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

Plate LVII. Tropic bird. (Phaethon √¶thereus.),   pp. 83-84

Page 83

usually placed at the foot of some creeping fir, and concealed from
view. The eggs are five in number, of a pale green tint, blotched
over with irregular spots of brown. When disturbed during in-
cubation, they flutter away, imitating lameness. Their food con-
sists of grain and insects, and they imitate our domestic fowl in
eating, scraping the ground with their feet for the purpose of
turning up some dainty morsel.
House Wren. (Trog'lodytes agdon.)
Fig. 7.
This charming and familiar bird is common throughout the
United States, though not abundant in the more northern parts of
New England. It is not known to winter in any part of the Union,
commencing its migratory movements early in September. It arrives
in the Northern States during the earlier days of May, and imme-
diately commences preparations for the rearing of a family. Bold,
sociable, and confiding, it has abandoned its prehistoric abiding
places, such as the holes of decaying trees, and taken to the habi-
tations of man, using the eaves of houses, wood-sheds, even sitting-
rooms when accessible. Audubon tells the story of a pair who
thus shared his own parlor, entertaining him with song, and in this
manner more than paying rent. They have been known to build
in the sleeve of a coat hung against the wall, in clothes-line boxes,
in old hats, and other equally unthought-of articles. If the cavity
which they may select prove too large, they fill the space unused
with sticks or other material convenient, contracting the entrance
until just sufficient to admit their wee bodies. In the center of
this mass a hemispherical nest is constructed, compact in its ar-
chitecture, composed of fine material, and warmly lined with
feathers and the fur of animals. The eggs number from seven to
nine, are rounded oval in shape, .6o by .55 of an inch in size,
with a white ground so thickly blotched with spots of reddish-
brown and purple as to be almost obliterated. During incubation
the song of the male Wren is constant, clear and loud, almost
shrill, and uttered with the utmost animation and rapidity. Al-
though so small, they are among the most pugnacious of our birds,
and during courtship and marital life indulge in constant battles.
Holding an undying enmity to the cat, they rarely let go an op-
portunity to attack this cold-blooded and treacherous enemy. In
their battles with birds of different kin, they frequently come off
victorious, notwithstanding their diminutive size. Their food is
entirely insectivorous, and they are among the farmer's truest and
most active friends.
Red-eyed Ground Robin-Chewink or Charee-Towhee Bunting. (Pipzilo
Fig. &
The Towhee Bunting, Ground Robin, Chewink, or Charee, for
by all these and other names is this bird known in different locali-
ties, has a range extending throughout the Atlantic States, and
westward to the great plains. Although migratory, it breeds in
every State where it is known. It arrives in Northern New York
about the first of May, returning to its winter haunts some time in
October. It is a solitary bird, usually seen only in pairs, though
when preparing for their yearly migration they gather in small
flocks. Its favorite haunt is some closely sheltered thicket, where
its time is busily spent in turning over leaves, searching the earth
for the insects and worms which constitute its food. Its note con-
sists of a simple towhee, from whence its name, though during the
days of courtship the male will mount some elevated position and
give utterance to a short but very sweet and melodious song. Wil-
son has undertaken to transpose this song into words, and it is as
follows: t'sh'd-witee-te-te-te-te. It commences house building
early in May, seeking some natural depression in the ground for
its purpose, building the edges of its nest even with the surround-
ing surface, and filling the cavity with coarse stems and dry leaves
without much attention to a finer lining. Great pains is taken to
conceal the nest by some overhanging tuft of grass, and when the
bird is sitting it is very difficult to discover it. The eggs are usually
five in number, of a pale flesh color, thickly marked with specks
of rufous, and are .98 by .8o of an inch in size. They are very
affectionate to their young, evincing much anxiety when approached,
and fearlessly thrusting themselves between them and any danger.
"In the Middle Atlantic districts, as Maryland for instance,'
says Cones, "the Towhee is chiefly a migrant, appearing in great
numbers the third or fourth week in April, and so continuing until
the middle of May; while in the fall it is still more numerous
during the month of October. With the coming of other seed-
eaters from the north, early in October, the Towhee suddenly ap-
pears. As we walk along the weedy old 'snake' fences and
thick hedges, or by the briery tracts marking the course of a tiny
water-thread through a field, scores of the humble gray Sparrows
flit before us; while ever and again the jaunty Towhee, smartly
dressed in black, white, and chestnut, comes into view, flying low,
with a saucy flirt of the tail, and dashes again into the covert as
quickly as it emerged, crying 'towhee' with startling distinctness.
In the spring it is less conspicuous, and more likely to be found in
low, tangled woods, amid laurel brakes and the like; on the
ground, rustling and busily scratching the matting of last year's
leaves that covers the earth, doubtless in search of insects. Its
notes are then louder, and oftener heard. Some say that the males
precede the females in migrating; this may average true, but I
have constantly found the sexes together at both seasons. This is
only a partially gregarious bird, large gatherings being seldom
witnessed. In fact it seems to prefer the society of the smaller
and plainer Sparrows, among which it shines without difficulty,
doubtless patronizing them in the genteel way, customary with
big folks, that is so exasperatingly oppressive to the recipients."
Tropio Bird. (Phaethon athereus.)
Fig. 1.
This bird barely comes within the range of the birds of North
America, as they are only casual visitors of the Gulf coast. As
implied in their name, they belong to the tropical zone. They
possess immense powers of flight, and have been observed as far
north as latitude 40 degrees. They live almost entirely on the wing,
and are found many leagues out at sea, where they frequently pass
the night sleeping on its bosom. Their food consists almost entirely
of fish and other marine animals, which they drop upon from great
heights. They also make easy prey of flying-fish as they dart from
the water. They congregate in great numbers on rocky and de-
serted islands for the purpose of incubating, placing their nests on
the ground or among low trees and bushes, and laying but two eggs.
Waterton, while at sea, shot one, and offering a guinea for its re-
covery, tells us that " a Danish sailor who was standing on the fore-
castle, instantly plunged into the sea with all his clothes on and
swam toward the bird. Our people ran aft to lower down the jolly-
boat, but it was filled with lumber and had been well secured with
lashings for the passage home. Our poor Dane was now far astern,
and in our attempt to tack ship she missed stays and we were obliged
to wear her. In the meantime we all expected that the Dane had
gone down into Davy's locker; but at last we fortunately came up
with him, and we found him buffeting the waves with the dead bird
in his mouth."

Go up to Top of Page