Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
HUDSON'S BAY TITMOUSE.
PARUS HUDSONICUS, Lath.
PLATE CXXVIII.--MALE, FEMALE, AND YOUNG.
Nothing ever gave me more pleasure than the meeting with a bird long since
discovered, at a time when I could fully study its habits. I had frequently
searched for this interesting little Titmouse in the State of Maine, where it
breeds, but always without success, nor was it until I visited Labrador, that I
had an opportunity of seeing it.
On the 18th of July, after an early breakfast (at three o'clock), my party,
accompanied by our captain and myself, left the Ripley in three boats for the
main shore, distant about five miles. Although the fog was thick, the wind was
fair, and we reached the land in safety, when we immediately commenced our
search for birds. Having traversed an extensive marsh, without finding any
thing of interest, the captain and I, fatigued and depressed by our want of
success, retired to what in that country is called a wood, with the hope of
mending our fortune. We separated and with great difficulty made our way among
the stubborn tangled trees. Only a few minutes had elapsed when the report of
my companion's gun reached my ear, and I at the same time heard him shout to me
to come up as quickly as possible. This I managed to do after awhile, and with
much tugging and tearing; but as I approached him I heard with joy the notes of
the Canada Titmouse. One had been shot, and a nest had been found. Securing
both the parents and the young, which had leaped out on hearing the guns, we sat
down to examine the curious fabric the birds had reared for their brood.
The nest was placed at the height of not more than three feet from the
around, in the hollow of a decayed low stump, scarcely thicker than a man's leg,
the whole so rotten that it crumbled to pieces on being touched. I cautiously
removed the woody enclosure, and took possession of the nest, which I obtained
in perfect order. It was shaped like a purse, eight inches in depth, two in
diameter inside, its sides about half an inch thick. It was entirely composed
of the finest fur of different quadrupeds, but principally of the great northern
hare, so thickly and ingeniously matted throughout, that it looked as if it had
been felted by the hand of man. It was quite elastic throughout, and rather
wider at the bottom, probably in consequence of the natural growth of the young.
The captain told me that he had seen the parents enter the stump, and that on
his walking towards it he was immediately assailed, not only by the owners of
the nest, but by several other pairs of the same species, all of which, however,
had retired when I reached the spot. It is probable they had nests in the
vicinity, but we did not succeed in finding any. The male, which was shot last,
several times flew at me so close, that I attempted to catch it alive, but it
always eluded my grasp with dexterity, perched on a low branch, and emitted its
angry te-te-te-tee. The young I carried on board alive.
This hardy little bird resembles in its manners the other species of its
interesting and beautiful tribe; but as the habits of our Titmice are well
known, and have been already spoken of by me, I shall not here trouble you with
unnecessary repetitions. Its notes resemble those of the Carolina Titmouse, but
are much weaker.
This species is much scarcer in those parts of Labrador which I visited
than in Newfoundland, where I found it as abundant as our northern Black-headed
Titmouse. The old and young birds were moving in groups in the direction of
Nova Scotia, whither I suppose they all retire in the autumn, and where I have
seen the species along the roads between Halifax and Windsor. Many breed in
that province, as well as in New Brunswick, and, as I have said, in Maine, where
my young friend LINCOLN has at times found them. None have ever been seen as
far south as even Massachusetts.
I have represented the male, the female, and the young, in the plumage in
which I found them. The brown of the head is much duller in winter than in
summer. The young do not acquire it until towards the spring following their
PARUS HUDSONICUS, Lath. Ind. Orn., vol. ii. p. 566.
HUDSON'S BAY TITMOUSE, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 543.
Adult Male, in summer.
Bill short, straight, of moderate strength, somewhat conical, compressed
towards the end; both mandibles with the dorsal outline a little convex, the
sides sloping and slightly convex, the edges sharp, the tip acute. Nostrils
basal, roundish, concealed by the recumbent feathers. The general form is
slender. Feet proportionally large; tarsus of moderate length, anteriorly
covered with a few long scutella, and sharp behind; hind toe very large and
strong, the two lateral nearly equal, the outer united at the base with the
middle; claws large, arched, much compressed, very acute.
Plumage blended, tufty. Wings of moderate length, the fourth quill
longest, fifth almost equal, third scarcely shorter than fourth, first very
short. Tail long, much rounded, of twelve rather narrow, rounded feathers.
Bill black. Iris very dark brown. Feet lead-colour. The general tint of
the upper parts is dull leaden, tinged with light brown, the head umber brown;
primaries edged with pale greyish-blue. The throat and fore neck are deep
black, that colour being separated from the brown of the head by a broad band of
white running under the eye. The breast and belly greyish-white, the sides
Length 5 inches, extent of wings 7; bill along the ridge (3 1/2)/12, along
the edge 5/12; tarsus 7/12, middle toe with the claw 6/12, hind toe the same.
Adult Female, in summer.
The female resembles the male, but the upper parts are deeply tinged with
brown, and the head and throat are of a lighter tint.
Young fully fledged.
Bill greyish-blue. Upper parts of a dull greenish-grey. The throat marked
as in the adult, the under parts pale greyish, tinged with brown.
The plant represented in this plate is abundant in Labrador, Newfoundland,
and our Northern States. It is a species of Prunus, and attains a height of
eight or ten feet.