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

Plate II. The gold-winged woodpecker. (Colaptes auratus.),   p. 2

Page 2

This plate represents a scene which was witnessed by Dr. Jasper,
resting near a patch of woods, between the Scioto river and the
canal, about two miles and a half south of Columbus, Ohio, on
one of his shooting excursions in the month of May.
A pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers had a nest in the old stump
of a decayed tree; the entrance to it undoubtedly had been made
by the Yellow Hammer, as the size of it indicated, it being consid-
erably larger than the Red-heads usually make.  I had pre-
viously examined this nest; there were four eggs in it at the time.
At first a male Yellow Hammer tried his best to force an entrance,
but was effectually repulsed by the Red-heads. The female Yel-
low Hammer was during this time most indolently sitting on an-
other stump of a broken tree, seeming not to take any interest in
the doings of her mate; but some time after, perhaps pressed by
the necessity of laying her egg, she too took an active part against
the Red-heads, and the united strength of both finally overpowered
them, and they had to abandon their nest and eggs to the Yel-
low Hammers, who, in their turn, after having thrown out the eggs
of the Red-heads, installed themselves in the nest.
The two Nuthatches which we see in the plate were led only by
curiosity; they merely wanted to see what the racket was about.
The Gold-winged Woodpecker. (Colaptes auratus.)
Fig. I, The male. Fig. 2, The female.
Though this species, generally speaking, is migratory, yet they
often remain north during the whole winter. They inhabit the
continent of North America from Hudson's Bay to Georgia; they
have even been found on the northwest coast of the continent.
They generally arrive at Hudson's Bay in the middle of April, and
leave in September. The natives there call thenr Ou-thee-quan-
nor-ow, from the golden color of their shafts, and the lower side
of the wings. This bird has numerous provincial appellations in
the States of the Union, such as "1 High-hole," from the situation
of its nest, and " Hittucks," - Yucker," "1 Piut,"
" Flicker," "1 Yel-
low Hammer," etc. Most of these names have probably originated
from a fancied resemblance of its notes to the sound of the words;
for the most common cry of the Gold-winged Woodpecker con-
sists of two notes or syllables, often repeated, which, by the help
of the hearer's imagination, may seem to resemble any of them.
The Gold-winged Woodpecker builds his nest about the middle
of April, usually in the hollow body or branch of a tree, at con-
siderable height above the ground, but not always, for I found the
nest of one in an apple tree, less than three feet above the ground.
The female lays five or six white, almost transparent eggs, very
thick at one end and tapering suddenly toward the other; the
young leave the nest early, climbing to the higher branches, where
they are fed by the parents. Their plumage, in its color and mark-
ings, resembles that of the parent birds, with the exception that the
colors are less brilliant, and the dots appear less frequently on the
breasts of the young than on those of the old birds. The food va-
ries according to seasons, and consists of worms, berries, seeds,
Indian corn, etc., and this is perhaps the reason why farmers de-
stroy this bird whenever they have a chance.
Formerly he was classed by many of the ornithologists among
the Cuckoos, which was an absurdity, as he has no resemblance
to them. The tongue is constructed like that of all the Wood-
peckers, and he has no resemblance to the Cuckoo, except that
two of his toes are placed before and two behind; he not only
alights on the branches of a tree, but most frequently on the trunk,
on which he will climb up or down or spirally around it, just as
his fancy may be; when on the ground, he hops; his flesh is in
quite good esteem.
The Red-headed Woodpecker. (Melanerpes erythrocephalus.)
Fig. 3, The male. Fig. 4, The female.
This bird is more universally known than any other bird in
North America. His plumage, red, white, and black, glossed
with violet, added to his numbers and his peculiar fondness for
hovering along the fences, is so very notorious that almost every-
body is acquainted with him. His food consists chiefly of insects,
of which he destroys a large quantity daily; but he is also very
fond of cherries, pears, sweet apples, and other fruit; wherever
there is a tree covered with ripe cherries, you may see him busy
among the branches; in passing an orchard, you may easily know
where to find the earliest and sweetest apples, by observing those
trees on or near which the Red-head is skulking, for he is an ex-
cellent connoisseur of good fruit; when alarmed on such occasions,
he seizes a capital one, by sticking his open bill into it, and bears
it off to the woods. He also likes Indian corn, when in its rich,
succulent, milky state, opening with great eagerness a passage
through the numerous folds of the husk. The girdled, or dead-
ened timber, so common among corn-fields, is his favorite re-
treat, whence he sallies out to make his depredations. He is of
a very gay and frolicsome disposition; half a dozen are frequently
seen diving and vociferating around the dead high limbs of some
large tree, pursuing and playing with each other, amusing the
passenger with their gambols. The cry of the Red-headed Wood-
pecker is shrill and lively, and resembles very much the cry of the
Farmers generally hate and destroy him whenever they have a
chance; but whether this is just or not we will leave to them. It
is stated above that hle also destroys thousands and thousands
of destructive insects and their la'rvm, and therefore we would say
to the farmer, in the benevolent language of the Scriptures, not
to " muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn ;" and
the same liberality should be extended to this useful bird that forms
so powerful a defense against the inroads of many millions of de-
structive vermin.
Properly speaking, the Red-headed Woodpecker is a bird of
passage. They inhabit North America from Canada to the Gulf
of Mexico, and have also been found on the northwestern coast.
About the middle of May they construct their nests, which they
form in the body or large limbs of trees, taking in no materials,
but smoothing the nests to the proper shape and size. The female
lays six eggs of a pure white, and the young make their appear-
ance about the 20th of June. During the first season, the head
and neck of the young birds are blackish gray, the white on the
wing is also spotted with black, but in the succeeding spring they
receive their perfect plumage, as on our plate. The male and
female differ in nothing except that the female is a trifle smaller.
The White-breasted, Black-capped Nuthatch. (Sitta carohnensis.)
Fig. 5, The male. Fig. 6, The female.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is common almost everywhere in
our woods and may be known at a distance by his peculiar note-
quank, quank-frequently repeated, as he moves up and down in
spiral circles, around the body and larger branches of the tree,
probing behind the thin, scaly bark, shelling off considerable
pieces of it in search of spiders or other insects and their larvae.
He rests and roosts with his head downward, and appears to pos-
sess an uncommon degree of curiosity. Frequently I have amused
myself, when in the woods, imitating the voice of a bird in distress,
to see who would be the first to appear, and invariably the Nuthatch
made his appearance first to see what was the matter. Frequently
he will descend very silently within a few feet of the root of the
tree where you happen to stand, stopping head downward, stretch-
ing out his neck in a horizontal position, as if to reconnoiter your
appearance, and after several minutes of silent observation,

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