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

Plate XXXIII. The American bittern. (Botaurus lentiginosus.),   pp. 43-46


Page 43


AMERICAN BITTERN.
ous for their safety. From this time, the whole family continue
to associate together through the autumn and winter. They seem
to move by concert from tree to tree, keeping up a continued
'Vshe-de-de-de-de and 'tshe-de-de-de-dait, preceded by a shrill
whistle, all the while busily engaged, picking round the buds and
branches, hanging from their extremities, and proceeding often in
reversed postures, head downward, like so many tumblers, pry-
ing into every crevice of the bark, and searching around the roots,
and in every possible retreat of their insect prey or its larvae. If
the object chance to fall, they industriously descend to the ground,
and glean it up with the utmost economy.
On seeing a cat, or other object of natural antipathy, the Chicka-
dee, like the peevish Jay, scolds in a loud, angry, and hoarse
note, like 'tshe ddigh, ddzgh. Among the other notes of this
species, I hayve heard a call like 'ishe-de-jay, 'Ishe-de-jay, the two
first syllables being a slender chirp, with the jay strongly pro-
nounced. Almost the only note of this bird which may be called
song is one which is frequently heard at intervals in the depths
of the forests, at times of the day, usually, when all other birds
are silent. We then may sometimes hear, in the midst of this
solitude, two feeble, drawling, clearly-whistled, and rather mel-
ancholy notes, like 'Ie-d~rry, and sometimes 'ye-p}rrit, and occa-
sionally, but much more rarely, in the same wiry, whistling, sol-
emn tone, Pdhbg. The young, in winter, also, sometimes drawl
out these contemplative strains. In all cases, the first syllable is
very high and clear, the second word drops low, and ends like a
feeble plaint. This is nearly all the quaint song ever attempted
by the Chickadee, and is, perhaps, the two notes sounding like the
whetting of a saw. On fine days, about the commencement of
October, I have heard the Chickadee, sometimes for half an hour
at a time, attempt a lively, petulent warble, very different from
his ordinary notes. On these occasions, he appears to flirt about,
still hunting for his prey, but almost in an ecstasy of delight and
vigor. But, after a while, the usual drawling note again occurs.
These birds, like many others, are very subject to the attacks of
vermin, and they accumulate in great numbers around that part
of the head and front which is least accessible to their feet.
The Chickadee is seldom seen near waters; often, even in sum-
mer, in dry, shady, and secluded woods; but when the weather
becomes cold, and as early as October, roving families, urged by
necessity, and the failure of their ordinary insect-fare, now begin
to frequent orchards and gardens, appearing extremely familiar,
hungry, indigent, but industrious, prying with restless anxiety
into every cranny of the bark or holes in decayed trees, after dor-
mant insects, spiders, and larvae, descending with the strictest
economy to the ground in quest of every stray morsel of provision
which happens to fall from their grasp. Their quaint notes and
jingling warble are heard even in winter, on fine days, when the
weather relaxes in its severity; and, in short, instead of being the
river hermit of its European analogue, it adds, by its presence,
indomitable action, and chatter, an air of cheerfulness to the silent
and dreary winters of the coldest parts of America. Dr. Rich-
ardson found it in the fur countries up to the sixty-fifth parallel,
where it even contrives to dwell, as in other parts of the continent,
throughout the whole year.-2Vuttall.
It is generally known that this species is one of our resident
birds, and that he is active, restless, and noisy. According to
Audubon, it is hardy, smart, restless, industrious, and frugal.
The Black-cap Titmouse ranges through the forest during the sum-
mer, and, retiring to its more secluded parts, as if to ensure a
greater degree of quiet, it usually breeds there. Numerous eggs
produce a numerous progeny; and as soon as the first brood has
been reared, the young range hither and thither, in a body, search-
ing for food, while their parents, intent on forming another family,
remain concealed, and almost silent, laying their eggs in the hole
deserted by some small Woodpecker, or forming one for them-
selves. The Black-cap Titmouse, or Chickadee, as it is generally
named in our Eastern States, though exceedingly shy in summer,
or during the breeding season, becomes quite familiar in winter,
although it never ventures to enter the habitations of man; but, in
the most boisterous weather, requiring neither food nor shelter,
then, it may be seen amidst the snow, in the rugged paths of the
cheerless woods, when it welcomes the traveler or the wood-cutter
with a confidence and cheerfulness far surpassing the well-known
familiarity of the Robin Redbreast of Europe. Often, on such
occasions, should you offer it no matter how small a portion of your
fare, it alights without hesitation, and devours it without manifesting
any apprehension. The sound of an ax in the woods is sufficient to
bring forth several of these busy creatures; and having discovered
the woodman, they seem to find pleasure in his company. Ac-
cording to Wilson, they are most usually seen during the fall and
winter, when they leave the depths of the woods, and approach
nearer to the scenes of cultivation. At such seasons, they abound
among evergreens, feeding on the seeds of the pine-tree; they
are also fond of sunflower seeds, and associate in parties of six,
eight, or more, attended by the two species of Nuthatch, the
Crested Titmouse, Brown Creeper, and small Spotted Wood-
pecker, the whole forming a very nimble and restless company,
whose food, manners, and dispositions are pretty much alike.
About the middle of April, they begin to build, choosing the de-
serted hole of a Squirrel or Woodpecker, and sometimes, with in-
credible labor, digging out one for themselves. The female lays
six white eggs, marked with minute specks of red. The first
brood appear about the middle of June, and the second toward the
end of July. The whole of the family continue to associate to-
gether during winter. This species has a very extensive range;
it has been found on the western coast of America, as far north as
sixty-two degrees latitude; it is common at Hudson's Bay, and
most plentiful there during winter, as it then approaches the set-
tlements in quest of food. Protected by a remarkably thick cov-
ering of long, soft, downy plumage, it braves the severest cold of
those northern regions.
PLATE XXXIII.
The American Bittern. (Botaurus lentiginosus).
Fig. i.
The Bittern of America, though nowhere numerous, is found
in almost every part of the continent where there exist extensive
marshes, either maritime or inland, up to the fifty-eighth parallel
of northern latitude,* where they are frequent, in the morasses
and willow thickets of the interior, throughout the fur countries.
From the inclement regions, they retire in winter, while, in other
parts, they are permanently resident. They are said to revisit
Severn river, at Hudson's Bay, about the beginning of June,
when they make their nests in the swamps, among the sedge,
and lay four cinerous green eggs. They breed, also, in several
parts of the State of Massachusetts, young birds being met with
in the marshes of Fresh pond, and other places in the vicinity
of Boston, about the middle of summer.
During the day, the Night Hen, as it is called, remains hid in
the reeds and sedge, and rarely comes out till the approach of
night. When disturbed in its retreat, it flies off with a hollow
'kiva, or kowk, and sometimes gives a loud squeak of alarm. At
this time, as it flies heavily, and at no great height, it is easily
shot down; they are also sometimes obtained by laying wait for
them as they sally out in the evening, toward the salt marshes, in
a particular direction, in quest of their usual supply of food.
In the breeding season, and throughout a great part of the sum-
mer, we often hear the loud, booming note of this bird, from the
marshes of Fresh pond, morning and evening, and sometimes even
Richardson's North. Zool., ii, p. 37+
4a


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