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

Plate LXII. American widgeon--baldpate. (Mareca americana.),   p. 88

Page 88

American Widgeon-Baldpate. (Mareca americana.)
Fig. L
This bird is an inhabitant of North America, breeding in various
parts of the United States, and passing its winters in Cuba and the
contiguous territories southwest. It breeds in great abundance in
Dakotah and Montana. From the great delicacy of its flesh, rank-
ing next in flavor to the Canvas-back, it is much sought after by
sportsmen. In the Chesapeake and Potomac it is a constant com-
panion of the Canvas-back, depending largely on the latter for its
supply of food. Possessing superior powers of diving, the Wid-
geon watches this duck until it brings to the surface the tender roots
of the water-celery, when it instantly filches the dainty morsel and
appropriates it to its own use. During the daytime they rarely
feed, remaining listlessly on the sand flats or screened by the
herbage of the marshes; but when night approaches they may be
heard in large numbers repairing to their favorite feeding-grounds.
Their flight is swift, well sustained, and generally in small flocks.
Their nests are placed upon the ground, in which from eight to
twelve eggs are laid, in color of a dull, pale buff, and measuring
2.00 by I.50 inches. Wilson says they have a peculiar whistle
resembling " whew, whew," while Audubon's ear could only
detect the word "I sweet," enunciated as if produced by a flute
Green-winged Teal. (.Queryuedula carolinensis.)
Fig. 2.
This bird inhabits the whole of North America, extending its
northern range as far as Greenland, wintering in Cuba, Mexico,
and as far south as Honduras. It is a fresh-water bird, though it is
sometimes met with in marine bays and lagoons. Its food consists
of the seeds of grasses, small acorns, berries, aquatic insects, and
small snails. Audubon says that its flesh is delicious, the best of
any of its tribe, and after having fed a few weeks on the wild oats
of Green Bay or the soaked rice in the fields of Georgia and the
Carolinas, is much superior to the Canvas-back in tenderness,
juiciness, and flavor. On the wing they are alike the most grace-
ful, and with the exception of the Mergansers, the swiftest of any
of the tribe. They spend most of their time, after their hunger is
appeased, on sandbars or clean parts of the shore, where they
dress their feathers and bask in the warm sun. Their nests are
composed of a bed of grasses and mud mixed together, and lined
with their own feathers. The eggs are from five to seven in num-
ber, of a uniform creamy buff color, measuring about 2.00 by I.50
inches. It is difficult to conceive why the popular name of
"IGreen-winged" should be given to this bird, as its wings have
but little green upon them.
American Snipe-Wilson's Snipe. (Gallinago wilsoni.)
Fig. 3.
This favorite game-bird is very widely distributed over North
America, ranging to the south as far as South America, inhabiting
the West Indies, and breeding from the Middle and New England
States northward. Many winter in the Carolinas, resorting to the
rice-fields in large flocks. They commence to migrate early in
March, stopping to gather the dainty tidbits with which the oozy
marshes of Delaware and New Jersey abound, and in April spread-
'ug themselves throughout the interior of the upland countries for
the purpose of breeding. Dr. Lewis, in his entertaining  Amri
can Sportsman," tells- us that " if the sportsman should, at early
dawn, or even at mid-day, during the season of incubation, visit
the low meadows frequented by these birds, he will probably see
one or both of a pair mounting high in the air in a spiral manner,
beating their wings, or sailing around in rapid circles until they
have gained a hundred yards or more in height; then clasping each
other, they whirl around, flapping their wings with great velocity,
and then dropping in mid-air, give utterance to a low twittering or
rather rolling sound, supposed to be produced by the action of the
wings upon the air in their rapid descent." In its more northern
breeding places, the Snipe does not begin to lay its eggs until July,
selecting the swampy part of some extensive morass, where it hol-
lows a place in the moss, and lays four eggs, placing the small
ends together. These eggs are moderately pyriform, the ground
color of a grayish-olive, with numerous markings of umber-brown,
and measuring about i.6o by X.12 inches. Like the Woodcock, it
probes the soft earth with its bill, searching for worms and animal-
cules, varying its diet with water-insects, leeches, and grasshoppers.
Being a voracious feeder, it is obliged to constantly shift its ground,
and where food is abundant, becomes an easy prey to the sports-
man. They are very fickle in all their movements, and where nu-
merous to-day, may not be found at all on the morrow. When
approached, the Snipe hugs closely to the ground, but, emitting a
strong scent, is winded at a great distance by a good dog. When
sprung, it takes wing very hastily, and flying in rapid, zigzag lines,
is the despair of inexperienced shots.
Long-billed, or Louisiana Water Thrush. (Seiurus ludovicianus.)
Fig. 4
This bird is mostly confined to Eastern United States, though it
has been found as far west as Kansas. It rarely reaches farther north
than Massachusetts, spending its winters in the Southern States,
Cuba, Jamaica, and Guatemala. Audubon is profuse in praise of
its powers of song. He says: " As much and justly as the song
of the Nightingale is admired, I am inclined, after having often
listened to it, to pronounce it in no degree superior to that of the
Louisiana Water Thrush ;" and he adds, that " the bird may be ob-
served, perched on a low bough scarcely higher than the top of
the canes, in an erect attitude, swelling his throat, and repeating
several times in succession, sounds so approaching the whole ten
octaves of a good piano-forte, as almost to induce the hearer to im-
agine that the keys of that instrument are used on the occasion.
The bird begins on the upper key, and progressively passes from
one to another, until it reaches the low note, this last frequently
being lost when there is the least agitation in the air." The flight
of this Water Thrush is very graceful and easy, and when it walks,
its tail is constantly on the move. It builds its nest at the roots of
trees, or on the side of decayed logs, forming it of dry leaves, and
lining it with fine grass and hair. From four to five eggs are laid,
of a rosy blush in color, speckled all over, and measuring about
.69 by *59.
Short-billed Water Thrush. (Seiurus noveboracensis.)
Fig. 5.
This bird is an inhabitant of Eastern North America, occasion-
ally found as far west as Montana and Washington Territory. Its,
favorite haunts are near some brook, pond, or river, where it spends
its time wading in the shallows in search of the aquatic insects on
which it feeds. It is very shy and darts out of sight at the most
careful approach. When tired of feeding, it will perch on some
favorite branch overhanging the water, and pour forth a song at

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