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

[Plate XL. The least bittern. (Ardetta exilis.) cont.],   p. 57

Page 57

and running with great agility before the retiring or advancing
waters. When on the wing their notes are more sharp, and
frequently repeated. The flesh of this bird is generally held in
good esteem, especially in early autumn, when they are fat and
well flavored. The length of this species is seven inches, and the
span of the wing fourteen inches.
Red-breasted Sandpiper, Ash-colored Sandpiper, Gray-back, Robin-snipe,
or Knot. (Tringa canutus.)
Fig. i.
This pretty bird, described under such a multiplicity of names,
is quite a favorite with the sportsman, and when young and fat, is
always welcome to the palate of the connoisseur. This species
may generally be found near marine marshes on the sea-shore, or
the borders of lakes or rivers, visiting the temperate climates
during the winter, and returning to the colder latitudes to spend
the summer months. Dr. Wheaton states that it occurs in Ohio,
and Professor Snow says that it is common in Kansas. Their
migrations take place in large parties, which fly by night or early
in the morning. During the recess of the tide, they may be seen
upon the sea-shore, seeking their food from the refuse of the ocean,
or quietly and intently probing the sands in search of worms and
shell-fish, and sometimes retreating rapidly before the advancing
surge, and profiting by what the wave leaves on its retreat. In
all their movements they display great activity, either from running
rapidly and lightly on the fore part of their toes over the surface
of the moist sand, when swimming in the water, or when winging
their way, with a varied, graceful, and rapid flight, through the
air. The voice of this bird is clear, piping, and resonant. They
are social and peaceful in their habits, and it is probable that the
encounters in which they indulge at certain seasons of the year, are
as much in sport as in rivalry. "' In autumn and winter," says
Audubon, " this species is abundant along the whole range of our
coast, wherever the shores are sandy or muddy, from Maine to the
mouths of the Mississippi; but I never found one far inland.
Sometimes they collect in flocks of several hundred individuals,
and are seen wheeling over the water, near the shore, or over the
beaches, in beautiful order, and now and then so close together as
to afford an excellent shot, especially when they suddenly alight in
a mass near the sportsman, or when, swiftly veering, they expose
their lower parts at the same moment. On such occasions, a dozen
or more may be killed at once, provided the proper moment is
There seems to be a kind of impatience in this bird that prevents
it from remaining any length of time in the same place, and you
may see it, scarcely alighted on a sand-bar, fly off, without any
apparent reason, to another, when it settles, runs for a few moments,
and again starts off on wing. This bird is an inhabitant of both
continents, and although so abundant along the coasts at some
seasons, they appear always to retire to the arctic regions to breed.
Their food consists of worms, small mollusks, insects, larva, and
similar fare. This species is ten inches long and twenty inches
The American Dunlin, Black-bellied or Red-breasted Sandpiper, Ox-bird,
or Purre. (Tringa alpina var. americana.)
Fig. 2.
This is one of our small and active species, migrating in large
numbers along both our shores in spring and fall. During the
summer season they are met with throughout the northern hem-
isphere, penetrating to the utmost habitable verge of the arctic
circle, where they also breed. They likewise inhabit Greenland,
Iceland, Scandinavia, the Alps of Siberia, and the coasts of the
Caspian.  In the southern hemisphere, they sometimes even
wander as far as the Cape of Good Hope, and are found in
Jamaica and Cayenne. They arrive in the Middle States, on
their way north, during the months of April and May, and again,
as they pursue their route to the warmer climates, they may be
seen in September and October. At these times they often mingle
with the flocks of other shore-birds, from which they are dis-
tinguishable by the rufous color of their upper plumage. In their
habits they are quite active, and when frequenting the muddy flats
and shores of the salt marshes, at the recess of the tide, they can
be seen dexterously feeding on the worms, insects, and minute
shell-fish, which such places generally afford. "These birds,"
says Wilson, " in conjunction with several others, sometimes col-
lect together in such flocks as to seem, at a distance, a large cloud
of thick smoke, varying in form and appearance every instant,
while it performs its evolutions in air. As this cloud descends
and courses along the shores of the ocean with great rapidity, in a
kind of waving, serpentine flight, alternately throwing its dark and
white plumage to the eye, it forms a very grand and interesting ap-
pearance. At such times, the gunners make prodigious slaughter
among them, while, as the showers of their companions fall, the
whole body often alight, or descend to the surface with them,
till the sportsman is completely satiated with destruction." This
species is about eight inches long and fifteen inches broad.
The Golden Plover, Frost-bird, or Bull-head. (Charadrius fulvusvar.
Fig. 3.
This is one of our well-known and highly prized game-birds.
They arrive on the coast of the Middle and Northern States, and
in the- interior of s-me of tile W-cte-n Q--  in -.-i atj caliy
autumn.  They winter in theSouth, principall upon 1thU CgrLey
autumn. They winter in the South, principally upon the great
grassy ranges of Texas and northern Mexico. It forms one of the
most numerous bodies of the migratory birds, and may be seen in
flocks, on their arrival in the spring, numbering three or four
hundred. Their migrations usually take place at night, the birds
flying at a considerable height from the ground. During the day
they rest or seek for food, and, strangely enough, select not their
usually favorite marshes, but fields and cultivated ground. They
are brisk and nimble, running with great rapidity, and flying not
only swiftly, but gracefully. During the period of incubation,
they indulge in a variety of elegant gyrations in the vicinity of the
nest, and their plaintive, clear whistle is heard to most advantage
at that season. Worms, larva, beetles, snails, and slugs consti-
tute their principal nourishment, and, in order to assist digestion,
small pebbles are also swallowed. Water would appear to be a
real necessary of life to these birds, as they love to wash and cleanse
their feathers in it daily. " When, in the spring-plowing, the rich
soil of our prairie States is turned up," says Bogardus, " a vast
number of fat worms are thrown to the surface. To pick up and
feed upon these, the Golden Plover will be seen following the
plowman along the furrow. Sometimes they fly a little ahead of
the plow and team, sometimes abreast of them, and all the time
some are wheeling and curling round and dropping in the furrow
which has just been made. At such times, they occasionally
become so bold and tame that they come quite close to the horses,
and I have known some to be knocked down and killed by the
driving-boys with their whips. . . . At their first arrival the
flocks of Plover are rather wild and difficult to get at. In their
long journey on, and long flights from, the plains of Texas across
Arkansa. and alonn  the flit i  rivepr to, Tin-  M
-.-..-,_-,       -- (5 ..- --.-._,.;,t,.     .-

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