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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/46

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Coccyzus americanus. Bonap.

PLATE II. Male and Female.

Were I inclined, like many persons who write on Natural History, to criticise the figures given by other students, I should find enough to be censured ; but as my object is simply to communicate the result of studies to which I have devoted the greater part of my life, I shall content myself with merely recommending to those intent on the advancement of that most interesting science, to bestow a little more care on their representations of the bills, legs and feet of the species which they bring into notice, and let it be seen that they indeed borrow from nature.

From Nature!—How often are these words used, when at a glance he who has seen the perfect and beautiful forms of birds, quadrupeds or other objects, as they have come from the hand of Nature, discovers that the representation is not that of living Nature! But I am deviating from the track which I wish to follow, my desire being simply to give you an opportunity, good reader, of judging for yourself as to the truth of my delineations, and to present you with the results of my observations made in those very woods where the subjects have been found and depicted.

The flight of the bird now before you is rapid, silent, and horizontal, as it moves from one tree to another, or across a field or river, and is generally continued amongst the branches of the trees in our woods. When making its way among the branches, it occasionally inclines the body to either side, so as alternately to shew its whole upper or under parts. During its southward migration, it flies high in the air, and in such loose flocks that the birds might seem to follow each other, instead of their keeping company together. On the other hand, early in March, the greater number enter our southern boundaries singly, the males arriving first, and the females a few weeks after. They do not fly in a continued line, but in a broad front, as, while travelling with great rapidity in a steam-boat, so as to include a range of a hundred miles in one day, I have observed this Cuckoo crossing the Mississippi at many different points on the same day. At this season, they resort to the deepest