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

[Plate CXVIII. Alaskan gray jay; dusky Canada jay. (Perisoreus canadensis, var. obscurus.) cont.],   pp. 179-180

Page 180

is attested, and it is even stated to have been found in Aus-
tralia. It inhabits at different seasons nearly all of North America,
and in winter pushes its migration even to Central and South
America as well as into the West Indies. But it has not, to my
knowledge, been found in the United States west of the Rocky
Mountains. It occurs in summer as for north as the Yukon, though
thousands of the birds also breed within the limits of the United
" On its presence and movements in the East I have made few
observations, and know nothing beyond the general items familiar
to all sportsmen who, with good reason, consider the Upland Plover
or Grass Plover, as a prime game bird, wild and difficult to secure;
best hunted from a carraige; and capital for the table. It is said
to breed from the Middle districts, as in Illinois and Pennsylvania,
northward. The principal shooting is done in August and Sep-
tember, as the birds move southward by the end of the latter month.
"IIn most parts of the West, between the Mississippi and the
Rocky Mountains, this Tattler, commonly known as the ' Prairie
Pigeon,' is exceedingly abundant during the migrations-more so
than I can suppose it to be in settled portions of the country. In
Texas, I am told it occurs in flocks ' of thousands.' In Kansas,
during the month of May, it migrates in great numbers, being
scattered over the prairies everywhere, and it is so tame that it may
be destroyed without the slightest artifice; I have seen it just es-
cape being caught with the crack of a coach-whip. Passing north-
ward, it enters Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota the same month.
About the middle of May it reaches the latitude of Fort Randall,
with great numbers of Golden Plover and Esquimaux Curlew,
flecking the prairies everywhere. Its breeding habits may be studied
with perfect success in Northern Dakota, where it is the most abun-
dant of all the waders. We can scarcely cross a piece of prairie,
or travel a mile along the roads anywhere, without seeing it. Its
gentle and unsuspicious ways, its slender and graceful shape, and
the beauty of its markings, are all alike attractive, while the excel-
lence of its flesh is another point not less interesting, but less favor-
able for the bird. Too many are destroyed at this season when
they are pairing, for few can resist the tempting shots, as the birds
step along the road-side or stand erect in the scanty grass, gazing
at the passing vehicle with misplaced confidence. By the end of
May those that are to breed further north have passed on, while the
remainder have paired and are about to nest.
"As soon as they are mated the pairs keep close company, being
rarely beyond each other's call, and are oftenest seen rambling to-
gether through the grass. At such times they seem very slender,
as indeed they are, overtopping the scanty herbage with their long,
thin necks, swaying continually in graceful motion. Their ordi-
nary note at this, as at other seasons, is a long-drawn, soft, mellow
whistle, of a peculiarly clear, resonant quality; but beside this, they
have a note peculiar, I believe, to this period of their lives. This
is a very loud, prolonged cry, sounding more like the whistling of
the wind than a bird's voice; the wild sound, which is strangely
mournful, is generally uttered when the bird, just alighted, holds
its wings for a moment perpendicularly, before adjusting them over
its back. It is frequently heard in the night, all through the breed-
ing season, and is, I think, one of the most remarkable outcries I
ever heard. There is yet another note that the Tattler utters,
chiefly when disturbed breeding: this is a harsh scream, quickly
and often repeated, much like that given by other waders under
the same circumstances.
"The food of this Tattler is mainly insects, especially grass-
hoppers, of which they must devour enormous quantities in the
aggregate. They also feed on other small animal substances, as
well as upon various berries. I have found them very well condi-
tioned even in the spring, and in the fall they grow surprisingly fat.
They are a tender and well-flavored bird. Being so delicate they
are easily killed, dropping to a touch of the finest shot. The nest
is flimsy, merely a few straws to keep the eggs from the ground,
in a slight depression."
Common Wild Goose; Canada Goose, or Brant. (Branta canadlxss.)
Fig. x1.
White-collared Goose. (Branta canadensis, var. leucojareia.)
Fig. 12.
Hutchins' Goose. (Branta canadensis, var. hutchinsii.)
Fig. I4.
The above named Brants are distributed pretty generally over the
whole of North America. The White-collared is a variety from
the northwest coast. Hutchins' Goose, about the same as the
typical bird; but in winter it is more abundant on the west coast.
An interesting article in reference to the typical species appeared
in the Chicago Field, written by Col. A. G. Brackett, U. S. A.,
from which we take the following:
"At certain seasons of the year there are immense flocks of wild
geese seen in the mountains, sailing slowly and in a dignified
manner through the air, the different members of the flock flying
so as to form an acute angle, with some heavy male bird acting as
leader. The lines sometimes waver in the air like a huge snake
crawling along, and then again are as straight as arrows. During
their flight they utter their harsh clanging noise, sounding wild
and dreary enough when heard in the evening or during the hours
of darkness. They fly over the hills and moorlands, and alight on
the lakes where they love to feed in the marshes near by. Their
slate-colored bodies, black heads, and white rings round their
necks, look beautifully on the waters, where they swim about with
the utmost grace. They are as large as tame geese, have black
legs, black webbed-feet, and thick, strong plumage. They are
easily tamed, when hatched under hens from eggs that have been
found near the fen lands, and readily associate with tame geese,
being by far the better-behaved of the two, and not making near
as much noise as their cousins who have been reared in civilized
"s In the autumn months, when the geese are preparing to go
south to their winter grounds in the marshes of Louisiana and Ar-
kansas, or are on their way thither, the streams and lakes swarm
with them. They must feed  while on their journey, and for this
purpose stop near sunset, and employ their time in filling their
crops with insects, fish, grass seed, and grain, wherever they can
be found.
"n They sleep by placing their heads under their wing, floating
quietly on the surface of the water during the night. If disturbed,
they at once take wing, and move off to some more secure place.
They are frequently shot while making these journeys, the moun-
taineers and hunters always being ready to add a fat wild goose to
their store of provisions, after the breeding season is over in the
far north.
"A number of varieties of wild geese have been-mentioned by
authors, but the one here described is the goose commonly found
in the upland regions, where, indeed, no other is ordinarily seen.
The male goose, or gander, is said to be very much attached to
his mate, and always remains near her when she is sitting on her
nest.  The stories told of these creatures are singular enough,
many of them being no doubt greatly exaggerated. By some na-
tions geese have been considered remarkably wise birds, while
others believe them to be the embodiment of stupidity.  In our
own land to call a person a goose is synonymous with calling him
an imbecile or an idiot.
" Mr. Howell says: ' We have made havoc in the ranks of the
wild geese in the vast corn fields of Illinois. We have taken a
stand in the center of a large corn shock, and have seen them
come in myriads from the large swamps in the vicinity-alway

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