University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

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

Plate VIII. The wood duck, or summer duck. (Aix sponsa.),   pp. [9]-10

Page [9]

settled parts of the country he is rarely or never found, but seems
to prefer the company of men. His nest is built in briers or black-
berry bushes, and is composed of thin branches and roots, stuck
together with mud, lined inside with hair and finer fibers. The
female lays five eggs, of a bluish tint. He leaves in September
to winter in warmer latitudes.
The Maryland Yellow Throat. (Geothlytis trichas.)
Fig. 3, Male. Fig. 4, Female.
This neat little bird inhabits chiefly such briers, brambles, and
bushes as grow luxuriantly in low, watery places, his business and
ambition seldom leading him higher than to the tops of the under-
wood, and he might properly be denominated "Humility."   In-
sects and their larvae are his principal food. He dives into the
thicket, rambles among the roots, searching around the stems, ex-
amining both sides of the leaves, raising himself on his legs to
peep into every crevice, and amuses himself with a simple, but not
at all disagreeable twitter, ' I whit-ti-tee I whit-ti-tee I" which
he re-
peats in quick succession, pausing, now and then, for half a min-
ute. He inhabits the States from Maine to Florida, and westward
to the Mississippi. He is by no means shy, but unsuspicious and
deliberate. He often visits the fields of growing rye, wheat, or
barley, and is of much service to the farmer by ridding the stalks
of vermin that might destroy his fields. He lives in obscurity and
peace, and seldom comes near the farmhouse or the city.
He builds his nest about the middle of May, in the midst of a
thicket of briers, among the dry leaves on the ground. Sometimes
it is arched over, and but a small hole left for entrance. It con-
sists of dry leaves and fine grass, lined with coarse hair, etc. The
female lays five eggs, semi-transparent, marked with specks of
brown and reddish brown. The young leave the nest in the lat-
ter part of June, and a second brood is sometimes raised in the same
season. They return to the South early in September.
The Wood Duck, or Summer Duck. (Aix sponsa.)
Fig. x, Male. Fig. 2, Female.
This is the finest of all our Ducks, and the beauty of its dress is
in perfect harmony with its gentle manners. A characteristic trait
is the moving of its tail from one side to the other, which some-
times looks almost like wagging. It swims with as much ease and
grace, and seemingly with as little effort, as it flies among the
branches and trunks of trees. The cry of the female is a long-
stretched " Pi-ai-wee-wee-wee I " and the warning sound of the
a not less melodious " O-eekI O-eek " It seems to shun the neigh-
borhood of men less than any other Wild Duck, and is by no means
in a hurry to leave its breeding-place, even if buildings are in con-
struction close by. Easier than the rest of the tribe, the Wood
Ducks get reconciled to, and regularly breed in, captivity, if a
suitable chance is offered them.
They live mostly on grain, several aquatic plants, chestnuts,
acorns, beech-mast, etc., also on worms, snails, and other insects,
which they pick up among the dry leaves or catch in the air.
Their full beauty and loveliness shows itself best shortly before
and during mating time. Toward March the flock separates, and
every single pair now looks out for a convenient breeding-place. To
this end the male roams about the woods, alights on a high tree in
which he expects to find a hole for a nest, walks easily on its limbs,
inspecting every hole he can find, and is often perfectly satisfied
with a hole made by the fox squirrel, or even a cleft in a rock. The
temale squeezes herself with astonishing ease through the entrance.
which often seems to be a great deal too narrow for her. The male
keeps watch outside during inspection by the female, encouraging
her by his tender chatterings, or warning her of supposed danger
by his timely IIO-eek I O-eek I after which both quickly take to
flight. If they have once built a nest they return to it every year.
The male, although very peaceful, is very courageous when his
jealousy is aroused. Any other male coming neat him is always
kept at a proper distance by unmistakable signs and motions. The
female begins to lay in the first days of May. The eggs, seven
to twelve in number, are small, oblong, and perfectly white. The
hatching-time lasts, as with most of the Duck tribe, twenty-seven
or twenty-eight days. When the last egg is laid, the female lines
the nest with the soft down of her breast, and covers the eggs with
the same when she flies out. While she takes all the parental cares
to herself, the male repairs to a suitable watery place to pass
through his moulting time, which begins in July, and is ended in the
first part of September, giving him a dress distinguished from that
of the female only by the white marking of his throat and the
greater brilliancy of his plumage.
The nest of the Wood Duck is sometimes at a considerable dis-
tance from any water, and quite high from the ground. From the
entrance to the nest itself, it is sometimes over six feet. As soon
as the young ones are all hatched, the female carries them, one bV
one, in her bill, to the water, leaving them to the care of the male.
till she has brought the last one, when she herself takes care or
them again. If the tree on which the nest is, happens to overhang
the water, she merely tumbles them out of the nest. Wood Ducks
generally live together in small flocks of from six to twelve-occa-
sionally they are seen in flocks of more than a hundred; this occurs
chiefly in the fall. Toward October the young ones begin to moult;
at the same time the male parent, who reappears now in his bridal
dress, joins them again. The flesh of the Wood Duck is very
tender and in good esteem.
The Short-tailed Tern. (Hydrochelidontilumbea.)
Fig. 3.
This bird is often observed in fresh-water marshes, in flocks num-
bering from four to ten; it is seldom seen in salt-water marshes. Its
flight is very graceful. Its food consists of grasshoppers and insects
generally, which it picks up, while on the wing, from grasses or
rushes, as well as from the surface of the water. It frequently
associates with
The Black Tern. (Hydrochelidon xigra.)
Fig. 4
The Black Tern is a little less in size than the preceding, which
it resembles in every respect. They are found on fresh-water
marshes, mill-ponds, etc., and are most numerous on the marshes
of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Their nests are very art-
lessly constructed, in large tussocksof rank grass, and contain
each four eggs of a greenish buff color, spotted with amber and
black, chiefly at the larger end.  The young ones of the first
season (Fig. 5) have the head white, and the neck and breast ir-
regularly spotted with black and white.
It was found, on dissecting these birds, that they feed exclusively
on insects, their stomachs never containing any small fish.
Mr. Audubon, in his valuable work on " Birds of North Amer-
ica," writes as follows of this bird:
" The Black Tern begins to arrive from the Mexican territories
over the waters of the Western country about the middle of April,
and continues to pass for about a month. At that season I have
observed it ascending the Mississippi from New Orleans to the
head waters of the Ohio, then culling over the land, and arriving
at the Great Lakes, beyond which many proceed still farther

Go up to Top of Page