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

[Plate LXXII. American barn swallow, barn swallow. (Hirundo horreorum.) cont.],   pp. 105-110

Plate LXXIII. Red and white-shouldered blackbird, Three-colored Tropial. (Ageloeus tricolor.),   p. 110

Page 110

F rom the beginning of the middle of May the Thrasher is
engaged in building his nest, usually selecting for this purpose a
low, thick bush in some retired thicket or swamp, a few feet from
the earth, or even on the ground in some sheltered tussock, or near
the root of a bush. It has a general resemblance to the nest of
the Cat Bird; outwardly, being made of small interlacing twigs,
and then layers of dry oak or beech leaves; to these materials gen-
erally succeed a stratum of strips of grape-vine or red cedar bark;
over the whole is piled a mass of some coarse root fibers, and the
finishing lining is made of a layer of finer filaments of the same.
The eggs, never exceeding five, are thickly sprinkled with minute
spots of palish brown on a greenish ground.   In the Central
States these birds rear two broods in the year; in other parts of
America, but one. Both parents display the most ardent affection
for the young, and attack dogs, cats, and snakes, in their defense.
Toward their most insidious enemies of the human race, when the
latter are approaching their helpless young, every art is displayed;
threats, entreaties, and reproaches, the most pathetic and power-
ful, are tried; they dart at the ravisher with despair, and lament
the bereavement they suffer in the most touching strains. I know
nothing equal to the bursts of grief manifested by these affectionate
parents, except the accents of human suffering.
" Their food consists of worms, insects, caterpillars, beetles,
and various kinds of berries. The movements of the Thrasher
are active, watchful, and sly; it generally flies low, dwelling
among thickets, and skipping from bush to bush with its long tail
spread out like a fan."
Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-breasted loteria, or Warbler.-(Acteria
Fig. 9.
This noted species is one of our abundant summer residents.
The males usually arrive a few days before the females. It is dis-
posed to be very shy, and prefers the secluded high woods and
underbrush. The food consists of insects and berries. The Chat
usually mates the later part of May, and commences building the
nest early in June. The nest, which both sexes help to prepare,
is generally placed in the fork of a small cedar or low bush, and
consists of dry leaves and grapevine bark, and is lined with blades
of grass, leaves, and small sticks. The eggs, usually five in num-
ber, flesh-colored background, and marked with dull red and lilac
"As soon as the bird has chosen his retreat," Nuttall says, "
he can obtain concealment, he becomes jealous of his assumed
rights, and resents the least intrusion, scolding all who approach
in a variety of odd and uncouth tones, very difficult to describe or
imitate, except by a whistling, in which case the bird may be
made to approach, but seldom within sight. His responses on
such occasions are constant and rapid, expressive of anger and
anxiety ; and, still unseen, his voice shifts from place amidst the
thicket. Some of these notes resemble the whistling of the wings
of a flying duck, at first loud and rapid, then sinking till they seem
to end in single notes. A succession of other tones are now heard,
some like the barking of young puppies, with the variety of hol-
low, guttural, uncommon sounds, frequently repeated, and termin-
ated occasionally by something like the mewing of a cat, but
hoarser; a tone, to which all our Virens, particularly the young,
have frequent recurrence. All these notes are uttered with vehe-
mence, and with such strange and various modulations, as to ap-
pear near or distant, like the maneuvers of ventriloquism.  In
mild weather, also, when the moon shines, this exuberant gabbling
is heard nearly throughout the night, as if the performer was dis-
puting with the echoes of his own voice." Gentry says, "1 the fol-
lowing syllables express its song during the period of nidification
quite accurately: twe-we-we-we-we-we hwawawawawa, kuh-chie-
che-che-che-che, tweiiiiii, chweah."
Red and White-shouldered Blackbird, Three-colored Tropial .-(Agei
Fig. x.
The Red and White-shouldered Blackbird is the Pacific c(
variety of our Red-winged Blackbird. There is very little, if a
difference in their eggs and nests. Their habits are also simi
Coues says: " The Tricolor variety is extremely abundant
resident in the fertile portions of Southern California. It v
rarely crosses the intermediate desert to the Colorado River;
arid tract forming a barrier to the eastward progress of many s
cies, of great efficacy in distinguishing the littoratfauna from I
of the Colorado Valley. One who has traveled this region ,
not be surprised that birds with any fancy for green, watery plac
decline the same journey. At Wilmington and Drumm Barra
I found the Tricolors flocking in vast numbers, in Novemi
They thronged the streets of the town, and covered the milit
parade-ground; alone, so far as their congeners were concern
but on intimate association with hundreds of Brewers' Blackbii
Both species were almost as tame as poultry, and the boys uses
stone them, to their mutual amusement, I should say, for the bi
were never hit, and rather seemed to like the sport. Often, a
sat in my quarters, on a bright sunny day, the light would be s
denly obscured, just as by a quickly passing cloud, and a rush
noise ensued as the compact flock swirled past the window. T.
hiding the shingles, and every picket of a long paling fence near
by would sometimes be capped by its bird. They were very noisy,
chattering from daylight till dark-all the time they could see to
fly about. Nobody troubled them much; but Hawks of vari us
kinds-the Harrier, the Western Red-breast, and the Lanie -
were continually dashing in among them, with terrible swooping,
bringing death to not a few, and dismay everywhere. At this
season the sexes kept mostly apart; the flocks of males seemec
to largely outnumber the females. Very few of those I shot and
examined were in perfect plumage, much of the black being varied
with different shades of brown and yellowish, and the white wing-
bar being imperfect. In spring the birds resort together to marshy
spots, breeding in loose communities."
Lewis' Woodpeker.-(Asyndesmus torruatus.)
Fig. 2.
A very remarkably colored bird, that is to be met with in the
mountainous parts of WesternAmerica. Dr. Coues, in his" Birds
of the North West," gives a good account of this species, as fol-
lows: " The plumage of this remarkable Woodpecker is pecu-
liar, both in texture and color; no other species of our country
shows such a rich metallic iridescence, or such intense crimson,
and in none is the plumage so curiously modified into a bristly
character. Unlike most species, again, the sexes are not certainly
distinguishable. The young, however, differ very materially, the
under parts being dull gray, only here and there slashed with red,
the face lacking the crimson velvety pilous area, and the upper
parts being much less lustrous.
"4This fine species, like Sphyrafiicus thyroideus, is chiefly a
bird of the vast forests that clothe most of our mountain ranges
with permanent verdure. With this limitation, its distribution is
extensive, as noted above. My own experience with the bird in
life is confined to the vicinity of Fort Whipple, in Arizona, where
it is a very common species. A bird of singi at  lcpecr, many of
its habits are no less peculiar. One seeini  .r the first time
would hardly take it for a Woodpecker, unite.s ne happened to

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