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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America
(1903)

[Plate IV. The rail. (Crex carolinus.) cont.],   p. 5


Page 5


MARSH WREN-GREAT HORNED OWL.
of the Southern States, which seem to be the places of their grand
winter rendezvous.
The nest of the Song Sparrow is built in the ground under a
tuft of grass, and is formed of fine dry grass, lined with horse-
hair and other material; it lays four or five eggs of a bluish
white, thickly covered with reddish-brown spots.    It raises
usually three broods in the season. There are young ones often
found in the nest as early as the latter part of April, and as late
as the tenth of August. Sometimes the nest is built in a cedar
tree, six to eight feet from the ground, which seems to be very
singular for a bird that usually builds on the ground; but this same
habit is found in another bird-the Red-winged Starling, which
sometimes builds its nest in the long grass or swamps, or in the
rushes, and at other times in low trees or alder-bushes. The male
and female are so nearly alike as to be scarcely distinguished from
each other.
The Marsh Wren. (Cislo/toruspalustris.)
Fig. 6, Male. Fig. 7, Female.
The Marsh Wren arrives from the South about the middle of
May; as soon as the reeds and a species of Nymphica, usually
called " Splatter-dock"-which grow in luxuriance along the tide-
water of our rivers-are sufficiently high to shelter it. In such
places he is usually found, and seldom ventures far from the river.
His food consists of insects and their larvae, and a kind of small
green grasshopper that inhabits the reeds and rushes. His notes or
chirp has a crackling sound, resembling somewhat that produced by
air-bubbles, forcing their way through mud, or boggy ground when
trod upon, and can hardly be called a song. But low as he may
stand as a singer, he stands high as an architect, for he excels in
the art of design, and constructs a nest, which, in durability,
warmth, and convenience, is far superior to the most of his musical
brethren. The outside is usually formed of wet rushes, well inter-
mixed with mud and fashioned into the shape of a cocoa-nut; a
small round hole is left two-thirds up for his entrance, the upper
edge of which projects like a pent-house, over the lower, prevent-
ing the admittance of rain. Inside it is lined first with fine dry
grass, then with cow's hair and sometimes feathers. This nest,
when once dried by the sun, will resist any kind of weather, and
is generally suspended among the reeds and tied so fast to the sur-
rounding ones as to bid defiance to the wind and waves. The
female usually lays six eggs of a fawn color, and very small for
the size of the bird. They raise usually two broods in a season.
He has a strong resemblance to the house Wren and still more
to the winter Wren, but he never associates with either of them;
and the last named has left before the Marsh Wren makes his
appearance, which is about the beginning of September. The
hind claw of this little bird is large, semicircular, and very sharp;
his bill slender and slightly bent; the nostrils prominent; the
tongue narrow, very tapering, sharp-pointed, and horny at the
extremity; and for this reason he ought to be classed-as some
naturalists really have done with good cause-among the true
Certhiadse, or Creepers. His habits are also like those of the
Creepers, as he is constantly climbing along the stalks of reeds
and other aquatic plants in quest of insects.
PLATE V.
The Great Horned Owl. (Bubo virginiantes.),
Fig. I.
This well known formidable Owl is found in almost any part of
North America, from the icy regions to the Gulf of Mexico; also
on the Western coast, but most abundantly in the central part of
this continent.
His favorite resorts are the dark solitudes of swamps covered
with a growth of gigantic timber, which he makes resound
with his hideous cries, as soon as night sets in. At times he
sweeps down from a tree, uttering his loud Waugh 01 Waugh
O I so close to you, and so unexpectedly, that you can not help be-
ing startled. Besides this favorite note of his, he has other noctur-
nal solos, just as melodious, especially one that resembles very
strikingly the half-suppressed screams of a person being nearly
suffocated; but after all, his peculiar cry is very entertaining.
Another of his notes sounds like the loud jabbering and cackling
of an old rooster pursued by a dog, and is kept up sometimes for
half an hour. You will always take pleasure in observing him, and
often, when quietly sitting under a tree, he will sweep so close by
you as almost to touch you with his wings; but generally he shuns
the presence of men, and seems to know that man is the worst of
his enemies.
At night he is very cautious, and even in the day-time he suffers
no one to approach-unlike the rest of the Owls, which allow the
gunner to approach them without showing signs of being alarmed.
The Great Horned Owl is rarely seen in day-time, the peculiar
coloring of his feathery dress agreeing perfectly with the bark of
the tree on which he sits, almost motionless. It sometimes hap-
pens, however, that one of the smaller warblers discovers him, and
alarms, by his cries, the whole feathered population of the forest,
which now tease and keep on annoying him till he is at last com-
pelled to leave his resting-place in disgust.
But it is a different thing at night; then he is lord. His flight,
which, in day-time, appears rather awkward, is then silent and very
swift. Sweeping low above the ground, generally, like the rest of
the Owl tribe, he rises also, with ease, to great heights, and his
movements are so quick that he catches regularly any bird he has
scared up from sleep. Any bird-the smallest warbler as well as
a chicken or a duck-will serve him for a meal; and this may ac-
count for the circumstance that all birds, without an exception,
hate him. He lives also on squirrels, rats, and mice, of which he
destroys great numbers.
He pairs usually in February. At this time the male, after hav-
ing performed the most ridiculous evolutions in the air, alights near
his chosen female, whom he delights with his boundings, the snap-
ping of his bill, and his extremely ludicrous movements. This
style of love-making he practices in day-time as well as at night.
His nest, which is proportionally very large, is usually built on
a thick horizontal branch of a big tree, close to the trunk. It has
been found in the crevice of a rock. It is composed of crooked
sticks and coarse grasses, fibers, and feathers, inside. The eggs,
which number from three to five, and even six, are almost globular,
rough, and of a dirty white color. The male assists the female in
sitting on the eggs. The young are covered at first with a thick
white down, and remain in the nest until fully fledged. Even then
they follow their parents for a long time and are fed by them, ut-
tering a mournful, melancholy cry, perhaps to stimulate them to
pity. They are much lighter colored than the old ones, and ac-
quire their full plumage in the following spring.
Although the Great Horned Owl, as above stated, prefers retire-
ment, he sometimes takes up his abode in the vicinity of a detached
farm, and causes great havoc among the poultry, especially the
young poultry, of the farmer, by occasionally grasping a chicken
or Guinea fowl with his talons, and carrying it off to the woods.
When wounded, he exhibits the most revengeful tenacity of spirit,
disdaining to scramble away like other Owls, but courageously
facing his enemy, producing his powerful talons and snapping his
bill. At such times his large eyes seem to double their usual size,
and he shuts and opens them alternately in quick succession as
long as his enemies remain in his presence. The rising of his
feathers on such an occasion gives him a very formidable appear-
ance, and makes him look nearly twice as large as usual.
In former times, this Owl, as well as Owls in general, was re-
garded with a great deal of superstition, and we often find the Owl


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