Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / The birds of North America
Plate CIX. Red-billed pigeon or dove. (Columba flavirostris.), pp. 163-166
GRACKLE-CROWS-SKYLARK. Rio Grande, in the State of Texas, thence extending southward. Lt. Couch found this Oriole to be quite common on the Lower Rio Grande. He describes its song as soft and melancholy, and the notes resembling teut-pou-it. Mr. Clark, who also obtained sev- eral specimens from the Lower Rio Grande, found it abundant at Ringgold Barracks. Its quiet manners and secluded habits pre- vented it from being very conspicuous. It was frequently observed by him feeding on the fruit of the hackberry, but whenever ap- proached, while thus feeding, it always showed signs of uneasi- ness, and soon after sought refuge in some place of greater con- cealment. Great-tailed, or Central American Grackle. (.tjuiscalus major, var. ma- crurus. Fig. 13. Texas south into Central America is the residence of this spe- cies. Dr. Belandier says it is found in all parts of Mexico, and is known in that Republic as Uraca, Pajaso, Negro, and, in Aca- pulco, as Papate. It lives upon grain, mostly corn, devouring the planted seeds and destroying the crops. Mr. Taylor found them common about the villages in Honduras, and that they appeared to be polygamous, the males being generally attended by several females, and usually were seen sitting on the roofs of the houses, or among the upper branches of some orange trees that grew in the yard. Their peculiar cry was not unlike the noise produced by the sharpening of a saw. Clarke's Crow; American Nutcracker. (Picicorvus columbianus.) Fig. 14. The range of this crow extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. According to Dr. Coues, it rarely descends below an altitude of three thousand feet, and has been observed on peaks ten thousand feet high. A hardy bird, finding its food at all seas- ons. Again, he says: "Like others of this omnivorous family, Clarke's Crow is an indiscriminate feeder upon vegetable substances, giving preference, however, to the seeds of the pine, berries of the cedar, and acorns. Prying into a pine-cone with its long and peculiarly shaped beak, it gouges out the seeds, often hanging, while thus engaged, head downward, like a Thistle-bird swing under the globular ament of a button-wood. It also eats insects of various kinds, and has been observed pecking at dead bark to obtain them, and making short sallies in the air for the same purpose, like a Woodpecker. It sometimes descends to the ground in search of food, walking eas- ily and firmly, like a true Crow; but we may infer, from the length and sharpness of its claws, that it does not spend much of its time on the ground. "According to my observations, made at all seasons, excepting during the breeding time, Clarke's Crow is decidedly a gregarious bird. Flocks of fifty or a hundred are oftener witnessed than single birds, and Mr. Lord speaks of their appearance ' by thousands.' They are very noisy birds, uttering a harsh, discordant scream of great volume and penetration, and extremely wary, under ordinary circumstances, like most of the larger Corvi. The ordinary flight is rapid, straight, and steady, accomplished by regular and vig- orous wing-beats; but when flying only from tree to tree, the birds swing themselves in an undulatory course, with the wings alter- nately spread and nearly closed, much in the manner of the Wood- peckers. Common Crow, or American Fish Crow. (Corvus americanus, var. caurinus Fig. Is. A northwestern coast variety of our Common Crow, represented on Plate LXVII, fig. 2, page 96. Its migrations extending from the Columbia River to Sitka. In all its essential features, habits, and characteristics, it closely resembles the typical bird. Fish Crow. (Corvus ossifragus.) Fig. :6. This crow is mostly confined to the coast, and to the banks of rivers branching therefrom, along its length from the New England States to Florida. Its habits differ in some respects to the Com- mon Crow. Dr. Coues found it to be an abundant resident in the District of Columbia throughout the year, and noticed that it was less wary and suspicious than the Common Crow, and more con- fined to the borders of rivers. It is also believed to be more harm- less, and its destruction of reptiles and vermin causes it to be con- sidered a beneficial bird. According to Wilson, its voice is more hoarse and gutteral, and also more varied in its modulations. This Crow was also seen to perch fiequently on the backs of cattle, in the manner of the Jackdaw of Europe. He never saw it mingle with the Common Crow, nor like it roost among the reeds and marshes near the water, but always seeks the shelter of the woods, in which to pass the night. Florida Crow. (Corvus americanus, var.ftoridanus.) Fig. 17. This variety, so far as known, has a local habitation on the south- ern peninsula of the State of Florida. Dr. Cooper mentions it as very common, and as being quite maritime in its habits, and as having full fledged young on the 20th of April. It is very likely that the habits of this variety are similar to those of the typical bird. Missouri Skylark; Sprague's Pipit. (Neocorys spraguei.) Fig. i8. This remarkable little singer is supposed to be confined to the Upper Missouri region, thence east to the Red River, and for a long time was considered a rare species. Dr. Coues found it one of the most abundant and characteristic birds of all the region along the forty-ninth parallel of latitude. He found no difficulty in taking as many specimens as he desired. He also adds that: "I The ordinary straightforward flight of the bird is performed with a regular rising and falling, like that of the Titlark; but its course, when startled from the ground, is exceedingly rapid and wayward; at such times, after the first alarm, they are wont to hover around in a desultory manner for a considerable time, and then pitch suddenly down to the ground, often near where they rose. Under these circumstances they have a lisping, querulous note. But these common traits have nothing to do with the won- derful soaring action, and the inimitable matchless song of the birds during the breeding season-it is no wonder Audubon grew en- thusiastic in describing it. Rising from the nest, or from its grassy bed, this plain-looking little bird, clad in the simplest colors, and making but a speck in the boundless expanse, mounts straight up, on tremulous wings, till lost to view in the blue ether, and then sends back to earth a song of gladness that seems to come from the sky itself, to cheer the weary, give hope to the disheartened, and turn the most indifferent, for the moment at least, from sordid thoughts. No other bird-music heard in our land compares with the wonderful strains of this songster; there is something not of earth in the melody, coming from above, yet from no visible source. The notes are simply indescribable; but once heard they can never be forgotten. Their volume and penetration are truly wonderful; they are neither loud nor strong, yet the whole air seems filled with the tender strains, and delightful melody continues long un- 165'