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SPECIES %. PICUS PILEATUS.
[Plate XXIX.—Fig. 2.)
Picus pileatus, Lath. Ind. Orn. I, p. 225, 4.-_Linn. Syst. 1, p.
173, 3.-Gmel. Syst. 1, p. 425.--Picus niger Virginianus cristatus, Briss. iv, p. 29, 10.–Pic noir à huppe rouge, BUFF. VII, p. 48.-Pic noir huppe de la Louisiane, Pl. Enl. 718.- Larger crested Woodpecker, Caress. Car. I, 17.-Pileated lood pecker, Arct. Zool. 11, No. 157.-Lath. Syn. II, p. 554, 3.-Id. Sup. p. 105.-BARTRAM, p. 289.—PealE's Museum, No. 1886.
This American species is the second in size among his tribe, and may be styled the Great Northern Chief of the Woodpeckers, though, in fact, his range extends over the whole of the United States, from the interior of Canada to the gulf of Mexico. He is very numerous in the Gennesee country, and in all the tracts of high-timbered forests, particularly in the neighbourhood of our large rivers, where he is noted for making a loud and almost incessant cackling before wet weather; flying at such times in a restless uneasy manner from tree to tree, making the woods echo to his outcry. In Pennsylvania, and the northern states, he is called the Black Woodcock; in the southern states, the Logcock. Almost every old trunk in the forest, where he resides, bears the marks of his chisel. Wherever he perceives a trec beginning to decay, he examines it round and round with great skill and dexterity, strips off the bark in sheets of five or six feet in length to get at the hidden cause of the disease, and labours with a gayety and activity really surprising. I have seen him separate the greatest part of the bark from a large dead pinetree, for twenty or thirty feet, in less than a quarter of an hour.
Whether engaged in flying from tree to tree, in digging, climbing or barking, he seems perpetually in a hurry. He is extremely hard to kill, clinging close to the tree even after he has received his mortal wound; nor yielding up his hold but with his expiring breath. If slightly wounded in the wing, and dropt while flying, he instantly makes for the nearest tree, and strikes, with great bitterness, at the hand stretched out to seize him; and can rarely be reconciled to confinement. He is sometimes observed among the hills of Indian corn, and it is said by some that he frequently feeds on it. Complaints of this kind are, however, not general; many farmers doubting the fact, and conceiving that at these times he is in search of insects which lie concealed in the husk. I will not be positive that they never occasionally taste maize; yet I have opened and examined great numbers of these birds, killed in various parts of the United States, from lake Ontario to the Alatamaha river, but never found a grain of Indian corn in their stomachs.
The Pileated Woodpecker is not migratory, but braves the extremes of both the arctic and torrid regions. Neither is he gregarious, for it is rare to see more than one or two, or at the most three, in company. Formerly they were numerous in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia; but gradually as the old timber fell, and the country became better cleared, they retreated to the forest. At present few of those birds are to be found within ten or fifteen miles of the city.
Their nest is built, or rather the eggs are deposited, in the hole of a tree, dug out by themselves, no other materials being used but the soft chips of rotten wood. The female lays six large eggs of a snowy whiteness; and, it is said, they generally raise two broods in the same season.
This species is eighteen inches long, and twenty-eight in extent; the general colour is a dusky brownish black; the head is ornamented with a conical cap of bright scarlet; two scarlet mustaches proceed from the lower mandible; the chin is white; the nostrils are covered with brownish white hair-like feathers, and this stripe of white passes thence down the side of the neck
to the sides, spreading under the wings; the upper half of the wings, are white, but concealed by the black coverts; the lower extremities of the wings are black; so that the white on the wing is not seen but when the bird is flying, at which time it is very prominent; the tail is tapering, the feathers being very convex above and strong; the legs are of a leaden gray colour, very short, scarcely half an inch, the toes very long, the claws strong and semicircular, and of a pale blue; the bill is fluted, sharply ridged, very broad at the base, bluish black above, below and at the point bluish white; the eye is of a bright golden colour; the pupil black; the tongue, like those of its tribe, is worm-shaped, except near the tip, where for one-eighth of an inch it is horny, pointed, and beset with barbs.
The female has the forehead, and nearly to the crown, of a light brown colour, and the mustaches are dusky instead of red. In both, a fine line of white separates the red crest from the dusky line that passes over the eye.
[Plate III. —Fig. 1.]
Le Pic aux ailes dorées, Buffon, vii, 59. Pl. Enl. 693.—Picus
auratus, Linn. Syst. 174.-Cuculus alis de auratis, Klein, p. 30.–CATESBY, I, 18.--LATHAM, II, 597.-BARTRAM, p. 289.PEALE's Museum, No. 1958.*
This elegant bird is well known to our farmers and junior sportsmen, who take every opportunity of destroying him; the former for the supposed trespasses he commits on their Indian corn, or the trifle he will bring in market, and the latter for the mere pleasure of destruction, and perhaps for the flavour of his flesh, which is in general esteem. In the state of Pennsylvania he can scarcely be called a bird of passage, as even in severe winters they may be found within a few miles of the city of Philadelphia; and I have known them exposed for sale in market every week during the months of November, December and January, and that too in more than commonly rigorous weather. They, no doubt, partially migrate, even here; being much more numerous in spring and fall than in winter. Early in the month of April they begin to prepare their nest, which is built in the hollow body or branch of a tree, sometimes, though not always, at a considerable height from the ground; for I have frequently known them fix on the trunk of an old apple-tree, at not more than six feet from the root. The sagacity of this bird in discovering, under a sound bark, a hollow limb or trunk of a tree, and its perseverance in perforating it for the purpose of incubation, are truly surprising; the male and female alternately relieving and encouraging each other by mutual caresses, renewing their labours for several days, till the object is attained, and the place rendered sufficiently capacious, convenient and secure. At this employment they are so extremely intent, that they may be heard till a very late hour in the evening, thumping like carpenters. I have seen an instance where they had dug first five inches straight forwards, and then downwards more than twice that distance, through a solid black oak. They carry in no materials for their nest, the soft chips, and dust of the wood, serving for this purpose. The female lays six white eggs, almost transparent. The young early leave the nest, and, climbing to the higher branches, are there fed by their parents.
* We add the following synonymes:-Cuculus auratus, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, 1, 112.-GMEL. Syst. 1, 430.-Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 242.-- Picus Canadensis striatus, Briss. 4, 72.-Penx. Arct. Zool. No. 158.
The food of this bird varies with the season. As the common cherries, bird-cherries, and berries of the sour gum, successively ripen, he regales plentifully on them, particularly on the latter; but the chief food of this species, or that which is most usually found in his stomach, is wood-lice, and the young and larvæ of ants, of which he is so immoderately fond, that I have frequently found his stomach distended with a mass of these, and these only, as large nearly as a plum. For the procuring of these insects, nature has remarkably fitted him. The bills of Woodpeckers, in general, are straight, grooved or channelled, wedge-shaped, and compressed to a thin edge at the end, that they may the easier penetrate the hardest wood; that of the Golden-winged Woodpecker is long, slightly bent, ridged only on the top, and tapering almost to a point, yet still retaining a little of the wedge form there. Both, however, are admirably adapted to the peculiar manner each has of procuring its food. The former, like a powerful wedge, to penetrate the dead and decaying branches, after worms and insects; the latter, like a long and sharp pickaxe, to dig up the hillocks of pismires, that inhabit old stumps in prodigious multitudes. These beneficial services would entitle him to some regard from the husbandman, were he not accused, and perhaps not without just cause, of being too partial to the Indian corn, when in that state which is usually called