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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Chestnut-sided Warbler

59 Chestnut-sided Warbler.jpg

THE CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER.

Sylvia icterocephala, Lath.

PLATE LIX. Male and Female.


In the beginning of May 1808, I shot five of these birds, on a very cold morning, near Potts-grove, in the State of Pennsylvania. There was a slight fall of snow at the time, although the Peach and Apple trees were already in full bloom. I have never met with a single individual of this species since. They all had their wings drooping, as if suffering severely from the sudden change of the weather, and had betaken themselves to the lower rails of a fence, where they were engaged in searching after insects, particularly spiders. I procured every one of those which I met with that morning, and which were five in number, two of them males, and the rest females.

Where this species goes to breed I am unable to say, for to my inquiries on this subject I never received any answers which might have led me to the districts resorted to by it. I can only suppose, that if it is at all plentiful in any portion of the United States, it must be far to the northward, as I ransacked the borders of Lake Ontario, and those of Lakes Erie and Michigan, without meeting with it. I do not know of any naturalist who has been more fortunate, otherwise I should here quote his observations.

The females had the ovaries furnished with numerous eggs, about the size of the head of a common pin. The stomach of all the birds which I killed contained some grass seeds of the preceding year, and a few small black spiders; but the birds appeared half-starved. Having procured them near the ground, I have placed them on a plant which grows about the fields, and flowers in the beginning of May.

Sylvia icterocephala, Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 538.—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 80.

Motacilla icterocephala, Linn. Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 334.

Quebec Warbler, Lath. Synops. vol. iv. p. 484.

Chestnut-sided warbler, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. i. p. 99. Pl. 14. fig. 5.


Adult Male. Plate LIX. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, nearly straight, subulato-conical, acute, nearly as deep as broad at the base, the edges acute, the gap-line slightly deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half-closed by a membrane. Head of ordinary size. Neck short. Body slender. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly by a few scutella, acutely edged behind; toes scutellate above, the inner free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed, acute, arched.

Plumage soft, blended, tufty. Wings of ordinary length, acute, the second quill longest. Tail short, slightly notched.

Bill light blue, blackish above. Iris hazel. Feet dusky. Forehead white; upper part of the head bright yellow. Loral space, and two lines proceeding from it, one over and behind the eye, the other downwards, black. Back dusky green, spotted with black, as are the lesser wing-coverts, the larger broadly tipped with bright yellow, excepting those of the primary quills, which are dusky. Primaries dusky, edged externally with light blue, as is the tail. Under parts white; side of the lower neck and body under the wings deep chestnut.

Length 5¼ inches, extent of wings 8; bill along the ridge 5/12, along the gap 7/12; tarsus ¾.


Adult Female. Plate LIX. Fig. 2.

The female is considerably smaller, but is coloured nearly in the same manner as the male. The chestnut patch on the sides is of less extent, and the primaries are yellow, instead of blue, on their outer webs.




The Moth Mullein.


Verbascum Blattaria, Willd. Sp. Pl. vol. i. p. 1005. Pursh, Flor. Amer. vol. i. p. 142, Smith. Engl. Flor. vol. i. p. 513—Pentandria Monogynia, Linn. Solaneæ, Juss.


A biennial plant, distinguished from the other species of the same genus by its amplexicaul ovato-oblong, rugose, serrated, glabrous leaves, and one-flowered solitary pedicels. The ordinary colour of the flowers is yellow, but the plant represented is of a variety with larger whitish or pale rose-coloured flowers. It grows in fields and by roads, and is of common occurrence.