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

Plate LXXVI. Fork-tailed flycatcher. (Milvulus tyrannus.),   pp. 117-120

Page 119

d; the bird sinks close to the water, and suddenly darts be-
its surface, reappearing in less than a moment, and then
F to a distance to shake the moisture from its plumage. The
w devours enormous numbers of flies, beetles, and butter-
Wh- -n      in y'..' i r  t, AI tl1i .p  i         AAN  g Na,
or skims through the air at an altitude regulated according to the
barometical state of the atmosphere, insomuch that from this fact
has arisen the popular idea that its movements indicate the kind
of weather to be expected.
The length of this species is about five inches.
Purple Martin. (Progne pjurpurea.)
Fig. 8.
A very abundant species that is met with at suitable season, in
most parts of North America. Its notes, which consist of a lively
twitter, may be heard at the approach of day, after which prelude
succeeds their excited musical chatter. Mr. Gentry, in his " Life
Histories of Birds," says:
"Few species are more eminently sociable and confidential, and
manifest greater pleasure in man's society, where suitable building
conveniences are provided, than the subject of this sketch....
" Constant association with man for many years has wrought a
wonderful change in its character and habits. Except in special
cases, nidification no longer takes place in hollow trees in secluded
situations, but is now accomplished within our gardens and lawns.
In the selection of a place, this bird is not very particular; an old
tin can, or a perforated gourd, is as truly acceptable as the most
costly structure which affluence can effect.  When there is a
scarcity of boxes, etc., it does not hesitate to dispute the right of
another species; even the mischievous little Wren often finds its
eflorts to bar out intruders completely foiled. What this species
can not accomplish individually, it effects by combination; for in
union there is strength.
" Like the Blue-bird, it has a strong attachment to the scenes
of past associations, and frequents the same localities year after
year, unless driven away. Its quarrels with others frequently re-
sult from their pre-occupancy of accustomed sites.
"tThe great good which the Martins accomplish, should com-
mend them to our favor and esteem, and should be an inducement
for us to extend to them our warmest sympathies and fullest pro-
tection. The beetles that injure our fruits; the aphides that sap
the strength of our useful as well as ornamental plants; the various
dipterous insects, as Musca domestica, Tabanus lineola, Afusca
caesar, and the Ortais and its allies, whose larvae infest our rasp-
berries and other fruits, and produce the galls of many of our
commonest plants.
" Like the Cliff and Bank Swallows, this species is fond of so-
ciety. Where several apartments exist in a house, as many pairs
take up their quarters; often six pairs have been known to occupy
the same dwelling. The most perfect order and harmony prevail
among the tenants; but woe to the feathered stranger that ap-
proaches; for the combined strength of the male portion of the en-
tire community is summoned to wreak instant vengeance upon
"The males are strongly attached to their partners, and faithful
and ever attentive to their wants. We are disposed to believe that
the species arrives already paired, as we have never observed the
least indication of anything that would lead to a different belief.
When a male has once selected a partner, we know no instance
where she has been abandoned, while living, for another, during
the season for which she was espoused. In some cases, this alli-
ance is dissolved at the close of the breeding-season, to be reas-
sumed during the subsequent spring; in others, the separation is
doubtless permanent, another taking the place of the discarded
suitor; again, the union is life-long. We believe that this rela-
tionship, in some cases at any rate, with the present species is life-
long, unless this important business is attended to at the time of
setting out from its southern home.
Nest-building commences about the I5th of May, and is the
joint labor of the sexes. A nest is two days in building. Scraps
of paper, leaves, grasses, feathers, and bits of strings are utilized
for this purpose. The whole is quite loosely arranged. Oviposi-
tion commences the day after the nest is completed, and lasts from
four to five days, one egg being laid per diem. Incubation com-
mences on the ensuing day, and continues for a period ranging
from eleven to twelve days, according to meteorological vicissitudes,
and the assiduity of the female. As we have not detected the male
engaged in sitting, we presume that it is wholly performed by the
female. While the latter is thus occupied, he is very attentive,
thoughtful, and provident. They are both extremely assiduous in
their attentions to the young, and feed them upon the larvae of va-
rious lepidoptera, mosquitos, small spiders, and mature forms of
Tabanus lineola, .2Jusca domestica, and Ortalis and its allies.
" In about twelve days from the time of hatching, the young
quit the nest, but still continue to be fed by their parents for a week
more, when they are prepared to provide their own nourishment;
still continuing, however, to reside with their parents. Occasion-
ally two broods are reared annually. While the parents are en-
gaged in rearing the second brood, the first is scouring the coun-
try for food, but returns in the evening to the place of common
shelter, when suitable accommodations exist. In August, 1874,
we were visiting in Bridgeton, N. J., and had the privilege of study-
ing very minutely the history of this species. Close by the place
where we were staying, was located a house of considerable ca-
pacity, and possessing a dozen apartments. These were occupied
by as many pairs of birds early in the season. Two broods had
been successfully reared. At the time to which we refer, all the
young had attained maturity, and were dwelling with their parents.
Early in the morning, the almost deafening clatter that emanated
from the building, told that its inmates were astir and prepared to
commence their daily avocation. The departure of one from the
building was the signal for the rest to do likewise, which they did
to the number of sixty and upward. Instead of leaving instanter,
they kept circling around the house for at least ten minutes, chat-
tering away at a fearful rate; and then, as if by common consent,
struck off in divers directions, and were not seen again until sun-
set, when they returned to renew the circling movements of the
morning, with the same amount of noise, when one by one, with
as much regularity as the marching of soldiers, would drop into
the building until the last had entered. A little din and chatter-
ing over the day's adventures, and all was quiet again. The
presence of persons upon the scene did not cause the circle to
waver in the least. Being very intent upon this sort of amuse-
ment, for such it seemed to be, nothing seemed to distract attention
or cause desistance therefrom. The most unbounded confidence
in man, acquired and strengthened by the peaceable enjoyment of
his society for many years, has rendered this species exceedingly
tame and unsuspicious. Few species manifest their trustfulness to
such an extent.  Their departure for warmer countries occurs
usually about the 15th of September.
" Their eggs are oblong-oval, being pointed at one end, and of
an unspotted, creamy-white color. They measure 0.93 of an inch
in length, and o.78 in breadth."
Violet-Green Swallow. (Tachycineta thalassina.)
Fig. 9.
This beautiful species is met with upon the table-lands of the
Rocky Mountains, and its migrations extend through the middle
and western provinces, to Canada, and south to Mexico. Dr.
Cooper observes that it " frequents chiefly the groves of oak
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