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

[Plate LXXII. American barn swallow, barn swallow. (Hirundo horreorum.) cont.],   pp. 105-110

Page 107

captivity. Having no weapons of defense, except their wings,
their chief security is in the solitude of night, and in their color
and close retreats by day; the former so much resembling that of
dead leaves of various hues, as not to be readily distinguished
from them even when close at hand."
Night-Jar, Whip-poor-will. (Antrostomus vociferus.)
Fig. 3.
The Whip-poor-will, so called from its peculiar cry, is a well-
known nocturnal bird, and is rarely seen. It is an abundant spe-
cies, and may be met with in the eastern parts of the United
"1 This remarkable and well-known nocturnal bird," says Nuttall,
"arrives in the Southern States in March, and in the Middle States
about the close of April or the beginning of May, and proceeds,
in his vernal migrations, along the Atlantic States, to the center of
Massachusetts, being rare and seldom seen beyond the latitude of
430; and yet, in the interior of the continent, according to Vieillot,
they continue as far as Hudson's Bay, and even heard, as usual,
by Mr. Say, at Pembino, in the high latitude of 490. In all this
vast intermediate  space. q fzFr  US-mth nQ  ,.-  +I.- A-l:--tnppl
and the interior of Arkansas, they familiarly breed and take up
their temporary residence. Some also pass the winter in the in-
terior of East Florida, according to Audubon. In the eastern part
of Massachusetts, however, they are uncommon, and always af-
fect sheltered, wild, and hilly situations, for which they have in
general a preference. About the same time that the sweetly echo-
ing voice of the Cuckoo is first heard in the north of Europe, issu-
ing from the leafy groves, as the sure harbinger of the flowery
month of May, arrives among us, in the shades of night, the mys-
terious ' Whip-poor-will.' The well-known saddening sound is
first only heard in the distant forest, re-echoing from the lonely
glen or rocky cliff; at length, the oft-told solitary tale is uttered
from the fence of the adjoining field or garden, and sometimes the
slumbering inmates of the cottage are serenaded from the low roof
or from some distant shed. Superstition, gathering terror from
every extraordinary feature of nature, has not suffered this harm-
less nocturnal babbler to escape suspicion, and his familiar ap-
proaches are sometimes dreaded as an omen of misfortune."
"4In the lower part of the State of Delaware I have found these
birds troublesomely abundant in the breeding season, so that the
reiterated echoes of ' whip, whip-poor-will, whip-peri-will,' issuing
from several birds at the same time, occasioned such a confused vo-
ciferation as at first to banish sleep. This call, except in moonlight
nights, is continued usually till midnight, when they cease, until
again aroused, for a while. At the commencement of twilight the
first and last syllables of their brief ditty receive the strongest em-
phasis, and now and then a sort of guttural cluck is heard between
the repetitions, but the whole phrase is uttered in a little more than
a second of time. But if superstition takes alarm at our familiar
and simple species, what would be thought by the ignorant of a
South American kind, large as the Wood-owl, which, in the lonely
forests of Demerara, about midnight breaks out, lamenting like
one in deep distress, and in a tone more dismal even than the pain-
ful hexachord of the doubtful Ai. The sounds, like the expiring
sighs of some agonizing victim, begin with a high, loud note, I ha,
ha, ha, ha, ha I ha I ha 1'-each tone falling lower and lower, till
the last syllable is scarcely heard, pausing a moment or two be-
tween this reiterated tale of seeming sadness.
" Four other species of the Goatsucker, according to Waterton,
also inhabit this tropical wilderness, among which also is included
our present subject. Figure to yourself the surprise and wonder
of the stranger, who takes up the solitary abode for the first night
amidst these awful and interminable forests, when at twilight he
begins to be assailed familiarly with a spectral equivocal bird, ap-
proaching within a few yards, and then accosting him with ' who-
are-you, 'who-'who, 'who-are-you?' Another approaches, and bids
him, as if a slave under the lash, ' work-away, work-work-work-
away.' A third mournfully cries, ' willy-come-go I willy-willy-
willy-come-go ' And as you get among the high lands, our old
acquaintance vociferates, ' whip-poor-will, 'whip-'whip-'whip-poor-
will!' It is therefore not surprising that such unearthly sounds
should be considered in the light of supernatural forebodings issu-
ing from specters in the guise of birds. Although our Whip-poor-
wiil seems to speak out in such plain English, to the ears of the
aboriginal Delaware its call was ' wecodlis,' though this was proba-
bly some favorite phrase or interpretation, which served it for a
name. The Whip-poor-will, when engaged in these nocturnal
rambles, is seen to fly within a few feet of the surface in quest of
moths and other insects, frequently, when abundant, alighting
around the house. During the day they retire into the darkest
woods, usually on high ground, where they pass the time in silence
and repose, the weakness of their sight by day compelling them to
avoid the glare of the light.
"1 The female commences laying about the second week in May
in the Middle States; considerably later in Massachusetts. She it
at no pains to form a nest, though she selects for her deposit some
unfrequented part of the forest, near a pile of brush, a heap of
leaves, or the low shelving of a hollow rock, and always in a dry
situation. Here she lays two eggs, without any appearance of an
artificial bed. They are of a dusky bluish-white, thickly blotched
with dark olive. This deficiency of nest is amply made up by the
provision of nature, for, like Partridges, the young are soon able
to run about after their parents, and, until the growth of their
feathers, they seem such shapeless lumps of clay-colored down,
that it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish them from the
ground on which they repose. Were a nest present in the exposed
places where we find the young, none would escape detection.
The mother, also faithful to her charge, deceives the passenger
by prostrating herself along the ground with beating wings, as if
in her dying agony. The activity of the young and old in walk-
ing, and the absence of a nest, widely distinguishes these birds
from the Swallows, with which they are associated. Their food
appears to be large moths, beetles, grasshoppers, ants, and such
insects as frequent the bark of decaying timber."
Night-hawk, Bull-bat, Pisk, Piramidig. (Chordeiles virginianus.)
Fig. 4.
This species, in the spring and fall, during the migrations, is
abundant in most all parts of North America.
"' Bonaparte remarks," says Brewer, " that the Night-hawks
among the Swallows what the Owls are among the Falconidai;
and, if we may be allowed the expression, the first has more of the
hirundine look than the others. The whole plumage is harder, the
ends of the quills are more pointed, the tail is forked, and the rec-
tus wants the strong array of bristles which we consider one of the
essentials in the most perfect form of capritnulgus. We may here
remark (although we know that there are exceptions), that we have
generally observed in those having the tail forked, and conse-
quently with a greater power of quick flight and rapid turnings,
that the plumage is more rigid and the flight occasionally diurnal.
This is borne out also in our present species, which play ' about in
the air, over the breeding-place, even during the day; ' and, in
their migrations, I may be seen almost everywhere, from five
o'clock until after sunset, passing along the Schuylkill and the
adjacent shores.'
"The truly night-feeding species have the plumage loose and
downy, as in the nocturnal Owls; the wings more blunted, and the
plumules coming to a slender point and unconnected; the .tail
rounded, and the rectus armed, in some instances, with very pow-
erful bristles. Their organs of sight are also fitted only for a more
gloomy light. They appear only at twilight, reposing during the

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