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

Plate XXXI. The kingbird, or tyrant fly-catcher. (Tyrannus Carolinensus.),   p. 38


Page 38


KINGBIRD, OR TYRANT FLY-CATCHER.
the Red-tailed Hawk. In the old bird, it is often found that a
difference of their colorings exist. For instance, on some the tail
is slightly barred with darker color, and also sprinkled over with
fine spots of darker color toward the tip; on others, the tail has
only, toward the tip, one single darker bar, and on others, the
whole of the under side is white. These differences are undoubt-
edly the result of age. The full-grown male and female are
nearly alike in their colors. The male bird is about two inches
shorter than the female, the length of the Red-tailed Hawk
being about twenty to twenty-two inches.
The coloring of the young of this species is as follows: Cere,
pale green; bill, pale blue, black at the point; eye, light amber or
straw color; eyebrow, projecting; head, broad, flat, and rather
large; upper part of the head, sides of the neck, and back, brown,
streaked and seamed with white; scapulary and wing coverts,
spotted with white; quill-feathers, blackish; tail coverts, white,
handsomely barred with yellowish brown; tail, somewhat rounded,
light brown, or varying to a sorrel color, crossed with nine or ten
dark bars, and tipped with white; wings, brown, and barred with
dusky; the inner vanes are nearly all white, thinly marked with
minute dots of nut color, less bright yellow-feathered half-way
down; belly, broadly spotted with black, or deep brown; the tips
of the wings reach down to within three inches of the tip of the
tail.
Plate XXX. gives a correct representation of the colorings
of the full-grown male and female Red-tailed Hawk.
PLATE XXXI.
The Kingbird, or Tyrant Fly-catcher.  (Tyrannus Carolinensus.)
Fig. x, Male. Fig. 2, Female.
Nuttall says:
"This well-known, remarkable, and pugnacious bird takes
up his summer residence in all the intermediate region from
the temperate parts of Mexico to the uninhabited and remote
interior of Canada, being seen by Mr. Say at Pembina, latitude 49
degrees, and by Dr. Richardson, in the 57th parallel. In all
this vast geographical range, the Kingbird seeks his food and
rears his young. According to Audubon, they appear in Lou-
isiana by the middle of March, and about the 20th of April,
Wilson remarked their arrival in Pennsylvania in small parties of
five or six, but they are seldom seen in this part of New England
before the middle of May. They are now silent and peaceable,
until they begin to pair and form their nests, which takes place
from the first to the last week in May, or early in June, accord.
ing to the advancement of the season in the latitudes of 40 and
43 degrees. The nest is usually built in the orchard, on the
horizontal branch of an apple or pear tree, and sometimes in an
oak, in the adjoining forest, at various heights from the ground,
seldom carefully concealed, and firmlv fixed at the bottom to the
supporting twig of the branch. The outside consists of coarse
stalks of dead grass and wiry weeds, the whole well connected
and bedded with cut-weed (Gnajihalium plantagineum) down,
tow, or an occasional rope-yarn and wool; it is then lined with
dry, slender grass, root fibers, and horse-hair. The eggs are gen-
erally three to five, yellowish white, and marked with a few
large, well-defined spots of deep and bright brown. They often
build and hatch twice in the season.
"1 The Kingbird has no song, only a shrill guttural twitter, some-
what like that of the Martin, but no way musical. At times,
as he sits watching his prey, he calls to his mate with a harsh
tsheup, rather quickly pronounced, and attended with some action.
As insects approach him, or as he darts after them, the snapping
of his bill is heard, like the snapping of a watch-case, and is the
certain grave of his prey. Beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and
winged insects of all descriptions form his principal summer food.
I have also seen them collecting the canker-worms from the
elm. Toward autumn, as various kinds of berries ripen, they
constitute a very considerable and favorite part of his subsist-
ence. But with the exception of currants (of which he only eats
perhaps when confined), he refuses all exotic productions, con-
tenting himself with blackberries, whortleberries, those of the
sassafras, cornel, viburnum, elder, poke, and five-leaved ivy
(Cissus hederacea). Raisins, foreign currants, grapes, cher
ries, peaches, peas, and apples were never even tasted, when
offered to a bird of this kind, which I had many months as
my pensioner; of the last, when roasted, sometimes, however,
a few mouthfuls were relished, in the absence of other more
agreeable diet.  Berries he always swallowed whole; grass-
hoppers, if too large, were pounded and broken on the floor,
as he held them in his bill. To manage the larger beetles
was not so easy. These he struck repeatedly against the ground,
and then turned them from side to side, by throwing them
dexterously into the air, after the manner of the Toucan, and the
insect was uniformly caught reversed, as it descended, with the
agility of a practiced cup-and-ball player. At length the pieces
of the beetle were swallowed, and he remained still to digest
his morsel, tasting it distinctly soon after it entered his stomach,
as became obvious by the ruminating motion of his mandi-
bles. When the soluble portion was taken up, large pellets of
the indigestible legs, wings, and shell, as likewise the skins
and seeds of berries, were, in half an hour or less, brought up,
and ejected from the mouth, in the manner of the Hawks and
Owls. When other food failed, he appeared very well satis-
fied with fresh minced-meat, and drank water frequently, even
during the severe frosts of January, which he endured with-
out much difficulty, basking, however, like Diogenes, in the
feeble beams of the sun, which he followed round the room of
his confinement, well satisfied when no intruder or companion
threw him into the shade. Some very cold evenings he had
the sagacity to retire under the shelter of a depending bed-quilt;
was very much pleased with the warmth and brilliancy of lamp-
light, and would eat freely at any hour of the night. Unac-
quainted with the deceptive nature of shadows, he sometimes
snatched at them for the substances they resembled.  Unlike
the Vieros, he retired to rest without hiding his head in the
wing, and was extremely watchful, though not abroad till after
sunrise.  His taciturnity and disinclination to friendship and
familiarity in confinement were striking traits. His restless,
quick, and side-glancing eye enabled him to follow the motions
of his flying insect prey, and to ascertain precisely the infalli-
ble instant of attack. He readily caught morsels of food in
his bill before they reached the ground, when thrown across
the room, and, on these occasions, seemed pleased with making
the necessary exertions. He had also a practice of cautiously
stretching out his neck, like a snake, and peeping about, either
to obtain sight of his food, to watch any approach of danger, or
to examine anything that appeared strange. At length we be-
came so well acquainted, that when very hungry he would ex-
press his gratitude on being fed, by a shrill twitter, and a lively
look, which was the more remarkable, as at nearly all other
times he was entirely silent.
"' In a natural state, he takes his station on the top of an apple-
tree, a stake, or a tall weed, and, betwixt the amusement of his
squeaking twitter, employs himself in darting after his insect
food.  Occasionally he is seen hovering over the field, with
beating wing, almost like a Hawk, surveying the ground ot
herbage for grasshoppers, which are a favorite diet. At other
times they may be observed in small companies, flickering
over still waters, in the same employment-the gratification of
appetite. Now and then, during the heat of summer, they are
seen to dip and bathe in the watery mirror, and with this wash-


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