Some people call this bird the “Summer Duck.” The fact he arrives late in spring and departs for his winter home before the heavy frosts indicates a desire to evade cold weather. Most of these ducks are well on their way to Mexico or South America when other species begin to arrive from the nesting grounds. Early migration saves the lives of many Blue-wings for hunters prefer this duck for eating. Their speedy flight, their erratic twisting and turning, their tendency to decoy—all offer a challenge to the nimrod.
The blue wing patch, from which this duck derives its name, also is shared by the Cinnamon Teal which replaces this bird in western areas. Shovellers also carry a similar marking. The reddish color of the male Cinnamon Teal and the huge bill of the Shoveller help distinguish the birds. In the eclipse plumage, both male and female Blue-wings are much alike, but by the latter part of October the male assumes the dark head and tail, a crescent before the eye, brown speckled body, back gray-brown, white patch on each flank with dull yellow feet. The bill is bluish-black. The female is brownish-gray in all plumages. Both sexes show the blue wing patch in any plumage.
This little duck is known by almost 100 different names in the areas where he is found. But no matter what you call him or where you find him, he is distinctive. No other duck except the Masked Duck, which is found in the West Indies, has the stiff tail which often is carried erect and fanned like a miniature sail. The male has a black or blackish-brown crown and nape, depending on the season, whether breeding or winter. The bright-blue bill, rich reddish-chestnut body and white cheek patch make the male a beautiful bird in breeding plumage. In winger the male assumes the grayish-brown coloring of the female, both showing the light cheek patch with darker crown and nape. The head, neck and feet are large for so small a bird.
Many birds have developed beaks which help them secure their food. The American Merganser is no exception. His beak is long and narrow and both mandibles are edged with sharp, pointed teeth which are inclined backward. The tip is covered by a nail or hook designed for catching and holding fish which form the major portion of this duck’s food. These birds are expert divers and the entire flock soon joins one of its members which has located a school of fish. Both rough and game fish are relished.
The male is a beautiful bird with his red bill, greenish-black head, black back fading to an ashy-gray rump and tail. The chest, sides and breast are white and often show a pinkish-salmon tint. Wings show a black and white pattern and the feet are red. A large streamlined duck sitting low in the water with a white body and black trim is descriptive. The female has a reddish-brown head with an elongated brushy crest, ashy-gray back and white belly. They can be confused only with the Red-breasted Merganser, but in this case, both male and female are crested and the male shows a white collar and reddish upper chest.
The Marsh Hawk is often called “Harrier,” and his method of hunting would justify such a name. They cover a field like a well-trained dog, back and forth, here and there, cruising slowly with a deliberate flap or a slow sail on wings tipped a little above the horizontal. A slight movement, a quick pounce, and another field mouse has joined his ancestors. The white rump patch makes a good field mark, either on the gray-plumaged male or the brownish feathers of the female or young. The long wings and tail make these birds appear larger than their length of 19 to 22 inches.
Marsh Hawks feed heavily on rodents but include insects, frogs or birds in the diet. Dead animals or birds are not overlooked, thus causing the Marsh Hawk to be blamed for kills which he did not make.
Harriers seem to take pleasure in diving at each other, and the larger buteos, eagles, vultures, prairie chickens or flocks of ducks.
This chunky little brown quail is popular in every region where he resides. Hunters spend thousands of dollars each year in pursuit of this feathered bombshell. Farmers appreciate having such an active ally in their fight against the hordes of insects which menace their crops. They enjoy hearing his cheerful whistle as they go about their daily chores. Birders are happy to know this is one bird which offers no problem for they can list him by either sight or sound. Anyone can point with pride to this bird’s good character for the male can, and often does, take charge of the brood, teaching them how to exist in a hostile world.
Wilson’s Snipe, frequently known as a “Jack Snipe,” is the most common of 3 species which have extremely long, straight bills. All feed by probing in soft mud where their sensitive bills soon locate and obtain their food. This bird prefers marshy areas near streams or ponds. When disturbed, he leaves the scene so rapidly that you might miss the erratic, zig-zag flight, the pointed wings, the stripes on his head, the brownish-striped plumage. You might even miss the orange tail, but you probably will hear the rasping note which he usually utters when he departs. The Woodcock, a similar species, feeds in dense cover and has bars across his crown, rounded wings and a chunky build. A third long-billed bird is the Dowitcher, which feeds in open, shallow water and is found often in small flocks.
The Upland Plover is a confusing bird. Ornithologists still are arguing about what he should be called—a sandpiper or a plover. He formerly was known as a Bartramian Sandpiper. Now the trend seems to indicate that Upland Sandpiper is a name which fits his habits better than Upland Plover. Altho he has legs long enough for wading, he uses them for traveling thru grasses, not water. When alighting, he holds his wings up momentarily before folding them; in fact most of his actions seem more like a plover. Whatever you call him, he still will be found on prairies and grasslands; marshes and mud flats have no appeal to this bird.
The Upland Plover is slightly larger than a Killdeer and is buffy brown in color. His long neck, small head with rather short beak, long tail, hovering flight, but most of all his prolonged call, make identification easy. His long-drawn, mournful whistle seems to blend with breezes which blow above the prairies, and once heard, is not easily forgotten.
Sandpipers can be confusing, especially in fall plumage. Mixed flocks require special checking even by experts, but not the Greater Yellow-legs. His large size, slender build, yellow legs, gray upper parts, white tail coverts and under parts can be confused only with the Lesser Yellow-legs (Totanus flavipes). When together, there is no problem for the latter measures 9½ to 11 inches while the Greater Yellow-legs runs from 13 to 15 inches in length. The small, slim beak of the Lesser is straight, whereas the heavier bill of the Greater seems to be slightly upturned. The call is different, for the larger bird uses a loud 3 or 4 note whistle. The smaller uses less volume in his 1 or 2 note effort.
This sandpiper prefers mud flats and his long legs permit him to feed in deeper water where he adds minnows and crayfish to his diet. He can swallow small fish but occasionally lands one which must be reduced to bite size. However, the bird is persistent and soon completes his meal.
The black and white plumage of this medium-size shore bird is distinctive. A closer inspection will show long, blue legs, a thin, upturned bill and in breeding plumage, a rusty neck and head with white before the eye. In winter, the rusty markings are replaced by a gray wash. European birds lack the colorful neck and head markings, but show the black and white pattern and often are called Awl-birds. The bill gives the clue to such a name.
The Avocet feeds by wading in shallow water and swinging his bill back and forth; flocks often advance and feed in unison. These birds also are capable swimmers and have been observed while feeding like puddle ducks, tipping up and extending their heads far under water in search of insects and small crustacea.
Phalaropes are unique. Unlike most birds, the female is more colorful, does most of the courting, leaves nest building, incubating and rearing of young to the long-suffering male. Her lone contribution to the rearing of the family is laying eggs. She does deserve some credit, however, for she remains in the area and will join the male in circling overhead when the nest is disturbed, both uttering a sort of nasal, trumpet-like toot.
Wilson’s Phalarope is not only the largest phalarope, but prefers inland marshes, while the Red Phalarope and Northern Phalarope spend more time at sea. In breeding plumage, the female shows a distinctive black line down the side of the neck, starting in front of the eye and blending into a chestnut wash on the shoulders. Under parts and throat are white, wings gray with a gray line extending thru the cinnamon buff of the back. The male is grayer with a cinnamon wash on the neck. In fall, both birds show dark wings, white rump patch and light plumage. The long, needle-like bill and the whirling motion when swimming are good clues to identification in any season. When feeding in shallow water, these birds are active, always in a hurry and running from place to place.
Audubon, in 1840, referred to this species as the common American gull, but due to the change in habitat and increase in population, these birds have departed from many of their former nesting areas. However, next to the larger Herring Gull, it still is one of the most widely distributed. These birds form breeding colonies on islands in Northern United States and Southern Canada, often sharing these sites with the Cormorant and the Common Tern. Like other gulls, they are not to be trusted around unprotected nests of other species, for eggs are considered quite a delicacy in a gull’s diet.
The black ring near the end of this bird’s bill is not a good field mark unless you are near or use powerful glasses to check the specimen. It looks much like a Herring Gull, except for the smaller size (18-20 inches), as compared with the 23-26 inches of the Herring Gull. The Ring-billed shows greenish-yellow legs, whereas the Herring has flesh-colored ones. Both birds show
The Great Horned Owl, largest of the eared owls, is found over a wide area and may be either light or dark in color, depending on the area where he is found. All specimens show a white throat, ear tufts and yellow eyes. This bird is almost 2 feet in length and can handle fair-sized animals when pressed by hunger. The hoot of this bird is deeper, slower and more uniform than that of the Barred Owl, and often can be heard as a sort of conversational note between 2 birds in the same area. It is given as a 2-note “Who-who,” and answered by a similar call from another bird some distance away. These calls are given on a different pitch.
These owls nest early and often use old structures which were built by hawks, crows or eagles. Hollow trees or stone ledges furnish desirable locations. They are good parents and defend their home and young against all comers, including men. Crows and jays take delight in heckling these owls, but are careful to keep a safe distance, for Great Horned Owls see well in bright sunlight, altho they do most of their hunting in darkness. Their diet includes almost any type of animal life available, but rabbits, rats, squirrels and mice seem to be preferred. Some feed on starlings and pigeons which they find around city buildings.
People once called this bird a Yellow-hammer. Lots of folks still do, and it’s but one of the many names applied to this beautiful woodpecker. His brown-barred back, black crescent on the throat, spotted breast, white rump patch and bounding flight, his large size, his loud drumming, his posturing and his loud calls all point to this bird or, if you live in the west, the Red-shafted Flicker. The latter shows a reddish tint to the wings and tail where this bird shows yellow. Heads of males are marked differently, in that the western bird shows a red line extending down from the mouth, while the Yellow-shafted shows black lines.
A flicker prefers ants to any other food, and nature has equipped him with a long, sticky tongue which permits him to explore anthills or tunnels in trees where these insects might be lurking. When ants are not available, he turns to other insects, fruit or berries, one of his favorites the seeds of the poison ivy.
If you look for a red belly on this bird, you might miss him entirely. Look instead for the red crown and nape, the heavily-barred back and wings and grayish-white under parts. The female lacks the red crown, only the nape showing this brilliant coloring. These birds are about the same size as Hairy Woodpeckers (9 to 10½ inches) and are rather shy, spending much of their time in wooded areas. Bird feeders supplied with corn and nut meats with ample pieces of suet will bring them to your yard. Their natural food consists of beetles and other insects, together with a generous helping of wild fruits, seeds, acorns and when available, some corn. It also relishes both juice and pulp of oranges.
Like other woodpeckers, the Red-bellied excavates nesting holes in trees where their 3 to 5 eggs are laid. Starlings often are waiting to take over these newly-constructed homes and form a real menace to these hard-working birds.
If all birds wore contrasting colors like the Red-headed Woodpecker, identifying birds would be easy. You just can’t miss on this one—the red head and neck, white under parts, blue-black back and tail, black wings with a broad white patch. The young show a grayish-brown head but the white wing patch gives you the clue.
These beautiful birds once were common and nested from the Gulf of Mexico to the southern edge of some Canadian provinces. Recent years have shown a decline in their numbers, probably due to Starlings taking over their nesting cavities before the woodpeckers can rear their broods. Another factor is their destruction by speeding automobiles. These birds feed on flying insects, and often drop down on our highways in pursuit of grasshoppers. Motor cars and some drivers have no respect for wildlife, no matter how beautiful or beneficial.
Flycatchers can be, and often are, noisy birds. They seem to enjoy life and want the world to know how they feel about it. The Crested Flycatcher is no exception. To hear this bird at his best, stroll quietly thru some heavily-wooded area. You scarcely are aware of the flute-like tones of the Wood Thrush in the distance, drum of the Downy Woodpecker, the bubbling tones of the Carolina Wren. All is serene. Suddenly a loudly-whistled “wheeep,” followed by a series of equally loud rolling notes, shatters the air. That is the Crested Flycatcher.
You might see him sitting quietly, peering intently at every leaf and branch, slowly moving his head so nothing will be missed. Then you will see the rufous tail, yellow belly, olive head and back, grayish throat and 2 wing bars. You might see the slight crest from which he gets his name. He is a trim bird almost robin size.
Some early morning in May, when the trees are filled with migrants, take a stroll thru the woods! The world is filled with bird notes and you listen to the symphony of sound. Then you hear a questioning whisper “pee-a-wee,” as if some stranger wondered if he should or could make himself heard. Finally you locate the bird with the plaintive note and find a little flycatcher, but since he is sitting on a well-shaded limb, you have trouble with the markings. Eventually you see that he is about sparrow-size, is a dusky olive-brown above with whitish under parts, lacks an eye ring but shows 2 distinct wing bars. That is the Eastern Wood Pewee.
Western observers will find the Western Wood Pewee to be a bird with nearly the same markings and habits. However, the western bird has a more nasal, single note song. Tho both birds place their nests on tops of limbs, the Eastern Wood Pewee builds a shallower structure, well covered with lichens and cobwebs, giving it the appearance of a knot on the limb. Both nest in rather open situations. Both birds feed heavily on insects and spiders, including many harmful weevils, flies and beetles. Unfortunately they draw no distinction between useful parasites and pests.
Cliff Swallows may be found in almost any part of North America but the west offers more overhanging cliffs where they assemble in large colonies. Their one requirement is an ample supply of mud for their use in building the jug-shaped structure which they attach to buildings, under bridges or overhanging cliffs. Mud reinforced with a few straws, makes a sturdy home, and when lined with feathers, what more could a Cliff Swallow want? House Sparrows also find these little adobe houses inviting, but are not popular neighbors.
This species is easily recognized by the buffy rump patch. Other markings include: a dull white patch above the bill, crown and back of head blue-black, nape brownish gray, back blue-black striped with gray, chestnut over cheek and eye, black patch on lower throat, with chest flanks and sides grayish-brown with rest of under parts white. These birds show more of an assortment of colors than other species.
The frost hardly has left the ground, or the peepers and cricket frogs assembled their chorus, when flocks of these swallows can be seen winging their way northward. First flights include only the rugged males which arrive well in advance of their mates. They also are one of the last species of swallows to migrate in the fall. These birds show whitish under parts, while the upper parts are a greenish steel-blue. Western observers might confuse this bird with the Violet-green Swallow but remember that the latter shows a conspicuous white patch on each side of the rump.
Tree Swallows prefer a location near water and soon will occupy holes in stumps so located: however, bird houses are acceptable. They do not choose to nest in colonies and will defend their nesting site with vigor. Those who erect nesting boxes for these swallows might find it necessary to help them evict House Sparrows which often take a liking to their homes. Flying insects form the major portion of this bird’s food. These include numerous mosquitoes and other insects which hatch on or near water, for that seems to be their favorite feeding ground. Other foods include bayberry and wax myrtle berries, which are sought during migration.
Nuthatches are one of the few “upside-down” birds. Chickadees and titmice sometimes feed by hanging below a cone or some limb which they want to explore; woodpeckers and Brown Creepers may brace themselves beneath a limb, but nuthatches seem to feel more at ease, when coming down a tree headfirst. That must be an advantage for they may see food which the climbers overlook. It is amazing to see the ease with which they travel, never using their tails as props.
The White-breasted Nuthatch, largest of the family, is about sparrow-size (6 inches), and shows a bluish-gray back, white under parts with blackish crown and nape. Beady black eyes are noticeable since they are surrounded by the white cheeks. These birds seem to favor deciduous trees rather than evergreens, the preferred habitat of the smaller Red-breasted Nuthatch.
mericans are fortunate. There are a lot of reasons, but one is the fact that we have several species of wrens. There is something about these birds that demands immediate attention. It might be their size, for most are small. It might be their songs, for most are good singers. It might be their trim, sleek-looking jauntiness—some might even call it cockiness. These birds are popular around mansions or weather-beaten shacks.
For those of us who live south of the area of severe winters, and east of the plains, the Carolina Wren might be classed as a favorite bird. Any wooded area, especially one with small streams running thru it, makes ideal habitat for this songster. The more tangles and brushy undergrowth, the better he will like it.
This long-tailed bird (with the rufous-brown color, white wing bars, curved bill, striped breast and yellow eyes) welcomes spring with a loud and cheerful song. You will see him sitting at the top of some tall tree, throwing all his efforts into loud, clear notes. You will notice a wide variety of tones but all seem to run to couplets and triplets, not like the steady tempo of the Mockingbird or the more subdued tones of the Catbird, both of which are near relatives.
Brown Thrashers are found in suitable habitat anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains and sometimes spend the winter far north of their usual southern range. Sennett’s Thrasher is similar but is found in the southern parts of Texas. Brown Thrashers are often called “Brown Thrushes,” but thrushes have short tails, a different type of song, and prefer a different habitat.
To know the Wood Thrush is to love him. Unfortunately he seldom visits cities unless parks or other heavily-wooded areas are found within the borders. Forests, with a plentiful undercover, offer the seclusion which this bird demands. There you will hear the flute-like tones which make this bird famous as a singer. It is not a continued effort; each series of notes is followed by a rest, allowing you to absorb the full beauty of the rounded tones—then another, but completely different series, sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but always the same pure quality. Some think the Hermit Thrush is a better singer, but the Wood Thrush is a close competitor.
The Olive-backed Thrush and the Gray-cheeked Thrush are similar. Both show olive-brown backs, light under parts and lighter spots than the Wood Thrush. The Olive-backed is slightly smaller and shows a more distinct eye ring, buffier cheeks and breast. This bird’s song is a series of flute-like tones which spiral upward. A. D. DuBois thinks of it as saying “whip-poor-will-a-will-a-zee-zee-zee.” The Veery’s song starts high and runs down the scale, while the Gray-cheeked Thrush’s song, tho similar in quality, shows less variation and ends on a slightly higher note.
This tiny bird, smaller than a chickadee, never seems to have a quiet moment. On first sight, one is reminded of a Mockingbird, but not from his color, for he is blue-gray above and whitish below. It might be the long tail with the black center and white sides or perhaps it is the trim build. There is a narrow, white eye ring, and the male shows a dark line above the bill. These marks are sometimes difficult to see due to the bird’s restlessness. The tail seems to be constantly in motion. Both birds utter call notes, a thin “spee” or “zpee” sound. His song itself is faint and seldom heard.
These birds range from Southern Canada to Guatemala and are permanent residents in some states bordering the Gulf, but sporadic in their northern range.
When you hear this bird sing, you are impressed by the beauty of clear, but variable notes. When you check the source, you are surprised to see a tiny bird with such a big voice. His short tail might lead you to believe he is even smaller than the 3¾ to 4½ inches which he measures. His coloring is not impressive, being an olive-gray. You might notice the distinct eye ring or the prominent wing bars. If he is excited by your close inspection, he might flash the ruby crown feathers, from which he gets his name.
Waxwings are the nomads of the bird world; like gypsies, they come and go. Apparently they drift southward in the fall and northward in the spring, but have no regular migration. They range from Southern Canada to Central America but might leave when it frosts or stay thru the winter. Unlike some “Knights of the Road,” they present a neat appearance. In fact the soft, brownish-gray plumage, fading into lighter under parts, the slate-colored tail with the yellow tip, the jaunty crest, the black eye mask, the reddish spot on the wing, the sleek, streamlined stance—all mark him as an aristocrat.
Waxwings like companions and travel in flocks. Where you find one, you might find a dozen or more than one hundred. Whether feeding or resting, you will hear them conversing in a high-pitched, wheezy note which is difficult to describe. Some refer to it as a hiss, others as a whine.
The Warbling Vireo is not colorful. If you happen to see his back, you will see he is a grayish olive-green, slightly grayer on the head. When looked at from below, and that is the way you generally see him, you may see a tinge of yellow on the white under parts. A white line over the eye is the only other marking. But don’t give up; you will note the slow, deliberate vireo movement. He loves to sing and soon you will hear a pleasing series of notes, all connected but each note on a different pitch; a wave of bird notes, not hurried but clear and musical. This song could be confused with that of the Purple Finch but the latter is slightly higher in pitch and faster.
Unlike other vireos, he likes to nest in the high, deciduous trees which line the streets of cities and towns. Parks and farm homes also offer suitable habitat. The nest is a neat structure, placed near the end of a drooping branch on some well-developed tree; one which is growing in the open, for these small birds like plenty of room around their homes. The male is so proud of his home he often sings while taking his turn with the incubating.
Black and White Warbler
Warblers are an unusual family of birds. Some act like flycatchers and often feed on flying insects. Others join the vireos in searching for larvae in the thick foliage of higher trees. A few mingle with sandpipers and find their food along the banks of some small stream, while the ground-dwelling contingent share choice morsels with thrushes. The Black and White Warbler is different, for while nesting on or near the ground, he feeds on the trunk or larger limbs of trees, combining the upward movement of the Brown Creeper with reverse actions of nuthatches. His is more of a swing movement, quickly switching as if undecided whether to go up or down. Various beetles, ants, weevils, plant lice and larvae are included in his diet.
This bird can be distinguished from the similar Black-polled Warbler by the white stripe down the center of the crown and the white line over the eye. Their habits and songs are different.
The Yellow Warbler, commonly called “Wild Canary,” is the best-known member of the warbler family. Its breeding range extends from the northern part of Alaska, thru Canada, United States and into Mexico, and from coast to coast. It winters as far south as Peru. Unlike most warblers, this friendly little bird seems to enjoy being near people and may nest in some shrub or bush near your home.
You will recognize him instantly for he is the yellowest of all our warblers, even in confusing fall plumage. The male shows pale, chestnut streaks on the throat, breast and sides. The female may show a few obscure markings, but not the distinct pattern worn by her mate.
It is easy to see why these warblers are called water-thrushes. They resemble thrushes and usually are found near water. When you see him walking down a half-submerged log or wading along the edges of a pool, you will find he teeters like a Spotted Sandpiper. You also will notice the dark, olive-brown back, yellowish stripe over the eye, the throat and under parts buffy-yellow streaked with dark olive. The slightly larger Louisiana Water-thrush shows a white line over the eye, white or buffy-white under parts, unmarked white throat with duller streaks under the body. The Ovenbird, a near relative, shows an eye ring, reddish-orange crown and lacks the line over the eye. Western observers will find that Grinnell’s Water-thrush is slightly larger with lighter eye lines and under parts.
The Yellow-breasted Chat is not only the largest, but the most unwarbler-like of this colorful family. If you live near thickets of dense shrubbery, where brier tangles and brushy, low bushes grow in profusion, there you will find this bird. He prefers low, damp ground but does not overlook similar habitat on dry hillsides. His loud and varied song will let you know when he arrives. Each series of notes is followed by a long pause, and then another series, but on an entirely different pitch; clear-whistled notes, low grating tones, caws or reed-like tones all find a place in this bird’s song.
When you make this bird’s acquaintance, you will wonder why he was not called a “Black-capped Warbler,” for no name would be more fitting. In fact, many ornithologists now refer to him by that name. Those who do their birding in the Western United States might feel the same about the Pileolated Warbler, which is similar. Both birds show olive-green above and yellow below, with no wing marks or other distinguishing features, except the black cap worn by the males. Some females carry this mark faintly outlined, but it is lacking on the young. The western bird is slightly larger.
Eastern birders are unfortunate for only on rare occasions do they have a chance to see and study this handsome bird. He is larger than the Red-winged Blackbird, with which he often is associated, but smaller than the Grackles. During migration, they join other members of their family in feed lots, pastures or fields and any mixed flock is worth inspecting. They are identified easily for no other bird has the black body, white wing patch and yellow head and breast. The female lacks wing markings and shows dusky, grayish-brown coloring with a yellowish tinge on lighter head markings. They walk with almost a strut, as if they were proud of their brilliant plumage.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds nest in colonies and affix their bulky nests to tules and other vegetation which grow in the center of marshes and swamps in western areas. There seems to be a tendency to move eastward, for a few are nesting in the marshes of the upper Mississippi valley.
Their song is distinctive and consists of a series of chuckles, squeaks and grating notes, all produced by what seems to be a great physical effort. The results hardly justify such a strain.
Most people are attracted to birds by one of 3 things—their brilliant plumage, a beautiful song or the way they build their nests. The Baltimore Oriole scores in every department. Few birds are more colorful than an adult male, perched on the top of some tall tree, in full sunlight. The rich-orange body glows like a living ember. When you add the black of the head, back, wings and central tail feathers, the white wing bar and feather edging on the wings and the orange outer feathers, near the end of the tail, the contrasting pattern is unique. The female and young are less colorful with dull black and yellowish-orange markings and 2 distinct wing bars.
The Baltimore Oriole’s song is a rich melodious whistle which varies slightly when given by different birds, but retains the oriole quality. It could be confused with songs of some of the grosbeaks, but the latter use more “chip” notes with their whistles. Western birders will find a similar quality in the songs of Bullock’s and Scott’s Orioles.
Almost everyone who lives or has traveled any place east of the Rocky Mountains has seen this bird. The chances are they call it a blackbird, for most people do. From his appearance, they are right. Since there are a number of different species of blackbirds, this one should be examined more closely. When you see him walking around your yard, you will notice he is larger than a Robin, has a wedge-shaped tail and yellow eyes. The male often shows a keel-shaped tail, when flying. The plumage is iridescent and may show green, blue or purple. Those who live along the Atlantic coast refer to these birds as Purple Grackles, a name which is becoming popular for both the eastern and western types.
Grackles gather in huge flocks and can do much damage to unharvested crops. In mixed flocks, grackles show a more even flight pattern than most blackbirds.
Many birders seem to have trouble in listing the Blue Grosbeak. One reason is the size, for they are smaller than most members of this family. Another reason is that light conditions often make them appear black. A third reason might be their choice of habitat. They prefer brushy areas near some stream, but may be found along woodland borders or hedges, where ample brush is found. They usually nest in low trees or shrubs. There you probably will find the male as he sings from the top of some bush or even utility wire which crosses his territory. You can see he is a deep, but rather dull blue, with 2 chestnut wing bars. The female is brown and shows 2 buffy wing bars. Both show a heavy beak which gives them their name.
Blue Grosbeaks nest from Maryland to California but shun the northern states. They winter as far south as Honduras and are fonder of warm weather than most members of their family
Pine Siskins are unpredictable. Some years they are numerous, while others produce few, if any, in the same area. Food supply is not necessarily the answer, for they are erratic wanderers. These small finches seem to prefer conifers for nesting. They build a neat structure, using grass, bark or moss with a lining of finer materials. Their home is well hidden by the heavy foliage near the end of a limb. The eggs are a pale bluish-green, dotted with brown or black markings, more colorful than the pale blue eggs of the American Goldfinch.
Siskins resemble goldfinches in their notes, flocking habits and size, but can be identified by the uniform, striped appearance. They have semi-concealed yellow patches near the body on both wings and tail. Goldfinches show clear breasts in any plumage. Birders have found the best clue to the identity of this bird is the long buzzy note which forms a part of his song. His notes are husky in quality.
Towhees inhabit thickets, bushes and brushy areas, and spend most of their time scratching thru litter which covers the ground in such locations. When disturbed, they usually utter the call note which gave them their name. Opinions differ as to sounds made, so these birds are referred to as “Towhees,” “Jorees” or “Chewinks.” Some call them “Ground Robins,” since they feed on the ground and a part of their plumage resembles that of our Robins.
Towhees are smaller than Robins. The male shows 3 distinct colors; the head, throat, back, wings and tail are black; sides are rusty, and the belly, outer tips of the tail and wing spots are white. The female is browner but easily identified by the color pattern. Western birds are called Spotted Towhees, since their wings and backs show more white feathers. Both have red eyes. Those who do their birding along the coast from South Carolina to Florida will find birds with lighter irises and referred to as White-eyed Towhees.
Several kinds of sparrows can be found in open fields, along roadside fences and hedgerows, but the Vesper Sparrow is easiest to identify. If you should miss the chestnut patch on the bend of the wing or the white belly, bordered by fine lines, you still will notice the white outer-tail feathers. The back is a light grayish-brown with dark stripes.
Thirteenth-Century Hospital Interior (Tonerre)
From “The Thirteenth: Greatest of Centuries,” by J. J. Walsh
This was built by the sister of Louis IX of France, Marguerite of Bourgogne, who retired to it herself to spend her life caring for the ailing poor.
Surgical instruments of the Arabs, according to Abulcasim
After plates in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
1. A pincher for extracting foreign bodies from the ear
2. An ear syringe for injections
3. A tongue depressor
4. Concave scissors for the removal of tonsils
5. Curved pinchers for foreign bodies in the throat
6 to 29. Instruments for the treatment of the teeth
19 and 20. Forceps
21 to 25. Levers and hooks for the removal of roots
26. Strong pinchers for the same
27. A tooth saw 28 and 29. Files for the teeth
Surgical instruments of Guy de Chauliac, nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 (fourteenth century);
and surgical apparatus of Hans von Gerssdorff, nos. 5, 6 and 7 (fifteenth century)
After plates in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
2. Balista used for extraction of arrows
3. Cauterizing shears with cannula for cauterization of the uvula
5. Extension arrangement for reducing upper arm dislocations, called “The Fool”
6. Screwpiece for extending a knee contracture
7. Extension apparatus in the form of armour-arm and armour-leg plates
(“harness instruments”) for contractures of the elbow and knee joints
From Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
Hans von Gerssdorff and Hieronymus Brunschwig, who flourished in the latter half of the fifteenth century in Germany, have both left early printed treatises on Surgery which give excellent woodcuts showing pictures of instruments, operations, and costumes, at the end of the medieval period.
This is the first picture of an amputation known
From Gerssdorff’s woodcut, reproduced in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
Bull and man
Birds in a tree
There must be water here
The woodsman and the soldier
The Merchant with the golden bowl
The Merchant throws the bowl on the ground
The King and the turtle
The Geese and the turtle
The Geese and the turtle
Men with swords
Men and deer
Men against elephant
He Ran away from the crowd
Going to the king
Feeding the pig
Feeding the pig to the people
Elephant with sore foot
Elephant pulling out a tree
Elephant playing with children
Elephant chained up
Elephant and man
Elephant and children
Crane with crab on its back
Crane catching a fish
Children looking up in the air
Catching quail in the net
Abris des wvnderbaren Vogels Eme. From the fifth edition of Erste Schiffart in die orientalische Indien so die holländische Schiff im Martio 1595 aussgefahren vnd im Augusto 1597 wiederkommen verzicht … Durch Levinvm Hvlsivm.
THE name ‘emu’ has an interesting history. It occurs in the forms ‘emia’ and ‘eme’ in Purchas his Pilgrimage, in 1613. ‘In Banda and other islands,’ says Purchas, ‘the bird called emia or eme is admirable.’ We should probably pronounce ‘eme’ in two syllables, as e-mé. This eme or emia was doubtless a cassowary—probably that of Ceram.
Casuarius uniappendiculatus, juvenile
From an example in the British Museum of Natural History.