Page images
PDF
EPUB

BIRDS OF TOIT ASD COUNTRY

49.5

tective laws similar to those recently birds in the United States from the pracenacted in this country.

tical side, they may not inaptly be com

pared to a police force, the chief duty of BIRDS ARE THE FARMERS' MOST EFFICIENT

which is to restrain within bounds the ALLIES

hordes of insects that if unchecked would While birds appeal to the regard and devour every green thing.

To accominterest of man from the esthetic side as plish this task successfully, the members no other creatures do, there is another of the force must be variously equipped, and even more important point of view, as we find they are. Indeed, while the and it is no doubt true that of late years 1,200 kinds of birds that inhabit the interest in birds has been greatly stimu United States can be grouped in families lated by the discovery that they possess

which resemble each other in a general an economic value. Indeed, so great is way, yet among the members of the seytheir value from a practical standpoint eral families are marked variations of as to lead to the belief that were it not form and plumage and still greater varifor birds successful agriculture would be ation of habits, which fit them for their impossible.

diversified duties. The study of the economic side of As the bulk of insects spend more or bird life and of the relations of birds to less time on the ground, so we find that the farmer and horticulturist have been more birds are fitted for terrestrial servgreatly stimulated in the United States ice than for any other. Our largest bird by Federal aid and supervision, and in no family, the sparrows, is chiefly terresother country in the world have the ac trial, and although its members depend tivities of birds been so carefully investi much

uponi

seeds for subsistence they gated with reference to their practical spend no little share of their time searchbearing. Under the Biological Surveying for insects. They are ably aided in of the Department of Agriculture, for the good work by the thrushes, wrens, instance, is a corps of trained men, who certain of the warblers, and niany other study the food of birds by careful ex birds. amination of the stomachs of specimens Another group is of arboreal habits, killed for scientific purposes. The infor and plays an important part in the conmation thus gained is supplemented by servation of our forests, the true value observations in the field, and the result of which we have only recently learned is a large amount of invaluable data illus to appreciate. So many insects burrow trative of the economic relations of many into trees that a highly specialized class kinds of birds. This storehouse of in- of birds — the woodpeckers - lias been formation has been largely drawn upon developed to dig them out. The bills, in the following pages.

tongues, feet, and even the tails of these

birds have been cunningly adapted to this OUR COUNTRY PARTICULARLY FORTU

one end, and the manner in which this NATE IN THE NUMBER IND

has been done show's how fertile Nature VARIETY OF ITS BIRDS

is in equipping her servants to do her It would be strange indeed if our land. bidding. with its vast extent of territory, its diver The bark of trees also forms a favorite sified landscape, its extensive forests, its shelter for numerous insects, and behold numerous lakes and streams, with its the wrens, muthatches, warblers, and mountains, prairies, and plains, had not creepers, with sharpest of eyes and slenbeen provided by Nature with an abun derest of bills, to detect our foes and to dant and diversified bird life. As a mat dislodge them from crack and cranny, ter of fact, America has been favored The air is full of flying insects, and to with a great variety of birds famed both take care of these there are the swallows, for beauty and for song. America also swifts, and night-hawks, whose wings possesses certain families, as the hum and bodies are so shaped as to endow ming-birds and wood-warblers, the like them with the speed and agility necesof which exist nowhere else in the world. sary to follow all the turns and windings

In considering the many kinds of of their nimble insect prey.

IS

[ocr errors][merged small]

Scenu

The whippoorwills, swift of wing and BIRDS CITECK RIVAGES OF DISEASEwith capacious mouths beset with bris

CARRYING INSECTS tlesi attend to the night-lying insects

The value of birds to the farmer is when most birds are asleep, while the plain enough, but we do not usually think hanks by day and the owls by night sup of birds as having any direct relation to plement the work of other birds and have

the public health. To prove that they do. a special function of their own, the le however, it is only necessary to state that struction of noxious rodents.

500 mosquitoes have been found in the Thus every family of birds plays its stomach of a single night-hawk; that in 01111 part in the warfare against insects a killdeer's stomach hundreds of the and other joes to man's industry; and larvae of the salt-marsh mosquito have contributes its share to man's welfare. been found, and that many shore birds

Birds would fall far short of what they greedily devour mosquito larvae. ts. accomplish for man were they not the mosquitoes are known to carry the germs most active of living things. It is curious of such serious diseases as dengue fever that the group of vertebrates which live and malaria, it is evident that by destroythe fastest—that is, have a higher tem ing them birds are conferring an imporperature and a more rapid circulation tant benefit on man.

It may be added than any other-should be related by de that not infrequently ticks are eaten by

to a family of such cold-blooded birds, and that the tick responsible for creatures. as the reptiles and lizards, the spread of Texas fever among cattle Which often go without food and hiber has been found in the stomach of the nate for considerable periods. Very lif bobwhite. ferent is it with birds. Few realize the Since birds perform such invaluable enormous quantity of food required to service, every effort should be made to sustain the energy of these creatures, protect the birds ire now have and to inmost of whose Waking hours are spent crease their numbers. This can be done in a never-ending search for food. in several wars: (a) by furnishing nest

In satisfying their own hunger birds ing boxes for certain species to nest in. perform an important service to man, for as swallows, martins, wrens, woodpecknotwithstanding the fact that the acreage ers, great-crested Aycatchers, and others; under cultivation in the United States is bi by planting berry-bearing shrubs larger than ever before, and that the about the farm or orchard as food for crops are greater, the cost of foodstuffs the birds in winter; (c) by the establishcontinually mounts upward. Meanwhile ment of bird santuaries, where birds may the destruction of farm and orchard be reasonably safe from their natural crops by insects and by rodents amounts enemies and be permitted to live and to many millions each year, and if any breed in absolute security as far as man part of this loss can be prevented it will is concerned. be so much clear gain.

Here, again, the National Government, The protection of insectivorous and taking the lead, has set apart no less than rodent-destroying birds is one of the 04 bird refuges in various parts of the most effective means of preventing much

United States. These for the most part of this necessary loss, and the public are rocky, barren islands of little or 110 is rapidly awakening to the importance agricultural value, but of very great useof this form of conservation. Tirom the fulness in the cause of bird protection. farmers' standpoint such birds as the The example thus set is now being folbobwhite, prairie-chicken, the upland lowed by certain States, as Oregon and plover, and the other shore birds are Wisconsin. Several private citizens also 11orth very much more as insect eaters have acquired islands for the purpose of than as food or as objects of pursuit by making bird preserves of them; others the sportsman. This statement applies not only prevent the destruction of wild with especial force to such species as the life on their forested estates, but go much prairie-chicken, which ever where in its farther, and endeavor in various ways to oli haunts is threatened with extinction. increase the number of their bird tenants.

BIRDS OF TOISI.ID COUNTRY

197

501

Efforts to protect birds on a smaller scale and to attract them about dwellings, with a view to their close companionship, are worthy of all praise, and such efforts should be far more common in this country than they are at present, particularly as the means involve little trouble or expense. The presence of trees and shrubbery near the house is of itself an open invitation to birds which they are eager to accept, particularly if the shrubbery is not too closely pruned. Birds like thick vines and tangles, in the recesses of which they feel safe from their many enemies. Suet, nuts, and other bird foods, if exposed in conspicuous places, can usually be depended on to attract birds in winter, and often avail to save many lives, especially when snow covers the ground. In summer opportunities to drink and bathe are irresistible attractions to birds and largely increase the number resorting to any given neighborhood.

Last but not least important may be mentioned the element of safety from cats. Birds and cats do not thrive in the same neighborhood.

To awaken interest in the study of our bird neighbors is the chief object of this paper. The free lise of colored illustrations to facilitate identification precludes the necessity for long and detailed descriptions. As all the birds illustrating the text are from the brush of the wellknown artist, Fuertes, they need no commendation, but may be permitted to sing their own praises,

* The following birds were pictured and described in the June, 1913, number of the NaTIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE : Bluebird, robin, russet - backed thrush, ruby - crowned kinglet, chickadee, white - breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, house wren, brown thrasher, catbird, mocking - bird, myrtle warbler, loggerhead shirike, barn - swallow, purple martin, blackheaded grosbeak, rose-breasted grosbeak, songsparrow, chipping sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, English sparrow, crow blackbird, Brewer's blackbird, Bullock's oriole, meadow-larks, redwinged blackbird, bobolink, common California jay, blue jay, horned lark, Arkansas kingbird, kingbird, nighthawk, Alicker, yellowbellied sapsucker, downy woodpecker, vellowbilled cuckoo, screech-owl, barn-owl, sparrow hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, morning dove, ruffed grouse, bobwhite, killdeer, upland plover, black tern, Franklin's gull.

LIST OF BIRDS DESCRIBED AND INDEX

Illustration

page Kingfisher

199 Red-headed Woodpecker.

199 Red-shafted Flicker.

409 California Woodpecker..

499 Black and White Warbler. Yellow Warbler....

501 Audubon's Warbler.

501 American Redstart.

501 Indigo Bunting..

503 Lazuli Bunting..

503 White-throated Sparrow.

303 Slate-colored Junco.

503 Black Flycatcher, or Phainopepla.

505 Yellow-throated lireo..

505 Red-eyed Vireo.

505 Lark Sparrow..

505 Maryland Yellow-throat..

507 Yellow-breasted Chat..

507 Oven-bird

507 Cedar Waxwing..

507 Towhee, or Chewink..

509 California Brown Towhee.

509 Orchard Oriole..

509 Baltimore Oriole.

509 Black-billed Magpie.

511 Yellow-billed Magpie.

511 Phæbe

511 Blue-fronted Jay..

51 Wood Pewee....

511 Ruby-throated Humming-bird..

513 Rufous Humming-bird..

513 Whippoorwill

513 Road Runner..

513 Taried Thrush.. Veery Wood-thrush Bush-tit House Finch. Purple Finch.. Arkansas Goldonch.. American Goldfinch. Jesper Sparrow.

520 Blue Grosbeak.

520 Cardinal

520 California Quail..

520 Tree-swallow

522 Cliff or Eaves Swallow.

522 Scarlet Tanager..

522 Western Tanager..

522 Yellow-headed Blackbird.

524 Starling

524 Cowbird

524 Chimney Swift..

524 Varsh-hawk Osprey Turkey-buzzard Bald Eagle..... Black-crowned Night Heron.. Herring Gull.... Great Blue Heron.. Common Tern.. Great Horned Owl. Coot Wood-duck Spotted Sandpiper.....

516 516 516

510 519 518 518 518

crow,

526 526 526 526 528 528 528 528

530 530 530 530

KINGFISHER (Ceryle alcyon).

Length, about 13 inches. Not to be confused with any other American bird.

Range: Breeds from northwestern Alaska and central Canada south to the southern border of United States; winters from British Columbia, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia south to the West Indies, Colombia and Guiana.

The cry of the kingfisher, which surgests a watchman's rattle in vigorous hands, can be mistaken for the note of no other bird: nor, for that matter, is the bird himself likely to be confused with any other species. Whether flyiny, perched on a branch over a stream, or diving for small fish, our kingfisher is

ways himself, borrowing none of his peculiarities from his neighbors. Many of his tropical brothers match insects for a living; but our bird, curly in the history of the development of the kingfisher family, discovered that fish were easier to catch und in the long rum more filling than insects, and hence renounced the family habit and issumed the role of fisherman. Instead of using a hollow tree as a nest site, the kingfisher has apparently learned a lesson from the sindswallows and excavates a burrow for himself in some sandbank, usually not far from pond or stream; and you may be sure that any pond choseu by him for a haunt is well stocked with fish. The fish he kills are chiefly ininnows and of small value, but the bird sometimes makes a nuisance of himsolf about fish hatcheries, where his skill in catching young food fish often brings him speedy doom

RED-SHAFTED FLICKER (Colaptes cafer

collaris). Length, 12 to 14 inches. To be distinguished from its eastern relative (C. auratus) by its red mustache and nuchal band and the red wing and tail shafts.

Range: Rocky mountain region from British Columbia south to Mexico, west to the coast mountains in Oregon and Washington, and through California; largely resident.

Few birds are more widely known than the flicker, as appears from the fact, recorded by Chapman, that in the various parts of the country it appears under no fewer than 121 aliases. Though well known, the flicker is more often heard than seen, its loud call often proclaiming its presence when it is hidden among the trees. Is a rule the flicker is shy and in some sections of the country it has good reason to be, since it is accounted a game bird and, as such, pursued for the table.

Though a woodpecker, the red-shaft departs widely from typical members of the tribe both in structure and habits. Notwithstandirg the fact that its bill is not well adapted for boring into wood for larve, the bird manages to do considerable damage in the west by making holes, in church steeples, school houses and other buildings, to serve as roosting quarters. As it is nowise particular as to its domicile, it is possible materially to increase its numbers by putting up nesting boses for its accomodation. The bird's subsistence is obtained largely from the ground, where it secures vast quantities of ants, for taking which its tongue is specially adapted; about one half its food in fact consists of these creatures. The flicker also consumes grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, but it is so much of a vegetarian that the list of berries and seeds it eats is a long one, though it is not accused of taking domestic fruit.

RED-HEAD (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).

Length, about 9 inches. Our only woodpecker with red head and broad white wing patch.

Range: from southern Canada to the (iulf Coast and from central Montana, central Colorado, and central Texas to the Hudson and Delaware Generally resident, but more or less migratory in the southern parts of its range.

This strikingly marked and readily identified woodpecker is common in some localities und entirely winting in others which apparently are equally well adapted to the bird's needs. Its habits are il combination of woodpecker, jay and lycatcher, and catching insects on the wing is a common habit. Though in veneral migratory, the bird is apprently indifferent to cold and other weather conditions, and winters wherever food abounds, especially where beechnuts, of which it is very fond, are plentiful. The red-head eats nearly twice is much vegetable food as it does animal, but the latter includes many destructive insects. For instance, it is greatly to its credit that it cuts both species of clover beetles, the corn weevil, cherry scale and 17-year cicada. On the other hand, vigorous accusations are not wanting from various parts of the country of damage done by this species. It cuts corn on the car, and attacks many kinds of small fruits, including strawberries and apples. It is also guilty of robbing the nests of wild birds of both eres und nestlings. It does some damage to telegraph poles by boring into them to make nests. No doubt some of these charges are well founded. For the most part they represent the occasional acts of individuals, or sure local and not characteristic of the species :s it whole.

CALIFORNIA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes

formicivorus and races). Length, about 9.7 inches. Easily distinguished from its fellows by its general black color, white forehead, throat patch, belly and wing patch.

Range: Breeds from northwestern Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico south through Lower California to Costa Rica.

The California woodpecker is a noisy, frolicsome bird und by all odds the most interesting of our woodpeckers. Its range seems to be determined by that of the oaks upon which it lives and from which it draws a large part of its subsistence. In California the bird is known to many by the Spanish name, carpintero, or carpenter, and its shop is the oak, in the dead limbs of which, as in the bark of pines, it bores innumerable holes, each just large enough to receive an acorn. That the birds do not regard the filling of these storehouses as work, but on the contrary take great pleasure in it, is evident from their joyous outeries and from the manner they chuse each other in their trips from tree to tree like boys at tag. In California many of the country school houses are unoccupied during the summer and the woodpeckers do serious damage by drilling holes in the window casings and elsewhere with a view to using them as storage places. As long as the corn crop lasts, so long does the storing work go on. Meanwhile the jays and squirrels slip in and rob the woodpecker's larder. Though this woodpecker eats insects, including some harmful ones, they form less than i third of its entire fare.

[graphic][graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »