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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/224

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Sylvia Formosa, Wils.

PLATE XXXVIII. Male and Female.

This beautiful species is the most common and abundant that visits the State of Louisiana and those situated on the borders of the Mississippi. In Kentucky it is much less common, and in the State of Ohio scarcer still. It is an extremely active and lively bird. It is found in all the low grounds and damp places near water-courses, and generally among the tall rank weeds and low bushes growing in rich alluvial soil. Continually in motion, it is seen hopping in every direction from stalk to stalk, or from one twig to another, preying upon insects and larvæ, or picking small berries, seldom, however, pursuing insects on wing. During spring, its agreeable notes are heard in every quarter. They are emphatic, and resemble the words tweedle, tweedle, tweedle, distinctly repeated. This little bird is seen at intervals of a few minutes on the skirts of the tail plants, peeping cunningly to discover whether any intruders may be near; after which it immediately re-enters the thicket, and repeats its little ditty.

I never saw this bird fly farther than a few yards at a time. Its flight is low, and performed in a quick gliding manner, the bird throwing itself into the nearest bush or thicket of tall grass. It arrives in the Southern States, from Mexico, about the middle of March, and remains with us until the middle of September, during which time it rears two broods. Its nest is small, beautifully constructed, and usually attached to several stems of rank weeds. The outer parts are formed of the bark of stalks of the same weeds in a withered state, mixed with a finer kind and some cottony substances. It is beautifully lined with the cottony or silky substance that falls from the Cotton-wood tree. The eggs are from four to six, of a pure white colour, finely sprinkled with bright red dots.

This species destroys great numbers of spiders, which it frequently obtains by turning over the withered leaves on the ground. The young males do not attain the full beauty of their plumage until the first spring, and resemble the mother during their stay with us the first season