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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/434

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TYRANT FLY-CATCHER.

The King Bird leaves the Middle States earlier than most other species. While migrating southwards, at the approach of winter, it flies with a strong and continued motion, flapping its wings six or seven times pretty rapidly, and sailing for a few yards without any undulations, at every cessation of the flappings. On the first days of September, I have several times observed them passing in this manner, in detached parties of twenty or thirty, perfectly silent, and so resembling the Turdus migratorius in their mode of flight, as to induce the looker-on to suppose them of that species, until he recognises them by their inferior size. Their flight is continued through the night, and by the 1st of October none are to be found in the Middle States. The young acquire the full colouring of their plumage before they leave us for the south.

The flesh of this bird is delicate and savoury. Many are shot along the Mississippi, not because these birds eat bees, but because the French of Louisiana are fond of bee-eaters. I have seen some of these birds that had the shafts of the tail-feathers reaching a quarter of an inch beyond the end of the webs.

I have placed a male and a female Field Martin on a twig of the Cotton-wood Tree. This plant is very appropriately named, for not only are the grape-like bunches of seeds filled with a beautiful soft cottony substance, but the wood can scarcely be sawed on account of the looseness of its inner fibres. It grows to a great height and size, particularly along the shores of the Mississippi and Ohio, and in all alluvial grounds to the west of the Alleghany Mountains. It is principally used for firewood and fence-rails, but is of indifferent quality for either purpose.


Muscicapa tyrannus, Briss. vol. ii. p. 391.—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 66.

Lanius tyrannus, Linn. Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 136—Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. i. p. 81.

Tyrant Shrike, Lath. Synops. vol. i. p. 184.

Tyrant Fly-catcher, Muscicapa tyrannus, Wils. Amer. Omith. vol.i i. p. 66. Pl. 13. fig. 1.


Adult Male. Plate LXXIX. Fig. 1.

Bill of moderate length, rather stout, subtrigonal, depressed at the base, straight; upper mandible with the dorsal outline nearly straight, and sloping to near the tip, which is deflected and acute, the edges sharp and overlapping; lower mandible with the back broad, the sides slanting, the end slightly declinate. Nostrils basal, lateral, roundish, partly