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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America
(1903)

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


Page 118


FLYCATCHERS-CHIMNEY SWIFT.
It is composed externally of light, dry sticks, internally of a thin
layer of slender grasses or fibrous roots. There were regularly
four eggs, of a white color, with many dots toward the larger end."
Rocky Mountain or Black Flycatcher. (Sayornis nigricans.)
Fig. S.
This Rocky Mountain species in its appearance and manner
bears a very strong resemblance to our common Pewee, or Phebe-
bird. It was obtained by Mr. T. Peale, a naturalist connected
with Major Long's expedition in the vicinity of the Arkansas river,
within twenty miles of the Rocky Mountains.   Nuttall says:
"1 We first observed this bird in our route westward, about the four-
teenth of June, within the first range of the Rocky Mountains,
called the Black Hills, and in the vicinity of that northern branch
of the Platte known by the name of Laramie's Fork.   At the
time, we saw a pair perched, as usual, on a mass of rocks, from
which, like the Pewee, though occasionally alighting, they flew
after passing insects, without uttering any note that we heard; and
from their predilection, it is probable they inhabit among broken
hills and barren rocks, where we have scarcely a doubt, from their
behavior, they had at this time a brood or a nest among these
granite cliffs. They appeared very timorous on our approach,
and seemed very limited in their range. Except among the Blue
Mountains of the Columbia, we scarcely ever saw them again."
Arkansas Flycatcher. (Tyrannus verticalis.)
Fig. 6.
This noisy and quarrelsome Flycatcher is numerously to be met
with in the western parts of North America. Like the King Bird,
they dispute the familiarity or approach of any other bird during
the time of incubation.
Mr. Allen says: " The Arkansas Flycatcher occurs abundantly
as far east as Fort Hays, Kansas, where it is one of the most nu-
merous and characteristic of the woodland birds. It seems even
more pugnacious than its relative, the King Bird, the males fight-
ing with each other almost constantly; and it is equally alert in
driving other birds from the vicinity of its nest. Its notes are
harsher and louder than those of the King Bird, though at times
rather more musical; they are marked by the same general char-
acter. It is more graceful on the wing than the latter bird, pos-
sessing rather superior powers of flight, yet resembling it closely
in general habits. It constructs a rather bulky and conspicuous
nest, composed outwardly of the coarse stems of plants, softly
lined with finer material, generally hair; it is placed on the outer
and higher branches of quite large trees. The eggs, commonly
five in number, in size, shape, and color so closely resemble those
of the King Bird as not to be always distinguishable. Dozens of
pairs were breeding in the narrow belt of timber bordering Big
Creek, on the military reservation at Fort Hays. We also found
them nesting in isolated trees at the heads of ravines, sometimes
several miles from any other tree or shrub."
The length of this species is nine inches.
Chimney Swift, Chimney Swallow. (Chaetura pelasgia.)
Fig. 7.
The familiar Chimney Swifts, sometimes called Chimney Swal-
lows, are readily distinguished from other Swallows by their long
wings and short tail. Their song consists entirely of a loud and
often-repeated chirp, which is so sprightly, and so evidently the
outpouring of the bird's own joyous sensations, as it turns its breast
in all directions, flaps its wirgs, and indulges in a variety of ani-
mated gestures, that it can not fail to please the hearer, and impart
an additional charm to the beauties of the first hours of a bright
early summer's day.
Soon after their appearance, they commence constructing their
curious nests, which are usually found in chimneys, and of which
Dr. Brewer says:
"1 The nest of the Chimney Swallow is one of the most remark-
able structures of the kind to be found among the handiwork of
even this interesting family, nearly all of whom are far from being
undistinguished for their architectural accomplishments.  It is
composed of small twigs of nearly uniform size, which are inter-
woven into a neat semi-circular basket. In selecting the twigs
with which to construct the nest, the Swift seems to prefer to break
from the tree such as are best adapted to its wants, rather than to
gather those already scattered upon the ground. This is done
with great skill and adroitness, while on the wing. Sweeping on
the coveted twig, somewhat as a Hawk rushes on its prey, it
parts it at the desired place, and bears it off to its nest. This fact
is familiar to all who have attentively observed its habits. Each
of these twigs is firmly fastened to its fellows by an adhesive sa-
liva, secreted by the bird, and the whole structure is strongly ce-
mented to the side of the chimney in which it is built by means
of the same secretion. When dry, this saliva hardens into a glue-
like substance, apparently firmer even than the twigs themselves.
In separating a nest from the side of a chimney, I have known
portions of the brick to which it was fastened to give way sooner
than the cement with which it had been secured. When moist-
ened, however, by long or heavy rains, the weight of their con-
tents will sometimes cause them to part, and precipitate the whole
to the bottom. The young birds cling very tenaciously to the sides
of the chimney, with their strong claws and muscular feet, and
often save themselves from falling, in such accidents, by this
means, even at a very early age, and before they have attained
their sight. As the nest, even when undisturbed, soon becomes
too small for them, the young leave it long before they are able to
fly, and climb to the top of the chimney, where they are fed by
their parents."
The eggs, four to six in number, are pure white, unmarked,
sub-elliptical in shape, and measure 0.75 by 0.50, or slightly more.
The power of flight possessed by these birds is unequaled by
any other species. It is claimed by Wilson that " The Swallow
flies, in his usual way, at the rate of one mile in a minute, and he
is so engaged for ten hours every day; his active life is extended,
on an average, for ten years, which gives us two million one hun-
dred and ninety thousand miles-upward of eighty-seven times the
circumference of the globe. And yet this littled winged seraph,
if I may so speak, who, in a few days, can pass from the arctic
regions to the torrid zone, is forced, when winter approaches, to
descend to the bottom of lakes, rivers, and mill-ponds, to bury
itself in the mud with eels and snapping turtles, or to creep in-
gloriously into a cavern, a rat-hole, or a hollow tree, with snakes,
toads, and other reptiles, till the return of spring. Is not this true,
ye wise men of Europe and America, who have published so many
credible narratives upon this subject? The Geese, the Ducks, the
Cat-bird, and even the Wren, which creeps about our houses like
a mouse, are all declared to be migratory, and to pass to southern
regions on the approach of winter. The Swallow alone, on whom
Heaven has conferred superior powers of wing, must sink in tor-
pidity to the bottom of some pond, to pass the winter in -the mud I"
Upon the ground, the Chimney Swift moves with an awkward and
helpless step. When upon the wing the powers of this bird, as it
skims over the face of the country, now soaring upward to a great
height, and now sinking suddenly down until it almost sweeps the
ground; then, changing its course, it flies backward and forward
with amazing celerity, pursuing its way with untiring speed, and
not unfrequently indulging in a bath in the lake or stream over
the bosom of which it delights to skim. This proceeding, like all
its other evolutions on the wing, is rapidly and easily accom-
N
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