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 XXXII. The great crested fly-catcher. (Myiarchus crinitus.),   pp. 41-42

Page 41

inside a little with fine dry grass, and a few feathers. Its eggs
are usually three, of a dirty-white color, and marked with reddish
spots or dots. The young are at first covered with a light-colored
down, but are soon full-fledged. In the latter part of the fall, the
Pigeon Hawk retires with the Blackbirds toward the South.
The Great Crested Fly-catcher. (Afyiarchus crinitus.)
Fig. I.
This beautiful bird is mostly an inhabitant of the forests, and
much more so than the Tyrant Fly-catcher, and consequently is
not so well known. According to Nuttall, this species, nearlv un-
known in New England, arrives in Pennsylvania early in May,
and builds his nest in the deserted holes of the Woodpecker or
Blue-bird. He also frequents the orchard, and is equally fond of
bees with the King-bird. He has no other note than a harsh
squeak, which sounds like 'pafp, 'palp, paytip, 'paywip, with a
strong accent on the first syllable. He preys actively on in-
sects, which he collects from his stand, and, in short, has most of
the manners and physiognomy of the whole section or family to
which he belongs. The nest being formed in the hollow of a
tree, the materials are consequently scant, but somewhat novel,
being, according to Catesby and Wilson, a little loose hay and
large feathers, with hogs' bristles, dogs' hair, and pieces of cast
snake-skins, the last of which, though an extraordinary material,
is rarely wanting, its elastic softness forming a suitable bed for the
young. The eggs are four, of a dull white, thickly marked with
scratches and purple lines of various tints, as if laid on with a pen.
The note of the male appears often delivered in anger and impa-
tience, and he defends his retreat from the access of all other
birds, with the tyrannic insolence characteristic of the King-bird.
Toward the end of summer, they feed on berries of various
kinds, being particularly partial to poke-berries and whortle-ber-
ries, which, for a time, seem to constitute the principal food of the
young. They remain in the Middle States till about the middle
of September, when they retire to tropical America. I observed
a pair in an orchard at Acton, Mass. They had reared a brood
in the vicinity, and still appeared very stationary on the premises;
their harsh 'payup, and sometimes a slender twittering, as they took
the perch, were heard almost from morn to night, and resembled
at first the chirp of the Robin. According to Wilson, they possess
strong traits of their particular caste, and are all remarkably dex-
terous at their profession of fly-catching. In the woods, his harsh
squeak-for he has no song-is occasionally heard above most
others. He also visits the orchard; is equally fond of bees, but
wants the courage and magnanimity of the King-bird. According
to Audubon, the Great Crested Fly-catcher arrives in Louisiana
and the adjacent country in March. Many remain there and
breed, but the greater number advance toward the Middle States,
and disperse among the lofty woods, preferring, at all times, se-
questered places. I have thought that they gave a preference to
the high lands, and yet I have often observed them in the low,
sandy woods of New Jersey. Louisiana and the countries along
the Mississippi, together with the State of Ohio, are the districts
most visited by this species in one direction; and, in another, the
Atlantic States, as far as Massachusetts. In this last, however, it
is very seldom met with, unless in the vicinity of the mountains,
where occasionally some are found breeding. Farther eastward,
it is entirely unknown. . . . No association takes place among
different families, and yet the solicitude of the male toward his
mate, and of the parent birds toward their young, is exemplary.
The latter are fed and taught to provide for themselves, with a
gentleness which might be copied by beings higher in the scale
of nature, and in them might meet with as much gratitude as that
expressed by the young Fly-catchers toward their anxious parents.
The family remain much together while in the United States, and
go off in company early in September. This species, like the
Tyrant Fly-catcher, migrates by day, and, during its journey, is
seen passing at a great height. The squeak or sharp note of the
Great Crested Fly-catcher is easily distinguished from that of any
of the genus, as it transcends all others in shrillness, and is heard
mostly in those dark woods, where, recluse-like, it seems to de-
light. During the love-season, and so long as the male is paying
his addresses to the female, or proving to her that he is happy in
her society, it is heard for hours, both at early dawn and some-
times after sunset; but as soon as the young are out, the whole
family are mute.
The nest of this bird is usually built in the hollow of a tree, in
the excavation made by the Woodpecker, or a vacant hollow de-
serted by a Blue-bird. It is very artlessly constructed of differ-
ent kinds of materials, such as dry grass, feathers, hogs' bristles,
horse hair, fibrous roots, and pieces of cast snake-skins. Snake-
skins with this bird appear to be an indispensable article; nests
are seldom, if ever, found without this material forming a part of
them. The female lays four eggs of a dull cream color, thickly
scratched with purple lines of various tints, as if done with a pen.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker. (Centurus carolinus.)
Fig. 2, Male. Fig. 3, Female.
This species is a visitor to a large extent of country. It is found
from Upper Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from near the
Rocky Mountains down to the Atlantic coast. Audubon says:
"I have found it from Texas to the extremities of the Brit-
ish provinces of Nova Scotia, and as far inland as I have trav-
eled. It appears, however, that it does not inhabit the fur coun-
tries, as no mention is made of it by Dr. Richardson in the Fauna
Boreali-Americana. It is generally more confined to the interior
of the forests, especially during the time of its breeding, than the
Hairy Woodpecker, although, in winter, I have found it quite as
easily approached. In autumn, it frequently occurs in the corn-
fields, where it takes its share of the grain, in common with the
Hairy, the Downy, and other Woodpeckers. It is a lively and
active bird, fond of rolling its tappings against the decayed top-
branches of trees, often launching forth after passing insects, and
feeding during winter on all such berries as it can procure. Its
flight is strong and better sustained than that of the Yellow-bellied
or Hairy Woodpeckers, and, like the Golden-winged species, it not
unfrequently alights across the smaller branches of the trees, a
habit which, I assure you, is oftener exhibited than has been sup-
posed, by all our species of this interesting tribe of birds. Ac-
cording to Nuttall, this species inhabits the whole North American
continent, from the interior of Canada to Florida, and even the
island of Jamaica, in all of which countries it probably rears its
young, migrating only partially from the colder regions. The
Red-bellied Woodpecker dwells in the solitude of the forest:
amidst the tall and decaying trees only, he seeks his less varied
fare, and leads a life of ran ing wildness and independence, con-
genial with his attachmert to freedom and liberty. Sometimes,
however, on the invasion ro his native haunts by the progress of
agriculture, he may be seen prowling among the dead and girdled
trees, which now afford him an augmented source of support;
and, as a chief of the soil, he sometimes claims his native rights
by collecting a small tithe from the usurping field of maize. His
loud and harsh call of 'tshow, 'tshow, 'Ishow, 'Ishow, reiterated
like the barking of a cur, may often be heard, through the course
of the day, to break the silence of the wilderness in which his
congenial tribe are almost the only residents. On a fine spring
morning, I have observed his desultory ascent up some dead and
lofty pine, tapping at intervals, and dodging from side to side, as

Go up to Top of Page