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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 109

common fern lining the whole. The two eggs are pure white, and
of equal thickness at both ends.
"1 No sooner," says Audubon, " does the returning sun again
introduce the vernal season, and cause millions of plants to expand
'heir leaves and blossoms to his genial beams, than this Humming
Bird is seen advancing on fairy wings, carefully visiting every flower-
cup, and, like a curious florist, removing from each the injurious
insects that would, otherwise, ere long, cause their beauteous petals
to droop and decay. Poised in the air, it is observed peeping cau-
tiously and with sparkling eye into their innermost recesses, whilst
the ethereal motion of the pinions, so rapid and so light, appears
to fan and cool the flowers without injury to their fragile texture,
and produces a delightful murmuring sound. Its long delicate
beak enters the cup of the flower, and the protruded double tongue,
delicate, sensitive, and imbued with a glutinous saliva, touches
each insect in succession, and draws it from its lurking-place to be
instantly swallowed. All this is done in a moment, and the bird,
as it leaves the flower, sips so small a portion of its liquid honey
that the theft, we may suppose, is but a benefit to the flower, which
is thus relieved from the attacks of its destroyers. The prairie,
the fields, the orchards, and the gardens,-nay, the deepest shades
of the forests, are all visited in their turn, and everywhere the little
bird meets with pleasure and with food. Its gorgeous throat in
beauty and brilliancy baffles all description. Now it glows with a
fiery hue, and again it changes to the deepest velvet-black. The
upper parts of its body are of resplendent changing green, and it
throws itself through the air with a swiftness and vivacity hardly
conceivable. It moves from flower to flower like a gleam of light,
upward and downward, to the right and to the left. During their
migrations they pass through the air in long undulations, raising
themselves for some distance at an angle of about 40', and then
falling in a curve; but the smallness of their size precludes the
possibility of following them further than fifty or sixty yards with-
out great difficulty, even with a good glass. They do not alight
on the ground, but settle on twigs and branches, where they move
sideways in prettily-measured steps, frequently opening and closing
their wings, pluming, shaking, and arranging the whole of their
apparel with the utmost neatness and activity. They are particu-
larly fond of spreading one wing at a time, and passing each of
the quill-feathers through their bill in its full length, when, if the sun
be shining, the wing thus plumed is rendered extremely transparent
and light. They quit the twig without the slightest difficulty in an
instant, and appear to be possessed of superior powers of vision,
making directly toward a Marten or Blue Bird when fifty or sixty
yards before them, before it seems aware of their approach.
" Where is the person who, on seeing this lovely little creature
moving on humming winglets through the air, suspended as if by
magic, flitting from one flower to another with motions as graceful
as they are light and airy, pursuing its course and yielding new
delight wherever it is seen-where is the person who, on ob-
serving its glittering fragment of a rainbow, would not pause, ad-
mire, and turn his mind with reverence toward the Almighty Cre-
ator, the wonders of whose hand we at every step discover, and of
whose sublime conceptions we everywhere observe the manifesta-
tions in His admirable system of creation ?"
"When morning dawns, and the blest sun again
Lifts his red glories o'er the eastern main,
Then through our woodbines, wet with glittering dews,
The flower-fed Humming Bird his way pursues,
Sips with inserted tube the honied blumes,
And chirps his gratitude as round he roams;
While richest roses, though in crimson drest,
Shrink from the splendor of his gorgeous breast.
What heavenly tints in mingling radiance fly I
Each rapid movement gives a different dye-
Like scales of burnished gold, they dazzling show;
Now sink to shade, now like a furnace glow."
Summer Red-bird. (Pyranga astiva.)
Fig. 7.
This species derives its name from the fact that it is only seen in
the United States from May to September. Though far from nu-
merous, it is well known all over the country. It is an inhabitant
of the extensive forests, where it is found in pairs, living a very
quiet and retired life, and generally is seen perched upon the top-
most branches of trees. It also frequently makes its appearance
in the gardens and plantations, where it does considerable damage
to fruit and flax. The Summer Red-bird makes his migrations at
night. Its habits are quiet and monotonous, and it is deficient as
a singing bird. The beauty of its red plumage affords quite a
striking contrast to the surrounding trees. Its flight is smooth and
gliding, and it seldom descends to seek its food upon the ground.
Its movements among the branches are slow, and the trifling
amount of animation of which it appears capable is expressed by
occasionally flapping its wings or uttering its call, which consists
of only two notes. It lives principally upon insects, catching
them when upon the wing. The nest, which is clumsy in its
construction, is usually built upon a forked branch, no care being
taken for its concealment; dry roots and straw generally form the
outer wall; the interior is lined with fine grass. The eggs, four
or five in number, are light blue or dark greenish-blue. Both
sexes unite in the duties of incubation, sitting upon the bro-d for
the space of a fortnight, and feeding the nestlings principally upon
By the beginning of June the young birds are strong enough to
fly about the country, accompanying their parents, until the season
for migration arrives.
Brown Thrush, Thrasher, Sandy Mocking Bird, Brown Thrasher. (Har-
porhynchus rufus.)
Fig. 8.
This is one of our well-known and favorite summer visitors. Its
beautiful song may be heard in the early morning, from the tops of
the trees, and is peculiar to this bird. It is described by Gentry,
in his " Life-Histories of Birds," with the following syllables:
11 Twe-twit-l'weet, ti-weet-tur, kiiii, l'chikiiiii, tua-tur, kaw-kaw,
kaw-kwa, tchku-ku-ku, twiiiii-twit, keah-ki, kwer-ku-oo, ker-ker-
tsi, che-che-che, te-te-wa, pee-pee-pee, tse-tse-tse, kee-wa-ka-ti-oo-
ti-oo, ka-wa, keou, koo-koo, t'wa-weet, ta-kare-ki-wa, pee-wee-te-
te-wah-te, te-wah-te, tweet, etc." The same author further says:
" It is mere imitation, and can be easily recognized when once
heard. It is a steady performer, and sings for hours at a time,
without changing its posture.
Nuttall says: " This large and well-known songster is found in
all parts of America, from Hudson's Bay to the shores of the Mex-
ican Gulf, breeding everywhere, though most abundantly in the
northern portions.
" Early in October, these birds retire to the south, and, probably,
extend their migrations, at that season, through the warmer regions
toward the borders of the tropics. From the fifteenth of April till
early in May, they begin to revisit the Middle and Southern States,
keeping pace, in some measure, with the progress of vegetation.
They appear always to come in pairs, so that their mutual attachment
is probably more durable than the season of incubation. Stationed
near the top of some tall orchard or forest tree, the gay and ani-
mated male salutes the morn with his loud and charming song.
His voice, resembling that of the Thrush of Europe, but far more
powerful and varied, rises pre-eminent amidst all the choir of the
forests. His music has all the full charm of originality; he takes
no delight in mimicry, and, therefore, really has no right to the
name of Mocking Bird.

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