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

[Plate LIV. Trumpeter swan. (Cygnus buccinator.) cont.],   p. 81


Page 81


WILSON'S PHALAROPE-LEAST TERN-PRAIRIE HEN-CEDAR BIRD.
the two coasts with wonderful pertinacity, making excursions up
every bay and estuary, and threads the course of all our three
great rivers, while performing its remarkably extensive migrations.
Considering in what high latitudes it breeds, it is astonishing how
early toward the fall it again appears among us after its brief absence.
The last birds have not all left the United States in May; some
time in August the young come straggling back, though they are
not numerous until the autumn has fairly set in."
Gray or Wilson's Phalarope. (Phalaropzus wilsoxii.)
Fig. +
This bhd is one of the largest and most elegant of all tne Pha-
laropes. It is a rare bird throughout the Eastern States, but is
found in abundance in the Western, where it breeds in Iowa, Illi-
nois, Minnesota, to the north and northwest as far as the fur coun-
tries, and is exceedingly plentiful in the Mississippi valley. Its
nest is an exceedingly crude affair, usually laying their eggs in
the grass, selecting the borders of small ponds and reedy pools.
The eggs vary in ground color from a clay to a brownish drab,
overlaid with many spots and blotches of a brownish drab.
Dr. Elliott Coues, in his "IBirds of the Northwest," gives the
fol-
lowing anecdote regarding them. He says: I" Three Phalaropes
came in great concern and alighted on the water where a dead
Avocet was floating, swimming back and forth, and almost caress-
ing it with their bill. The Avocet's mate himself, who was not
long in reaching the spot, showed no greater agitation than his
little friends and neighbors the rhalaropes did; and though it was
only birds 'of a low order of beings,' who thus exhibited sym-
pathy and grief, who could look on such a scene unmoved?'
Least Tern. (Sterna sufierciliaris.)
Fig. 5.
Audubon calls this beautiful little bird the Humming-bird of the
water-fowls, and indulges in a perfect ecstasy of enthusiasm in
describing it. It is a common bird along the Atlantic coasts of
the United States, on the larger inland waters, up the Pacific coast
to California, and south into the Antilles and in Middle America
generally. Their nests are various, sometimes masses of moss,
cunningly interwoven, bits of sea-grass gathered in a pile, or if
these are not convenient, laying their eggs on the bare shingle.
The eggs are from one to three, colored so nearly like their sur-
roundings as to be barely discernible, varying from a pale greenish-
white to a dull drab, marked with small spots and splashes of
brown. They are fearless in the defense of their young. Their
common notes resemble those of the Barn Swallow, and like them
they eat upon the wing, though they frequently devour small fish
upon the beach.
PLATE LV.
Pinnated Grouse-Prairie Hen. (Cupidonia cup id*.)
The Prairie Hen was once common throughout the Eastern
States, particularly in localities destitute of much moisture and
thinly covered with trees or shrubbery. A few are still found on
Martha's Island, around New York, and in New Jersey and Penn-
sylvania. Like the Indian, they are from year to year crowded
farther and still farther into the West, and if the wholesale de-
struction of the last few years is continued, will ultimately become
very rare. They are at present found in great abundance all
along the fertile prairies of the United States, almost to the foot
hills of the Rocky Mountains, in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mis-
souri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas. They delight in broad
open champaigns, where they congregate in flocks of several
hundred, and feed upon orthoptera, green herbage, and in the
winter do serious damage in nipping the buds of fruit and other
trees. If allowed to flourish, they would prove the most effectual
check to the grasshopper ravages in our Western States. As
soon as the winter is broken, usually in March or April, they
commence pairing. Some favored locality is selected, where the
males are accustomed to meet for the purpose of testing their re-
spective superiority. With tails outspread and inclining forward
to meet their expanded neck-feathers, and with wings distended
and grating against the ground, they strut backward and forward
with the utmost pomposity, nursing and increasing their wrath,
and giving utterance to a series of loud, muffled boomings. This
peculiar noise is accomplished through the inflation of two small
orange-colored, bladder-like receptacles on each side of the neck.
Drawing in the air until these bags become fully inflated, the bird
lowers its head, and gives out, in distinct succession, a series of
booming sounds resembling the beating of a muffled drum, and,
on still clear mornings, capable of being heard more than a mile.
When the females congregate in response to this call, a furious
battle ensues among the male belligerents. Rising into the air
after the manner of game-cocks, they strike at each other with the
utmost fury, sometimes several joining in a miscellaneous scrim-
mage, until the weaker ones are forced to retire and the stronger
utterly exhausted. After the pairing, a coarse nest, rudely con-
structed of leaves and grass, is formed, hid away in the open plain,
or at tne toot ot some smallb ush. k rom eignt to ten eggs are tai,
varying in size, the largest about I.8o by 1.25, of a very light
green ground, sometimes unmarked, sometimes spotted with fine
brown markings. The female incubates from eighteen to twenty
days, and when the young are hatched, their entire care devolves
upon the female.  Ever on the alert, if her young charge is
threatened, she gives a low cluck as a signal of danger, when the
brood instantly take to their wings, flying a short distance, then
dropping to the ground and remaining perfectly still, making it
almost impossible to discover them. After the danger is over, a
second signal relieves them. But one brood is raised during the
season; though, if through any misfortunes the first laying is de-
stroyed, the female seeks out her mate, builds another nest, lays a
new complement of eggs, and tries her fortune a second time.
Their flight is strong, regular, tolerably swift, and sometimes ex-
tended. They rise from the ground with a whirring sound, and
if they discover a sportsman, go with the utmost speed, and then
suddenly drop into the grass. They feed mostly at the beginning
and close of day, using the mid-day for the purpose of a dust bath,
when they lay and prune their feathers. The flesh is dark, having
a gamy flavor, and, where not too common, is considered a great
treat.
PLATE LVI.
Cedar Bird. (Ampelis cedrerum.)
Fig. z.
This bird is common throughout all the wooded parts of North
America, and breeds from Florida to the extreme North. They
are eminently sociable and affectionate to each other, and are in-
variably found in flocks. They have no song, or one so indistinct
as not to attract notice, but they possess a low, lisping utterance,
which they constantly give voice to.  Inordinate feeders, they
have been known to gorge themselves until they became utterly
helpless and an easy prey; and it is a curious sight to watch a flock
of them stripping some mountain ash when in its fullest fruitage.
Thl,-r -;- ;n Northern New VYrkr Inner hiefnre the Anril snows
81
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