Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
HELINAIA SWAINSONII, Aud.
Shortly after the death of WILSON, one of the wise men of a certain city in
the United States, assured the members of a Natural History Society there, that
no more birds would be found in the country than had been described by that
justly celebrated writer. Had the assertions however been made in the hearing
of that ornithologist, he would doubtless at once have refuted the speech of
this extraordinary orator, who continued as follows:--"No more Finches, no more
Hawks, no more Owls, no more Herons, and certainly no more Pigeons; and as to
Water birds, let the list given by WILSON of such as he has not described be
filled, and again I say, there will end the American Ornithology." The author
has travelled much, having gone a few miles to the eastward of his own city, and
even crossed the Mississippi; but, as he had predicted, he never discovered a
bird in all his wanderings. Time passed on, and the orator has dreamed over it;
but several industrious students of nature, doubting if all that he had said
might really be strictly correct to the letter, have followed in the track of
WILSON, have extended their investigations, ransacked the deep recesses of the
forests and the great western plains, visited the shores of the Atlantic,
ascended our noble streams, and explored our broadest lakes;--and, reader, they
have found more new birds than the learned academician probably knew of old
ones. Then, be not surprised when I assure you that our BONAPARTES, our
NUTTALLS, our BACHMANS, our COOPERS, PICKERINGS, TOWNSENDS, PEALES, and other
zealous naturalists, have very considerably augmented the Fauna of the United
States. To the list of these amiable men may be added the names of learned and
enterprising Europeans--PARRY, FRANKLIN, RICHARDSON, ROSS, DRUMMOND, and others,
who with a zeal equalled only by that of WILSON himself, have crossed the broad
Atlantic, and made discoveries in ornithology in portions of North America never
before visited, in which they have met with species that, although previously
unknown to us, have since been found to traverse the whole extent of our wide
territories. Then, reader, will you not agree with me in believing that even
now, discoveries remain to be made in a region so vast that no individual,
whatever might have been his exertions, could truly say of it that he had
explored it all?
The bird represented in the plate before you was discovered by my friend
JOHN BACHMAN, near Charleston in South Carolina, while I was in another part of
our continent, searching for the knowledge necessary to render my ornithological
biographies as interesting as possible to you:--it was in the spring of 1832,
when I was rambling over the rugged country of Labrador, that my southern friend
found the first specimen of this bird, near the banks of the Edisto river. I
have been favoured by him with the following account of it.
"I was first attracted by the novelty of its notes, four or five in number,
repeated at intervals of five or six minutes apart. These notes were loud,
clear, and more like a whistle than a song. They resembled the sounds of some
extraordinary ventriloquist in such a degree, that I supposed the bird much
farther from me than it really was; for after some trouble caused by these
fictitious notes, I perceived it near to me, and soon shot it.
"The form of its bill I observed at once to differ from all other known
birds of our country, and was pleased at its discovery. On dissection it proved
to be a male, and in the course of the same spring, I obtained two other males,
of which the markings were precisely similar. In the middle of August of that
year, I saw an old female accompanied with four young. One of the latter I
obtained: it did not differ materially from the old ones. Another specimen was
sent to me alive, having been caught in a trap. I have invariably found them in
swampy muddy placer, usually covered with more or less water. The birds which I
opened had their gizzards filled with the fragments of coleopterous insects, as
well as some small green worms that are found on water plants, such as the pond
lily (Nymphaea odorata) and the Nelumbium (Cyamus flavicomus). The manner of
this species resemble those of the Prothonotary Warbler, as it skips among the
low bushes growing about ponds and other watery places, seldom ascending high
trees. It retires southward at the close of summer."
The Azalea and Butterfly accompanying the figure of this species were
drawn by my friend's sister, Miss MARTIN, to whom I offer my sincere thanks.
Dr. T. M. BREWER informs me that a specimen of Swainson's Warbler has been
obtained in Massachusetts, by Mr. SAMUEL CABOT. This is the only instance in
which it is known to have been procured, or even observed, in that part of the
country, where nothing farther has therefore been ascertained respecting its
The species to which this approaches nearest is the Sylvia vermivora. The
bird, however, is very closely allied to the Wrens, which it greatly resembles
in the form of its bill and feet, although in the form of its wings it differs
To none of my ornithological friends could I assuredly with more propriety
have dedicated this species than to him, the excellent and learned author, whose
name you have seen connected with it--to him, who has himself traversed large
portions of America, who has added so considerably to the list of known species
of birds, and who has enriched the science of ornithology by so many valuable
SWAINSON'S WARBLER, Sylvia Swainsonii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 563;vol. v. p. 462.
Bill as long as the head, slender, straight, tapering to a point, much
compressed, the ridge rather sharp, the sides of the upper mandible at the base
declinate and flat, the edges inflected. Nostrils basal, lateral, oblong, half
filled above by a cartilaginous membrane. The form is slender and graceful.
Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus compressed, anteriorly covered with a
few long scutella, posteriorly sharp, longer than the middle toe; toes free, but
the outer united to the second joint; claws arched, very slender, very acute,
extremely compressed, with a lateral groove, the hind claw much larger.
Plumage soft, blended, slightly glossed. Wings longish, the first three
quills almost equal, the first being very slightly shorter, secondaries narrow
and rounded. Tail of ordinary length, straight, even, of twelve rather narrow
Bill light brown, darker at the tip. Iris brown. Feet and claws
flesh-coloured. The colouring of the plumage is extremely simple, the whole of
the upper parts being of a rich brown, tinged with red on the head, while the
under parts are very pale brownish-grey, the sides darker. The sides of the
head are brownish-white, the feathers tipped with brown, and a whitish line
passes over the eye.
Length 5 1/4, extent of wings 8 1/2; bill along the ridge 7/12, along the
edges 9/12; tarsus (7 1/2)/12, middle toe including the nail 3/4.
THE ORANGE-COLOURED AZALEA.
AZALEA CALENDULACEA, Mich., Flor. Amer., vol. i. p. 151. Pursch, Fl. Amer.
Sept., vol. i. p. 151.--PENTANDRIA MONOGYNIA, Linn.
Leaves oblong or lanceolate, downy on both sides; flowers large, not
viscous, of a deep orange colour, the hairy tube of the corolla shorter than its
segments. It is a native of Georgia.