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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/63

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PURPLE GRAKLE OR COMMON CROW-BLACKBIRD.

Quiscalus versicolor, Vieill.

PLATE VII. Male and Female.


I could not think of any better mode of representing these birds than that which I have adopted, as it exhibits them in the exercise of their nefarious propensities. Look at them: The male, as if full of delight at the sight of the havoc which he has already committed on the tender, juicy, unripe corn on which he stands, has swelled his throat, and is calling in exultation to his companions to come and assist him in demolishing it. The female has fed herself, and is about to fly off with a well-loaded bill to her hungry and expectant brood, that, from the nest, look on their plundering parents, joyously anticipating the pleasures of which they shall ere long be allowed to participate. See how torn the husk is from the ear, and how nearly devoured the grains of corn already are! This is the tithe our Blackbirds take from our planters and farmers; but it was so appointed, and such is the will of the beneficent Creator.

These birds are constant residents in Louisiana. I say they are so, because a certain number of them, which in some countries would be called immense, is found there at all seasons of the year. No sooner has the cotton or corn planter begun to turn his land into brown furrows, than the Crow-Blackbirds are seen sailing down from the skirts of the woods, alighting in the fields, and following his track along the ridges of newly-turned earth, with an elegant and elevated step, which shews them to be as fearless and free as the air through which they wing their way. The genial rays of the sun shine on their silky plumage, and offer to the ploughman's eye such rich and varying tints, that no painter, however gifted, could ever imitate them. The coppery bronze, which in one light shews its rich gloss, is, by the least motion of the bird, changed in a moment to brilliant and deep azure, and again, in the next light, becomes refulgent sapphire or emerald-green.

The bird stops, spreads its tail, lowers its wings, and, with swelled throat and open bill, sounds a call to those which may chance to be passing near. The stately step is resumed. Its keen eye, busily engaged on either side, is immediately attracted by a grub, hastening to hide itself