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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Yellow-throated Warbler

85 Yellow Throated Warbler.jpg


Sylvia pensilis, Lath.


This beautiful bird absents itself from the State of Louisiana only for two months in the year, December and January. When they return in the beginning of February, they throw themselves by thousands into all the cypress woods and cane-brakes, where they are heard singing from the 6rst of March until late in autumn, sometimes in November.

Their habits are very different from those of the Warblers, and are more in general accordance with those of the Certhiæ. They move up and down, sidewise and spirally, along the trunks, branches, and even twigs of the tallest and largest Cypresses, or such other trees as are found intermingled with them. They are extremely active, in fact, fully as much so as the little Brown Creeper itself. Like it, they suddenly leave the uppermost branches or higher parts of the trunks, and diving downwards alight on the roots, and renew their search after small insects and larvæ. I never saw any of them pursue insects on wing.

The nest of this species is prettily constructed. Its outer parts are composed of grey lichens and soft mosses, the interior of silky substances and a few fibres of the Spanish moss. The female lays four pure white eggs, having two or three purple dots near the larger end. I think they raise two broods during their stay in Louisiana, but cannot speak of this as certain. The nest is placed on a horizontal branch of a Cypress, twenty, thirty, or even fifty feet above the ground, and is with difficulty discovered from below, as it resembles a knot or a tuft of moss.

The song of the Yellow-throated Warbler would please you, kind reader. Of this I have not a doubt, as it is soft and loud, and is continued for two or three minutes at a time, not unlike that of the Painted Finch, or Indigo Bird. As it is heard in all parts of our most dismal Cypress Swamps, it contributes to soothe the mind of a person whose occupation may lead him to such places. I never saw this species on the ground. The male and the female are nearly alike in plumage, but the young birds, which hunt for insects in company, in the manner of Creepers or Titmice, do not acquire the yellow on the throat, nor the full brilliancy of their plumage, until the first spring.

These birds confine themselves to the Southern States, seldom moving farther towards the Middle Districts than North Carolina. They do not even ascend the Mississippi farther than the Walnut Hills. They are abundant in the neighbourhood of the Red River, and probably do not go farther south than Mexico, during their short absence from the United States.

Happening to shoot several of these birds on a large Chinquapin tree, growing on the edge of a hill close to a swamp, I have put a male on one of its twigs, which is furnished with a few fruits quite ripe and ready to leave their husks. In the Southern States this tree is rare. It generally prefers elevated places, and rocky declivities, with an arid soil. The wood resembles that of the Chestnut, but the trees being generally small, little use is made of it as timber. The fruit is eaten by children. This tree is abundant along the greater part of the range of the Alleghanies and its branches.

Sylvia pensilis, Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 520—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 79.

Pensile Warbler, Lath. Synops. vol. iv. p. 441.

Yellow-throated Warbler, Sylvia flavicollis, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 64. PL 4. fig. 6.

Adult Male. Plate LXXXV.

Bill shortish, nearly straight, subulato-conical, acute, as deep as broad at the base, the edges acute, the gap line a little deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, elliptical, lateral, half-closed by a membrane. Head rather small. Neck short. Body slender. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly by 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. Wings of ordinary length, acute, the second quill longest. Tail longish, slightly emarginate.

Bill brownish-black. Iris dark-brown. Feet yellowish-brown. The general colour of the upper parts is light greyish-blue, the head darker. A white line from the base of the upper mandible over the eye. Forehead, loral space, a line behind the eye, and a patch including the ear-coverts, descending along the neck, and terminating acutely, black. Under eyelid white. Wing-coverts dusky, tipped with white. Quills blackish, externally margined with light greyish-green. Tail-feathers black, the middle ones edged with greenish-blue, the outer white along the outer margin, and with the next two having a white patch on the inner web towards the end. Throat and fore-neck bright yellow, as is a spot before the eye. The rest of the under parts white, the sides mottled with dusky.

Length 5+12 inches, extent of wings 8+12; bill along the ridge nearly 12, along the gap 712; tarsus 56, middle toe 23.

The female is similar to the male, but has the colours somewhat duller.

The Chinquapin.

Castanea pumila, Willd. Sp. Pl. vol. iv. p. 461. Pursh, Flor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 625. Mich. Arbr. Forest. de l'Amer. Sept. vol. ii. p. 166. Pl. 7—Monœcia Polyandria, Linn. Amentaceæ, Juss.

This species of Chestnut is characterized by its oblong, acute, sharply-serrated leaves, which are whitish and downy beneath. The fruit is very agreeable, and is a favourite food of Squirrels, and birds of different species, such as Pigeons, Jays, Turkeys, and Woodpeckers.