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
(1903)

[Plate XXXVI. The blue yellow-backed warbler. (Parula americana.) cont.],   pp. 49-50


Page 49


WHITE-THROATED AND WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.
49
the powers of song, is exceedingly plain in his apparel. His under
parts are white, anteriorly touched with the slightest tint of buff;
sides olive; fore part of the breast and sides of the throat distinctly
marked with sub-triangular spots of dark olive-brown, with bill of
a dusky yellowish hue. Length about seven inches, wing three
and one-half, tail two and one-fourth inches. The range of the
Hermit Thrush is from the Mississippi eastward throughout North
America to the arctic regions. It is, however, a rare bird, exceed-
ingly shy and secluded in its habits, though, when captured young,
is easily tamed. Fearful and retiring in the presence of man, it
attacks its natural enemy, the hawk, with great vigor and courage,
forcing him to retire discomfited. Its favorite winter haunts are
in the Southern States, where great numbers may be found, and in
Southern Illinois it has been observed at this season as far north as
latitude 380. It is one of the earliest of our migratory birds, ar-
riving in Maine, where it breeds in vast numbers, by the middle of
April. Its return journey is performed during the latter part of
October. When migrating, they fly in small straggling parties,
and never indulge in song.
During its season of courtship, it is rarely to be met with outside
of the deepest and most remote forests, and nearly always in damp
and swampy localities. Its nests are nearly always built upon the
ground, in open places, or under low spreading brush, and near its
favorite swamp. It is composed of dead leaves, dried grasses, and
twigs, and is lined with the inner peelings of bark, fine soft sedges,
and grasses. The eggs vary from four to five in number, and are
uniform in color, being of a bluish-green, varying from .88 to .94
in length by .63.
Both Wilson and Audubon were unfamiliar with the wonderful
gift of song with which this bird is possessed. Wilson says it has
" only in spring an occasional squeak, like that of a young stray
chicken." Audubon's testimony is equally erroneous. "The Her-
mit Thrush," he says, " has no song, and only utters a soft, plaint-
ive note, seldom heard at a greater distance than twenty-five or
thirty yards." With the exception of the Wood Thrush, we have
no bird to compare with the Hermit Thrush in the beauty and
melody of his song. It begins low, sweet, and exceedingly soft,
and, rising, ends abruptly in the highest, the sharpest of ringing
notes. No silver horn, no tinkling bell, ever emitted purer notes.
Mr. Burroughs describes his song in words so fitting that we can not
resist the temptation to quote them. "1 I often hear him," he says,
" a long way off, sometimes over a quarter of a mile away, when only
the stronger and more perfect parts of his music reach me; and,
through the general chorus of wrens and warblers, I detect his
song, rising pure and serene, as if a spirit from some remote height
were slowly chanting a divine accompaniment. This song appeals
to the sentiment of the beautiful in me, and suggests a serene re-
ligious beatitude, as no other sound in nature does. It is, perhaps,
more of an evening than a morning hymn, though I hear it all
hours of the day. It is very simple, and I can hardly tell the se-
cret of its charm. '0 spheral, spheral ' he seems to say. '0
holy, holy I 0 clear away, clear away I 0 clear up, clear up '
interspersed with the finest trills and the most delicate preludes.
It is not a proud, gorgeous strain, like the Tanager's or the Gros-
beak's; suggests no passion or emotion-nothing personal; but
seems to be the voice of that calm, sweet solemnity one attains to
in his best moments. It realizes a peace and a deep solemn joy
that only the finest souls may know."
The White-throated Sparrow, or Peabody-bird. (Zonotrichia albicollis.)
Fig. 6.
This beautiful Sparrow is easily recognized by the two black
stripes on his crown separated by one of white, and by his pure
white throat, sharply defined against the dark ash of the breast and
sides of the neck and head. His back is continuously streaked
with black, chestnut, and tawny white; rump ashy, destitute of
markings; edge of the wings yellow; belly white. Length about
seven inches, and nine inches across the wings; tail from three to
four inches. The range of the White-throated Sparrow compasses
all parts of North America from the Great Plains, east, north, and
south, touching the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the extreme
arctic regions.  It winters in the Southern States, being found
there in great abundance from October to May, where, according
to Audubon, it is considered a great delica-y. Its favorite breed-
ing places are from 440 latitude north, where it arrives from
the ist to the 20th of May. The nest is usually built upon the
ground, in various situations, in swampy thickets, in pasture cradle-
holes, and sometimes in the hollow of decayed stumps. It is large,
deep, and roomy, constructed of moss, grasses, twigs, and lined
with hair, feathers, and silken grasses. The eggs are usually four
in number, sometimes ranging as high as seven, of a greenish-
white, and blotched all over with a rusty brown. The White-
throated Sparrow produces but one brood during the season. It
is gregarious in its habits, and may be seen in flocks, near moist
thickets. Its song would be very pleasing were it more varied.
In confinement, they become very tame, and, during the spring
months, sing night and day. They are very abundant among the
White Mountains, and are known there as the Peabody-bird. Dr.
Brewer says of its song, thal it " is rather sprightly and pleasing
than plaintive ;" that " in each case their refrain is measured
by
twelve syllables, but these versions bear but a slight resemblance
to the real notes ;" and that "I they are repeated quite constantly,
and with little or no variation, and soon become monotonous." He
interprets his song as follows: "I-have-got-plenly-to-e-at,
but no che-eze." Samuels, however, claims for his song real
beauty. He tells us that " it is difficult of description, but resem-
bles nearly the syllables 'cAt a dge de; de-d-de, dg-d-de, dg-d-de,
dg-d-de, uttered at first loud and clear, and rapidly falling in tone
and decreasing in volume."
No sooner do these welcome visitors arrive than every hedge
and fence is alive with them. They form parties of some forty or
fifty birds, and fly down from time to time upon the surrounding
district in search of food; hopping gaily about as they peck the
small grass-seeds that constitute their principal nourishment, and
hurrying back to their perch at the first intimation of danger.
Nothing can be more amicable than the terms on which they seem
to live. The time between their excursions over the field is passed,
not in noisy strife, but in pouring forth a constant flow of song, so
sweet as to please the ears of the most indifferent or unmusical
listener. At early dawn, the little community is roused by a
peculiar shrill warning cry, somewhat resembling the syllable
" twit." This is uttered during the night, when, no doubt, it is
intended as an intimation that all is well. Should the day be
warm, the whole flock seek shelter in the woods, and deport them-
selves upon the branches of the wild vine-rarely, however, flying
to any great distance from their usual haunts.
The White-throated Sparrow is always an ornament to any land-
scape, and his melody is ever charming. His food is chiefly of
insects, the farmer's pests, varying it occasionally with a few ber-
ries and small seed.
The White-crowned Sparrow. (Zonotrichia leucothrys.)
Fig. 7.
The portraiture of this species was made from a beautiful speci-
men presented by Dr. J. M. Wheaton, Ornithologist of the Ohio
State Geological Survey. Its characteristics are similar to the
White-throated Sparrow, but not so abundant. The male is about
seven inches and a half long, and ten inches broad; the bill is a
cinnamon-brown; the crown is a pure white, bounded on each side
by a narrow stripe of black, then again by a narrow stripe of white
passing over the eye; the chin is white; the breast, sides of the
neck, and the upper parts pale ash color; the back streaked with


Go up to Top of Page