Open main menu

Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/405

This page has been validated.

( 377 )

THE INDIGO BIRD.

Fringilla cyanea, Wils.

PLATE LXXIV. Male, Female, and Young.


The species here presented for inspection is best known to the Creoles of Louisiana by the name of Petit Papebleu. This is in accordance with the general practice of the first settlers of that State, who named all the Finches, Buntings, and Orioles, Papes; and all the Warblers and Fly-catchers, Grassets. They made an exception, however, in favour of the Rice Bird, which they honoured with the name of Ortolan, an appellation given in the Island of St Domingo to the Ground Dove, which, however, is seldom seen near New Orleans.

The Indigo Bird arrives in the Southern States from the direction of Mexico, along with its relative the Painted Finch, and is caught in trap-cages, but with more difficulty than the latter bird. It spreads far and wide over the United States, extending from the borders of our Atlantic shores to those of our great lakes. It is not a forest bird, but prefers the skirts of the woods, the little detached thickets in and along the fields, the meadows, the gardens, and orchards, and is frequently seen hopping along, or perched on a fence, from which it does not disdain to send forth its pretty little song. The highest top of a detached tree is, however, preferred for this purpose, and the Indigo Bird is to be observed perched on this pinnacle, singing at short intervals for half an hour at a time. Its song is at first loud and clear, falling in cadences to a very low key. The whole consists of eight or ten notes. The bird now and then launches into the air, to cross a field, and sings until it has espied a favourite spot amongst the clover, when it immediately becomes silent and dives to the ground. The whole of this parade is performed by the male, which is alone to be seen, the female at this season keeping amongst the grass or the briars along the fields, where her humble plumage hides her in a great measure from observation. Some persons have thought that this practice was changed towards the latter part of summer, when, by a casual observer, only the females are to be seen. The true reason of this, however, is, that the young birds of both sexes resemble the mother during the first season.