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Swainson's Swamp-Warbler


Swainson's Swamp-Warbler


The definitive website on wildbirds & nature



Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.

VOLUME II.

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SWAINSON'S SWAMP-WARBLER.
[Swainson's Warbler.]

HELINAIA SWAINSONII, Aud.
[Limnothlypis swainsonii.]

PLATE CIV.--MALE.

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 history.

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 essentially.

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 works.

SWAINSON'S WARBLER, Sylvia Swainsonii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 563;vol. v. p. 462.

Adult.

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 rounded feathers.

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.

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