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extent of the richest and best cultivated country on earth. All this, it may be said, is mere supposition. It is, however, supposition founded on known and acknowledged facts. I have never dissected any of these birds in spring without receiving the most striking and satisfactory proofs of those facts; and though in a matter of this kind it is impossible to ascertain precisely the amount of the benefits derived by agriculture from this and many other species of our birds; yet in the present case I cannot resist the belief, that the services of this species, in spring, are far more important and beneficial than the value of all that portion of corn which a careful and active farmer permits himself to lose by it.
The great range of country frequented by this bird extends from Mexico on the south, to Labrador. Our late enterprising travellers across the continent to the Pacific ocean observed it numerous in several of the vallies at a great distance up the Missouri. When taken alive, or reared from the nest, it soon becomes familiar, sings frequently, bristling out its feathers something in the manner of the Cow Bunting. These notes, though not remarkably various, are very peculiar. The most common one resembles the syllables conk-quer ree; others the shrill sounds produced by filing a saw; some are more guttural; and others remarkably clear. The usual note of both male and female is a single chuck. Instances have been produced where they have been taught to articulate several words distinctly; and contrary to that of many birds the male loses little of the brilliancy of his plumage by confinement.
A very remarkable trait of this bird is the great difference of size between the male and female; the former being nearly two inches longer than the latter, and of proportionate magnitude. They are known by various names in the different states of the union; such as the Swamp Blackbird, Marsh Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Corn or Maize thief, Starling, &c. Many of them have been carried from this to different parts of Europe, and Edwards relates that one of them, which had no doubt escaped from a cage, was shot in the neighborhood of London; and on being opened, its stomach was found to be filled with grub worms, caterpillars and beetles; which Buffon seems to wonder at, as “in their own country,” he observes, “ they feed exclusively on grain and maize."
Hitherto this species has been generally classed by naturalists with the Orioles. By a careful comparison, however, of its bill with those of that tribe, the similarity is by no means sufficient to justify this arrangement; and its manners are altogether different. I can find no genus to which it makes so near an approach, both in the structure of the bill and in food, flight and manners as those of the Stare, with which, following my judicious friend Mr. Bartram, I have accordingly placed it. To the European the perusal of the foregoing pages will be sufficient to satisfy him of their similarity of manners. For the satisfaction of those who are unacquinted with the common Starling of Europe, I shall select a few sketches of its character, from the latest and most accurate publication I have seen from that quarter. * Speaking of the Stare or Starling, this writer observes 66 In the winter season these birds fly in vast flocks, and may be known at a great distance by their whirling mode of flight, which Buffon compares to a sort of vortex, in which the collective body performs a uniform circular revolution, and at the same time continues to make a progressive advance. The evening is the time when the Stares assemble in the greatest numbers, and betake themselves to the fens and marshes, where they roost among the reeds: they chatter much in the evening and morning, both when they assemble and disperse. So attached are they to society that they not only join those of their own species, but also birds of a different kind; and are frequently seen in eompany with Red-wings, [a species of Thrush,] Fieldfares, and even with Crows, Jackdaws and Pigeons. Their principal food consists of worms, snails and caterpillars; they likewise eat various kinds of grain, seeds and berries.” He adds, that s in a confined state they are very docile, and may easily be
Bewick's British Birds, part i, p. 119, Newcastle, 1809.
taught to repeat short phrases, or whistle tunes with great exactness.”
The Red-winged Starling, fig. 1, is nine inches long, and fourteen inches in extent; the general colour is a glossy black, with the exception of the whole lesser wing coverts, the first or lower row of which is of a reddish cream colour, the rest a rich and splendid scarlet; legs and bill glossy brownish black; irides hazel; bill cylindrical above, compressed at the sides, straight running considerably up the forehead, where it is prominent, rounding and flattish towards the tip, though sharp pointed; tongue nearly as long as the bill, tapering and lacerated at the end; tail rounded, the two middle feathers also somewhat shorter than those immediately adjoining.
The female, fig. 2, is seven inches and a quarter in length, and twelve inches in extent; chin a pale reddish cream; from the nostril over the eye, and from the lower mandible run two stripes of the same, speckled with black; from the posterior angle of the eye backwards, a streak of brownish black covers the auriculars; throat, and whole lower parts, thickly streaked with black and white, the latter inclining to cream on the breast; whole plumage above black, each feather bordered with pale brown, white or bay, giving the bird a very mottled appearance; lesser coverts the same; bill and legs as in the male.
The young birds at first greatly resemble the female; but have the plumage more broadly skirted with brown. The red, early shows itself on the lesser wing-coverts of the males, at first pale, inclining to orange, and partially disposed. The brown continues to skirt the black plumage for a year or two, so that it is rare to find an old male altogether destitute of some remains of it; but the red is generally complete in breadth and brilliancy by the succeeding spring. The females are entirely destitute of that ornament.
The flesh of these birds is but little esteemed, being in general black, dry and tough. Strings of them are, however, frequently seen exposed for sale in our markets.
Mimic Thrush, Lath. Syn, 111, p. 40, No. 42.- Arct. Zool. 11, No.
194.–Turdus polyglottus, Linn. Syst. 1, p. 293, No. 10.- Le grund Moqueur, Briss. Orn. 11, p. 266, 29.—Buff. Ois. III, p. 325. Pl. Enl. 558, fig. 1.-Singing-bird, Mocking-bird, or Nightingale, Rail Syn. p. 64, No. 5, p. 185, 31.-Sloan, Jam. 11, 306, No. 34.- The Mock-bird, CaTEsb. Car. 1, Pl, 27.Peale's Museum, No. 5288.
This celebrated and very extraordinary bird, in extent and variety of vocal powers, stands unrivalled by the whole feathered songsters of this or perhaps any other country; and shall receive from us, in this place, all that attention and respect which superior merit is justly entitled to.
Among the many novelties which the discovery of this part of the western continent first brought into notice, we may reckon that of the Mocking-bird; which is not only peculiar to the new world, but inhabits a very considerable extent of both North and South America; having been traced from the states of New England to Brazil; and also among many of the adjacent islands. They are, however, much more numerous in those states south, than in those north, of the river Delaware; being generally migratory in the latter, and resident (at least many of them) in the former. A warm climate, and low country, not far from' the sea, seem most congenial to their nature; accordingly we find the species less numerous to the west than east of the great range of the Alleghany, in the same parallels of lattitude. In the severe winter of 1808-9, I found these birds, occasionally,
from Fredericksburg in Virginia, to the southern parts of Georgia; becoming still more numerous the farther I advanced to the south. The berries of the red cedar, myrtle, holly, Cassine shrub, many species of smilax, together with gum berries, gall berries, and a profusion of others with which the luxuriant swampy thickets of those regions abound, furnish them with a perpetual feast. Winged insects, also, of which they are very fond, and remarkably expert at catching, abound there even in winter, and are an additional inducement to residency. Though rather a shy bird in the northern states, here he appeared almost half domesticated, feeding on the cedars and among the thickets of smilax, that lined the roads, while I passed within a few feet; playing around the planter's door, and hopping along the shingles. During the month of February I sometimes heard a solitary one singing; but on the second of March, in the neighbourhood of Savannah, numbers of them were heard on every hand, vieing in song with each other, and, with the Brown Thrush, making the whole woods vocal with their melody. Spring was at that time considerably advanced; and the thermometer ranging between 70 and 78 degrees. On arriving at New York, on the twenty-second of the same month, I found many parts of the country still covered with snow, and the streets piled with ice to the height of two feet; while neither the Brown Thrush nor Mocking-bird were observed, even in the lower parts of Pennsylvania, until the 20th of April.
The precise time at which the Mocking-bird begins to build his nest varies according to the latitude in which he resides. In the lower parts of Georgia he commences building early in April; but in Pennsylvania rarely before the tenth of May; and in New York, and the states of New England, still later. There are particular situations to which he gives the preference. A solitary thorn bush, an almost impenetrable thicket; an orange tree, cedar, or holly-bush, are favourite spots, and frequently selected. It is no great objection with him that these happen, sometimes, to be near the farm or mansion house: always ready to defend, but never over anxious to conceal, his nest, he very often builds