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

Plate XXVII. American quail or partridge. (Ortyx Virginianus.),   p. 28


Page 28


AMERICAN QUAIL OR PARTRIDGE.
which in their turn, being aware of the close proximity of their
deadliest enemy, try to save themselves by running away. Farm-
ers and proprietors of orchards should not regard the Downy Wood-
pecker as a destroyer of their fruit-trees, but bestow on him a special
protection, as it is certain that he picks out of fruit-trees myriads of
insects or their offspring. I have observed that just such trees as
had his marks or bored holes in the bark, and especially such as
had the trunk on all sides marked with his holes, so that they
appeared as if loads of buckshot had been fired into them from all
sides, had the healthiest and thriftiest appearance of all the trees in
the orchard. I also noticed that such trees were not only the heav-
iest laden with fruit, but that the fruit was of a better quality. In
the months of September, October, and November, these Wood-
peckers are seen indefatigably engaged in orchards, probing every
crack and crevice, and boring through the bark in quest of the
larvae and eggs of the summer insects, chiefly so on the south and
southwestern sides, the warmer sides of the tree. Of these larvae
or eggs he destroys countless numbers, that would otherwise give
birth to myriads of their race in the succeeding summer, preying
upon the very vitals of the tree, and destroying not only the fruit
crop, but the very tree itself.
The smaller birds of the Hawk tribe are the enemies of the
Downy Woodpeckers, and many of these fall a prey to the former;
but the Downies generally escape their enemies by their skill in
running around the tree, or by concealing themselves in cracks or
holes. Their young are often destroyed by weasels or squirrels,
and the latter, when they approach the nest, are attacked with
lamentable outcries, for the Downy loves his young most tenderly,
notwithstanding their ugly, unwieldy, and shapeless forms, and
even feed them long after they are full fledged and flying about.
The Downy Woodpeckers are easily kept in cages, and become
soon accustomed to the artificial food given them in addition to dif-
ferent seeds, fruits, and berries. They are very amusing, always
living on the best terms with other small tenants of the same cage.
'their cage must be rather high, and have a small trunk on which
they can climb, and have a chance for boring and hammering.
They must not be exposed to strong currents of air, which
invariably kill them. The female is distinguished from the
male in outward appearance, by having no red on the hind head,
that part being white and her breast and belly being of a more
dirty white color.
PLATE XXVII.
American Quail or Partridge. (Ortyx Virginianus.)
The Quail inhabits this continent as far as Nova Scotia. Its
limit on the east is the Atlantic ocean, on the south the Gulf of
Mexico, and on the west the Rocky Mountains. It is also found on
some of the islands of the Gulf, in the warmer parts of North
America. The Quail is a regular resident, but in the northern or
colder portions it performs regular annual excursions toward the
South on the approach of severe frosts, and these excursions some-
times assume the character of migrations. This explains why in
some places Quails are sometimes found in incredibly great num-
bers where they have been seldom seen before.
The Quail prefers open fields, interspersed with brushwood or
grass edges, and similar places, for protection. They are occasion-
ally found in the heart of a dense forest. During the night they
retire to a sheltered place on some grassy plain, or to the weedy
borders of the woods, where they cluster close together. They
are also found roosting on trees during the night, but this appears
to be the case only exceptionally. During the day they perch on
trees, and very often, when alarmed or chased by dogs, they fly
to the trees and alight on the middle branches. On such occa-
sions they may be seen to walk and rin on the branches with perfect
ease. Theyrun on the groundwith great dexterity and considerable
elegance. Their flight is steady and rather swift, accompanied,
especially at the start, with a loud whirring sound-perhaps occa-
sioned by the shortness, concavity, and rapid motions of the wings
when frightened. When flying off without being frightened, this
whirring sound is only just perceptible. The voice of this bird
consists of two sounds, resembling the words "Bob White," or
" Bob, Bob White," sometimes uttered with an introductory bird-
note, and very often repeated. The expression of tenderness is a
soft twittering sound; when frightened, it is a lamentable whistling.
Quails live together in coveys or flocks from summer through
the winter; but as soon as the spring opens the coveys separate,
and each male chases and wins his female, but often only after
hard fighting. They now begin to look out for a suitable habita-
tion, and this makes the scene at that time very lively, for the ex-
citement of the male is not only expressed by continuous cries, but
by fighting with other males. Toward evening they may be seen
on the fences, usually on the top of the posts or poles, trying to
make themselves conspicuous, and, by their loud calling, to induce
other males to approach them for a fight. After the fight they re-
turn to their high seats. Later, but seldom before the first of May,
the female begins to build the nest. The place for the nest is
chosen with great caution, and is usually hollowed out in a tussock of
grass or weeds. It is curiously formed of grass-stalks and leaves,
and is usually deep enough to admit the entire body of the sitting
bird. As the surrounding grass grows more and more, it covers
and shields the nest from intrusion, forming sometimes on that
side, where the female passes in and out, a regular archway.
The eggs are roundish, the shells being thin and of a clear
white color, though sometimes a little dotted with clay-colored or
yellowish specks. The number of eggs varies, being sometimes
tweive, sometimes twenty, and even more. Botn male and temnab
sit alternately; but, besides, the male sits as a watch. After abou
twenty-three days the handsome young birds break the shell an(
make their appearance. They are covered with a close down of
a rufous color, streaked above longitudinally with buff and dard
brown. The lower part, with the exception of the throat, whicl
is yellowish, is of a grayish color. The young are able to rut
about as soon as they are out of the shell, but usually remain ii
the nest for some time. Both parents take care of them, and leal
them about; both squat down to receive them, when cold or tired
under their bodies and wings. In such case the head of on,
parent-bird is usually turned in the direction opposite to that of the
other, and, in this position, they warm their numerous brood.
When the family runs about, the male, true to his office as senti
nel, can be seen running ahead of them, while the female follow
in the rear, at some distance off. The male strides along with
haughty step, turning his head from side to side, and eying every
thing about him. Should any other'bird come in his way it alarm
him, and the stranger is regarded as an enemy. If he thinks hb
can conquer the newcomer, he attacks him and drives him ofl
feeling himself bound to keep the road clear. It is very interest
ing to see such a family of QCuails. In cases of real danger, th
male parent exposes himself to the enemy, while the mother-birl
leads the young off, as quickly as possible, to a place of safety
In case she should be deprived of her mate, the young squat dowi
in the grass, or find, in the low ground, some small cavity or othe
suitable place for concealment, while the mother tries to mislead th
enemy by feigning lameness, but always managing to elude th
grasp of the enemy. After she has coaxed, in this manner, the rea
or supposed foe to some distance away, and the young have run ol
to a safe hiding-place, on a sudden she rises and flies in a directioi
opposite to the place where her young are concealed. After all dan
ger is over, she returns and calls her brood together again. Ii
about three weeks the young are able to fly, and this, of course
diminishes the dangers that threaten them; for then, on the ap
proach of an enemy, the whole family rise, and each of the younj
tries to reach a place of safety as soon as possible, while the parent
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