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

Plate VII. The green heron. (Ardea--Butorides virescens.),   p. 8

Page 8

impossible, to ascend; sometimes also in high trees. It is care-
lessly constructed of thicker or thinner branches and fibers. The
eggs, three or four in number, are laid at the beginning of June,
and are of a reddish yellow color, sprinkled with brown, more
thickly so at the larger end, and the female hatches alone. The
young ones are fed at first with half-digested food from the crops
of the parents, afterward with different kinds of birds. When
they are able to fly they are instructed by the parents in the art of
It is a well-known fact that all true Falcons, when attacked, drop
their booty and leave it to the attacking party, and the beggars
among the birds of prey, being aware of this, profit by it. There
they sit, those stupid, lazy fellows, watching the Hawk till he has
struck down a bird, when suddenly they assault him. Our hero,
otherwise afraid of no bird, drops his prey at their approach, and
with an indignant Kajak I Kajak I up and off he goes.
The bird of which the Hawk has taken hold in our Plate is-
The Pin-tail Duck. (Anas-Dafla acuta.)
The Pin-tail is a common and well-known Duck, much esteemed
for its excellent flesh, which is generally in good order. It is a shy
and cautious bird, feeding in mud flats and shallow fresh-water
marshes, but is rarely seen on the sea-coast. It has a kind of clat-
tering note, is very noisy and vigilant, and usually gives the alarm
at the approach of the gunner.
Some of the Duck tribe, when alarmed, disperse in all directions,
but the Pin-tails cluster confusedly, giving the expert gunner a cap-
ital chance to rack them with advantage. They do not dive ex-
cept when winged,
They inhabit the whole northern part of this continent, as well
as the corresponding latitudes of Asia and Europe. Great flocks
of them are sometimes observed on the rivers near the coasts of
England and France.
Our plate shows the male. The female has the crown of a dark
brown color; the neck of a dull brownish white, thickly speckled
with dark brown; breast and belly of a pale brownish white, inter-
spersed with white; back and root of the neck above black, each
feather elegantly waved with broad lines of brownish white. These
wavings become rufous on the scapulars, vent white, spotted with
dark brown; tail dark brown, spotted with white, the two middle
feathers only half an inch longer and more slender than the rest.
The other two birds on the Plate are the male and the female
Blue-winged Teal. (Anas-.9uerquedula discors.)
The Blue-winged Teals are the first that return to the Central
States from their breeding-place in the North. They arrive as early
as the middle of September, and usually sit on the mud, close to
the border of the water, generally crowded together, so that gun-
ners often kill a great number at one shot. Their flight is very
rapid; when they alight they drop suddenly among the reeds or
on the mud, in the manner of the Snipe or Woodcock. They live
chiefly on vegetable food and are especially fond of the seeds of
reeds or wild oats. Feeding on such they become extremely fat
in a short time. Their flesh is excellent for the table. The first
smart frosts drive them to the South, for they are delicate birds and
very susceptible to cold. They abound in the inundated rice-fields
of the Southern States, where they are caught in vast numbers in
hollow traps, commonly called "1 figure four," and placed here
and there on dry spots rising out of the water, and strewn with
rice. In April they pass through the Central States again, north-
ward bound, making only a short stay.
The Green Heron. (Ardea-Butorides virescesS.)
Fig. 1.
Public opinion shows but little liberality toward this bird, hav-
ing stigmatized him with a vulgar and indelicate nickname, and
treating him as perfectly worthless and with contempt. This is
injustice; he keeps himself as clean as any other of the whole
Heron tribe, lives in exactly the same way as they do, and at the
same places with them, but he is most numerous where cultivation
is least known or cared for.
He makes his first appearance in the Central States early in April,
as soon as the marshes and swamps are completely thawed. There,
among the ditches and amidst the bogs and quagmires, he hunts
with great cunning and dexterity. Frogs and small fishes are his
principal game, but on account of their caution and facility of es-
cape their capturing requires all his addressand quickness. With
his head drawn in, he stands on the lookout, silent and motionless,
like a statue, yet ready for an attack. The moment a frog or min-
now comes within his range, with one stroke, quick and sure as that
of a rattlesnake, it is seized and swallowed in a wink. He also
hunts for the larva of several insects, especially those of the dragon-
fly, which lurk in the mud.
When alarmed, he rises with a hollow guttural scream, but does
not fly far, and usually alights on a fence or an old stump and
looks out with extended neck, but now and then with his head
drawn in so that it seems to rest on his breast. When standing and
gazing on you this way, he is often jetting his tail. Sometimes he
flies high, with doubled neck and his legs extended behind, flapping
his wings bravely, and traveling with great expedition. He is per-
haps the most numerous and the least shy of all our Herons, and is
found in the interior as well as in the salt marshes.
At the latter part of April he begins to build, sometimes in sin-
gle pairs in swampy woods, often in company with others, not un-
frequently with the Night Heron. The nest, which is fixed on the
limb of a tree, consists wholly of small sticks lined with finer twigs
loosely put together, and is of considerable size. The female lays
three or four eggs, of an oblong form and a pale blue color. The
young do not leave the nest until perfectly able to fly.
The Cat Bird. (Mimus carolinensis.)
Fig. 2.
This is a very common and very numerous species in this part of
the Continent, well known to everybody. In spring or summer,
when approaching thickets of brambles, the first salutation you re-
ceive is from the Cat Bird. One unacquainted with his notes would
conclude that some vagrant kitten had got bewildered among the
briers and was in want of assistance, so exactly alike is the call of
this bird to the cry of that animal. Of all our summer visitors he
is the least apprehensive of man. Very often he builds his nest
in the bushes close to your door, and seldom allows you to pass
without paying you his respects in his usual way. By this famili-
arity he is entitled at least to a share of hospitality, but is often
treated with cruelty instead. It is true he steals some of the best
and earliest of the farmers' strawberries and cherries, but he
lives mostly on insects, of which he destroys incredible numbers.
Besides, he is one of our most interesting singers. He usually
sings early in the morning before sunrise, hovering from bush to
bush, hardly distinguishable in the dark. His notes are, however,
more remarkable for their singularity than for melody. He chiefly
imitates the song of other birds, frequently with perfect success.
Sometimes he seems to be at a loss where to begin, and pours out
all the odd and quaint passages he has been able to collect. In un-

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