Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
EMBERIZA AMERICANA, Gmel.
PLATE CLVI.--MALE AND FEMALE.
Although this handsome Bunting may be said to be abundant in our middle
Atlantic districts, it is there much less so than in the vast prairies of the
south-west; and I consider those of the Texas to afford the localities best
adapted to its habits. There, as my companions and I were returning from the
capital of the infant republic, we were surprised to see how very numerous the
Black-throated Buntings were in every open piece of ground covered by tufts of
tall grass. They are also abundant on the open lands of Missouri and Illinois;
but rarer in Ohio, and scarce in Kentucky. They are rarely observed to pass
over South Carolina, but in Pennsylvania they are plentiful, and there breed in
every field covered with grass or grain. I have also met with them in
Massachusetts, but beyond this they are not seen to the eastward.
At the approach of the period of their removal from our Middle States
southward, the Black-throated Buntings congregate in particular localities, as
if to consult regarding their future proceedings. At this season I once went
from Philadelphia in search of them, accompanied by my friend EDWARD HARRIS, and
my son JOHN WOODHOUSE. Having reached Salem in New Jersey, we rambled some time
in the neighbourhood, and found an elevated piece of ground, closely covered
with high rank weeds, among which a great number of these birds had assembled.
It being late in July, the males were moulting, or had already acquired their
new plumage; the young, although full grown, had not yet assumed their second
clothing, in which the sexes are distinguished; and the females were generally
ragged. The birds were at first quite gentle, but after we had fired a few
times they all flew off to a considerable distance, from which, however, they
soon returned. On our continuing to harass them, they rose high in the air, and
flew out of our sight in a southwardly direction. They had then undoubtedly
began migrating. These birds are very partial to particular localities. Sandy
soil, unmixed with clay or earth, is not favourable to them; and it is probably
for this reason that none are found in any purely sandy part of the State of New
The Black-throated Buntings reach our Middle States about the 10th or 15th
of May, and at once betake themselves to the dry meadow lands and grain fields,
where they soon after begin to breed. The males are often observed perched on
the top branches of the shade trees found in those places, and engaged in
delighting their mates with their simple ditty, which, according to Mr. NUTTALL,
resembles 'tic 'tic-tshe tshe tshe tshe, and tship tship, tsche tsche tsche
tschip. To my ears the notes of our Black-throated Bunting so much resemble
those of the Corn Bunting of Europe, Emberiza miliaria, that I have often been
reminded of the one by hearing the song of the other. These unmusical notes are
almost continuously uttered from sunrise to sunset, and all this while the
female is snugly seated on her eggs, and listening to her beloved. He often
visits her, alighting within a few yards of where she is concealed, and then
cautiously proceeding toward the spot on foot, through the grass. When the bird
leaves the nest, it creeps along to some distance, and then flies off low over
About the first of June the nest is formed. It is constructed of fine
grass neatly woven in a circular form, and is partly imbedded in the soil, and
sheltered or concealed by a tuft of herbage. The eggs, usually five, are six
and a half eighths in length, four and three-fourths in breadth, of a sullied
white, generally sprinkled with faint touches of different tints of umber. In
Pennsylvania, it seldom rears more than one brood in the season; but in the
Texas, I have reason to believe that it raises two.
The flight of this bird, when it has settled in a place, is usually of
short extent. The male, while passing to and from the nest, exhibits a
quivering motion of the wings. The female seldom shews this, unless when her
property is in danger from intruders. While travelling, which they always do by
day, they pass high over the trees, in flocks of thirty or forty, which suddenly
alight at the approach of night, and throw themselves into the most
thickly-leaved trees, where they repose until dawn. I have surprised them in
such situations both in Kentucky and in Louisiana, and on shooting into the
place to which they had betaken themselves, although I could not see them, have
procured several at one discharge; which proved in one instance to be males, and
in the other females, thus shewing that the sexes travel separately. On such
occasions, the survivors would sally forth, make a few rapid evolutions, and
alight on the same tree.
In spring, I have found them, on two or three occasions, near Natchez, in
the State of Mississippi, in meadows, in company with Bob-o-links, Dolichonyx
oryzivora. On the ground they leap or hop, but never walk. Their flesh is
good, especially that of the young birds.
Breeds abundantly in Texas and all the Western Prairies; less so from
Virginia to Massachusetts. Rare in Ohio and Kentucky. Migratory.
BLACK-THROATED BUNTING, Emberiza Americana, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. i.p. 411.
FRINGILLA AMERICANA, Bonap. Syn., p. 107.
BLACK-THROATED BUNTING, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 461.
BLACK-THROATED BUNTING, Emberiza Americana, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv.p. 579.
Bill very stout; tail-feathers acute. Male with the upper part of the
head, the cheeks, and the hind neck dark ash-grey, faintly streaked with dusky;
loral space whitish, a band over the eye, and a patch below the cheek, yellow;
the fore part of the back greyish-brown, with longitudinal streaks of
brownish-black, the hind part brownish-grey; the smaller wing-coverts bright
chestnut; chin white, throat black; the lower neck and part of the breast,
yellow, the rest of the breast and abdomen, white. Female similar to the male,
but paler, and without the black patch on the throat.
Male, 6 1/2, 10 3/8.
In an adult male, the roof of the mouth has anteriorly three longitudinal
ridges, and two lateral grooves; the palate descends obliquely, and at its
anterior part has a distinct prominence of a softish texture; from which there
passes backwards and outwards, a large soft ridge on each side of the nasal
aperture, which is linear and papillate. The tongue is 5 1/2 twelfths long,
narrow, deep, trigonal, deeply emarginate and papillate at the base, soft for
half its length, convex and hard towards the end, which terminates with bristly
points. The oesophagus,
[a b c d],
is 2 1/2 inches long, dilated along the
greater part of the neck into a kind of crop, [b], 5 twelfths in diameter, lying
on the right side along with the trachea. The proventriculus, [c d], is not
much enlarged. The stomach, [e f] is a strong gizzard, of a broad elliptical
form, 7 1/2 twelfths in length, 6 1/2 twelfths in breadth. Its contents are
small hard seeds, a few remains of insects, and some particles of sand. The
epithelium is very tough, longitudinally rugous, and of a dark reddish-brown
colour. The intestine, [f g h], is 8 1/2 inches long, its greatest diameter 2
twelfths. The rectum, [j k l], is 9 twelfths long; the coeca, [j], extremely
small, being 1 1/2 twelfths long and 1/2 twelfth in diameter.
The trachea, which is 1 inch 10 twelfths long, is rather wide, flattened,
of uniform diameter, measuring 1 3/4 inches across, the rings about 55, and
ossified. The contractor muscles are of moderate strength; the sterno-tracheal
slender; and there are four pairs of inferior laryngeal. The bronchi have about
15 half rings.
In its habits, this bird closely resembles the Common or Corn Bunting of
Europe, its flight and notes being almost the same. Like it, our bird alights
on walls, fences, detached rocks, or eminences of any kind, where it is often
seen even in the immediate neighbourhood of our cities. Indeed, I have found it
in full song perched on the trees that ornament the squares of Washington city.
In the form of its bill it also agrees with the Buntings, although that organ is
proportionally longer and less attenuated toward the end. If, on the principle
of minute division, it is not admitted into the genus Emberiza, it must at least
occupy a place in its immediate proximity.
The plants represented are the Phalaris arundinacea and Antirrhinum
linaria, both common in many parts of the United States, as well as in Europe;
the former growing in wet meadows and by the sides of rivers, the latter in
fields and waste places, a troublesome weed, very difficult to be extirpated.