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

Plate LXIII. Canvas-back duck. (Fuligula vallisneria.),   pp. 89-92

Page 90

in great numbers, the Canvas-back is very shy and wary, and
very difficult to approach, except through some cunning stratagem;
and whether sleeping by night or feeding in the daytime, always
has a sentinel on the lookout for intruders. They may be distin-
guished, when on the water, from all other ducks, by their con-
stant habit of diving for food; and when on the wing they fly in a
wedge-like form, at a great height, and with considerable velocity;
and when wounded, they instantly dive to great depths and swim
immense distances under water.
Pairs of Canvas-back Ducks sometimes weigh as much as twelve
pounds, and the price ranges from two to four dollars per pair,
according to season and supply. Formerly enormous swivel guns
were used for their destruction; but this mode of slaughter is now
forbidden by law. Many ingenious methods for hunting the Can-
vas-back have been invented, all of which are duly detailed in the
numerous sporting books and papers published in this country.
Bank Swallow-Sand Martin. (Cotyle riparia.)
Fig. 2.
But few birds are more truly cosmopolitan than the Bank Swal-
low. It is common throughout North America, the Bermudas,
the Greater Antilles, Costa Rica, Brazil, in the British Islands, the
whole of Europe, and in Africa. Unlike most of the Swallow tribe,
it pays little regard to man, never seeking his habitations for a
shelter; but among themselves, few birds present closer or more
lasting ties. They are boon companions banded together, seem-
ingly governed by a code of laws, building thickly populated ham-
lets, and year after year returning regularly to their natal homes,
or, if they desert these homes, doing so in complete masses with-
out leaving a single straggler behind.
The Bank Swallow arrives in the fortieth parallel from the 1st
to the ioth of May, in companies of from fifty to seventy-five pairs.
If a new city is to be founded, they use due deliberation in select-
ing the proper site. One of the most essential conditions is con-
tiguity to some stream. Steep banks of rivers, the embankments
made by the action of the sea, any cliff of sand, gravel, or clay,
are suitable places. When once the location is decided upon, they
commence operation by clinging with tail and claws, and boring a
hole into the earth with their short, pointed bill. As soon as suffi-
ciently deepened to admit the body, the little miner enters and casts
out with its feet the debris. If the ground is clayey and tenacious,
a circular aperture is made; if loose and sandy, a rectangular,
sometimes just large enough to admit the body, and then again
having a diameter of three or four inches. The holes are horizon-
tal, from one to three feet in length, seldom quite straight, though
having no decided bend, and two or three inches apart. Sometimes
one workman runs his lead into another's nest, when he immedi-
ately abandons his work and commences anew. As they work
only in the morning, under favorable circumstances, it takes from
three to four days to complete the nest. To show the extent of
their colonies, Mr. Dall counted on the face of one sand-bluff in
Alaska over seven hundred nest-holes made by these birds, every
one of them apparently inhabited, and presenting the appearance
of an immense honey-comb alive with bees.
When the burrow is finally completed, at its farthest extremity
a small quantity of soft, dried grass is placed, over which is spread
a few large, downy feathers. Mr. Augustus Fowler says these
feathers are invariably white, and adds that he " should be sur-
prised to find a Swallow's nest of this species lined with black or
even dark-colored feathers." On this dainty bed from four to six
eggs are laid, pure white, oval in shape, larger at one end, and
measuring about .72 by .47 of an inch. The young are abroad
about the end of June, and in August a second brood presents
itself for the care of the parent birds. After they have left the
nest, they are fed by the parent on the wing, and this feat is per-
formed so suddenly as almost to be impercept
observer has computed the number of insects
e eelaAn.            'th. ae - h o+rt~n  ,5
b11gu uiy, wn    eIK 1  uC1I kne d5LU1I51Hng IiuXIUCr oi six Lnousalla.
Their flight is very graceful. MacGillivray has drawn so charm-
ing a picture that we present it entire. He says: " But see!I there
comes the Sand Martin, skimming along the surface of the brook,
gliding from side to side, deviating by starts, now sweeping over
the bank, wheeling across the road, making an excursion over the
cornfield, then rising perpendicularly, slanting away down the
wind, fluttering among the spikes of long grass, and shooting off
into the midst of a multitude of its fellows.'
Cliff Swallow-Eave Swallow. (Hirundo lunifrons.)
Fig. 3.
Considerable discussion has arisen among ornithologists regard-
ing the early history of this bird. It was unknown to Wilson, and
up to 1820 no mention of it can be found anywhere. It is now
known to be distributed throughout North America, breeding north
of Pennsylvania to the Arctic regions, and east and west from shore
to shore. The rapid multiplication of the Eave Swallow is prob-
ably due to the multiplied facilities for nest-building.  They have
kept companionship with man in his work of subduing the earth,
and wherever he has erected a shelter, this Swallow has used its
jutting eaves as a place beneath which to rear its young. It has
also made null one of the arguments of a certain class of philoso-
phers, who seek to prove the absence of reasoning powers in ani-
mals with the assertion that the forms of their habitations have
never changed. The primal nest of the Eave Swallow, when built
against a cliff, was a remarkably ingenious affair, constructed in
the shape of a retort, arched over at the top, projecting in front,
with an inclosed passage-way opening at the bottom. Abandoning
their old breeding places, they have also abandoned their old archi-
The Eave Swallow arrives at its northern breeding places about
the first of May, and after a brief courtship, mates, and commences
to construct its nest. The number of eggs laid are usually five,
which are of a white ground color, marked with spots and blotches
of reddish-brown, and measuring about .87 by .6o inches.
The song, though not musical, is pleasant from its constant repe-
tition, and when in swift motion, this bird is one of the most charm-
ing objects which can be added to a rural landscape.
Rough-winged Swallow. (Hirundo serripfexis.)
Fig. 4.
The Rough-winged Swallow is not supposed to inhabit the North-
eastern States, but is more or less common in all other parts of the
Union. According to Mr. Ridgway, it is one of the most abund-
ant Swallows in the West, breeding from Ohio to the lower portions
of California, and north as far as Oregon and Washington Terri-
.tory. Their nests are not after the stereotype pattern, but vary to
suit the locality in which they are placed. Sometimes they burrow
in the sandy banks of rivers, extending their excavations as many
as three feet, and in no respect differing from the nests of the Sand
Martin, as described in a preceding biography. At other times
they resort to natural clefts in banks or buildings, or to knot-holes
in trees. From a special study of these nests, made by Dr. Brewer
while at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, we extract the following descrip-
tion. He says: " None that we met with were in places that had
been excavated by the birds, although the previous season several
had been found that had apparently been excavated in banks in
the same manner with the Bank Swallow. All the nests that we
met with (seven in number), were in situations accidentally adapted
to their need, and all were directly over running water. Some

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