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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/498

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Fringilla maritima, Wils.

PLATE XCIII. Male and Female.

The monotonous chirpings which one hears in almost every part of our maritime salt-marshes, are produced by this bird and another nearly allied to it. The Sea-side Finch may be seen at any hour of the day, during the months of May and June, mounted on the tops of the rankest weeds which grow by the margins of tide-waters along the greater portion of our Atlantic coast, whence it pours forth with much emphasis the few notes of which its song is composed. When one approaches it, it either seeks refuge amongst the grass, by descending along the stalks and blades of the weeds, or flies off to a short distance, with a continued flirting of its wings, then alights with a rapid descent, and runs off with great nimbleness. I am inclined to believe that it rears two broods in the season, as I have found birds of this species sitting on their eggs early in May, and again in the beginning of July. The nest is placed so close to the ground that one might suppose it partly sunk in it, although this is not actually the case. It is composed of coarse grasses externally, and is lined with finer kinds, but exhibits little regularity in its structure. The eggs are from four to six, of an elongated oval form, greyish-white, freckled with brown all over. The male and the female sit alternately, and will not fly off at the sight of man, unless he attempts to catch them on the nest, when they skulk off as if badly wounded. Many nests may be found in the space of a few acres of these marshes, where the land is most elevated, and where small shrubs are seen. They select these spots, because they are not liable to be overflowed by high floods, and because there are accumulated about them drifted sand, masses of sea- weed, and other castings of the sea, among which they find much food of the kind which they seem to prefer. This consists of marine insects, small crabs and snails, as well as the green sand beetle, portions of all of which I have found in their stomach.

It is very difficult to shoot them unless when they are on wing, as their movements while they run up and down the weeds are extremely rapid; but their flight is so direct and level, that a good marksman can