University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

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 112

Red-breasted Snipe, Gray Snipe, Grayback.-(Macrorhamphusgriseus.)
Fig. 7.
This species is an inhabitant of the wholeof North America. It
is migratory, and winters in the south.
Coues says: "On the sand-bars, muddy flats, and marshy
meadows of the North Carolina coast, I found the Graybacks
very common, in flocks, all through the fall, associated with God-
wits, Telltales, and various Sandpipers. But nowhere have I seen
them so abundant as in Dakota during the fall passage-every-
where on the ponds, and especially in the saline pools of the alkali
region along the Upper Missouri. There the birds were loitering
in great flocks, wading in water so loaded with alkali that it looked
sea-green and blew off a white cloud with the slightest breeze,
while the edges for several yards all around were snow-white with
solid efflorescence. Gazing only at the pool, one would fancy him-
self on an ice-bound Arctic region, while the surrounding country
was desolate to match. Around such pools, the water of which
was utterly undrinkable for man or beast, were numerous Ducks
and waders, especially Teal, Plover, and these Snipe, swimming,
wading, or dozing in troops on the banks in the yellow light of au-
tumn, all in excellent order for the table. They were loaded with
fat, though it seemed incredible that they could thrive in such bit-
terly nauseating and purgative waters.
"The Red-breasted Snipe is a gentle and unsuspicious creature
by nature, most sociably disposed to its own kind, as well as to-
ward its relatives among the Ducks and waders. In the western
regions, where they are not often molested, no birds are more con-
fiding, though none more timid. They gather in such close flocks,
moreover, that the most cruel slaughter may be effected with ease
by one intent only on filling his bag. As we approach a pool we
see numbers of the gentle birds wandering along the margin, or
wading up to the belly in the shallow parts, probing here and there
as they advance, sticking the bill perpendicularly into the mud to
its full length with a quick, dexterous movement, and sometimes
even submerging the whole head for a second or two. All the
while they chat with each other in a low, pleasing tone, entirely
oblivious of our dangerous proximity. With the explosion that too
often happens, the next moment some stretch dead or dying along
the strand, others limp or flutter with broken legs or wings, while
the survivors, with a startled weet, take wing. Not, however, to
fly to a place of safety; in a compact body they skim away, then
circle back, approaching again the fatal spot with a low, wayward,
gliding motion, and often re-alight in the midst of their dead or
disabled companions. No birds fly more compactly, or group to-
gether more closely in alighting; it seems as if the timid creatures,
aware of their defenseless condition, sought safety, or at least re-
assurance, in each other's company. Thus it happens that a whole
flock may be secured by successive discharges, if the gunner will
seize the times when they stand motionless, in mute alarm, closely
huddled together. In a little while, however, if no new appearance
disturbs them, they cast off fear and move about separately, resum-
ing their busy probing for the various water-bugs, leeches, worms,
and soft molluscs, which form their food, as well as the seeds of
various aquatic plants. When in good order, they are excellent
" Being partly web-footed, this Snipe swims tolerably well for
a little distance in an emergency, as when it may get for a moment
beyond its depth in wading about, or when it may fall, broken-
winged, on the water. On such an occasion as this last, I have
seen one swim bravely for twenty or thirty yards, with a curious
bobbing motion of the head and corresponding jerking of the tail,
to a hiding place in the rank grass across the pool. ' When
thus hidden, they keep perfectly still, and may be picked up
without resistance, except a weak flutter, and perhaps a low, plead-
ing cry for pity on their pain and helplessness. When feeding a.
their ease, in consciousness of peace and security, few birds art
of more pleasing appearance. Their movements are graceful and
their attitudes often beautifully statuesque."
Northern Phalarope.-(Lob5ipes hyperboreus.)
Fig. &
The Northern Phalarope resembles the Sandpipers in some re-
spects, but differs from them in the comparative shortness of its
tail and slenderness of its beak. This species is very numerous
upon the extensive lakes and rivers of North America; their range,
however, probably does not extend far south, even duringthe
course of their migrations. In its habits it is essentially aquatic.
It swims with the utmost buoyancy and ease, though it is not
known to dive even when hard pressed; and, according to Au-
dubon, indulges in the remarkable habit of alighting while at sea,
even at a distance of one hundred miles from shore, on beds of
floating seaweed, over which its lobed feet enable it to run with
great lightness and rapidity. Its flight is strong and swift, but
when on the ground its movements are inferior in agility to those
of the Sandpiper. Insects, worms, and minute mollusca, which
it collects by dipping the bill into the water, form its principal
means of subsistence. The call is a sharp, clear " tweet, tweet."
The nest, which is usually made in a hollow in marshes, or on
the islands of fresh-water lakes, is formed principally of grass,
and covered with a few bits of hay or moss. The eggs, from one
to four in number, have usually a dark olive-colored shell, thickly
spotted with black. The male is about seven inches long, and
thirteen inches broad.
Cooper's Sandpiper.-(Tringa cooperi.)
Fig. 9.
This is one of our solitary species, that is usually met with on
Long Island. Like all Sandpipers, they principally frequent the
northern parts. Marine marshes on the sea-shore, or the borders
of lakes and rivers, are the situations they prefer, visiting the tem-
perate climates during the winter, and returning to the colder lati-
tudes to spend the summer months. Their migrations take place
in large parties, which fly by night or early in the morning. Dur-
ing the recess of the tide, they may be seen upon the sea-shore,
seeking their food from the refuse of the ocean, or quietly and in-
tently probing the sands in search of worms and shell-fish, and
sometimes retreating rapidly before the advancing surge, and prof-
iting by what the wave leaves on its retreat. In all their move-
ments they display great activity, either when running rapidly and
lightly on the fore-part of their toes over the surface of the moist
sand, when swimming in the water, or when winging their way
with a varied, graceful, and rapid flight through the air. The
voice of this bird is clear piping and resonant. Their food con-
sists of worms, small molluscs, insects, larvx, and occasionally of
delicate seeds. The four pear-shaped eggs are deposited in a dry
hollow on the ground, which is slightly lined with a few blades of
grass. The female alone broods; the young come forth covered
with down; they at once leave the nest, and grow with great

Go up to Top of Page