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

[Plate LXXIII. Red and white-shouldered blackbird, Three-colored Tropial. (Ageloeus tricolor.) cont.],   pp. 111-112

Page 111

observe it clambering over the trunk of a tree, or tapping for in-
sects, in the manner peculiar to its tribe. When flying, the large
dark bird might rather be mistaken for a Crow Blackbird; for, al-
though it sometimes swings itself from one tree to another, in a
long festoon, like other Woodpeckers, its ordinary flight it more
firm and direct, and accomplished with regular wing-beats. It
alights on boughs, in the attitude of ordinary birds, more fre-
quently than any of our other species, excepting the Cola.ptes, and,
with the same exception, taps trees less frequently than any. It
may often be seen circling high in the air, around the tree-tops,
apparently engaged in capturing passing winged insects; and, as
it is particularly gregarious-let me say, of a sociable disposition-
many are sometimes thus occupied together in airy evolutions
about the withered head of some ancient woodland monarch falling
to decay. At the sight, as the birds passed and repassed each
other in vigorous flight, while the sheen of their dark-green plum-
age flashed in the sunbeams, I could not help fancying them busy
weaving a laurel-wreath fitting to crown the last days of the ma-
jestic pine that had done valorous battle with the elements for a
century, and was soon to mingle its mold with the dust whence it
" Unlike its gay, rollicking associates, the Californian Wood-
peckers, Lewis', is a shy and wary bird, not easily destroyed. In
passing from one part of the forest to another, it prefers, appar-
ently through cautiousness, to pass high over the tops of the trees
rather than to thread its way through their mazes. It generally
alights high up, and procures its food at the same elevation. I do
not remember to have ever seen one descend among bushes, still
less to the ground, as Flickers are wont to do, in search of ants
and other insects. At most times they are rather silent birds for
this family; but during the mating season, which always calls out
whatever vocal powers birds possess, their harsh notes resound
through tne forest with startling distinctness.  I have never iden-
tified one of their nests, but there is no question of their breeding
in the summits of the pines, generally a projecting top blasted by
lightning or decayed in natural process. In July, the young may
be seen scrambling in troops about the tree-tops, before they are
grown strong enough to fly; and a curious sight they are. Hav-
ing seen more of them together than were at all likely to have
been hatched in the same nest, I have no doubt that different fam-
ilies join each other as soon as the young are on wing, haunting
favorable resorts. The association of Californian Woodpeckers
and ' Sapsuckers' with these more aristocratic birds, seems partly
a matter of sufferance, partly of necessity, for the smaller and more
agile birds can scramble out of the way when, as often happens,
Lewis' makes hostile demonstrations."
Mexican Flicker, Red-shafted Woodpecker, Red-shafted Flicker.-(Cal-
aptes mexicanus.)
Fig. 3.
This is one of our very fine species, mostly confined to Western
North America, along the eastern slopes and foot-hills of the
Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.  It is said to extend north to
Sitka, south into Mexico, and east to Kansas. It is an abundant
species, as much so as the well-known Golden-winged Woodpecker
or Flicker is in the east. The habits of the two species are also
very similar. Nuttall says, " Its manners, in all respects, are so
entirely similar to those of the common species, that the same de-
scription applies to both. It is, however, always a much shier
bird, and frequents the ground less. In the breeding season it
utters the same echoing note of whitto, whitto, whitto; the males,
at the same time, dodging after and pursuing each other in jeal-
ousy and anger. They also burrow into the oak or pine trees, and
lay white eggs, after the manner of the whole family."
Anna Hummingbird.-(Selasphorus anda.)
Fig. 4.
Among the numerous species of North American birds, there
are none more attractive and interesting than the Hummingbirds.
In size, they are the smallest, and their colors are the most beauti-
ful. They are also very abundant, and usually associate in pairs.
Their flight is very rapid, and when on the wing they make a con-
stant humming sound. They feed on the sweets extracted from
the nectaries of flowers and on insects. The nest is neatly put to-
gether, and placed on a secluded branch; the outside is composed
of moss and lichen, and is lined with most delicate, downy vege-
table substances. The Anna Hummingbird is confined to the
Pacific coast, where it is an abundant species. The migrations of
this species are toward the tropics in the colder parts of the year.
Of the sharp and shrill cry of the Hummingbird, Lesson says, "' It
is principally in passing from one place to another, that their cry,
which he likens to the syllables ten-ten, articulated with more or
less force, is excited. Most frequently," he says, " they are com-
pletely dumb; " and, he adds, that he has passed whole hours in
observing them in the forests of Brazil, without having heard the
slightest sound proceed from their throats. The length of this
species is about four inches.
Yellow-billed Magpie.-(Pica melanolcuca, var. Nzttallii.)
Fig. 5.
This species has a yellow bill, otherwise it is precisely like the
American Magpie. (Plate LIII, page 79.) Its habits and char-
acteristics are the same. We give it a representation in the work,
although the best ornithologists claim it as a mere accidental species.
Common Cormorant, Shag.-(Graculus carbo.)
Fig. 6.
This species is commonly found on the rocky parts of the North
American coast. The nests are placed on high cliffs; many birds
congregating together and living harmoniously. The nest is large,
and composed of sticks and a mass of coarse grass and seaweed,
sometimes a foot high. The rough oblong eggs are from four to
six in number, of a chalky white and pale blue color. In the
course of a few days after hatching the young are able to take to
the water. " These birds," says Farrell, " are frequently
sitting on posts, rails, or leafless trees by the water-side, when, if
a fish should move on the surface within their sight, it is pounced
upon and caught to a certainty. An eel is a favorite morsel with
him, and a Cormorant has been seen to pick up an eel from the
mud, return to the rail he was previously sitting upon, strike the
eel three or four hard blows against the rail, toss it up into the air,
and, catching it by the head in its fall, swallow it in an instant.'
In China, the bridges across the Min, at Fauchau, may often be
seen crowded with men viewing the feats of the tame fishing Cor-
morants. These birds look, at a distance, about the size of a
Goose, and are of a dark dirty color. The fisherman who has
charge of them stands upon a raft about two feet and a half wide
and fifteen or twenty feet long, made out of five large bamboos,
of similar size and shape, firmly fastened together. It is very
light, and is propelled by a paddle. A basket is placed on it to
contain the fish when caught. Each raft has three or four Cormo-
rants connected with it. When not fishing, they crouch down
stupidly on the raft.'

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