have yellow bands across the end.
Female -- With duller plumage, smaller crest, and narrower
Range -- North America, from northern British provinces to
  Central America in winter.
Migrations -- A roving resident, without fixed seasons for

As the cedar birds travel about in great flocks that quickly exhaust their
special food in a neighborhood, they necessarily lead a nomadic life -- here
to-day, gone to-morrow -- and, like the Arabs, they "silently steal away." It
is surprising how very little noise so great a company of these birds make at
any time. That is because they are singularly gentle and refined; soft of
voice, as they are of color, their plumage suggesting a fine Japanese
water-color painting on silk, with its beautiful sheen and exquisitely blended

One listens in vain for a song; only a lisping "Twee-twee-ze," or "a dreary
whisper," as Minot calls their low-toned communications with each other,
reaches our ears from their high perches in the cedar trees, where they sit,
almost motionless hours at a time, digesting the enormous quantities of
juniper and whortleberries, wild cherries, worms, and insects upon which they
have gormandized.

Nuttall gives the cedar birds credit for excessive politeness to each other.
He says he has often seen them passing a worm from one to another down a whole
row of beaks and back again before it was finally eaten.

When nesting time arrives -- that is to say, towards the end of the summer --
they give up their gregarious habits and live in pairs, billing and kissing
like turtle-doves in the orchard or wild crabtrees, where a flat, bulky nest
is rather carelessly built of twigs, grasses, feathers, strings -- any odds
and ends that may be lying about. The eggs are usually four, white tinged with
purple and spotted with black.

Apparently they have no moulting season; their plumage is always the same,
beautifully neat and full-feathered. Nothing ever hurries or flusters them,
their greatest concern apparently being, when they alight, to settle
themselves comfortably between their over-polite friends, who are never guilty
of jolting or crowding. Few birds care to take life so easily, not to say

Among the French Canadians they are called Recollet, from the color of their
crest resembling the hood of the religious order of that name. Every region
the birds pass through, local names appear to be applied to them, a few of the
most common of which are given above.

Of the three waxwings known to scientists, two are found in America, and the
third in Japan,

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia familiaris americana) Creeper family

Length -- 5 to 5.75 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Brown above, varied with ashy-gray stripes and
  small, lozenge-shaped gray mottles. Color lightest on head,
  increasing in shade to reddish brown near tail. Tail paler
  brown and long; wings brown and barred with whitish. Beneath
  grayish white. Slender, curving bill.
Range -- United States and Canada, east of Rocky Mountains.
Migrations -- April. September. Winter resident

This little brown wood sprite, the very embodiment of virtuous diligence, is
never found far from the nuthatches, titmice, and kinglets, though not
strictly in their company, for he is a rather solitary bird. Possibly he
repels them by being too exasperatingly conscientious.

Beginning at the bottom of a rough-barked tree (for a smooth bark conceals no
larvae, the creeper silently climbs upward in a sort of spiral, now lost to
sight on the opposite side of the tree, then reappearing just where he is
expected to, flitting back a foot or two, perhaps, lest he overlooked a single
spider egg, but never by any chance leaving a tree until conscience approves
of his thoroughness. And yet with all this painstaking workman's care, it
takes him just about fifty seconds to finish a tree. Then off he flits to the
base of another, to repeat the spiral process. Only rarely does he adopt the
woodpecker process of partly flitting, partly rocking his way with the help of
his tail straight up one side of the tree.

Yet this little bird is not altogether the soulless drudge he appears. In the
midst of his work, uncheered by summer sunshine, and clinging with numb toes
to the tree-trunk some bitter cold day, he still finds some tender emotion
within him to voice in a "wild, sweet song" that is positively enchanting at
such a time. But it is not often this song is heard south of his nesting

The brown creeper's plumage is one of Nature's most successful feats of
mimicry -- an exact counterfeit in feathers of the brown-gray bark on which
the bird lives. And the protective coloring is carried out in the nest
carefully tucked under a piece of loosened bark in the very heart of the tree.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) Finch family


Length -- 4.75 to 5 inches. Over an inch smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Olive-brown and gray above, much streaked and
  striped with very dark brown everywhere. Darkest on head and
  back. Lower back, base of tail, and wing feathers pale
  sulphur-yellow. Under parts very light buff brown, heavily
Range -- North America generally. Most common in north latitudes.
  Winters south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Migrations -- Erratic winter visitor from October to April.
  Uncommon in summer.

A small grayish-brown brindle bird, relieved with touches of yellow on its
back, wings, and tail, may be seen some winter morning roving on the lawn from
one evergreen tree to another, clinging to the pine cones and peering
attentively between the scales before extracting the kernels. It utters a
call-note so like the English sparrow's that you are surprised when you look
up into the tree to find it comes from a stranger. The pine siskin is an
erratic visitor, and there is always the charm of the unexpected about its
coming near our houses that heightens our enjoyment of its brief stay.

As it flies downward from the top of the spruce tree to feed upon the brown
seeds still clinging to the pigweed and goldenrod stalks sticking out above
the snow by the roadside, it dips and floats through the air like its charming
little cousin, the goldfinch. They have several characteristics in common
besides their flight and their fondness for thistles. Far at the north, where
the pine siskin nests in the top of the evergreens, his sweet-warbled
love-song is said to be like that of our "wild canary's," only with a
suggestion of fretfulness in the tone.

Occasionally some one living in an Adirondack or other mountain camp reports
finding the nest and hearing the siskin sing even in midsummer; but it is,
nevertheless, considered a northern species, however its erratic habits may
sometimes break through the ornithologist's traditions.

SMITH'S PAINTED LONGSPUR (Calcarius pictus) Finch family

[Called also: SMITH'S LONGSPUR, AOU 1998]

Length -- 6.5 inches. About the size of a large English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Upper parts marked with black, brown, and
  white, like a sparrow; brown predominant. Male bird with more
  black about head, shoulders, and tail feathers, and a whitish
  patch, edged with black, under the eye. Underneath pale brown,
  shading to buff. Hind claw or spur conspicuous.
Range -- Interior of North America, from the arctic coast to
  Illinois and and Texas; Migrations -- Winter visitor. Without
  fixed season.

Confined to a narrower range than the Lapland longspur, this bird, quite
commonly found on the open prairie districts of the middle West in winter, is,
nevertheless, so very like its cousin that the same description of their
habits might very well answer for both. Indeed, both these birds are often
seen in the same flock. Larks and the ubiquitous sparrows, too, intermingle
with them with the familiarity that only the starvation rations of midwinter,
and not true sociability, can effect; and, looking out upon such a
heterogeneous flock of brown birds as they are feeding together on the frozen
ground, only the trained field ornithologist would find it easy to point out
the painted longspurs.

Certain peculiarities are noticeable, however. Longspurs squat while resting;
then, when flushed, they run quickly and lightly, and "rise with a sharp
click, repeated several times in quick succession, and move with an easy,
undulating motion for a short distance, when they alight very suddenly,
seeming to fall perpendicularly several feet to the ground." Another
peculiarity of their flight is their habit of flying about in circles, to and
fro, keeping up a constant chirping or call. It is only in the mating season,
when we rarely hear them, that the longspurs have the angelic manner of
singing as they fly, like the skylark. The colors of the males, among the
several longspurs, may differ widely, but the indistinctly marked females are
so like each other that only their mates, perhaps, could tell them apart.

LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Calcarius lapponicus) Finch family


Length -- 6.5 to 7 inches. trifle larger than the English sparrow.
Male -- Color varies with season. Winter plumage: Top of head
  black, with rusty markings, all feathers being tipped with
  white. Behind and below the eye rusty black. Breast and
  underneath grayish white faintly streaked with black. Above
  reddish brown with black markings. Feet, which are black, have
  conspicuous, long hind claws or spur.
Female -- Rusty gray above, less conspicuously marked. Whitish
Range -- Circumpolar regions; northern United States; occasional
  in Middle States; abundant in winter as far as Kansas and the
  Rocky Mountains.
Migrations -- Winter visitors, rarely resident, and without a
  Fixed season.

This arctic bird, although considered somewhat rare with us, when seen at all
in midwinter is in such large flocks that, before its visit in the
neighborhood is ended, and because there are so few other birds about, it
becomes delightfully familiar as it nimbly runs over the frozen ground,
picking up grain that has blown about from the barn, when the seeds of the
field are buried under snow. This lack of fear through sharp hunger, that
often drives the shyest of the birds to our very doors in winter, is as
pathetic as it is charming. Possibly it is not so rare a bird as we think, for
it is often mistaken for some of the sparrows, the shore larks, and the snow
buntings, that it not only resembles, but whose company it frequently keeps,
or for one of the other longspurs.

At all seasons of the year a ground bird, you may readily identify the Lapland
longspur by its tracks through the snow, showing the mark of the long hind
claw or spur. In summer we know little or nothing about it, for, with the
coming of the flowers, it is off to the far north, where, we are told, it
depresses its nest in a bed of moss upon the ground, and lines it with fur
shed from the coat of the arctic fox.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella socialis) Finch family


Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. An inch shorter than the English
Male -- Under the eye, on the back of the neck, underneath, and
  on the lower back ash-gray. Gray stripe over the eye, and a
  blackish brown one apparently through it. Dark red-brown crown.
  Back brown, slightly rufous, and feathers streaked with black.
  Wings and tail dusty brown. Wing-bars not conspicuous. Bill
Female -- Lacks the chestnut color on the crown, which is
  Streaked with black. In winter the frontlet is black. Bill
Range -- North America, from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Mexico
  And westward to the Rockies. Winters in Gulf States and Mexico.
  Most common in eastern United States.
Migrations -- April. October. Common summer resident, many birds
  remaining all the year from southern New England southward.

Who does not know this humblest, most unassuming little neighbor that comes
hopping to our very doors; this mite of a bird with "one talent" that it so
persistently uses all the day and every day throughout the summer? Its high,
wiry trill, like the buzzing of the locust, heard in the dawn before the sky
grows even gray, or in the middle of the night, starts the morning chorus; and
after all other voices are hushed in the evening, its tremolo is the last
bed-song to come from the trees. But however monotonous such cheerfulness
sometimes becomes when we are surfeited with real songs from dozens of other
throats, there are long periods of midsummer silence that it punctuates most

Its call-note, chip! chip! from which several of its popular names are
derived, is altogether different from the trill which must do duty as a song
to express love, contentment, everything that so amiable a little nature might
feel impelled to voice.

But with all its virtues, the chippy shows lamentable weakness of character in
allowing its grown children to impose upon it, as it certainly does. In every
group of these birds throughout the summer we can see young ones (which we may
know by the black line-stripes on their breasts) hopping around after their
parents, that are often no larger or more able-bodied than they, and teasing
to be fed; drooping their wings to excite pity for a helplessness that they do
not possess when the weary little mother hops away from them, and still
persistently chirping for food until she weakly relents, returns to them,
picks a seed from the ground and thrusts it down the bill of the sauciest
teaser in the group. With two such broods in a season the chestnut feathers on
the father's jaunty head might well turn gray.

Unlike most of the sparrows, the little chippy frequents high trees, where its
nest is built quite as often as in the low bushes of the garden. The
horse-hair, which always lines the grass" up that holds its greenish-blue,
speckled eggs, is alone responsible for the name hair-bird, and not the
chippy's hair-like trill, as some suppose.

ENGLISH SPARROW (Passer domesticus) Finch family

Called also: HOUSE SPARROW [AOU 1998]

Length -- 6.33 inches.
Male -- Ashy above, with black and chestnut stripes on back and
  shoulders. Wings have chestnut and white bar, bordered by faint
  black line. Gray crown, bordered from the eye backward and on
  the nape by chestnut. Middle of throat and breast black.
  Underneath grayish white.
Female -- Paler; wing-bars indistinct, and without the black
  marking on throat and breast.
Range -- Around the world. Introduced and naturalized in America,
  Australia, New Zealand.
Migrations -- Constant resident.

"Of course, no self-respecting ornithologist will condescend to enlarge his
list by counting in the English sparrow -- too pestiferous to mention," writes
Mr. H. E. Parkhurst, and yet of all bird neighbors is any one more within the
scope of this book than the audacious little gamin that delights in the
companion ship of humans even in their most noisy city thoroughfares?

In a bulletin issued by the Department of Agriculture it is shown that the
progeny of a single pair of these sparrows might amount to 275,716,983,698 in
ten years! Inasmuch as many pairs were liberated in the streets of Brooklyn,
New York, in 1851, when the first importation was made, the day is evidently
not far off when these birds, by no means meek, "shall inherit the earth."

In Australia Scotch thistles, English sparrows, and rabbits, three most
unfortunate importations, have multiplied with equal rapidity until serious
alarm fills the minds of the colonists. But in England a special committee
appointed by the House of Commons to investigate the character of the alleged
pest has yet to learn whether the sparrow's services as an insect-destroyer do
not outweigh the injury it does to fruit and grain.

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla) Finch family


Length -- 5.5 to 5.75 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male -- Chestnut crown. Upper back bright chestnut, finely
  streaked with black and ashy brown. Lower back more grayish.
  Whitish wing-bars. Cheeks, line over the eye, throat, pale
  brownish drab. Tail long. Underneath grayish white, tinged with
  palest buff on breast and sides. Bill reddish.
Female -- Paler; the crown edged with grayish.
Range -- North America, from British provinces to the Gulf, and
  westward to the plains. Winters from Illinois and Virginia
  southward. Migrations -- April. November. Common summer

Simply because both birds have chestnut crowns, the field sparrow is often
mistaken for the dapper, sociable chippy; and, no doubt because it loves such
heathery, grassy pastures as are dear to the vesper sparrow, and has bay wings
and a sweet song, these two cousins also are often confused. The field sparrow
has a more reddish-brown upper back than any of its small relatives; the
absence of streaks on its breast and of the white tail quills so conspicuous
in the vesper sparrow's flight, sufficiently differentiate the two birds,
while the red bill of the field sparrow is a positive mark of identification.

This bird of humble nature, that makes the scrubby pastures and uplands
tuneful from early morning until after sunset, flies away with exasperating
shyness as you approach. Alighting on a convenient branch, he lures you on
with his clear, sweet song. Follow him, and he only hops about from bush to
bush, farther and farther away, singing as he goes a variety of strains, which
is one of the bird's peculiarities. The song not only varies in individuals,
but in different localities, which may be one reason why no two ornithologists
record it alike. Doubtless the chief reason for the amusing differences in the
syllables into which the songs of birds are often translated in the books, is
that the same Notes actually sound differently to different individuals. Thus,
to people in Massachusetts the white-throated sparrow seems to say,
"Pea-bod-y, Pea-bod-y, Pea-bod-y!" while good British subjects beyond the New
England border hear him sing quite distinctly, "Sweet Can-a-da, Can-a-da,
Can-a-da!" But however the opinions as to the syllables of the field sparrow's
song may differ, all are agreed as to its exquisite quality, that resembles
the vesper sparrow's tender, sweet melody. The song begins with three soft,
wild whistles, and ends with a series of trills and quavers that gradually
melt away into silence: a serene and restful strain as soothing as a hymn.
Like the vesper sparrows, these birds sometimes build a plain, grassy nest,
unprotected by over hanging bush, flat upon the ground. Possibly from a
prudent tear of field-mice and snakes, the little mother most frequently lays
her bluish-white, rufous -- marked eggs in a nest placed in a bush of a bushy
field. Hence John Burroughs has called the bird the ''bush sparrow."

FOX SPARROW (Passerella ilica) Finch family


Length -- 6.5 to 7.25 inches. Nearly an inch longer than the
  English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Upper parts reddish brown, varied with ash
  gray, brightest on lower back, wings, and tail. Bluish slate
  about the head. Underneath whitish; the throat, breast, and
  sides heavily marked with arrow-heads and oblong dashes of
  reddish brown and blackish.
Range -- Alaska and Manitoba to southern United States. Winters
  chiefly south of Illinois and Virginia. Occasional stragglers
  remain north most of the winter.
Migrations -- March. November. Most common in the migrations.

There will be little difficulty in naming this largest, most plump and reddish
of all the sparrows, whose fox-colored feathers, rather than any malicious
cunning of its disposition, are responsible for the name it bears. The male
bird is incomparably the finest singer of its gifted family. His faint tseep
call-note gives no indication of his vocal powers that some bleak morning in
early March suddenly send a thrill of pleasure through you. It is the most
welcome "glad surprise" of all the spring. Without a preliminary twitter or
throat-clearing of any sort, the full, rich, luscious tones, with just a tinge
of plaintiveness in them, are poured forth with spontaneous abandon. Such a
song at such a time is enough to summon anybody with a musical ear out of
doors under the leaden skies to where the delicious notes issue from the
leafless shrubbery by the roadside. Watch the singer until the song ends, when
he will quite likely descend among the dead leaves on the ground and scratch
among them like any barn-yard fowl, but somehow contriving to use both feet at
once in the operation, as no chicken ever could. He seems to take special
delight in damp thickets, where the insects with which he varies his seed diet
are plentiful.

Usually the fox sparrows keep in small, loose flocks, apart by themselves, for
they are not truly gregarious; but they may sometimes be seen travelling in
company with their white-throated cousins. They are among the last birds to
leave us in the late autumn or winter. Mr. Bicknell says that they seem
indisposed to sing unless present in numbers. Indeed, they are little inclined
to absolute solitude at any time, for even in the nesting season quite a
colony of grassy nurseries may be found in the same meadow, and small
companies haunt the roadside shrubbery during the migrations.

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum passerinus) Finch


Length -- 5 to 5.4 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male and Female -- A cream-yellow line over the eye; centre of
  crown, shoulders, and lesser wing coverts yellowish. Head
  blackish; rust-colored feathers, with small black spots on back
  of the neck; an orange mark before the eye. All other upper
  parts varied red, brown, cream, and black, with a drab wash.
  Underneath brownish drab on breast, shading to soiled white,
  and without streaks. Dusky, even, pointed tail feathers have
  grayish-white outer margins.
Range -- Eastern North America, from British provinces to Cuba.
  Winters south of the Carolinas.
Migrations -- April. October. Common summer resident.

It is safe to say that no other common bird is so frequently overlooked as
this little sparrow, that keeps persistently to the grass and low bushes, and
only faintly lifts up a weak, wiry voice that is usually attributed to some
insect. At the bend of the wings only are the feathers really yellow, and even
this bright shade often goes unnoticed as the bird runs shyly through an old
dairy field or grassy pasture. You may all but step upon it before it takes
wing and exhibits itself on the fence-rail, which is usually as far from the
ground as it cares to go. If you are near enough to this perch you may
overhear the zee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e that has earned it the name of grasshopper
sparrow. If you persistently follow it too closely, away it flies, then
suddenly drops to the ground where a scrubby bush affords protection. A
curious fact about this bird is that after you have once become acquainted
with it, you find that instead of being a rare discovery, as you had supposed,
it is apt to be a common resident of almost every field you walk through.

SAVANNA SPARROW (Ammodramus sandwichensis savanna) Finch family


Length -- 5.5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Cheeks, space over the eye, and on the bend of
  the wings pale yellow. General effect of the upper parts
  brownish drab, streaked with black. Wings and tail dusky, the
  outer webs of the feathers margined with buff. Under parts
  white, heavily streaked with blackish and rufous, the marks on
  breast feathers being wedge-shaped. In the autumn the plumage
  is often suffused with a yellow tinge.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Hudson Bay to Mexico.
  Winters south of Illinois and Virginia.
Migrations -- April. October. A few remain in sheltered marshes
  at the north all winter.

Look for the savanna sparrow in salt marshes, marshy or upland pastures, never
far inland, and if you see a sparrowy bird, unusually white and heavily
streaked beneath, and with pale yellow markings about the eye and on the bend
of the wing; you may still make several guesses at its identity before the
weak, little insect-like trill finally establishes it. Whoever can correctly
name every sparrow and warbler on sight is a person to be envied, if, indeed,
he exists at all.

In the lowlands of Nova Scotia and, in fact, of all the maritime provinces,
this sparrow is the one that is perhaps most commonly seen. Every fence-rail
has one perched upon it, singing "Ptsip, ptsip, ptsip, ze-e-e-e-e" close to
the ear of the passer-by, who otherwise might not hear the low
grasshopper-like song. At the north the bird somehow loses the shyness that
makes it comparatively little known farther south. Depending upon the scrub
and grass to conceal it, you may almost tread upon it before it startles you
by its sudden rising with a whirring noise, only to drop to the ground again
just a few yards farther away, where it scuds among the underbrush and is lost
to sight Tall weeds and fence-rails are as high and exposed situations as it
is likely to select while singing. It is most distinctively a ground bird, and
flat upon the pasture or in a slightly hollowed cup it has the merest apology
for a nest. Only a few wisps of grass are laid in the cavity to receive the
pale-green eggs, that are covered most curiously with blotches of brown of
many shapes and tints.

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammodramus maritimus) Finch family


Length -- 6 inches. A shade smaller than the English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Upper parts dusky grayish or olivaceous brown,
  inclining to gray on shoulders and on edges of some feathers.
  Wings and tail darkest. Throat yellowish white, shading to gray
  on breast, which is indistinctly mottled and streaked. A yellow
  spot before the eye and on bend of the wing, the bird's
  characteristic marks. Blunt tail.
Range -- Atlantic seaboard, from Georgia northward. Usually
  Winters south of Virginia.
Migrations -- April. November. A few remain in sheltered marshes
  all winter.

The savanna, the swamp, the sharp-tailed, and the song sparrows may all
sometimes be found in the haunts of the seaside sparrow, but you may be
certain of finding the latter nowhere else than in the salt marshes within
sight or sound of the sea. It is a dingy little bird, with the least definite
coloring of all the sparrows that have maritime inclinations, with no rufous
tint in its feathers, and less distinct streakings on the breast than any of
them. It has no black markings on the back.

Good-sized flocks of seaside sparrows live together in the marshes; but they
spend so much of their time on the ground, running about among the reeds and
grasses, whose seeds and insect parasites they feed upon, that not until some
unusual disturbance in the quiet place flushes them does the intruder suspect
their presence, Hunters after beach-birds, longshoremen, seaside cottagers,
and whoever follows the windings of a creek through the salt meadows to catch
crabs and eels in midsummer, are well acquainted with the "meadow chippies,"
as the fishermen call them. They keep up a good deal of chirping,
sparrow-fashion, and have four or five notes resembling a song that is usually
delivered from a tall reed stalk, where the bird sways and balances until his
husky performance has ended, when down he drops upon the ground out of sight.
Sometimes, too, these notes are uttered while the bird flutters in the air
above the tops of the sedges.

SHARP-TAILED SPARROW (Ammodramus caudacutus) Finch family

Length -- 5.25 to 5.85 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Upper parts brownish or grayish olive, the
  back with black streaks, and gray edges to some feathers. A
  gray line through centre of crown, which has maroon stripes;
  gray ears enclosed by buff lines, one of which passes through
  the eye and one on side of throat; brownish orange, or buff, on
  sides of head. Bend of the wing yellow. Breast and sides pale
  buff, distinctly streaked with black. Underneath whitish. Each
  narrow quill of tail is sharply pointed. the outer ones
Range -- Atlantic coast. Winters south of Virginia.
Migrations -- April. November. Summer resident.

This bird delights in the company of the dull-colored seaside sparrow, whose
haunts in the salt marshes it frequents, especially the drier parts; but its
pointed tail-quills and more distinct markings are sufficient to prevent
confusion. Mr. J. Dwight, Jr., who has made a special study of maritime birds,
says of it: "It runs about among the reeds and grasses with the celerity of a
mouse, and it is not apt to take wing unless closely pressed." (Wilson
credited it with the nimbleness of a sandpiper.) "It builds its nest in the
tussocks on the bank of a ditch, or in the drift left by the tide, rather than
in the grassier sites chosen by its neighbors, the seaside sparrows."

Only rarely does one get a glimpse of this shy little bird, that darts out of
sight like a flash at the first approach. Balancing on a cat-tail stalk or
perched upon a bit of driftwood, it makes a feeble, husky attempt to sing a
few notes; and during the brief performance the opera-glasses may search it
out successfully. While it feeds upon the bits of sea-food washed ashore to
the edge of the marshes, it gives us perhaps the best chance we ever get,
outside of a museum, to study the bird's characteristics of plumage.

"Both the sharp-tailed and the seaside finches are crepuscular," says Dr.
Abbott, in "The Birds About Us." They run up and down the reeds and on the
water's edge long after most birds have gone to sleep.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza fasciata) Finch family

Length -- 6 to 6.5 inches. About the same size as the English
Male and Female -- Brown head, with three longitudinal gray bands
  Brown stripe on sides of throat. Brownish-gray back streaked
  With rufous. Underneath gray, shading to white, heavily
  streaked with darkest brown. A black spot on breast. Wings
  without bars. Tail plain grayish brown.
Range -- North America, from Fur Countries to the Gulf States.
  Winters from southern Illinois and Massachusetts to the Gulf.
Migrations -- March. November. A few birds remain at the north
  All the year.

Here is a veritable bird neighbor, if ever there was one; at home in our
gardens and hedges, not often farther away than the roadside, abundant
everywhere during nearly every month in the year, and yet was there ever one
too many? There is scarcely an hour in the day, too, when its delicious,
ecstatic song may not be heard; in the darkness of midnight, just before dawn,
when its voice is almost the first to respond to the chipping sparrow's wiry
trill and the robin's warble; in the cool of the morning, the heat of noon,
the hush of evening -- ever the simple, homely, sweet melody that every good
American has learned to love in childhood. What the bird lacks in beauty it
abundantly makes up in good cheer. Not at all retiring, though never bold, it
chooses some conspicuous perch on a bush or tree to deliver its outburst of
song, and sings away with serene unconsciousness. Its artlessness is charming.
Thoreau writes in his "Summer" that the country girls in Massachusetts hear
the bird say: "Maids, maids, maids, hang on your teakettle,
teakettle-ettle-ettle." The call-note, a metallic chip, is equally
characteristic of the bird's irrepressible vivacity. It has still another
musical expression, however, a song more prolonged and varied than its usual
performance, that it seems to sing only on the wing.

Of course, the song sparrow must sometimes fly upward, but whoever sees it fly
anywhere but downward into the thicket that it depends upon to conceal it from
too close inspection? By pumping its tail as it flies, it seems to acquire
more than the ordinary sparrow's velocity.

Its nest, which is likely to be laid flat on the ground, except where
field-mice are plentiful (in which case it is elevated into the crotch of a
bush), is made of grass, strips of bark, and leaves, and lined with finer
grasses and hair. Sometimes three broods may be reared in a season, but even
the cares of providing insects and seeds enough for so many hungry babies
cannot altogether suppress the cheerful singer. The eggs are grayish white,
speckled and clouded with lavender and various shades of brown.

In sparsely settled regions the song sparrows seem to show a fondness for
moist woodland thickets, possibly because their tastes are insectivorous. But
it is difficult to imagine the friendly little musician anything but a

SWAMP SONG SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana) Finch family


Length -- 5 to 5.8 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male -- Forehead black; crown, which in winter has black stripes,
  is always bright bay; line over the eye, sides of the neck
  gray. Back brown, striped with various shades. Wing. edges and
  tail reddish brown. Mottled gray underneath inclining to white
  on the chin.
Female -- Without black forehead and stripes on head.
Range -- North America, from Texas to Labrador.
Migrations -- April. October. A few winter at the north.

In just such impenetrable retreats as the marsh wrens choose, another wee
brown bird may sometimes be seen springing up from among the sedges, singing a
few sweet notes as it flies and floats above them, and then suddenly
disappearing into the grassy tangle. It is too small, and its breast is not
streaked enough to be a song sparrow, neither are their songs alike; it has
not the wren's peculiarities of bill and tail, Its bright-bay crown and
sparrowy markings finally identify it. A suggestion of the bird's watery home
shows itself in the liquid quality of its simple, sweet note, stronger and
sweeter than the chippy's, and repeated many times almost like a trill that
seems to trickle from the marsh in a little rivulet of song. The sweetness is
apt to become monotonous to all but the bird itself, that takes evident
delight in its performance. In the spring, when flocks of swamp sparrows come
north, how they enliven the marshes and waste places. And yet the song, simple
as it is, is evidently not uttered altogether without effort, if the
tail-spreading and teetering of the body after the manner of the ovenbird, are
any indications of exertion.

Nuttall says of these birds: "They thread their devious way with the same
alacrity as the rail, with whom, indeed, they are often associated in
neighborhood. In consequence of this perpetual brushing through sedge and
bushes, their feathers are frequently so worn that their tails appear almost
like those of rats."

But the swamp sparrows frequently belie their name, and, especially in the
South, live in dry fields, worn-out pasture lands with scrubby, weedy patches
in them. They live upon seeds of grasses and berries, but Dr. Abbott has
detected their special fondness for fish -- not fresh fish particularly, but
rather such as have lain in the sun for a few days and become dry as a chip.
Their nest is placed on the ground, sometimes in a tussock of grass or roots
of an upturned tree quite surrounded by water. Four or five soiled white eggs
with reddish-brown spots are laid usually twice in 2 season.

TREE SPARROW (Spizella monticola) Finch family


Length -- 6 to 6.35 inches. About the same size as the English
Male -- Crown of head bright chestnut. Line over the eye, cheeks,
  throat, and breast gray, the breast with an indistinct black
  spot on centre. Brown back, the feathers edged with black and
  buff. Lower back pale grayish brown. Two whitish bars across
  dusky wings; tail feathers bordered with grayish white.
  Underneath whitish.
Female -- Smaller and less distinctly marked.
Range -- North America, from Hudson Bay to the Carolinas, and
  westward to the plains.
Migrations -- October. April. Winter resident.

A revised and enlarged edition of the friendly little chipping sparrow, that
hops to our very doors for crumbs throughout the mild weather, comes out of
British America at the beginning of winter to dissipate much of the winter's
dreariness by his cheerful twitterings. Why he should have been called a tree
sparrow is a mystery, unless because he does not frequent trees
--  a reason with sufficient plausibility to commend the name to several of
the early ornithologists, who not infrequently called a bird precisely what it
was not. The tree sparrow actually does not show half the preference for trees
that its familiar little counterpart does, but rather keeps to low bushes when
not on the ground, where we usually find it. It does not crouch upon the
ground like the chippy, but with a lordly carriage holds itself erect as it
nimbly runs over the frozen crust. Sheltered from the high, wintry winds in
the furrows and dry ditches of ploughed fields, a loose flock of these active
birds keep up a merry hunt for fallen seeds and berries, with a belated beetle
to give the grain a relish. As you approach the feeding ground, one bird gives
a shrill alarm-cry, and instantly five times as many birds as you suspected
were in the field take wing and settle down in the scrubby undergrowth at the
edge of the woods or by the wayside. No still cold seems too keen for them to
go a-foraging; but when cutting winds blow through the leafless thickets the
scattered remnants of a flock seek the shelter of stone walls, hedges, barns,
and cozy nooks about the house and garden. It is in mid-winter that these
birds grow most neighborly, although even then they are distinctly less
sociable than their small chippy cousins.

By the first of March, when the fox sparrow and the bluebird attract the
lion's share of attention by their superior voices, we not infrequently are
deaf to the modest, sweet little strain that answers for the tree sparrow's
love-song. Soon after the bird is in full voice, away it goes with its flock
to their nesting ground in Labrador or the Hudson Bay region. It builds,
either on the ground or not far from it, a nest of grasses, rootlets, and
hair, without which no true chippy counts its home complete.

VESPER SPARROW (Poocaetes gramineus) Finch family


Length -- 5.75 to 6.25 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Brown above, streaked and varied with gray.
  Lesser wing coverts bright rufous. Throat and breast whitish,
  striped with dark brown. Underneath plain soiled white. Outer
  tail-quills, which are its special mark of identification, are
  partly white, but apparently wholly white a.s the bird flies.
Range -- North America, especially common in eastern parts from
  Hudson Bay to Gulf of Mexico. Winters south of Virginia.
Migrations -- April. October. Common summer resident.

Among the least conspicuous birds, sparrows are the easiest to classify for
that very reason, and certain prominent features of the half dozen commonest
of the tribe make their identification simple even to the merest novice. The
distinguishing marks of this sparrow that haunts open, breezy pasture lands
and country waysides are its bright, reddish-brown wing coverts, prominent
among its dingy, pale brownish-gray feathers, and its white tail-quills, shown
as the bird flies along the road ahead of you to light upon the fence-rail. It
rarely flies higher, even to sing its serene, pastoral strain, restful as the
twilight, of which, indeed, it seems to be the vocal expression. How different
from the ecstatic outburst of the song sparrow! Pensive, but not sad, its
long-drawn silvery notes continue in quavers that float off unended like a
trail of mist. The song is suggestive of the thoughts that must come at
evening to some New England saint of humble station after a well-spent,
soul-uplifting day.

But while the vesper sparrow sings oftenest and most sweetly in the late
afternoon and continues singing until only he and the rose-breasted grosbeak
break the silence of the early night, his is one of the first voices to join
the morning chorus. No "early worm," however, tempts him from his grassy nest,
for the seeds in the pasture lands and certain tiny insects that live among
the grass furnish meals at all hours. He simply delights in the cool, still
morning and evening hours and in giving voice to his enjoyment of them.

The vesper sparrow is preeminently a grass-bird. It first opens its eyes on
the world in a nest neatly woven of grasses, laid on the ground among the
grass that shelters it and furnishes it with food and its protective coloring.
Only the grazing cattle know how many nests and birds are hidden in their
pastures. Like the meadowlarks, their presence is not even suspected until a
flock is flushed from its feeding ground, only to return to the spot when you
have passed on your way. Like the meadowlark again, the vesper sparrow
occasionally sings as it soars upward from its grassy home.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys) Finch family

Length -- 7 inches. A little larger than the English sparrow.
Male -- White head, with four longitudinal black lines marking
  off a crown, the black-and-white stripes being of about equal
  width. Cheeks, nape, and throat gray. Light gray underneath,
  with some buff tints. Back dark grayish brown. some feathers
  margined with gray. Two interrupted white bars across wings.
  Plain, dusky tail; total effect, a clear ashen gray.
Female -- With rusty head inclining to gray on crown. Paler
  throughout than the male.
Range -- From high mountain ranges of western United States (more
  rarely on Pacific slope) to Atlantic Ocean, and from Labrador
  to Mexico. Chiefly south of Pennsylvania.
Migrations -- October. April. Irregular migrant in Northern
  States. A winter resident elsewhere.

The large size and handsome markings of this aristocratic-looking Northern
sparrow would serve to distinguish him at once, did he not often consort with
his equally fine-looking white-throated cousins while migrating, and so too
often get overlooked. Sparrows are such gregarious birds that it is well to
scrutinize every flock with especial care in the spring and autumn, when the
rarer migrants are passing. This bird is more common in the high altitudes of
the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains than elsewhere in the United States.
There in the lonely forest it nests in low bushes or on the ground, and sings
its full love song, as it does in the northern British provinces, along the
Atlantic coast; but during the migrations it favors us only with selections
from its repertoire. Mr. Ernest Thompson says, "Its usual song is like the
latter half of the white-throat's familiar refrain, repeated a number of times
with a peculiar, sad cadence and in a clear, soft whistle that is
characteristic of the group." "The song is the loudest and most plaintive of
all the sparrow songs," says John Burroughs. "It begins with the words fe-u,
fe-u, fe-u, and runs off into trills and quavers like the song sparrow's, only
much more touching." Colorado miners tell that this sparrow, like its
white-throated relative, sings on the darkest nights. Often a score or more
birds are heard singing at once after the habit of the European nightingales,
which, however, choose to sing only in the moonlight.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis) Finch family


Length -- 6.75 to 7 inches. Larger than the English sparrow.
Male and Female -- A black crown divided by narrow white line.
  Yellow spot before the eye, and a white line, apparently
  running through it, passes backward to the nape. Conspicuous
  white throat. Chestnut back, varied with black and whitish.
  Breast gray, growing lighter underneath. Wings edged with
  rufous and with two white cross-bars.
Range -- Eastern North America. Nests from Michigan and
  Massachusetts northward to Labrador. Winters from southern New
  England to Florida.
Migrations -- April. October. Abundant during migrations, and in
  many States a winter resident.

"I-I, Pea-body, Pea-body, Pea-body," are the syllables of the white-throat's
song heard by the good New Englanders, who have a tradition that you must
either be a Peabody or a nobody there; while just over the British border the
bird is distinctly understood to say, "Swee-e-e-t Can-a-da, Can-a-da, Can-a
da." "All day, whit-tle-ing, whit-tle-ing, whit-tle-ing," the Maine people
declare he sings; and Hamilton Gibson told of a perplexed farmer, Peverly by
name, who, as he stood in the field undecided as to what crop to plant,
clearly heard the bird advise, "Sow wheat, Pev-er-ly, Pev-er-ly, Pev-er-ly."
Such divergence of opinion, which is really slight compared with the verbal
record of many birds' songs, only goes to show how little the sweetness of
birds' music, like the perfume of a rose, depends upon a name.

In a family not distinguished for good looks, the white-throated sparrow is
conspicuously handsome, especially after the spring moult. In midwinter the
feathers grow dingy and the markings indistinct; but as the season advances,
his colors are sure to brighten perceptibly, and before he takes the northward
journey in April, any little lady sparrow might feel proud of the attentions
of so fine-looking and sweet-voiced a lover. The black, white, and yellow
markings on his head are now clear and beautiful. His figure is plump and

These sparrows are particularly sociable travellers, and cordially welcome
many stragglers to their flocks -- not during the migrations only, but even
when winter's snow affords only the barest gleanings above it. Then they
boldly peck about the dog's plate by the kitchen door and enter the barn-yard,
calling their feathered friends with a sharp tseep to follow them. Seeds and
insects are their chosen food, and were they not well wrapped in an adipose
coat under their feathers, there must be many a winter night when they would
go shivering, supperless, to their perch.

In the dark of midnight one may sometimes hear the white-throat softly singing
in its dreams.


  Tree Swallow
  Ruby-throated Humming-bird
  Golden-crowned Kinglet
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  Solitary Vireo
  Red-eyed Vireo
  White-eyed Vireo
  Warbling Vireo
  Worm-eating Warbler
  Acadian Flycatcher
  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  Black-throated Green Warbler

Look also among the Olive-brown Birds, especially for the
Cuckoos, Alice's and the Olive-backed Thrushes; and look in the
yellow group, many of whose birds are olive also. See also
females of the Red Crossbill, Orchard Oriole, Scarlet Tanager,
Summer Tanager.


TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor) Swallow family


Length -- 5 to 6 inches. A little shorter than the English
  sparrow, but apparently much larger because of its wide wing
Male -- Lustrous dark steel-green above; darker and shading into
  black on wings and tail, which is forked. Under parts soft
Female -- Duller than male.
Range -- North America, from Hudson Bay to Panama.
Migrations -- End of March. September or later. Summer resident.

"The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times: and the
turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their
coming." -- Jeremiah, viii. 7.

The earliest of the family to appear in the spring, the tree swallow comes
skimming over the freshly ploughed fields with a wide sweep of the wings, in
what appears to be a perfect ecstasy of flight. More shy of the haunts of man,
and less gregarious than its cousins, it is usually to be seen during
migration flying low over the marshes, ponds, and streams with a few chosen
friends, keeping up an incessant warbling twitter while performing their
bewildering and tireless evolutions as they catch their food on the wing.
Their white breasts flash in the sunlight, and it is only when they dart near
you, and skim close along the surface of the water, that you discover their
backs to be not black, but rich, dark green, glossy to iridescence.

It is probable that these birds keep near the waterways because their favorite
insects and wax-berries are more plentiful in such places: but this
peculiarity has led many people to the absurd belief that the tree swallow
buries itself under the mud of ponds in winter in a state of hibernation. No
bird's breathing apparatus is made to operate under mud.

In unsettled districts these swallows nest in hollow trees, hence their name;
but with that laziness that forms a part of the degeneracy of civilization,
they now gladly accept the boxes about men's homes set up for the martins.
Thousands of these beautiful birds have been shot on the Long Island marshes
and sold to New York epicures for snipe.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMING-BIRD (Trochilus colubris) Humming-bird


Length -- 3.5 to 3.75 inches. A trifle over half as long as the
  English sparrow. The smallest bird we have.
Male -- Bright metallic green above; wings and tail darkest, with
  ruddy-purplish reflections and dusky-white tips on outer
  tail quills. Throat and breast brilliant metallic -- red in one
  light, orange flame in another, and dusky orange in another,
  according as the light strikes the plumage. Sides greenish;
  underneath lightest gray, with whitish border outlining the
  brilliant breast. Bill long and needle-like.
Female -- Without the brilliant feathers on throat; darker gray
  beneath. Outer tail-quills are banded with black and tipped
  with white.
Range -- Eastern North America, from northern Canada to the Gulf
  Of Mexico in summer. Winters in Central America.
Migrations -- May. October. Common summer resident.

This smallest, most exquisite and unabashed of our bird neighbors cannot be
mistaken, for it is the only one of its kin found east of the plains and north
of Florida, although about four hundred species, native only to the New World,
have been named by scientists. How does it happen that this little tropical
jewel alone flashes about our Northern gardens? Does it never stir the spirit
of adventure and emulation in the glistening breasts of its stay-at-home
cousins in the tropics by tales of luxuriant tangles of honeysuckle and
clematis on our cottage porches; of deep-cupped trumpet-flowers climbing over
the walls of old-fashioned gardens, where larkspur, narcissus, roses, and
phlox, that crowd the box-edged beds, are more gay and honey-laden than their
little brains can picture? Apparently it takes only the wish to be in a place
to transport one of these little fairies either from the honeysuckle trellis
to the canna bed or from Yucatan to the Hudson. It is easy to see how to will
and to fly are allied in the minds of the humming-birds, as they are in the
Latin tongue. One minute poised in midair, apparently motionless before a
flower while draining the nectar from its deep cup -- though the humming of
its wings tells that it is suspended there by no magic  -- the next instant it
has flashed out of sight as if a fairy's wand had made it suddenly invisible.
Without seeing the hummer, it might be, and often is, mistaken for a bee
improving the "shining hour."

At evening one often hears of a "humming-bird" going the rounds of the garden,
but at this hour it is usually the sphinx-moth hovering above the flower-beds
-- the one other creature besides the bee for which the bird is ever mistaken.
The postures and preferences of this beautiful large moth make the mistake a
very natural one.

The ruby-throat is strangely fearless and unabashed. It will dart among the
vines on the veranda while the entire household are assembled there, and add
its hum to that of the conversation in a most delightfully neighborly way.
Once a glistening little sprite, quite undaunted by the size of an audience
that sat almost breathless enjoying his beauty, thrust his bill into one calyx
after another on a long sprig of honeysuckle held in the hand.

And yet, with all its friendliness -- or is it simply fearlessness?  -- the
bird is a desperate duellist, and will lunge his deadly blade into the
jewelled breast of an enemy at the slightest provocation and quicker than
thought. All the heat of his glowing throat seems to be transferred to his
head while the fight continues, sometimes even to the death -- a cruel, but
marvellously beautiful sight as the glistening birds dart and tumble about
beyond the range of peace-makers.

High up in a tree, preferably one whose knots and lichen-covered excrescences
are calculated to help conceal the nest that so cleverly imitates them, the
mother humming-bird saddles her exquisite cradle to a horizontal limb. She
lines it with plant down, fluffy bits from cat-tails, and the fronds of fern,
felting the material into a circle that an elm-leaf amply roofs over. Outside,
lichens or bits of bark blend the nest so harmoniously with its surroundings
that one may look long and thoroughly before discovering it. Two
infinitesimal, white eggs tax the nest accommodation to its utmost.

In the mating season the female may be seen perching -- a posture one rarely
catches her gay lover in -- preening her dainty but sombre feathers with
ladylike nicety. The young birds do a great deal of perching before they gain
the marvellously rapid wing-motions of maturity, but they are ready to fly
within three weeks after they are hatched. By the time the trumpet-vine is in
bloom they dart and sip and utter a shrill little squeak among the flowers, in
company with the old birds.

During the nest-building and incubation the male bird keeps so aggressively on
the defensive that he often betrays to a hitherto unsuspecting intruder the
location of his home. After the young birds have to be fed he is most diligent
in collecting food, that consists not alone of the sweet juices of flowers, as
is popularly supposed, but also of aphides and plant-lice that his
proboscis-like tongue licks off the garden foliage literally like a streak of

Both parents feed the young by regurgitation -- a process disgusting to the
human observer, whose stomach involuntarily revolts at the sight so welcome to
the tiny, squeaking, hungry birds.

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) Kinglet family


Length -- 4.25 to 4.5 inches. About two inches smaller than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Upper parts grayish olive-green, brighter nearer the
  tail; wings and tail dusky, edged with yellowish olive. Two
  whitish wing-bars. Breast and underneath light yellowish gray.
  In the adult male a vermilion spot on crown of his ash-gray
Female -- Similar, but without the vermilion crest.
Range -- North America. Breeds from northern United States
  northward. Winters from southern limits of its breeding range
  to Central America and Mexico.
Migrations -- October. April. Rarely a winter resident at the
  North. Most common during its migrations.

A trifle larger than the golden-crowned kinglet, with a vermilion crest
instead of a yellow and flame one, and with a decided preference for a warmer
winter climate, and the ruby-crown's chief distinguishing characteristics are
told. These rather confusing relatives would be less puzzling if it were the
habit of either to keep quiet long enough to focus the opera-glasses on their
crowns, which it only rarely is while some particularly promising haunt of
insects that lurk beneath the rough bark of the evergreens has to be
thoroughly explored. At all other times both kinglets keep up an incessant
fluttering and twinkling among the twigs and leaves at the ends of the
branches, jerking their tiny bodies from twig to twig in the shrubbery,
hanging head downward, like a nuthatch, and most industriously feeding every
second upon the tiny insects and larvae hidden beneath the bark and leaves.
They seem to be the feathered expression of perpetual motion. And how dainty
and charming these tiny sprites are! They are not at all shy; you may approach
them quite close if you will, for the birds are simply too intent on their
business to be concerned with yours.

If a sharp lookout be kept for these ruby-crowned migrants, that too often
slip away to the south before we know they have come, we notice that they
appear about a fortnight ahead of the golden-crested species, since the mild,
soft air of our Indian summer is exactly to their liking. At this season there
is nothing in the bird's "thin, metallic call-note, like a vibrating wire," to
indicate that he is one of our finest songsters. But listen for him during the
spring migration, when a love-song is already ripening in his tiny throat.
What a volume of rich, lyrical melody pours from the Norway spruce, where the
little musician is simply practising to perfect the richer, fuller song that
he sings to his nesting mate in the far north! The volume is really
tremendous, coming from so tiny a throat. Those who have heard it in northern
Canada describe it as a flute-like and mellow warble full of intricate phrases
past the imitating. Dr. Coues says of it: "The kinglet's exquisite
vocalization defies description."

Curiously enough, the nest of this bird, that is not at all rare, has been
discovered only six times. It would appear to be over large for the tiny bird,
until we remember that kinglets are wont to have a numerous progeny in their
pensile, globular home. It is made of light, flimsy material -- moss, strips
of bark, and plant fibre well knit together and closely lined with feathers,
which must be a grateful addition to the babies, where they are reared in
evergreens in cold, northern woods.

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) Kinglet family


Length -- 4 to 4.25 inches. About two inches smaller than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Upper parts grayish olive-green; wings and tail dusky,
  margined with olive-green. Underneath soiled whitish. Centre of
  crown bright orange, bordered by yellow and en. closed by black
  line. Cheeks gray; a whitish line over the eye.
Female -- Similar, but centre of crown lemon-yellow and more
  grayish underneath.
Range -- North America generally. Breeds from northern United
  States northward. Winters chiefly from North Carolina to
  Central America, but many remain north all the year.
Migrations -- September. April. Chiefly a winter resident south
  Of Canada.

If this cheery little winter neighbor would keep quiet long enough, we might
have a glimpse of the golden crest that distinguishes him from his equally
lively cousin, the ruby-crowned; but he is so constantly flitting about the
ends of the twigs, peering at the bark for hidden insects, twinkling his wings
and fluttering among the evergreens with more nervous restlessness than a
vireo, that you may know him well before you have a glimpse of his tri-colored

When the autumn foliage is all aglow with yellow and flame this tiny sprite
comes out of the north where neither nesting nor moulting could rob him of his
cheerful spirits. Except the humming-bird and the winter wren, he is the
smallest bird we have. And yet, somewhere stored up in his diminutive body, is
warmth enough to withstand zero weather. With evident enjoyment of the cold,
he calls out a shrill, wiry zee, zee, zee, that rings merrily from the pines
and spruces when our fingers are too numb to hold the opera glasses in an
attempt to follow his restless fittings from branch to branch. Is it one of
the unwritten laws of birds that the smaller their bodies the greater their

When you see one kinglet about, you may be sure there are others not far away,
for, except in the nesting season, its habits are distinctly social, its
friendliness extending to the humdrum brown creeper, the chickadees, and the
nuthatches, in whose company it is often seen; indeed, it is likely to be in
almost any flock of the winter birds. They are a merry band as they go
exploring the trees together. The kinglet can hang upside down, too, like the
other acrobats, many of whose tricks he has learned; and it can pick off
insects from a tree with as business-like an air as the brown creeper, but
with none of that soulless bird's plodding precision.

In the early spring, just before this busy little sprite leaves us to nest in
Canada or Labrador -- for heat is the one thing that he can't cheerfully
endure -- a gushing, lyrical song bursts from his tiny throat -- a song whose
volume is so out of proportion to the bird's size that Nuttall's
classification of kinglets with wrens doesn't seem far wrong after all.  Only
rarely is a nest found so far south as the White Mountains. It is said to be
extraordinarily large for so small a bird but that need not surprise us when
we learn that as many as ten
creamy-white eggs, blotched with brown and lavender, are no uncommon number
for the pensile cradle to hold. How do the tiny parents contrive to cover so
many eggs and to feed such a nestful of fledglings?

SOLITARY VIREO (Vireo solitarius) Vireo or Greenlet family

Called also: BLUE-HEADED VIREO [AOU 1998]

Length -- 5.5 to 7 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male -- Dusky olive above; head bluish gray, with a white line
  around the eye, spreading behind the eye into a patch. Beneath
  whitish, with yellow-green wash on the sides. Wings dusky
  olive, with two distinct white bars. Tail dusky, some quills
  edged with white.
Female -- Similar, but her head is dusky olive.
Range -- United States to plains, and the southern British
  provinces. Winters in Florida and southward.
Migrations -- May. Early October. Common during migrations; more
  rarely a summer resident south of Massachusetts.

By no means the recluse that its name would imply, the solitary vireo, while a
bird of the woods, shows a charming curiosity about the stranger with
opera-glasses in hand, who has penetrated to the deep, swampy tangles, where
it chooses to live. Peering at you through the green undergrowth with an eye
that seems especially conspicuous because of its encircling white rim, it is
at least as sociable and cheerful as any member of its family, and Mr.
Bradford Torrey credits it with "winning tameness." "Wood-bird as it is," he
says, "it will sometimes permit the greatest familiarities. Two birds I have
seen, which allowed themselves to be stroked in the freest manner, while
sitting on the eggs, and which ate from my hand as readily as any pet canary."

The solitary vireo also builds a pensile nest, swung from the crotch of a
branch, not so high from the ground as the yellow-throated vireos nor so
exquisitely finished, but still a beautiful little structure of pine-needles,
plant-fibre, dry leaves, and twigs, all lichen-lined and bound and rebound
with coarse spiders' webs.

The distinguishing quality of this vireo's celebrated song is its tenderness:
a pure, serene uplifting of its loving, trustful nature that seems inspired by
a fine spirituality.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus) Vireo or Greenlet family

Called also: THE PREACHER

Length -- 5.75 to 6.25 inches. A fraction smaller than the
  English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Upper parts light olive-green; well-defined
  slaty-gray cap, with black marginal line, below which, and
  forming an exaggerated eyebrow, is a line of white. A brownish
  band runs from base of bill through the eye. The iris is
  ruby-red. Underneath white, shaded with light greenish yellow
  on sides and on under tail and wing coverts.
Range -- United States to Rockies and northward. Wnters in
  Central and South America.
Migrations -- April. October. Common summer resident.

"You see it -- you know it -- do you hear me? Do you believe it?" is Wilson
Flagg's famous interpretation of the song of this commonest of all the vireos,
that you cannot mistake with such a key. He calls the bird the preacher from
its declamatory style; an up-and-down warble delivered with a rising
inflection at the close and followed by an impressive silence, as if the
little green orator were saying, "I pause for a reply."

Notwithstanding its quiet coloring, that so closely resembles the leaves it
hunts among, this vireo is rather more noticeable than its relatives because
of its slaty cap and the black-and-white lines over its ruby eye, that, in
addition to the song, are its marked characteristics.

Whether she is excessively stupid or excessively kind, the mother-vireo has
certainly won for herself no end of ridicule by allowing the cowbird to
deposit a stray egg in the exquisitely made, pensile nest, where her own tiny
white eggs are lying and though the young cowbird crowd and worry her little
fledglings and eat their dinner as fast as she can bring it in, no displeasure
or grudging is shown towards the dusky intruder that is sure to upset the
rightful heirs out of the nest before they are able to fly.

In the heat of a midsummer noon, when nearly every other bird's voice is
hushed, and only the locust seems to rejoice in the fierce sunshine, the
little red-eyed vireo goes persistently about its business of gathering
insects from the leaves, not flitting nervously about like a warbler, or
taking its food on the wing like a flycatcher, but patiently and industriously
dining where it can, and singing as it goes.

When a worm is caught it is first shaken against a branch to kill it before it
is swallowed. Vireos haunt shrubbery and trees with heavy foliage, all their
hunting, singing, resting, and home-building being done among the leaves --
never on the ground.

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo noveboracensis) Vireo or Greenlet family

Male -- 5 to 5.3 inches. An inch shorter than the English
Male and Female -- Upper parts bright olive-green, washed with
  grayish. Throat and underneath white; the breast and sides
  greenish yellow; wings have two distinct bars of yellowish
  white. Yellow line from beak to and around the eye, which has a
  white iris. Feathers of wings and tail brownish and edged with
Range -- United States to the Rockies, and to the Gulf regions
  And beyond in winter.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

"Pertest of songsters," the white-eyed vireo makes whatever neighborhood it
enters lively at once. Taking up a residence in the tangled shrubbery or
thickety undergrowth, it immediately begins to scold like a crotchety old
wren. It becomes irritated over the merest trifles -- a passing bumblebee, a
visit from another bird to its tangle, an unsuccessful peck at a gnat
--  anything seems calculated to rouse its wrath and set every feather on its
little body a-trembling, while it sharply snaps out what might perhaps be
freely constructed into "cuss-words."

And yet the inscrutable mystery is that this virago meekly permits the lazy
cowbird to deposit an egg in its nest, and will patiently sit upon it, though
it is as large as three of her own tiny eggs; and when the little interloper
comes out from his shell the mother-bird will continue to give it the most
devoted care long after it has shoved her poor little starved babies out of
the nest to meet an untimely death in the smilax thicket below.

An unusual variety of expression distinguishes this bird's voice from the
songs of the other vireos, which are apt to be monotonous, as they are
incessant. If you are so fortunate to approach the white-eyed vireo before he
suspects your presence, you may hear him amusing himself by jumbling together
snatches of the songs of the other birds in a sort of potpourri; or perhaps he
will be scolding or arguing with an imaginary foe, then dropping his voice and
talking confidentially to himself. Suddenly he bursts into a charming, simple
little song, as if the introspection had given him reason for real joy. All
these vocal accomplishments suggest the chat at once; but the minute your
intrusion is discovered the sharp scolding, that is fairly screamed at you
from an enraged little throat, leaves no possible shadow of a doubt as to the
bird you have disturbed. It has the most emphatic call and song to be heard in
the woods; it snaps its words off very short. "Chick-a-rer chick" is its usual
call-note, jerked out with great spitefulness.

Wilson thus describes the jealously guarded nest: "This bird builds a very
neat little nest, often in the figure of an inverted cone; it is suspended by
the upper end of the two sides, on the circular bend of a prickly vine, a
species of smilax, that generally grows in low thickets. Outwardly it is
constructed of various light materials, bits of rotten wood, fibres of dry
stalks, of weeds, pieces of paper (commonly newspapers, an article almost
always found about its nest, so that some of my friends have given it the name
of the politician); all these materials are interwoven with the silk of the
caterpillars, and the inside is lined with fine, dry grass and hair."

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus) Vireo or Greenlet family

Length -- 5.5 to 6 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Ashy olive-green above, with head and neck
  ash-colored. Dusky line over the eye. Underneath whitish,
  faintly washed with dull yellow, deepest on sides; no bars on
Range -- North America, from Hudson Bay to Mexico.
Migrations -- May. Late September or early October. Summer

This musical little bird shows a curious preference for rows of trees in the
village street or by the roadside, where he can be sure of an audience to
listen to his rich, continuous warble. There is a mellowness about his voice,
which rises loud, but not altogether cheerfully, above the bird chorus, as if
he were a gifted but slightly disgruntled contralto. Too inconspicuously
dressed, and usually too high in the tree-top to be identified without
opera-glasses, we may easily mistake him by his voice for one of the warbler
family, which is very closely allied to the vireos. Indeed, this warbling
vireo seems to be the connecting link between them.

Morning and afternoon, but almost never in the evening, we may hear him
rippling out song after song as he feeds on insects and berries about the
garden. But this familiarity lasts only until nesting time, for off he goes
with his little mate to some unfrequented lane near a wood until their family
is reared, when, with a perceptibly happier strain in his voice, he once more
haunts our garden and row of elms before taking the southern journey.

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapillus) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 6 to 6.15 inches. Just a shade smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Upper parts olive, with an orange-brown crown,
  bordered by black lines that converge toward the bill. Under
  parts white; breast spotted and streaked on the sides. White
Range -- United States, to Pacific slope.
Migrations -- May. October. Common summer resident.

Early in May you may have the good fortune to see this little bird of the
woods strutting in and out of the garden shrubbery with a certain mock
dignity, like a child wearing its father's boots. Few birds can walk without
appearing more or less ridiculous, and however gracefully and prettily it
steps, this amusing little wagtail is no exception. When seen at all -- which
is not often, for it is shy -- it is usually on the ground, not far from the
shrubbery or a woodland thicket, under which it will quickly dodge out of
sight at the merest suspicion of a footstep. To most people the bird is only a
voice calling, "TEACHER TEACHER. TEACHER, TEACHER, TEACHER!" as Mr. Burroughs
has interpreted the notes that go off in pairs like a series of little
explosions, softly at first, then louder and louder and more shrill until the
bird that you at first thought far away seems to be shrieking his penetrating
crescendo into your very ears. But you may look until you are tired before you
find him in the high, dry wood, never near water.

In the driest parts of the wood, here the ground is thickly carpeted with dead
leaves, you may some day notice a little bunch of them, that look as if a
plant, in pushing its way up through the ground, had raised the leaves,
rootlets, and twigs a trifle.

Examine the spot more carefully, and on one side you find an opening, and
within the ball of earth, softly lined with grass, lie four or five
cream-white, speckled eggs. It is only by a happy accident that this nest of
the ovenbird is discovered. The concealment could not be better. It is this
peculiarity of nest construction -- in shape like a Dutch oven -- that has
given the bird what DeKay considers its "trivial name." Not far from the nest
the parent birds scratch about in the leaves like diminutive barnyard fowls,
for the grubs and insects hiding under them. But at the first suspicion of an
intruder their alarm becomes pitiful. Panic-stricken, they become fairly limp
with fear, and drooping her wings and tail, the mother-bird drags herself
hither and thither over the ground.

As utterly bewildered as his mate, the male darts, flies, and tumbles about
through the low branches, jerking and wagging his tail in nervous spasms until
you have beaten a double-quick retreat.

In nesting time, at evening, a very few have heard the "luxurious nuptial
song" of the ovenbird; but it is a song to haunt the memory forever afterward.
Burroughs appears to be the first writer to record this "rare bit of bird
melody." "Mounting by easy flight to the top of the tallest tree," says the
author of "Wake-Robin," "the ovenbird launches into the air with a sort of
suspended, hovering flight, like certain of the finches, and bursts into a
perfect ecstasy of song -- clear, ringing, copious, rivalling the goldfinch's
in vivacity and the linnet's in melody."

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmintherus vermivorus) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 5.50 inches. Less than an inch shorter than the English
Male and Female -- Greenish olive above. Head yellowish brown,
  With two black stripes through crown to the nape; also black
  Lines from the eyes to neck. Under parts buffy and white.
Range -- Eastern parts of United States. Nests as far north as
  southern Illinois and southern Connecticut. Winters in the Gulf
  States and southward.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

In the Delaware Valley and along the same parallel, this inconspicuous warbler
is abundant, but north of New Jersey it is rare enough to give an excitement
to the day on which you discover it. No doubt it is commoner than we suppose,
for its coloring blends so admirably with its habitats that it is probably
very often overlooked. Its call-note, a common chirp, has nothing
distinguishing about it, and all ornithologists confess to having been often
misled by its song into thinking it came from the chipping sparrow. It closely
resembles that of the pine warbler also. If it were as nervously active as
most warblers, we should more often discover it, but it is quite as deliberate
as a vireo, and in the painstaking way in which it often circles around a tree
while searching for spiders and other insects that infest the trunks, it
reminds us of the brown creeper. Sunny slopes and hillsides covered with thick
undergrowth are its preferred foraging and nesting haunts. It is often seen
hopping directly on the dry ground, where it places its nest, and it never
mounts far above it. The well-drained, sunny situation for the home is chosen
with the wisdom of a sanitary expert.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens) Flycatcher family


Length -- 5.75 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male -- Dull olive above. Two conspicuous yellowish wing-bars.
  Throat white, shading into pale yellow on breast. Light gray
  or white underneath. Upper part of bill black; lower mandible
  flesh-color. White eye-ring.
Female -- Greener above and more yellow below.
Range -- From Canada to Mexico, Central America, and West Indies.
  Most common in south temperate latitudes. Winters in southerly
  limit of range.
Migrations -- April. September. Summer resident.

When all our northern landscape takes on the exquisite, soft green, gray, and
yellow tints of early spring, this little flycatcher, in perfect color-harmony
with the woods it darts among, comes out of the south. It might be a leaf that
is being blown about, touched by the sunshine filtering through the trees, and
partly shaded by the young foliage casting its first shadows.

Woodlands, through which small streams meander lazily, inviting swarms of
insects to their boggy shores, make ideal hunting grounds for the Acadian
flycatcher. It chooses a low rather than a high, conspicuous perch, that other
members of its family invariably select; and from such a lookout it may be
seen launching into the air after the passing gnat -- darting downward, then
suddenly mounting upward in its aerial hunt, the vigorous clicks of the beak
as it closes over its tiny victims testifying to the bird's unerring aim and
its hearty appetite.

While perching, a constant tail-twitching is kept up; and a faint, fretful
"Tshee-kee, tshee-kee" escapes the bird when inactively waiting for a dinner
to heave in sight.

In the Middle Atlantic States its peeping sound and the clicking of its
particolored bill are infrequently heard in the village streets in the autumn,
when the shy and solitary birds are enticed from the deep woods by a prospect
of a more plentiful diet of insects, attracted by the fruit in orchards and

Never far from the ground, on two or more parallel branches, the shallow,
unsubstantial nest is laid. Some one has cleverly described it as "a tuft of
hay caught by the limb from a load driven under it," but this description
omits all mention of the quantities of blossoms that must be gathered to line
the cradle for the tiny, cream white eggs spotted with brown.

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) Flycatcher

Length -- 5 to 5.6 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Rather dark, but true olive-green above. Throat and
  breast yellowish olive, shading into pale yellow underneath,
  including wing linings and under tail coverts. Wings have
  yellowish bars. Whitish ring around eye. Upper part of bill
  black, under part whitish or flesh-colored.
Female -- Smaller, with brighter yellow under parts and more
  decidedly yellow wing-bars.
Range -- North America, from Labrador to Panama, and westward
  from the Atlantic to the plains. Winters in Central America.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident. More commonly a
  migrant only.

This is the most yellow of the small flycatchers and the only Eastern species
with a yellow instead of a white throat. Without hearing its call-note,
"pse-ek-pse-ek," which it abruptly sneezes rather than utters, it is quite
impossible, as it darts among the trees, to tell it from the Acadian
flycatcher, with which even Audubon confounded it. Both these little birds
choose the same sort of retreats -- well-timbered woods near a stream that
attracts myriads of insects to its spongy shores -- and both are rather shy
and solitary. The yellow-bellied species has a far more northerly range,
however, than its Southern relative or even the small green-crested
flycatcher. It is rare in the Middle States, not common even in New England,
except in the migrations, but from the Canada border northward its soft,
plaintive whistle, which is its love-song, may be heard in every forest where
it nests. All the flycatchers seem to make a noise with so much struggle, such
convulsive jerkings of head and tail, and flutterings of the wings that,
considering the scanty success of their musical attempts, it is surprising
they try to lift their voices at all when the effort almost literally lifts
them off their feet.

While this little flycatcher is no less erratic than its Acadian cousin, its
nest is never slovenly. One couple had their home in a wild-grape bower in
Pennsylvania; a Virginia creeper in New Jersey supported another cradle that
was fully twenty feet above the ground; but in Labrador, where the bird has
its chosen breeding grounds, the bulky nest is said to be invariably placed
either in the moss by the brookside or in some old stump, should the locality
be too swampy.

BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Dendroica virens) Wood Warbler

Length -- 5 inches. Over an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Back and crown of head bright yellowish olive-green.
  Forehead, band over eye, cheeks, and sides of neck rich yellow.
  Throat, upper breast, and stripe along sides black. Underneath
  yellowish white. Wings and tail brownish olive, the former with
  two white bars, the latter with much white in outer quills. In
  autumn, plumage resembling the female's.
Female -- Similar; chin yellowish; throat and breast dusky, the
  black being mixed with yellowish.
Range -- Eastern North America, from Hudson Bay to Central
  America and Mexico. Nests north of Illinois and New York.
  Winters in tropics.
Migrations -- May. October. Common summer resident north of New

There can be little difficulty in naming a bird so brilliantly and distinctly
marked as this green, gold, and black warbler, that lifts up a few pure,
sweet, tender notes, loud enough to attract attention when he visits the
garden. "See-see, see-saw," he sings, but there is a tone of anxiety betrayed
in the simple, sylvan strain that always seems as if the bird needed
reassuring, possibly due to the rising inflection, like an interrogative, of
the last notes.

However abundant about our homes during the migrations, this warbler, true to
the family instinct, retreats to the woods to nest -- not always so far away
as Canada, the nesting ground of most warblers, for in many Northern States
the bird is commonly found throughout the summer. Doubtless it prefers tall
evergreen trees for its mossy, grassy nest; but it is not always particular,
so that the tree be a tall one with a convenient fork in an upper branch.

Early in September increased numbers emerge from the woods, the plumage of the
male being less brilliant than when we saw it last, as if the family cares of
the summer had proved too taxing. For nearly a month longer they hunt
incessantly, with much flitting about the leaves and twigs at the ends of
branches in the shrubbery and evergreens, for the tiny insects that the
warblers must devour by the million during their all too brief visit.


  Yellow-throated Vireo
  American Goldfinch
  Evening Grosbeak
  Blue-winged Warbler
  Canadian Warbler
  Hooded Warbler
  Kentucky Warbler
  Magnolia Warbler
  Mourning Warbler
  Nashville Warbler
  Pine Warbler
  Prairie Warbler
  Wilson's Warbler or Blackcap Yellow Warbler or Summer
  Yellow Redpoll Warbler
  Yellow-breasted Chat
  Maryland Yellowthroat
  Blackburnian Warbler
  Baltimore Oriole

Look also among the Yellowish Olive Birds in the preceding group;
and among the Brown Birds for the Meadowlark and Flicker. See
also Parula Warbler (Slate) and Yellow-bellied Woodpecker (Black
and White).


YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons) Vireo or Greenlet family

Length -- 5.5. to 6 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Lemon-yellow on throat, upper breast; line
  around the eye and forehead. Yellow, shading into olive-green,
  on head, back, and shoulders. Underneath white. Tail dark
  brownish, edged with white. Wings a lighter shade, with two
  white bands across, and some quills edged with white.
Range -- North America, from Newfoundland to Gulf of Mexico, and
  westward to the Rockies. Winters in the tropics.
Migrations -- May. September. Spring and autumn migrant; more
  rarely resident.

This is undoubtedly the beauty of the vireo family -- a group of neat, active,
stoutly built, and vigorous little birds of yellow, greenish, and white
plumage; birds that love the trees, and whose feathers reflect the coloring of
the leaves they hide, hunt, and nest among. "We have no birds," says Bradford
Torrey, "so unsparing of their music: they sing from morning till night."

The yellow-throated vireo partakes of all the family characteristics, but, in
addition to these, it eclipses all its relatives in the brilliancy of its
coloring and in the art of nest-building, which it has brought to a state of
hopeless perfection. No envious bird need try to excel the exquisite finish of
its workmanship. Happily, it has wit enough to build its pensile nest high
above the reach of small boys, usually suspending it from a branch overhanging
running water that threatens too precipitous a bath to tempt the young

However common in the city parks and suburban gardens this bird may be during
the migrations, it delights in a secluded retreat overgrown with tall trees
and near a stream, such as is dear to the solitary vireo as well when the
nesting time approaches. High up in the trees we hear its rather sad,
persistent strain, that is more in harmony with the dim forest than with the
gay flower garden, where, if the truth must be told, its song is both
monotonous and depressing. Mr. Bicknell says it is the only vireo that sings
as it flies.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis) Finch family


Length -- 5 to 5.2 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- In summer plumage: Bright yellow, except on crown of
  head, frontlet, wings, and tail, which are black. Whitish
  markings on wings give effect of bands. Tail with white on
  inner webs. In winter plumage: Head yellow-olive; no frontlet;
  black drab, with reddish tinge; shoulders and throat yellow;
  soiled brownish white underneath.
Female -- Brownish olive above, yellowish white beneath.
Range -- North America, from the tropics to the Fur Countries and
  westward to the Columbia River and California. Common
  throughout its range.
Migrations -- May-October. Common summer resident, frequently
  Seen throughout the winter as well.

An old field, overgrown with thistles and tall, stalky wild flowers, is the
paradise of the goldfinches, summer or winter. Here they congregate in happy
companies while the sunshine and goldenrod are as bright as their feathers,
and cling to the swaying slender stems that furnish an abundant harvest,
daintily. lunching upon the fluffy seeds of thistle blossoms, pecking at the
mullein-stalks, and swinging airily among the asters and Michaelmas daisies;
or, when snow covers the same field with a glistening crust, above which the
brown stalks offer only a meagre dinner, the same birds, now sombrely clad in
winter feathers, cling to the swaying stems with cheerful fortitude.

At your approach, the busy company rises on the wing, and with peculiar, wavy
flight rise and fall through the air, marking each undulation with a cluster
of notes, sweet and clear, that come floating downward from the blue ether,
where the birds seem to bound along exultant in their motion and song alike.

In the spring the plumage of the goldfinch, which has been drab and brown
through the winter months, is moulted or shed -- a change that transforms the
bird from a sombre Puritan into the gayest of cavaliers, and seems to
wonderfully exalt his spirits. He bursts into a wild, sweet, incoherent melody
that might be the outpouring from two or three throats at once instead of one,
expressing his rapture somewhat after the manner of the canary, although his
song lacks the variety and the finish of his caged namesake. What tone of
sadness in his music the man found who applied the adjective tristis to his
scientific name it is difficult to imagine when listening to the notes that
come bubbling up from the bird's happy heart.

With plumage so lovely and song so delicious and dreamy, it is small wonder
that numbers of our goldfinches are caught and caged, however inferior their
song may be to the European species recently introduced into this country.
Heard in Central Park, New York, where they were set at liberty, the European
goldfinches seemed to sing with more abandon, perhaps, but with no more
sweetness than their American cousins. The song remains at its best all
through the summer months, for the bird is a long wooer. It is nearly July
before he mates, and not until the tardy cedar birds are house-building in the
orchard do the happy pair begin to carry grass, moss, and plant-down to a
crotch of some tall tree convenient to a field of such wild flowers as will
furnish food to a growing family. Doubtless the birds wait for this food to be
in proper condition before they undertake parental duties at all
-- the most plausible excuse for their late nesting. The cares evolving from
four to six pale-blue eggs will suffice to quiet the father's song for the
winter by the first of September, and fade all the glory out of his shining
coat. As pretty a sight as any garden offers is when a family of goldfinches
alights on the top of a sunflower to feast upon the oily seeds -- a perfect
harmony of brown and gold.

EVENING GROSBEAK (Coccothraustes vespertinus) Finch family

Length -- 8 inches. Two inches shorter than the robin.
Male -- Forehead, shoulders, and underneath clear yellow: dull
  yellow on lower back; sides of the head, throat, and breast
  olive-brown. Crown, tail, and wings black, the latter with
  white secondary feathers. Bill heavy and blunt, and yellow.
Female -- Brownish gray, more less suffused with yellow. Wings
  and tail blackish, with some white feathers.
Range -- Interior of North America. Resident from Manitoba
  northward. Common winter visitor in northwestern United States
  and Mississippi Valley; casual winter visitor in northern
  Atlantic States.

In the winter of 1889-90 Eastern people had the rare treat of becoming
acquainted with this common bird of the Northwest, that, in one of its erratic
travels, chose to visit New England and the Atlantic States, as far south as
Delaware, in great numbers. Those who saw the evening grosbeaks then remember
how beautiful their yellow plumage -- a rare winter tint -- looked in the
snow-covered trees, where small companies of the gentle and ever tame visitors
enjoyed the buds and seeds of the maples, elders, and evergreens. Possibly
evening grosbeaks were in vogue for the next season's millinery, or perhaps
Eastern ornithologists had a sudden zeal to investigate their structural
anatomy. At any rate, these birds, whose very tameness, that showed slight
acquaintance with mankind, should have touched the coldest heart, received the
warmest kind of a reception from hot shot. The few birds that escaped to the
solitudes of Manitoba could not be expected to tempt other travellers eastward
by an account of their visit. The bird is quite likely to remain rare in the

But in the Mississippi Valley and throughout the northwest, companies of from
six to sixty may be regularly counted upon as winter neighbors on almost every
farm. Here the females keep up a busy chatting, like a company of cedar birds,
and the males punctuate their pauses with a single shrill note that gives
little indication of their vocal powers. But in the solitude of the northern
forests the love-song is said to resemble the robin's at the start. Unhappily,
after a most promising beginning, the bird suddenly stops, as if he were out
of breath.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Helminthophila pinus) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 4.75 inches. An inch and a half shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Crown of head and all under parts bright yellow. Back
  olive-green. Wings and tail bluish slate, the former with white
  bars, and three outer tail quills with large white patches on
  their inner webs.
Female -- Paler and more olive.
Range -- Eastern United States, from southern New England and
  Minnesota, the northern limit of its nesting range, to Mexico
  And Central America, where it winters.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

In the naming of warblers, bluish slate is the shade intended when blue is
mentioned; so that if you see a dainty little olive and yellow bird with
slate-colored wings and tail hunting for spiders in the blossoming orchard or
during the early autumn you will have seen the beautiful blue-winged warbler.
It has a rather leisurely way of hunting, unlike the nervous, restless
flitting about from twig to twig that is characteristic of many of its many
cousins. The search is thorough -- bark, stems, blossoms, leaves are inspected
for larvae and spiders, with many pretty motions of head and body. Sometimes,
hanging with head downward, the bird suggests a yellow titmouse. After blossom
time a pair of these warblers, that have done serviceable work in the orchard
in their all too brief stay, hurry off to dense woods to nest. They are
usually to be seen in pairs at all seasons. Not to "high coniferous trees in
northern forests," -- the Mecca of innumerable warblers -- but to scrubby,
second growth of woodland borders, or lower trees in the heart of the woods,
do these dainty birds retreat. There they build the usual warbler nest of
twigs, bits of bark, leaves, and grasses, but with this peculiarity: the
numerous leaves with which the nest is wrapped all have their stems pointing
upward. Mr. Frank Chapman has admirably defined their song as consisting of
"two drawled, wheezy notes -- swee-chee, the first inhaled, the second

CANADIAN WARBLER (Sylvania canadensis) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 5 to 5.6 inches. About an inch shorter than the English
Male -- Immaculate bluish ash above, without marks on wings or
  tail; crown spotted with arrow-shaped black marks. Cheeks, line
  from bill to eye, and underneath clear yellow. Black streaks
  forming a necklace across the breast.
Female -- Paler, with necklace indistinct.
Range -- North America, from Manitoba and Labrador to tropics.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident; most abundant in

Since about one-third of all the song-birds met with in a year's rambles are
apt to be warblers, the novice cannot devote his first attention to a better
group, confusing though it is by reason of its size and the repetition of the
same colors in so many bewildering combinations. Monotony, however, is unknown
in the warbler family. Whoever can rightly name every warbler, male and
female, on sight is uniquely accomplished.

The jet necklace worn on this bird's breast is its best mark of
identification. Its form is particularly slender and graceful, as might be
expected in a bird so active, one to whom a hundred tiny insects barely afford
a dinner that must often be caught piecemeal as it flies past. To satisfy its
appetite, which cannot but be dainty in so thoroughly charming a bird, it
lives in low, boggy woods, in such retreats as Wilson's black-capped warbler
selects for a like reason. Neither of these two "flycatcher" warblers depends
altogether on catching insects on the wing; countless thousands are picked off
the under sides of leaves and about the stems of twigs in true warbler

The Canadian's song is particularly loud, sweet, and vivacious. It is
hazardous for any one without long field practice to try to name any warbler
by its song alone, but possibly this one's animated music is as characteristic
as any.

The nest is built on the ground on a mossy bank or elevated into the root
crannies of some large tree, where there is much water in the woods. Bits of
bark, dead wood, moss, and fine rootlets, all carefully wrapped with leaves,
go to make the pretty cradle. Unhappily, the little Canada warblers are often
cheated out of their natural rights, like so many other delightful songbirds,
by the greedy interloper that the cowbird deposits in their nest.

HOODED WARBLER (Sylvania mitrata) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 5 to 5.75 inches. About an inch shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Head, neck, chin, and throat black like a hood in mature
  male specimens only. Hood restricted, or altogether wanting in
  female and young. Upper parts rich olive. Forehead, cheeks, and
  underneath yellow. Some conspicuous white on tail feathers.
Female -- Duller, and with restricted cowl.
Range -- United States east of Rockies, and from southern
  Michigan and southern New England to West Indies and tropical
  America, where it winters. Very local.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

This beautifully marked, sprightly little warbler might be mistaken in his
immaturity for the yellowthroat; and as it is said to take him nearly three
years to grow his hood, with the completed cowl and cape, there is surely
sufficient reason here for the despair that often seizes the novice in
attempting to distinguish the perplexing warblers. Like its Southern
counterpart, the hooded warbler prefers wet woods and low trees rather than
high ones, for much of its food consists of insects attracted by the dampness,
and many of them must be taken on the wing. Because of its tireless activity
the bird's figure is particularly slender and graceful -- a trait, too, to
which we owe all the glimpses of it we are likely to get throughout the
summer. It has a curious habit of spreading its tail, as if it wished you to
take special notice of the white spots that adorn it; not flirting it, as the
redstart does his more gorgeous one, but simply opening it like a fan as it
flies and darts about.

Its song, which is particularly sweet and graceful, and with more variation
than most warblers' music, has been translated "Che-we-eo-tsip, tsip,
che-we-eo," again interpreted by Mr. Chapman as "You must come to the woods,
or you won't see me."

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 5.5 inches. Nearly an inch shorter than the English
Male -- Upper parts olive-green; under parts yellow; a yellow
  line from the bill passes over and around the eye. Crown of
  head, patch below the eye, and line defining throat, black.
Female -- Similar, but paler, and with grayish instead of black
Range -- United States eastward from the Rockies, and from Iowa
  and Connecticut to Central, America, where it winters.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

No bird is common at the extreme limits of its range, and so this warbler has
a reputation for rarity among the New England ornithologists that would
surprise people in the middle South and Southwest. After all that may be said
in the books, a bird is either common or rare to the individual who may or may
not have happened to become acquainted with it in any part of its chosen
territory. Plenty of people in Kentucky, where we might judge from its name
this bird is supposed to be most numerous, have never seen or heard of it,
while a student on the Hudson River, within sight of New York, knows it
intimately. It also nests regularly in certain parts of the Connecticut
Valley. "Who is my neighbor?" is often a question difficult indeed to answer
where birds are concerned. In the chapter, "Spring at the Capital," which,
with every reading of "Wake Robin," inspires the bird-lover with fresh zeal,
Mr. Burroughs writes of the Kentucky warbler: "I meet with him in low, damp
places, in the woods, usually on the steep sides of some little run. I hear at
intervals a clear, strong, bell-like whistle or warble, and presently catch a
glimpse of the bird as he jumps up from the ground to take an insect or worm
from the under side of a leaf. This is his characteristic movement. He belongs
to the class of ground warblers, and his range is very low, indeed lower than
that of any other species with which I am acquainted."

Like the ovenbird and comparatively few others, for most birds hop over the
ground, the Kentucky warbler walks rapidly about, looking for insects under
the fallen leaves, and poking his inquisitive beak into every cranny where a
spider may be lurking. The bird has a pretty, conscious way of flying up to a
perch, a few feet above the ground, as a tenor might advance towards the
footlights of a stage, to pour forth his clear, penetrating whistle, that in
the nesting season especially is repeated over, and over again with tireless

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Dendroica maculosa) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 4.75 to 5 inches. About an inch and a half smaller than
  the English sparrow.
Male -- Crown of head slate-color, bordered on either side by a
  white line; a black line, apparently running through the eye,
  and a yellow line below it, merging into the yellow throat.
  Lower back and under parts yellow. Back, wings, and tail
  blackish olive. Large white patch on the wings, and the
  middle of the tail-quills white. Throat and sides heavily
  streaked with black.
Female -- Has greener back, is paler, and has less distinct
Range -- North America, from Hudson Bay to Panama. Summers from
  northern Michigan and northern New England northward; winters
  in Central America and Cuba.
Migrations -- May. October. Spring and summer migrant.

In spite of the bird's name, one need not look for it in the glossy magnolia
trees of the southern gardens more than in the shrubbery on New England lawns,
and during the migrations it is quite as likely to be found in one place as in
the other. Its true preference, however, is for the spruces and hemlocks of
its nesting ground in the northern forests. For these it deserts us after a
brief hunt about the tender, young spring foliage and blossoms, where the
early worm lies concealed, and before we have become so well acquainted with
its handsome clothes that we will instantly recognize it in the duller ones it
wears on its return trip in the autumn. The position of the white marks on the
tail feathers of this warbler, however, is the clue by which it may be
identified at any season or any stage of its growth. If the white bar runs
across the middle of the warbler's tail, you can be sure of the identity of
the bird. A nervous and restless hunter, it nevertheless seems less shy than
many of its kin. Another pleasing characteristic is that it brings back with
it in October the loud, clear, rapid whistle with which it has entertained its
nesting mate in the Canada woods through the summer.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 5 to 5.6 inches. About an inch smaller than the English
Male -- Gray head and throat; the breast gray; the feathers with
  black edges that make them look crinkled, like crape. The black
  markings converge into a spot on upper breast. Upper parts,
  except head, olive. Underneath rich yellow.
Female -- Similar, but duller; throat and breast buff and dusky
  where the male is black. Back olive-green.
Range -- "Eastern North America; breeds from eastern Nebraska,
  northern New York, and Nova Scotia northward, and south ward
  along the Alleghanies to Pennsylvania. Winters in the tropics."
  -- Chapman.
Migrations -- May. September. Spring and autumn migrant.

Since Audubon met with but one of these birds in his incessant trampings, and
Wilson secured only an immature, imperfectly marked specimen for his
collection, the novice may feel no disappointment if he fails to make the
acquaintance of this "gay and agreeable widow." And yet the shy and wary bird
is not unknown in Central Park, New York City. Even where its clear, whistled
song strikes the ear with a startling novelty that invites to instant pursuit
of the singer, you may look long and diligently through the undergrowth
without finding it. Dr. Merriam says the whistle resembles the syllables
"true, true, true, tru, too, the voice rising on the first three syllables and
falling on the last two." In the nesting season this song is repeated over and
over again with a persistency worthy of a Kentucky warbler. It is delivered
from a perch within a few feet of the ground, as high as the bird seems ever
inclined to ascend.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Helminthophila ruficapilla) Wood Warbler

Length -- 4.75 to 5 inches. About an inch and a half smaller than
  the English sparrow.
Male -- Olive-green above; yellow underneath. Slate-gray head and
  neck. Partially concealed chestnut patch on crown. Wings and
  tail olive-brown and without markings.
Female -- Dull olive and paler, with brownish wash underneath.
Range -- North America, westward to the plains; north to the Fur
  Countries, and south to Central America and Mexico. Nests north
  of Illinois and northern New England; winters in tropics.
Migrations -- April. September or October.

It must not be thought that this beautiful warbler confines itself to
backyards in the city of Nashville simply because Wilson discovered it near
there and gave it a local name, for the bird's actual range reaches from the
fur trader's camp near Hudson Bay to the adobe villages of Mexico and Central
America, and over two thousand miles east and west in the United States. It
chooses open rather than dense woods and tree-bordered fields. It seems to
have a liking for hemlocks and pine trees, especially if near a stream that
attracts insects to its shores; and Dr. Warren notes that in Pennsylvania he
finds small flocks of these warblers in the autumn migration, feeding in the
willowy trees near little rivers and ponds. Only in the northern parts of the
United States is their nest ever found, for the northern British provinces are
their preferred nesting ground. One seen in the White Mountains was built on a
mossy, rocky edge, directly on the ground at the foot of a pine tree, and made
of rootlets, moss, needles from the trees overhead, and several layers of
leaves outside, with a lining of fine grasses that cradled four white,
speckled eggs.

Audubon likened the bird's feeble note to the breaking of twigs.

PINE WARBLER (Dendroica vigorsii) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 5.5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English
Male -- Yellowish olive above; clear yellow below, shading to
  grayish white, with obscure dark streaks on side of breast. Two
  whitish wing-bars; two outer tail feathers partly white.
Female -- Duller; grayish white only faintly tinged with yellow
Range -- North America, east of the Rockies; north to Manitoba,
  And south to Florida and the Bahamas. Winters from southern
  Illinois southward.
Migrations -- March or April. October or later. Common summer

The pine warbler closely presses the myrtle warbler for the first place in the
ranks of the family migrants, but as the latter bird often stays north all
winter, it is usually given the palm. Here is a warbler, let it be recorded,
that is fittingly named, for it is a denizen of pine woods only; most common
in the long stretches of pine forests at the south and in New York and New
England, and correspondingly uncommon wherever the woodsman's axe has laid the
pine trees low throughout its range. Its "simple, sweet, and drowsy song,"
writes Mr. Parkhurst, is always associated "with the smell of pines on a
sultry day." It recalls that of the junco and the social sparrow or chippy.

Creeping over the bark of trees and peering into every crevice like a
nuthatch; running along the limbs, not often hopping nervously or flitting
like the warblers; darting into the air for a passing insect, or descending to
the ground to feed on seeds and berries, the pine warbler has, by a curious
combination, the movements that seem to characterize several different birds.

It is one of the largest and hardiest members of its family, but not
remarkable for its beauty. It is a sociable traveller, cheerfully escorting
other warblers northward, and welcoming to its band both the yellow redpolls
and the myrtle warblers. These birds are very often seen together in the pine
and other evergreen trees in our lawns and in the large city parks.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Dendroica discolor) Wood Warbler family

Length -- 4.75 to 5 inches. About an inch and a half shorter than
  the English sparrow.
Male -- Olive-green above, shading to yellowish on the head, and
  with brick-red spots on back between the shoulders. A yellow
  line over the eye; wing-bars and all under parts bright yellow,
  heavily streaked with black on the sides. Line through the eye
  and crescent below it, black. Much white in outer tail
Female -- Paler; upper parts more grayish olive, and markings
  Less distinct than male's.
Range -- Eastern half of the United States. Nests as far north as
  New England and Michigan. Winters from Florida southward.
Migrations -- May. September. Summer resident.

Doubtless this diminutive bird was given its name because it prefers open
country rather than the woods -- the scrubby undergrowth of oaks, young
evergreens, and bushes that border clearings being as good a place as any to
look for it, and not the wind-swept, treeless tracts of the wild West. Its
range is southerly. The Southern and Middle States are where it is most
abundant. Here is a wood warbler that is not a bird of the woods -- less so,
in fact, than either the summer yellowbird (yellow warbler) or the palm
warbler, that are eminently neighborly and fond of pasture lands and roadside
thickets. But the prairie warblers are rather more retiring little sprites
than their cousins, and it is not often we get a close enough view of them to
note the brick-red spots on their backs, which are their distinguishing marks.
They have a most unkind preference for briery bushes, that discourage human
intimacy. In such forbidding retreats they build their nest of plant-fibre,
rootlets, and twigs, lined with plant-down and hair.

The song of an individual prairie warbler makes only a slight impression. It
consists "of a series of six or seven quickly repeated tees, the next to the
last one being the highest" (Chapman). But the united voices of a dozen or
more of these pretty little birds, that often sing together, afford something
approaching a musical treat.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Sylvania pusila) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 4.75 to 5 inches. About an inch and a half shorter than
  the English sparrow.
Male -- Black cap; yellow forehead; all other upper parts
  olive-green; rich yellow underneath.
Female -- Lacks the black cap.
Range -- North America, from Alaska and Nova Scotia to Panama.
  Winters south of Gulf States. Nests chiefly north of the United
Migrations -- May. September. Spring and autumn migrant.

To see this strikingly marked little bird one must be on the sharp lookout for
it during the latter half of May, or at the season of apple bloom, and the
early part of September. It passes northward with an almost scornful rapidity.
Audubon mentions having seen it in Maine at the end of October, but this
specimen surely must have been an exceptional laggard.

In common with several others of its family, it is exceedingly expert in
catching insects on the wing; but it may be known as no true flycatcher from
the conspicuous rich yellow of its under parts, and also from its habit of
returning from a midair sally to a different perch from the one it left to
pursue its dinner. A true flycatcher usually returns to its old perch after
each hunt.

To indulge in this aerial chase with success, these warblers select for their
home and hunting ground some low woodland growth where a sluggish stream
attracts myriads of insects to the boggy neighborhood. Here they build their
nest in low bushes or upon the ground. Four or five grayish eggs, sprinkled
with cinnamon-colored spots in a circle around the larger end, are laid in the
grassy cradle in June. Mr. H. D. Minot found one of these nests on Pike's Peak
at an altitude of 11,000 feet, almost at the limit of vegetation. The same
authority compares the bird's song to that of the redstart and the yellow

YELLOW REDPOLL WARBLER (Dendroica palmarum hypochrysea) Wood
  Warbler family

Called also: YELLOW PALM WARBLER; [the two former palm warbler
  species combined as PALM WARBLER, AOU 1998]

Length -- 5.5 to 5.75 inches. A little smaller than the English
Male and Female -- Chestnut crown. Upper parts brownish olive;
  greenest on lower back. Underneath uniform bright yellow,
  streaked with chestnut on throat, breast, and sides. Yellow
  line over and around the eye. Wings unmarked. Tail edged with
  olive-green; a few white spots near tips of outer quills. More
  brownish above in autumn, and with a grayish wash over the
  yellow under parts.
Range -- Eastern parts of North America. Nests from Nova Scotia
  northward. Winters in the Gulf States.
Migrations -- April. October. Spring and autumn migrant.

While the uniform yellow of this warbler's under parts in any plumage is its
distinguishing mark, it also has a flycatcher's trait of constantly flirting
its tail, that is at once an outlet for its superabundant vivacity and a
fairly reliable aid to identification. The tail is jerked, wagged, and flirted
like a baton in the hands of an inexperienced leader of an orchestra. One need
not go to the woods to look for the restless little sprite that comes
northward when the early April foliage is as yellow and green as its feathers.
It prefers the fields and roadsides, and before there are leaves enough on the
undergrowth to conceal it we may come to know it as well as it is possible to
know any bird whose home life is passed so far away. Usually it is the first
warbler one sees in the spring in New York and New England. With all the
alertness of a flycatcher, it will dart into the air after insects that fly
near the ground, keeping up a constant chip, chip, fine and shrill, at one end
of the small body, and the liveliest sort of tail motions at the other. The
pine warbler often bears it company.

With the first suspicion of warm weather, off goes this hardy little fellow
that apparently loves the cold almost well enough to stay north all the year
like its cousin, the myrtle warbler. It builds a particularly deep nest, of
the usual warbler construction, on the ground, but its eggs are rosy rather
than the bluish white of others.

In the Southern States the bird becomes particularly neighborly, and is said
to enter the streets and gardens of towns with a chippy's familiarity.

Palm Warbler or Redpoll Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) differs from the
preceding chiefly in its slightly smaller size, the more grayish-brown tint in
its olive upper parts, and the uneven shade of yellow underneath that varies
from clear yellow to soiled whitish. It is the Western counterpart of the
yellow redpoll, and is most common in the Mississippi Valley. Strangely
enough, however, it is this warbler, and not hypochrysea, that goes out of its
way to winter in Florida, where it is abundant all winter.

YELLOW WARBLER (Dendroica aestiva) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 4.75 to 5.2 inches. Over an inch shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Upper parts olive-yellow, brightest on the crown; under
  parts bright yellow, streaked with reddish brown. Wings and
  tail dusky olive-brown, edged with yellow.
Female -- Similar; but reddish-brown streakings less distinct.
Range -- North America, except Southwestern States, where the
  prothonotary warbler reigns in its stead. Nests from Gulf
  States to Fur Countries. Winters south of the Gulf States. As
  far as northern parts of South America.
Migrations -- May. September. Common summer resident.

This exquisite little creature of perpetual summer (though to find it it must
travel back and forth between two continents) comes out of the south with the
golden days of spring. From much living in the sunshine through countless
generations, its feathers have finally become the color of sunshine itself,
and in disposition, as well, it is nothing if not sunny and bright. Not the
least of its attractions is that it is exceedingly common everywhere: in the
shrubbery of our lawns, in gardens and orchards, by the road and brookside, in
the edges of woods -- everywhere we catch its glint of brightness through the
long summer days, and hear its simple, sweet, and happy song until the end of

Because both birds are so conspicuously yellow, no doubt this warbler is quite
generally confused with the goldfinch; but their distinctions are clear enough
to any but the most superficial glance. In the first place, the yellow warbler
is a smaller bird than the goldfinch; it has neither black crown, wings, nor
tail, and it does have reddish-brown streaks on its breast that are
sufficiently obsolete to make the coloring of that part look simply dull at a
little distance. The goldfinch's bill is heavy, in order that it may crack
seeds, whereas the yellow warbler's is slender, to enable it to pick minute
insects from the foliage. The goldfinch's wavy, curved flight is unique, and
that of his "double" differs not a whit from that of all nervous, flitting
warblers. Surely no one familiar with the rich, full, canary-like song of the
"wild canary," as the goldfinch is called, could confuse it with the mild
"Weechee, chee, cher-wee" of the summer yellowbird. Another distinction, not
always infallible, but nearly so, is that when seen feeding, the goldfinch is
generally below the line of vision, while the yellow warbler is either on it
or not far above it, as it rarely goes over twelve feet from the ground.

No doubt, the particularly mild, sweet amiability of the yellow warbler is
responsible for the persistent visitations of the cowbird, from which it is a
conspicuous sufferer. In the exquisite, neat little matted cradle of
glistening milk-weed flax, lined with down from the fronds of fern, the
skulking housebreaker deposits her surreptitious egg for the little yellow
mother-bird to hatch and tend. But amiability is not the only prominent trait
in the female yellow warbler's character. She is clever as well, and quickly
builds a new bottom on her nest, thus sealing up the cowbird's egg, and
depositing her own on the soft, spongy floor above it. This operation has been
known to be twice repeated, until the nest became three stories high, when a
persistent cowbird made such unusual architecture necessary.

The most common nesting place of the yellow warbler is in low willows along
the shores of streams.

YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 7.5 inches. A trifle over an inch longer than the
  English sparrow.
Male and Female -- Uniform olive-green above. Throat, breast, and
  under side of wings bright, clear yellow. Underneath white.
  Sides grayish. White line over the eye, reaching to base of
  bill and forming partial eye-ring. Also white line on sides of
  throat. Bill and feet black.
Range -- North America, from Ontario to Central America and
  westward to the plains. Most common in Middle Atlantic States.
Migrations -- Early May. Late August or September. Summer

This largest of the warblers might be mistaken for a dozen birds collectively
in as many minutes; but when it is known that the jumble of whistles, parts of
songs, chuckles, clucks, barks, quacks, whines, and wails proceed from a
single throat, the yellow-breasted chat becomes a marked specimen forthwith --
a conspicuous individual never to be confused with any other member of the
feathered tribe. It is indeed absolutely unique. The catbird and the
mocking-bird are rare mimics; but while the chat is not their equal in this
respect, it has a large repertoire of weird, uncanny cries all its own -- a
power of throwing its voice, like a human ventriloquist, into unexpected
corners of the thicket or meadow. In addition to its extraordinary vocal
feats, it can turn somersaults and do other clown-like stunts as well as any
variety actor on the Bowery stage.

Only by creeping cautiously towards the roadside tangle, where this
"rollicking polyglot" is entertaining himself and his mate, brooding over her
speckled eggs in a bulky nest set in a most inaccessible briery part of the
thicket, can you hope to hear him rattle through his variety performance. Walk
boldly or noisily past his retreat, and there is "silence there and nothing
more." But two very bright eyes peer out at you through the undergrowth, where
the trim, elegant-looking bird watches you with quizzical suspicion until you
quietly seat yourself assume silent indifference. "Whew, whew!" he begins, and
then immediately, with evident intent to amuse, he rattles off an
indescribable, eccentric medley until your ears are tired listening. With bill
uplifted, tail drooping, wings fluttering at his side, he cuts an absurd
figure enough, but not so comical as when he rises into the air, trailing his
legs behind him stork-fashion. This surely is the clown among birds. But any
though he is, he is as capable of devotion to his Columbine as Punchinello,
and remains faithfully mated year after year. However much of a tease and a
deceiver he may be to the passer-by along the roadside, in the privacy of the
domestic circle he shows truly lovable traits.

He has the habit of singing in his unmusical way on moonlight nights. Probably
his ventriloquial powers are cultivated not for popular entertainment, but to
lure intruders away from his nest.

MARYLAND YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) Wood Warbler family

  AOU 1998]

Length -- 5.33 inches. Just an inch shorter than the typical
  English sparrow.
Male -- Olive-gray on head, shading to olive-green on all the
  other upper parts. Forehead, cheeks, and sides of head black,
  like a mask, and bordered behind by a grayish line. Throat and
  breast bright yellow, growing steadily paler underneath.
Female -- Either totally lacks black mask or its place is
  Indicated by only a dusky tint. She is smaller and duller.
Range -- Eastern North America, west to the plains; most common
  east of the Alleghanies. Nests from the Gulf States to Labrador
  and Manitoba; winters south of Gulf States to Panama.
Migrations -- May. September. Common summer resident.

"Given a piece of marshy ground with an abundance of skunk cabbage and a
fairly dense growth of saplings, and near by a tangle of green brier and
blackberry, and you will be pretty sure to have it tenanted by a pair of
yellowthroats," says Dr. Abbott, who found several of their nests in
skunk-cabbage plants, which he says are favorite cradles. No animal cares to
touch this plant if it can be avoided; but have the birds themselves no sense
of smell?

Before and after the nesting season these active birds, plump of form, elegant
of attire, forceful, but not bold, enter the scrubby pastures near our houses
and the shrubbery of old- fashioned, overgrown gardens, and peer out at the
human wanderer therein with a charming curiosity. The bright eyes of the male
masquerader shine through his black mask, where he intently watches you from
the tangle of syringa and snowball bushes; and as he flies into the laburnum
with its golden chain of blossoms that pale before the yellow of his throat
and breast, you are so impressed with his grace and elegance that you follow
too audaciously, he thinks, and off he goes. And yet this is a bird that seems
to delight in being pursued. It never goes so far away that you are not
tempted to follow it, though it be through dense undergrowth and swampy
thickets, and it always gives you just glimpse enough of its beauties and
graces before it flies ahead, to invite the hope of a closer inspection next
time. When it dives into the deepest part of the tangle, where you can imagine
it hunting about among the roots and fallen leaves for the larvae,
caterpillars, spiders, and other insects on which it feeds, it sometimes
amuses itself with a simple little song between the hunts. But the bird's
indifference, you feel sure, arises from preoccupation rather than rudeness.

If, however, your visit to the undergrowth is unfortunately timed and there
happens to be a bulky nest in process of construction on the ground, a quickly
repeated, vigorous chit, pit, quit, impatiently inquires the reason for your
bold intrusion. Withdraw discreetly and listen to the love-song that is
presently poured out to reassure his plain little maskless mate. The music is
delivered with all the force and energy of his vigorous nature and penetrates
to a surprising distance. "Follow me, follow me, follow me," many people hear
him say; others write the syllables, "Wichity, wichity, wichity, wichity"; and
still others write them, "I beseech you, I beseech you, I beseech you," though
the tones of this self-assertive bird rather command than entreat. Mr. Frank
Chapman says of the yellowthroats: "They sing throughout the summer, and in
August add a flight-song to their repertoire. This is usually uttered toward
evening, when the bird springs several feet into the air, hovers for a second,
and then drops back to the bushes."

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Dendroica blackburnia) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 4.5 to 5.5 inches. An inch and a half smaller than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- Head black, striped with orange-flame; throat and breast
  orange, shading through yellow to white underneath; wings,
  tail, and part of back black, with white markings.
Female -- Olive-brown above, shading into yellow on breast, and
  paler under parts.
Range -- Eastern North America to plains. Winters in tropics.
Migrations -- May. September. Spring and autumn migrant.

"The orange-throated warbler would seem to be his right name, his
characteristic cognomen," says John Burroughs, in ever-delightful "Wake
Robin"; "but no, he is doomed to wear the name of some discoverer, perhaps the
first who robbed his nest or rifled him of his mate -- Blackburn; hence,
Blackburnian warbler. The burn seems appropriate enough, for in these dark
evergreens his throat and breast show like flame. He has a very fine warble,
suggesting that of the redstart, but not especially musical."

No foliage is dense enough to hide, and no autumnal tint too brilliant to
outshine this luminous little bird that in May, as it migrates northward to
its nesting ground, darts in and out of the leafy shadows like a tongue of

It is by far the most glorious of all the warblers -- a sort of diminutive
oriole. The quiet-colored little mate flits about after him, apparently lost
in admiration of his fine feathers and the ease with which his thin tenor
voice can end his lover's warble in a high Z.

Take a good look at this attractive couple, for in May they leave us to build
a nest of bark and moss in the evergreens of Canada -- that paradise for
warblers -- or of the Catskills and Adirondacks, and in autumn they hurry
south to escape the first frosts.

REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) Wood Warbler family


Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches.
Male -- In spring plumage: Head, neck, back, and middle breast
  glossy black, with blue reflections. Breast and underneath
  white, slightly flushed with salmon, increasing to bright
  salmon-orange on the sides of the body and on the wing linings.
  Occasional specimens show orange-red. Tail feathers partly
  black, partly orange, with broad black band across the end.
  Orange markings on wings. Bill and feet black. In autumn:
  Fading into rusty black, olive, and yellow.
Female -- Olive-brown, and yellow where the male is orange. Young
  browner than the females.
Range -- North America to upper Canada. West occasionally, as far
  as the Pacific coast, but commonly found in summer in the
  Atlantic and Middle States.
Migrations -- Early May. End of September. Summer resident.

Late some evening, early in May, when one by one the birds have withdrawn
their voices from the vesper chorus, listen for the lingering "'tsee, 'tsee,
'tseet" (usually twelve times repeated in a minute), that the redstart sweetly
but rather monotonously sings from the evergreens, where, as his tiny body
burns in the twilight, Mrs. Wright likens him to a "wind-blown firebrand, half
glowing, half charred."

But by daylight this brilliant little warbler is constantly on the alert. It
is true he has the habit, like the flycatchers (among which some learned
ornithologists still class him), of sitting pensively on a branch, with fluffy
feathers and drooping wings; but the very next instant he shows true warbler
blood by making a sudden dash upward, then downward through the air, tumbling
somersaults, as if blown by the wind, flitting from branch to branch, busily
snapping at the tiny insects hidden beneath the leaves, clinging to the
tree-trunk like a creeper, and singing between bites.

Possibly he will stop long enough in his mad chase to open and shut his tail,
fan-fashion, with a dainty egotism that, in the peacock, becomes rank vanity.

The Germans call this little bird roth Stert (red tail), but, like so many
popular names, this is a misnomer, as, strictly speaking, the redstart is
never red, though its salmon-orange markings often border on to orange-flame.

In a fork of some tall bush or tree, placed ten or fifteen feet from the
ground, a carefully constructed little nest is made of moss, horsehair, and
strippings from the bark, against which the nest is built, the better to
conceal its location. Four or five whitish eggs, thickly sprinkled with pale
brown and lilac, like the other warblers', are too jealously guarded by the
little mother-bird to be very often seen.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Iderus galbula) Oriole and Blackbird family


Length -- 7 to 8 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.
Male -- Head, throat, upper part of back glossy black. Wings
  black, with white spots and edgings. Tail-quills black, with
  yellow markings on the tips. Everywhere else orange, shading
  into flame.
Female -- Yellowish olive. Wings dark brown, and quills margined
  with white. Tail yellowish brown, with obscure, dusky bars.
Range -- The whole United States. Most numerous in Eastern States
  below 55 degrees north latitude.
Migrations -- Early May. Middle of September. Common summer

A flash of fire through the air; a rich, high, whistled song floating in the
wake of the feathered meteor: the Baltimore oriole cannot be mistaken. When
the orchards are in blossom he arrives in full plumage and song, and awaits
the coming of the female birds, that travel northward more leisurely in
flocks. He is decidedly in evidence. No foliage is dense enough to hide his
brilliancy; his temper, quite as fiery as his feathers, leads him into noisy
quarrels, and his insistent song with its martial, interrogative notes becomes
almost tiresome until he is happily mated and family cares check his

Among the best architects in the world is his plain but energetic mate.
Gracefully swung from a high branch of some tall tree, the nest is woven with
exquisite skill into a long, flexible pouch that rain cannot penetrate, nor
wind shake from its horsehair moorings. Bits of string, threads of silk, and
sometimes yarn of the gayest colors, if laid about the shrubbery in the
garden, will be quickly interwoven with the shreds of bark and milkweed stalks
that the bird has found afield. The shape of the nest often differs, because
in unsettled regions, where hawks abound, it is necessary to make it deeper
than seven inches (the customary depth when it is built near the homes of
men), and to partly close it at the top to conceal the sitting bird. From four
to six whitish eggs, scrawled over with black-brown, are hatched by the mother
oriole, and most jealously guarded by her now truly domesticated mate.

The number of grubs, worms, flies, caterpillars, and even cocoons, that go to
satisfy the hunger of a family of orioles in a day, might indicate, if it
could be computed, the great value these birds are about our homes, aside from
the good cheer they bring.

There is a popular tradition about the naming of this gorgeous bird: When
George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, worn out and discouraged by various
hardships in his Newfoundland colony, decided to visit Virginia in 1628, he
wrote that nothing in the Chesapeake country so impressed him as the myriads
of birds in its woods. But the song and color of the oriole particularly
cheered and delighted him, and orange and black became the heraldic colors of
the first lords proprietors of Maryland.

     Hush! 'tis he! My Oriole, my glance of summer fire,
     Is come at last; and ever on the watch,
     Twitches the pack-thread I had lightly wound
     About the bough to help his housekeeping.
     Twitches and scouts by turns, blessing his luck,
     Yet fearing me who laid it in his way.
     Nor, more than wiser we in our affairs,
     Divines the Providence that hides and helps.
     Heave, ho! Heave, ho! he whistles as the twine
     Slackens its hold; once more, now! and a flash
     Lightens across the sunlight to the elm
     Where his mate dangles at her cup of felt.
                                        -- James Russell Lowell.


  Cardinal Grosbeak
  Summer Tanager
  Scarlet Tanager
  Pine Grosbeak
  American Crossbill and the White-winged Crossbill
  Redpoll and Greater Redpoll
  Purple Finch
  Orchard Oriole

See the Red-winged Blackbird (Black). See also the males of the
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the Woodpeckers, the Chewink (Black and
White), the Red-breasted Nuthatch, the Bay-breasted and the
Chestnut-sided Warblers (Slate and Gray); the Bluebird and Barn
Swallow (Blue); the Flicker (Brown); the Humming-bird and the
Kinglets (Greenish Gray); and the Blackburnian and Redstart
Warblers, and the Baltimore Oriole (Orange).


CARDINAL GROSBEAK (Cardinalis cardinalis) Finch family


Length -- 8 to 9 inches. A little smaller than the robin.
Male -- Brilliant cardinal; chin and band around bill black. Beak
  stout and red. Crest conspicuous. In winter dress, wings washed
  with gray.
Female -- Brownish yellow above, shading to gray below. Tail
  shorter than the male's. Crest, wings, and tail reddish. Breast
  sometimes tinged with red.
Range -- Eastern United States. A Southern bird, becoming more
  and more common during the summer in States north of Virginia,
  especially in Ohio, south of which it is resident throughout
  the year.
Migrations --  Resident rather than migrating birds, remaining
  throughout the winter in localities where they have found their
  way. Travel in flocks.

Among the numerous names by which this beautiful bird is known, it has become
immortalized under the title of Mr. James Lane Allen's exquisite book, "The
Kentucky Cardinal." Here, while we are given a most charmingly sympathetic,
delicate account of the bird "who has only to be seen or heard, and Death
adjusts an arrow," it is the cardinal's pathetic fate that impresses one most.
Seen through less poetical eyes, however, the bird appears to be a haughty
autocrat, a sort of "F. F. V." among the feathered tribes, as, indeed, his
title, "Virginia redbird," has been unkindly said to imply. Bearing himself
with a refined and courtly dignity, not stooping to soil his feet by walking
on the ground like the more democratic robin, or even condescending below the
level of the laurel bushes, the cardinal is literally a shining example of
self-conscious superiority -- a bird to call forth respect and admiration
rather than affection. But a group of cardinals in a cedar tree in a snowy
winter landscape makes us forgetful of everything but their supreme beauty.

As might be expected in one of the finch family, the cardinal is a songster --
the fact which, in connection with his lovely plumage, accounts for the number
of these birds shipped in cages to Europe, where they are known as Virginia
nightingales. Commencing with a strong, rich whistle, like the high notes of a
fife, "Cheo-cheo-cheo-cheo," repeated over and over as if to make perfect the
start of a song he is about to sing, suddenly he stops, and you learn that
there is to be no glorious performance after all, only a prelude to --
nothing. The song, such as it is, begins, with both male and female, in March,
and lasts, with a brief intermission, until September -- "the most melodious
sigh," as Mr. Allen calls it. Early in May the cardinals build a bulky and
loosely made nest, usually in the holly, laurel, or other evergreen shrubs
that they always love to frequent, especially if these are near fields of corn
or other grain. And often two broods in a year come forth from the pale-gray,
brown-marked eggs, beating what is literally for them the "fatal gift of

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) Tanager family


Length -- 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the robin.
Male -- Uniform red. Wings and tail like the body.
Female -- Upper parts yellowish olive-green; underneath inclining
  to orange-yellow.
Range -- Tropical portions of two Americas and eastern United
  States. Most common in Southern States. Rare north of
  Pennsylvania. Winters in the tropics. Mirations -- In Southern
  States: April. October. Irregular migrant north of the

Thirty years ago, it is recorded that so far north as New Jersey the summer
redbird was quite as common as any of the thrushes. In the South still there
is scarcely an orchard that does not contain this tropical-looking beauty --
the redbird par excellence, the sweetest singer of the family. Is there a more
beautiful sight in all nature than a grove of orange trees laden with fruit,
starred with their delicious blossoms, and with flocks of redbirds disporting
themselves among the dark, glossy leaves? Pine and oak woods are also favorite
resorts, especially at the north, where the bird nowadays forsakes the
orchards to hide his beauty, if he can, unharmed by the rifle that only rarely
is offered so shining a mark. He shows the scarlet tanager's preference for
tree-tops, where his musical voice, calling "Chicky-tucky-tuk," alone betrays
his presence in the woods. The Southern farmers declare that he is an
infallible weather prophet, his "wet, WET, WET," being the certain indication
of rain -- another absurd saw, for the call-note is by no means confined to
the rainy season.

The yellowish-olive mate, whose quiet colors betray no nest secrets, collects
twigs and grasses for the cradle to be saddled on the end of some horizontal
branch, though in this work the male sometimes cautiously takes an
insignificant part. After her three or four eggs are laid she sits upon them
for nearly two weeks, being only rarely and stealthily visited by her mate
with some choice grub, blossom, or berry in his beak. But how cheerfully his
fife-like whistle rings out during the temporary exile! Then his song is at
its best. Later in the summer he has an aggravating way of joining in the
chorus of other birds' songs, by which the pleasant individuality of his own
voice is lost.

A nest of these tanagers, observed not far from New York City, was commenced
the last week of May on the extreme edge of a hickory limb in an open wood;
four eggs were laid on the fourth of June, and twelve days later the tiny
fledglings, that all look like their mother in the early stages of their
existence, burst from the greenish-white, speckled shells. In less than a
month the young birds were able to fly quite well and collect their food.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga erythromelas) Tanager family


Length -- 7 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male -- In spring plumage: Brilliant scarlet, with black wings
  And tail. Under wing coverts grayish white. In autumn: Similar
  To female.
Female -- Olive-green above; wings and tail dark, lightly
  Margined with olive. Underneath greenish yellow.
Range -- North America to northern Canada boundaries, and
  southwardin winter to South America.
Migrations -- May. October. Summer resident

The gorgeous coloring of the scarlet tanager has been its snare and
destruction. The densest evergreens could not altogether hide this blazing
target for the sportsman's gun, too often fired at the instigation of city
milliners. "Fine feathers make fine birds" -- and cruel, silly women, the
adage might be adapted for latter-day use. This rarely beautiful tanager,
thanks to them, is now only an infrequent flash of beauty in our country

Instinct leads it to be chary of its charms; and whereas it used to be one of
the commonest of bird neighbors, it is now shy and solitary. An ideal resort
for it is a grove of oak or swamp maple near a stream or pond where it can
bathe. Evergreen trees, too, are favorites, possibly because the bird knows
how exquisitely its bright scarlet coat is set off by their dark background.

High in the tree-tops he perches, all unsuspected by the visitor passing
through the woods below, until a burst of rich, sweet melody directs the
opera-glasses suddenly upward. There we detect him carolling loud and
cheerfully, like a robin. He is an apparition of beauty -- a veritable bird of
paradise, as, indeed, he is sometimes called. Because of their similar
coloring, the tanager and cardinal are sometimes confounded, but an instant's
comparison of the two birds shows nothing in common except red feathers, and
even those of quite different shades. The inconspicuous olive-green and yellow
of the female tanager's plumage is another striking instance of Nature's
unequal distribution of gifts; but if our bright-colored birds have become
shockingly few under existing conditions, would any at all remain were the
females prominent, like the males, as they brood upon the nest? Both tanagers
construct a rather disorderly-looking nest of fibres and sticks, through which
daylight can be seen where it rests securely upon the horizontal branch of
some oak or pine tree; but as soon as three or four bluish-green eggs have
been laid in the cradle, off goes the father, wearing his tell-tale coat, to a
distant tree. There he sings his sweetest carol to the patient, brooding mate,
returning to her side only long enough to feed her with the insects and
berries that form their food.

Happily for the young birds' fate, they are clothed at first in motley, dull
colors, with here and there only a bright touch of scarlet, yellow, and olive
to prove their claim to the parent whose gorgeous plumage must be their
admiration. But after the moulting season it would be a wise tanager that knew
its own father. His scarlet feathers are now replaced by an autumn coat of
olive and yellow not unlike his mate's.

PINE GROSBEAK (Pinicola enucleator) Finch family


Length -- Variously recorded from 6.5 to 11 inches. Specimen
  measured 8.5 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.
Male -- General color strawberry-red, with some slate-gray
  fleckings about head, under wings, and on legs. Tail brown;
  wings brown, marked with black and white and slate. A band-
  shaped series of markings between the shoulders. Underneath
  paler red, merging into grayish green. Heavy, conspicuous bill.
Female -- Ash-brown. Head and hind neck yellowish brown, each
  feather having central dusky streak. Cheeks and throat
  yellowish. Beneath ash-gray, tinged with brownish yellow under
Range -- British American provinces and northern United States.
Migrations -- Irregular winter visitors; length of visits as
  uncertain as their coming.

As inseparable as bees from flowers, so are these beautiful winter visitors
from the evergreen woods, where their red feathers, shining against the
dark-green background of the trees, give them charming prominence; but they
also feed freely upon the buds of various deciduous trees.

South of Canada we may not look for them except in the severest winter
weather. Even then their coming is not to be positively depended upon; but
when their caprice -- or was it an unusually fierce northern blast? -- sends
them over the Canada border, it is a simple matter to identify them when such
brilliant birds are rare. The brownish-yellow and grayish females and young
males, however, always seem to be in the majority with us, though our Canadian
friends assure us of the irreproachable morals of this gay bird.

Wherever there are clusters of pine or cedar trees, when there is a flock of
pine grosbeaks in the neighborhood, you may expect to find a pair of birds
diligently feeding upon the seeds and berries. No cheerful note escapes them
as they persistently gormandize, and, if the truth must be confessed, they
appear to be rather stupid and uninteresting, albeit they visit us at a time
when we are most inclined to rapture over our bird visitors. They are said to
have a deliciously sweet song in the nesting season. When, however, few except
the Canadian voyageurs hear it.

AMERICAN CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra minor) Finch family

Called also: RED CROSSBILL [AOU 1998]

Length -- 6 to 7 inches. About the size of the English sparrow.
Male -- General color Indian red, passing into brownish gray,
  with red tinge beneath. Wings (without bands), also tail,
  brown, Beak crossed at the tip.
Female -- General color greenish yellow, with brownish tints.
  Dull-yellowish tints on head, throat, breast, and underneath.
  Wings and tail pale brown. Beak crossed at tip.
Range -- Pennsylvania to northern British America. West of
  Mississippi, range more southerly.
Migrations -- Irregular winter visitor. November. Sometimes
  resident until April.

It is a rash statement to say that a bird is rare simply because you have
never seen it in your neighborhood, for while you are going out of the front
door your rara avis may be eating the crumbs about your kitchen. Even with our
eyes and ears constantly alert for some fresh bird excitement, our phlegmatic
neighbor over the way may be enjoying a visit from a whole flock of the very
bird we have been looking and listening for in vain all the year. The red
crossbills are capricious little visitors, it is true, but by no means

About the size of an English sparrow, of a brick or Indian red color, for the
most part, the peculiarity of its parrot-like beak is its certain mark of

Longfellow has rendered into verse the German legend of the crossbill, which
tells that as the Saviour hung upon the cross, a little bird tried to pull out
the nails that pierced His hands and feet, thus twisting its beak and staining
its feathers with the blood.

At first glance the birds would seem to be hampered by their crossed beaks in
getting at the seeds in the pine cones -- a superficial criticism when the
thoroughness and admirable dexterity of their work are better understood.

Various seeds of fruits, berries, and the buds of trees enlarge their bill of
fare. They are said to be inordinately fond of salt. Mr. Romeyn B. Hough tells
of a certain old ice-cream freezer that attracted flocks of crossbills one
winter, as a salt-lick attracts deer. Whether the traditional salt that may
have stuck to the bird's tail is responsible for its tameness is not related,
but it is certain the crossbills, like most bird visitors from the far north,
are remarkably gentle, friendly little birds. As they swing about the pine
trees, parrot-fashion, with the help of their bill, calling out kimp, kimp,
that sounds like the snapping of the pine cones on a sunny day, it often seems
easily possible to catch them with the hand.

There is another species of crossbill, called the White-winged (Loxia
leucoptera), that differs from the preceding chiefly in having two white bands
across its wings and in being more rare.

THE REDPOLL (Acanthis linaria) Finch family


Length -- 5.25 to 5.5 inches. About an inch shorter than the
  English sparrow.
Male -- A rich crimson wash on head, neck, breast, and lower
  back, that is sometimes only a pink when we see the bird in
  midwinter. Grayish-brown, sparrowy feathers show underneath the
  red wash. Dusky wings and tail, the feathers more or less edged
  with whitish. Soiled white underneath; the sides with dusky
  streaks. Bill sharply pointed.
Female -- More dingy than male, sides more heavily streaked, and
  having crimson only on the crown.
Range -- An arctic bird that descends irregularly into the
  Northern United States.
Migrations -- An irregular winter visitor.

"Ere long, amid the cold and powdery snow, as it were a fruit of the season,
will come twittering a flock of delicate crimson-tinged birds, lesser
redpolls, to sport and feed on the buds just ripe for them on the sunny side
of a wood, shaking down the powdery snow there in their cheerful feeding, as
if it were high midsummer to them." Thoreau's beautiful description of these
tiny winter visitors, which should be read entire, shows the man in one of his
most sympathetic, exalted moods, and it is the best brief characterization of
the redpoll that we have.

When the arctic cold becomes too cruel for even the snow-birds and crossbills
to withstand, flocks of the sociable little redpolls flying southward are the
merest specks in the sullen, gray sky, when they can be seen at all. So high
do they keep that often they must pass above our heads without our knowing it.
First we see a quantity of tiny dots, like a shake of pepper, in the cloud
above, then the specks grow larger and larger, and finally the birds seem to
drop from the sky upon some tall tree that they completely cover -- a
veritable cloudburst of birds. Without pausing to rest after the long journey,
down they flutter into the weedy pastures with much cheerful twittering, to
feed upon whatever seeds may be protruding through the snow. Every action of a
flock seems to be concerted, as if some rigid disciplinarian had drilled them,
and yet no leader can be distinguished in the merry company. When one flies,
all fly; where one feeds, all feed, and by some subtle telepathy all rise at
the identical instant from their feeding ground and cheerfully twitter in
concert where they all alight at once. They are more easily disturbed than the
goldfinches, that are often seen feeding with them in the lowlands;
nevertheless, they quite often venture into our gardens and orchards, even in
suburbs penetrated by the trolley-car.

Usually in winter we hear only their lisping call-note; but if the birds
linger late enough in the spring, when their "fancy lightly turns to thoughts
of love," a gleeful, canary-like song comes from the naked branches, and we
may know by it that the flock will soon disappear for their nesting grounds in
the northern forests.

The Greater Redpoll (Acanthis linaria rostrata) may be distinguished from the
foregoing species by its slightly larger size, darker upper parts, and
shorter, stouter bill. But the notes, habits, and general appearance of both
redpolls are so nearly identical that the birds are usually mistaken for each

PURPLE FINCH (Carpodacus purpureus) Finch family

Called also: PURPLE LINNET

Length -- 6 to 6.25 inches. About the same size as the English
Male -- Until two years old, sparrow-like in appearance like the
  female, but with olive-yellow on chin and lower back.
  Afterwards entire body suffused with a bright raspberry-red,
  deepest on head, lower back, and breast, and other parts only
  faintly washed with this color. More brown on back; and wings
  and tail, which are dusky, have some reddish brown feathers.
  Underneath grayish white. Bill heavy. Tail forked.
Female -- Grayish olive brown above; whitish below; finely
  Streaked everywhere with very dark brown, like a sparrow. Sides
  of breast have arrow-shaped marks. Wings and tail darkest.
Range -- North America, from Columbia River eastward to Atlantic
  and from Mexico northward to Manitoba. Most common in Middle
  States and New England. Winters south of Pennsylvania.
Migrations -- March. November. Common summer resident. Rarely
  individuals winter at the north.

In this "much be-sparrowed country" of ours familiarity is apt to breed
contempt for any bird that looks sparrowy, in which case one of the most
delicious songsters we have might easily be overlooked. It is not until the
purple finch reaches maturity in his second year that his plumage takes on the
raspberry-red tints that some ornithologists named purple. Oriental purple is
our magenta, it is true, but not a raspberry shade. Before maturity, but for
the yellow on his lower back and throat, he and his mate alike suggest a
song-sparrow; and it is important to note their particularly heavy, rounded
bills, with the tufts of feathers at the base, and their forked tails, to name
them correctly. But the identification of the purple finch, after all, depends
quite as much upon his song as his color. In March, when flocks of these birds
come north, he has begun to sing a little; by the beginning of May he is
desperately in love, and sudden, joyous peals of music from the elm or
evergreen trees on the lawn enliven the garden. How could his little brown
lady-love fail to be impressed with a suitor so gayly dressed, so tender and
solicitous, so deliciously sweet-voiced? With fuller, richer song than the
warbling vireo's, which Nuttall has said it resembles, a perfect ecstasy of
love, pours incessantly from his throat during the early summer days. There is
a suggestion of the robins love-song in his, but its copiousness, variety, and
rapidity give it a character all its own.

In some old, neglected hedge or low tree about the countryplace a flat, grassy
nest, lined with horsehair, contains four or five green eggs in June, and the
old birds are devotion itself to each other, and soon to their young, sparrowy

But when parental duties are over, the finches leave our lawns and gardens to
join flocks of their own kind in more remote orchards or woods, their favorite
haunts. Their subdued warble may be heard during October and later, as if the
birds were humming to themselves.

Much is said of their fondness for fruit blossoms and tree buds, but the truth
is that noxious insects and seeds of grain constitute their food in summer,
the berries of evergreens in winter. To a bird so gay of color, charming of
voice, social, and trustful of disposition, surely a few blossoms might be
spared without grudging.

THE AMERICAN ROBIN (Merula migratoria) Thrush family


Length -- 10 inches.
Male -- Dull brownish olive-gray above. Head black; tail brownish
  black, with exterior feathers white at inner tip. Wings dark
  brownish. Throat streaked with black and white. White eyelids.
  Entire breast bright rusty red; whitish below the tail.
Female -- Duller and with paler breast, resembling the male in
Range -- North America, from Mexico to arctic regions.
Migrations -- March. October or November. Often resident
  throughout the year.

It seems almost superfluous to write a line of description about a bird that
is as familiar as a chicken; yet how can this nearest of our bird neighbors be
passed without a reference? Probably he was the very first bird we learned to
call by name.

The early English colonists, who had doubtless been brought up, like the rest
of us, on "The Babes in the Wood," named the bird after the only heroes in
that melancholy tale; but in reality the American robin is a much larger bird
than the English
robin-redbreast and less brilliantly colored. John Burroughs calls him, of all
our birds, "the most native and democratic."

How the robin dominates birddom with his strong, aggressive personality! His
voice rings out strong and clear in the early morning chorus, and, more
tenderly subdued at twilight, it still rises above all the sleepy notes about
him. Whether lightly tripping over the lawn after the "early worm," or rising
with his sharp, quick cry of alarm, when startled, to his nest near by, every
motion is decided, alert, and free. No pensive hermit of the woods, like his
cousins, the thrushes, is this joyous vigorous "bird of the morning." Such a
presence is inspiriting.

Does any bird excel the robin in the great variety of his vocal expressions?
Mr. Parkhurst, in his charming "Birds' Calendar," says he knows of "no other
bird that is able to give so many shades of meaning to a single note, running
through the entire gamut of its possible feelings. From the soft and mellow
quality, almost as coaxing as a dove's note, with which it encourages its
young when just out of the nest, the tone, with minute gradations, becomes
more vehement, and then harsh and with quickened reiteration, until it
expresses the greatest intensity of a bird's emotions. Love, contentment,
anxiety, exultation, rage -- what other bird can throw such multifarious
meaning into its tone? And herein the robin seems more nearly human than any
of its kind."

There is no one thing that attracts more birds about the house that a
drinking-dish -- large enough for a bathtub as well; and certainly no bird
delights in sprinkling the water over his back more than a robin, often aided
in his ablutions by the spattering of the sparrows. But see to it that this
drinking-dish is well raised above the reach of lurking cats.

While the robin is a famous splasher, his neatness stops there. A robin's nest
is notoriously dirty within, and so carelessly constructed of weed-stalks,
grass, and mud, that a heavy summer shower brings more robins' nests to the
ground than we like to contemplate. The color of the eggs, as every one knows,
has given their name to the tint. Four is the number of eggs laid, and two
broods are often reared in the same nest.

Too much stress is laid on the mischief done by the robins in the cherry trees
and strawberry patches, and too little upon the quantity of worms and insects
they devour. Professor Treadwell, who experimented upon some young robins kept
in captivity, learned that they ate sixty-eight earthworms daily -- "that is,
each bird ate forty-one per cent more than its own weight in twelve hours! The
length of these worms, if laid end to end, would be about fourteen feet. Man,
at this rate, would eat about seventy pounds of flesh a day, and drink five or
six gallons of water."

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius) Blackbird and Oriole family


Length -- 7 to 7.3 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the
Male -- Head, throat, upper back, tail, and part of wings black.
  Breast, rump, shoulders, under wing and tail coverts, and under
  parts bright reddish brown. Whitish-yellow markings on a few
  tail and wing feathers.
Female -- Head and upper parts olive, shading into brown;
  brighter on head and near tail. Back and wings dusky brown,
  with pale-buff shoulder-bars and edges of coverts. Throat
  black. Under parts olive, shading into yellow.
Range -- Canada to Central America. Common in temperate latitudes
  of the United States.
Migrations -- Early May. Middle of September. Common summer

With a more southerly range than the Baltimore oriole and less conspicuous
coloring, the orchard oriole is not so familiar a bird in many Northern
States, where, nevertheless, it is quite common enough to be classed among our
would-be intimates. The orchard is not always as close, to the house as this
bird cares to venture; he will pursue an insect even to the piazza vines.

His song, says John Burroughs, is like scarlet, "strong, intense, emphatic,"
but it is sweet and is more rapidly uttered than that of others of the family.
It is ended for the season early in July.

This oriole, too, builds a beautiful nest, not often pendent like the
Baltimore's, but securely placed in the fork of a sturdy fruit tree, at a
moderate height, and woven with skill and precision, like a basket. When the
dried grasses from one of these nests were stretched and measured, all were
found to be very nearly the same length, showing to what pains the little
weaver had gone to make the nest neat and pliable, yet strong. Four
cloudy-white eggs with dark-brown spots are usually found in the nest in June.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bird Neighbors
 - An Introductory Acquaintance with One Hundred and Fifty Birds Commonly Found in the Gardens, Meadows, and Woods About Our Homes" ***

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