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 LII. The spoonbill, or shoveller duck. (Spatula clypeata.) cont.],   pp. 77-78


Page 77


JAGKDAW-GRACKLES-BLACKBIRDS.          77
at other times conceals itself among the neighboring long grass
and rushes.
Coues says: " The Pectoral Sandpiper is well known to sports-
men and others, and is frequently sought after, as its somewhat
game-like habits of lying to a dog and flushing correctly from the
grass, like a true Snipe, render it an attractive object of pursuit;
besides which, in the fall it becomes very fat, and it is then excel-
lent eating. Unlike most Sandpipers, it does not flock, at least to
any extent, being oftenest found scattered singly or in pairs. In
the United States it is chiefly, if not wholly, a bird of passage;
for, though some may winter along our southern border and others
breed along the northern tier of States, such probabilities require
to be confirmed. As maybe gathered from the quotations (North,
Central, and South America, West India, Greenland, and Europe),
its winter range is very extensive, yet some individuals may be
found in the Middle States as late as November. I found it in July
along the forty-ninth parallel, where it probably breeds. It occurred
sparingly about pools on Turtle Mountain, in company with the
Least Sandpiper. It is a very abundant bird in summer, in Labra-
dor, where it frequents low, muddy flats laid bare by the tide, and
the salt-marshes adjoining. When they arise from the grass to
alight again at a little distance, they fly in silence or with a single
tweet, holding the wings deeply incurved; but when suddenly
startled and much alarmed, they spring quickly, with loud, re-
peated cries, and make off in a zigzag, much like the common
Snipe. Sometimes, gaining a considerable elevation, they circle
for several minutes in silence overhead, flying with great velocity,
perhaps to pitch down again nearly perpendicularly to the same
spot they sprang from. The southward migration begins in Au-
gust, and is usually completed by the following month."
Jaokdaw-Boat-tailed Grackle-Great Crow  Blackbird. (Quiscalus
major.)
Fig. +.
This bird may be termed a small species of Raven. It is dis-
tinguished by its short, strong, straight beak, which is but slightly
curved. Its habitat is the South Atlantic and Gulf States, along
the coast from the Carolinas to Texas, the West Indies, and Mex-
ico. It is also found throughout most of the countries of Europe
and in many parts of Asia. It occupies some certain places in
great numbers, entirely avoiding other districts. Among the sea-
islands, and neighboring marshes on the mainland, they assemble
in great numbers, where they feed, at low water, on the oyster-
beds. Bushes in the neighborhood of salt marshes are the sit-
uations it prefers for building purposes, but it will also make its
nest upon high trees or even shrubs. It is extremely rude, being
roughly formed of twigs or straw, and lined with hair, feathers,
or hay. During these building operations the settlement is a con-
stant scene of quarreling, one bird stealing from another with the
greatest audacity and cunning, and taking possession, not only of
the materials, but of the places selected by their neighbors as snug
and desirable localities.
The disposition of this species is lively, and its habits extremely
social. Indeed, it may be said to possess the gifts of the Crow,
with but few of its disagreeable qualities. When upon the wing,
the flight of the Jackdaw is not unlike that of a Pigeon, and its
mode of rising, falling, or performing a variety of evolutions
remarkably graceful and easy. Its voice is capable of considera-
ble development, according to Audubon, resembling a loud, shrill
whistle, often accompanied by a cry like criek criek cree, and, in
the breeding season, changing almost to a warble. According to
Nuttall, they are only heard to sing in the spring, and their con-
cert, though inclining to sadness, is not altogether disagreeable.
Large quantities of insects, snails, and worms are devoured by
these useful birds. They will seek their food in the streets, or fol-
low in the wake of the ploughman as he turns up the clods and
lays the concealed grubs bare to their hungry beaks. They hunt
for mice, young birds, and eggs with great dexterity, a.td will also
feed upon roots, leaves, corn, and fruit.
Crow Blackbird-Purple Grackle. (9uiscalus p5urpureus.)
Fig. S.
The Purple Grackle is a very common bird, and is either occa-
sionally or constantly to be met with in all parts of North America,
north to Labrador, Hudson's Bay, and the Saskatchewan, through-
out which range it breeds. It winters in the Southern States and
the Antilles, within the tropics. They associate at times in great
numbers. Wilson states that, on the 20th of January, a few miles
from the banks of the Roanoke, in Virginia, he met with one
of these prodigious armies of Blackbirds, which, as he approached,
rose from the surrounding fields with a noise like thunder, and, de-
scending on the stretch of road before him, covered it and the fences
completely with black; rising again, after a few evolutions, they
descended on the skirt of a leafless wood, so thick as to give the
whole forest, for a considerable extent, the appearance of being
shrouded in mourning, the numbers amounting probably to many
hundreds of thousands. Their notes and screams resembled the
distant sound of a mighty cataract, but strangely attuned into a
musical cadence, which rose and fell with the fluctuation of the
breeze.
"Their depredations," says Nuttall, "on the maize crop, or
Indian corn, commences almost with the planting. The infant
blades no sooner appear than they are hailed by the greedy Black-
bird as the signal for a feast; and, without hesitation, they descend
on the fields, and regale themselves with the sweet and sprouted
seed, rejecting and scattering the blades, as an evidence of their
mischief and audacity. Again, about the beginning of August,
while the grain is in the milky state, their attacks are renewed
with the most destructive effect, as they now assemble, as it were,
in clouds, and pillage the fields to such a degree, that, in some
low and sheltered situations, in the vicinity of rivers, where they
delight to roam, one-fourth of the crop is devoured by these vexa-
tious visitors. The gun, also, notwithstanding the havoc it pro-
duces, has little more effect than to chase them from one part of
the field to the other. In the Southern States, in winter, they
hover round the corncribs in swarms, and boldly peck the hard
grain from the cob through the air openings of the magazine. In
consequence of these reiterated depredations, they are detested by
the farmer as a pest to his industry; though, on their arrival, their
food for a long time consists wholly of those insects which are cal-
culated to do the most essential injury to the crops. They, at this
season, frequent swamps and meadows, and, familiarly following
the furrows of the plow, sweep up all the grub-worms, and other
noxious animals, as soon as they appear, even scratching up the
loose soil, that nothing of this kind may escape them. Up to the
time of harvest, I have uniformly, on dissection, found their food
to consist of these larvae, caterpillars, moths, and beetles, of which
they devour such numbers, that but for this providential economy,
the whole crop of grain, in many places, would probably be de-
stroyed by the time it began to germinate."
"This familiar bird," Gentry says, "reaches the latitude of
Philadelphia usually about the middle of March. As I write
(March 2ISt), many small flocks may be seen in various directions,
fluttering and chattering among the trees. Nest-building has been
observed even as early as March 15th, but then only in sheltered
situations-such as the south slopes of a hill. Here the nests are
built chiefly in the branches of coniferous trees. Usually, but one
brood is reared each season; but I have observed instances of a
second brood, when the season has been unusually propitious. In
such cases, the first batch of young appeared m April, the other
in July. Though sometimes annoying to the agriculturist by its
mischief in the cornfields, this bird has nevertheless some good
JACKDAW-GRACKLES-BLACKBIRDS.
77


Go up to Top of Page