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AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGY;

OR,

THE NATURAL HISTORY

OF THE

BIRDS OF THE UNITED STATES

ILLUSTRATED WITH PLATES

Engraved and Colored from Original drawings taken from Nature,

BY ALEXANDER WILSON.

VOL. vn.

PHILADELPHIA ;

PUBLISHED BY SAMUEL F. BRADFORD,

PRINTED BY THOMAS H. PALMER.

18S4.

PREFACE.

WE now enter upon the second grand division of our subject, Water Birds ; and on that particular order, usually denominated Gralla, or Waders. Here a new assemblage of scenery, altogether different from the former, presents itself for our contemplation. Instead of rambling through the leafy labyrinths of umbrageous groves, fragrance-breathing orchards, fields and forests, we must now descend into the watery morass, and moscheto-swamp ; tra- verse the windings of the rivers, the rocky clifls, bays and inlets of the seabeat shore, listening to the wild and melancholy screams of a far different multitude ; a multitude less intimate indeed with man, tho not less useful; as they conti'ibute liberally to his amuse- ment, to the abundance of his table, the warmth of his bed, and the comforts of his repose.

In contemplating the various, singular and striking peculiari- ties of these, we shall every where find traces of an infinitely wise and beneficent Creator. In every deviation of their parts from the common conformation of such as are designed for the land alone, we may discover a wisdom of design never erring, never failing in the means it provides for the accomplishment ol its purpose. In- stead therefore of imitating the wild piesumption, or i-ather pro-

VOL. VII.

A

j; ^ PREFACE.

fanity, of those who have censured as rude, defective or deformed, whatever, in those and other organized beings, accorded not with their narrow conceptions ; let it be ours to search with humility into the intention of those particular conformations ; and thus, en- tering as it were into the designs of the Deity, we shall see in every part of the work of his hands abundant cause to exclaim with the enraplured poet of nature,

» O Wisdom infinite! Goodness immense!

And Love that passeth knowledge !”

In the present volume, the greater part of such of the Waders as belong to the territories of the United States, will be found de- lineated and described. This class naturally forms an interme- diate link between the Land Birds and the Web-footed, partaking, in their form, food and habits, of the characters of both ; and equally deserving of our regard and admiration. Tho formed for traversing watery situations, often in company with the Swimmers, they differ from these last in one circumstance common to Land Birds, the separation of the toes nearly to their origin ; and in the habit of seldom venturing beyond their depth. On the other hand, they arc furnished with legs of extraordinary length, bare for a considerable space above the knees, by the assistance of which they are enabled to walk about in the water in pursuit of their prey, where the others are obliged to swim ; and also with necks of corresponding length, by means of which they can search the bottom for food, where the others must have recourse to diving.

PREFACE.

iii

The bills of one family (the Herons) are strong, sharp pointed, and of considerable length ; while the flexibility of the neck, the rapi- dity of its action, and remarkable acuteness of sight, wonderfully fit them for watching, striking and securing their prey. Those whose food consists of more feeble and sluggish insects, that lie concealed deeper in the mud, are provided with bills of still greater extension, the rounded extremity of which possesses such nice sen- sibility, as to enable its possessor to detect its prey the instant it comes in contact with it, tho altogether beyond the reach of sight.

Other families of this same order, formed for traversing the sandy seabeach in search of small shell-fish that lurk just below the surface, have the bills and legs necessarily shorter ; but their wants requiring them to be continually on the verge of the flowing or retreating wave, the activity of their motions forms a striking contrast with the patient habits of the Heron tribe, who sometimes stand fixed and motionless, for hours together, by the margin of a pool or stream, watching to surprize their scaly prey.

Some few again, whose favorite food lies at the soft oozy bot- toms of shallow pools, have the bill so extremely slender and de- licate, as to be altogether unfit for penetrating either the muddy shores, or sandy sea-beach ; tho excellently adapted for its own particular range, where lie the various kinds of food destined for their subsistence. Of this kind is the ^^voset of the present volume, who not only wades with great activity in considerably deep wa- ter; but having the feet half-webbed, combines in one the charac- ters of both wader and swimmer.

IV

PREFACE.

It is thus that, by studying the living manners of the differ- ent tribes in tlieir native retreats, we not only reconcile the singu- larity of some parts of their conformation with divine wisdom j but are enabled to comprehend the reason of many others, which tlie pride of certain closet naturalists has arraigned as defective or deformed.

One observation more may be added : the migrations of this class of birds are more generally known and acknowledged than that of most others. Their comparatively large size and immense multitudes, render their regular periods of migration (so strenuous- ly denied to some others) notorious along the whole extent of our seacoast. Associating, feeding, and travelling together in such prodigious and noisy numbers, it would be no less difl&cult to con- ceal their arrival, passage and departure, than that of a vast army through a thickly peopled country. Constituting also, as many of them do, an article of food and interest to man, he naturally be- comes more intimately acquainted with theii*' habits and retreats, than with those feeble and minute kinds, which offer no such induce- ment, and perform their migrations with more silence, in scattered parties, unheeded or overlooked. Hence many of the Waders can be traced from their summer abodes, the desolate regions of Green- land and Spitzbergen, to the fens and seashores of the West India islands and South America, the usual places of their winter retreat, while those of the Purple Martin and common Swallow still re- main, in vulgar belief, wrapt up in all the darkness of mystery.

The figures in the i)lates which accompany this volume have been generally reduced to one half the dimensions of the living

PREFACE,

V

birds. In the succeeding volumes, where some of the subjects measure upwards of five feet in height, one general standard of re- duction will be used, by which means the comparative size of each species can be easily ascertained at first glance ; and a greater number introduced in each plate, so as to comprehend the whole of our Ornithology in nine volumes ; being one less than originally projected.

ALEXANDER WILSON.

Philadelphia^ March 1^#, 1813.

VOL. VII.

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PREFACE

BY THE EDITOR.

THE publisher of this work having resolved to give a new edition of the seventh volume, the Editor eonceivcd that lie would render an acceptable service to naturalists by revising it, and adapting it to the present state of ornithological knowledge. In the prosecution of this task it will be perceived that he has taken the liberty of materially altering some of the articles, omitting synonymes and adding others ; and changing the nomenclature. That in endeavouring to correct the mistakes of the autlior he has sometimes fallen into error himself, it may, probably, be objected to him ; but for the greater part of the alterations he can produce the authority of a name which deservedly stands the first upon the roll of the ornithologists of the age, Mr. C. J. Temminck. From the second edition of the Manuel d’ Ornithologie of this gentleman the Editor has derived important assistance; and he takes this opportunity to express his high sense of the merit of that com- prehensive work.

It ought not, perhaps, to be concealed that Wilson committed more errors of nomenclature in his seventh volume than in any of his preceding volumes. These arose in the first place from his not

Vlll

PREFACE.

being as conversant with the Waders as with the Land birds ; and, secondly, from the necessity which he lay under of finishing his Ornithology in a given time, thereby being prevented from study- ing and collating the works of his predecessoi's : a labor which is indispensable in every department of Natural history, by all those who undertake to write upon this multifarious science. Had our excellent author lived to produce himself a new edition, there can be no doubt that it would have assumed a different aspect from the present, inasmuch as he would have had access to the rare collec- tions of our scientific institutions, which, since his death, have been augmented with those works which it was never his good fortune to behold.

For the information of the reader the Editor here records his alterations in the nomenclature, in order that the whole may be embraced at one view ; premising that the first column comprises the names of the original edition.

Falco ossifragus Charadrius calidris C. rubidus

Recurvirostra himantopus Tringa hiaticula Charadrius apricarius C. pluvial is

Tringa interpres Ardea candidissima Scolopax borealis Tringa cinclus

Falco leucocephalus. Calidris arenaria.

Idem,

Himantopus Mexicanus. Charadrius hiaticula, Vanellus Helveticus. Idem,

Strepsilas interpres, Ardea Carolinensis. Numenius borealis. Tringa Alpina.

PREFACE.

IX

Tringa Bartramia Tringa solitaria Tringa macularia Scolopax vociferus Scolopax flavipes Scolopax semipalmata Scolopax fedoa Scolopax noveboracensis Procellaria pelagica

The Editor has also made and added some matter, the fru he hopes will be acceptable to

. Totanus Bartratiiins,

. Totanus glareolus,

Tota?ius macidantis,

. Totanus melanoleucos.

, Totanus Jlavipes,

. Totanus semipalmatus,

. Liniosa fedoa,

. Scolopax grisea,

Procellaria Wilsonii, some verbal alterations in the text ; its of his personal experience, which he American ornithologist.

GEORGE ORD.

Philadelphia^ May 1, 1824.

VOL. VII.

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INDEX

TO THE SEVENTH VOLUME.

American Avoset .

American Stilt American Stormy Petrel Ash-colored Sandpiper .

Bald Eagle (Young)

Bartram’s Sandpiper Black-bellied Plover Young of ditto

Black Skimmer, or Shearwatei Blue Heron Clapper Rail

Great Marbled Godwit (Female

Great Tern

Great Egret Heron

Green Heron

Kildeer Plover

Lesser Tern

Little White Heron

Night Heron, or Qua-bird

I'AUE.

Beciirvirostra Jlmericana

132

Hhnantopiis Mexicanus

. 52

Procellaria Wilsonii

. 94

Tringa cinerea

. 36

Falco leucocephahis

. 16

Totaniis Bartramim

. 67

Vanelhis Helveticiis ,

. 42

.

. 75

Rhynchops nigra

. 89

Jlrdea carulea

. 122

Ralliis crepitans

117

Limosa fedoa

. 30

Sterna hirimdo

. 80

Jlrdea egretta

. Ill

Jlrdea virescens

. 102

Charadrius vociferus

. 77

Sterna minuta

. 84

Jlrdea Carolinensis .

. 125

Jlrdea nycticorax

. 106

INDEX.

XU

Pur re

Red-backed Sandpiper . Red-breasted Sandpiper Red-breasted Snipe Ring Plover Ring-tailed Eagle Roseate Spoonbill Sanderling

Ditto, in its summer dress, Semipalmated Sandpiper Short-billed Curlew Short-tailed T era Solitary Sandpiper Spotted Sandpiper Tell-tale Snipe Turn-stone Virginian Rail Willet

Yellow-shanks Snipe

Tringa Jllpina

. 39

Idem

. 25

Tringa riifa

. 47

Scolopax grisea

. 49

Charadriiis hiaticida

. 69

FaJeo ftdviis

. 13

Platalea ajaja

. 129

Calidris arenaria

. 72

.

. 135

Tringa semipabnata

. 137

Niim€7iius borealis .

. 22

Sterna plumbea

. 87

Totamis glareolus

57

Totanus inacularius

. 64

Totanus mela?ioleucos

. 61

Strepsilas interpres

. 32

Rallus Virginianus .

. 114

Totanus semipalmatus

. 27

Totanus flavipes

. 59

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AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGY.

RING-TAILED EAGLE.

FJILCO FULVUS.

[Plate LV. Fig. 1.]

Linn. Syst, 125. Black Eagle^ Arct. Zool. p. 195, Ab. 87. Id. Yelloxv-headed Eagle? No. 86,2). Lath. I, 32, No. 6. Ideniy Golden Eaglcy p. 31, No. B. fVhite-taded Eagle^ Edw. I, 1. L^Aigle Commwiy Buff, I, 86. PI. Enl. 409, 410. Bewick, I, p. 49. Ind. Orn. 1, No. 4, fulvus ; No. 8, c/irysaetos; No. 26, melanonotus ? : No. 3, melancectus ? Peale’s Museuniy No. 84; Ab. 85, young.

THE reader is now presented with a portrait of this celebrated Eagle, drawn from a fine specimen shot in the county of Montgo- mery, Pennsylvania. The figure here given, tho reduced to one- third the size of life, is strongly characteristic of its original. With respect to the habits of the species, such particulars only shall be selected as are well authenticated, rejecting whatever seems vague, or savours too much of the marvellous.

This noble bird, in strength, spirit and activity, ranks among the first of its tribe. It is found, tho sparingly dispersed, over the whole temperate and arctie regions, particularly the latter ; breed- ing on high precipitous rocks ; always preferring a mountainous country. In its general appearance it has so great a reseniblance to the Golden Eagle, that I do not hesitate to consider them the same. When young, the color of the body is considerably lighter,

but deepens into a blackish brown as it advances in age.

D

VOL. VII.

14

RING-TAILED EAGLE.

The tail feathers of this bird are highly valued by the various tribes of American Indians for ornamenting their calumets, or pipes of peace. Several of these pipes which were brought from the remote regions of Louisiana by captain Lewis, are now depo- sited in Mr. Peale’s Museum, each of which has a number of the tail feathers of this bird attached to it. The Northern as well as Southern Indians seem to follow the like practice, as appears by the numerous calumets, formerly belonging to different tribes, to be seen in the same magnificent collection.

Mr. Pennant informs us, that the independent Tartars train this Eagle for the chase of hares, foxes, wolves, antelopes, &c. and that they esteem the feathers of the tail the best for pluming their arrows. The Ring-tailed Eagle is characterized by all as a generous spirited and docile bird ; and various extraordinary incidents are related of it by different writers, not, however, sufficiently authen- ticated to deserve repetition. The truth is, the solitary habits of the Eagle now before us, the vast inaccessible cliffs to which it usually retires, united with the scarcity of the species in those re- gions inhabited by man, all combine to render a particular know- ledge of its manners very difficult to be obtained. The author has, once or twice, observed this bird sailing along the alpine declivi- ties of the White mountains of New Hampshire, early in October, and again, over the Highlands of Hudson’s river, nor far from West Point. Its flight was easy, in high circuitous sweeps, its broad white tail, tipped with brown, expanded like a fan. Near the settlements on Hudson’s bay it is more common, and is said to prey on hares, and the various species of Grous which abound there. Buffon observes, that tho other Eagles also prey upon hares, this species is a more fatal enemy to those timid animals, which are the constant object of their search, and the prey which they prefer. The Latins, after Pliny, termed the Eagle Valeria quasi valens viribus, because of its strength, which appears greater that that of the other Eagles in proportion to its size.

RING-TAILED EAGLE.

15

The Ring-tailed Eagle measures nearly three feet in length ; the bill is of a brownish horn color ; the cere, sides of the mouth and feet yellow ; iris of the eye reddish hazel, the eye turned con- siderably forwards; eyebrow remarkably prominent, projecting over the eye, and giving a peculiar sternness to the aspect of the bird ; the crown is flat; the plumage of the head, throat and neck long and pointed ; that on the upper part of the head and neck very pale ferruginous ; fore part of the crown black ; all the pointed feathers are shafted with black ; whole upper parts dark blackish brown ; wings black ; tail rounded, long, of a white or pale cream color, minutely sprinkled with specks of asli and dusky, and end- ing in a broad band of deep dark brown of nearly one-third its length ; chin, cheeks and throat black ; whole lower parts a deep dark brown, except the vent and inside of the thighs, which are white, stained with brown ; legs thickly covered to tlie feet with brownish white down or feathers ; claws black, very large, sharp and formidable, the hind one full two inches long.

The Ring-tailed Eagle is found in Russia, Switzerland, Ger- many, France, Scotland, and the northern parts of America. As Marco Polo, in his description of the customs of the Tartars, seems to allude to this species, it may be said to inhabit the whole circuit of the arctic regions of the globe. The Golden Eagle is said, by some, to be found only in the more warm and temperate counti'ies of the ancient continent.* It is now, however, ascertained to be also an inhabitant of the United States.

^ Buffon, vol. i, p. 56. Trans.

16

BALD EAGLE. FALCO LEUCOCEPHALUS.

[Plate LV. ^Fig 2, Young.']

Sea Eagle, Jrct. Zool. p. 194, No. 86, A.—V^iii.z'sMuseum, No. 80, male.

THIS Eagle inhabits the same countries, frequents the same situations, and lives on the same kind of food, as the Bald Eagle, with whom it is often seen in company. It resembles this last so much in figure, size, form of the bill, legs and claws, and is so often seen associating with it, both along the Atlantic coast, and in the vicinity of our lakes and large rivers, that I have strong suspicions, notwithstanding ancient and very respectable authori- ties to the contrary, of its being the same species, only in a differ- ent stage of color. ■*

That several years elapse before the young of the Bald Eagle receive the white head, neck and tail ; and that during the inter- mediate period their plumage strongly resembles that of the Sea Eagle, I am satisfied from my own observation on three several birds kept by persons of this city. One of these belonging to the late Mr. Enslen, collector of natural subjects for the emperor of Aus- tria, was confidently believed by him to be the Black, or Sea Eagle, until the fourth year, when the plumage on the head, tail and tail- coverts began gradually to become white ; the bill also exchanged its dusky hue for that of yellow ; and before its death, this bird, which I frequently examined, assumed the perfect dress of the full- plumaged Bald Eagle. Another circumstance corroborating these suspicions, is the variety that occurs in the colors of the Sea Eagle. Scarcely two of these are found to be alike, their plumage being

BALD EAGLE.

17

more or less diluted with white. In some the chin, breast and tail-coverts are of a deep brown ; in others nearly white ; and in all evidently unfixed and varying to a pure white. Their place and manner of building, on high trees, in the neighborhood of lakes, large rivers, or the ocean, exactly similar to the Bald Eagle, also strengthen the belief. At the celebrated cataract of Niagara great numbers of these birds, called there Gray Eagles, are con- tinually seen sailing high and majestically over the watery tumult, in company with the Bald Eagles, eagerly watching for the man- gled carcasses of those animals that have been hurried over the precipice, and cast up on the rocks below, by the violence of the rapids. These are some of the circumstances on which my sus- picions of the identity of these two birds are founded. In some future part of the work I hope to be able to speak with more cer- tainty on this subject.

Were we disposed, after the manner of some, to substitute for plain matters of fact all the narratives, conjectures, and fanciful theories of travellers, voyagers, compilers, &c. relative to the his- tory of the Eagle, the volumes of these writers, from Aristotle down to his admirer the Count de Bufibn, would furnish abundant materials for this purpose. But the author of the present work feels no ambition to excite surprise and astonishment at the ex- pense of truth, or to attempt to elevate and embellish his subject beyond the plain realities of nature. On this account, he cannot assent to the assertion, however eloquently made, in the celebrated parallel drawn by the French naturalist between the Lion and the Eagle, viz. that the Eagle, like the Lion, disdains the possession of that property which is not the fruit of his own industry, and re- jects with contempt the prey which is not procured by his own ex- ertions since the very reverse of this is the case in the conduct of the Bald and the Sea Eagle, who, during the summer months, ai’c the constant robbers and plunderers of the Osprey or Fish-Hawk,

by whose industry alone both are usually fed. Nor that though

E

VOL. VII,

18

BALD EAGLE.

famished for xvant of prey, he disdains to feed on carrionf since we have ourselves seen the Bald Eagle, while seated on the dead car- cass of a horse, keep a whole flock of Vultures at a I’espectful dis- tance, until he had fully sated his own appetite. The Count has also taken great pains to expose the ridiculous opinion of Pliny, wlio conceived that the Ospreys formed no separate race, and that tliey proceeded from the intermixture of different species of Eagles, the young of which were not Ospreys, only Sea Eagles ; which Sea Eagles, says he, breed small Vultures, which engender great Vultures that have not the power of propagation,^ But, while labouring to confute these absurdities, the Count himself, in his belief of an oc- casional intercourse between the Osprey and the Sea Eagle, con- tradicts all actual observation, and one of the most common and fixed laws of nature for it may be safely asserted that there is no habit more universal among the feathered race, in their natural state, than that chastity of attachment, which confines the amours of individuals to those of their own species only. That perversion of nature produced by domestication is nothing to the purpose. In no instance have I ever observed the slightest appearance of a con- trary conduct. Even in those birds which never build a nest for themselves, nor hatch their young, nor even pair, but live in a state of general concubinage ; such as the Cuckoo of the old, and the Cow Bunting of the new, continent ; there is no instance of a de- viation from this striking habit. I cannot therefore avoid con- sidering the opinion above alluded to, that the male Osprey by coupling with the female Sea Eagle produces Sea Eagles ; and that the female Osprey by pairing with the male Sea Eagle gives birth to Ospreys’’*!* or Fish-Hawks, as altogether unsupported by facts and contradicted by the constant and universal habits of the whole feathered race in their state of nature.

The Sea Eagle is said by Salerne, to build on the loftiest oaks a very broad nest, into which it drops two large eggs, that are * Hist. Nat. lib. x, c. 3. ■]■ Buffon,vo1, I, p. 80. Trans.

BALD EAGLE.

DJ

quite round, exceedingly heavy, and of a dii-ty 'white color. Of the precise time of building we have no account, but something may be deduced from the following circumstance. In the month of May, while on a shooting excursion along the seacoast, not far from Great Egg-Harbor, accompanied by my friend Mr. Ord, we were conducted about a mile into the woods to see an Eagle’s nest. On approaching within a short distance of the place, the bird was perceived slowly reti-eating from the nest, which we found oc- cupied the centre of the top of a very large yellow pine. The woods were cut down, and cleared off, for several rods around the spot, which circumstance gave the stately erect trunk, and large crooked wriggling branches of the tree, surmounted by a black mass of sticks and brush, a very singular and picturesque eftcct. Our conductor had brought an axe with him to cut down the tree ; but my companion, anxious to save the eggs, or young, insisted on ascending to the nest, which he fearlessly performed, wlule we sta- tioned ourselves below, ready to defend him in case of an attack from the old Eagles. No opposition, however, was offered ; and on reaching the nest, it was found, to our disappointment, empty. It was built of large sticks, some of them several feet in length ; within it lay sods of earth, sedge, grass, dry reeds, &c. piled to the height of five or six feet, by more than four in breadth ; it was well lined with fresh pine tops, and had little or no concavity. Under this lining lay the recent exuviae of the young of the pre- sent year, such as scales of the quill feathers, down, &c. Our guide had passed this place late in February, at which time both male and female were making a great noise about the nest ; and from what we afterwards learnt, it is highly probable it contained young, even at that early time of the season.

A few miles from this is another Eagle’s nest, built also on a pine tree, which, from the information received from the proprie- tor of the woods, had been long the residence of tliis family of Eagles. The tree on which the nest was originally built had been

20

BALD EAGLE.

for time immemorial, or at least ever since he remembered, inha- bited by these Eagles. Some of his sons cut down this tree to pro- cure the young, which were two in number; and the Eagles soon after commenced building another nest on the very next adjoining tree, thus exhibiting a very particular attachment to the spot. The Eagles, he says, make it a kind of home and lodging place in all seasons. This man asserts, that the Gray, or Sea Eagles, are the young of the Bald Eagle, and that they are several years old be- fore tliey begin to breed. It does not drive its young from the nest like the Osprey, or Fish-Hawk ; but continues to feed them long after they leave it.

The bird from which the figure in the plate was drawn, and which is reduced to one-third the size of life, measured three feet in length, and upwards of seven feet in extent. The bill was formed exactly like that of the Bald Eagle, but of a dusky brown color ; cere and legs bright yellow ; the latter, as in the Bald Eagle, feathered a little below the knee ; irides a bright straw color ; head above, neck and back streaked with light brown, deep brown and white, the plumage being white, tipt and centred with brown; scapulars brown ; lesser wing-coverts very pale, intermixed with white ; primaries black, their shafts brownish white ; rump pale brownish white ; tail rounded, somewhat longer than the wings when shut, brown on the exterior vanes, the inner ones white, sprinkled with dirty brown ; throat, breast and belly white, dashed and streaked with different tints of brown and pale yellow; vent brown, tipt with white ; femorals dark brown, tipt with lighter ; auriculars brown, forming a bar from below the eye backwards ; plumage of the neck long, narrow and pointed, as is usual with Eagles, and of a brownish color tipt with white.

I'he Sea Eagle is said by various authors to hunt at night as well as during the day, and that besides fish it feeds on chickens, birds, hares and other animals. It is also said to catch fish during the night ; and that the noise of its plunging into the water is heard

BALD EAGLE.

21

at a great distance. But in the descriptions of these writers this bird has been so frequently confounded with the Osprey, as to leave little doubt that the habits and manners of the one have been often attributed to both ; and others added that are common to neither.

The Bald Eagle may be tamed, so as to become quite sociable, permitting one to handle it at pleasure, and even seeming pleased with such familiarities. The Hawks, on the contrary, are apt to retain their savage nature under the kindest treatment, and, like the cat, will frequently remind one, on the slightest provocation, to beware of those powerful weapons with which nature has provided them.

VOL. VII.

F

22

SHORT-BILLED CURLEW.* NUMEJVIUS BOEEJILIS. [Plate LVI. Fig. 1.]

Eskmaux Curlew^ Arct. Zool. No. 364. Brasilian JVhmbrel? Lath. Syn, voL 3,/>. 125. Numenius Guarauna? Ind. Orn. 712, No. 8/ N. borealis. Idem^ No. 9; N. Hudsonicusy Id. No. 7. Le Courly brim d'*Amerique? Bniss. Om, vol. 5, p. 330.

IN prosecuting our researches among the feathered tribes of this extensive country, we are at length led to the shores of the ocean, where a numerous and varied multitude, subsisting on the gleanings of that vast magazine of nature, invite our attention; and fi’om their singularities and numbers, promise both amusement and instruction. These we shall, as usual, introduce in the order we chance to meet with them in their native haunts. Individuals of various tribes, thus promiscuously grouped together, the pecu- liarities of each will appear more conspicuous and striking, and the detail of their histories less formal, as well as more interesting.

The Short-billed Curlew, is peculiar to the new continent. Mr. Pennant, indeed, conceives it to be- a mere variety of the English Whimbrel (S. Phaeopus) ; but among the great numbei’s of these birds which I have myself shot and examined, I have never yet met with one corresponding to the descriptions given of the lEIiiinbrel, the colors and markings being different, the bill much more bent, and nearly an inch and a half longer ; and the manners in certain particulars very different : these reasons have determin- ed its claim to that of an independent species.

The Short-billed Curlew arrives in large flocks on the sea- coast of New Jersey early in May from the south ; frequents the

Named in the Plate Esquimaux Curlew.

It

SHORT-BILLED CURLEW.

23

salt marshes, muddy shores and inlets, feeding on small worms and minute shell fish. They are most commonly seen on mud- flats at low water, in company with various other waders ; and at high water roam along the marshes. They fly high and with great rapidity. A few are seen in June and as late as the beginning of July, when they generally move off towards the north. Their ap- pearance on these occasions is very interesting : they collect to- gether from the marshes as if by premeditated design, rise to a great height in the air, usually about an hour before sunset, and forming in one vast line, keep up a constant whistling on their way to the north, as if conversing with one another to render the journey more agreeable. Their flight is then more slow and re- gular, that the feeblest may keep up with the line of march ; while the glittering of their beautifully speckled wings, sparkling in the sun, produces altogether a veiy pleasing spectacle.

In the month of June, while the dew-berries are ripe, these birds sometimes frequent the fields in company with the Long-billed Curlews, where brambles abound, soon get very fat, and are at that time excellent eating. Those who wish to shoot them, fix up a shelter of brushwood in the middle of the field, and by that means kill great numbers. In the early part of spring, and indeed during the whole time that they frequent the marshes, feeding on shell fish, they are much less esteemed for the table.

Pennant informs us that the Eskimaux Curlews were seen in flocks innumerable on the hills about Chatteux bay, on the Labra- dor coast, from August the ninth to September sixth, when they all disappeared, being on their way from their northern breeding place.” He adds, they kept on the open grounds, fed on the empetrum nigrum^ and were very fat and delicious. They arrive at Hudson’s bay in April, or early in May ; pair and breed to the north of Albany fort among the woods, return in August to the marshes, and all disappear in September.”* About this time they Arct. Zool. vol. 2, p, 163. Phil. Trans. LXII, 411.

24

SHORT-BILLED CURLEW.

return in accumulated numbers to the shores of New Jersey, whence they finally depart for the south early in November.

The Short-billed Curlew is eighteen inches long, and thirty- two inches in extent ; the bill, which is four inches and a half long, is black towards the point, and a pale purplish flesh color near the base ; upper part of the head dark brown, divided by a narrow stripe of brownish white ; over each eye extends a broad line of pale drab ; iris dark colored ; hind part of the neck streaked with dark brown, fore part and whole breast very pale brown ; upper part of the body pale drab, centred and barred with dark brown, and edged with spots of white on the exterior vanes ; three first primaries black, with white shafts ; rump and tail-coverts barred with dark brown ; belly white ; vent the same, marked with zig- zag lines of brown ; whole lining of the wing beautifully barred with brown on a dark cream ground; legs and naked thighs a pale lead color.

The figure of this bird, and of all the rest on the same plate, are reduced to exactly one-half the size of life.

I have some doubts whether or not this species is the Eskimaux Curlew {JV. borealis) of Dr. Latham ; as this ornithologist states his bird to be only thirteen inches in length, and in breadth twenty- one ; whilst that above described is eighteen inches long, and thirty- two in breadth. Besides, Latham^s species has a bill of two inches in length, and the bill of mine is four inches and a half long. I am aware, however, that the bills of some birds increase greatly with age ; and if it should turn out hereafter, that the two birds are identical, the specimen from which Latham took his description must have been quite immature.

25

RED-BACKED SANDPIPER. TRLYGJl JlLPLYJl. [Plate LVI. Fig. 2.]

Dunlin^ Arct. Zool. p. 476, No. 391. Bewick, II, p. 113.— ia Bnmettey Buff. VII, 493. Tringa variabilis, Meyer, Tass. Deut. Tringa Alpmuy Ind. Om. 736, Ab. 37. La Beccassine d'Angleterrey Briss. 5, p. 309.

THIS bird inhabits both the old and new continents, being known in England by the name of the Dunlin ; and in the United States, along the shores of New Jersey, by that of the Red-back. Its residence here is but transient, chiefly in April and May, while passing to the arctic regions to breed ; and in September and Oc- tober when on its return southward to winter quarters. During their stay they seldom collect in separate flocks by themselves but mix with various other species of strand birds, among whom they are rendered conspicuous by the red color of the upper part of their plumage. They frequent the muddy flats and shores of the salt marshes at low water, feeding on small worms and other insects which generally abound in such places. In the month of May they are extremely fat.

This bird is said to inhabit Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Alps of Siberia; and in its migrations the coasts of the Cas- pian sea.* It has not, till now, been recognized by naturalists as inhabiting this part of North America. Wherever its breeding place may be, it probably begins to lay at a late period of the sea- son, as in numbers of females which I examined on the first of June, the eggs were no larger than grains of mustard seed.

Length of the Red-back eight inches and a half, extent fifteen inches ; bill black, longer than the head, (which would seem to

^ Pennant.

VOL. VII.

G

26

RED-BACKED SANDPIPER.

i-ank it with the Snipes) slightly bent, grooved on the upper man- dible, and wrinkled at the base ; crown, back and scapulars bright reddish rust, spotted with black ; wing-coverts pale olive ; quills darker ; the first tipt, the latter crossed with white ; front, cheeks, hind-head and sides of the neck quite round, also the breast, gray- ish white, marked with small specks of black ; belly white, marked with a broad crescent of black ; tail pale olive, the two middle fea- thers centred with black ; legs and feet ashy black ; toes divided to their origin, and bordered with a slightly sealloped membrane ; irides very dark.

The males and females are nearly alike in one respect, both differing greatly in color even at the same season, probably owing to difference of age ; some being of a much brighter red than others, and the plumage dotted with white. In the month of Sep- tember, many are found destitute of the black crescent on the belly ; these have been conjectured to be young birds.

After an attentive examination of many of these birds on the coast of Cape May, in the month of April, I am perfectly con- vinced, that the hitherto supposed two species, the present and the Purre, constitute but one species, the latter being in immature plu- mage. In some instances, I found the Purres were beginning to get the broad band of black on the belly, and the back thickening with ruddy feathers, appearing almost perfect Black-bellied Sand- pipers.

r

27

WILLET.*

TOmjVUS SEMIPALMJITUS.

[Plate LVI.— Fig. 3.]

Lath. Syn. vol. 3, j6. 152, JVb. 22. Ind. Om. p. 722, No. 27. Semipalmated Snipe, Arct.

ZooLp. 469, Ab. 380. Peale’s Museum, No. 3942.

THIS is one of the most noisy and noted birds that inhabit our salt marshes in summer. Its common name is the WiJlet, by which appellation it is universally known along the shores of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, in all of which places it breeds in great num