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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Sea-side Finch

93 Sea-side Finch.jpg

THE SEA-SIDE FINCH.

Fringilla maritima, Wils.

PLATE XCIII. Male and Female.


The monotonous chirpings which one hears in almost every part of our maritime salt-marshes, are produced by this bird and another nearly allied to it. The Sea-side Finch may be seen at any hour of the day, during the months of May and June, mounted on the tops of the rankest weeds which grow by the margins of tide-waters along the greater portion of our Atlantic coast, whence it pours forth with much emphasis the few notes of which its song is composed. When one approaches it, it either seeks refuge amongst the grass, by descending along the stalks and blades of the weeds, or flies off to a short distance, with a continued flirting of its wings, then alights with a rapid descent, and runs off with great nimbleness. I am inclined to believe that it rears two broods in the season, as I have found birds of this species sitting on their eggs early in May, and again in the beginning of July. The nest is placed so close to the ground that one might suppose it partly sunk in it, although this is not actually the case. It is composed of coarse grasses externally, and is lined with finer kinds, but exhibits little regularity in its structure. The eggs are from four to six, of an elongated oval form, greyish-white, freckled with brown all over. The male and the female sit alternately, and will not fly off at the sight of man, unless he attempts to catch them on the nest, when they skulk off as if badly wounded. Many nests may be found in the space of a few acres of these marshes, where the land is most elevated, and where small shrubs are seen. They select these spots, because they are not liable to be overflowed by high floods, and because there are accumulated about them drifted sand, masses of sea- weed, and other castings of the sea, among which they find much food of the kind which they seem to prefer. This consists of marine insects, small crabs and snails, as well as the green sand beetle, portions of all of which I have found in their stomach.

It is very difficult to shoot them unless when they are on wing, as their movements while they run up and down the weeds are extremely rapid; but their flight is so direct and level, that a good marksman can easily kill them before they alight amongst the grass again. After the young are well grown, the whole of these birds betake themselves to the ditches or sluices by which the salt-marshes are intersected, fly along them, and there find abundant food. They enter the larger holes of crabs, go into every crack and crevice of the drying mud, and are then more difficult to be approached, as the edges of these ditches are usually over-grown with taller and ranker sedges. Having one day shot a number of these birds, merely for the sake of practice, I had them made into a pie, which, however, could not be eaten, on account of its fishy savour.

The Rose on which I have drawn these birds is found so near the sea, on rather higher lands than the marshes, that I thought it as fit as any other plant for the purpose, more especially as the Finches, when very high tides overflow the marshes, take refuge in these higher grounds. It is sweetly scented, and blooms from May to August. I have never met with it elsewhere than on the small sea islands and along the coasts, where it grows in loose sandy sail.


Fringilla maritima, Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 110.

Sea-side Finch, Fringilla maritima, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. iv. p. 68, Pl. 34. Fig. 2.


Adult Male. Plate XCIII. Fig. 1.

Bill shortish, robust, conical, acute; upper mandible broader than the lower, slightly declinate at the tip; the edges of both mandibles slightly arched, and a little deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, roundish, open, partially concealed by the feathers. Head rather large. Neck shortish. Body rather robust. Legs of moderate length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a longitudinal plate above, and a few large scuta below; toes scutellate above, free, the lateral ones nearly equal; claws slender, slightly arched, compressed, acute, that of the hind toe larger.

Plumage ordinary, compact above, soft and blended beneath. Wings short, and much curved, third and fourth quills longest, first much shorter. Tail of ordinary length, much rounded, the feathers narrow and rather pointed.

Bill dark brown above, light blue beneath. Iris hazel. Feet and claws greyish-blue. Crown of the head deep brown, surrounded by a line of greyish-blue. Upper part of the back, wings, and tail, olive-brown mixed with pale blue. Lesser wing-coverts reddish-brown, larger coverts edged and tipped with brownish- white, the edge of the wing-joint yellow. Outer margins of the tail-feathers paler. A broad yellow streak from the base of the bill over the eye. Throat and fore-neck greyish-white, with a streak of greyish-blue on each side. Breast and sides dull greyish-blue, the abdomen paler.

There is very little difference between the sexes as to colour or size.

Length 8 inches, extent of wings 11; bill along the ridge 23, along the gap 1.




The Carolina Rose.


Rosa Carolina, Pursh, Flor. Amer. p. 345.—Icosandria Polygynia, Linn. Rosaceæ, Juss.


This beautiful species, which attains a height of five or six feet, is generally characterized by its globose germens, which, with the peduncles, are more or less hispid; its hairy petioles, slightly curved prickles, and oblongo-lanceolate, acute, serrated leaflets, which are glaucous beneath. It varies greatly, however, like many other species of the same genus.