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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/74

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Muscicapa Selbii.


The works of every student of nature are always pleasing to me, and it is with delight that I see the number of such students daily increasing; but when I meet with one who, regardless of the labour attending upon figuring in their full size the objects from which he has derived his knowledge, my heart expands, and I hail his name with enthusiasm. Mr Selby's great work is so well known to the scientific world, that I need only here mention the favour which its accomplished author has conferred upon me by permitting me to decorate one of my pages with his name, in quality of foster-father to a beautiful and hitherto unknown species of Fly-catcher.

As this bird, to the day on which my engraving of it appeared, had not been described, or, in as far as I know, obtained by any other person than myself, notwithstanding the great number of individuals who have of late years been searching our States for new and rare species, it must be considered as of very unfrequent occurrence, and probably as seldom going farther north or east than the place where I discovered it. Moreover, it is so scarce even there, that in all my walks I only shot three individuals, in the course of nine years. In no instance have I been able to cultivate its society longer than a few minutes, as, before it might escape from me, I was obliged to shoot it, in order to satisfy myself that it was indeed a different bird from any figured or described in books.

My journal, under the date of 1st July 1821, contains the following statement:—"I found this bird about three miles from St Francisville in Louisiana, whilst engaged in searching for a Turkey, which I had wounded. It was afternoon, and the heat oppressive. I saw it innocently approaching us until within a few yards, anxiously looking, as if trying to discover our intentions; but as we stood motionless, it once came so near that I could easily have reached it with my gun barrel. It moved nimbly among the twigs of the low bushes, making now and then short dashes at flies, which it swallowed after killing them under foot, as many other Fly-catchers are in the habit of doing, then peeping at us, and again setting off in pursuit of flies. The snapping of its bill