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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/231

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203
AMERICAN REDSTART.

giving chase to various birds, snapping at them without any effect, as if solely for the purpose of keeping up the natural liveliness of its disposition.

The young males of this species do not possess the brilliancy and richness of plumage which the old birds display, until the second year, the first being spent in the garb worn by the females; but, towards the second autumn, appear mottled with pure black and vermilion on their sides. Notwithstanding their want of full plumage, they breed and sing the first spring like the old males.

I have looked for several minutes at a time on the ineffectual attacks which this bird makes on wasps while busily occupied about their own nests. The bird approaches and snaps at them, but in vain; for the wasp elevating its abdomen, protrudes its sting, which prevents its being seized. The male bird is represented in the plate in this posture.

Its nest is generally made on a low bush or sapling, and has the appearance of hanging to the twigs. It is slight, and is composed of lichens and dried fibres of rank weeds or grape vines, nicely lined with soft cottony materials. The female lays from four to six white eggs, sprinkled with ash-grey and blackish dots. It rears only a single brood in a season. The old birds, I am inclined to think, leave the United States a month or three weeks before the young, some of which linger in the deep swamps of the States of Mississippi and Louisiana until the beginning of November.


Muscicapa Ruticilla, Linn, Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 236.—Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. ii. p. 473.—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 68.

American Redstart, Muscicapa Ruticilla, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. i. p. 103, Pl. vi. fig. 6. adult male; vol. v. p. 119. Pl. 45, fig. 2, young.—Lath. Synops. vol. iv. p. 427.


Adult Male. Plate XL. Fig. 1.

Bill of ordinary length, depressed at the base, compressed toward the tip, acute; upper mandible slightly notched, and deflected at the tip; lower straight. Nostrils basal, lateral, linear. Head and neck of moderate size. Body rather slender. Feet moderately long, slender; tarsus covered with short scutella before, with a longitudinal keeled plate behind, longer than the middle toe; toes slender, free; claws small, weak, slightly arched, compressed, acute.