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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 108

day among furze of brake, or sitting in their own peculiar manner
on a branch; but if inactive amidst the clearer light, they are all
energy and action when their own day has arrived."
Toward the close of April the Night-Hawk arives in the Middle
States, and early in May they are first seen near the sea-coast of
Massachusetts, which at all times appears to be a favorite resort.
In the interior of the continent they penetrate as far as the sources
of the Mississippi, the Rocky Mountains, and the territory of Ore-
gon; they are likewise observed around the dreary coasts of Hud-
son's Bay, and the remotest Arctic islands, breeding in the whole
intermediate region, to the more temperate and elevated parts of
They are now commonly seen toward evening, in pairs, sailing
round in sweeping circles, high in the air, occasionally descending
lower to capture flying insects, chiefly of the larger kind, such as
wasps, beetles, and moths. About the middle of May, or later,
the fewale selects some open spot in the woods, the corner of a
corn-field, or dry, gravelly knoll, on which to deposit her eggs,
which are only two, and committed to the bare ground, where,
however, from the similarity of their tint with the soil, they are, in
fact, more secure from observation than if placed in a nest. They
are nearly oval, of a muddy bluish-white, marked all over with
touches of an umber color. Here the male and his mate reside
during the period of incubation, roosting at a distance from each
other on the ground, or in the neighboring trees; and, in conse-
quence of the particular formation of their feet, like the rest of the
genus, they roost or sit lengthwise on the branch. During the pro-
gress of incubation, the female is seen frequently, for some hours
before nightfall, playing about in the air over the favorite spot,
mounting in wide circles, occasionally propelled by alternate quick
and slow vibrations of the wings, until, at times, he nearly ascends
beyond the reach of sight, and is only known by his sharp and
sudden squeak, which greatly resembles the flying shriek of the
towering Swift. At other times, he is seen suddenly to precipitate
himself downward for sixty or eighty feet, and wheeling up again
as rapidly; at which instant a hollow whirr, like the rapid turning
of a spinning-wheel, or a strong blowing into the bung-hole of an
empty hogshead, is heard, and supposed to be produced by the
action of the air on the wings or in the open mouth of the bird.
He then again mounts as before, playing about in his ascent, and
giving out his harsh squeak till, in a few moments, the hovering
is renewed as before; and at this occupation, the male solely con-
tinues till the close of twilight. The female, if disturbed while
sitting on her charge, will suffer the spectator to advance within a
foot or two of her, before she leaves the nest; she then tumbles
about and flutters with an appearance of lameness, to draw off the
observer, when, at length, she mounts into the air and disappears.
On other occasions, the parent, probably the attending male, puffs
himself up, as it were, into a ball of feathers, at the same time
striking his wings on the ground, and opening his capacious mouth
to its full extent, he stares wildly, and utters a blowing hiss, like
that of the Barn Owl when surprised in his hole. On observing
this grotesque maneuver, and this appearance, so unlike that of a
volatile bird, we are struck with the propriety of the metaphorical
French name of "Craepaud volans," or Flying Toad, which it,
indeed, much resembles while thus shapelessly tumbling before the
astonished spectator. The same feint is also made when they are
wounded, on being approached. Like some of the other species,
instinctively vigilant for the safety of their misshapen and tender
brood, they also, probably, convey them, or the eggs, from the
scrutiny of the meddling observer. In our climate, they have no
more than a single brood.
Sometimes the Night-hawk, before his departure, is seen to visit
the towns and cities, sailing in circles, and uttering his squeak as
he flies high and securely over the busy streets, occasionally sweep-
ing down, as usual, with his whirring notes; and at times he may
be observed even on the tops of chimneys, uttering his harsh call.
In gloomy weather they are abroad nearly the whole day, but are
most commonly in motion an hour or two before dusk. Sometimes,
indeed, they are seen out in the brightest and hottest weather, and
occasionally, while basking in the sun, find means to give chase to
the cicindeli, carabi, and other entirely diurnal insects, as well as
grasshoppers, with which they often gorge themselves in a surpris-
ing manner; but they probably seldom feed more than an hour or
two in the course of the day. About the middle of August they
begin their migrations toward the South, on which occasion they
may be seen in the evening moving in scattered flocks, consisting of
several hundreds together, and darting after insects or feeding lei-
surely as they advance toward more congenial climes.-(Nuttall.)
Carolina Titmouse. (Parus carolinensis.)
Fig. 5.
The Carolina Titmouse is a constant inhabitant of the Southern
States of North America, extending from the lower parts of Lou-
isiana, through the Floridas as far as the borders of the Roanoke
river, reaching eastward as far as the State of New Jersey. In
general, it is found only in the immediate vicinity of ponds and
deep marshy and moist swamps; it is rarely seen during the win-
ter in greater numbers than one pair together, and frequently
singly; whereas the Black-cap Titmouse, which this species much
resembles, moves in flocks during the whole winter, frequenting
orchards, gardens, or the hedges and trees along the roads, enter-
ing the villages and coming to the wood-piles of the farmers;
whereas the southern species is never met with in such places at
any time of the year, and is at all seasons a shyer bird. The Car-
olina Titmouse breeds in the holes abandoned by the Brown-headed
Nuthatch. It is composed of fine wool, cotton, and some fibers of
plants, the whole fitted together so as to be of a uniform thickness
throughout, and contains four white eggs.
Ruby-throated Humming Bird. (Trochilus colubris.)
Fig. 6.
The length of the body of this species is three inches and a half,
and the breadth four inches and a quarter. It is found in all the
eastern portions of the United States, and is abundant in summer.
It is met with in the gardens hovering above flowers, upon the
sweets of which, and insects, it feeds. It is pre-eminently migra-
tory in its habits, a great portion of its life being spent in passing
from North to South, and vice versa.
" The Ruby-throated Humming Bird,' says Wilson, " makes
its first appearance in Georgia, from the South, about the 23d of
March. As it passes on to the northward, as far as the interior of
Canada, where it is seen in great numbers, the wonder is excited
how so feebly- constructed and delicate a little creature can make
its way over such extensive regions of lakes and forests among so
many enemies, all its superiors in strength and size; but its very
minuteness, the rapidity of its flight, which almost eludes the eye,
and its admirable instinct or reason are its guides and protectors.
About the 25th of April it usually arrives in Pennsylvania, and
about the xith of May begins to build its nest. This is generally
fixed on the upper side of some horizontal branch, not among the
twigs, but where it is attached by the side to an old moss-grown
trunk; others may be found fastened on a strong, rank stalk or
weed in the gardens, but these cases are rare. The next, which
is usually placed on a branch some ten feet from the ground, is
about one inch in diameter, and as much in depth, and the outer
coat of one now lying before me is formed of a small species of
bluish-grey lichen, thickly glued on with the saliva of the bird,
giving firmness and consistency to the whole, as well as keeping
out moisture; within this are thickly-matted layers of the fine
wings of certain flying seeds, closely laid together; and lastly the
downy substance from the great mullein and from the stalks of the

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