Carolina Titmouse

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Birds of America

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


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Bird Call

[Carolina Chickadee.]

[Parus carolinensis.]


It was not until 1833 that I discovered the difference as to size and habits between this bird and the Black-cap Titmouse, which inhabits the Middle and Northern States, and which has been so well described by WILSON, NUTTALL and SWAINSON. Indeed, I never was struck with the difference of size until I reached Eastport in the State of Maine, early in May 1833, when one morning my friend Lieutenant GREEN of the United States army entered my room and shewed me a Titmouse which he had just procured. The large size of his bird, compared with those met with in the south, instantly struck me.

On my return from Labrador, I immediately proceeded to Charleston in South Carolina, with a view of once more visiting the western portions of the Floridas and the whole coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In the course of conversation with my friend, the Reverend JOHN BACHMAN, I mentioned my ideas on the subject of Titmice, when he immediately told me that he had for some time been of the same mind. We both went to the Woods, and procured some specimens. I wrote to several persons of my acquaintance in Massachusetts, Maine, and Maryland, and before a month had elapsed, I received an abundant supply of the Northern species, preserved in spirits, from my friend JOHN M. BETHUNE of Boston, Lieutenant GREEN, and Colonel THEODORE ANDERSON of Baltimore. We examined and compared many individuals of both species, and satisfied ourselves that they were indeed specifically distinct.

This new species, the Carolina Titmouse, is a constant inhabitant of the Southern States, in which I have traced it from the lower parts of Louisiana through the Floridas as far as the borders of the Roanoke river, which separates North Carolina from Virginia; and it is now ascertained that this species reaches eastward as far as the State of New Jersey, where it has been procured by my friend EDWARD HARRIS. In general it is found only in the immediate vicinity of ponds and deep marshy and moist swamps, rarely during winter in greater numbers than one pair together, and frequently singly. The parent birds separate from the young probably soon after the latter are able to provide for themselves. The other species moves in flocks during the whole winter, frequenting the orchards, the gardens, or the hedges and trees along the roads, entering the villages, and coming to the wood-piles of the farmers. The southern species is never met with in such places at any time of the year, and is at all seasons a shyer bird, and more difficult to be obtained. Its notes are also less sonorous, and less frequent, than those of the Titmouse found in the Middle and Northern Districts.

My friend JOHN BACHMAN is of opinion that the smaller species partially retires from South Carolina during winter, in consequence of the small number met with there at that season. On referring to my journals, written in the Floridas, in the winter of 1831-32, I find that they are mentioned as being much more abundant than in the Carolinas, and as breeding in the swamps as early as the middle of February.

The Carolina Titmouse breeds in the holes abandoned by the Brown-headed Nuthatch; but I have not yet examined either its eggs or its nest, having at first carelessly supposed the bird to be identical with the northern species, as my predecessors had done.

My drawing of the Carolina Titmouse was made not far from New Orleans late in 1820. I have named it so, partly because it occurs in Carolina, and partly because I was desirous of manifesting my gratitude towards the citizens of that state, who by their hospitality and polite attention have so much contributed to my comfort and happiness, whenever it has been my good fortune to be among them.

A nest was presented to me by Dr. BACHMAN, who found it in a hollow stump, at the height of about four feet from the ground, is cup-shaped, two inches in diameter at the mouth internally, three externally, its depth of two inches. It is composed of fine wool, cotton, and a few fibres of plants, felted together so as to be of uniform thickness throughout. The eggs are pure white.

CAROLINA TITMOUSE, Parus Carolinensis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 341;vol. v. p. 474.

Adult Male.

Bill very short, straight, strong, compressed, rather obtuse; both mandibles with the dorsal outline slightly convex, the sides convex, the edges sharp. Nostrils basal, roundish, concealed by the recumbent feathers. Head large, neck short, body rather robust. Feet of ordinary length, rather robust; tarsus compressed, anteriorly scutellate; toes large, the three anterior united as far as the second joint, the hind one much stronger; claws rather large, compressed, arched, acute.

Plumage blended, tufty; feathers of the head glossy. Wings of moderate length, the third and fourth quills longest and equal, fifth little shorter, second longer than sixth, first and seventh about equal. Tail long, slender, slightly incurved, rounded, of twelve narrow, rounded feathers.

Bill black. Iris dark brown. Feet bluish-grey. The whole upper part of the head and the hind neck pure black, as is a large patch on the throat and fore neck. Between these patches of black, there is a band of greyish-white, from the base of the bill down the side of the neck, becoming broader and greyer behind. Back and wing-coverts ash-grey, tinged with brown. Quills brown, margined with greyish-blue, as is the tail, which is more tinged with grey. Lower parts greyish-white, tinged with brown, the sides more deeply tinted.

Length 4 1/4 inches, extent of wings 6; bill along the ridge 3/12 along the edge 5/12; tarsus (6 1/2)/12.

Adult Female.

The female is similar to the male, but somewhat fainter in its tints. THE SUPPLE JACK.

The supple jack is a species of smilax extremely abundant in all the swampy portions of the Southern States. Its slender stem entwines the trunk and branches of even the tallest trees, and, with its delicate branches, is extremely tough and pliant, one of half an inch in diameter being strong enough to suspend a body having a weight of several hundred pounds. It is frequently used instead of a cord to hang clothes upon to dry. The festoons which it forms are graceful and pleasing to the eye.

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