The parts of the Feathers of this glorious Bird appear, through the Microscope, no less gaudy then do the whole Feathers; for, as to the naked eye 'tis evident that the stem or quill of each Feather in the tail sends out multitudes of Lateral branches, such as AB in the Schem. 22.
Fig. 3.third Figure of the 22. Scheme represents a small part of about 1/32 part of an Inch long, and each of the lateral branches emit multitudes of little sprigs, threads or hairs on either side of them, such as CD, CD, CD, so each of those threads in the Microscope appears a large long body, consisting of a multitude of bright reflecting parts, whose Figure 'tis no easie matter to determine, as he that examines it shall find; for every new position of it to the light makes it perfectly seem of another form and shape, and nothing what it appear'd a little before; nay, it appear'd very differing ofttimes from so seemingly inconsiderable a circumstance, that the interposing of ones hand between the light and it, makes a very great change, and the opening or shutting a Casement and the like, very much diversifies the appearance. And though, by examining the form of it very many ways, which would be tedious here to enumerate, I suppose I have discover'd the true Figure of it, yet oftentimes, upon looking on it in another posture, I have almost thought my former observations deficient, though indeed, upon further examination, I have found even those also to confirm them.
Mother hen with her chicks
Birds waiting for feeding time
Horse and chickens
Phororhacos, a Patagonian Giant of the Miocene
From a Drawing by Charles R. Knight
Most recent in point of discovery, but oldest in point of time, are the giant birds from Patagonia, which are burdened with the name of Phororhacidæ, a name that originated in an error, although the error may well be excused. The first fragment of one of these great birds to come to light was a portion of the lower jaw, and this was so massive, so un-bird-like, that the finder dubbed it Phororhacos, and so it must remain.
In the light of our present knowledge we are able to read many things in these tracks that were formerly more or less obscure, and to see in them a complete verification of Dr. Deane's suspicion that they were not made by birds. We see clearly that the long tracks called Anomœpus, with their accompanying short fore feet, mark where some Dinosaur squatted down to rest or progressed slowly on all-fours, as does the kangaroo when feeding quietly; and we interpret the curious heart-shaped depression sometimes seen back of the feet, not as the mark of a stubby tail, but as made by the ends of the slender pubes, bones that help form the hip-joints. Then, too, the mark of the inner, or short first, toe, is often very evident, although it was a long time before the bones of this toe were actually found, and many of the Dinosaurs now known to have four toes were supposed to have but three.
Nature's Four Methods of Making a Wing - Bat, Pteryodactyl, Archæopteryx, and Modern Bird
The Crocodile Keeper, whose image often appears in Ancient Egyptian memorials, as it represents the sound in the hieroglyphic alphabet, is manifold throughout the Nile region. From Cairo upstream, he is not missing in any place suitable for him on the River Nile. Preferably, he selects a sandbank as his base for the purpose of staying there until the washing of the current drives him away.
The Lapwing is recognizable by the weakly flask-shaped swollen bill, on the four-toed feet, on the blunt wings, whose point is formed by the third pin and by the crest that adorns the head. The upper head, the front neck, the upper breast and the rear half of the tail are glossy dark black, the feathers of the mantle dark green with blue or purple highlights, the sides of the neck, the under breast, the belly and the root half of the tail feathers white, some upper and all lower cover feathers of the tail dark rusty yellow; the crest consists of long, narrow feathers, which form a double point. The eye is brown, the beak black, the foot dirty dark red. Total length 34, tail length 10 cm.
[Translaed from the Dutch by online translator]
The Avocet is drawn in a simple but very graceful way. The upper head, the neck and the back neck, the shoulders and most of the wings are black, two large patches on the wings, and all the rest of the plumage are white. The eye is reddish brown, the beak black, the foot dark blue-gray. Total length 43, tail length 7 cm.
Numenius are slender-built Birds with very long, weakly curved downward, high at the root, gradually thinning beak forward; with the exception of the horn-like spire, it is covered with a soft skin; the upper jaw is slightly longer than the lower jaw and slightly curved over it. The legs are slender and high, without feathering well above the hock; all three prongs are joined together by clear webbing. In the large, pointed wings the first flight is the longest; the medium-long tail composed of twelve feathers is rounded at the tip. The hard, close-fitting plumage is reminiscent of that of the Lark by its color, and is similar in males and females to each other and in the different seasons.
[Translated from the Dutch by online translator ]
The Ruff ( Machetes or Pavoncella pugnax ) may be regarded as a long-legged Strandlooper, the only representative of his family.
The beak is as long as the head (but shorter than the barrel), straight, at the tip slightly lowered and not broadened, soft all along its length, the foot is high and slender, the lower leg naked well above the hocks; of the three fronts, the middle one is connected to the outer by a tension fleece; the short, high back toe does not touch the ground; the wings are of medium length and pointed; the tail is short, composed of 12 feathers, slightly rounded at the tip.
The social weaver is found in the south of Africa. Hundreds of these birds, in one community, join to form a structure of interwoven grass containing various apartments, all covered by a sloping roof impenetrable to the heaviest rain, and increased year after year as the population of the little community may require.
The woodpeckers are carpenters; they not only bore holes in trees in search of food, but they also chisel out deep holes in which to deposit their eggs and rear their young. They generally build their nest in May, selecting an old apple tree in the orchard; the boring is first done by the male, who pecks out a circular hole; as the work progresses, he is occasionally relieved by the female. They both work with great diligence, and as the hole deepens they carry out the chips, sometimes taking them some distance to prevent discovery or suspicion. The nest usually requires a week to build, and when the female is quite satisfied she deposits her eggs, generally six in number and of a pure white color.
Nests of the Bottle bird
There is also a black swan found in Australia, and now to be seen in a tame state. It is deep black in color, except the main feathers of the wings, which are white. It is not nearly so pretty as the white swan, but when black and white are kept in the same pond the contrast is very fine.
For an American nightingale we have the mocking-bird, a sweet night singer which, as I have said, is given that name in the West Indies. Another is a variety of the Grosbeak, called the Cardinal Bird from its red color. This is called the Virginia Nightingale in England and is one of the finest American song-birds. Its loud, clear, sweet song is heard chiefly in the mornings and evenings and the beauty of its plumage adds to its attraction.
Best known among them as a cage-bird is the Gray-parrot, the ablest talker of the family, the amusing Poll-parrot seen in so many homes. Though a cage is provided, they become such home-bodies as to be given all the liberty they want, being often free to go about the house, though they look upon the cage as their special dwelling place.
Have you ever seen a Starling and heard one talk? If not you have missed a treat, for this bird has fine powers of speech. He can whistle, croak and talk and is one of the choice delights of many a cottage home in Europe. He has lately been imported into this country.
The common starling is a very pretty creature, clad in brown, with purple and green hues, and a buff-colored tip to each feather which gives the bird a fine speckled appearance. In its wild state it has a soft and sweet song, and in a cage is a pert and friendly house pet, one that mocks the songs of others, learns to whistle tunes, and can talk as clearly as many of its keepers. I must tell the story of a pair of very cute and lively starlings, as it is told us by the gentleman in whose house these birds were born and brought up
It is called Hawking or Falconry, and is a very old sport in which the falcon or the hawk was used to take game. It is still in use in some countries, but in old times falconry was the favorite sport of kings and nobles, many of whom spent much of their time in the field, hunting smaller or weaker birds by aid of the strong and swift falcon or hawk.
This kind of sport began very long ago, no one can say how long, it being common in Asia long before it was known in Europe. And it is common in some parts of Asia still.
The cormorants are great fish-eaters, so much so that it is common to call any large eater a cormorant. There are many species, some small, some large, living on the shores of islands and in some cases along rivers.
The way in which this bird is of service to man is in its being tamed and trained to catch fish for him. This used to be done in England and is still done in China. How it is done may be told in a few words.
The bird is easily tamed by the Chinese fishermen and is trained by them for its new duty. While being trained a string is tied to its leg so as to control its movements. Then small fish are thrown out and it springs after them. In time it learns to go into the water when a whistle is given and to come back when it hears a different whistle. After three or four weeks of this training the bird is ready for duty and no longer needs a string to hold it.
The albatross is a wonderful flyer. It is the largest of the web-footed birds, being four feet long and with a wing spread of from ten to seventeen feet. It seems to float or glide on the air rather than fly, hardly moving its long wings except when rising from the water.
It often follows ships for a long time; day after day, some people say, but this is doubtful. No ship can outsail it and it is said to be able to fly as much as eight hundred miles in a day. Sailors often fish for it with a baited hook, but find it hard to haul in, as it often draws out the hook or breaks the line. But a bait of blubber is very attractive and in a few minutes the same bird will take the hook again. Only by catching a fish in some such way as this could a message tied to its legs by shipwrecked sailors be found.
I have given this Bird the above Name, because it comes pretty near the Bird we call a Buzzard, or Pottock, in its Shape, Magnitude, and partly in its Colour, tho' it differs in many Respects, which shews it to be specifically different from our's in Eng-land, which see described in Willoughby's Ornithology, p. 70. Tab. 6. It seemed to me of the Bigness of a middle-sized Hen or Cock; its Shape and due Proportions I have, as well as I could, expressed in the Figure. The Bill is of a blueish Lead-Colour, cover'd with a Skin of the same Colour, from the Nostrils to the Point an Inch and a Quarter, from the Angles of the Mouth to the Point of the Bill two Inches ; The Head, and Fore-part of the Neck, are covered with Feathers, having dark brown Spots in the Middle, the rest of the Feathers being white, which make a pretty Appearance of White spotted with dark Brown ; from the Angles of the Mouth is drawn on each Side under the Eyes a dusky Line; the dark Spots on the Breast are larger than those on the Head, the Sides and Belly are covered with dark brown Feathers, spotted with round or oval Spots of White; the Thighs are covered with soft, loose, white Feathers, with long irregular Dashes of dark Brown down their Shafts ; the covert Feathers on the under Side of the Tail are barr'd transversly with Black and White ; the whole upper Side, Neck, Back, Wings, and Tail, are covered with brownish ash-coloured Feathers, darker in their middle Parts, their Edges becoming gradually lighter, which is most manifest in the smaller covert Feathers of the Wings, their very Edges being almost white. The outer Webb of the first Quill is spotted with a light Colour : the inner Webb on the under Side is Ash-colour, indented with White very distinctly, which Indenture becomes more and more confused and broken till the twelfth Quill, where it wholly disappears, the rest of the Quills within being Ash-colour: The covert Feathers, within-side of the Wings, are of a dark, dirty Brown, sprinkled with round Spots of White: The upper Side of the 'Tail is barr'd a-cross with narrow Bars of Clay-Colour ; as are the Feathers that cover the upper Side of the Tail : The under Side of the Tail is Ash-colour, barr'd accross with White: The Legs and Feet are of a blueish ash-colour; the Claws black: the fore Part of the Legs are cover'd half Way to the Feet with dusky Feathers.
[I kept the caption much as it was in 1747 English, keeping the capitalization, just changing the funny S character to a regular s]
Affection for one of the feathered race was shown by a cat which was rearing several kittens.
In another part of the loft a pigeon had built her nest; but her eggs and young having been frequently destroyed by rats, it seemed to occur to her that she should be in safer quarters near the cat. Puss, pleased with the confidence placed in her, invited the pigeon to remain near her, and a strong friendship was established between the two. They fed out of the same dish; and when Puss was absent, the pigeon, in return for the protection afforded her against the rats, constituted herself the defender of the kittens—and on any person approaching nearer than she liked, she would fly out and attack them with beak and wings, in the hope of driving them away from her young charges. Frequently, too, after this, when neither the kittens nor her own brood required her care, and the cat went out about the garden or fields, the pigeon might be seen fluttering close by her, for the sake of her society.
A lady in France possessed a cat which exhibited great affection for her. She accompanied her everywhere, and when she sat down always lay at her feet. From no other hands than those of her mistress would she take food, nor would she allow any one else to fondle her.
The lady kept a number of tame birds; but the cat, though she would willingly have caught and eaten strange birds, never injured one of them.
At last the lady fell ill, when nothing could induce the cat to leave her chamber; and on her death, the attendants had to carry away the poor animal by force. The next morning, however, she was found in the room of death, creeping slowly about, and mewing piteously. After the funeral, the faithful cat made her escape from the house, and was at length discovered stretched out lifeless above the grave of her mistress, having evidently died of a broken heart.
Osprey landing in its nest with food for its young
The longest feathers or primaries (PR) are borne by the two fingers (2 and 3), and their palm-bones (CMC); the second longest or secondaries are borne by the ulna bone (U) of the fore-arm; there is a separate tuft (AS) on the thumb (TH).
The bird was five or six feet high, something like a swimming ostrich, with a very powerful leg but only a vestige of a wing. There were sharp teeth in a groove. The modern divers come nearest to this ancient type.
(After William Leche of Stockholm.)
A good restoration of the oldest known bird, Archæopteryx (Jurassic Era). It was about the size of a crow; it had teeth on both jaws; it had claws on the thumb and two fingers; and it had a long lizard-like tail. But it had feathers, proving itself a true bird.
Little toddler pointing to a blackbird
Great Blue Heron
Altho protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty, this heron often finds himself the target for thoughtless hunters. Not that he would make a tasty dish, but any bird which stands 4 feet high with a wing spread of almost 70 inches is in constant danger. His favorite feeding grounds are wet meadows or pastures, ponds, lakes or streams. Most of his food consists of rough fish which he catches expertly, either standing patiently in shallow water until a fish appears, or walking slowly along the edge of some shallow pond until he discovers his prey. Snakes, frogs, insects, mice, eels, or even small birds are not safe from a hungry heron.
The American or Common Goldfinch often is called “wild canary.” Altho he is not a canary, his small size, color and twittering notes remind people of their pets. While smaller than sparrows, these birds are rugged and winter over much of their nesting range. Their habit of flocking and tendency to feed on weed seeds makes them easily found.
The male of this species is a rich lemon yellow with a small black mark above the bill, black wings and tail. The wings show distinct white bars especially in winter when the yellow has faded to the more somber hue of the female. The tail is forked with white tips on the outer feathers and coverts. The bill is yellow.
Goldfinches are noted for their cheerful dispositions. A feeding flock can be heard uttering twittering conversational notes even in winter. Spring brings the notes of their beautiful but varied song which usually can be identified as “tzee,” or “per-chic-o-ree,” which is the song heard when the birds pass overhead.
This slate-gray bird with white bill and white patch under the tail, belongs to the rail family but spends more time with ducks. He swims with a jerky motion of the head, dives like a grebe, walks out on the shore and eats grass like a goose. Yes, the “mudhen,” for that is what he is commonly called, is quite versatile. When taking flight, he either runs into the breeze or skitters across the water for a short distance until he can gain sufficient speed to gain altitude, then away to safety.
Coots feed largely on underwater vegetation and prefer algae or musk grass. Small fish or other aquatic animals are eaten on occasion while grass, grain or weeds are not overlooked. When diving for food, these birds often are robbed by the American Widgeon, or Baldpate, which relishes such juicy morsels but does not dive. Coots take such invasions as a matter of course.
The adult male of this species wears a black mask over his eyes and is only 5¼ inches long. The female lacks the mask but has a yellow throat, white belly and olive-brown head, back, wings and tail which identify the birds.
They nest over a wide area, favorite habitat being bushy thickets near water. He is quick to resent any invasion of his privacy and uses a variety of scolding notes to let you know how unhappy he is. His movements are wren-like and hurried and his black eyes fairly sparkle to show his excitement. He soon vanishes into the undergrowth but you will have a chance to learn his call which sounds like “witchity, witchity, witchity,” or “witcheree, witcheree, witcheree,” usually repeated 3 times.
This slim, long-tailed bird is far more common than people suspect for he seldom is seen. He prefers to move slowly thru the heavy foliage, peering under each branch and leaf for the leaf-eating worms which form his diet. Wooly worms, which other birds seem to shun, are relished by him. His long bill is a perfect tool for breaking into webs where he creates havoc with the wiggly inhabitants.
Cuckoos are larger than Robins and their long tails make them look even longer than the 12¼ inches which they measure. They fly directly from the center of one tree to the next, thus giving us a chance to check the rufous coloring of the wings and the large white spots on the ends of their black tails. The back is dark gray while the breast and belly are white. The yellow lower bill, the rufous wings and larger white spots on the tail are the main difference between this and the slightly smaller Black-billed Cuckoo. Both have a series of clucking notes but the Yellow-billed Cuckoo song gets slower, then runs down the scale, different from his relative’s long efforts.
Vultures play an unusual part in nature’s drama. They, along with Sexton Beetles, other insects and animals, form the sanitary unit. When we consider the heavy toll of wildlife along our highways, we can appreciate the usefulness of such a unit. Lacking talons, vultures are not equipped to catch their prey, but feed on whatever nature provides.
This vulture is almost eagle size, with a wingspread of 70 inches and can be identified by his long tail, small head, 2-toned wings, and habit of soaring, the wings forming a dihedral or open V-shape. On close inspection, you will find the head bare and a reddish color. The young have blackish heads which is one of the marks of the Black Vulture, but the latter is smaller with a square tail and shows white spots under the wing when flying. This is a southern cousin.
This sparrow-size cousin of the chickadee has a tuft of feathers which gives him a striking appearance. The tuft, nape, back, wings and tail are slate gray, while the cheek, throat, breast and belly are white with a pinkish-brown patch just below the wing. Habits are similar to chickadees and he often can be found feeding in loose flocks with these and other small birds such as Downy Woodpeckers, nuthatches and Brown Creepers. Together they form a useful team for what one species misses by his method of feeding, one of the others will find by a slightly different method.
They nest in holes in trees or even a bird box to their liking. They are noisy birds and their song is much louder and clearer than you would expect to hear from such small singers. The song consists of a series of whistled notes which sound like “pet-er” or “pet-o,” the first note usually slightly higher. Other notes remind you of a Carolina Wren or a Kentucky Warbler but the phrasing and tempo soon lead you to proper identification.
A titmouse enjoys a well-stocked feeder and is a nice neighbor for he enjoys singing and the clear whistled notes add a touch of nature to a cold winter day.
The rosy red plumage of the male Summer Tanager is helpful in identification for he is smaller than the Cardinal and lacks the tuft and black face patch of the latter. Females, which resemble orioles, do not have the sharply pointed bill of the oriole and are richer colored than the female Scarlet Tanager, being almost an orange-yellow below. She is olive-yellow above with no wing bars. The wings are greener than those of her near relative. Young males often show a mottled pattern of reds and yellows before attaining the rosy red hue of the adult.
They prefer a rather open forest such as is found on hillsides. A dead treetop makes an ideal perch while singing or catching insects on the wing. The song is a rather melodious series of notes which reminds one of a Robin. Alarm notes are a distinctive series of chippy-tuk-tuk notes.
These birds feed rather deliberately thru the trees and destroy many insects and leaf-eating larvae which they encounter. Their nest is usually far out on the limb and at least 10 feet above the ground. They spend winters in South and Central America. The breeding range does not extend as far north as that of the Scarlet Tanager.
Previous to 1890, this bird was unknown in America. Then a few pairs were released in New York City and now look at them! Starlings are everywhere. When walking around your yard or field he appears to be black with a short tail, pointed wings and a sharp pointed beak which is yellow in summer and brownish-black in winter. On closer inspection you will find that he is a little smaller than a Robin, greenish with speckled plumage in fall and winter, which develops into greenish-purple in spring. In flight he flaps and sails much like a Meadowlark but his short tail and wing pattern are distinctive. The young are brownish with lighter throats.
Many of the Starling’s feeding habits are beneficial for he eats many worms and insects which he finds by turning over leaves or probing with his sharp bill. The fact that he likes fruit on occasion is not in his favor for he likes to travel in flocks and it takes a lot of fruit to feed a flock of Starlings.
Any pond, lake or stream will be visited sooner or later by these little sandpipers. You find them teetering along shores, picking up insects and small crustacea which form the diet. Mud banks, sandy shores, pebbly mountain streams, half-sunken logs, all furnish happy hunting grounds.
The teetering tail is distinctive and no other sandpiper has the round black spots on his breast and none has the fluttering flight. They seem to tip-toe thru the air with very short wingbeats. Young and adults in winter plumage do not show the spots but continue to teeter. They often show a white spot just above the bend of the wing when in this plumage. Their usual note is a 2-tone “peet-weet,” which it utters when flushed from its feeding ground.
This little falcon, about the size of a Robin, is also known as Kestrel. Calling him a Sparrow-hawk is misleading, for insects and spiders, along with a generous portion of mice, go to make up his daily fare. Grasshoppers seem to be a special delicacy. Like other birds, he feeds on whatever is available. In cities, this includes English Sparrows.
The smallest of the hawk family can be found along highways where he uses telephone poles, wires or dead trees, while scanning the fields and fence rows for prey. Dressed in colorful plumage with spotted breast, slate-blue wings, red-brown back and tail, with head showing 2 black lines and a dot, he easily is seen and readily identified. The female is slightly larger, shows more banding on the tail and lacks the blue wings, hers being browner.
This medium-size goose is the most abundant member of the family and can be identified by white plumage and black wing tips. He is often called “wavy,” in the northern part of his range, while southern hunters refer to him as a “white brant.” His Latin name describes him as “a goose beyond the north wind.” We see him only as a migrant, either going to nesting grounds in Northern Canada or returning to his winter home on the coast of Louisiana and Texas. A somewhat larger relative known as the Greater Snow Goose, nests in Northern Greenland and winters along our Atlantic coast.
This bird feeds on roots and bulbs of water plants found in his wintering area. Grasses, grains or other vegetation bring huge flocks where they can be seen grazing like tame geese. Feeding flocks are not welcome to the wheat grower who has fields near lakes which are used as resting places for migrating birds.
The sparrow-size Slate-colored Junco or the “snowbird,” as he frequently is called, is only a winter visitor in most areas. But what a welcome guest he is! The white belly and outer tail feathers add distinctive marks to his slate-gray plumage. The bill is pinkish white. Females and immature birds are duller and sometimes show a pinkish-brown tinge on their backs and sides.
Juncos can be found around weed patches, hedges or sheltered corners of fields, where they spend much time in feeding on weed or grass seeds which provide their winter diet. Even fallen seeds are not overlooked for these birds do much of their feeding on the ground. They sleep in evergreens, sheds or other protected areas which shelter them from the cold and snow. They often visit feeders for small seeds provided by bird lovers.
Their notes are hard to describe but have a musical smacking or clinking note or series of notes which once learned, are easily remembered. Their song is a series of chipping notes much like those of a Chipping Sparrow, but with more variation and more of a musical quality. This song is heard when the first warm days of spring arrive. They nest in either mountainous or northern regions for they enjoy cool climates.
The Screech Owl is the smallest of the eared owls, about robin size. In fact he often nests in holes built by larger woodpeckers such as flickers. Like other owls, he hunts at night when his quavering call blends with the murmur of the night breeze. Mice, shrews, beetles, moths, crayfish, frogs and small birds seem to furnish a well-rounded diet.
These small owls have 2 distinct color phases, one a rich brown, the other a soft gray. Both blend with the bark of trees thus giving them protection. This is one of the mysteries of the bird world. Just why do these owls wear different colors? Both colors are often found in the same brood.
Even tho small, they give a good account of themselves and soon let you know when they have young in the vicinity. The parents defend their young against all comers and often surprise innocent persons who may stroll too close to the young only to be attacked by the irate parents.
This, the smallest bird found in the area, can be confused only with large moths such as the sphinx or hawk moths. Both the moths and hummingbirds like to feed on deep-throated flowers such as honeysuckles, petunias and trumpet-vines but the moths prefer late evening or early morning while the hummer never passes up a chance to explore such flowers with his long brush-like tongue with which he gathers nectar. This combined with small insects and spiders goes to make up his diet. Brightly colored phials filled with sugar water will attract him to your yard.
Hummingbirds are among the best fliers of the bird world and can hover, fly backward or forward or straight away, whatever meets their fancy. The male has a green back and in some lights the throat patch looks black only to flash ruby red when the bird changes position so the light is reflected. The female is duller and has white feather tips on the tail.
There is no reason to tell you this bird is robin-size except that we would like you to remember he is 10 inches long. This helps when making a comparison with other birds. This medium-size member of the thrush family makes himself at home on your lawn, in your garden, pastures or fields. There you will see his reddish breast, dark head and back, all distinctive in sunlight or shadow. Yes, you can spot a Robin anywhere. The young have spotted breasts which is typical of the thrush family.
Robins are early risers and start singing as soon as the first faint glow shows the approach of a new day. Robins do most of their feeding on the ground. There you will see them making a short run, then stop, look and listen. They seem to be able to hear their prey, for you will notice them digging worms and insects from depths which would make them impossible to see. These birds sometimes add small snakes, minnows or frogs to their diet of worms, insects and fruit. Hackberries, persimmons and red cedar seeds help carry them thru the winter.
Robins often winter rather far north and are one of the first migrants to make an appearance in spring.
A black bird with a bright red shoulder patch identifies the adult male. Females and young are a heavily streaked gray-brown while young males are brown with an orange wing patch. In fall and winter the brilliant red shoulder patch is not so apparent, sometimes reduced to only a line.
These numerous birds are slightly smaller than Robins and are abundant along ditches, ponds, lakes or other marshy areas where they nest in rushes, cattails or small bushes surrounding water. Irrigation has increased their habitat until they are one of our common birds. Vast flocks spend the winter in southern marshes.
While nesting in swamps or other low areas, they range widely in search of insects and larvae and account for many which would be injurious to crops. In fall they feed heavily on weed seeds and waste grain. Huge flocks are not welcomed in the unharvested rice fields of the south.
Feeding habits make him a good neighbor to everyone in his northern range before he joins the flocks of Starlings and other birds which flock to the southern areas.
The male is a bigamist on occasion and often entices more than one mate to share his chosen marsh.
Red-tails, like other hawks, show a great variation in plumage. The dark phase of a Western Red-tail compares favorably with the plumage of an adult Golden Eagle, but the smaller size and the reddish upper tail surface which reflects the sun as the bird soars, furnishes the clue. Typical plumage shows a dark belly-band with bright, reddish upper tail, while some birds show a light breast and belly.
This bird prefers open woodlands or a dead tree with fields adjoining. There he may sit for hours, but ever watchful for some movement which might indicate the presence of a gopher, field mouse, rat or even a snake. All add to his varied menu. Rodents soon become pests when these hawks are scarce. This bird often is killed by farmers and poultry raisers when the real culprit, the Cooper’s Hawk, lives on to enjoy the flock.
The Red-tail’s size and habit of perching in exposed places make him a ready target for anyone who carries a gun. Slow flight combined with his habit of soaring also add to his high death rate.
Unlike some of his relatives which prefer low bushes and shrubs, the Red-eyed Vireo prefers heavily-wooded areas. Where forests occur, he is the commonest bird. Clearing of timber reduced much of his habitat, but any grove of trees will furnish a home for this species. His numbers are limited only by the area of the wooded section.
Vireos are more often heard than seen for they feed slowly thru the tops of high trees, but have an endless series of notes and sing during the hot summer days when other birds seek shelter. The song consists of a series of short phrases sometimes rising, sometimes falling, as if the bird were talking to himself, even answering his own questions, with a distinct pause between. Some of these notes have a robin or tanager-like quality, but the repeated song soon places the bird.
When you see this sparrow-size bird, you will find that he has a clear white line over the eye, bordered with black. This is his only outstanding mark for he has no wing bars. His general appearance is greenish-gray above, white below with a greenish-yellow tinge on the sides and flanks. His red eye is not distinct enough to make a good field mark. His main diet consists of leaf-eating worms.
With others hushed
This, the largest member of the swallow family, has adopted the many-roomed apartments which man is glad to furnish. For there are few people who do not take pleasure in watching the graceful flight of this bird as he flaps and sails above your trees. His low-pitched, gurgling notes help to identify him.
They arrive from their winter homes rather early in spring and often are heard or seen by the latter part of March. Heavy mortality can result when late snows or icy rains cut down the quota of flying insects which are his food. As soon as family cares are over, they gather in huge flocks and soon leave for their winter home in South America. They usually are gone by the last of August.
The male is entirely blue-black which may look purple in some lights, while the female and young birds show lighter breasts with duller head and back.
Those who live near prairies and brushy grasslands have a chance to become acquainted with this brown hen-like bird which formerly ranged over much of the middle west. Cultivation and hunters have reduced the numbers until they no longer are common. The large size, the short, dark, rounded tail, the heavily barred underparts, the rounded wings, all are descriptive of this bird. In flight he reminds you of king-size Meadow Larks, flapping then sailing, as he journeys to and from favorite feeding grounds.
In early spring these birds gather in a selected location known as a “booming ground”; there the males defend a certain area against other males, yet welcome the hens by strutting, inflating their yellow throat sacks and erecting the feathers over their heads until they resemble ears. These antics are accompanied by clucks and a series of 3-noted hoots which make up their love songs. The males often engage in fighting to protect their area.
It makes little difference to this bird whether you call him “Water-witch, Hell-diver, Dabchick or Pied-billed Grebe,” for these are only a few of the names by which he is known. His only concern is finding a pond, lake or other water, well supplied with crayfish, minnows or insects on which he feeds. Leeches are a favorite morsel.
The short, thick bill of this grebe is distinctive, even in winter when the black encircling band from which it gets its name, is missing. General appearance is brown, being brownish-black above, lighter brown and white below. On water the short tail usually is carried high enough to show the white under-tail coverts.
He’s not a hawk, but like other members of the Goatsucker family, often feeds at night. This gray-brown, robin size bird with white bars across the wings, often is called a “bull-bat.” Early morning and late evenings seem to be favorite feeding times for then insects on which he feeds, are on the wing. During the day you will find him sitting horizontally on some sheltered limb, his colors blending perfectly. He looks more like a knot or broken stub than a bird. He leaves his resting place with a glide and then goes into his distinctive flight.
The Nighthawk often ascends high in the sky with a series of quick wing beats, each accompanied by his call of a nasal “peent.” When the desired height is attained, he folds his wings slightly and dives with a booming sound. This is a part of the breeding display.
The Myrtle Warbler is a member of a colorful family of American birds most of which are smaller than sparrows, have thin pointed bills, are more active than vireos. They are often referred to as the butterflies of the bird world. The Myrtle Warbler is presented because he is the first to arrive in spring, often before the leaves arrive to hide him from view. This 5½-inch bird has 4 yellow marks which will identify him: the crown, rump and each side of the breast. He appears darker than most warblers, being blue-gray above, white below with black marks across the breast and back beneath the wings. The white throat and 2 white wing bars offer contrast. Females and young lack the brilliant markings of the male, but the yellow rump patch will identify the birds. The white throat distinguishes this from other warblers which show a yellow rump.
This bird is a migrant since he prefers to nest in the evergreens of Northern United States and Canada. He feeds on insects and larvae which infest our trees but captures many flying insects when available. Often he winters farther north than you would expect to find warblers and then feeds on small berries. Myrtle or bayberries are a favorite food and the name of the bird indicates its fondness for these berries.
There is something about a dove which makes you want to know him better. Could it be his low mournful call? (And why do we call it mournful? Someone described it in that manner, and while it is not as colorful as other bird notes, it has a restful and pleasing quality.) Could it be the graceful flight which shows the pointed tail with the white trimming? Could it be dainty steps which seem to fit his personality? Perhaps the way he drinks by inserting his bill and swallowing water until he has his fill. It might be the way he builds his nest: no time wasted when this bird constructs a home. It might even be the way he jerks his head, as if trying to get a better focus on the sights of the world.
Some call him brown; if so, where did we get the description, “dove colored”? In good light, the head and neck have a rich sheen which blends with the rest of the body. All in all, he is a beautiful bird.
A trim, robin-size pale gray bird which shows extensive white patches on the wings and outer tail when in flight. These markings will identify this bird in winter when you find him feeding on whatever fruits or berries he can locate. He does not choose to migrate when a good supply of red cedar, bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, persimmon, bittersweet or other such seeds are available. Raisins or currants will entice him to your feeder but he is too big a bully to make a good guest for he chases other birds away.
In summer he adds other little habits which soon bring him to your attention. First, his song, a medley of rich notes which include not only his own song, but a mimicked version of other songs and sounds which he has heard. These are usually repeated 2 or 3 times and then he goes to a new series, which may be harsh or pleasing. His song has more variety of notes than the Brown Thrasher or Catbird. He prefers high perches when singing, such as aerials, chimneys, windmills, trees, buildings or water towers. He always is doing unusual things like leaping into the air or going thru other antics which show his well-marked plumage.
He likes to nest in arbors, shrubs or trees which offer protection to his bulky home which is often only a few feet above the ground.
A gray bird with a black mask over the eyes, black wings which show a white patch when flying, and a black tail with white margins, all help identify this shrike. His head seems large when compared to his trim body, he has a hooked beak, the under plumage is white. If there is any doubt, watch him fly from one perch to another. He drops down near the ground, flies rapidly and then zooms up to his next location. Another habit is flicking his tail like a Phoebe when he alights.
This bird likes open fields, pastures, grassy or weedy grounds with handy perches where he can get a good view of his surroundings. He has good eyes and any small snake, mouse or grasshopper will cause him to investigate. He often hovers before striking and catches his prey with his strong beak, for his feet are not equipped with heavy claws like most predators. This also makes it necessary for him to impale his prey on thorns, barbed wire or some other pointed object where he can cut it with his sharp bill.
Shrikes seem to prefer thorny trees for nesting, but will use whatever is available. Most nests are rather low and are bulky structures.
These birds kill more food than they consume and would be held in better repute except for the habit of killing other birds.
Most Americans seem to have fallen in love with the House Wren. It could not be his beauty for he lacks the distinctive markings found on other birds, even other wrens. Even in good light you see only a small grayish-brown bird with lighter underparts. It is surely not his size for he is smaller than a sparrow. His song is a sort of spontaneous outburst of notes which give you more quantity than quality, with a liberal helping of scolding notes, so it is not his vocal efforts. He is not a good bird neighbor for he often punctures the eggs of other nesting birds in his area. It must be his independence that has won him favor.
No other bird finds such an assortment of nesting boxes, all sizes, shapes and colors, some homemade, others purchased. Some he will use, while others offer no attraction. He may pass up a well-placed wren house to build in the pocket of an old coat hung in a shed. He likes boxes 8 to 10 feet above ground, not hidden by limbs.
He prefers low shrubs, piles of brush or wood, or even open spots in heavy timber, for there he finds the insects and small spiders which form the major part of his food. Most of his hunting is either on or near the ground while nesting sites are seldom above 12 feet. He runs to large families and more than one brood is reared.
The killdeer is the common plover which we see in pastures, meadows, fields or on shores of ponds and lakes. Freshly mown alfalfa fields, short grass or stubble, even newly plowed fields attract them. They gather in loose flocks to feed on exposed insects or worms. Their usual pace consists of a short run, a quick stop to check for some juicy morsel, then another short run. All stops are accompanied by a jerky movement as if undecided whether to spring into the air or stay on the ground. Even the spindly legged young have this bobbing habit.
This bird is only a little bigger than the Robin, but longer legs and tail make him appear larger. White collar with 2 black bands across the lower neck and upper breast, chestnut back and tail, white lines in the wings in flight, all make this plover easily identified. If there is any doubt you will soon hear his “kill-dee,” or “kill-deer” notes, for he is a noisy bird, quick to resent any intrusion in his territory. These calls alert other birds, much to the disgust of duck hunters who are trying to make a quiet approach to their blinds.
Whether you call him an English Sparrow or a House Sparrow, makes little difference. He is not a sparrow, nor can we blame the English for the vast population of these birds found within our borders. The fact that it is a weaver-finch would indicate that Africa was the original home of this species. This bird has been introduced into many countries and he soon adapts himself to any surroundings. The record shows that 8 pairs were introduced in Brooklyn in 1850 but did not survive. Two years later, more were imported and now they are at home over a wide range.
Since we have referred to this bird for comparative size, it is well that we keep him in mind. His length runs from 5½ to 6¼ inches with a wingspread of 9½ to 10 inches. The male is rather colorful with his gray crown, chestnut nape, white cheeks, black throat and chest, brown back and gray-white belly. The thick finch-like bill, the slightly notched tail which they flick often, the habit of hopping when feeding on the ground—all help in identification. The young and winter males resemble the female which is a dull-brown above with gray-white below and a pale stripe over the eye.
They consume quantities of insects but will eat almost anything available.
A sparrow-size bird with black tail, which flushes from the road while you travel along, is the Horned Lark. When you travel slower you will find that he walks when he moves around, never hopping like birds which prefer trees. Other marks to look for are a black crown, black line extending from the beak, curving back and down over the cheek and a black patch below the white or yellow throat. A white or yellow line, depending on the subspecies of the bird you see, separates the crown from the black facial pattern. The horns, from which the bird gets his name, consist of 2 tufts of feathers extending up from the crown, but sometimes are hard to see. Body color is brownish above with light belly.
Horned Larks prefer short-grass country with barren hills or other open spots such as the sandy shoulders of highways. There you will find them walking or running in their search for small seeds or insects. When snow covers the ground they flock to the highways where graders and snowplows have removed the icy covering.
Energetic little birds, smaller than House Wrens, the Golden-crowned Kinglets spend the winter busily engaged in searching the twigs and branches for insect eggs or larvae. There they join mixed flocks of chickadees, Brown Creepers, nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers, all working together to protect our trees. He is easily identified for he has the habit of flicking his wings as he moves thru the branches. His short, slightly forked tail, white line over the eye, distinct wing bars, all seem dull when compared to the golden crown, edged with black. This gives an artistic touch to his olive-gray plumage. The female shows a yellowish crown. The only bird with which he can be confused is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet which shows a distinct eye ring. He flashes his ruby crown only when excited.
Like the Brown Creeper, this bird has a faint lisping call which usually is given in a series of from one to 3 notes, not the single note of the creeper.
Unlike many of the flycatchers, this bird which is only a little larger than the English Sparrow, is easily identified. His black bill, lack of wing bars or eye ring is distinctive but his habit of jerking or waving his tail is conclusive. The habit of repeating his name over and over in a low but emphatic tone gives little doubt of his presence. Some people might confuse this call with the high notes of the Black-capped Chickadee but when once learned there is little resemblance.
The Phoebe is one of the hardiest of his clan, often wintering in the southern portion of its nesting range and returning in spring so early that we often wonder how he can find sufficient flying insects to sustain life.
This chunky robin-size bird is perfectly at home in fields and pastures. There he is easily recognized as a plump brown-streaked bird with yellow underparts and a black crescent on the breast like a black V. The short tail shows white on each side and is flicked nervously. The crown shows black and white stripes. They fly low over the fields with a series of flaps and sails and walk around short-grass meadows in their search for insects.
They are not larks but are closely related to Starlings, as shown by their scientific name and their resemblance to the invading flocks of these aliens. Unlike their relatives, Meadowlarks have no bad habits and feed largely on cutworms, grasshoppers and beetles which are found in their chosen habitat.
The Eastern Meadowlark has a loud clear song often referred to as “spring is here,” while his western cousin, slightly smaller in size, produces a series of whistled notes and warbles which is quite pleasing to the ear. Both have a series of chattering notes which is typical. Neither is hesitant about singing and they add much to their surroundings by the quality of song.
They not only should be protected but encouraged to nest around farms for they more than pay their way.
The Eastern Kingbird, altho slightly smaller than a Robin, is “monarch of all he surveys,” and is ready and willing to defend his territory against all comers. His happiest moments seem to be spent in chasing hawks, crows, herons or vultures and he is the first to see their approach and give the alarm. Then, like a fighter-plane, he speeds high in the air and dives on the intruder. Such aerial attacks are of short duration for the larger bird soon escapes to a safer location. He then drops back to his favorite perch, often using such quick wing-beats that he seems to be tip-toeing thru the air.
This flycatcher with his white breast, dark head, back and wings, and black tail with white terminal band, is identified easily. He likes to nest around farm homes or other open country but wants a few open spots where he can perch while waiting for passing insects. People who raise bees often refer to him as a “bee-martin,” and accuse him of eating honeybees. There is little ground for this accusation for only 22 stomachs of 634 examined showed a total of 61 bees eaten and 51 of the total were drones. On the other hand, this bird eats robber flies which catch and destroy bees. Eighty-five per cent of his food consists of insects which includes grasshoppers, crickets and cutworms.
This small thrush, only slightly larger than an English Sparrow, is held in high esteem by those who have made his acquaintance. Unlike the Hermit and Wood Thrushes which sing in the seclusion of deep forests, the Bluebird prefers open country with scattered trees. Old apple orchards make choice locations for usually they have a number of old woodpecker holes for nests.
Unlike most thrushes, he is not noted for his song, however his frequently heard “tur-wee,” gives a restful assurance that all is well. The male has bright blue upper parts with reddish-brown breast. The female is duller with only the wings and tail showing blue with duller brown breast. The young have spotted breasts like others of the thrush family.
The sparrow-size Downy Woodpecker resembles his robin-size cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker, but his notes are a little softer and his tapping a little faster for his short bill can produce no such wallop as the heavy-billed Hairy. The outer tail feathers are barred, instead of the black and white pattern of the latter. Both males show a red spot on the nape which is lacking on the females. General coloring is black and white.
While this friendly little woodpecker relishes suet, he does not let his visits to your feeder interfere with his constant search for the larvae which he finds in galls, cornstalks, weed stems or the bark of trees. He makes a small opening into the tunnel where the larvae are hiding, then inserts his long tongue and spears the worm. Nature has provided him with a barbed spear on his long tongue and he uses it constantly in protecting our trees.