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 XXXVII. The blue-gray gnatcatcher. (Polioptila cærulea.),   p. 50

Page 50

dark rusty brown, with a bluish tinge; the greater and lesser wing-
coverts are tipped broadly with white, forming two handsome white
bands across the wings; the rump and tail-coverts are drab, tipped
with lighter color; tail rounded, and of a dusky color, edged with
drab; belly white; vent pale ochre; legs and feet reddish-brown;
eye hazel; the lower eyelid white.
The Winter Wren. (Troglodytes hyemalis.)
Fig. 8.
This bird, which is one of our smallest species, can never be
mistaken when once seen.  His back is a deep rufous-brown,
darkest on the head, brightest on the rump and tail; head and neck
plain; the rest marked with numerous short dusky, sometimes
whitish, interrupted bars. Wings dusky, dark-barred, and edged
with rufous. Below, dark-brown, with belly, flanks, and under
tail-coverts strongly marked with dusky and whitish. Length
from three to four inches, wing about two, tail one and one-half
inches. The Winter Wren is not an abundant bird, but is found
everywhere in the United States. It is only partially migratory,
many of them passing the whole year near their breeding places.
It is the most abundant of winter birtls on the Pacific coast, brav-
ing the long, damp, and dreary winters of Oregon and Washington
Territory, retiring to the mountains on the approach of spring, for
the purpose of breeding. It breeds all along Central New York,
the beautiful shores of Oneida Lake being one of its favorite spots.
Its nest is a most wonderful piece of architecture. It is pouch-
shape, composed of moss and lichens, two inches or more in
thickness, very large and deep, and lined with bits of fur and the
feathers of various birds. The eggs are usually five in number,
and pure white, marked with purplish slate blotches and reddish-
brown spots. Audubon describes one, found at the foot of a tree,
as " a protuberance covered with moss and lichens, resembling
those excrescences which are often seen on our forest-trees, with
this difference, that the aperture was perfectly rounded, clean, and
quite smooth. I put my finger into it, and felt the pecking of a
bird's bill, while a querulous cry was emitted." Shy, active, inquis-
itive, this little bird is ever on the alert. I have followed one for
rods and rods along an old stone fence, in some upland pasture,
and have been barely able to keep him in sight. Darting in and
out the stone wall, hopping, skipping, forever in motion, his little
short tail, like a cockade, stuck straight in air, he wins your affec-
tion and your admiration at once; and that must be a miserable
scamp who would aim a shot-gun at this beautiful and harmless
little creature. His song, too, is a marvel. Where, in all that
little bundle of brown feathers, can so much melody be hid?
Alike unconscious and unambitious, coy and retiring, in his mo-
ments of pleasure lie will pour forth a song at once fluent and
copious, and instinct with the purest rhythms. The notes vibrate,
melt to the sweetest plaintiveness, and leave on the memory only
the sweetest of emotions.
The Winter Wren is closely allied to the common Wren of
Europe. It has a most charming mythical history, and the kind-
tiest mention in all literatures. In Germany, he is called the Zaun
Konig-Hedge King. Grimm, in his delightful Folk Lore tales,
has gathered some of the fables told of him in that country. Both
Aristotle and Pliny speak of him as disputing with the Eagle the
sovereignty of the feathered creation.
Considering the diminutive size of this bird, and his retiring
habits, it is singular that the title of King should so universally
have been given him. The French call him Roitelet-Little King.
The Greeks gave him the same title, Baatiaoxoc-Little King; the
Romans, Regulus; the Swedes, Kungs-fogel-King's Fowl; the
Danes, Fugle-kong-Fowl-king; the Dutch, Winter Koninkje-
little Winter King. A most charming essay might be written on
tlis little bird, the material being most abundant, but our limited
space forbids following the subject further,
The Blue-gray Gnatcatoher. (Polioptila carulsa.)
Fig. x.
This active and sprightly little bird would rank among the most
diminutive species were it not for the length of the tail. It is
commonly seen in the tops of tall trees. Its motions are rapid and
incessant, appearing most always in quest of prey, darting from
bough to bough, with hanging wings and elevatei tail, uttering
only at times a feeble song, or squeaking notes of "tree, tree,
tree." Its first visits are paid to the blooming willows along the
borders of water-courses. This species is also very dexterous as
a fly-catcher, and, by some good authors on ornithology, it is
classed among the Fly-catchers. According to Wilson, it builds its
nest about the beginning of May, the time it arrives in the Middle
States from the South, which it generally fixes among the twigs
of a tree, sometimes at the height of ten feet from the ground, and
sometimes fifty feet high, on the extremities of the tops of a high
tree in the woods. This nest is formed of very slight and perish-
able materials-the husks of buds, stems of old leaves, withered
blossoms of weeds, and down from the stalks of fern, coated on
the outside with gray lichen, and lined with a few horse-hairs.
The length of this species is four and a half inches, and about
six and a half inches broad. Front line over the eye and bill
black; the latter somewhat notched at the tip. The plumage
above, light bluish-gray, brightest on the head; below, bluish-
white and pale (white in the females). Tail edged with blue; its
coverts black. Wings brownish-black; some of the secondaries
next the body edged with white. Legs pale blue. Iris hazel.
The Black-throated Green Warbler. (Dendroica virens.)
Fig. 2.
This acknowledged lively and active little species frequents the
high branches and tops of trees, in the woods, in search of the
larvae of insects that prey on the opening buds. Their song,
consisting of a few singular chirping notes, resembles the syl-
lables 'te d9 ter-etscd, sometimes te derisca, pronounced pretty
loud and slow, and the tones proceed from high to low. This note
is very much like the call of the Chickadee, and at times both are
heard amidst the reigning silence of the summer moon. It is said
to be abundant in the forests of the eastern part of the United
This bird is five inches long and seven inches broad. The back,
crown, and hind head clear yellow-olive; front, cheeks, sides of
the breast, and line over the eye pure yellow; chin and throat
black; the sides under the wings are spotted with black; belly
and vent are white; the wings dusky black, marked with two white
bars. Tail dusky, edged with light ash color; the thin exterior
feathers spotted on their inner webs with white, as appears in most
Warblers. The legs and feet are brownish-yellow; the iris of the
eye deep brown or blue.
The Blue or Cerulean Warbler. (Dendroica carulea.)
Fig. 3.
This is another very delicately plumaged species of Warbler,
and is amongst the rarest summer residents of the Atlantic States.
It is very abundant in the Southern States. During summer, it
visits the Middle States, retiring early in the fall. This species
also has many of the habits of the Fly-catcher, warbling at times
in a lively manner; and, though its song be short, it is at the same
time sweet and mellow.

Go up to Top of Page