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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/383

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REPUBLICAN OR CLIFF SWALLOW.

about three hundred feet in the air, and at ten in the morning took their departure, flying in a loose body, in a direction due north. They returned the same evening about dusk, and continued these excursions, no doubt to exercise their powers, until the third, when, uttering a farewell cry, they shaped the same course at the same hour, and finally disappeared. Shortly after their departure, I was informed that several hundreds of their nests were attached to the Court-House at the mouth of the Kentucky River. They had commenced building them in 1815. A person likewise informed me, that, along the cliffs of the Kentucky, he had seen many bunches, as he termed them, of these nests attached to the naked shelving rocks overhanging that river.

Being extremely desirous of settling the long-agitated question respecting the migration or supposed torpidity of Swallows, I embraced every opportunity of examining their habits, carefully noted their arrival and disappearance, and recorded every fact connected with their history. After some years of constant observation and reflection, I remarked that among all the species of migratory birds, those that remove farthest from us, depart sooner than those which retire only to the confines of the United States; and, by a parity of reasoning, those that remain later return earlier in the spring. These remarks were confirmed, as I advanced towards the south-west on the approach of winter, for I there found numbers of Warblers, Thrushes, &c. in full feather and song. It was also remarked that the Hirundo viridis of Wilson (called by the French of Lower Louisiana, Le Petit Martinet à ventre blanc) remained about the City of New Orleans later than any other Swallow. As immense numbers of them were seen during the month of November, I kept a diary of the temperature from the third of that month, until the arrival of Hirundo purpurea. The following notes are taken from my journal, and as I had excellent opportunities, during a residence of many years in that country, of visiting the lakes to which these Swallows were said to resort, during the transient frosts, I present them with confidence.

November 11.—Weather very sharp, with a heavy white frost. Swallows in abundance during the whole day. On inquiring of the inhabitants if this was a usual occurrence, I was answered in the affirmative by all the French and Spaniards. From this date to the 22d, the thermometer averaged 65°, the weather generally a drizzly fog. Swallows playing over the city in thousands.