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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Roscoe's Yellow-throat

Roscoe's Yellow-throat (Audubon).jpg


Sylvia Roscoe.


The many kind attentions which I have received from the celebrated author of the Life of Leo the Tenth, joined to the valuable advice with which I have been favoured by that excellent gentleman, has induced me to honour the little bird before you with his name.

I shot it in a deep swamp not far from the River Mississippi, in the State bearing the same name, in September 1821. It was flitting amongst the top branches of a high Cypress, when I first observed it, moving sideways, searching for insects, and occasionally following one on the wing. It uttered a single twit repeated at short intervals. It having unexpectedly flown to a distant tree of the species on a branch of which you now see it, I followed it and shot it. It was the only one of the kind I have ever seen, although I went to the same swamp for several days in succession. It proved a male, and was to all appearance in perfect plumage. The gizzard was nearly filled with very minute red insects, found on Cypresses and Pines, the wings of different flies, and the heads of red ants.

In general appearance, this species so much resembles the preceding, that had not its habits differed so greatly from those of the Maryland Yellow-throat, I might have been induced to consider it as merely an accidental variety. On examining it more closely, however, and on comparing it with that bird, I felt, as I now feel, fully confident of its being different.

The species of Oak, on a twig of which it stands, is commonly called the Swamp Oak. It grows to a large size, always near the edges of damp or watery places. The height is from fifty to sixty feet, its diameter from two to three. The branches come off from the trunk at a height of eight feet from the ground, nearly at right angles. The twigs have a similar disposition. The wood is extremely hard and close in the texture, heavier than that of either the Red or the White Oak, and sinks when thrown into water. The Southern States appear to be those in which it thrives best.

Sylvia Roscoe.

Adult Male. Plate XXIV.

Bill of ordinary length, tapering, slender, nearly straight, acute. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half-closed by a membrane. Head and neck of ordinary size, the latter short. Body rather short. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus scarcely longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a few scutella, the uppermost long; toes scutellate above, the inner free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed, acute, arched.

Plumage loose, blended. Wings very short, the first quill longest. Tail rounded.

Bill dark flesh-colour, brown at the tip. Iris light brown. Feet flesh-colour. General colour of the upper parts very dark olive, the feathers edged with lighter. The inner webs of the quills dark brown. A slender white streak over the eye and close to it; a broad band of black from the eye downwards.

Length 5⅛ inches, extent of wings 6¼; bill along the ridge 5/12, along the gap ⅔; tarsus ⅓.

The Swamp Oak.

Quercus aquatica, Water Oak, Mich. Arb. Forest. vol. ii. p. 90. Pl. 17.—Monɶcia Polyandria, Linn. Amentaceæ, Juss.

Leaves oblongo-cuneate, tapering at the base, rounded or apiculate, sometimes three-lobed.