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hung in a seemingly torpid state for a whole forenoon. No motion whatever of the lungs could be perceived, on the closest inspection, though at other times this is remarkably observable; the eyes were shut; and when touched by the finger it gave no signs of life or motion. I carried it out to the open air, and placed it directly in the rays of the sun, in a sheltered situation. In a few seconds respiration became very apparent; the bird breathed faster and faster, opened its eyes, and began to look about, with as much seeming vivacity as ever. After it had completely recovered, 1 restored it to liberty; and it flew off to the withered top of a pear tree, where it sat for some time dressing its disordered plumage, and then shot off like a meteor.
The flight of the Humming-bird from flower to flower, greatly resembles that of a bee, but is so much more rapid, that the latter appears a mere loiterer to him. He poises himself on wing, while he thrusts his long slender tubular tongue into the flowers in search of food. He sometimes enters a room by the window, examines the bouquets of flowers, and passes out by the opposite door or window. He has been known to take refuge in a hot-house during the cool nights of autumn; to go regularly out in the morning, and to return as regularly in the evening, for several days together.
The Humming-bird has, hitherto, been supposed to subsist altogether on the honey, or liquid sweets, which it extracts from flowers. One or two curious observers have indeed remarked, that they have found evident fragments of insects in the stomach of this species; but these have been generally believed to have been taken in by accident. The few opportunities which Europeans have to determine this point by observations made on the living bird, or by dissection of the newly-killed one, have rendered this mistaken opinion almost general in Europe. For myself I can speak decisively on this subject. I have seen the Humming-bird for half an hour at a time darting at those little groups of insects that dance in the air in a fine summer evening, retiring to an adjoining twig to rest, and renewing the attack
with a dexterity that sets all our other Flycatchers at defiance. I have opened from time to time great numbers of these birds; have examined the contents of the stomach with suitable glasses, and in three cases out of four, have found these to consist of broken fragments of insects. In many subjects entire insects of the coleopterous class, but very small, were found unbroken. The observations of Mr. Coffer as detailed above, and the remarks of my worthy friend Mr. Peale, are corroborative of these facts. It is well known that the Humming-bird is particularly fond of tubular flowers where numerous small insects of this kind resort to feed on the farina, &c. and there is every reason for believing that he is as often in search of these insects as of honey; and that the former compose at least as great a portion of his usual sustenance as the latter. If this food be so neccessary for the parents there is no doubt but the young also occasionally partake of it.
To enumerate all the flowers of which this little bird is fond, would be to repeat the names of half our American Flora. From the blossoms of the towering poplar, or tulip tree, through a thousand intermediate flowers to those of the humble larkspur, he
ranges at will, and almost incessantly. Every period of the season produces a fresh multitude of new favourites. Towards the month of September there is a yellow flower which grows in great luxuriance along the sides of creeks and rivers, and in low moist situations; it grows to the height of two or three feet, and the flower which is about the size of a thimble, hangs in the shape of a cap of liberty above a luxuriant growth of green leaves. It is the Balsamina noli me tangere of botanists, and is the greatest tavourite with the Humming-bird of all our other flowers. In some places where these plants abound you may see at one time ten or twelve Humming-birds darting about, and fighting with and pursuing each other. About the twentieth of September they generally retire to the south. I have, indeed, sometimes seen a solitary individual on the twenty-eighth and thirtieth of that month, and sometimes even in October; but these case are rare. About the beginning of November they pass the southern boundary of the United States into Florida.
The Humming-bird is three inches and a half in length, and four and a quarter in extent; the whole back, upper part of the neck, sides under the wings, tail coverts, and two middle feathers of the tail, are of a rich golden green; the tail is forked, and, as well as the wings, of a deep brownish purple; the bill and eyes are black; the legs and feet, both of which are extremely small, are also black; the bill is straight, very slender, a little inflated at the tip, and very incompetent to the exploit of penetrating the tough sinewy side of a crow, and precipitating it from the clouds to the earth, as Charlevoix would persuade his readers to believe.* The nostrils are two small oblong slits, situated at the base of the upper mandible, scarcely perceivable when the bird is dead, though very distinguishable and prominent when living; the sides of the belly and belly itself dusky white, mixed with green; but what constitutes the chief ornament of this little bird, is the splendour of the feathers of his throat, which when placed in a proper position, glow with all the brilliancy of the ruby. These feathers are of singular strength and texture, lying close together like scales, and vary when moved before the eye from a deep black to a fiery crimson and burning orange. The female is destitute of this ornament; but differs little in other appearance from the male; her tail is tipt with white, and the whole lower parts are of the same tint. The young birds of the first season, both male and female, have the tail tipt with white, and the whole lower parts nearly white; in the month of September the ornamental feathers on the throat of the young males begin to appear.
On dissection the heart was found to be remarkably large, nearly as big as the cranium; and the stomach, though distended with food, uncommonly small, not exceeding the globe of the eye, and scarcely more than one-sixth part as large as the heart; the fibres of the last were also exceedingly strong. The brain was in large quantity, and very thin; the tongue, from the tip to an extent equal with the length of the bill, was perforated, forming two closely attached parallel and cylindrical tubes; the other extremities of the tongue corresponded exactly to those of the Woodpecker, passing up the hind head, and reaching to the base of the upper mandible. These observations were verified in five different subjects, all of whose stomachs contained fragments of insects, and some of them whole ones.
* Hist. de la Noy. France, III, p. 185.
[Plate XXX.--Fig. 1, Male.-Fig. 2, Female.)
Oriolus phæniceus, Linn. Syst. 161.-Red-winged Oriole, Arct.
Zool. 255, No. 140.--Icterus plerophænicieus, Briss. 11, 97.-
This notorious and celebrated corn-thief, the long reputed plunderer and pest of our honest and laborious farmers, now presents himself before us, with his copartner in iniquity,* to receive the character due for their very active and distinguished services. In investigating the nature of these, I shall endeavour to render strict historical justice to this noted pair; adhering to the honest injunctions of the poet,
"Nor set down aught in malice." Let the reader devest himself equally of prejudice, and we shall be at no loss to ascertain accurately their true character.
The Red-winged Starlings, though generally migratory in the states north of Maryland, are found during winter in immense flocks, sometimes associated with the Purple Grakles, and often by themselves, along the whole lower parts of Virginia, both Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana, particulary near the seacoast, and in the vicinity of large rice and corn fields. In the
* Wilson here alludes to the Pileated Woodpecker, which in the original edition precedes the Red-winged Starling.