MAGGIE AND HER BIRD.
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
COMPRISING DESCRIPTIONS OF THEIR
APPEARANCE AND HABITS.
WM. WHITE SMITH, PUBLISHER.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852,
BY LIPPINCOTT, GRAMBO, & CO.,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States,
in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
THE albatross is a water bird of very
large size. It is no less than four feet
long, and its wings measure from ten to
seventeen feet, when they are stretched
out as in flying. This last measure, the
naturalists call the bird's alar extent.
The albatross inhabits the Atlantic as
well as the Pacific Oceans. He is seen
in the widest part of the ocean. These
birds eat flying fish, and larger fish.
They are very voracious. It is not un-
8 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
common to see one swallow a salmon of
four or five pounds weight; but as the
gullet cannot contain the whole at once,
part of the end will remain out of the
mouth; and they become so stupified by
their enormous meals, as to allow them-
selves to be knocked on the head by the
fowler without making any resistance.
The sailors imagine that shooting an
albatross at sea, brings ill luck to the
ship: and Mr. Coleridge's beautiful
poem of the Ancient Mariner" is founded
on this superstition.
THE bustard is a very large game bird,
that loves to run on the ground better
than to fly. He is very heavy, often weigh-
ing from twenty-five to thirty pounds.
Bustards were common in "England for-
merly but are very rare now. There are
also bustards in France, which frequent
large open plains, particularly near
Chalons, where, in the winter time, there
are a great number of them seen together.
There is always one placed as a sen-
tinel, at some distance from the flock,
which gives notice to the rest of any
danger. They raise themselves from the
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
ground with great difficulty; for they run
sometimes a good way, beating their
wings before they fly. They take them
with a hook baited with an apple or
flesh. Sometimes fowlers shoot them as
they lie concealed behind some eminence,
or on a load of straw; others take them
with greyhounds, which often catch them
before they are able to rise.
Here is the head
of the otis kori, an
i frican bustard,
which stands up-
wards of five feet
Head of Otis Kod.
[Sarcoramphus Grvphus, make.]
THE condor is an enormously large bird
of the vulture kind. He lives in the
lofty Andes and the Rocky Mountains on
the west coast of our continent. He has
a strong beak, sharp, crooked talons, and
a bare neck, like all vultures. He loves
carrion, and scents or sees a dead horse
or deer at a great distance. But he is
not satisfied with preying on dead car-
casses. He attacks the deer, the llama, the
vicugna, and even the panther. Several
condors in a flock pursue a llama for a
long time, wounding it with their bills
and claws, until the unfortunate animal,
10 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
wearied and sore, extends its tongue and
groans. Instantly the condo seizes his
tongue with his strong beak, and tears
it out. ie then picks out his eyes, and
the poor llama falls to the ground and is
easily despatched by his voracious ene-
mies. Sometimes the condor seizes a
small animal and flies off with him.
When the condor has gorged himself
with food, like the albatross, he becomes
stupid, and is easily taken.
THE dove is a name applied to many
varieties of birds, belonging to the genus
Columba. Pigeons belong to the same
class. They all resemble one another
in many particulars, and they form a
beautiful and interesting class of birds.
They are very harmless, living on
grain, insects, buds, and berries; and
they are' so affectionate, that the dove is
generally considered the type or emblem
The one which you here see in the
picture is found in the islands of the Pa-
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
cific Ocean. It is a large and beauti-
ful species, and is called the Columba
Spadicea. The species of which you see
a picture below, is a beautiful small dove
found in Africa.
THE eagle is among birds what the
lion is among beasts. -It is a bold, dar-
ing, and fierce bird, and is the terror of
the weaker inhabitants of the air. There
are many varieties of the eagle. Our
picture is a representation of the bald
eagle, the species most common in Ame-
rica, and the chosen emblem of the United
States. The bald eagle is found in Ame-
rica, from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico.
Occasionally, he may be seen as far north
as Behring's Straits, but the instances
are rare. The principal food of the bald
eagle is fish, and though he possesses
24 ALPHABET QF BIRDS.
every requisite of quickness of movement,
and keenness of vision, for securing his
prey, he seldom obtains it by any other
means than by robbing the fish-hawk
and other birds who are industrious
fishers. These perpetual depredations
upon the fish-hawk sometimes arouse
him to seek for vengeance, and several
unite to banish the daring pirate.
THE fly catchers are a numerous class
Sof birds, which inhabit the continent of
North America, from Labrador to Texas.
Of this class, the pewit fly catcher,
which is represented in the picture, is
the most common. Its favorite resort is
near streams, ponds, or stagnant waters,
about bridges, caves, and barns, where
they choose to breed; and, in short,
wherever there is a good prospect of their
obtaining their food. Near such places,
our little hunter sits on the roof of some
out-building, on a stake of the fence, or
a projecting branch, calling out, at short
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
intervals, "pe-wee, pe-wee." In the
spring, this cheerful song is kept up for
hours, and until late in the morning.
The pewit begins to build its nest about
the latter end of March. The nest is
situated in a cave, under a bridge, or a
shed, in a well, or in the shelter of the
low eaves of a cottage.
The pewit forms attachments which
continue through life, like those of the
blue bird. Towards the time of their
departure for the south, which is about
the middle of October, the pewits are
silent and appear mournful for the decay
GROUSE is the general name applied to
a species of birds which is considered
the best game- the sportsman can find
or the epicure desire. These birds are
abundant both in Europe and America.
The variety represented in the picture is
called by the Scotch, the capercailie;
but is more generally known as the wood
grouse. It was once very abundant in
England and Scotland, but the sports-
man's destructive hand has made it very
scarce. It is common in the north of
Asia, and in Russia in Europe. The food
of the capercailie consists of many sorts
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
of berries, the buds and shoots of the
leaves of trees and Alpine shrubs, insects,
and sometimes of seeds.
The young subsist, for the most part,
on worms. In appearance, the caper-
cailie is not very attractive; but its
flesh is considered very fine eating. At
certain seasons, the flavor of the bird
is somewhat unpleasant, on account of
the fir-buds which then form its food.
The hen is preferred to the cock, though
much smaller in size. The greatest de-
struction of the capercailie takes place
during the breeding season, when less
skill in the sportsman is requisitethan
at any other time.
THE heron is one of the largest of water
birds; the great heron, a picture of which
is given, sometimes reaches four feet four
inches in length. The great heron is a
constant inhabitant of the Atlantic States.
from New York to Florida. Their favo-
rite resorts are usually dark swamps
and boggy lakes, grown up with tall
cedars, and entangled with an under-
growth of bushes. In the tops of the
trees, the wary herons, associated to
the number of ten or! fifteen pair, build
their nests of coarse sticks and fine twigs.
The chief food of the great heron is
Rti ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
fish, which he secures with all the skill
of an experienced fisherman. Wading
into the water, the great heron stands on
one leg, and watches for his prey. When
the fish is within reach, the bird seizes
it in his strong bill, and swallows it with
the head foremost. The great heron is
a gloomy and solitary bird, and its habits
are less surely known than those of most
THE ibis appears to be a general inha-
tant of the temperate and warm regions
of the world. The picture represents the
glossy ibis, the largest and handsomest
variety of the species. The glossy ibis
was a favorite and venerated bird among
the Egyptians, and it was believed to be
very useful in the destruction of noxious
reptiles "'But its real food consists of
insects, worms, river shell-fish, and vege-
tables. The ibis generally dwell in
flocks, in marshy grounds, and seek for
their food in regular lines, advancing like
Disciplined troops. They are very sedate
40 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
in their movements, and seem to be
aware that they have been regarded with
The legs of the ibis are very long, and
its body small, so that it does not present
a graceful appearance. This bird is
rarely found in the Northern States of
the Union, but frequently visits the Mid-
THE jager is a bold and voracious bird.
It inhabits the Artic and Antartic seas,
migrating only short distances towards
the warmer climates, in the severity of
winter. The jagers are usually seen in
pairs. They seize their prey from other
birds, weaker, or more cowardly than
themselves. The herons, the gulls, and
even the voracious and gigantic albatross,
are forced to yield their prey to these
daring pirates of the air and sea.
The jagers gather in numbers to breed
in the cold regions, nesting in tufts of
grass, an rocks, or merely on the sands.
44 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
They show great courage in defence of
their young, attacking every thing which
approaches their eyries. The species,
represented in the picture, is called Rich-
ardson's jager. It feeds on shelly mol-
lusca, which abound in the small lakes
of the fur countries; and it harasses
the gulls in the same manner as the other
jagers. It is nearly two feet in length,
and strongly built. The upper part of
the plumage is of a blackish brown oolor,
and the under part of a yellowish brown,
picked in with deep black.
THE kite is one of the most beautiful
in form and hue of all the hawk species.
It breeds and passes the summer in the
warmer parts of the United States, and
is probably a resident in all tropical and
temperate America. The kites appear
in the United States about the close of
April or beginning of May, and are very
numerous in the Mississippi territory,
twenty or thirty being often seen at the
same time, collecting locusts and other
large insects, which they are said to feed
on from their claws while flying. They
also seize upon the nests of locusts and
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
wasps, and devour the-insects and larvae
there gathered. Snakes and lizards are
their common food in all parts of Ame-
rica. In the month of October, they be-
gin to retire to the south, at which season
they have been observed in great num-
bers, assembled in Florida. The kite is
said to nest in the tops of tall oak or
pine trees, laying from four to six eggs
of a greenish white, sparingly blotched
with dark brown. The bird is about
two feet in length, and the wings reach
to within two inches of the end of the
tail. The upper part of the plumage is
of a black hue, glossed with green and
purple; the under part is white.
THIS beautiful bird is called, in various
parts of England and Scotland the black-
cock, or the heath-cock. It is common
throughout Europe,, but is particularly
abundant in the northern countries. The
lyrurus prefers the healthy and moun-
tainous districts, which are more favor-
able to its increase.
During the months of autumn and
winter, the males live in flocks; but in
March and April they separate, each one
choosing some particular station from
which he drives- all intruders. Fierce
contests for these stations often occur.
52 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
During the summer, the food of the ly-
rurus consists of the tender shoots of
heath and insects; in autumn, the cran-
berry and whortleberry. In winter and
during severe weather, it eats the tops
and buds of the birch and alder, and the
small shoots of the fir tree. The lyrurus
is famous for the gorgeous beauty of its
plumage, which defies the mimicry of
the painter. The flesh is considered very
delicate and nutritious, and therefore
the bird is a favorite game.
THE magpie is much more common in
Europe than in America. It is not found
in the United States, east of the Missis-
sippi. The magpie is easily domesticated,
and taught to mimic the human voice,
speaking, sometimes, very distinctly. He
is very restless, active and capricious
while on the ground, over which he leaps
with a strange gait, and continues briskly
moving his tail in different directions.
He is also very mischievous, and given
to imitate every thing he sees-and hears.
His common prate is like that of the
crow, but besides his imitations of speech,
56 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
he will sometimes counterfeit the lowing
of the calf, the bleating of the goat, the
sheep, and even the flageolet and trumpet.
The magpie, like the crow, has the
habit of stealing and hiding provisions
or pieces of money, which he does with
so much cunning that they are often dif-
ficult to be found. Indeed, the magpie
is one of the most far-sighted of birds,
often fortifying his nest so that none but
man can discover and disturb it.
THE nightingale is the most celebrated
of the song birds of the old world. It is
common in nearly all parts of Europe,
migrating in winter to Egypt and Syria.
The nightingale haunts the woods,
thickets, and gardens, and during the
night, when most of the other songsters
have sought repose, pours forth its un-
rivalled melody. The plumage is of a
brownish hue, which gives the bird a
dull appearance; and the worth of the
nightingale lies not in how it looks, but
in what it can do.
This famous. songster shuns observa-
60 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
tion, and seeks the thickest coverts. Af-
ter the young are hatched, which is ge-
nerally in June, the melodious song of
the male ceases, and is succeeded by a
low croak, occasionally varied by a snap-
ping noise. The croak is thought to be
meant for a warning, and the snapping
for a defiance. The food of the nightin-
gale consists of insects, such as flies,
spiders, moths, and earwigs. The song
of the species called the thrush nightin-
gale is louder than that of the true bird,
but not so sweet.
THE owl may be considered as holding
the same place among birds as the pan-
ther and wild cat hold among quadrupeds.
During the day it seeks the deep shade
of the forest, the cranny of the desolate
ruin, or the humble retreat in the hollow
of a decayed tree. From the peculiar
structure of its eyes, the owl cannot pur-
sue its prey during daylight, and con-
sequently, becomes a marauder when
night sends most other birds to rest.
Our picture represents the great horned
owl, the largest of the owl kind. This
species is found almost throughout the
extent of America, all climates being
64 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
alike to it. The usual prey of the great
horned owl consists of young rabbits,
squirrels, rats, mice, quails, and small
birds of various kinds; and when it can-
not obtain a plentiful supply of these, it
prowls near the farm-house, occasionally
seizing a chicken on the roost. The Eu-
ropean horned owl frequently contends
with the buzzard for its prey, and gene-
rally comes off conquerer. Blind and
furious with hunger, one of them has
been known to attack a man. But such
instances are very rare.
The picture represents what is known
in America as the English partridge. It
is called the English partridge, to distin-
guish it from the American quail, which
is called partridge in some parts of the
United States. The partridge is noted
for the parental affection it displays,
often dying itself while trying to save its
little birds. An anecdote is told of a
partridge, followed by a large covey of
birds, being surprised by a violent
shower of rain. She collected the young
birds under her, and spread her wings to
secure them from injury. But in vain!
68 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
The storm increased, yet she would not
quit her charge, and she was found, with
her brood beneath her, lifeless.
In size the partridge is nearly as large
as the common pigeon. Its flesh is ten-
der and juicy. The plumage of the par-
tridge is of a yellow hue, furred with black
on the back and sides, and of a variegated
black, brown, and white on the under part
of the bird. Great numbers of partridges
are reared in England, where they are
considered as the best wingedgame.
THE qua bird is also called the great
night heron of North America. It is a
migratory bird, and arrives in the Middle
States in the month of- April. The qua
bird haunts the most solitary parts of
cedar swamps, or inundated and almost
inaccessible groves of oaks. In these
places, or parts of the forest near a pond
or stream, the timorous and watchful
flock pass away the day, until the com-
mencement of twilight, when the calls
of hunger and the coolness of evening
arouse the dosing throng into life and
activity. At this time, high in the air,
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
the parent birds are seen sallying forth
to the neighboring marshes, or the strand
of the sea, in search of food for themselves
and young. As they proceed, in mar-
shaled ranks, they utter a disagreeable
qua, which sounds as if a person was
retching. The eyries of the qua birds
have been occupied from the remotest
period of time. When their ancient trees
have been cut down, they have been
known to remove merely to another
quarter of the swamp, and will not quit
the neighborhood, until they have been
teased and plundered for a long time.
The crow is the determined enemy of the
qua bird, and often forces it to leave its
THE rice-bird is more generally known
as the bob-o-link, whose cheerful and
lively ditty is heard during the summer,
about the marshy parts of the Northern
States. The bob-o-link arrives at the
north about the latter part of May; and
soon after his song is heard upon every
fence and orchard tree. The male con-
tinues to sing while his mate is sitting,
and his Bob-o-link" chant is both singu-
lar and pleasant. Often, like the skylark,
hovering on the wing, at a small height
above the field, he utters such a jingling
medly of short notes, that it see s like
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
the mingling of the song of various
The male loses his musical talent
about the end of the first week in July,
and soon 'after changes his plumage.
About the middle of August, vast num-
bers of the rice-birds enter New York
and Pennsylvania, and search for the
wild rice along the shores of the great
rivers. At this, period, their flesh is fat
and tender, and therefore they become
favorite game for the sportsman. The
reedy shores of the Delaware are then
visited and the markets are soon filled
with the delicious game. In the vicinity
of the Delawaie, the rice-bird assumes
the name of the reed-bird.
THE picture represents the red or Ame-
rican spoonbill, a noted water bird. The
head is bald, the plumage red, or rose-
colored, and the legs long. The spoon-
bills associate in small flocks, living in
woody marshes, near the outlets of rivers,
and are rarely seen in the immediate
vicinity of the sea. They wade slowly into
the water, after the manner of herons,
but, though they have webbed feet, rarely
swim. They feed on small fish, spawn,
reptiles, shell-fish, insects, and worms,
and occasionally on roots. The spoonbill
is found in great perfection in tropical
80 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
countries, and great numbers visit the
West India Islands. Its flight is easy,
slow, and high.' It alights on trees at
the breeding season, and is said to be
very noisy. The enormous bill of this
bird is of great use in probing the mud
for food. Two other species are found
in cooler climates. One, called the white
spoonbill, is a bird of passage, and usu-
ally accompanies the flocks of swans.
THIS cheerful little bird is frequently
called the peto, from one of its common
notes. To hear, in the middle of Janu-
ary, when, at least, the leafless trees and
dark cloudy skies remind one of the
coldest season, the lively and varied pipe
of this active bird, is particularly grati-
fying; and such a gratification the people
of the southern parts of the United States
possess. The tufted titmouse becomes
familiar in confinement, and readily
makes its way out of a wicker cage by
repeated blows at the twigs. It may be
fed on hemp seed, cherry stones, pippins,
84 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
and hickory nuts broken and thrown into
it. The song of the titmouse is very in-
teresting, on account of its variety and
resemblance to phrases of human speech.
It not only displays much-originality,
but a great power of imitation; and this
latter can be much improved in captivity.
The titmouse searches and pecks decayed
trees with great industry in quest of
larvae. He often enters into hollow trunks
prying after the same objects.
,_,,. \ilanes~ritakehadaRlia.A ~~L
THE upupa, or hoopoe, is a singular
and beautiful bird, which is found in va-
rious parts of Europe and Asia. It loves
moist and low situations near woods and
thickets, where it finds suitable food.
The hoopoe feeds upon various kinds of
insects, which it generally obtains from
the rotten wood of decayed trees and in
marshy ground. It flies low, and seldom,
unless disturbed. Its voice is harsh and
disagreeable, and when angry it whoops
very loudly. The country people of
Sweden look on the appearance of the
hoopoe as a presage of war, and the pea-
88 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
santry of Europe generally look upon it
as the herald of approaching calamity.
The head of the hoopoe is adorned with a
beautiful crest of feathers, which add much'
to its .gorgeous appearance. They are
timid birds, and on the approach of any
of the smaller birds of prey, will endeavor
to fix themselves upon the ground in
such a manner as to give themselves -the
appearance of an old rag. After the
danger has passed, the hoopoe rises and
utters a joyful cry of vee, vee, veel
THE picture represents the very com-
mon species of vulture, known as the
turkey vulture, or turkey buzzard. These
birds are much more abundant in the
warmer than in the colder regions of
America. *In our Southern States and
in the West Indies, the turkey buzzards
are protected for their services as
scavengers of carrion, which, without
them, would infect the air. A few brave
the winters of Maryland, Delaware, and
New Jersey; but the greater part mi-
grate south at the approach of cold wea-
ther. In the winter they sometimes pass
ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
the night in numbers on the roofs of the
houses, in the suburbs of the southern
cities, and appear anxious to take ad-
vantage of the warmth which they dis-
cover to issue from the chimneys. Here,
when the sun shines; they and their
black relatives, though no wise social,
may be observed perched in these places
basking in the feeble rays, and stretch-
ing out their wings to admit the warmth
directly to their chilled bodies. The
flight of the turkey vulture is high, easy,
and majestic. They rise very high just
before the commencement of thunder
THE waxen-wing, of which the picture
is a representation, is commonly known
as the edar bird. It is found throughout
the American continent; and in Europe.
The waxen-wing can brave a considerable
degree of cold; for, in Pennsylvania and
New Jersey, some of these birds are seen
throughout the winter, and are frequently
killed and brought to market. The plu-
mage of the waxen-wing is soft, its dis-
position gentle and innocent, and often
In the spring, these birds greatly aid
the farmer and the gardener, by their
96 ALPHABET OF BIRDS.
industry in ridding the trees and shirub-
bery of the small caterpillars, beetles,
and various insects which infest them.
Almost all kinds of sweet berries are
sought for food by the American waxen-
wing. They retire to the Alleghanies in
search of whortleberries, and are equally
fond of the Virginia juniper, and wax-
myrtle. Though exceedingly harmless,
gentle, and restless, the waxen-wing
makes some show of defence when at-
tacked, elevating its crest, and snapping
its bill with spirit.