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THE BLUEBIRD (Sialia Wilsonii).
1. THE bluebird, which is found in great numbers in the Southern States during winter, visits the north in early spring, frequently while the snow is on the ground; and so fond is he of his old haunts,1 that even in mid-winter, after a few days of mild weather, he reappears
among us, enlivening even a day of sunshine by his cheerful
2. His fondness for his mate, and solicitude2 to please her, have often been noticed and admired. Says a curious and correct observer: "He uses the tenderest expressions, sits close by her, and sings to her his most endearing warblings. When seated together, if he espies an insect delicious to her taste, he takes it up, flies with it to her, spreads his wing over her, and puts it into her mouth. If a rival makes his appearance, he attacks and pursues the intruder as he shifts from place to place, in tones that bespeak the jealousy of his affection; conducts him, with many reproofs, beyond the extremities of his territory, and returns to warble out his transports of triumph beside his beloved mate."
3. The summer song of the bluebird is a soft, agreeable warble, usually accompanied with a gentle quivering of the wings; but when the cold blasts of autumn threaten the ap proach of winter, it changes to a single plaintive note, like a sigh at leaving the endeared objects of his northern home. No wonder that the society of the bluebird is courted by the inhabitants of the country, and that the farmers are so willing to provide for it, in some suitable place, a snug little summerhouse, ready fitted, and rent free. For this he more than sufficiently repays them by the cheerfulness of his song, and the multitude of injurious insects which he daily destroys,
4. "When winter's cold tempests and snows are no more,
And cloud-cleaving geese to the north are all steering;
When red glow the maples, so fresh and so pleasing,
And hails, with his warblings, the charms of the season.
5. "He flits through the orchard, he visits each tree,
The red flowering peach, and the apple's sweet blossoms,
And seizes the caitiffs' that lurk in their bosoms;
The worms from their beds where they riot and welter ;^
And all that he asks is, in summer, a shelter.
6. "But when the gay scenes of the summer are o'er, And autumn slow enters, so silent and sallow," And millions of warblers that charm'd us before,
Have fled in the train of the sun-seeking swallow,
Still lingers and looks for a milder to-morrow,
He sings his adieu in a lone note of sorrow.
7. "While spring's lovely season, serene, dewy, warm,
The green face of earth, and the pure blue of heaven,
Or sympathy's glow to our feelings is given,
His voice, like the thrillings of hope, is a treasure;
He comes to remind us of sunshine and pleasure."
1 HÄUNTS (like a in far), place of resort.
2 SO.LI'-CI-TUDE, anxiety.
3 SHIFTS, moves.
BE-SPEAK', show; indicate.
8. In his motions and general character the bluebird has great resemblance to the robin redbreast of Britain, and had he the brown olive of that bird, instead of his own blue, he could hardly be distinguished from him. Like him he is known to almost every child, and shows as much confidence in man by associating with him in summer, as the other by his familiarity in winter.
15 €AI'-TIFF, a captive; a rascal.
6 WEL'-TER, to roll or wallow.
7 SAL'-LOW, having a yellow color, like the color of the leaves in autumn.
THE CLEFT-BILLS (FISSIROSTRES).
Scale of Inches.
1. Night-hawk, Caprimulgus Americanus. 2. Green Tody, Todus viridis. 3. Barnswallow, Hirundo rustica. 4. Kingfisher, Alcedo alcyon. 5. Trogon, Trogon pavoninus. 6. African Blue-headed Bee-eater, Merops ceruleo-cephalus. 7. Royal Great-crest, Todus regius.
1. THIS division of the perching birds is readily distinguished from all others by the beak, which is short, but broad, and very deeply cleft, so that the opening of the mouth is extremely wide. The principal home of these birds is in tropical countries. Some species are found in the temperate zone during the warm season of the year, but on the approach of winter they depart to more congenial2 climes. They have been divided into the following six families: Nightjars, or Night-hawks, Bee-eaters, Swallows, Todies, Trogons, and Kingfishers.
2. Among the night-jars are included the common goatsucker of Europe, our common night-hawk, whippoorwill, and chuck-wills-widow, and also a South American night
hawk, known as the guacharo.3 All these birds are nocturnal in their habits, like the owls; their voices are often harsh and strange, and that of the chuck-wills-widow is seldom heard in cloudy weather, and never when it rains.
3. The male of the common night-hawk is frequently seen toward evening mounting in the air by several quick movements of the wings, then a few slower, uttering all the while a sharp, harsh squeak, till, having gained the highest point, he suddenly dives head foremost, and with great rapidity, down sixty or eighty feet, wheeling up again as suddenly, and making at the same time a loud booming sound, which is probably caused by his suddenly opening his capacious mouth as he passes rapidly through the air.*
"And, in mid air, the sportive night-hawk, seen
Of level pinions" dark; but, when upturn'd
Against the brightness of the western sky,
One white plume shining in the midst of each;
Then far down diving with a hollow sound."-C. WILCOX.
5. The whippoorwill, which greatly resembles the nighthawk, is a bird found only in America, and is noted for its peculiar song, which seems very plainly to articulate the syllables which compose its name. This bird is first heard in our Northern States about the beginning of May, generally at dusk, and through the evening. Toward midnight it generally becomes silent, but its notes burst forth again at early dawn, and continue till the beams of the rising sun scatter the darkness that overhung the face of Nature.
* This is the opinion of Wilson, the ornithologist; but Audubon thinks the sound is produced by the sudden outspreading of the wings of the bird to arrest its rapid flight.
To the red roses and the herbs, doth find
I hear thee oft at midnight, when the thrush
And the green roving linnet are at rest,
7. The chuck-wills-widow, which is a near relative of the whippoorwill, although seldom found north of Virginia and Tennessee, is so called from its notes, which seem to articulate the syllables of its name with wonderful distinctness. The tones of its voice are stronger and more full than those of the whippoorwill, and, like the latter, it keeps up a continual noise during the evening, and, in moonlight, throughout the whole of the night. Neither this bird nor the whippoorwill makes any nest, but both deposit1 their eggs on the dry leaves in the woods.
8. The bee-eaters, which derive their name from their great partiality for bees and wasps, are entirely confined to the Eastern hemisphere. The swallows, which include the martins, chimney-swallows, barn-swallows, bank-swallows, swifts, and a few other species, are a widely-dispersed and wellknown family, resembling the night-jars in the deep clefts of their bills, but differing from them in being active during the day. ✓
9. Speaking of swallows, Sir Humphrey Davy observes, "The swallow is one of my favorite birds, and a rival of the nightingale; for he glads my sense of seeing as much as the other does my sense of hearing. He is the joyous prophet of the year-the harbinger of the best season. He lives a life of enjoyment among the loveliest forms of Nature. Winter is unknown to him; and he leaves the green meadows of England in autumn for the myrtle and orange-groves of Italy, and for the palms of Africa."
10. A French writer, the Duke of Nemours, gives the following account of what fell under his own observation: “I observed," he says, "a swallow which had unhappily, and I can not imagine in what manner, slipped its foot into a knot of pack-thread, the other end of which was attached to a spout of the college building. Its strength was exhausted.