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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/200

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THE AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.

Fringilla tristis, Linn.

PLATE XXXIII. Male and Female.


This species merely passes over the State of Louisiana in the beginning of January, and at that season is seen there for only a few days, alighting on the highest tops of trees near water-courses, in small groups of eight or ten, males and females together. They feed at that period on the opening buds of Maples, and others that are equally tender and juicy. In the month of November they are again seen moving southwards, and for a few days only.

A few breed in Kentucky and the State of Ohio, but the Middle Districts are their principal places of resort during summer, although they extend their migrations to a high latitude. They arrive in the State of New York about the middle of April; and as they become very abundant in that State during the summer, I shall describe their habits as observed there.

The flight of the American Goldfinch is exactly similar to that of the European Bird of the same name, being performed in deep curved lines, alternately rising and falling, after each propelling motion of the wings. It scarcely ever describes one of these curves without uttering two or three notes whilst ascending, such as its European relative uses on similar occasions. In this manner, its flight is prolonged to considerable distances, and it frequently moves in a circling direction before alighting. Their migration is performed during the day. They seldom alight on the ground, unless to procure water, in which they wash with great liveliness and pleasure, after which they pick up some particles of gravel or sand. So fond of each other's company are they, that a party of them passing on the wing will alter its course at the calling of a single one perched on a tree. This call is uttered with much emphasis: the bird prolongs its usual note, without much alteration, and as the party approaches, erects its body, and moves it to the right and left, as if turning on a pivot, apparently pleased at shewing the beauty of its plumage and the elegance of its manners. No sooner has the flock, previously on wing, alighted, than the whole party plume themselves, and then perform