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

[Plate LXXXII. Roseate spoonbill. (Platalea ajaja.) cont.],   p. 127

Page 127

England, and winters in the South. He is found in Mexico,
Central and South America, and the West Indies. He seldom
advances very far inland from the marshy coasts where he breeds.
These breeding places are usually occupied for many years, and
are only abandoned under the most relentless persecutions. They
are located in low, wet, and, as far as man is concerned, almost
inaccessible swamps, surrounded by stagnant waters. The nest
is built sometimes near the ground, sometimes in the top of some
tall evergreen, a hundred feet in the air. It is large, flatish,
formed of sticks carelessly laid together, and so loosely arranged
as to freouentl neer1 repir~o.  This. .. is I-unt out on In rnfe
-- -_                    A 111 _...., 1._ *Wab t: ltI uilt out on the branches
or against the trunk of the tree, as is most convenient; and hun-
dreds of them will be found in a single heronry, frequently three
or four on a single tree. The eggs vary in number, running all
the way from three to seven. They are thin-shelled, and in color
are plain light seagreen. The young are soft and downy, and at
first are very helpless, but they soon gain in strength, and climb
to the upper branches, where, hanging by their bill and claws,
they are fed by the parent bird. Two broods are raised every
season, and the first brood is frequently seen gathered around the
nest in which their younger brothers and sisters rest, waiting with
them to be fed. They are omnivorous eaters, and must tax the
industry of their parents to the utmost. There are few things in
nature more repelling than one of these heronries. The treach-
erous, water-sogged surface of the swamp will be white with the
excrements of the birds, the air hot, close, and insufferable with
its penetrating odor, and fine particles of these excrements floating
in the air will cause the perspiring body of the intruder to smart
wherever they touch. Decaying fish are everywhere, slowly rot-
ting, and intensifying the intolerable stench; while, at the ap-
proach of the intruder, the air is filled with a clamor like the
breaking out of Pandemonium. The flight of the Night Heron is
slow, steady, and greatly protracted. With head and shoulders
drawn in, with the legs and tail stretched out behind, they propel
themselves by regular and measured flapping of the wings. They
migrate at night, when their passage is indicated by the hoarse
croakings, which resemble q-u-a-w-k. His food consists of fish,
shrimps, tadpoles, frogs, leeches, and mice; and when he has
dined to his heart's content, he will retire to some high tree, and
there, resting upon one leg, will doze motionless for hours. Before
he attains his perfect state, he undergoes three annual plumages.
According to Dr. Abbott, they winter near Trenton, N. J., in
small numbers. , He arrives in his northern breeding grounds
early in April, and remains until very late in the autumn.
Louisiana Egret-Louisiana Heron. (Ardea leucogastra, var. leuco-
Fig. 3.
This beautiful Heron is confined mostly to the Southern Atlantic
and Gulf States. He is a constant resident of the southern penin-
sula of Florida, and is found along the whole Gulf of Mexico,
extending up the Mississippi as far as Natchez. He is a sociable
bird, and is found in company with the White Egret and the Blue
Heron. His nest is built close to the sea shore, on low bushes,
and in close proximity to those of his kind. It is formed of small
dry sticks, laid across each other in various ways, is nearly flat,
and has but little lining. The eggs are usually but three in num-
ber, very thin-shelled, nearly elliptical, smooth, of a beautiful pale
blue color inclining to green, and measure  I.56 by I.25 inches.
Incubation continues but three weeks, and but one brood is raised
during the season. The young do not obtain their full plumage
until the second year, while they increase in size for some time
after. The flesh of the young is fairly prized for eating; his own
food consisting of worms, slugs, snails, tadpoles, aquatic lizards,
and insects. The Louisiana Heron is very graceful in all his
movements, and extorted from Audubon the name of " Lady of
the Waters." We quote from the latter's somewhat florid diction:
"Watch its motions," he says, 4 "as it leisurely walks over
the pure
sand beaches of the coast of Florida, arrayed in the full beauty
of its spring plumage. Its pendent crest exhibits its glossy tints,
its train falls gracefully over a well-defined tail, and the tempered
hues of its back and wings contrast with those of its lower parts.
Its measured steps are so light that they leave no impression on
the sand, and with its keen eye it views every object around with
the most perfect accuracy. See, it has spied a small fly lurking
on a blade of grass; it silently runs a few steps, and with the
sharp point of its bill it has already secured its prey. The min-
now just escaped from the pursuit of some larger fish, has almost
rushed upon the beach for safety; but the quick eye of the Heron
has observed its motion, and in an instant it is swallowed alive."
Yellow-orowned Night Heron. (Nydherodius violaceus.)
Fig. 4.
The range of this Heron is confined to the South Atlantic and
Gulf States, and to South America. He breeds in bayous and
low thickets. He is alike diurnal and nocturnal in his habits, and
subsists on aquatic and terrestial animals, eating young birds,
snakes, small quadrupeds, leeches, lizards, crabs, snails, and fish.
His nest is determined by the abundance of food, and is placed
high or low as circumstances may require, sometimes in the very
top of the loftiest cypress, and again in low bushes. This nest is
very like that of other Herons, being formed of dry sticks very
loosely put together, mixed with a few weeds, and sometimes
scantily lined with fibrous grasses. The eggs are rarely more
than three, very fragile, pale blue, inclining to green in color, and
measuring about 2.00 by 1.25 inches. The young leave the nest
before they are able to fly. The difference in latitude determines
the time at which the young are hatched; the further north the later
the period of incubation. The beautiful slender plumes on the
head and back usually fall off after the period of courtship, when
the female commences her task of warming her eggs to life. The
young birds, when just ready to fly, are much prized for food, the
older ones being tough and unsavory. The flight of this bird is
rather slow and not nearly so long protracted as that of the Night
Heron. When surprised, he rises almost perpendicularly for thirty
or forty yards, and then sails slowly away. When on the ground
he lacks the delicacy and grace of many of his compeers, picking
up his food after the manner of the barn-yard fowl. His migratory
movements are usually performed at night, and his sight at such
times is remarkably keen. When wounded, he defends himself
vigorously, inflicting severe wounds with his bill and claws.
Brant Goose-Black Brant-Brant or Brent. (Bernicla brenta.)
Fig. i.
The Brant is found all along the Atlantic coast of North America
and Europe. He breeds in the Arctic regions, and spends his
winters in the south. His southern migrations extend throughout
the fall months even into December, and his return is made during
the month of April. These migrations are made in great numbers,
collected together in one body, and at a great height in the air.
They are invariably over the waters of the ocean, sometimes far
seaward, and long detours are frequently made to avoid some pro-
jecting point of land. The Brant spends his nights at sea, cradled
by the billows, and at early dawn repairs to muddy flats, sand-
banks and low bars where he feeds. His food consists entirely of

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