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

[Plate XXXVIII. The chestnut-sided warbler. (Dendroica pennsylvanica.) cont.],   pp. 53-54


Page 53


WARBLER-SNOW-BIRD-AMERICAN CROSS-BILL.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler. (Dendroeca coronala.)
Fig. 4.
This species is also known by the name of Yellow-crowned
Warbler and Myrtle-bird. It is one of the most numerous winter
birds of the Southern States, where it passes the season in the
myrtle swamps and the hummocks of the mainland.     In the
Middle and Northern States, it is a bird of passage, arriving from
the South the latter part of April, and proceeding north as far as
Canada and Labrador to pass the summer season in the cares of
breeding and rearing their young.  After an absence of about
three months, they again appear, and continue to remain in the
Middle and Northern States, in gardens and woods, till about the
close of November, feeding almost exclusively on the myrtle wax-
berries, or on those of the Virginian juniper. In fine weather, in
the earlier part of October, they may be seen collecting grass-
hoppers and moths from the meadows and pastures. They often
watch for the appearance of their prey from a neighboring stake
or fence-rail; and, at this time, are so familiar and unsuspicious
as fearlessly to approach almost within the reach of the silent
spectator. While feeding, they are very active, in the manner of
Fly-catchers, hovering among the cedars and myrtles, with hang-
ing wings, and only rest when satisfied with gleaning food. Of its
song, Nuttall says: " This beautiful species . . . frequents
the orchards, uttering, at short intervals, in the morning, a sweet
and varied, rather plaintive warble, resembling in part the song of
the Summer Yellow-bird, but much more the farewell, solitary
autumnal notes of the Robin Redbreast of Europe. The tones,
at times, are also so ventriloquial and variable in elevation that it
is not always easy to ascertain the spot from whence they proceed."
This species may also be seen in Mexico and Central America.
The length of the male bird is about five inches and a half, its
breadth about eight inches.
The Snow-bird. (fzunco hyemalis.)
Fig. 5, Male. Fig. 6, Female.
This species is one of our most common and numerous Sparrows.
It arrives in flocks from the northern regions in the United States
about the middle of October, and their appearance is looked upon
as the sign of approaching winter.  "I have traveled," says
Wilson, " over the country, from North Maine to Georgia, a dis-
tance of i,8oo miles, but I do not think there was a day, or indeed
an hour, in which I did not see a flock of these birds, often number-
ing thousands; and several travelers with whom I conversed gave
me similar accounts of their experience." The Snow-bird is an in-
habitant of the northern mountains of America, where it builds its
nest, and from thence it wanders south when winter closes in. It
will also occasionally migrate as far as Europe; and Temminck
assures us that several have been captured in Iceland, and it is
upon this authority that it is reckoned amongst European birds.
As stated above, these birds are seen in the United States about
October, departing in April, and migrating by night. Hosts
of them are found early in the morning, in localities where
not one was to be seen the evening before. On first arriving,
they fly about the outskirts of the woods and hedges, in parties
of from twenty to thirty, but at a later period assemble in flocks
of some thousands. As long as the ground is uncovered, they
feed upon grass seed, berries, and insects, and are often to be
found in company with Partridges, Wild Turkeys, and even
Squirrels, but as soon as the snow begins to fall, Snow-birds make
their appearance in the farm-yards, open roads, and streets of the
town, and place themselves under the protection of man, who shows
how much he is to be trusted by capturing hundreds of these
diminutive creatures. Still, this bird has more friends than ene-
mies, and many regard it with affection.  Its confidence in man
is so great, that it will allow a horseman or foot-passenger to
approach quite close to it in the street, only flying away if it has
reason to think it will be molested. Thus it lives until the win-
ter is passed, when it quits the towns and villages for its favorite
mountain or native haunts.
The Snow-birds seldom join company with other birds, though
in the villages and farm-yards they will associate with the so-called
"Song Sparrow" and domestic fowls, keeping, however, some-
what apart. They pass the night, either perched upon a tree or
in a hole, and often make a place for themselves in stacks of corn.
In their movements, the Snow-birds much resemble the Sparrows,
and hop very lightly over the ground, testifying great readiness to
engage any of their kind in single combat. As soon as these birds
return to their native places, the work of incubation commences,
and the males are constantly engaged in furious contentions,
chasing each other through the trees, with wings and tail out-
spread, and thus exhibiting their plumage in all its varied beauty.
At such times, their simple but pleasing song is at its best, its prin-
cipal feature being low, drawn-out notes, that are not unlike
the twitter of a young Canary. When about to build, the little
pair seek a quiet spot in which to make their nest, preferring a
rock thickly covered with bushes; and then, upon the ground,
they construct their home, forming it of twigs and grass, and
lining the interior most delicately with fine moss and horse-hair.
The four eggs, of which a brood consists, are of a yellowish color,
thickly covered with reddish spots, and measure five-eighths of an
inch across the broadest end. Both parents tend their young with
great care, feeding them for some time after they leave the nest,
and warning them of danger by a peculiar cry. The Sparrow
Hawk may be regarded as the most formidable of their many
enemies.  Wilson mentions having seen this bird continually
hovering in their neighborhood, watching for a favorable oppor-
tunity, and when the proper moment arrived, the destroyer would
swoop down upon its victim, seize it, and carry it to the nearest
tree to be devoured. The length of the male bird is five inches and
three-quarters, its breadth nearly seven inches; the female is five
and a half inches in length, and eight and a quarter across.
The Red, or American Cross-bill. (Curvirostra americana.)
Fig. 7, Male. Fig. 8, Female.
This remarkably formed species is an inhabitant of both conti-
nents. Those in North America are considered the dwarfs of the
family, on account of the smallness of their size.  " On first
glancing," says Wilson, "1 at the bill of this extraordinary bird,
one is apt to pronounce it deformed and monstrous; but, on atten-
tively observing the use to which it is applied by the owner, and
the dexterity with which he detaches the seeds of the pine-tree
from the cone and from the husks that inclose them, we are obliged
to confess that no other conformation could have been so excellently
adapted to the purpose; and that its deviation from the common
form, instead of being a defect or monstrosity, as the celebrated
French naturalist insinuates, is a striking proof of the wisdom and
kind superintending care of the great Creator." The Cross-bills
always inhabit pine-forests, as their food consists entirely of the
seeds of the pine, fir, and larch. They are consequently more
numerous in the North than in the South, seeing that in northern
latitudes these trees are met with over a far wider extent of country
than elsewhere. When the cones are abundant, they visit in great
numbers many places where they have not been for years, appear-
ing at irregular intervals, and not confining themselves to any par-
ticular localities. Should the situation be suitable, they will proceed
at once to breed; otherwise, they merely tarry for a short time,
and then pass on to a more desirable resting-place. The most
favorable spots in the woods are soon taken possession of to serve
as their headquarters, from whence they fly over the surrounding
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