Open main menu

Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/50

This page has been validated.

( 22 )


Sylvia Protonotarius, Lath.

PLATE III. Male and Female.

I never saw this pretty bird in any of our eastern districts, and rarely farther up the Ohio than Louisville, in the neighbourhood of which place it rears its young. Louisiana seems in fact better suited to its habits than any other state, on account of its numerous lakes, creeks and lagoons, overshadowed by large trees, and which are favourite places of resort for this species. It is fond of flying over the water of these creeks and lagoons, and is seldom seen in the woods. Its flight is rapid, and more steady than is usual in birds of its genus; and as it moves along, the brightness of its colours attracts the eye. On alighting, it moves rapidly along the twigs, partly sidewise, frequently turning about and extending its neck to look under the leaves, from which it picks various kinds of insects. It often perches upon the rank grasses and water plants, in quest of minute molluscous animals which creep upon them, and which, together with small land snails, I have found in its stomach. It does not perform sorties, or sally forth after flying insects, as many other Warblers are in the habit of doing. It has a few notes for its song, which possess no interest. The males, when chasing each other, keep up a creaking noise, until the little battle is over, when they perch and balance their body with much grace and liveliness.

I have observed their arrival in Louisiana to take place, according to the state of the weather, from the middle of March to the first of April. At Henderson, in Kentucky, they do not arrive until a month later. They remain until October, but, I am inclined to believe, rear only a single brood in a season. The nest is fixed in the fork of a small twig bending over the water, and is constructed of slender grasses, soft mosses, and fine fibrous roots. The number of eggs is from four to six. I could never ascertain whether the male assists in incubation, as the difference of plumage in the sexes is not perceptible when the bird is at large, and indeed can hardly be traced when one has procured the male and the female for comparison. It cannot be called a plentiful species. To search