Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
EMBERIZA SOCIALIS, Wils.
Few birds are more common throughout the United States than this gentle and
harmless little Bunting. It inhabits the towns, villages, orchards, gardens,
borders of fields, and prairie grounds. Abundant in the whole of the Middle
States during spring, summer, and autumn; it removes to the southern parts to
spend the winter, and there you may meet with it in flocks almost anywhere, even
in the open woods. So social is it in its character that you see it at that
season in company with the Song Sparrow, the White-throated, the Savannah, the
Field, and almost every other species of the genus. The sandy roads exposed to
the sun's rays are daily visited by it, where, among the excrement of horses and
cattle, it searches for food, or among the tall grasses of our old fields it
seeks for seeds, small berries, and insects of various kinds. Should the
weather be cold it enters the barnyard, and even presents itself in the piazza.
It reaches Louisiana, the Carolinas, and other southern districts in November,
and returns about the middle of March to the Middle and Eastern States, where it
Early in May the Chipping Sparrow has already formed its nest, which it has
placed indifferently in the apple or peach tree of the orchard or garden, in any
evergreen bush or cedar, high or low, as it may best suit, but never on the
ground. It is small and comparatively slender, being formed of a scanty
collection of fine dried grass, and lined with horse or cow hair. The eggs are
four or five, of a bright greenish-blue colour, slightly marked with dark and
light-brown spots, chiefly distributed towards the larger end. They are more
pointed at the small end than is common in this genus. Although timorous, these
birds express great anxiety when their nest is disturbed, especially the female.
They generally raise two broods in the season, south of Pennsylvania, and not
unfrequently in Virginia and Maryland.
The song of this species, if song it can with propriety be called, is heard
at all hours of the day, the bird seeming determined to make up by quantity for
defect in the quality of its notes. Mounted on the topmost branch of any low
tree or bush, or on the end of a fence stake, it emits with rapidity six or
seven notes resembling the sounds produced by smartly striking two pebbles
together, each succeeding note rising in strength, although the song altogether
is scarcely louder than the chirping of a cricket. It is often heard during the
calm of a fine night, or in the warmer days of winter.
These gentle birds migrate by day; and no sooner has October returned and
mellowed the tints of the sylvan foliage, than flitting before you on the road,
you see family after family moving southward, chasing each other as if in play,
sweeping across the path, or flocking suddenly to a tree if surprised, but
almost instantly returning to the ground and resuming their line of march. At
the approach of night they throw themselves into thickets of brambles, where, in
company with several other species, they keep up a murmuring conversation until
long after dark. Their flight is short, rather irregular, and seldom more
elevated than the height of moderate-sized trees.
With the exception of the Sharp-shinned Hawk, the Marsh Hawk, and the Black
Snake, these birds have few enemies, children being generally fond of protecting
them. Little or no difference is perceptible between the sexes, and the young
acquire the full plumage of their parents at the earliest approach of spring.
I did not find one individual of the species in Newfoundland, Labrador, or
I am now of opinion that this small species is altogether confined within
the range of the United States and a small portion of the eastern adjoining
provinces. It does not extend westward beyond the head waters of the Missouri,
nor south-westward beyond the Opelousas. None were observed by the members of
my party in Texas. The Chipping Sparrow is almost as abundant in our country as
the Domestic Sparrow is in Europe, and it is nearly as familiar, though
otherwise different in its habits. Dr. BREWER has sent me the following notice
respecting it: "With hardly a single exception, it is the most numerous species
in Massachusetts. It does not, however, arrive here so soon by seven weeks as
most of the same genus, Fringilla melodia and F. graminea having commenced
incubation by the time when it makes its appearance. It is one of the most
confiding of our visitors, not unfrequently forming its nest among the vines
planted as ornaments to our piazzas. In this part of the country there appears
to exist a kind of tacit compact between the Chipping Sparrow and the Field
Sparrow, by which all the cultivated ground is appropriated to the former, while
the wild retired fields and pastures are occupied by the latter, for the purpose
of breeding. I have never met with an instance where the two species bred in
the same field. The eggs of the Chipping Sparrow measure six-eighths in length
by five-eighths in breadth." Probably the reason of the division of the tracts
of land above mentioned is, that the Field Sparrow being more shy or retiring,
and reaching the same districts at an earlier period, it has the opportunity of
choosing such grounds as suit it best, and is afterwards able to maintain its
Abundant throughout the United States. Winter resident in all the Southern
States. Not seen in Texas, Nova Scotia, or Labrador.
CHIPPING SPARROW, Fringilla socialis, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. ii. p. 127.
FRINGILLA SOCIALIS, Bonap. Syn., p. 109.
CHIPPING SPARROW, Fringilla socialis, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 497.
CHIPPING SPARROW, Fringilla socialis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 21;vol. v. p. 517.
Bill short, rather small, conical, acute; upper mandible rather narrower
than the lower, very slightly declinate at the tip, rounded on the sides, as is
the lower, which has the edges inflected and acute; the gap-line straight,
slightly deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, roundish, concealed by the
feathers. Head rather large, neck short, body robust. Legs of moderate length,
slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a few
longish scutella; toes scutellate above, free, the lateral ones nearly equal;
claws slender, greatly compressed, acute, slightly arched, that of the hind toe
Plumage soft, rather compact. Wings shortish, curved, rounded, the third
and fourth quills longest, the second nearly as long, the first little shorter.
Tail rather long, emarginate.
Bill dusky. Iris brown. Feet flesh-colour. Upper part of the head,
anterior portion of the back, and scapulars, bright chestnut, with
blackish-brown spots, the middle of each feather being of the latter colour.
Sides of the neck and rump light greyish-blue, as are the smaller wing-coverts.
Quills, larger coverts and first row of smaller, dusky, the two latter tipped
with white, the former more or less margined with chestnut. Tail dusky, the
feathers edged with pale ochre. A white line over the eye, and the lower parts
generally of a greyish-white.
Length 5 1/4 inches, extent of wings 8; bill little more than 1/4.
The female differs only in having the tints generally less intense. In
winter both have a blackish frontlet.
THE BLACK LOCUST OR FALSE ACACIA.
ROBINIA PSEUDACACIA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. iii. p. 1131. Pursch, Flor.
Amer., vol. ii. p. 487.--DIADELPHIA DECANDRIA, Linn.--LEGUMINOSAE, Juss.
This beautiful tree grows in the mountainous parts of the United States,
from Canada to Carolina. Its wood, which is of great durability, is employed
for various purposes, and particularly for gates and fence-stakes. The species
is characterized by its spinescent stipules, pendulous racemes of white,
sweet-scented flowers, and large smooth legumes. Although abundant in the
natural state, it is now planted around farms and plantations, on account of the
great value of its timber. It is besides a charming ornament of our avenues,
either in the country, or in the streets of villages and cities.