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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/230

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THE AMERICAN REDSTART.

Muscicapa ruticilla, Linn.

PLATE XL. Male and Female.


This is one of the most lively, as well as one of the handsomest, of our Fly-catchers, and ornaments our woods during spring and summer, when it cannot fail to attract the attention of any person who may visit the interior of the shady forests. It is to be met with over the whole of the United States, where it arrives, according to the different localities, between the beginning of March and the 1st of May. It takes its departure, on its way southward, late in September, and in the beginning of October.

It keeps in perpetual motion, hunting along the branches sidewise, jumping to either side in search of insects and larvae, opening its beautiful tail at every movement which it makes, then closing it, and flirting it from side to side, just allowing the transparent beauty of the feathers to be seen for a moment. The wings are observed gently drooping during these motions, and its pleasing notes, which resemble the sounds of Tetee-whee, Tetee-whee, are then emitted. Should it observe an insect on the wing, it immediately flies in pursuit of it, either mounts into the air in its wake, or comes towards the ground spirally and in many zig-zags. The insect secured, the lovely Redstart reascends, perches, and sings a different note, equally clear, and which may be expressed by the syllables wizz, wizz, wizz. While following insects on the wing, it keeps its bill constantly open, snapping as if it procured several of them on the same excursion. It is frequently observed balancing itself in the air, opposite the extremity of a bunch of leaves, and darting into the midst of them after the insects there concealed.

When one approaches the nest of this species, the male exhibits the greatest anxiety respecting its safety, passes and repasses, fluttering and snapping its bill within a few feet, as if determined to repel the intruder. They now and then alight on the ground, to secure an insect, but this only for a moment. They are more frequently seen climbing along the trunks and large branches of trees for an instant, and then shifting to a branch, being, as I have said, in perpetual motion. It is also fond of