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

Plate XLII. The Florida gallinule. (Gallinula galeata.),   p. 58

Page 58

Iowa, and Kansas, they have not been accustomed to the neigh-
borhood of men, and at first they are shy. .  .  . On   some days
the flock will be much on the wing, flying fion one field to another,
and all goingin one direction, as wild Pigeons do. At such times,
the shooter may take a stand in the line of flight and get fair shoot-
ing all day, as the flocks go over. It is not necessary to hide
altogether; in fact, in these localities-the burnt prairies and great
pastures-there is seldom the means to do so, but it is often desirable
to lie down. .  .   T he Golden Plovers are low-flying birds;
the shooter may sometimes get a side shot at a large, close flock, and
kill eight or ten with his two barrels. Sometimes the birds skim
on not above four or five feet from the ground, at other times they
fly pretty high. . . . When they fly low and present side shots,
is the most favorable time to pepper them." Though they continue
associated in numbers for common safety during the day, they dis-
perse in the evening, and repose apart from each other. At day-
break, however, the feeling of solitude again returns, and the early
sentinel no sooner gives the shrill and well-known call-a wild,
shrill, and whistling note-than they assemble in their usual com-
pany. In this, and most other countries, their flesh is esteemed as
a delicacy. The length of this species is about ten inches, and
twenty inches broad.
The Black-bellied Plover, Beetle-headed Plover, Whistling Field Plover,
Bull-head, or Ox-eye. (Squatarola helvetica.)
Fig. 4.
This species, known by a diversity of names, is common through-
out North America, during the migrations, and is spread over most
parts of the world. Around Hudson's Bay, Greenland, Iceland,
and in all the inclement parts of Siberia, they are a common bird.
It can be recognized at once by the presence of a small hind toe;
the same does not appear with any of our other species of Plovers.
When in full plumage, this species resembles very closely the
Golden Plover.  According to Wilson, they generally begin to
visit the inland parts of Pennsylvania in the latter end of April,
and, less timid than the Golden Plover, it often selects the plowed
field for the site of its nest, where the ordinary fare of earth-worms,
larva, beetles, and winged insects now abound. " They travel
chiefly," says Audubon, " by night, and rest for a great part of
day along the margins of the sea, either reposing on the sands in
the sunshine or searching the beaches for food. After dark their
well-known cries give note of their passage, but by day they remain
silent, even when forced to betake themselves to flight. On such
occasions, they generally wheel over the waters, and not un-
frequently return to the spot which they had at first selected." At
times, this species is extremely shy and watchful, and during their
love-season they utter a loud and whistling note. The length of
this species is eleven and a half inches, and twenty-four in clear
The Florida Gallinule.  (Gallinulagaleata.)
This species, which is represented on the upper part of the plate,
is mostly found in the South Atlantic and Gulf States, and is
occasionally met with in Canada and the Northern and Middle
States. They prefer to live in families, and have a whole pond
to themselves, and it is only on extensive pieces of water that
several pairs are to be met with, and even in this case each pair
strives jealously to keep possession of its own territory. Slow
waters, the margins of which are thickly covered with sedge and
coarse grasses, or at least with reeds and brushwood, and par-
tially overgrown with floating herbage, afford the requisite con-
ditions for their residence. According to Audubon, this Gallinule
seldom resorts to salt water, but at times is met with on the banks
of bayous in which the water is brackish. This, however, hap-
pens only during winter. On land, it walks somewhat like a
chicken, and thirty, forty, or more individuals may be seen search-
ing for worms and itisects among the grass, which they also nip
in the manner of the domestic fowl. On such occasions, the con-
stantly repeated movements of their tail are rendered conspicuous
by the pure white of the feathers beneath it, which, along with
the white stripes on the flanks, and, in spring, the vivid red of the
frontal plate, renders their general appearance quite interesting.
In cases of danger, they run with great speed, and easily conceal
themselves. On the water, they sit very lightly, and swim with
activity, the movements of their head and neck keeping pace with
those of their feet. They pick tup their food from either side, con-
tinually jerk their tail, and not unfrequently touch the water with
it. These birds generally travel by night, and probably on foot,
at least some of them have been captured under circumstances that
lead to such a supposition. In early spring they usually arrive in
pairs in the vicinity of their breeding-places, but occasionally they
come singly. Its voice is loud and powerful, sounding like "err,
terr;" its warning cry resembles "  kerr, tett, et," or like
" gorr,
gorr," and at times its call is like " kurg, kurg," expressive
fear. When on its wanderings its cry is ,keg, kegkeg."   This
species is fourteen inches long and twenty-two broad.
The Oyster-catcher. (HamatoPus palliatus.)
On the lower part of Plate XLII., we give a representation of this
species, which is generally to be met with on the Atlantic coast,
from Maine to Florida, and California, but is never seen in the
" The Oyster-catcher," says Wilson, in describing its habits,
"c frequents the sandy sea-beach of New Jersey and other parts
of our Atlantic coast, in summer, in small parties of two or
three pairs together. They are extremely shy; and, except about
the season of breeding, will seldom permit a person to approach
within gunshot. They walk along the shore, in a watchful, stately
manner, at times probing it with their long, wedge-like bills, in
search of small shell-fish. This appears evident on examining the
hard sands where they usually resort, which are found thickly
perforated with oblong holes, two or three inches in depth. The
small crabs, called fiddlers, that burrow in the mud at the bottom
of inlets, are frequently the prey of the Oyster catcher, as are
muscles, spout-fish, and a variety of other shell-fish and sea
insects, with which those shores abound."
Audubon, in describing the characteristics of this species, says:
" Our Oyster-catcher has a very extensive range. It spends
the winter along the coast, from Maryland to the Gulf of
Mexico, and being then abundant on the shores of the Floridas,
may be considered a constant resident in the United States.
At the approach of spring, it removes toward the Middle States,
where, as well as in North Carolina, it breeds.    It seems
scarcer between Long Island and Portland, Maine, when you
a gain see it, and whence it occurs all the way to Labrador.
It is never found inland, nor even far up our largest rivers, but is
fond of remaining at all times on the sandy beaches and rocky
shores of our salt-water bays or marshes.
"Shy, vigilant, and ever on the alert, the Oyster-catcher walks
with a certain appearance of dignity, greatly enhanced by its
handsome plumage and remarkable bill. If you stop to watch it,
that instant it sounds a loud shrill note of alarm, and should you
advance further toward it, when it has neither nest nor young,
off it flies quite out of sight. Few birds, indeed, are more difficult
to be approached, and the only means of studying its habits I found
to be the use of an excellent telescope. with which I could trace
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