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

Plate LXXXVII. Arkansas goldfinch. (Chrysomitris psaltria.),   p. 130

Page 130

when they break the stillness by hoarse and rattling croaks.
When disturbed they rise heavily from the ground, and slowly
circling upward attain great altitudes. According to Dr. Coues,
"1 thousands of Sandhill Cranes repair each year to the Colorado
river valley, flock succeeding flock along the course of the great
stream from their arrival in September until their departure the
following spring. Taller than the Wood Ibises, or the largest
Herons with which they are associated, the stately birds stand in
the foreground of the scenery of the valley, the water now reflect-
ing the shadow of their broad wings, then the clear blue sky ex-
hibiting in outline their commanding forms.  Such ponderous
bodies moving with slow-beating wings, give a great idea of mo-
mentum from mere weight, of force of motion without swiftness;
for they plod along heavily, seeming to need every inch of their
ample wings to sustain themselves. One would think they must
soon alight fatigued with such exertion, but the raucus cries con-
tinue, and the birds fly on for miles along the tortuous stream, in
Indian file, under some trusty leader, who croaks his hoarse
orders, implicitly obeyed. Each bird keeps his place in the ranks;
the advancing column now rises higher over some suspected spot,
now falls along an open, sandy reach, swaying meanwhile to the
right or left. As it passes on, the individual birds are blended in
the hazy distance, till, just before lost to view, the line becomes
like an immense serpent gliding mysteriously through the air.
When about to alight, fearful lest the shadow of the wood harbor
unseen dangers, the Cranes pass by the leafy intricacies where the
Ibises and other less suspicious birds feed, and choose a spot for the
advantage it may offer of uninterrupted vision. By nature one of
the most wary and discreet of birds, his experience has taught the
Crane to value this gift and put it to the best use. His vigilance
is rarely relaxed, even when he is feeding where less thoughtful
birds would feel perfectly secure. After almost every bending of
his long neck to the ground, he rises again and at full length glances
keenly on every side. He may resume his repast, but should so
much as a speck he can not account for appear in view, he stands
motionless, all attention. Now let the least sound or movement
betray an unwelcome visitor, he bends his muscular thighs, spreads
his ample wings, and springs heavily into the air, croaking dis-
mally in warning to all his kind within the far-reaching sound of
his voice.
Great White Heron. (Audubonia occidentalis.)
Fig. 2.
The Great White Heron is a constant resident of Florida and
Cuba. He selects his mate early in March, but it is fully six weeks
later before preparations are made for hatching the young. His
nest is seldom more than a few feet above high-water mark, is
about three feet in diameter, formed of sticks of various dimen-
sions, is several inches thick, quite flat, and with scarcely any
lining. The eggs are always three; Ire of a uniform light bluish-
green in color, and measure about 2.75 by i.67 inches. Incuba-
tion extends over a period of thirty days, and the male shares in
its labors. He is diurnal in his habits, and never leaves his fishing
ground until driven off by the tide. In fishing, he stands motion-
less, waiting for his prey to approach, when he strikes it with his
bill and swallows it alive, unless too large, in which case he beats
it on the water, shaking it violently. He is very shy and wary,
and rarely occupies the same roosting place two nights in succes-
sion. When roosting, he usually stands upon one foot, with his
long neck drawn in and placed under his wing. When surprised,
he leaves his roost, uttering a rough croaking sound, and flies long
distances out to sea. His flight is firm, regular, and greatly pro-
tracted, and is performed by slow and regular beatings of the wing.
He frequently rises high in the air, sailing in wide circles, and he
never alights without first performing this circling flight, unless
when approaching his feeding ground. Audubon gives an account
of two kept in confinement; each one would in a few
sume a gallon of fish. They would strike at children;
and ducks they would tear up and devour. Once a c
the sunshine, was instantly killed by one of these b
their bills became broken they would grow again.
began to pursue children, when they had to be killed.
Yellow-nosed Albatross. (Diomedea chlororhynchos.)
We include this bird on the bare possibility of his belonging to
North America. Audubon received a skin from Dr. Townsend,
who procured it in the Pacific Ocean, not far from the mouth of the
Columbia river. Baird gives his habitat as the Pacific ocean, and
coast of Oregon. Dr. Coues says " it is the D. culminata, a
species of Australian and other southern seas, said to have been
taken ' not far from the Columbia river,' but there is no reason, as
yet, to believe it ever comes within a thousand miles of this coun-
Common Skua. (Stercorarius catarractes.)
Fig. 2.
The Common Skua is a rare bird in the United States, and is
only found on the coast of California. He is found in all parts of
the northern seas, within and near the polar circle. He is very
powerful, both in his wing and beak, and during his breeding sea-
son does not hesitate to attack the Eagle. It is claimed that it is
even dangerous for man to go near the nest which contains his
young; and when country people are compelled to do so, they
carry long sticks, armed with pikes or spears on the top, on which
the Skua frequently transfixes himself in his furious descent. He
attacks other birds indiscriminately, when on the wing, making
them disgorge their food, which he seizes before it reaches the
water. There is every reason to believe that he chooses his mate
for life. The nest is rudely formed; the eggs are rarely more than
two, varying in different shades of olive, and are marked with a
few spots. He is not a sociable bird, rarely keeping company with
other than his life-long spouse. His voice is sharp and shrill, the
note resembling S-k-u-a, from whence his name.
Arkansas Goldfinch. (Chrysomitris psaltria.)
Fig. t.
This Goldfinch inhabits the territory lying between the southern
Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coast, extending north to Salt
Lake City. His nest is built in the branches of some small tree,
usually about ten feet from the ground, It is a very beautiful struc-
ture, symmetrical in form, and very ingeniously fitted to the
branches which sustain it. Its base is composed of fine vegetable
cottons, grasses, and strips of bark, densely felted together, and
lined with the softest vegetable down. The eggs vary from four
to five in number, rounded oval in shape, sharply pointed at one
end, of a uniform greenish-white, unspotted, and measure ab-out
.6o by .50 of an inch. His song is remarkable for the power and
sadness of its tone. The ordinary note it is impossible to describe,
it resembling a plaintive, mellow whistle; when he takes to flight,
w - -

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