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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/121

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from considerable distances. A few individuals sometimes mix with the Wild Pigeons, as do the latter sometimes with the Doves.

The Turtle Dove may with propriety be considered more as a gleaner than as a reaper of the husbandman's fields, scarcely ever committing any greater depredation than the picking up a few grains in seed-time, after which it prefers resorting to those fields from which the grain has been cut and removed. It is a hardy bird, and stands the severest winters of our Middle States, where some remain the whole year.

The flesh of these birds is remarkably fine, when they are obtained young and in the proper season. Such birds become extremely fat, are tender and juicy, and in flavour equal in the estimation of some of my friends, as well as in my own, to that of the Snipe or even the Woodcock; but as taste in such matters depends much on circumstances, and perhaps on the whim of individuals, I would advise you, reader, to try for yourself. These birds require good shooting to bring them down, when on wing, for they fly with great swiftness, and not always in a direct manner. It is seldom that more than one can be killed at a shot when they are flying, and rarely more than two or three when on the ground, on account of their natural propensity to keep apart.

In winter, they approach the farm-houses, feed among the Poultry, Sparrows, Grakles, and many other birds, and appear very gentle; but no sooner are they frequently disturbed or shot at, than they become extremely shy. When raised from the nest, they are easily tamed. I have even known some instances of their breeding in confinement. When caught in traps and cooped, they feed freely, and soon become fat, when they are excellent for the table.

When shot, or taken alive in the hand, this and our other species of Pigeon, lose the feathers on the slightest touch, a circumstance peculiar to the genus, and to certain gallinaceous birds.

The Stuartia Malacodendron, on which I have placed the two pairs alluded to at the commencement of this article, is a tree of small height, which grows in rich grounds at the foot of hills not far from water-courses. The wood is brittle and useless, the flower destitute of scent, but extremely agreeable to the eye. Little clusters of twenty or thirty of these trees are dispersed over the southernmost of the United States. I have never met with it in the Middle, Western or Northern Districts.