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

Plate LXXIX. Great white egret, or white heron. (Ardea egretta.),   p. 122


Page 122


WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON-GROUND DOVE-GREAT WHITE EGRET.
a saving clause. I doubt not many-I believe all-of the warm
admirers of shooting will agree with me that there is a superior
pleasure in making a mixed bag-now a Mallard, next a Wood-
cock, perchance thirdly a Partridge, etc.; loading your discharged
barrel, scarcely knowing at what description of game it -will be
used: thus a reason for their introduction to England."
This beautiful species is about eighteen inches in length, erect
in form, and has a handsome chestnut brown color, dotted and pen-
ciled with gray and brown spots on the neck, breast, and back.
On each side of the neck are fan-shaped tufts of glossy, dark,
purple-black, velvet-looking feathers, and on the top of the head
there is a slight crest.
White-crowned or White-headed Pigeon. (Columba leucocepfaha.)
Fig. 2.
This species, well known as an inhabitant of Mexico and the
West Indies, is also gregarious, and found in great numbers on
the rocks of the Florida Keys, where they breed in society, and,
when first seen in the spring, feed principally upon the beach
plum and the berries of a kind of palm. From the peculiar se-
lection of their breeding-places, they are known, in some of the
West Indies, particularly Jamaica, San Domingo, and Porto Rico,
by the name of Rock Pigeons. They likewise abound in the
Bahama Islands, and form an important article of food to the in-
habitants, particularly the young, as they become fully grown.
According to Audubon, they arrive on the southern keys of the
Floridas, from the island of Cuba, from the twentieth of April to
the first of May, remaining to breed during the summer season.
They are at all times extremely shy and wary, remaining so
indeed even while incubating, skipping from the nests and taking
to wing without noise, and remaining off sometimes as much as
half an hour at a time. In the month of May the young squabs
are nearly able to fly, and are killed in great numbers by the
wreckers who visit the keys. The nest is placed on the summit of
a cactus shoot, a few feet from the ground, or on the upper
branches of a mangrove, or quite low, impending over the water.
Externally it is composed of small twigs, and lined with grass and
fibrous roots. The eggs are two, white, rather yellowish, and
as large as those of the domestic Pigeon. They have apparently
several broods in the season. The cooing of this species may be
heard to a considerable distance. After a kind of crowing pre-
lude, he repeats his koo, koo, koo. When suddenly approached
it utters a hollow guttural sound, like the common Pigeon. They
are easily domesticated, and breed in that state freely. About the
beginning of October they are very numerous, and now return to
pass the winter in the West India islands.-NuttaII.
Ground Dove. (Chammfielia passerina.)
Fig. 3.
This pretty little family is to be met with in the Southern States,
usually south of the State of Virginia.
Nuttall says: "They are common in the sea islands of the
Southern States, particularly of South Carolina and Georgia,
where they are seen in small flocks of from fifteen to twenty.
They are found usually upon the ground, and prefer the open
fields and cultivated tracts to the woods. Their flight is seldom
protracted, as they fly out commonly only to short distances;
though on the approach of winter they retire to the islands and
milder parts of the continent, arriving again at their northern
resorts early in April. Like some other species they have a fre-
quent jerking motion with the tail, and the usual tender cooing
and gesticulations of the tribe."
"I The Dove, generally speaking," says Wilson, " has long
been
considered as the favorite emblem of peace and innocence, proba-
bly from the respectful manner in which the name is mentioned in
various parts of Scripture-it being selected from among all the
birds, by Noah, to ascertain the state of the deluge, and return-
ing to the ark, bearing the olive leaf as a messenger of peace and
good tidings; the Holy Ghost, it is also said, was seen to descend
like a Dove from heaven, etc. In addition to these, there is in
the Dove an appearance of meekness and innocency very interest.
ing, and well calculated to secure our partiality in its favor."
The food of this species consists of rice, seeds, and berries.
PLATE LXXIX.
Great White Egret, or White Heron. (Ardea egretta.)
Fig. ,.
"This fine bird may be immediately recognized by its color-
pure white at all seasons, with yellow bill and black legs, with its
large size-about three feet in length. The head is not adorned
with a crest, but in the breeding season the back has a magni-
ficent train drooping beyond the tail. The Little White Egret is
much smaller, only about two feet long, and has a recurved crest,
lengthened breast feathers, and a recurved train, in the breeding
season. An erroneous impression prevails that an Egret is some-
thing different from a Heron; but all Egrets are Herons, although
all Herons are not Egrets. It is a term applied to certain Herons,
especially white ones, that have long plumes (aigrettes); but the
distinction is entirely arbitrary. The Reddish Egret, for instance,
and the Louisianan, are not white, while the small Green Heron
has long, flowing dorsal plumes.
"Audubon has a paragraph upon this species susceptible of
extensive application, and expressing a favorite idea of mine,
strengthened into conviction by repeated observation. Speaking
of finding Egrets much wilder in early spring than after they had
settled to their duties of reproduction, he says: ' I have supposed
this to be caused by the change of their thoughts on such occa-
sions, and am of opinion that birds of all kinds become more
careless of themselves.  As the strength of their attachment
toward their mates or progeny increases through the process
of time, as is the case with the better part of our own species,
lovers and parents perform acts of heroism which individuals
having no such attachment to each other would never dare to con-
template. In these birds the impulse of affection is so great that
when they have young they allow themselves to be approached so
as often to fall victims to the rapacity of man, who, boasting of
reason and benevolence, ought at such a time to respect their de-
votion.' No one unfamiliar with birds' natures, as exhibited at
different seasons of the year, and at varying ages, can have ade-
quate conception of the opposite traits they display. Even Doves,
those meekest of birds-the emblems of ' peace on earth and
good-will '-fight furiously when the furor amantium is on them;
the wariest birds forget to consider personal danger in defense
of their young; suspicious birds sometimes grow impudently
familiar; knowing birds appear stupid; dull birds become frisky,
and frisky birds beside themselves, when in love; silent birds cry
out, and singing birds sing all the time.
"Another point may be mentioned here. The young, even
of birds by nature shy and suspicious, require some time to get
over their early verdancy and acquire a wholesome degree of
caution. Instincts of this sort are undoubtedly hereditary, and
sufficiently well marked to enable us to predicate it, in a certain
greater or less degree, of all birds; and circumstances of subse-
quent experience, moreover, have much control over its develop-
ment and exhibition. But, beyond these variations, it is unques-
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