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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Azure Warbler

Azure Warbler (Audubon).jpg


Sylvia azurea, Steph.

PLATE XLVIII. Male and Female.

So scarce is this bird in the Middle Districts, that its discovery in the State of Pennsylvania has been made a matter of much importance. Its habits are consequently very little known, even at the present day, and it would appear that only two individuals have been seen by our American ornithologists, one of which, a young female, has been figured by the Prince of Musignano.

It arrives in the lower parts of the State of Louisiana, in company with many other species of Warblers, breeds there and sets out again about the beginning of October. It is as lively as most species of its genus, possesses the same manner of flight, moves sidewise up and down the branches and twigs, frequently changing sides, and hangs to the extremities of bunches of leaves or berries, on which it procures the insects and larvae of which its food is principally composed. The liveliness of its notes renders it conspicuous in those parts of the skirts of the forests which it frequents; and its song, although neither loud nor of long continuance, is extremely sweet and mellow.

I have no precise recollection of the time when I first made a drawing of this pretty little bird, but know this well, that a drawing which I had of it was one of the unfortunate collection destroyed by the rats at Henderson. In Louisiana, where it is as numerous as other Sylviæ, I have several times shot five or six during a single walk, towards the end of August, when the young are nearly full coloured.

The nest is placed in the forks of a low tree or bush, more frequently on a Dog-wood tree. It is partly pensile, projecting a little above the twigs to which it is attached, and extending below them for nearly two inches. The fibres of vines and of the stalks of rank herbaceous plants, together with slender roots, compose the outer part, being arranged in a circular manner. The lining consists entirely of the dry fibres of the Spanish Moss. The female lays four or five eggs, of a pure white colour, with a few reddish spots at the larger end. When the female is disturbed during incubation, she trails along the twigs and branches, with expanded tail and drooping wings, and utters a plaintive note, resembling in air these circumstances the Blue-eyed Warbler. I am not sure that they raise more than one brood in a season. When the young abandon the nest, their plumage partakes of a greenish tinge, and no difference can be perceived between the sexes without dissection. The little family move and hunt together, and exhibit much pleasure in pursuing small insects on wing, which they seize without any clicking sound of their bill. They seem at this period to evince a great partiality for trees the tops of which are thickly covered by grape vines, amongst the broad leaves of which they find ample supplies of food. They also sometimes alight on the tall weeds, and pick a few of their seeds. The males or females do not assume the full brilliancy of their plumage until the following spring.

I am inclined to think that this species is extremely abundant in the Mexican dominions, as I have observed these birds more numerous towards Natchitochez and along the waters of the Red River. On the other hand, I have not observed it eastward of the State of Tenessee.

The twig on which it is represented, belongs to a small tree or shrub, which grows along the skirts of the forests in the State of Louisiana. The bark is easily stripped off, when the wood shews a yellow, resinous colour. It is brittle, and is not applied to any use. The berries are eaten by different species of birds.

Sylvia azurea, Stephens, Cont. Shaw's Zool. vol. i. p. 653—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 85; and Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 27. Pl. xi. Fig. 2. Young female.
Cœrulean Warbler, Sylvia cœrulea, Wilson, Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 141. Pl. xvii. fig. 5. Male.

Adult Male. Plate XLVIII. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, straight, much broader than deep at the base, tapering, compressed toward the acute tip. Nostrils basal, oval, exposed. Head of ordinary size. Body rather slender. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus compressed, covered anteriorly with a few long scutella, acute behind, scarcely longer than the middle toe; toes free, scutellate above; claws arched, slender, much compressed, acute.

Plumage soft and blended, glossy. Wings of ordinary length, the first and second quills longest. Tail longish, even, of twelve rather narrow, obtuse feathers. Short bristle-pointed feathers at the base of the upper mandible.

Bill bluish-black. Iris blackish-brown. Feet blue. Head and upper parts generally, of a fine rich blue, the back marked with longitudinal streaks of blackish, and a narrow band of black from the forehead passing along the lore to behind the eye. Tips of the two rows of larger wing-coverts white, forming two conspicuous bands across the wing. Quills black, externally margined with blue. Tail of the same colour, each feather having a patch of white on the inner web, near the end, excepting the two middle ones; all externally margined with blue. Under parts white, as well as a streak over the eye, above which is a streak of blackish.

Length 4½ inches, extent of wings 8; bill along the ridge 5/12, along the gap 7/12; tarsus ⅔ , middle toe 7/12.

Adult Female. Plate XLVIII. Fig. 2.

The female differs from the male, chiefly in having the colours paler.

The Bear-berry.

Ilex Dahoon, Mich. Fl. Amer. vol. ii. p. 228. Pursh. Fl. Amer. vol. i. p. 117.—Tetrandria Tetragynia, Linn. Rhamni, Juss.

This species of Holly is distinguished by its elliptico-lanceolate leaves, which are thick, leathery, shining, and reflected at the margin, and its corymboso-paniculate, lateral and terminal peduncles. The berries are globular and bright red.