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

[Plate IX. The woodcock. (Philohela minor.) cont.],   p. 11

Plate X. The snow owl. (Nyctea nivea.),   p. 11

Page 11

when visiting the orchards. Its nest is usually in a dry old tree,
or in a large fallen branch, the entrance to which is small for the
size of the bird, and passing down in a slanting direction it expands
toward the place where the eggs lay, which are from three to four
in number and of a pure white color. Nests containing eggs are
invariably to be found from about the middle of May to the first of
June. This bird is met with almost everywhere, but not in
great numbers, from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Its
food, like that of all the Woodpeckers, consists chiefly of insects
and their larvae, and to some extent of berries.
The Soarlet Tanager. (Pyranga rubra.)
Fig. 5.
This beautiful bird is an ornament to our woods. It is almost
destitute of song, being endowed with a few notes only, which re-
semble those of the Baltimore Oreole. It may be found in all parts
of the United States, even as far up north as Canada. It rarely
visits the habitations of man, but frequently orchards, where it
sometimes settles down on an apple or pear tree.  Its nest, which
it builds in the middle of May, on a horizontal branch, consists of
stalks of broken flax and other dry fibrous matter loosely woven
together. The eggs, three or four in number, are of a dull bluish
color, spotted with brownish purple.
It seems not to be very shy, but allows you to approach it very
near, and is frequently sitting right above your head while you are
looking for it in the distance, misled by its notes, "' chip, cheer,"
which seem to come from a great distance.
The female is green above and yellow below; the wings and tail
brownish black, edged with green. The male has a spring and a
summer dress. Our plate shows him in the spring dress. This
changes, soon after the young are hatched, into one similar to that
of the female-green above and yellow below; and in the time
between this and his bridal dress, he is often speckled with red,
which is produced by the red points of the feathers: for, with the
exception of the points, these feathers are of a bluish and some-
times a yellowish white; but they lie so regularly on the living
bird that the white parts are invisible.
The Snow Owl. (Z9yetea nivea.)
The Snow Owl, the largest of all the so-called Day Owls, inhabits
all parts of the North. However near men have approached to the
pole, they have seen this Owl, not only on the land, but they have
observed him likewise sitting on icebergs, or flying close over the
water with powerful flapping of the wings. It is, therefore, proba-
ble that they inhabit not only the whole of North America, but also
the corresponding latitudes of Europe and Asia.
In extremely cold winters they regularly wander southward, and
are by no means scarce in Illinois. Several of them were shot near
Chicago, in the winter of i871-72. Our drawing was prepared
from a beautiful female specimen.
A gentlemen from Cuba assures us that he has frequently seen
this Owl there.
Some ornithologists of Europe hold that the color and markings
of this species are different at different ages, and that some are
like the one on our plate, while others are almost or perfectly white.
It may be so; but on dissection the white ones have been invaria-
bly found to be males and the others to be females. The white
Owls are the smaller.
During the summer they generally keep in the mountainous part
of the North; in winter they take up their abode in the plains. 'In
his manners, the Snow Owl has many peculiarities. In his quiet
sitting position, his resembles all other large Owls; but his move-
ments are quicker and more graceful, his flight being like that of
the slow-flying birds of prey. In boldness and tenacity he sur-
passes all the rest of the Owl tribe. His food consists chiefly of
small quadrupeds, such as the muskrat; partly also of fish, which
he catches with great skill, in nearly the same manner as the
Fish-hawk, sitting on a projecting rock and watching for them,
until they come to the surface of the water. In winter he prefers
the evening or the night to day-time for hunting. His cry is a
rough, harsh " craw  craw
The eggs are laid in the month of June. Their number varies
from five to ten-a remarkable number for a large bird of prey
like the Snow Owl; they are oblong and of a dirty white color.
The nest consists of a small cavity in the ground, lined with with-
ered grass and a few feathers from the mother bird. Both parents
are much attached to the young, and on the approach of man, the
female flies off a short distance from the nest, and, feigning lame-
ness, remains with spread wings, lying on the ground, in order to
coax the enemy away from the nest. It has been tried many times
to keep Snow Owls in cages; but they invariably died in a short
time without any apparent cause.
The Snow Bunting. (Plectrophanes nivalis.)
Fig. 2.
The Snow Bunting inhabits, like the Snow Owl, the northern
regions not only of this continent, but also of Europe and Asia. His
home is in the mountains, where he builds his nest in crevices of
rocks or under stones; the outside of it is composed of dry grass,
moss and lichen, the inside of feathers and soft down: the entrance
to it is always narrow; the eggs, five or six in number, are so ir-
regularly marked and colored that a description of them is almost
impossible. The song of the male is very pleasant but short. The
young birds, when fully fledged, remain for a-short time in their
old home, then form large flocks and begin their regular wander-
ings. As hardly any other birds fly in as large flocks, at least not
in northern regions, their wanderings attract the attention, not only
of naturalists, but of almost everybody. In Indiana they appear
only in small groups of from sixteen to fifty. They travel also
considerable distances over the sea.
In their manners, Snow Buntings resemble Larks. They fly
easily, with little flapping of the wings, in long curving lines, gen-
erally at considerable heights, and sometimes just above the ground.
They are of a lively, frolicksome disposition, and seem to be in
good humor even on the coldest winter days. In summer they sub-
sist chiefly on insects; in winter they feed also on several kinds of
seeds. It is very amusing to see a flock of them in winter, on the
snow-covered fields, on a foraging tour. They hover over the
ground, a part of them alighting to pick up what little seed they
can find on such withered plants as extend above the snow, the rest
flying just over them a little further along, and then alighting also,
after a while the first party fly over the others, and in this way they
go over the whole field. Their cry on such occasions sounds like
" I fit ;" sometimes it is a shrill " tzirr," uttered
during the flight. Our
plate represents this bird in its winter dress. The summer dress of
the old male is really handsome, notwithstanding its plain colors.
The whole middle of the back, the tips of the primaries, and the
middle of the tail feathers are black. There is also a black spot
on the metacarpus. All the rest of the plumage is snow white.

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