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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Yellow-poll Warbler

95 Yellow-poll Warbler.jpg


Sylvia æstiva, Gmel.


As soon as the welcome note of the Purple Martin is heard in spring, on its return to the United States, which, in Louisiana, sometimes takes place early in March, the little Warbler here presented to your inspection follows, and is seen gaily moving from tree to tree, feeding on the smaller insects, and tuning its pipe, which, however, is not the most melodious. It approaches the gardens and orange-groves, and again flies off to the willows, along the margins of the pools and lagoons. Its sojourn is of short duration in Louisiana, for it moves gradually eastward as the season advances, leaving nothing but the recollection of its passage through the land. Its migration, in as far as I have been able to ascertain, is principally performed during the night. I have observed many in the course of one day in a place, which, next day, if the weather had become warm, scarcely contained a single individual. It never breeds in the district mentioned above, nor even in the State of Mississippi. A few breed in Kentucky, more in Ohio, and their nests in this manner increase the farther you proceed eastward. I have seen many of these birds, as well as their nests, on the Genessee River; but in the States of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, they may be found in every orchard and garden, and even in the streets, among the foliage of our trees.

The males chase each other with great courage, and fight for a few moments, to establish their claim to any particular spot or tree, after which they are seen climbing up and down among the twigs and smaller branches, looking keenly among the leaves and blossoms for insects. Careless of the presence of man, the Blue-eyed Warbler is easily approached. The same carelessness makes it build its little nest almost always within reach of the latter. The parents are very assiduous in the discharge of their duties. They construct a nest about the middle of May, in the forked branches of a small tree, often within a few paces of a house. The nest is strongly fastened to the twigs, is formed externally of hemp, flax, or woolly substances, and is well lined with different kinds of hair, intermixed with softer materials. It breeds twice during the summer, and returns southward in the beginning of autumn, in small parties, shifting chiefly by night. During the breeding-season, this little bird, when approached, shews great anxiety for the preservation of its eggs or young, and tries, with all the artifices employed by many other species, to entice the aggressor away from its nest. They are seen, on their return to the south, passing through Louisiana in October.

I made my drawing of this species near Natchez, and having killed the specimen while it was searching for insects among the flowers of a large climbing plant, I have figured part of the latter also. This plant I have never seen, excepting in low, damp or marshy places. It there runs over decayed trees, spreading in the form of a bower, and hanging in graceful festoons. The long pendulous clusters of pale purple flowers are destitute of odour.

Sylvia æstiva, Gmel. Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 996.—Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 551.—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 83.

Yellow-poll Warbler, Lath. Syn. vol. iv. p. 515.

Blue-eyed Warbler, Sylvia citrinella, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 111. Pl. 15. fig. 6.

Bill about as long as the head, slender, straight, subulate, as deep as broad at the base. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half closed by a membrane. Head rather small. Neck short. Body ovate, rather slender. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus 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 soft, blended, tufty, a few bristles at the base of the bill. Wings of ordinary length, acute. Tail longish, slightly forked.

Bill dark blue, the lower mandible edged with yellow. Iris brown. Feet and claws pale brown. Hind head and upper parts generally pale yellowish-green, the tail-coverts more yellow. The fore part of the head, the cheeks, the throat, and the sides of the neck, pure golden-yellow; the rest of the lower parts yellow, the breast and sides streaked with brownish-red. Quills and alula deep brown, their outer webs yellowish, as are the margins of the large coverts. Tail-feathers deep brown, with yellow margins.

Length 5+14 inches, extent of wings 10; bill 512 along the ridge, 34 along the gap.

The female differs from the male only in having the colours less bright, and the streaks on the breast somewhat broader and fewer.