The Ornithologist and Oölogist. Vol. VIII No. 3, March 1883 Birds: Their Nests and Eggs by Various

ORNITHOLOGIST —AND— OÖLOGIST.

$1.00 per Joseph M. Wade, Editor and Publisher. Single Copy Annum. Established, March, 1875. 10 Cents. VOL. VIII. BOSTON, MARCH, 1883. No. 3.

Among the Buteos.

The voices of our New England Buzzards are again ringing through their old haunts, and it may now be seasonable to review my local notes on their breeding habits last Spring. In short, then, I took 104 eggs. And from other nests in my circle of observation were taken or destroyed by farmers, hawk-hunters and others, sixty more eggs and young birds. So until a more favored breeding range is made known I shall claim this to be the home of the Buteos. A correspondent in Rochester writes that he thinks as many eggs can be taken yearly in that vicinity, but until this is shown to be true I shall not believe the distribution of species is so equal. If this article could be accompanied by a good physical map of Norwich and its environs, it would help greatly to support my claims. An irregular line drawn around the city just outside the suburbs would pass through the breeding places of sixteen pairs of Red-shouldered Hawks which I marked down the second week in April. Except a few hemlocks, the groves and strips of first growth are all deciduous and nearly all nut-bearing. The red squirrel, which is not so relentlessly shot down as his gray cousin, is amazingly plenty in these suburban woods. While skating yesterday on Yantic cove, within the city limits, I saw seven squirrels playing in the small patch above Christ’s church on the river bank. Every one who has climbed to nests of young Buteos nearly fledged, must have been astonished at the great quantity of these young rodents, supplied by the parent birds. In one nest of Red-tailed Hawks I have seen portions of nine red squirrels, and from another have counted out on the ground seven entire bodies. A game bird or chicken now and then, but red squirrels for every day bill-of-fare. Mousing, Master Buteo will go. And frogging, too, for I have several times surprised him in muddy sloughs in the woods, and field collectors often are called to notice the black mud on fresh Hawk’s eggs. Given then a great food supply and the species that follow it will be abundant. Over the grove of second growths to the left of Love Lane, last Spring, I saw a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks hovering for days in succession. I knew they were not breeding in the patch, as they had not done so in former years, and there were but three old Crow’s nests very low down. But to be very sure I examined the grove repeatedly with care and found it to be alive with red squirrels. In one apple-tree hole was a litter of six; in the butt of an oak were five with eyes unopened, and the conspicuous outside nests were many. A Barred Owl clung to the top of a white birch with one claw, and was tearing away at a squirrel’s new domed nest with the other claw. The Hawks had their nest with two young in the swamp beyond, and this grove was their handy larder, and very noisy they were over their daily grace before meat.

The Buteos’ nests from which my ’82 series was taken, were for the most part old ones, the very few exceptions being smaller than those used for several seasons. The use of an old nest by the Great-horned Owl is habitual. The Barred Owl takes a hole when it can find one, and if not, an old nest. Failing there, he builds a very small nest of the flimsiest sort. To show the dislike of our Raptores to nidification, let me reproduce an avian drama to which usher nature gave me a free pass and open stall last Spring. The scene opens late in March on Plain Hill, where a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were furbishing up the nest in which off and on they had bred for five years. Their dalliance was pleasant, no doubt, but dangerously long, for a Barred Owl slipped in and laid two eggs April 1 and 3. The Hawks were virtually indignant, and were often seen to dash down towards the nest, as if to dispossess the intruder, but they always wisely stopped a few inches above the snapping bill and mass of fluffy feathers with nine points of law in its favor. The Hawks at length went across a small swamp and re-upholstered the nest in which the Owl bred in ’81. I now took the two Owl’s eggs, supposing the clutch complete, but she then went across the swamp and laid the third egg in her old tenement. When I climbed to the second nest, with the Hawks in possession, it contained three Buteo’s eggs and one Barred Owl’s. Blowing showed that the Owl’s egg was slightly incubated, and it would have been interesting perhaps to have let nature had her course with this motley clutch. The unwearied owl now went back to the first nest and laid and hatched her second clutch of two eggs. Ovipositing after a while again becoming a necessity for the Hawks, they too repaired to the opening scene of our drama from high life, and after a few noisy demonstrations against the Owl, took up their new quarters in a tree within gunshot of the first. The nest was so small I could not believe that even our smallest Buteo (_pennsylvanicus_), could breed in it, though I saw the great female Red-shouldered come from it, and could see that it was feathered through my field glass. Climbing showed it to have a very large and bright initial egg, which was riddled with shot the next day by so-called hawk-hunters. The marauders completed the series of reprisals by carrying away my young owls.

Aside from my first object, I have dwelt on the final details of this little tragedy, because it also is a fair illustration of the domestic troubles of the Rapaciæ here in the breeding season. With every man’s hand against them—hunter, farmer and collector—it is a continued source of wonder that so many eggs are taken and so many hawks left. Some may be alien birds drawn by the food supply. But as a solution to this question it is not unreasonable to suppose that later in the season when the farmers are busy with field work and the collector is eagerly following the small birds in their Summer homes in the outskirts of the woods, that made wary by pursuit, and screened by the dense foliage, the resident Buteos manage to “steal” an occasional nest and bring up enough young to keep up the old local race. This idea is in part born out by the fact that in my Winter tramps through our leafless woods, I now and then run across a Hawk’s nest which I knew was not there the year before and the first chapter of whose life history had not been revealed to me.—_J. M. W., Norwich, Conn._

Notes from Nebraska.

April 21, ’82, found my first nest of the American Long Eared Owl. ’Twas in the forks of a small white oak tree fifteen feet from the ground and contained five eggs ready to hatch. It resembled that of the Common Crow, only smaller. While I was examining this nest the old birds showed their displeasure by flying and darting close to me, continually snapping the bill.

At times they would alight upon the ground and with spread wings and tail flutter around, doubtless for the purpose of alluring the intruder from their nest. The same day I found the nest of a Black Cap Chickadee containing six fresh eggs.

April 23d I found the nest of a Screech Owl in a hollow oak tree twenty inches below the opening. It contained three fresh eggs. From this same tree during the Winter of 1881 and ’82 I captured five fine specimens of this owl.

May 1st I took another set of eggs of the American Long-eared Owl. This, like the former, contained five eggs and they were incubated about two weeks. Another nest was found on May 4th with five eggs almost hatched.

May 6th I discovered the nest of a Red-tailed Hawk in a Red Elm tree fifty-eight feet from the ground. After a very hard climb I found the nest contained four (?) young about two weeks old. On the 13th of May I found two more nests of this hawk, both of which contained eggs; one two, and the other three.

May 18th I was informed by a herder or “Cow Boy” that he had found a burrow on the prairie inhabited by a Burrowing Owl. The next evening armed with a spade we repaired to the place and after digging six feet we came upon the nest. It was about two feet under the ground and contained nine young of various sizes, and two eggs, one of which was pecked. The burrow was evidently made by some burrowing animal, probably a skunk.

Cooper’s Hawk.—The following is the date of different nests found this year: May 11th, one nest containing four fresh eggs. May 15th, one containing four and another containing five eggs, all of which were fresh. May 17th, two more nests containing five eggs each. These were slightly incubated. May 11th I received a full set of eggs of the Marsh Harrier, five in number. The nest was placed on the ground in the prairie grass. Two more nests were found, May 18th, containing respectively five and six eggs. These last were slightly incubated. May 17th I also found a nest of the Short-eared Owl. It was on the ground in the prairie grass and contained eight beautiful white eggs. A good Pointer dog is invaluable to any one collecting eggs here, as these Owls and Hawks give chase whenever he comes near their nest. The dog will come very handy also to find the nests of Prairie Hens, Plover, Larks, &c.—_H. A. Kline, Polo, Ill._

The Prothonotary Warbler.

This beautiful little _Protonotaria citrea_ is quite rare in Kansas, yet I had the good fortune to find four nests last June.

Early in May I saw a Downy Woodpecker making an excavation in the dead limb of a small elm tree standing on the edge of a forest and on the bank of the Big Blue River. I watched the tree for several days, but, for some cause, the birds abandoned the work.

On June 9, in passing this tree I saw a bird fly from the hole so swiftly that I could not determine the species. I hid in some bushes near by, and after waiting about ten minutes was rewarded by seeing a pair of the Prothonotary Warblers approach through the trees. They flew directly to the elm tree; and, after a moment’s hesitation, the female entered the hole, while the male flew away into the forest.

I then crept silently to the nest, which was not more than six feet above the ground. By quickly placing my hand over the hole and allowing sufficient opening between my thumb and finger for the admission of the bird’s head but not its body, I easily caught the bird and examined it at my leisure. I have frequently caught Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Chickadees and Wrens in this manner.

When the bird was released it uttered a short, distinct call which brought the male bird promptly from the trees near by. They then flew away together.

Returning to the tree I secured the nest and complement of five fresh eggs.

This nest was composed of fine grapevine bark, dry weeds, and horse hair. The structure was rather frail and deeply rounded. Around its upper edge were arrayed bits of skeleton oak leaves whose delicate lace-like tracery of veinlets gave evidence of greater taste than I had before seen in bird architecture.

The eggs were much rounded in shape. The color was white with a pinkish hue, and dotted with spots of brown and lavender. At the larger end these spots were so thick as to become confluent. The eggs were similar in size and markings.

Two more nests of this bird were reported to me on the same date, June 9. Upon visiting them I found in one five young nearly fledged, and in the other two addled eggs.

A week or more after the discovery of the first nest I found a pair of the birds not far from the same place. I watched them closely and afterward frequently saw the male alone, but failed to find the nest until after the young had left it, when I found it in the deserted nest of a Bluebird not a hundred feet away from a dwelling house.

I identified the nest by its peculiar architecture and a few egg shells at the base of the tree.

These four nests were alike in situation, all being in damp forests near the river, and in deserted nests of other birds, about six or seven feet above the ground. They were all built of like material and were ornamented with skeleton leaves. Two of the nests were in elm trees and two in willow stumps. I have read no description of the nest of this warbler and do not know whether the above agrees with the experience of older observers.—_D. E. Lantz, Manhattan, Kan._

See pages 53 and 65, Volume vi, for other Notes.

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Wanted to Know.

Why and by whom Maryland was prefixed to “Maryland Yellow Throat,” which a correspondent thinks should be named Maryland Black Eye.

Why, and how the “Purple Finch” received its name when it is not purple.

Why the “California Woodpecker” selects “sound acorns only to store away” when it lives on an insect diet. William Stembeck suggests that the acorns rather contain the germ of the grub which developes while being in store.

Wanted to know more about the “Ash Throated Flycatcher” and “Ferruginous Buzzard.” If Gentry has yet discovered that his statements of the Bluebird’s migration are not true. The Hash diet he gives this bird is beyond the power of mortal man to say whether it is true or not, but the “Blythe and Bonny” Bluebird sings all the same, and is with us all the year, and does often lay six blue eggs and white ones not uncommon.

Notes from Manhattan, Kan.

Of five nests of the Ground Robin found by me last Spring only two were on the ground. One was six feet above ground in a greenbrier (_Smilax._)

Last Spring the Harris Sparrow remained with us until the latter part of May. During May I found in nests of other birds several parasitic eggs which did not resemble those of the Cowbird in shape, size or color. They were much smaller, elongated in shape, and the markings were lighter. I found many Cowbirds’ eggs later but none like these. The query presented itself whether the Harris Sparrow could have laid these.

Oct. 1, 1882.—Saw a Mourning Dove sitting on two eggs, apparently fresh.

Dec. 30.—Saw thousands of Bluebirds and Robins in the woods. Saw two Ground Robins, (_Pipilo erythrophthalmus._)—_D. E. Lantz._

[Illustration: Tern swallowing a fish]

Clark on “Gull Island.”—This young Tern was about two-thirds grown, without feathers, only sprouting quills, and was covered with thick gray down, and the fish, a Herring, was fully as long as the bird, and very nearly as heavy, and was about half swallowed. They lay on the ground, the bird flat on its side, and I supposed it was dead, but lifting it up and removing the fish I found the bird was all right and ready for another. The head of the fish was partly digested. I would not suppose it possible for a Roseate Tern to have captured or carried to land so large a fish—much less such a little fellow attempt to deglutinate so immense a morsel proportionably.—_John N. Clark, Old Saybrook, Conn._

Naturalist Manual.—We have received from the author, Oliver Davie, of Columbus, Ohio, a small 8vo. book of 125 pages with the above title. It is a compilation from the best sources, chiefly Baird, Brewer and Ridgway, and is intended for collectors of Birds, Nests and Eggs, with full instructions how to collect and how to preserve them. It is a most excellent plan partially carried out, being from _Turdidæ_ to _Tanagridæ_. It is just the book for young ornithologists and those working in the field, and equally valuable as a book of reference for any devotee to the science. We hope Oliver will get encouragement enough to complete the work at no distant day.

We also received a fine cabinet photograph of two Golden Eagles, mounted by Mr. Davie.

Technical Matters.

Our ideas on technical terms are not well understood by some of our readers. We have the highest regard for advanced scientists and closet naturalists, but as scientists from education and force of habit write only in their technical language, which young naturalists cannot understand, we have considered it a duty to our young aspirants for ornithological knowledge to publish bird life in plain English, always giving scientific terms, but only once, after that the English name only. We are in perfect harmony with science. We are antagonistic to nothing that is honest in nature. We claim the right to express our views when ornithological trash is placed upon the market for our patrons to buy. We are antagonistic to no other publication. We claim the right to point out what we believe to be errors, wherever found. This is our platform and please remember it, and don’t forget that our readers are hungry for every item of genuine news relating to the life history of our birds, which will be thankfully received; and whenever possible take the name, both English and scientific, direct from the check list. If any other list but the Smithsonian is used give the name, describe your observations carefully, always bearing in mind that too much dry science tends to rob a subject of its general interest.

“Birds of Ohio.”

Our thanks are tendered to a friend who kindly remembered us with two copies of this work, which we have looked over as carefully as our limited time would admit. Our first search was for something new, but we found it not; we turned to the Snowy Owls, expecting that the author would either prove or disprove Audubon’s story of shore birds at the Falls of the Ohio, or at least have something to say about it, but not a word. It would seem to us that the author did not read the ornithological literature of the day, did not have any wide-awake correspondents in the field, and had but a limited library of reference. We are sorry that he has made such poor use of the State’s money, and yet Doctor J. M. Wharton, the author, states that it has been six years in preparation. The time has been badly spent and he has lost a golden opportunity of doing a good work for the ornithologists of America.

“Wood Ducks.”—We have received an uncolored copy of Mr. Sheppard’s “Wood Ducks,” which is a phototype by F. Gutekunst in the best style of the art, and is from a fine colored drawing by Mr. Sheppard, which we had the pleasure of seeing at the Academy of Natural Science. The Wood Ducks are a beautiful group and very life-like. Our readers will do well to secure a copy of this work at the low price at which uncolored copies are offered.

Doctor Coues Said It.—The _Nuttall Bulletin_ for January opens with a very pretty gossipy article by Dr. Coues, advertising the new edition of his “Key to North American Birds,” which is fast approaching completion. In this article the Dr. “suggests the propriety of calling a Congress of American Ornithologists to discuss, vote upon, and decide each case in which the Doctors disagree.” We have no room to discuss the question in this number, but simply for the present to place it on record, for it is a very important matter. The Doctor compliments the O. and O. through something with a fearful name. We hunted it up, and found it was a bird, and with a lovely English name. Why, Dr., how could you make such a mistake?

Ipswich Sparrows.

On Nov. 21, ’82, I had occasion to go to Ram Island Beach. This is a wide sandy beach some fifty acres in extent, and covered with beach grass, and in some parts with bushes and small cedars. As I was about to leave I saw several sparrows fly up and alight on the cedars, and at the first glance it struck me that they were Ipswich Sparrows, and as if to convince me a Song Sparrow flew up beside one of them, showing off the large size and pale tints of the former very markedly. Having no gun I reluctantly left, but returned in the afternoon, and after some hunting secured all three of them. Two of them measured 6½ inches in length; the 3d 6 in. Since then I have searched the beach over carefully but found no more specimens of _Passerculus princeps_. Saw flocks of Lesser Redpolls on Dec. 5th and 6th.

Pine Finches were abundant here in the Fall. Mr. Worthington secured sixteen at one shot. Some small boys killed two.—_Moses B. Griffing, Shelter Island, N. Y._

Capt. Chas. E. Bendire, U. S. A.

Under date of Dec. 29th we have a long letter from the Captain detailing many of the duties at his new post, which seems so far to quite fully occupy his time; so much so that what spare time he does get is entirely taken up collecting and making specimens, so that instead of writing notes for our readers, he is making them to be used in the future. We will make a few extracts from his letter such as will interest our readers generally: “However with all the drawbacks I am making some headway in my collection, and am getting some good things. I have now catalogued 375 skins since my arrival here, and 300 of these I have made since Sept 1st, besides a great many alcoholic specimens not counted in the above. We are having a mild Winter, the snow is only about a foot deep, when in other seasons it has been three feet deep at this time. Birds are scarce—about twenty species comprise the more common Winter residents. The water birds are too far off for me to trouble them much—the nearest point on the lake is ten miles. I had hoped to find some rare Winter birds and plenty of them as at Camp Harney in ’75 and ’76, but there are very few, and even Owls and Hawks are not near as plenty about the post here as at Walla Walla. I presume the marshes near the lake are full of them, but they are almost impassible. When the lake and marsh freeze over I expect a lot of birds will be driven up toward the post, and by that time very likely there will be so much snow that I cannot get the birds.”

It has been whispered among a few that Captain Bendire was to take up American Oology where the late Dr. Brewer left it, and it is to be earnestly hoped that this will be brought about at no distant day, for the department can well afford to do it as a very large edition would find a ready sale if it was found necessary to sell it, as the department now does the first volume, besides being one of the very few capable of undertaking this work. There was a warm friendship between him and the late Dr. Brewer that the death of the latter has not in the least diminished in the other. For the above reasons Captain Bendire is the one above all others to finish the work so well begun by his friend the late lamented Dr. Brewer.

Night Herons Breeding on the Marsh

While collecting on the marsh I noticed many Night Herons, and enquired of the hunters and trappers if they found any nests in the trees on the islands in the marsh, but they did not, but had found the nesting place on the marsh. I went for them with a boy for guide. We rowed up a channel as near the place as possible, when they began to leave their nests in the grass and rushes. When forty rods off we left the boat and waded. The bogs are a kind of floating sod, with two or three feet of mud and water under them, and sink at each step. The first nest was in the rushes and built of rushes, about one foot high and about the same width, with just hollow enough to keep the eggs from rolling out. Other nests were in the grass, but most of them were in the cat tail flags, in holes which had been burned in the dry time. The nests in the flags were built of pieces of flags, both leaves and stalk. Those in the grass were built of rushes and flags. The nests contained from one to five eggs each, but mostly three—two sets of five and a number with four. I took about forty sets that day—the larger sets were incubated, but about half were fresh. I went a second time to the marsh and got a lot of eggs.—_Delos Hatch, Oak Centre, Wis._

Brief Newsy Notes.

Black-backed Woodpecker.—In Michigan, while camping about fifteen miles from Little Traverse Bay, I saw three specimens, but not having a gun I did not secure any.—_W. J. Simpson._

Large Set of Eggs.—April 29, ’82, took a set of seven Bluebirds’ eggs, and April 30 I took a set of six pure white eggs from Bluebirds of the natural color.—_W. J. Simpson, Ithaca, N. Y._

Barred Owl.—A very fine specimen was brought me by a friend a few days ago, who, while driving along saw it perched on the fence. A club was thrown at it, but as it did not move my friend walked up to it and found it was blind. He lifted it into his sleigh and brought it in, when I found that the bird had had iritis, in which extreme adhesions had taken place, rendering the eyes almost wholly useless. The bird has a fine plumage although almost a skeleton.—_G. A. McCallum, Dunville, Ontario._

Ornithological works, written by honest, conscientious men, never deteriorate in value, but advance to a premium as soon as the edition is exhausted.

Bluebirds. As I am writing this 10 A. M. I think I hear a Bluebird, and on going to the window I see three sitting on the vane of the church across the street from the house. Now we can hardly put this down as the earliest arrival for ’83, but it’s certainly the latest for ’82.—_W. W. Coe, Portland, Conn., Dec. 31, 1882._

Sharp-shinned Hawk.—S. F. Rathbun, Auburn, N. Y., reports shooting a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Jan. 16.

Ring-billed Gull.—April 29, ’82, I shot a specimen of _Larus Delawarensis_ at Rochester, N. Y. It proved to be an adult female; length 21.50 inches, extent 49.50.—_C. H. Wilder, Syracuse, N. Y._

Spotted Sandpiper.—July 12, ’82. Saw a Sandpiper (probably the spotted) with something that looked like a minnow in its bill. Do they eat fish?—_C. H. Wilder, Syracuse, N. Y._

King Fisher shot at Portland, Conn., Jan. 14, in good plumage.—_W. W. Coe._

Owls.—Messrs. Southwick & Jencks report about 150 Owls this season—about seventy-five Barred Owls, and including all the varieties but Great Gray and Hawk Owls. Among them is a Sparrow Owl taken near Providence and nineteen Snowy Owls, one nearly white.

Golden Eagle.—A. D. Butterfield, San Jose, California, shot a young male Golden Eagle, Dec. 20, 1882, which measured 33 inches in length, 6 feet 5½ inches across the wings, 24 inch wing, 24 inch tail. A good skin was made from it.

Pine Grosbeaks.—Saw six Pine Grosbeaks, Dec. 17. They were very tame—almost touched one with my hand—no old ones among them—these are the first specimens noted this season.—_John H. Sage._

A Snowy Owl was seen here on Sunday and followed across the river but not killed.—_John H. Sage, Portland, Conn._

Eggs in a Set.—May 30, ’81, found set of five Catbird’s eggs—nest in hazel bush. In West Newton, Mass., June 20, ’81, found set of six Bluebirds in bird box. In Peotine, Ill., have found seven American Bittern; usual set three or four and sometimes five. Also a set of seven White-rumped Shrike; usual set five; have found six.—_D. H. Eaton, Woburn, Mass._

Albino Redwing Blackbird, (_Agelæus phœniceus_).—From a flock of Redwing “Starlings” I shot an Albino of a beautiful Golden Yellow except the wings which are white. The iris and tarsus were pink.—_Dr. F. W. Goding, Kaneville, Ill., September 1, 1881._

Clapper Rails’ Eggs.—During the season of 1881 1,000 eggs were taken from a tract of land not two miles square, and yet not half was taken that could have been. These eggs were taken to sell for cooking purposes in New York market.

The World Moves and so do some of our young men. Southwick & Jencks are out with a new Checking List that leaves ours in the shade, and they are preparing a catalogue that will excel anything yet produced in that line. These two boys have got a collection together that is worth going a very long distance to see, only leave your wallet at home, and “Lead us not into temptation.”

“Brown Creeper,” (_Certhia familiaris_,) winters in dense woods, but very rarely.—_A. Hall, East Rockport, Ohio._

Wild Goose.—I saw a Wild Goose last night that was shot January 4 in the Middlefield Reservoir, two or three miles out of the City of Middletown. He had been seen in several places within a few miles of here all Winter. Could fly well enough and I could find no wounds on him except the fresh ones. “Every day brings something new.”—_W. W. Coe, Portland, Conn._

J. L. Goff writes that this Goose had been in the company of a flock of crows during the Winter.

Albino Cowbird.—Aug. 11, 1881, while at Kaneville, Ill., I shot an Albino Cowbird (_Molothrus ater._) It measured 7½ inches long and was of a creamy white color with the exception of the head and breast, which were a little more on the yellow tint. It was with a flock of Redwing Blackbirds. When I picked it up its eyes shone like fire. The iris was of a fire red. The pupil being pink the effect can be imagined. I could not discern the sex.—_Jos. L. Hancock, Chicago, Ill._

Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by _underscores_.