• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Preface
 Hints to observers
 Table of Contents
 Birds through an opera-glass
 Warblers
 Pigeon-holes for the perching birds...
 General family characteristics...
 Reference
 Index
 Back Cover
 Spine






Group Title: Riverside library for young people ; no. 3
Title: Birds through an opera-glass
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE TURNER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086570/00001
 Material Information
Title: Birds through an opera-glass
Series Title: Riverside library for young people
Physical Description: xiii, 225 p. : ill. ; 18 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bailey, Florence Merriam, b. 1863
Houghton, Mifflin and Company ( Publisher )
Riverside Press (Cambridge, Mass.)
H.O. Houghton & Company
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Riverside Press
Place of Publication: Boston ;
New York
Cambridge Mass.
Manufacturer: Riverside Press ; Electrotyped and printed by H.O. Houghton & Co.
Publication Date: 1898, c1889
Copyright Date: 1889
 Subjects
Subject: Birds -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Birds -- Identification -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Birds -- Behavior -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Natural history -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1898
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States -- Massachusetts -- Boston
United States -- New York -- New York
United States -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Statement of Responsibility: by Florence A. Merriam.
General Note: "Many of the articles herein contained were published in the Audubon Magazine in 1886. These have been revised and largely rewritten"--P. vii.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00086570
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002234236
notis - ALH4655
oclc - 25288184

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page i
    Half Title
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Preface
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Hints to observers
        Page ix
        Page x
    Table of Contents
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
    Birds through an opera-glass
        Page 1
        Page 2
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    Warblers
        Page 178
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    Pigeon-holes for the perching birds mentioned in this book
        Page 206
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    General family characteristics of birds treated
        Page 208
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    Reference
        Page 221
        Page 222
    Index
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
    Spine
        Spine
Full Text


















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The Baldwin Library
University
Florida


II I I I




i~t~ ~. C,
~tsa~~


















Efte Riberite YLibrarp for poung people

-4-

NUMBER 3

BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS

BY FLORENCE A. MERRIAM

V






BIRDS

THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS





BY

FLORENCE A. MERRIAM


BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
c iibtetribe tPre#. CambriDge
1898




























Copyright, 1889,
BY FLORENCE A. MERRIAM.

All rights reserved.






















The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.-
Electrotyped and Printed by H. 0. Houghton & Company.











PREFACE.


LIKE Snug the joiner, in Midsummer Night's
Dream, I would explain to the ladies at the out-
set that this little book is no real lion, and that
they have nothing to fear. It is not an ornitho-
logical treatise. It has not even the lion's roar
of technical terms and descriptions to warn them
of raging dulness, but is "a very gentle beast.
and of a good conscience."
It was my good fortune when in college to be
able to study the perplexities of nearly forty
young observers, and this book is virtually the
result of what I learned of their wants and the
best ways to supply them. Equipped with opera-
glasses, we worked together in the woods and
fields, and books were rarely consulted; but when
I was asked How are we to know the birds at
home, where we have no one to help us ?" I saw
their need of books. But what could they use ?
Few of those who want to know the birds have
time or inclination to become ornithologists, or






PREFACE.


even to master the vocabulary of ornithology
which would enable them to use the expensive
Keys and Manuals for identifying birds. This,
then, is what I have tried to do: To furnish
hints that will enable not only young observers
but also laymen to know the common birds they
see about them.
Hints, I offer; nothing more. Many birds I
leave unmentioned, because they have never
chanced to come before my opera glass; and
often my own local experiences' are given in-
stead of generalizations, because habits vary
greatly in different sections, as in the case of the
catbird, who shuns all habitations in Louisiana
while he is a familiar village gossip in the north
and east, and I would hold to my boast of a
"good conscience." I tell the truth about what
I have seen through my own Voigtlander und
Sohn, a most excellent make of glass, by the
way, and leave earnest observers to see and
learn more for themselves.
Nevertheless, it is not merely those who can go

1 My notes were made either at Northampton, Massachusetts,
or Locust Grove, New York. The latter place is in the Black
River Valley, on the western border of the Adirondacks, and
may always be understood, not only when the word here is
used, but in all cases where no locality is specified.





PREFACE. vii
to see for themselves I would tell of my walks;
it is above all the careworn indoor workers to
whom I would bring a breath of the woods, pic-
tures of sunlit fields, and a hint of the simple,
childlike gladness, the peace and comfort that is
offered us every day by these blessed winged mes-
sengers of nature.
Many of the articles herein contained were
published in the Audubon Magazine in 1886.
These have been revised and largely rewritten.
The others now appear for the first time. The
illustrations are from Baird, Brewer and Ridg-
way's History of North American Birds. For
permission to use them I am indebted to Mr.
Ridgway.
LOCUST GROVE, NEW YORK, January, 1888.













HINTS TO OBSERVERS..



WHEN you begin to study the birds in the fields and
woods, to guard against scaring the wary, you should make
yourself as much as possible a part of the landscape. Most
birds are not afraid of man as a figure, but as an aggres-
sive object.
The observance of a few simple rules will help you to be
unobtrusive.
First. Avoid light or bright-colored clothing. A dull-col-
ored jacket and an old leaf-colored hat that you can pull
over the eyes or push back from the face as the light re-
quires, will do excellent service if you do not wish a com-
plete suit.
Second. Walk slowly and noiselessly. Among the crisp
rattling leaves of the woods, a bit of moss or an old log
will often deaden your step at the critical moment.
Third. Avoid all quick, jerky motions. How many
birds I have scared away by raising my glass too suddenly!
Fourth. Avoid all talking, or speak only in an undertone
-a most obnoxious but important rule to young observers.
Fifth. If the bird was singing, but stops on your ap-
proach, stand still a moment and encourage him by answer-
ing his call. If he gets interested he will often let you
creep up within opera-glass distance. Some of the most
charming snatches of friendly talk will come at such times.
Sixth. Make a practice of stopping often and standing
perfectly still. In that way you hear voices that would be
lost if you were walking, and the birds come to the spot






HINTS TO OBSERVERS.


without noticing you when they would fly away in advance
if they were to see or hear you coming toward them.
Seventh. Conceal yourself by leaning against a tree, or
pulling a branch down in front of you. The best way of
all is to select a good place and sit there quietly for several
hours, to see what will come. Then you get at the home
life of the birds, not merely seeing them when they are on
their guard. A low stump in a raspberry patch and a log
in an alder swamp prove most profitable seats.
In going to look for birds it is important to consider the
time of day, and the weather. Birds usually follow the
sun. In spring and fall you will find them in the fields
and orchards early in the morning, but when the sun has
warmed the south side of the woods they go there ; and in
the afternoon they follow it across to the north side. Dur-
ing heavy winds and storms you are most likely to find
birds well under cover of the woods, no matter at what
time of day; and then, often on the side opposite that
from which the wind comes.

For careful observation in general, three rules may be
given.
1. In clear weather be sure to get between the sun and
your bird. In the wrong light a scarlet tanager or a blue-
bird will look as black as a crow.
2. Gaze. Let your eyes rest on the trees before you,
and if a leaf stirs, or a twig sways, you will soon discover
your bird. At a little distance, it is well to gaze through
your glass.
3. Beware of the besetting sin of observers. Never
jump at conclusions. Prove all your conjectures.













CONTENTS.

-4-

CHAP. PAGE
I. The Robin 4
II. The Crow 10
III. The Bluebird 14
IV. The Chimney Swift; Chimney "Swallow" 16
V. Catbird 18
VI. Keel-Tailed Blackbird; Crow Blackbird; Bronzed
Grackle 20
VII. Bobolink; Reed-Bird; Rice-Bird 27
VIII. Ruffed Grouse; Partridge 32
IX. Ruby-Throated Humming-Bird 36
X. Meadow-Lark 40
XI. Black-Capped Chickadee; Titmouse 42
XII. Cuckoo; Rain Crow 46
XIII. Yellow Hammer; Flicker 48
XIV. Baltimore Oriole; Fire-Bird; Golden Robin; Hang-
Nest 52
XV. Barn Swallow 55
XVI. Belted Kingfisher 57
XVII. Chip-Bird or Chippy; Hair-Bird; Chipping Spar-
row; Social Sparrow 60
XVIII. Song Sparrow 66
XIX. Blue Jay 69
XX. Yellow-Bird; American Goldfinch; Thistle-Bird 76
XXI. Pha.be 80
XXII. King-Bird; Bee Martin 83
XXIII. Wood Pewee 85
XXIV. Least Flycatcher 87
XXV. Red-Winged Blackbird 89
XXVI. Hairy Woodpecker 92






xii CONTENTS.

XXVII. Downy Woodpecker 99
XXVIII. White-Bellied Nuthatch; Devil-Down Head 100
XXIX. Cowbird 105
XXX. White-Throated Sparrow 109
XXXI. Cedar-Bird; Waxwing 112
XXXII. Chewink; Towhee 115
XXXIII. Indigo-Bird 119
XXXIV. Purple Finch 122
XXXV. Red-Eyed Vireo 124
XXXVI. Yellow-Throated Vireo 129
XXXVII. Warbling Vireo 131
XXXVIII. Oven-Bird; Golden-Crowned Thrush 132
XXXIX. Junco; Slate-Colored Snowbird 138
XL. Kinglets 140
XLI. Snow Bunting; Snowflake 144
XLII. Scarlet Tanager 146
XLIII. Brown Thrasher 150
XLIV. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak 153
XLV. Whippoorwill 155
XLVI. Winter Wren 155
XLVII. Red-Headed Woodpecker 159
XLVIII. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker .. 160
XLIX. Great-Crested Flycatcher 163
L. Bank Swallow; Sand Martin 165
LI. Cave Swallow; Cliff Swallow 166
LII. Crossbills 166
LIII. Night-Hawk; Bull Bat 169
LIV. Grass Finch; Vesper Sparrow; Bay Winged
Bunting 171
LV. Tree Sparrow 172
LVI White-Crowned Sparrow 173
LVII. Field Sparrow; Bush Sparrow .174
LVIII. Fox Sparrow 175
LIX. Brown Creeper 176

WARBLERS.
LX. Summer Yellow-Bird; Golden Warbler; Yel-
low Warbler. 179
LXI. Redstart 180






CONTENTS. xiii

LXII. Black and White Creeping Warbler 184
LXIII. Blackburnian Warbler; Hemlock Warbler;
Orange-Throated Warbler 186
LXIV. Black-Throated Blue Warbler 187
LXV. Yellow Rumped Warbler; Myrtle Warbler 189
LXVI. Chestnut-Sided Warbler 190
LXVII. Maryland Yellow-Throat; Black Masked
Ground Warbler 191
LXVIII Thrushes. 193
LXIX. Wilson's Thrush; Veery; Tawny Thrush 198
LXX. Hermit Thrush 202

APPENDIX.
Pigeon-Holes for the Perching Birds mentioned in this
book 206
General Family Characteristics of Birds Treated 208
Arbitrary Classifications of Birds Described 211
Books for Reference 220












BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.


WE are so in the habit of focusing our spy-
glasses on our human neighbors that it seems an
easy matter to label them and their affairs, but
when it comes to birds, alas not only are there
legions of kinds, but, to our bewildered fancy,
they look and sing and act exactly alike. Yet
though our task seems hopeless at the outset, be-
fore we recognize the conjurer a new world of in-
terest and beauty has opened before us.
The best way is the simplest. Begin with the
commonest birds, and train your ears and eyes by
pigeon-holing every bird you see and every song
you hear. Classify roughly at first, the finer
distinctions will easily be made later. Suppose,
for instance, you are in the fields on a spring
morning. Standing still a moment, you hear
what sounds like a confusion of songs. You think
you can never tell one from another, but by listen-
ing carefully you at once notice a difference. Some
are true songs, with a definite melody, and tune,
if one may use that word, like the song of several
of the sparrows, with. three high notes and a run





2 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
down the scale. Others are only monotonous
trills, always the same two notes, varying only in
length and intensity, such as that of the chipping
bird, who makes one's ears fairly ache as he sits
in the sun and trills to himself, like a complacent
prima donna. Then there is always plenty of gos-
siping going on, chippering and chattering that
does not rise to the dignity of song, though it adds
to the general jumble of sounds; but this should
be ignored at first, and only the loud songs lis-
tened for. When the trill and the elaborate song
are once contrasted, other distinctions are easily
made. The ear then catches the quality of songs.
On the right the plaintive note of the meadow-
lark is heard, while out of the grass at the left
comes the rollicking song of the bobolink.
Having begun sorting sounds, you naturally
group sights, and so find yourself parceling out
the birds by size and color. As the robin is a
well-known bird, he serves as a convenient unit
of measure an ornithological foot. If you call
anything from a humming-bird to a robin small,
and from a robin to a crow large, you have a
practical division line, of use in getting your
bearings. And the moment you give heed to col-
ors, the birds will no longer look alike. To sim-
plify matters, the bluebird, the oriole with his
orange and black coat, the scarlet tanager with
his flaming plumage, and all the other bright birds
can be classed together; while the sparrows, fly-





BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS. 3
catchers, thrushes, and vireos may be thought of
as the dull birds.
When the crudest part of the work is done, and
your eye and ear naturally seize differences of size,
color, and sound, the interesting part begins. You
soon learn to associate the birds with fixed local-
ities, and once knowing their favorite haunts,
quickly find other clues to their ways of life.
By going among the birds, watching them
closely, comparing them carefully, and writing
down, while in the field, all the characteristics of
every new bird seen, its locality, size, color, de-
tails of marking, song, food, flight, eggs, nest,
and habits, -you will come easily and naturally
to know the birds that are living about you. The
first law of field work is exact observation, but
not only are you more likely to observe accurately
if what you see is put in black and white, but
you will find it much easier to identify the birds
from your notes than from memory.
With these hints in mind, go to look for your
friends. Carry a pocket note-book, and above all,
take an opera or field glass with you. Its rapid
adjustment may be troublesome at first, but it
should be the "inseparable article of a careful
observer. If you begin work in spring, don't
start out before seven o'clock, because the confu-
sion of the matins is discouraging there is too
much to see and hear. But go as soon as possi-
ble after breakfast, for the birds grow quiet and






4 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
fly to the woods for their nooning earlier and
earlier as the weather gets warmer.
You will not have to go far to find your first
bird.

I.

THE ROBIN.

NEXT to the crow, the robin is probably our best
known bird; but as a few of his city friends have
never had the good fortune to meet him, and as he
is to be our "unit of measure," it behooves us to
consider him well. He is, as every one knows, a
domestic bird, with a marked bias for society.
Everything about him bespeaks the self-respecting
American citizen. He thinks it no liberty to dine
in your front yard, or build his house in a crotch of
your piazza, with the help of the string you have
inadvertently left within reach. Accordingly, he
fares well, and keeps fat on cherries and straw-
berries if the supply of fish-worms runs low. Mr.
Robin has one nervous mannerism he jerks his
tail briskly when excited. But he is not always
looking for food as the woodpeckers appear to be,
nor flitting about with nervous restlessness like the
warblers, and has, on the whole, a calm, dignified
air. With time to meditate when he chooses, like
other sturdy, well-fed people, his reflections usually
take a cheerful turn; and when he lapses into a,
poetical mood, as he often does at sunrise and





THE ROBIN.


sunset, sitting on a branch in the softened light
and whispering a little song to himself, his senti-
ment is the wholesome every-day sort, with none
of the sadness or longing of his cousins, the
thrushes, but full of contented appreciation of the
beautiful world he lives in.
















Unlike some of his human friends, his content
does not check his activity. He is full of buoyant
life. He may always be heard piping up above
the rest of the daybreak chorus, and I have seen
him sit on top of a stub in a storm when it seemed
as if the harder it rained the louder and more ju-
bilantly he sang. He has plenty of pluck and
industry, too, for every season he dutifully accepts
the burden of seeing three or four broods of bird
children through all the dangers of cats, hawks,





6 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
and first flights; keeping successive nestfuls of
gaping months supplied with worms all the sum-
mer through.
His red breast is a myth and belongs to his
English namesake; and it must be owned that
his is a homely reddish brown that looks red only
when the sunlight falls on it. His wife's breast
is even less red than his in fact, she looks as if
the rain had washed off most of her color. But,
perhaps, had they been beautiful they would have
been vain, and then, alas for the robins we know
and love now. When the children make their
debut, they are more strikingly homely than their
parents; possibly because we have known the old
birds until, like some of our dearest friends, their
plainness has become beautiful to us. In any case,
the eminently speckled young gentlemen that come
out with their new tight-fitting suits and awkward
ways do not meet their father's share of favor.
Perhaps the nest they come from accounts for
their lack of polish. It is compact and strong,
built to last, and to keep out the rain; but with
no thought of beauty. In building their houses
the robins do not follow our plan, but begin with
the frame and work in. When the twigs and
weed stems are securely placed they put on the
plaster a thick layer of mud that the bird
moulds with her breast till it is as hard and
smooth as a plaster cast. And inside of all, for
cleanliness and comfort, they lay a soft lining of





THE ROBIN.


dried grass. This is the typical nest, but of course,
there are marked variations from it. Usually it
is firmly fixed in the crotch of a branch or close
to the body of the tree where its weight can be
supported.
But who does not know instances of oddly
placed nests outside of trees ? The "American
Naturalist" records one "on the top of a long
pole, which stood without support in an open barn-
yard," and Audubon notes one within a few feet
of a blacksmith's anvil. A number of interesting
sites have come within my notice. Among them
are: the top of a blind; an eave trough; a shingle
that projected over the inner edge of an open shed;
and, most singular of all, one inside a milk-house,
set precariously on the rim of a barrel that lay on
its side, just above the heads of the men who not
only appeared both night and morning with alarm-
ingly big milk pails, but made din enough in ply-
ing a rattling creaky pump handle to have sent
any ordinary bird bolting through the window.
Robins usually nest comparatively high, though
Audubon tells of a nest found on a bare rock on
the ground, and this summer I found one in the
crotch of a small tree only two and a half feet
from the earth. It was near a hen yard, so per-
haps Madam Robin was following the fashion by
laying her eggs near the ground. In any case,
she was on visiting terms with the hen-roost, for,
singularly enough, there were feathers plastered





8 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
about the adobe wall, though none inside. Per-
haps the weather was too warm for a feather bed!
- or was this frivolous lady bird thinking so
much of fashion and adornment she could spare
no time on homely comfort ?
Longfellow says:
"There are no birds in last year's nest,"
but on a brace in an old cow shed I know of, there
is a robin's nest that has been used for several
years. A layer of new material has been added
to the old structure each time, so that it is now
eight inches high and bids fair soon to rival the
fourteen story flat houses of New York. A re-
markable case is given in the Naturalist of a
robin that had no bump of locality," and distri-
buted its building material impartially over nearly
thirty feet of the outer cornice of a house.
You may look for robins almost anywhere, but
they usually prefer dry open land, or the edge of
woodland, being averse to the secluded life of
their relatives, the thrushes, who build in the for-
est. Those I find in the edge of the woods are
much shyer than those living about the house,
probably from the same reason that robins and
others of our most friendly Eastern birds are wild
and suspicious in the uninhabited districts of the
West--or, who will say there are no recluses
among birds as well as men?
The flight and song of the robin are character-
istic. The flight is rapid, clear cut, and straight.





THE ROBIN.


Unlike many birds, he moves as if he were going
somewhere. His voice is a strong clear treble,
loud and cheerful, but he is not a musician, and
has no one set song. His commonest call has two
parts, each of three notes run together; the first
with a rising, the last with a falling inflection,
like, tril-la-ree, tril-la-rah ; tril-la-ree, tril-la-rah.
But he has a number of calls, and you must be
familiar with the peculiar treble quality of his
note to avoid confusing it with others.
In the fall, Lowell says,
The sobered robin hunger-silent now,
Seeks cedar-berries blue, his autumn cheer,"
and this sobered" suggests a question. Why is
it that as soon as robins form flocks, they become
shy? Is it because they are more often shot at
when migrating in large numbers; or because, as
Mr. William Hubbell Fisher suggests, they have
left their homes, and so have lost confidence in
the surroundings and people ?
In some localities they live on cedar-berries in
the fall, but here they are well satisfied with
mountain ash berries, wild cherries, and ungath-
ered crab apples. Speaking of their food, what a
pity that anglers cannot contract with them for a
supply of bait! Woo betide the fish-worm that
stirs the grass on the lawn within their hearing!
How wise they look as they cock their heads on
one side and stand, erect and motionless, peering
down on the ground. And what a surprise it





10 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

must be to the poor worm when they suddenly tip
forward, give a few rapid hops, and diving into
the grass drag him out of his retreat. Though
they run from a chicken, robins will chase chip-
munks and fight with red squirrels in defense of
their nests or young.


II.

THE CROW.

THE despised crow is one of our most interest-
ing birds. His call is like the smell of the brown
furrows in spring life is more sound and whole-
some for it. Though the crow has no song, what
a variety of notes and tones he can boast! In
vocabulary, he is a very Shakespeare among birds.
Listening to a family of Frenchmen, though you
do not know a word of French, you easily guess
the temper and drift of their talk, and so it is in
listening to crows tone, inflection, gesture, all
betray their secrets. One morning last October
I caught, in this way, a spicy chapter in crow fam-
ily discipline.
I was standing in a meadow of rich aftermath
lying between a stony pasture and a small piece
of woods, when a young crow flew over my head,
cawing softly to himself. He flew straight west
toward the pasture for several seconds, and then,
as if an idea had come to him, turned his head





THE CROW.


and neck around in the intelligent crow fashion,
circled back to the woods, lit, and cawed vocifer-
ously to three other crows till they came over
across the pasture.
After making them all circle over my head, per-
haps merely as a blind, he took them back to his
perch where he wanted them to go beechnutting
- or something else. Whatever it was, they evi-
dently scorned his childishness, for they flew back
to their tree across the field as fast as they had
come. This put him in a pet, and he would not
budge, but sat there sputtering like a spoiled
child. To everything he said, whether in a com-
plaining or teasing tone, the same gruff paternal
caw came back from the pasture. Come along! "
it seemed to say. To this the refractory son would
respond, I won't." They kept it up for several
minutes, but at last paternal authority conquered,
and the big boy, making a wide detour, flew slowly
and reluctantly back to his family. He lit on a
low branch under them, and when the father gave
a gruff I should think it was time you came," he
defiantly shook his tail and cleaned his bill. After
a few moments he condescended to make a low
half sullen, half subdued remark, but when the
family all started off again he sat and scolded
some time before he would follow them, and I
suspect he compromised matters then only because
he did not want to be left behind.
The intelligence of the crow" has become a






12 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
platitude, but when we hear of his cracking clams
by dropping them on a fence, coming to roost with
the hens in cold weather, and in the case of a
tame crow--opening a door by lighting on the
latch, his originality is a surprise. A family near
here had much merriment over the gambols of a
pet crow named Jim. Whenever he saw the gar-
dener passing to and fro between the house and
garden, he would fly down from the trees, light on
his hat, and ride back and forth. He liked to
pick the bright blossoms, particularly pansies and
scarlet geraniums, and would not only steal bright
colored worsteds and ribbons, but tear all the yel-
low covers from any novels he came across. When
any one went to the vegetable garden he showed
-the most commendable eagerness to help with the
work, being anxious to pick whatever was wanted
- from raspberries and currants to the little cu-
cumbers gathered for pickling.
The sight of the big black puppy waddling
along wagging high in air a long black tail in-
congruously finished off with a tipping of white
hairs was too much for Jim's sobriety. Down he
would dive, give a nip at the hairs, and be gravely
seated on a branch just out of reach by the time
Bruno had turned to snap at him. Let the puppy
move on a step, and down the mischief would come
again, and so the two would play sometimes for
more than half an hour at a time. Then again,
the joke would take a more practical turn, for, in-





THE CROW. 13
stead of flying overhead when Bruno looked back,
Jim would steal the bone the puppy had been
gnawing.
The crow was happy as long as any one would
play with him, and never tired of flying low over
the ground with a string dangling from his bill for
the children to run after. Another favorite play
was to hold on to a string or small stick with his
bill while some one lifted him up by it, as a baby
is tossed by its arms. He would even hold on and
let you swing him around your head." He was
never daunted, and when the toddling two-year.
old would get too rough in her play and strike at
him with her stick, he would either catch the hem
of her pinafore and hold on till she ran away, or
would try scaring her, rushing at her his big
black wings spread out and his bill wide open.
One day his pluck was thoroughly tested.
Hearing loud caws of distress coming from the
lawn, the gardener rushed across and found Jim
lying on his back, his claw tightly gripping the
end of one of the wings of a large hawk, that,
surprised and terrified by this turn of the tables
was struggling frantically to get away. Jim held
him as tight as a vise, and only loosened his grasp
to give his enemy into the gardener's hands. After
letting go he submitted to the victor's reward, let-
ting his wounds be examined and his bravery ex-
tolled while he was carried about wearing a
most consciously heroic air, it must be confessed
- for due celebration of the victory.





14 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

III.

THE BLUEBIRD.

As you stroll through the meadows on a May
morning, drinking in the spring air and sunshine,
and delighting in the color of the dandelions and
the big bunches of blue violets that dot the grass,
a bird call comes quavering overhead that seems
the voice of all country loveliness. Simple, sweet,
and fresh as the spirit of the meadows, with a
tinge of forest richness in the plaintive tru-al-ly
that marks the rhythm of our bluebird's undulat-
ing flight, wherever the song is heard, from city
street or bird-box, it must bring pictures of flower-
ing fields, blue skies, and the freedom of the
wandering summer winds.
Look at the bluebird now as he goes over your
head -note the cinnamon of his breast; and as
he flies down and turns quickly to light on the
fence post, see the cobalt-blue that flashes from
his back. These colors are the poet's signs that
the bird's sponsors are the earth and sky." And
the little creature has a wavering way of lifting
its wings when perching, as if hesitating between
earth and sky, that may well carry out the poet's
hint of his wild ethereal spirit.
Notice the bluebird's place in literature. The
robin, with his cheerful soprano call, serves as the
emblem of domestic peace and homely cheer; but





THE BLUEBIRD. 15

the bluebird, with his plaintive contralto warble,
stirs the imagination, and is used as the poetic
symbol of spring. The temper of the bluebird
makes him a fit subject for the poet's encomiums.
Mr. Burroughs goes so far as to say that "the
expression of his indignation is nearly as musical
as his song."
Lowell speaks of the bluebird as
shifting his light load of song
From post to post along the cheerless fence."
But although he is as restless and preoccupied
here as elsewhere, lifting his wings tremulously as
if in reality shifting his load of song," and long-
ing to fly away, the bluebird sometimes comes
down to the prose of life even here and actually
hides his nest in the hole of a fence rail. When
this is not his fancy he fits up an old woodpecker's
hole in a post, stub, or tree; or, if more social in
his habits, builds in knot-holes in the sides of
barns, or in bird-boxes arranged for his use. At
Northampton I was shown a nest in an old stub
by the side of the road, so shallow that the father
and mother birds fed their young from the out-
side, clinging to the sides of the hole and reaching
in to drop the food into the open mouths below.
Although the bluebird has such a model temper,
it has not always a clear idea of the laws of meum
and tuum, as was shown by a nest found directly
on top of a poor swallow's nest where there lay
four fresh eggs! The nest is usually lined with






16 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
dry grasses and similar materials. The eggs,
from four to seven in number, are generally plain
pale greenish blue, but occasionally white.
Sitting on a fence at a little distance the young
birds look almost black, but as they fly off you
catch a tinge of blue on their wings and tails.
Their mother is more like her husband, but, as
with most lady birds, her tints are subdued -
doubtless the result of "adaptation," as bright
colors on the back of the brooding mother would
attract danger.
We have two reasons for gratitude to the blue-
bird. It comes home early in the spring, and is
among the last to leave in the fall, its sweet note
trembling on the air when the "bare branches of
the trees are rattling in the wind."


IV.

CHIMNEY SWIFT; CHIMNEY "SWALLOW.'

WATCH a chimney swift as he comes near you,
rowing through the air first with one wing and
then the other, or else cruising along with sails
set. Look at him carefully and you will see that
he is not a swallow, although he oftep goes by
that name. He looks much more like a bat. His
outlines are so clear cut and angular that he could
be reduced, roughly, to two triangles, their com-
mon base cutting his body vertically in halves.





CHIMNEY SWIFT. 17
His tail is, of itself, an acute-angled triangle ter-
minating merely in bristles; and his wings look
as if made of skin stretched on a frame, bat
fashion, instead of being of feathers.
He twitters in a sharp chippering way as he
flutters through the air and picks up flies, saying,
as Mr. Burroughs puts it, chippy-chippy-chirio,
not a man in Dario can catch a chippy-chippy-
chirio." And you are inclined to believe the
boast such zigzag darting, such circling and
running! The men of Dario would need seven
league wings to keep up with him, and then, after
a lightning race, when just ready to throw their
pinch of salt, with a sudden wheel the chippy-
chirio would dart down a chimney and disappear
from sight.
And what a noise these swifts do make in the
chimneys! If you ever had a room beside one of
their lodging-houses you can testify to their noc-
turnal habits during the nesting season." Such
chattering and jabbering, such rushing in and
scrambling out! If you only could get your spy-
glass inside the chimney! Their curious little
nests are glued against the sides like tiny wall
pockets; and there the swifts roost, or rather
hang, clinging to the wall, side by side, like little
sooty bats. Audubon says that before the young
birds are strong enough to fly they clamber up
to the mouths of the chimneys as the pitifully tri-
umphant chimney-sweeps used to come up for a





18 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
breath and wave their brooms in the air at their
escape from the dangers below. Though never
venturing near us the swifts come to live inside
our houses. Like the robin they are citizens, but
what a contrast !
Their feet are weak from disuse, and it is be-
lieved that they never light anywhere except in a
chimney or in a hollow tree, where they sometimes
go at night and in bad weather. They gather the
twigs they glue together for their nests while on
the wing, and their ingenuity in doing it shows
how averse they are to lighting. Audubon says:
" The chimney swallows are seen in great numbers
whirling around the tops of some decayed or dead
tree, as if in pursuit of their insect prey. Their
movements at this time are exceedingly rapid;
they throw their body suddenly against the twig,
grapple it with their feet, and by an instantaneous
jerk snap it off short, and proceed with it to the
place intended for the nest."


V.

CATBIRD.

HIGH trees have an unsocial aspect, and so, as
Lowell says, "The catbird croons in the lilac-
bush," in the alders, in a prickly ash copse, a bar-
berry-bush, or by the side of the garden. In
Northampton one of his favorite haunts is an old





CATBIRD.


orchard that slopes down to the edge of Mill
River. Here he is welcomed every year by his
college girl friends; and in the open seclusion of
an apple-tree proceeds to build his nest and raise
his little family, singing through it all with keen.
enjoyment of the warm sunshine and his own com-
pany.
To the tyro the catbird is at once the most in-
teresting and most exasperating of birds. Like
some people, he seems to give up his time to the
pleasure of hearing himself talk. A first cousin
of the mocking-bird whom he resembles in per-
son much more than in voice perhaps the re-
lationship accounts for his overweening confidence
in his vocal powers. As a matter of fact his jerky
utterance is so harsh that it has been aptly termed
asthmatic.
The catbird is unmistakably a Bohemian. He
is exquisitely formed, and has a beautiful slate-
gray coat, set off by his black head and tail. By
nature he is peculiarly graceful, and when he
chooses can pass for the most polished of the
Philistine aristocracy. But he cares nothing for
all this. With lazy self-indulgence he sits by the
hour with relaxed muscles, and listlessly drooping
wings and tail. If he were a man you feel con-
fident that he would sit in shirt sleeves at home
and go on the street without a collar.
And his occupation ? His cousin is an artist,
but he is he a wag as well as a caricaturist, or





20 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

is he in sober earnest when he tries to mimic the
inimitable Wilson's thrush? If a wag he is a
success, for he deceives the unguarded into believ-
ing him a robin, a cat, and "a bird new to
science! How he must chuckle over the enthu-
siasm which hails his various notes and the bewil-
derment and chagrin that come to the diligent
observer who finally catches a glimpse of the gar-
rulous mimic !
The catbird builds his nest as he does every-
thing else. The loose mass of coarse twigs patched
up with pieces of newspaper or anything he hap-
pens to fancy, looks as if it would hardly bear his
weight. He lines it, however, with fine bits of
brown and black roots, and when the beautiful
dark green eggs are laid in it, you feel sure that
such an artistic looking bird must enjoy the con-
trasting colors.

VI.

KEEL TAILED BLACKBIRD; CROW BLACKBIRD;
BRONZED GRACKLE.

LOWELL gives this bird the first place in the
calendar. He says : -
"Fust come the blackbirds clatt'rin' in tall trees,
And settlin' things in windy Congresses, -
Queer politicians, though, for I '11 be skinned
If all on 'em don't head against the wind."
In spite of all that may be brought up in Grand





CROW BLACKBIRD.


Jury against these "queer politicians," who is
there that could not confess to a thrill of pleasure
when they appear about the house clatt'rin' in
tall trees" ?
As Mr. Burroughs has it: The air is filled
with cracking, splintering, spurting, semi-musical
sounds, which are like pepper and salt to the ear."
There is a delicious reality to their notes. We
feel now that spring is not a myth of the poets,
after all, but that she has sent this black advance
guard as a promise of wild flowers and May-day.
Black, did I say? Nothing could be more mis-
leading. Mr. Ridgway describes the body of the
purple grackle as brassy olive or bronze," his
neck as steel-blue, violet, purple, or brassy
green," and his wings and tail as "purplish or
violet-purplish." He is one of the most brilliant
of our bird beauties. Watch him as he ambles
over the branches, and when the sunlight strikes
him you will wonder who could have been so blind
as to dub him blackbird. Call him, rather, the
black opal!
He is a bird of many accomplishments. To
begin with, he does not condescend to hop, like
ordinary birds, but imitates the crow in his stately
walk; then he has a steering apparatus that the
small boy might well study in coasting time. He
can turn his tail into a rudder. Watch him as
he flies. While he is going straight ahead you
do not notice anything unusual, but as soon as -he





22 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS,
turns or wants to alight you see his tail change
from the horizontal to the vertical into a rud-
der. He is called keel-tailed on account of it.
Moreover, he can pick beechnuts, catch cray-
fish without getting nipped, and fish for minnows
alongside of any ten-year-old. Last October I
found him beech-nutting, but he made hard work
of it. I suspect the cold snap for there was
snow on the ground had stiffened his toes so
that he was more awkward than usual. Poor fel-
low, I felt sorry for him, it entailed such danger-
ous gymnastics! But it was amusing to see him
walk over the branches, stretch his neck to the
point of dislocation, and then make such a deter-
mined dive after the nut that he nearly lost his
balance, and could only save himself by a desper-
ate jerk of the tail. Even when he picked out a
nut he had to put it under his claw and drill
through the shell, pick-axe style, before he could
get a morsel to eat. He evidently thought it
rather serious sport, and flew down for some shriv-
eled crab-apples as a second course. But an army
of robins had possession of the apple -tree and
two of them were detailed to drive him off, so he
had to finish his breakfast up in the cold beech
top.
A long list of nesting sites might be given, in-
cluding martin-houses, poplars, evergreens, holes
in stubs, the sides of fish hawk's nests, and
church spires where the blackbirds' "clatt'rin'" is






CROW BLACKBIRD.


drowned by the tolling bells. Instances of their
quarrels with robins and other birds would fill a
volume, but the most interesting feud of which
I have heard was enacted in the garden of the
keen observer and botanist, Mrs. Helen M. Bagg,
and its progress was watched by her unnoticed,
as she looked out upon the participants from
among the flowering shrubs and vines that sur-
round her cottage. I quote her racy descrip-
tion: -
Early one May two robins, with many mani-
festations of happiness, set up house-keeping in a
tree near the south end of my house. A few days
later a large flock of blackbirds alighted on the
trees on the north side of the yard. There had
been a blackbird wedding, and their friends had
escorted them hither with the laudable intention
of finding a suitable location for a nest for the
happy pair. A loud chattering and fluttering fol-
lowed, one advising this place, another that. At
length the young husband espied the broad top
of the water-pipe, under the eaves, and settled on
that as a most secure and suitable home for his
bride. The wedding guests, with the satisfaction
that comes from the consciousness of having per-
formed one's duty, took their departure, leaving
the blissful couple to the uninterrupted enjoyment
of their own society. Ah who could have fore-
told 'on night so fair, such awful morn' could
rise?"





24 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
"In the mean time the robins had been watch-
ing these unusual proceedings with much anxiety
and uneasiness ; apparently not well pleased and
not a little alarmed that their hereditary foes
should presume to invade their domains and be-
come domiciled in such close proximity to their
own residence. But they made no hostile demon-
strations that day, waiting to see the turn of af-
fairs, and, as the sequel shows, to gain time to
summon the assistance of friends. Early the next
morning they resolved to eject the new-comers
from the premises.
Then occurred the most remarkable scene I
ever witnessed. At the loud cries of the combat-
ants an immense number of birds of both kinds
came flocking from all quarters to the scene of
action, as if they had been expecting the affray.
They attacked each other with great ferocity and
fought pluckily with bills and feet amid loud
cries of anger and derision. Feathers flew. The
wounded would fly away to a neighboring tree to
nurse their hurts for a moment, when, still smart-
ing with pain, back they would come to fight with
redoubled fury. The shrieks and cries increased
till it seemed a veritable pandemonium. Every
robin and blackbird within the radius of a mile
must have been present, either as spectator or par-
ticipant in the strife. After a time, finding that
both parties were equally brave, and that neither
would yield, they with one accord withdrew from





CROW BLACKBIRD.


the conflict as suddenly as they came, a few only
remaining to arbitrate matters.
The path from the house to the road divides
the yard into equal parts. It was agreed that in
future the blackbirds should keep on the north
side, and the robins on the south side of this path.
Peace and quiet reigned the rest of the day, all
parties being too exhausted to resume the struggle
even if they had not been in honor bound to re-
spect the treaty. But do not fancy that the feud
was forgotten. By no means. The sleek black-
coated, dapper young gentleman, conscious of hav-
ing won the victory, inasmuch as he had not been
dislodged from his position, allowed no oppor-
tunity to pass in which he might show his con-
tempt for or exult over his plainly-dressed and
comparatively inelegant neighbors.
When the nest-building commenced, our gay
chevalier complacently permitted his meek little
wife to perform the main part of the labor, while
he would perch himself on a limb as near the di-
viding line as possible and taunt or ridicule his
opponents, whom family cares alone prevented
from reciprocating the compliments the will
and desire were strong enough. Sometimes he
would examine the nest to see how the work pro-
gressed, and occasionally he condescended to pick
up a straw and fly with it to a tree near by, and
sit there with it in his mouth with a wonderfully
self-satisfied air, yet never offering it to his mate.





26 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
After a few moments he would drop it, smooth
his plumage, wheel about, whisk his tail, and per-
form various other antics for the delectation of
Mrs. Blackbird; then he would suddenly dart off
to see what the robins were about.














..----......



"During the weeks that followed, through nest-
making and incubation, the enmity between the
blackbirds and robins never abated. They were
ever wary and on the alert, and if it chanced that
either party, returning to his home, happened to
cross the Mason and Dixon's line,' the other was
out of his nest in a trice to drive off the intruder.
Sometimes I thought both parties courted these
occasions, though they would generally content





BOBOLINK.


themselves with angry words and looks. The next
year they, or their children, returned, and each
took amicable possession of his old nesting-place,
neither deigning to notice his neighbor."


VII.

BOBOLINK; REED-BIRD; RICE-BIRD.

THOUGH the bluebird brings the poet pictures
of fields blooming with dandelions and blue vio-
lets, and visions of all the freshness and beauty of
nature, it tinges his thought with the tremulous
sadness and longing of spring; but Robert o' Lin-
coln, the light-hearted laugher of June, brings
him the spirit of the long bright days when the
sun streams full upon meadows glistening with
buttercups and daisies.
Pray, have you seen the merry minstrel singing
over the fields, or sitting atilt of a grass stem?
And do you know what an odd dress he masquer-
ades in? If not, let me warn you. One day at
college some young observers came to me in great
excitement. They had seen a new bird. It was
a marvelous, unheard-of creature its back was
white and its breast black. What could it be?
Later on, when we were out one day, a bobolink
flew on to the campus. That was their bird. And
to justify their description they exclaimed, "He
looks as if his clothes were turned around." And
so he does.





28 BTRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
Shades of short hair and bloomers, what an in-
novation How the birds must gossip Instead
of the light-colored shirt and vest and decorous
dark coat sanctioned by the Worth of conven-


--I--:-- -" "--









tional bird circles for centuries, this radical decks
himself out in a jet-black shirt and vest, with not
so much as a white collar to redeem him; besides
having all of four almost white patches on the
back of his coat! But don't berate him who
knows but this unique coloring is due to a process
unrecognized by the Parisian Worth, but desig-
nated by Mr. Darwin as adaptation "? Most
field birds are protected by sparrowy backs, and
with his black back, the tendency certainly seems
to be to lessen the striking effect with lighter col-
ors, leaving the breast, which is unseen when he





BOBOLINK. 29
is on the grass, as black as may be. In the fall
when flying into dangers that necessitate an in-
conspicuous suit, the bobolink makes amends for
the confusion caused in the spring, by adopting
the uniform ochraceous tints of his wife. In this
dress he joins large companies of his brothers and
flies south, where he is known first as the reed-
bird," and then, in the rice-fields, as the "rice-
bird."
What could resemble the old time "needle in
the hay-stack more than a bobolink's nest in a
meadow full of high grass? But, do you say, the
birds act as a magnet to discover it? That seems
to remove all difficulties. But suppose your mag-
net were bound to make you believe north, south,
and east, west? When the bobolinks assure you
their nest is anywhere except where it is -
within a radius of five or six rods, you well, try
it some warm day next summer Here is a bit of
my experience.
One day in June I think I have surely found a
bobolink's nest. Everything is simplified. In-
stead of a dozen pairs of birds flying up shelter
skelter from all parts of the field, there is only
one pair, and they kindly give me a line across
the meadow ending with a small elm on the west,
and a fence on the east. As they only occasion-
ally diverge to an evergreen on the north or go
for a run to a distant field on the south, I am
confident. In imagination I am already examin-





30 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
ing the brownish white, deeply speckled eggs and
noting the details of the nest. But the best way
is to keep perfectly still and let the birds show
me just where the nest is, though of course it is
only a matter of a few minutes more or less. I sit
down in the grass, pull the timothy stems over my
dress, make myself look as much as possible like
a meadow, and keep one eye on the bobolinks,
while appearing to be absorbed with an object on
the other side. But they are better actors than I.
Twitter-itteritter the anxious mother reiterates
in a high key as she hovers suggestively over a
tuft of grass a few rods away. So soon! My
impatience can hardly be restrained. But the
father is coming.
Lingkum- lingkumli- lingkcum, he vociferates
loudly, hovering over a bunch of weeds in just
the opposite direction. By this time the mother
is atilt of another timothy stem in a new place,
looking as if just ready to fly down to her nest.
And so they keep it up. I examine all the weeds
and tussocks of grass they point out. On nearing
one of them, the mother flies about my head with
a show of the greatest alarm; my hopes reach
certainty there is nothing there! I look under
every nodding buttercup and spreading daisy for
yards around only to see Mrs. Robert of Lincoln
hovering above a spot she had avoided before.
The next day I offer a reward to two children if
they will find the nest, but the birds probably





BOBOLINK.


practice the same wiles on them they can dis-
cover nothing. What a pity the poor birds can't
tell friends from enemies. They treat me as if I
were a brigand; but if they knew I wanted to
peep at their pretty eggs and admire their house-
keeping arrangements, how gladly they would show
me about!
After noticing the clear cut, direct flight of the
robin, the undulating flight of the bluebird, and
the circling and zigzagging of the swift, you will
study with interest the labored sallies and eccen-
tricities of the bobolink. When he soars, he
turns his wings down till he looks like an open
umbrella; and when getting ready to light in the
grass puts them up sail fashion, so that the um-
brella seems to be turned inside out. Indeed,
from the skillful way he uses his wings and tail
to steer and balance himself, you might think he
had been trained for an acrobat.
The most animated song of the bobolink is
given on the wing, although he sings constantly
in the grass, and on low trees and bushes. The
most exuberantly happy of all our birds, he seems
to contain the essence of summer joy and sun-
shine. Bobolinlcum-linkum-d-deah-ceah-deah" he
warbles away, the notes fairly tumbling over each
other as they pour out of his throat. Up from
the midst of the buttercups and daisies he starts
and flies along a little way, singing this joyous
song with such light -hearted fervor that he is






32 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
glad to sink down on the stem of some sturdy
young timothy before giving his last burst of
song.
Thoreau gives the best description I have ever
seen of the first notes of the bobolink's song. He
says: I hear the note of a bobolink concealed
in the top of an apple-tree behind me. He is
just touching the strings of his theorbo, his glassi-
chord, his water organ, and one or two notes globe
themselves and fall in liquid bubbles from his
tuning throat. It is as if he touched his harp
within a vase of liquid melody, and when he lifted
it out the notes fell like bubbles from the trem-
bling strings. Methinks they are the most liquidly
sweet and melodious sounds I ever heard."
Almost every one gives a different rendering of
the bobolink's meaning. The little German chil-
dren playing in our meadows cry after him in
merry mimicry, "Oncle-dey dunkel-dey oncle-dey
dcunkel-dey." The farm boy calls him the "corn-
planting bird," and thinks he says, Dig a hole,
dig a hole, put it in, put it in, cover 't up, cover 't
up, stamp on 't, stamp on 't, step along."


VIII.

RUFFED GROUSE; PARTRIDGE.

THE partridge, or ruffed grouse as he is more
properly called, is our first true woods bird. His





RUFFED GROUSE.


colors are the colors of the brown leaves that lie
on the ground, and as he crouches close to the
earth it is no easy task to discover him. The one
thought of the poor persecuted bird seems to be
to keep out of reach of his enemies.
Here, one of his favorite covers is in a quiet
spot where I go to gather ferns -a grove that
"fronts the rising sun" and is full of dappled
maple saplings interspersed with the white birches
that gleam in the morning light and keep birch-
bark scrolls rolled up along their sides ready for
the birds to carry away for their nests. At the
foot of the trees, and close to the moss-covered
drumming-log, ferns stand in pretty groups of all
growths from the tiny green sprays and the soft
uncurling downy balls to the full grown arching
fronds whose backs are dotted with brown fruit;
while, as a protecting hedge along the front of the
grove, great masses of the tender green mountain
fern give their delicate fragrance to the air. But
pass by this hiding place, and a sudden whirr
through the bushes, first from one startled bird
and then another, tells you they have flown before
you. Approach the drumming-log when the air
has been resounding with exultant blows the
noise stops, not a bird is to be seen.
As we feed the partridges in our woods and
never allow any hunting there, in winter the birds
venture about the house for food. The Norway
spruces by the garden afford a warm shelter, and





34 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
there, under the boughs, corn is kept for them
on barrels and boxes. On the other side of the
house, in front of the dining-room window, is a
similar store for the blue jays and gray squirrels;
and as they sometimes visit the partridges' table,
the latter often fly around the house to see if the
squirrels' corn tastes any better than theirs.
The first snowy morning they appear we have
to peek through the shutters very cautiously, for
they are painfully shy, crouching in the snow, lis-
tening tremulously to the least sound from the
house, looking about every time they pick up a
kernel of corn, and whirring off back to their
evergreens if a window or blind chances to be
thrown open. But they soon lose their fears, and
some mornings we find their pretty footprints in
the snow on the piazza.
One winter they seemed to show a fondness for
music, often coming close to the house as I was
playing the piano. Indeed they and the squirrels
must both have followed the Pied Piper of Hame-
lin the squirrels not only nibble their corn with
complacent satisfaction when the music box is
wound for them, but have even let themselves be
stroked when a peculiarly pathetic air was whis-
tled! Who dare say what forest concerts the
pretty creatures may get up on the long winter
evenings when they are tired frolicking on the
moonlit snow!
Still the partridges seem to like the bright red





RUFFED GROUSE.


berries of the cranberry-tree even better than they
do music, and we have been much amused watch-
ing their attempts to get the berries from a bush
by the garden. Sometimes they stand in the snow
underneath and jump for them; but one day when
the bush was covered with ice one adventurous
bird flew up on a branch and nearly turned a
somersault in trying to lean over and pick off the
berries and at the same time keep hold of the
slippery perch.
But our chief pleasure is in watching the par-
tridges from the bay window of the dining-room.
The young men are as proud as turkey-cocks
of the handsome black ruffs for which they were
dubbed ruffed grouse," and when they strut be-
fore the ladies, raising their crests, erecting their
spread tails, and puffing out the ruffs over their
shoulders they remind one forcibly of the lordly
cock. In matter of fact they do belong to the
same family, that of the gallinaceous birds, -
and many of their mannerisms betray the relation-
ship. Their way of scratching in the snow, rest-
ing their weight on one foot and scratching with
the other, is like that of the common hen, and
their drumming is the finished performance that
is caricatured by Chanticleer. Drumming with
the partridge is a joy. He beats the air with his
wings till it must needs sing for him, and the
music is full of refreshing pictures of green mossy
logs, arching ferns, and the cool shade of the
woods,





36 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.


IX.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMING-BIRD.

DID you ever see a humming-bird sitting on a
bare branch of a towering tree? Until you have
you will scarcely appreciate what a wee mite of a
bird it is. Indeed I find it hard to think of it
as a bird at all. It seems more like a fairy, a
glittering fragment of a rainbow," as Audubon
calls it, or as some one else has said, -
"Like a gem or a blossom on pinions,"
something too dainty and airy to have even three
inches of actual length. It seems like the winged
spirit of color as it comes humming through the
air to hover over the flowers on the piazza, its
body like green beryl, and its throat glancing fire.
Like Puck it might boast that it could "put a
girdle round about the earth in forty minutes,"
for while we are wondering at its friendliness it
darts off and is gone like the flash of a diamond.
In this vicinity the garden of Mrs. Bagg seems
to be one of the favorite haunts of the humming-
birds, and she has kindly given me some notes on
her experiences with them. She says:-
In confinement they do not appear to pine for
freedom, beating themselves against the wires like
other birds, but seem contented and at home from
the first, I kept a pair caged a whole summer.





HUMMING-BIRD.


feeding them with water sweetened with honey or
sugar. When I put a cup of their food in the
cage they would alight on my fingers, and with
their long flexible tongue suck off the honey I had
accidentally spilled. In disposition they are too
pugnacious to live as harmoniously as one would
expect or desire, sometimes pursuing one another
around the cage with great ferocity, and such in-
conceivable rapidity that their tiny forms seemed
resolved into absolute sound. I frequently per-
mitted them to fly about the room for exercise,
but they never returned voluntarily to their cage.
When caught they did not resist and struggle,
but saw the door of their prison-house closed upon
them without a complaint. They had never a sick
or unhappy day through the whole summer, but
when the cold days of autumn approached they
began to droop, although their cage was hung in
the warmest place in the room. For three days
they hung suspended to their perches by their
feet, and did not relax the hold while life lasted.
I have found them clinging to vines and shrub-
bery in that manner on cold mornings after a
frost, but though seemingly lifeless the warmth of
the hand would revive them.
"Some years a few are unaccountably tardy
about migrating; at other times they make the
mistake of coming too early in spring. Undoubt-
edly most of them migrate in August, but with
them, as in every other community, there are al-





38 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
ways some laggards as well as bold pioneers. I
once found one in my house on a very cold morn-
ing in the fall. He was probably sleeping on some
house-plants that had been brought in from the
frost the previous night, and was too benumbed
with cold to know it. I caught and fed him, as it
would have been barbarous to turn him out in the
cold. He soon became a great pet, and was tame
as a'kitten.
One day two gentlemen entered the room
where his cage was hanging, both wearing tall
hats. He fell immediately to the bottom of the
cage, with wings outspread, eyes closed, body rigid,
and with every appearance of death. We took
him in our hands and warmed him by the fire.
He still remained motionless. We decided that
those hats had frightened him to death. With a
heavy heart I laid him aside, intending to embalm
him at my leisure.
"A few minutes later my friends left the house.
Directly after the door closed I heard a humming
and buzzing in the room. Looking up, there was
my bird circling around the room in the most hila-
rious manner. Who can tell whether his apparent
death was not counterfeited ? If it was not feigned,
why did he revive the moment the door was closed
and I was alone?
"If you capture one out of doors and hold
him in your hand he will practice the same
ruse, stretching himself out, stiff and motionless.





HUMMING-BIRD.


Thrown off your guard you stoop to examine your
prize, when lo! your hand is empty and your
bird nearly out of sight before you have time to
recover from the astonishment.
"Towards the humble-bee he manifests the
utmost ill-will, a veritable dog in the manger'
spirit, driving him away from one flower after an-
other till the bee in pure desperation turns on his
persecutor. There are surely sweets enough for
all, and he knows it. Still it maybe possible that
his animosity is aroused more by a personal aver-
sion he has to the bee than by more selfish con-
siderations. We will give him the benefit of the
doubt. He is fond of silence, and will often sit
half an hour together on a dead twig wrapt in
the profoundest meditation, and doubtless the in-
cessant droning of the bees disturbs his reflections
and irritates him beyond endurance. I had once
in my garden a ribbon-bed of white and rose col-
ored Lamium. In its unsullied beauty it was like
a dream of poetry. Every flower was perfect
with an unsurpassed and delicate loveliness. One
sunny morning I observed an unusual number of
humming-birds and bees working among the blos-
soms. Presently there was a commotion! The
humming-birds had united to drive the bees away,
darting at them furiously, uttering at the same
time their spiteful, piping cries. The bees, intent
on seeking their breakfast, at first gave up good-
naturedly and flew to some other flower, only to





40 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
be driven from that a moment later. At length
forbearance ceased to be a virtue, and the temper
of the apathetic bee was aroused. A fierce battle
ensued. They pursued one another around and
around that flower bed, over and under and
through the flowers, sometimes the birds and then
the bees having the vantage. Their rage knew no
bounds, and they fought till sheer exhaustion com-
pelled them to desist. Every flower was torn to
shreds, not a whole blossom remaining."
The nest of the humming-bird is as delicate as
the little creature itself. It is built in the form
of a small cup, saddled upon a horizontal limb,
and covered on the outside with lichens which
make it look like a knob on the branch. The
child who discovers a humming-bird's nest is cred-
ited with sharp eyes.


X.

MEADOW-LARK.

To many, the meadow-lark is only a voice, but
if you follow the rule laid down at the beginning
of your work, and are determined to see as well
as hear, you will have little trouble in finding the
owner of the plaintive call that rises so mysteri-
ously out of the grass.
Focus your glass on the meadow, and listen
carefully for the direction of the sound. As the





MEADO W-LARK. 41
lark is very much the color of the dead grass that
covers the ground when he first comes north, and
of the dry stubble left after the summer mowing,
he is somewhat hard to see. When you have
found him, it is a delightful surprise to see that


r~eAK


.-4Z- -o


the brownish yellow disguise of his back is re-
lieved, not, indeed, by a sable robe like the bobo-
link's, but by a throat of brilliant yellow, set off
by a large black crescent.
The meadow-lark has two notable characteris-
tics. Belonging to the blackbird family, he is a
walker, and when he flies you will see that he is
also one of the few birds marked by prominent
white outer tail feathers. The peculiarities of his
labored flight are exactly described by Shelley


I~ -0 5

A... 92'-





42 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
when he says, in his Ode to the Skylark, "Thou
dost float and run." Flying seems hard work for
him, and he does as little of it as possible. When
he starts up from the meadow, he goes in a di-
rect line to the tree he wishes to reach. Like
the bobolink, he nests in fields and lays his eggs
in a coil of dried grass on the ground.
In variety and execution the famous song of the
European lark may be superior to that of our own
Eastern lark, though Wilson holds that ours ex-
cels it in sweetness of voice." The mournful
melody of the meadow-lark is full of poetic sugges-
tions; he is the hermit thrush of the meadows,
and where the light-hearted bobolink's song jos-
tles the sunbeams, he is as solitary and pensive as
the lonely hermit when it thrills the hush of the
sunset after-glow with its fervid Te Deum.


XI.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE; TITMOUSE.

READ Emerson's Titmouse" and you will
recognize this charming little bird without the
aid of your glass. Not only in spring and fall,
but in the coldest winter days you will hear what
Thoreau calls the "silver tinkling chick-a-dee-
dee-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee ringing through
the air. When you hear it, if you look carefully
over the trees you will see a fluffy little body





CHICKADEE.


dressed out in a black hood whose sombre tone is
relieved by whitish side pieces, a vest to match
the sides of the'hood, and'a dark gray coat for
contrast. Clinging to the side of a tree one min-
ute, and hanging upside down pecking at the
moss on a branch the next, it is flitting about
hither and thither so busily that unless you draw
near you will hardly catch a glimpse of its black
cap and gray and white clothes. You need not
fear scaring it, for it has the most winning confi-
dence in man, inspecting the trees in the front
yard or those in the woods with the same trustful
unconcern.
You are inclined to think that the busy chick-
adee takes no time to meditate, and sees only the
bright side of life; and when you hear its plain-
tive minor whistle piercing the woods, you wonder
if it can have come from the same little creature
whose merry chick-a-dee-dee you know so well.
Thoreau calls this plaintive whistle the spring
phcebe's note of the chickadee, and gives its win-
ter call as day, day, day. When happy, the
chickadee is the best company one could hope for
on a winter's walk; when busy it seems to realize
perpetual motion; and when it gives up its ordi-
nary pursuits and prepares to rear a family, it
goes to work in the same whole-souled fashion.
Leaving civilization with its many distractions, it
goes into the woods, and that is the last you see
or hear of it until fall. Even there it is not con-





44 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
tent to sit perched up on top of an open nest, but
builds in the side of a stump or a dead stub, and
retires from the world with the determination of
a nun.
You will wonder at first how such a tiny bill as
the chickadee's can be used as a pickaxe, but if
you notice it carefully you will see that, without
being clumsy, it is very stout, for it is arched
enough to give it strength. Of course the chick-
adee sometimes nests in natural cavities in trees;
and Audubon says old woodpeckers' holes are oc-
casionally used; but most writers agree in think-
ing that it usually makes its own excavation,
occasionally in comparatively hard wood.
One morning I was hurrying noisily through
the underbrush of a clearing to get home in time
for breakfast, when, suddenly, I came face to face
with a pair of chickadees. Even then they did
not stir, but sat eying me cahlly for several sec-
onds. I suspected a nest, and when they had
flown off, I discovered the opening in a decayed
stub close by my side. The stub was a small one,
being perhaps eight or ten inches in diameter and
four and a half feet high. The entrance was
about a foot from the top, and the nest itself a
foot or more below this. What a tasteful little
structure it was Although out of sight, it was
far prettier than most bird-houses on exhibition
in the forest. Bits of fresh green moss gave it a
dainty air, and brought out the dark gray of the





CHICKADEE. 45

squirrel or rabbit fur that made it snug and
warm. I was tempted to wonder where the fur
came from had this innocent chickadee tweaked
it out of the back of some preoccupied animal ?
Perhaps the demure little recluse has a spice of
wickedness after all, and its satisfaction in its se-
cure retreat has something of exultant mischief
in it!
In any case, it sometimes takes unfair advan-
tage, for this fall I saw a chickadee deliberately
lying in wait for his breakfast, just as a spider
would. I was passing a Norway spruce when I
caught sight of him pecking away on the under
side of one of the lower branches. Soon he pulled
out a large white chrysalis-like ball, flew up on a
branch and sat there till he disposed of it. Then
he went back and hung himself, upside down, to
the branch, just below the place where the first
morsel had come from. Balder, my big New-
foundland, and I were within five feet of the little
rogue, but he did not care for that. There he
clung for as much as two or three minutes, per-
fectly motionless except when he turned his head
to give us a preoccupied look. Then suddenly he
picked down and drew out a small white worm,
and flew up into the branch with a triumphant
little cry, as much as to say, Ha, ha, I got you
after all! "





46 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

XII.

CUCKOO; RAIN CROW.

UNLESS you follow the cuckoo to his haunts,
you rarely see him. Now and then, perhaps, you
catch a glimpse of his long brown body as he
comes silently out of an orchard, an overgrown
garden, or a clump of bushes, to disappear swiftly
in a heavily leaved tree or mass of shrubbery
where he suspects a fresh supply of insects.
A third longer than the robin, the cuckoo is a
slender, olive-brown bird with a light breast. The
two species are very similar in appearance and
















habit, but in the yellow-billed there are distinct
white spots known as "thumb marks" on the






CUCKOO. 4'
under side of the tail. The black-billed cuckoo is
a plainer bird, its only striking peculiarity being
its bright red eyelids.
You will do well to remember the rhythm of
the cuckoo's notes. It may save you an experi-
ence I had one fall. I supposed the birds had
left for the South, but hearing a regular Icuk-kuk-
kuk coming from the woods, and being especially
anxious to study the cuckoo's habits, I left the
raspberry patch where I was watching for rare
warblers, and hurried off in search of the wander-
ing voice. What a treat! -to be able to see a
cuckoo after all! I crept along with scrupulous
care, begrudging the time my caution cost me, but
determined not to lose this last chance. What if
he should fly off before I could get there But
no I began to exult kulc-kuk-kuk came loud
and clear as I stopped to listen for the direction
of the sound. I must be almost up to him. Oh,
that I could sweep all the noisy dead leaves into
the ditch! I look about anxiously for moss and
old logs to step on. There Grasping my note-
book in one hand, with the other I raise my glass.
A mischievous looking chipmunk, sitting erect on
top of a mossy stump, suddenly jumps off into
the leaves and the sound stops !





48 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

XIII.

YELLOW HAMMER; FLICKER.

WHEN people attempt to give their children
descriptive names they generally meet with the
success of the colored woman who christened her
little girl "Lillie White only to see her grow
to be the darkest of her ebony family. But local
bird names are more like nicknames; they usually
touch facts, not hopes, and hint the most striking
features of coloring, song, flight, and habit. As
you have discovered, this is true of the bluebird,
chimney swift, catbird, keel-tailed blackbird, hum-
ming-bird, and meadow-lark; and looking over
the yellow hammer's thirty-six common names
given by Mr. Colburn in the Audubon Magazine
"for June, 1887, you will get a fair description of
the bird. As he flies over your head in the field
your first impression is of a large yellow bird -
he is of the size of the crow blackbird- and
on the list you find "yellow hammer," "yellow
jay," and pique-bois jaune "; but as the yellow
light comes mainly from his bright yellow shafts
and the gold of the underside of his wings
and tail, you have also "yellow-shafted wood-
pecker," and "golden-winged woodpecker." His
dark back and the large white spot at the base of
his tail, though conspicuous in flight, are not dig-
nified by a name; but when he lights on the side





YELLOW HAMMER. 49
of a tree or an old stub you recognize him as a
" woodpecker." With the help of your glass you
also see the bright red crescent on the back of his
head, for which he is probably called crescent
bird." There he clings, fastening his claws firmly
in the bark, and bracing himself with the stiff
quills of his tail, so that his convexity of outline
almost amounts to a half circle as he bends for-
ward to hammer on the wood. This is the
best time to use your glass, for he is quite a shy
bird, and except when engaged in his favorite
work, is hard to observe satisfactorily, even at a
respectful distance. His dark back proves to be
barred with black, and following him as he circles
up the tree you get a glimpse of his breast that
discloses a large black collar separating his thickly
spotted breast from the plain light throat.
The song of the yellow hammer is like the Ger-
man th-- he has n't any. He has a variety of cries
and calls, however, and a trill that sounds like a
great rattle shaken in the air. Mr. Colburn at-
tributes twelve of his names to imitations of these
various sounds; clape, cave-due, fiddler, flicker,
hittock, hick-wall, ome-tuc, piute or peerit, wake-
up, yaffle, yarrup, and yucker.
Mr. Ingersoll refers flicker to his flight, and
if you watch your yellow hammer till he flies off
to another tree you will see that the adjective de-
scribes his peculiar but characteristic woodpecker
flight better than the most labored description.





50 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
Mr. Colburn says he is called taping bird from
it, because he looks as if measuring off tape."
If you are persevering enough to follow him to
his nest- and you never feel thoroughly ac-
quainted with birds any more than with people


until you see them in their homes you will dis-
cover why he is called "high-hold," high-holder,"
and "high-hole that is, if the nest he has
made is one of the high ones. Sometimes yellow
hammers build very low. ( However this may be,
the entrance to the nest is a large round hole, cut
out of the wood of the tree, as the pile of chips
on the ground attests. Inside, the hole is very





YELLOW HAMMER.


deep and the white eggs are laid on the chips at
the bottom. The usual number of eggs is six.
A gentleman tells me a curious case of miscal-
culation on the part of a yellow hammer that built
in an old apple-tree near his house. He says the
old birds kept bringing food to the nest so long
that he thought something must be wrong, and
went to investigate. The nest was just within his
reach, and he found that, as he had supposed, the
birds were more than large enough to fly. In fact
they were so large they could not get out of the
mouth of the nest, and were actually imprisoned
there! The gentleman got an axe and cut out
the opening for them, and the next morning the
brood had flown.
Knowing the habits of the yellow hammer, you
wonder why there is no name to credit him with
the work he does for us in eating the boring ants
that eviscerate our noblest trees ; and you are still
more surprised to find no name to stamp him a
field and ground woodpecker, because his devo-
tion to ant-hills and other ground preserves is one
of the characteristics that distinguish him from
the other woodpeckers. Possibly the name wood-
pecker lark may refer to his custom of hunting
in the fields.





52 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

XIV.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE; FIRE-BIRD; GOLDEN ROBIN;
HANG-NEST.

WILSON notices the interesting fact that our
oriole was named by Linneus in honor of Lord
Baltimore, whose colors were black and orange.
He is shorter than the robin, and compared
with that plump alderman is slenderly and deli-
cately built much more in the form of the
blackbirds. His back is black instead of grayish-
brown, and his breast orange instead of dull red-
dish. In habit, he contrasts still more strongly
with the robin. Who ever saw Sir Baltimore
watching for fish-worms in the grass, or taking
possession of a crotch in the piazza ? and, on
the other hand, who ever saw a robin hold his din-
ner under his claw and peck it to pieces as the
orioles and their cousins the blackbirds do ? The
oriole is comparatively shy, and has a nervous,
excitable temperament, while the robin is not only
social but phlegmatic. Then the call of the fire-
bird is shriller, and pitched on a higher key;
while his love song is an elaborate poem in mel-
ody, compared with the blunt courtship of robin
redbreast just watch this graceful suitor some
morning as he bows and scrapes before his lady-
love to the rhythm of his exquisitely modulated
song. Now running high and loud with joyful





BALTIMORE ORIOLE.


exultant love, then curving into a low, soft ca-
dence, vibrating with caressing tenderness, it
finally rounds off with broken notes of entreaty so
full of courtly devotion and submission, yet, withal,
so musical and earnest with tender love, that you
feel sure his suit can never be denied.
When the oriole comes to build his nest and
you compare his work with that of the robin, you
feel that you have an artistic Queen Anne beside
a rude mud hovel. The term hang-nest is strictly
applicable. The birds are skillful weavers and
build long, delicate, pocket-shaped nests that look
as if made of gray moss. These they hang from
the end of a branch, as if thinking of the first
line of the old nursery rhyme, -
"When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall," -
and, indeed, the cradles are built by such clever
workmen that the bough must needs break to give
them a fall. The nest looks as if it barely touched
the twigs from which it hangs, but when you ex-
amine it you may find that the gray fibres have
woven the wood in so securely that the nest would
have to be torn in pieces before it could be loos-
ened from the twigs. What is the nest made of?
It shines as if woven with threads of gray silk,
but it must be field silk from the stems of plants.
And the horse hairs? Mr. Burroughs tells of one
oriole who went bravely into the back part of a
horse stable for its hair lining. Sometimes a bit





54 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
of twine or gay worsted thrown on the grass is
gladly accepted, and Nuttall once saw an oriole
carry off a piece of lampwick ten or twelve feet
long.
In Northampton I witnessed an interesting case
which proved that skill in nest making as well
as other crafts comes by hard-earned experience,
and, consequently, that manual training should
be introduced into all bird schools! A pair of
young and inexperienced orioles fell in love and
set out, with the assurance of most brides and
grooms, to build a home for themselves. They suc-
ceeded admirably in the selection of their build-
ing site, but then the trouble began. The premise
that all young lovers are weavers or architects
sometimes leads to dire syllogistic conclusions.
Was it the pressing business of the honeymoon
that interfered with the weaving, or was it be-
cause this young couple had not yet learned how
to pull together that their threads got in a snarl
and their gray pocket was all awry? Whatever
the reason, the cradle was altogether too short to
rock well, and was skewed up in such a fashion
that some of the baby birds would have been sure
of a smothering. Like Grimm's clever Elsie the
birds foresaw all these dangers, and actually left
the completed nest to be tossed by the wind while
they went off to try again in another place. It
is believed to be unusual for two young birds to
pair together.






BARN SWALLOW.


XV.

BARN SWALLOW.

THE barn swallow is the handsomest and best
known of the swallows. It is lustrous steel blue
above, and has a partial collar of the same be-
tween the deep chocolate of the chin and throat
and the pale chestnut of the breast.
What a contrast to the ugly so-called chimney
swallow" And not in coloring only. Compare
its long forked tail with the short, square, bristly
tail of the swift. And then watch its flight--
the coursing of a Pegasus beside the trotting of a
racer The swift has wonderful wing power, but
no grace. It flies as if under wager, and when
hunting, its path might be marked off by angles,
for it zigzags like a bat. But the barn swallow's
course is all curves. It has the freest flight of
any bird I have ever seen. It seems absolutely
without effort or constraint.
The swallows are so agile they often dart down
as you drive along the road, and circle around
and around you, managing dexterously to keep
just ahead of the horses. At other times they
run and circle away over the fields and through
the sky, and at sunset often haunt our rivers or
lakes, skimming low over the surface and some-
times dipping down for a drink as they go.
At rest, they sit side by side on the ridge-pole





56 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
of a barn or on a telegraph wire, where they look
like rows of little mutes. It is funny enough to
see them light on a wire. Fluttering over it for
a moment before settling down, they sway back
and forth till you are sure they must fall off.
















The roads afford them much occupation. When
not making statistics about the passers-by, or col-
lecting mud for their nests, they take dust baths
in the road. They usually build inside barns or
covered bridges, lining their nests with feathers,
but a case is recorded of a nest under the eaves of
a house, which was made entirely of rootlets and
grass," though thickly lined with downy chicken
feathers. Mr. Burroughs tells of a barn nest
"saddled in the loop of a rope that was pendant
from a peg in the peak."





BELTED KINGFISHER. 57
Of the notes of the barn swallow Mr. Bicknell
says: An almost universal misconception re-
gards the swallows as a tribe of songless birds.
But the barn swallow has as true claims to song
as many species of long-established recognition as
song birds. Its song is a low, chattering trill ...
often terminating with a clear liquid note with an
accent as of interrogation, not unlike one of the
notes of the canary. This song is wholly distinct
from the quick, double-syllabled note which so
constantly escapes the bird during flight."


XVI.

BELTED KINGFISHER.

THE robin lives on neighborly terms in our
dooryard, the swift secretes himself in our chim-
neys, the humming-bird hovers in our gardens,
the barn swallow circles around our barns, the
catbird talks to himself in our orchards, the oriole
hangs his hammock" from our elms, the bobo-
link holds gay possession of our fields till the
mower comes to dispute his claim, and the yellow
hammer appoints himself inspector general of our
ant-hills, fence-posts, and tree trunks; but the
kingfisher cares nothing for us or our habitations.
He goes off by himself into the heart of the wil-
derness, not to crouch among the brown leaves on
the ground like the partridge, but to fly high and





58 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
far over river and lake, calling loudly to the
echoes as he goes.
He is the most marked of the trillers, having a
loud, rapid call that Wilson compares to a watch-
man's rattle, and that, as Mr. Burroughs ingen-




















iously suggests, reminds you of an alarm clock. He
usually gives it when on the wing, and if on hear-
ing him you look up in time, you will see a large,
ungainly slate-blue bird, with an odd flight his
short tail making him out of proportion so that his
wings seem too far back. As he flies over, you
note his big, heavily-crested head, his dark collar,





BELTED KINGFISHER.


and his glistening white throat. If he lights on
a dead stub by the water, and you can see the
compact, oily plumage that is adapted for cold
plunges, you will think him handsome in spite of
his topheaviness. He sits like the catbird, and
watches the fish come toward the surface. But
before they know what has happened they are
wriggling in his bill. After catching a fish he
quickly carries it back to his perch, to be devoured
at his leisure.
The kingfisher shows us a new style of nest,
though it might seem that there had been variety
enough before. There was the adobe house "
of the robin, the coarse bundle of sticks gathered
by the crow, the exquisite lichen-covered cup of
the humming-bird, the loose, clumsy-looking nests
of the catbird and cuckoo, the frame house rented
by the bluebird, the tiny wall pocket glued to the
chimney by the swift, the grass houses of the bob-
olink and meadow-lark, the mud bowl of the barn
swallow, the airy gray pocket of the oriole, and
the snug wooden retreats of the chickadee and
yellow hammer. But here is something stranger
than any of them a burrow in the earth, that
might well be the hole of some shy animal rather
than the home of a bird. It is usually dug in
the banks of rivers or streams.
As the kingfisher spends most of his time on
the wing, his feet are small and weak, different
enough from the powerful feet and claws of the





60 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

blackbirds and orioles. What a woodsman the
kingfisher must be! Do the hemlock's longest
branches tip to the east? Does the lichen grow
on the north side of the trees ? Ask him for his
compass. He needs no trail. Follow him and he
will teach you the secrets of the forest. For here
lies the witchcraft of our new world halcyon,
rather than in the charming of sailors' lives, or in
the stilling of the sea.


XVII.

CHIP-BIRD OR CHIPPY; HAIR-BIRD; CHIPPING
SPARROW; SOCIAL SPARROW.

WE have already had chimney swallows" that
were not swallows, crow blackbirds that were not
crows, partridges that were grouse, and kingfishers
that dug holes in the ground, besides bluebirds
and humming-birds and robins and chickadees and
catbirds and cuckoos, all crowded together; and
now we are coming to that vexatious family, the
sparrows. How can any one be expected to re-
member such a medley long enough to know the
birds out of doors? I never really knew them
until I pigeon-holed them, and I believe that is
the best way. But how shall we go to work?
Ornithologists separate our birds into seventeen
orders, and divide these into numerous families
and genera and species. We should have to turn





CHIPPY.


pension-office clerks to get pigeon-holes enough for
them! But twelve of the seventeen we shall leave
entirely alone, -the divers, all kinds of swim-
mers, waders, herons, cranes, parrots, and others
that most of us never see outside of museums. Of
the five orders left, four are quickly disposed of.
The partridge will be our only representative of
the gallinaceouss birds," the cuckoos and king-
fishers of the order of "cuckoos, etc.," the wood-
peckers of the "woodpeckers, etc.," and the swift,
humming-bird, night-hawk, and whippoorwill of
the goatsuckerss, swifts, etc."
There are so few of these, and they are so scat-
tered, that it does not seem worth while to give up
part of our pigeon-holes to them, so we will put
them away in a drawer by themselves, and keep
our pigeon-holes free for the one order left, the
highest of all, -that of the perching birds." It
has twenty-one families, but we need only four-
teen holes because there are seven families that
we shall not take up. So our best way is to paste
the label perching birds" over our fourteen
holes, and then, while remembering that we have
left out seven families, number each hole and put
in the birds as they come in their natural order of
development from low to high.
The crow goes in No. 2 by himself at present.
The bobolink, meadow-lark, crow blackbird, and
oriole all go into No. 3, because they belong to the
family of blackbirds, orioles, etc.," although they






62 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
represent different branches, or genera. Chippy
goes into No. 4 to wait for the other "finches,
sparrows, etc.," the barn swallow will go into No.
6, which belongs to "the swallows," the catbird
into No. 10, the chickadee into No. 12, and the
robin and bluebird into No. 14, the last hole, -
as they belong to the most highly developed fam-
ily of all the birds, that of the thrushes, blue-
birds, etc."
This simplifies matters. The chimney swift
belongs to an entirely different order from the
swallows, a much lower one, and so was put
in the drawer, together with the kingfisher, whose
feet are weak and who nests in the ground. Now
all the perching birds we have had fall readily
into place. The crow is by himself in No. 2, as
the blackbirds in No. 3 differ from him in having
wives smaller than themselves, and in anatomical
and technical peculiarities that are the foundation
of all the divisions we have.
But here is chippy in No. 4; let us see how he
is related to the other birds. First, what does he
look like? Although one of those "little gray
birds that vex the spirit of the tyro, he is well
known as the smallest and most friendly of our
sparrows. All the sparrows are small, dull colored
birds, none of them being much more than half as
large as a robin. But he is marked by a reddish-
brown cap, edged by a delicate white line over eye
and cheek. His back is streaked with grayish-





CHIPPY.


brown and black, his wings are crossed by narrow
whitish bars, and underneath he is a pure light
ash color.
Notice the bill chippy has to crack seeds with.
It is the short, thick, conical bill of the family,
and contrasts not only with the long slender bills
of the worm-eating robin and bluebird in No.
14, but with those of the oriole, crow blackbird,
and meadow-lark in No. 3. The bobolink shows
the nearness of No. 3 and 4 in his partly conical
bill, and also in flight, though, by coloring, he is
more closely related to the crow in No. 2. It is
hardly necessary to suggest the differences that
separate chippy from the chimney swift, the ruffed
grouse, the humming-bird, the cuckoo, and the
ant-eating yellow hammer.
Of our common sparrows chippy alone has no
real song, but he trills away monotonously, -
by the hour, you are tempted to think,- with
cheerful perseverance that would grace a better
cause. He is called "hair-bird" because he lines
his nest with horse or cow hair, and when you
think of the close observation and industry it takes
to find this hair you will recognize not only the
power of inherited habit but the fitness of the
name hair-bird.
Last summer a chipping sparrow built in a jas-
mine bush in the crotch of a neighbor's piazza.
When the little mother was startled by intruders
she would dart into the bush, crouch down, flatten





64 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
her head, and try to make herself invisible, but
she had too many frights and at last abandoned
her nest. In a grape-vine on top of a trellis in
the garden in front of the cottage another chippy
had built. She seemed to be fearless, never stir-
ring even when we stood at the foot of the trellis
and stared at her.
I found several nests in Norway spruces. One
was near a farm-house. It was on a bough hidden
so skillfully under an evergreen twig that I had
much ado to find it, and there was barely room for
even the small mother bird to get up to it. But the
four little dark blue eggs wreathed with purplish
dots around the larger ends, as they lay clustered
on their mat of brown rootlets, made a sight to
repay a longer hunt. With all her care the poor
mother was not able to conceal her little ones. A
hungry chipmunk discovered them, and was shot
by the farmer when it was swallowing the last one
of the four.
In summer the chipping birds haunt the piazza,
coming almost to our feet for crumbs. Last season
two broods were brought by their mothers, and it
was diverting to watch them. The mothers drove
each other about in a scandalous fashion, and, what
was worse, would not feed each other's children,
but turned their backs in the most hard-hearted
way even when the hungry youngsters ran up in
front of them and stood with wide open bills teas-
ing for food. As the babies grew older I suspect





CHIPPY.


their mothers poisoned their minds, too, for as
nearly as I could make out a coldness grew up be-
tween the families of infants.
The old chipping birds are very intelligent.
The turn of the head and the quick glance from
the eye show that their familiar bravery is due to
no thoughtless confidence, but is based on keen
observation and bird wit.
The young birds seem more trustful and are
dear fluffy little creatures. When they get to be
as big as their mothers and know perfectly well
how to feed themselves, the lazy babies will often
stand helplessly right in the middle of a handful
of crumbs, and chirr at their mother till she picks
the crumbs up and drops them in their bills.
One day I found a young chippy sitting on the
picket of a fence. His mother soon flew up onto
the picket next to him with his dinner in her bill
and leaned over trying to reach it across. It was
a comical proceeding, the baby fluttering his
wings, opening his mouth, crying out and bobbing
toward his mother while she stretched across till
- well, both birds came near a tumble before
they gave it up.
Chipping birds are always about, in the garden,
on the lawn, and around the house. The back
door with its boundless possibilities in the crumb
line attracts them strongly. At one house, for
several years, a number of them came to the back
yard every day when the chickens were fed. They





66 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
sat on the fence till the first rush and scramble
were over, and then flew down among the hens to
get their dinner.


XVIII.

SONG SPARROW.

THE song sparrow, of course, goes into the same
pigeon-hole as chippy No. 4, "finches, spar-
rows, etc.," showing the same sparrow traits in
coloring, size, bill, and flight; and the same con-
trasts with the crow in No. 2, the blackbirds,
orioles, etc.," in No. 3, the "swallows" in No. 6,
and the robin and bluebird among the "thrushes,
bluebirds, etc.," of No. 14. But with all this, our
little friend has a marked individuality, and dif-
fers from his small cousin chippy in temper and
charm. I may be prejudiced, but while I admire
chippy for his bravery and intelligence I do not
find him as winsome as this simple little bird with
his homely cheeriness.
In the spring the song sparrow comes North a
few days after the robin, and although the chill
from the snow banks gives him a sore throat that
makes his voice husky, you may hear him singing
as brightly as if he had come back on purpose to
bring spring to the poor snow-bound farmers.
Even his chirp of rich contralto quality com-
pared with the thin chip of his cousin has a





SONG SPARROW.


genuine happy ring that raises one's spirits; and
when he throws up his head and sings the sweet
song that gives him his name, you feel sure the
world is worth living in.
The song sparrow's brown coat has little beauty,
but his dark breastpin, surrounded by brown
streaks, sets off his light gray waistcoat to advan-
tage; and the brown topknot that he raises when
interested gives him a winning air of sympathetic
attention.
The song sparrows are not about the house as
much as the chippies, and last summer they began
coming for crumbs a week later in the nesting
season than their ubiquitous cousins. Then it
was amusing to see the business-like way in which
they hopped about, their tails perked up and
their wings close to their sides. There was one
that walked like a blackbird, and when he ran it
seemed a waste of energy he had so much more
to do than if he had hopped !
The usual note of the song sparrow is a rich
" tschip," as Thoreau gives it; but when nesting it
has an odd thin chip that sounds so like the note
bf a young bird that it deceived me into hunting
through the bushes when the old bird who was
really making it was in plain sight. The spar-
row's song is the first set song likely to attract
your attention when listening to the birds near
the house, and as Thoreau says, is more honest-
sounding than most." The song consists of one






68 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
high note repeated three times, and a rapid run
down the scale and back; but it varies greatly
with individuals, and almost every writer renders
it differently.
In choosing the site for its nest, the song spar-
row adapts itself to circumstances with the grace
of a true philosopher. At one time content with
making a rude mat of straw at the bottom of a
roadside brush heap, at another it builds in a
willow, using the woolly catkins to soften the bed;
and frequently it nests right on the ground, when
the farmers call it the ground sparrow." But
the prettiest site of any I have ever known was
in a sweetbriar bush on the edge of the garden.
Here the little mother could be lulled into her
noon-day nap by the droning of the bumble-bees
buzzing about the garden; or, if she chose, watch
the fluttering butterflies and quivering humming-
birds hovering over the bright flowers. Every
breath of air brought her the perfume of the briar
leaves, and when the pink buds unfolded she could
tell off the days of her brooding by the petals that
fluttered to the ground.





BLUE JAY.


XIX.

BLUE JAY.

THE blue jay comes with a dash and a flourish.
As Thoreau says, he blows the trumpet of win-
ter." Unlike the chickadee, whose prevailing
tints match the winter sky, and whose gentle day-
day-day chimes with the softly falling snows, the
blue jay would wake the world up. His "clario-
net" peals over the villages asleep in the snow-
drifts as if it would rouse even the smoke that
drowses over their white roofs. He brings the
vigor and color of winter. He would send the
shivering stay-at-homes jingling merrily over the
fields, and start the children coasting down the
hills. Wake-up, wake-up, come-out, come-out he
calls, and blows a blast to show what winter is
good for.
And so he flashes about, and screams and scolds
till we crawl to the window to look at him. Ha !
what a handsome bird! He has found the break-
fast hung on the tree for him and clings to it
pecking away with the appetite of a Greenlander.
Not a hint of winter in his coloring! Note his
purplish back as he bends over, the exquisite
cobalt blue, touched off with black and white on
his wings, and the black barring on the tightly
closed tail he is bracing himself by. How distin-
guished his dark necklace and handsome blue





70 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
crest make him look! There! he is off again,
and before we think where he is going we hear
the echo of his rousing phe-phay, phe-phay from
the depths of the woods.


K


In many places the jays are common winter
residents, pitching their tents with the hens and
barnyard animals and comporting themselves with
familiar assurance. But in this region they are
irregular guests. Sometimes they are here for a
few days in the fall, or visit us when the hawks





BLUE JAY. 71
return in spring, teasing the young observer by
imitating the cry of the redtailed hawk. But if
the fancy takes them they spend the winter with
us, showing comparatively little of the timidity
they feel in some localities.
Last fall a party of jays stayed here for some
time, but when I was congratulating myself on
having them for the winter, they left, and did not
return till the middle of January. Then one
morning one of them appeared suddenly on a tree
in front of the window. He seemed to have been
there before, for he flew straight down to the corn
boxes by the dining-room. The gray squirrels
had nibbled out the sweetest part of the kernels,
and he acted dissatisfied with what was left, drop-
ping several pieces after he had picked them up.
But at last he swallowed a few kernels and then
took three or four in his bill at once and flew up
in a maple. He must have deposited some of
them in a crotch at the body of the tree, for after
he had broken one in two under his claw strik-
ing it with sledge-hammer blows he went back
to the crotch, picked up something, flew back on
the branch, and went through the process over
again. The second time he flew down to the corn
boxes he did the same thing ate two or three
kernels, and then filled his bill full and flew off
this time out of sight. Since then I have often
seen him carry his corn off in the same way, giv-
ing his head a little toss to throw the kernels back





72 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
in his bill as he was loading up. Wilson calls
attention to the fact that by this habit of carrying
off kernels and seeds, the jay becomes an impor-
tant tree-planting agent.
What a good business man the blue jay would
make All his motions are like the unique load-
ing up performance time saving, decided, di-
rect. Once during the first morning after his re-
turn he flew down to the boxes from the tree over
them and came so straight he looked as if falling
through the air. He pecked at the bark of the
trees as indifferently as he had examined the corn
the squirrels had nibbled, but I thought he drank
with some gusto. He seemed to be catching the
rain drops that were running down the sides of
the trees and filling the crevices of the bark.
After he had flown off and the gray squirrels
were comfortably settled at breakfast, he came
dashing back round the corner in such a hurry
he almost struck the squirrel on the lower corn
box. The first thing I saw was a confusion of
blue feathers and gray fur, and then a blue jay
flying off to the evergreen, and a gray squirrel
shaking his tail excitedly and starting from one
side of the box to the other trying to collect his
wits. By this time the blue jay had recovered
from his surprise, and seeing that it was only a
squirrel, hopped about in the spruce as full of
business as if the collision had been planned. Not
so with the poor squirrel! He sprang up on the





BLUE JAY.


highest box, stretching straight up on his hind
legs, with fore paws pressed against his breast
and ears erect, his heart beating his sides and his
tail hanging down shamefacedly as he looked
anxiously toward the spruce where the blue jay
had gone. Gradually the fear on his face changed
to a comical look of bewilderment. Could that
bird flying about as if nothing had happened be
what struck him, or had he gone to sleep over his
corn and had a bad dream? He settled down on
his haunches with an expression of inane confu-
sion, and finally turned back into his corn box, a
sorry contrast to the clear-headed blue jay.
This was the first morning the jays came, and
we were greatly entertained watching the develop-
ment of affairs. There were only three birds
that were regular patrons of the corn barrel res-
taurant, while there were thirteen gray squirrels,
and when the squirrels got over their first sur-
prise they seemed to consider the jays an insig-
nificant minority. There were no claw-to-bill
tussles, for when a jay was eating on a corn box
by the side of the tree, and a squirrel ran down
the trunk right above him, and gave a jump that
promised to land him on the jay's head, the bird
would quietly fly off. But such meekness was no
sign of discomfiture. The jays came back as often
as they were driven away. If the squirrels ob-
jected to their eating on a corner of the box with
them, the jays would hop down on the snow and





74 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
pick up the corn the squirrels had scattered there.
They were so persistent, and at the same time so
dignified and peaceable, that the squirrels could
not hold out against them; and though for a time
the birds took advantage of the squirrels' laziness
and got a good breakfast mornings before the
sleepy fur coats appeared, two or three weeks of
10'-20 below zero silenced the squirrel's last
prior-claims argument and the jays were allowed
to eat undisturbed from the same boxes with
them.
But it is not only the squirrels that the blue
jays dine with, for one day last winter the little
three-year-old came running out of the dining-
room in great excitement, crying, Oh, grandpa!
come quick There are three partridges, and one
of them is a blue jay! Indeed, the other day
the blue jays quite took possession of the corn
barrels that are the special property of the part-
ridges. The barrels stand under the branches of
a Norway spruce on either side of a snow-shoe
path that runs from the house, and though the
jays were self-invited guests, I could not help ad-
miring the picture they made, they flying about
and sitting on the barrels, the dark green of the
boughs bringing out the handsome blue of their
coats.
But the spot where I have found the blue jays
most at home is in the dense coniferous forests of
the Adirondacks. I shall never forget seeing a





BLUE JAY. 75

flock of them on Black Mountain. From the top
of the mountain the wilderness looked like a sea
of forest-clad hills, with an occasional reef out-
lined by surf, for the largest lakes seemed like
tracery in the vast expanse of forest. The im-
pressive stillness was broken only by the rare
cries of a pair of hawks that circled over the
mountain; for the most part they soared, silent as
the wilderness below them. Coming down into
the forest primeval, where the majestic hemlocks
towered straight toward the sky, and their mas-
sive knotted roots bound down the granite bowl-
ders that showed on the mountain side-there we
found the blue jays in their home. A flock of
them lived together, feeding on wild berries and
beechnuts, sporting among the ferns and mosses,
and drinking from the brook that babbled along
near the trail. What a home our handsome birds
had chosen! But the memory of the spot is
dreary. Unmoved by the beauty of the scene, to
which the blue jays gave color and life; unawed
by the benedicite of the hemlocks; betraying the
trust of the friendly birds, the boy of the party
crept into their very home and shot down one
after another of the family as they stood resistless
before him. To-day the pitiful lament of the
brave old birds haunts me, for, forgetting to fear
for themselves, those that were left flew about in
wild distress, and their cries of almost human
suffering reached us long after we had left the
desecrated spot.






76 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.

XX.

YELLOW-BIRD; AMERICAN GOLDFINCH; THISTLE-
BIRD.

THROW yourself down among the buttercups
and daisies some cloudless summer day and look
up at the sky till its wondrous blueness thrills
through you as an ecstacy. Then catch your
breath and listen, while out of the air comes a
clear fluid note of rapture. Ah! there is the
little goldfinch a bit of the sun's own gold -
sauntering through the air, rising and falling to

the rhythm of his own ~ r This way and
dee-ree dee-ee-ree.
that he flits, at each call fluttering his wings and
then letting himself float down on the air. Spring
up from the meadow and follow him till down
from the blue sky he comes to alight airily on a
pink thistle-top. Then as he bends over and
daintily plucks out the tiny seeds that would soon
have been ballooning through the air, you can ad-
mire the glossy black cap, wings, and tail that
touch off his slender gold form.
Who would ever take this fairy-like beauty for
a cousin of our plain chippy and song sparrow ?
And yet his bill and size and family traits
are the same. Pigeon-hole No. 4 was marked
"finches, sparrows, etc.," and he is one of the





YELLOW-BIRD.


finches. He seems near enough like the sparrows
too, when you think how unlike he is to the black-
birds and orioles of No. 3, or the swallows of No.
6, the catbird of No. 10, and the robin or blue-
bird of No. 14.
Even the chickadee from No. 12 is a strong
contrast to him. His slender frame fits him for



S-~ -T---












flying through the air, while the chickadee's
plump, fluffy figure is suited to flitting about tree-
trunks and branches. Early in the spring the
chickadee goes to the woods, and, using his pointed
bill as a pick-axe, picks out a nest hole in the side
of a stump or tree trunk. But the goldfinch
waits until July, and then, going to the nearest
orchard, chooses a plum or apple-tree crotch and
sets about making a basket to fit it. He peels





78 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
the bark from some slender weed for the outside,
and pilfers a thistle-top or the silk storeroom of
some other plant for a lining.
An old nest the children brought me last fall
had a veritable feather-bed of down in it, on top
of the usual silky lining, and it stuffed the cup so
full there seemed hardly room enough for the
eggs. It looked as if two or three whole thistle-
tops had been put in and matted down.
Last year a pair of goldfinches built in a plhm-
tree by the side of a carriage drive, so low that
on tiptoe I could reach into the nest to count over
the eggs from day to day. And what dainty light
blue shells they had. Just as if bits of blue sky
had fallen into the nest! The mother-bird must
have guessed my delight in her treasures, for she
would sit quietly on a tree a few feet away with
an air that said quite plainly, Are n't they dear
little eggs ? You can look at them just as long
as you like. I 'll wait here till you get through! "
As the goldfinches nest so much later than
most birds, the young are barely out before the
warblers and other of the birds begin migrating.
I have seen the little ones teasing their father for
food late in September. One day I saw one fed
on the head of a big sunflower.
I am afraid Mr. Goldfinch is not a good dis-
ciplinarian, for his babies follow him around flut-
tering their wings, opening their mouths, and
crying tweet-ee, tweet-ee, tweet-ee, tweet-ee, with





YELLOW- BIRD.


an insistence that suggests lax family government.
Some one should provide him with a bundle of
timothy stalks! And yet who would have our
fairy use the rod? Just listen to him some day
as he flies away from his nest, singing over to him-
self in tones of exquisite love and tenderness
his sweet bay-bee, bay-ee-bee, and you will feel
that the little father has a secret better than any
known to the birch.
Our goldfinch is not a musician when it comes
to his long song. That is a canary jumble of
notes whose greatest charm is its light-hearted-
ness. But though he is not as finished a songster
as the canary, during the summer he is much
prettier, for then his yellow suit is richly trimmed
with black markings. In September however he
loses his beauty, and until the next April or May,
when his perilous travels are over for the season,
looks much like his plain little wife. His black
trimmings are gone, and he has become flaxen-
brown above and whitish-brown below, quite
commonplace.
In connection with this protective change in
plumage the "Naturalist" gives an interesting in-
stance of protective habit, in which the wise birds
disguised themselves by the help of their bright
summer coats. A flock of them were dining on
top of the stalks of yellow mullein that covered
the slope of the embankment by which the ob-
server and his party passed. He says: "The





80 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
mulleins were ranged in stiff files, like soldiers in
yellow uniforms, and each bird as we passed re-
mained motionless, looking like a continuation of
the spike, of which one might easily be deceived
into thinking it part and parcel. As soon as we
had passed by, the birds were again busy, flitting
from plant to plant, feeding on the seeds and
enjoying themselves."
What a difference it makes in our thought of
winter to know that our little goldfinch will never
find it too cold to visit us. Being a vegetarian, his
storehouse is always well filled, for if the snow
covers the seeds he would gather from the brown
weed tops, he goes to the alders in the swamp;
and if they fail him he is sure to find plenty in the
seeds of the hemlock, the spruce, and the larch.


XXI.

PH(EBE.

CLASSING the crow-blackbird, bobolink, and
oriole together in No. 3 by their striking colors,
and distinguishing the sparrows in No. 4 by their
striped backs, the common flycatchers, who belong
in our first pigeon-hole, No. 1, stand out as un-
striped, dull, dark grayish birds, with light breasts.
Mr. Burroughs describes them as sharp-shoul-
dered, big-headed, short-legged, of no particular
color, of little elegance of flight or movement."





PH(EBE.


Knowing that the vocal organs of the flycatch-
ers are undeveloped, you are not surprised by the
contrast they present to the sweet-voiced sparrows
and finches, the talkative catbird, and the bobo-
link, who is always bubbling over with song, nor
do you wonder at the abrupt call of the phoebe.
Although it resembles a jerking repetition of
phY3e-be, phce-be, it is not precisely what the word
would indicate. The first part of the call is com-
paratively clear, but the second is a longer rasping
note, with a heavily trilled r, making the whole
more like phoe-ree, phce-ree.
When the birds first begin coming north you
hear this note. When you have traced it to its
source, and it is an excellent habit to see every
bird whose notes attract your attention, the dull
olive gray coat and the whitish vest, with its
tinge of pale yellow, are soon forgotten in watch-
ing the odd ways of the bird.
Somewhat longer than a song sparrow, two
thirds as large as a robin, he is strikingly unlike
the cheery, busy sparrow, or, in fact, like any of
the birds we have had. There he sits on a branch,
in an attitude that would shock the neat songsters.
His wings droop at his sides, and his tail hangs
straight down in the most negligent fashion. He
seems the personification of listlessness; but, -
focus your glass on him, his wings are vibrating,
and his tail jerks nervously at intervals. Suddenly
he starts into the air, snaps his bill loudly over an





82 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
unsuspecting insect he has been lying in wait for,
and before you breathe settles back on the branch
with a spasmodic jerk of the tail.
And now, as he sits looking for another victim,
you have a good chance to note, through your
glass, the peculiarities of the bill that gave such
a resounding "click." Birds' bills are their tools,
the oriole's is long and pointed for weaving,
the chickadee's short and strong to serve as a
pickaxe; but when the nest does not call for a
tool of its own the bill conforms to the food habits
of the bird, as the white man's needs are met
by knife and fork, and the Chinaman's by chop-
sticks. So the bills of the robin and bluebird,
you remember, are long, thin, and slender, well
fitted for a worm diet, while the sparrows, who
live mostly on seeds, have the short, stout, cone-
shaped finch bill. In the same way flycatchers'
bills are specially adapted for their use, that of
catching the insects upon which they live. At
the base there are long stiff bristles, and the upper
half of the bill hooks over the lower so securely at
the end that when an insect is once entrapped it
has small chance of escape.
The phebe is fond of building in a crotch of
the piazza, on the beams of old sheds, and under
bridges, apparently indifferent to the dust and
noise of its position; but away from the immediate
haunts of man it usually nests in caves or rocky
ledges, and sometimes takes possession of the up-





KINGBIRD.


turned roots of a fallen tree. I well remember
finding a cave nest when we were children. We
let ourselves down into the cave by a crevice in
the lime rock, and after groping our way among
the loose stones that made the floor, and as our
anxious fathers insisted the roof of the cave,
crawling along low passages, wedging between
narrow walls, and hunting for stepping stones
across the dark pools that reflected the glimmer
of our candles, we suddenly came into a flood of
daylight, a crack in the rocks wide enough to
make a dangerous pitfall for the horses and cows
that grazed overhead, but chosen by the phcebes
as the safest possible nook for rearing a brood of
baby birds. Down the sides of this shaft the rain
trickled, keeping the moss green and giving the
tiny ferns strength to cling to the crannies of the
rock. On a ledge just in reach of the tallest of
us the wise pair of birds had built their nest, care-
less of the dark cavern below, and happy among
the moss and ferns.

XXII.
KINGBIRD; BEE MARTIN.
THE kingbird is noticeably smaller than the
robin, but is larger and more compactly built than
most of the flycatchers. The sobriety of his plain
blackish coat and white vest are relieved by a
colored patch that may sometimes be espied under





84 BIRDS THROUGH AN OPERA-GLASS.
his crest, and also by a white tip to his tail, which,
when spread in flight, has the effect of a white
crescent. He has a peculiar flight, holding his
head up and using his wings in a labored way as
if he were swimming. When looking for his din-
ner he often flutters obliquely into the air, display-
ing his shining white breast and fan-shaped tail
to the best advantage.
All the disagreeable qualities of the flycatchers
seem to centre in this bird. His note is a harsh,
scolding twitter. His crown proclaims him king,
not by right, but by might,- such a bickering
pugilist, such a domineering autocrat he is. The
crow's life becomes a plague when this tormentor
gives chase; and the smaller birds find themselves
driven at the point of the bill from the fences they
had considered public highways.
But whatever may be the exact limit of his
quarrelsomeness it stops short at home; old king-
birds are certainly tender guardians of their
young. I once watched a pair in search of food.
They flew down to the haycocks in the meadow
near the orchard, sat there reconnoitring for a
moment, and then jumped into the grass to snap
up the insect they had discovered. Flying back
to the young they flirted their wings and tails as
they dropped the morsel into the gaping red
throats, and in an instant were off again for a
hunt in the air, or in another tree. And so they
kept hard at work, looking everywhere till the






WOOD PEWEE.


voracious appetites of their infants were satisfied.
DeKay says of the kingbird's diet: He feeds
on berries and seeds, beetles, canker-worms, and
insects of every description. By this, and by his
inveterate hostility to rapacious birds, he more
than compensates for the few domestic bees with
which he varies his repast." To this DeKay adds
the interesting statement: "Like the hawks and
owls, he ejects from his mouth, in the shape of
large pellets, all the indigestible parts of insects
and berries."

XXIII.
WOOD PEWEE.
IN size, coloring, and habit you will hardly dis-
tinguish the wood pewee from the phcebe, al-
though the former is somewhat smaller. These
two birds stand apart from all the others we have
had. The chimney swift and barn swallow also
live on insects, but measure the difference in their
methods of hunting. The swift zigzags through
the air, picking up his dinner as he goes; the
swallow skims the rivers, and circles over the
meadows and through the sky, without so much
as an ungraceful turn of the wing to suggest that
he is dining. But the phoebe and the wood pe-
wee lie in wait for their victims. They cunningly
assume indifference until the unwary gauzy-wing
floats within range, then spring on it, snap it up,
and fall back to wait for another unfortunate.




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