Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
CORYTHUS ENUCLEATOR, Linn.
PLATE CXCIX.--MALE, FEMALE, AND YOUNG.
In WILSON'S time, this beautiful bird was rare in Pennsylvania; but since
then it has occasionally been seen in considerable numbers, and in the winter of
1836, my young friend J. TRUDEAU, M. D., procured several in the vicinity of
Philadelphia. That season also they were abundant in the States of New York and
Massachusetts. Some have been procured near the mouth of the Big Guyandotte on
the Ohio; and Mr. NUTTALL has observed it on the lower parts of the Missouri. I
have ascertained it to be a constant resident in the State of Maine, and have
met with it on several islands in the Bay of Fundy, as well as in Newfoundland
and Labrador. Dr. RICHARDSON mentions it as having been observed by the
Expedition in the 50th parallel, and as a constant resident at Hudson's Bay. It
is indeed the hardiest bird of its tribe yet discovered in North America, where
even the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, though found during summer in Newfoundland and
Labrador, removes in autumn to countries farther south than the Texas, where as
late as the middle of May I saw many in their richest plumage.
The Pine Grosbeak is a charming songster. Well do I remember how delighted
I felt, while lying on the moss-clad rocks of Newfoundland, near St. George's
Bay, I listened to its continuous lay, so late as the middle of August,
particularly about sunset. I was reminded of the pleasure I had formerly
enjoyed on the banks of the clear Mohawk, under nearly similar circumstances,
when lending an attentive ear to the mellow notes of another Grosbeak. But,
reader, at Newfoundland I was still farther removed from my beloved family; the
scenery around was thrice wilder and more magnificent. The stupendous dark
granite rocks, fronting the north, as if bidding defiance to the wintry
tempests, brought a chillness to my heart, as I thought of the hardships endured
by those intrepid travellers who, for the advancement of science, had braved the
horrors of the polar winter. The glowing tints of the western sky, and the
brightening stars twinkling over the waters of the great Gulf, rivetted me to
the spot, and the longer I gazed, the more I wished to remain; but darkness was
suddenly produced by the advance of a mass of damp fog, the bird ceased its
song, and all around seemed transformed into chaos. Silently I groped my way
to the beach, and soon reached the Ripley.
The young gentlemen of my party, accompanied by my son JOHN WOODHOUSE, and
a Newfoundland Indian, had gone into the interior in search of Rein Deer, but
returned the following afternoon, having found the flies and musquitoes
intolerable. My son brought a number of Pine Grosbeaks, of different sexes,
young and adult, but all the latter in moult, and patched with dark red, ash,
black and white. It was curious to see how covered with sores the legs of the
old birds of both sexes were. These sores or excrescences are, I believe,
produced by the resinous matter of the fir-trees on which they obtain their
food. Some specimens had the hinder part of the tarsi more than double the
usual size, the excrescences could not be removed by the hand, and I was
surprised that the birds had not found means of ridding themselves of such an
inconvenience. One of the figures in my plate represents the form of these
I was assured that during mild winters, the Pine Grosbeak is found in the
forests of Newfoundland in considerable numbers, and that some remain during the
most severe cold. A lady who had resided there many years, and who was fond of
birds, assured me that she had kept several males in cages; that they soon
became familiar, would sing during the night, and fed on all sorts of fruits and
berries during the summer, and on seeds of various kinds in winter; that they
were fond of bathing, but liable to cramps; and that they died of sores produced
around their eyes and the base of the upper mandible. I have observed the same
to happen to the Cardinal and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.
The flight of this bird is undulating and smooth, performed in a direct
line when it is migrating, at a considerable height above the forests, and in
groups of from five to ten individuals. They alight frequently during the day,
on such trees as are opening their buds or blossoms. At such times they are
extremely gentle, and easily approached, are extremely fond of bathing, and
whether on the ground or on branches, move by short leaps. I have been much
surprised to see, on my having fired, those that were untouched, fly directly
towards me, until within a few feet, and then slide off and alight on the lower
branches of the nearest tree, where, standing as erect as little Hawks, they
gazed upon me as if I were an object quite new, and of whose nature they were
ignorant. They are easily caught under snow-shoes put up with a figure of four,
around the wood-cutters' camps in the State of Maine, and are said to afford
good eating. Their food consists of the buds and seeds of almost all sorts of
trees. Occasionally also they seize a passing insect. I once knew one of these
sweet songsters, which, in the evening, as soon as the lamp was lighted in the
room where its cage was hung, would instantly tune its voice anew.
My kind friend THOMAS M'CULLOCH Of Pictou in Nova Scotia, has sent me the
following notice, which I trust will prove as interesting to you as it has been
to me. Last winter the snow was exceedingly deep, and the storms so frequent
and violent that many birds must have perished in consequence of the scarcity of
food. The Pine Grosbeaks being driven from the woods, collected about the barns
in great numbers, and even in the streets of Pictou they frequently alighted in
search of food. A pair of these birds which had been recently taken were
brought me by a friend, but they were in such a poor emaciated condition, that I
almost despaired of being able to preserve them alive. Being anxious, however,
to note for you the changes of their plumage, I determined to make the attempt;
but notwithstanding all my care, they died a few days after they came into my
possession. Shortly after, I received a male in splendid plumage, but so
emaciated that he seemed little else than a mass of feathers. By more cautious
feeding, however, he soon regained his flesh and became so tame as to eat from
my hand without the least appearance of fear. To reconcile him gradually to
confinement, he was permitted to fly about my bedroom, and upon rising in the
morning, the first thing I did was to give him a small quantity of seed. But
three mornings in succession I happened to lie rather later than usual, and each
morning I was aroused by the bird fluttering upon my shoulder, and calling for
his usual allowance. The third morning, I allowed him to flutter about me some
time before shewing any symptom of being awake, but he no sooner observed that
his object was effected than he retired to the window and waited patiently until
I arose. As the spring approached, he used to whistle occasionally in the
morning, and his notes, like those of his relative the Rose-breasted Grosbeak,
were exceedingly rich and full. About the time, however, when the species began
to remove to the north, his former familiarity entirely disappeared. During the
day he never rested a moment, but continued to run from one side of the window
to the other, seeking a way of escape, and frequently during the night, when the
moonlight would fall upon the window, I was awakened by him dashing against the
glass. The desire of liberty seemed at last to absorb every other feeling, and
during four days I could not detect the least diminution in the quantity of his
food, while at the same time he filled the house with a piteous wailing cry,
which no person could hear without feeling for the poor captive. Unable to
resist his appeals, I give him his release; but when this was attained he seemed
very careless of availing himself of it. Having perched upon the top of a tree
in front of the house, he arranged his feathers, and looked about him for a
short time. He then alighted by the door, and I was at last obliged to drive
him away, lest some accident should befall him.
"These birds are subject to a curious disease, which I have never seen in
any other. Irregularly shaped whitish masses are formed upon the legs and feet.
To the eye these lumps appear not unlike pieces of lime; but when broken, the
interior presents a congeries of minute cells, as regularly and beautifully
formed as those of a honey-comb. Sometimes, though rarely, I have seen the
whole of the legs and feet covered with this substance, and when the crust has
broken, the bone was bare, and the sinews seemed almost altogether to have lost
the power of moving the feet. An acquaintance of mine kept one of these birds
during the summer months. It became quite tame, but at last it lost the power
of its legs and died. By this person I was informed that his Grosbeak usually
sang during a thunder-storm, or when rain was falling on the house."
While in the State of Maine, I observed that these birds, when travelling,
fly in silence, and at a considerable height above the trees. They alight on
the topmost branches, so that it is difficult to obtain them, unless one has a
remarkably good gun. But, on waiting a few minutes, you see the flock, usually
composed of seven or eight individuals, descend from branch to branch, and
betake themselves to the ground, where they pick up gravel, hop towards the
nearest pool or streamlet, and bathe by dipping their heads and scattering the
water over them, until they are quite wet; after which they fly to the branches
of low bushes, shake themselves with so much vigour as to produce a smart
rustling sound, and arrange their plumage. They then search for food among the
boughs of the taller trees.
Male, 8 1/2, 14. Female, 8 1/4, 13 1/2.
From Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in winter, eastward to Newfoundland.
Breeds from Maine northward. Common. Migratory.
PINE GROSBEAK, Loxia Enucleator, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. i. p. 80.
PYRRHULA ENUCLEATOR, Bonap. Syn., p. 119.
PYRRHULA (CORYTHUS) ENUCLEATOR, Pine Bullfinch,
Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 262.
PINE GROSBEAK or BULLFINCH, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 535.
PINE GROSBEAK, Pyrrhula Enucleator, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv. p. 414.
Bill short, robust, bulging at the base, conical, acute; upper mandible
with its dorsal outline convex, the sides convex, the edges sharp and
overlapping; lower mandible with the angle short and very broad, the dorsal line
ascending and slightly convex, the sides rounded, the edges inflected; the acute
decurved tip of the upper mandible extending considerably beyond that of the
lower; the gap-line deflected at the base.
Head rather large, ovate, flattened above; neck short; body full. Legs
short, of moderate strength; tarsus short, compressed, with six anterior
scutella, and two plates behind, forming a thin edge; toes short, the first
proportionally stout, the third much longer than the two lateral, which are
about equal; their scutella large, their lower surface with large pads covered
with prominent papillae. Claws rather long, arched, much compressed, laterally
grooved, and acute.
Plumage soft, full, rather blended, the feathers oblong. At the base of
the upper mandible are strong bristly feathers directed forwards. The wings of
moderate length; the primaries rounded, the second and third longest, and with
the fourth and fifth having their outer webs slightly cut out. Tail rather
long, emarginate, of twelve strong, broad, obliquely rounded feathers.
Bill reddish-brown. Iris hazel. Feet blackish-brown, claws black. The
general colour of the plumage is bright carmine, tinged with vermilion; the
feathers of the fore part of the back and the scapulars greyish-brown in the
centre; the bristly feathers at the base of the bill blackish-brown; the middle
of the breast, abdomen, and lower tail-coverts, light grey, the latter with a
central dusky streak. Wings blackish-brown; the primaries and their coverts
narrowly edged with reddish-white, the secondaries more broadly with white; the
secondary coverts and first row of small coverts tipped with reddish-white, the
smaller coverts edged with red.
Length to end of tail 8 1/2 inches, the end of wings 6 1/4, to end of claws
6 3/4; extent of wings 14; wing from flexure 4 3/4; tail 4; bill along the ridge
(7 1/2)/12, along the edge of lower mandible 7/12; tarsus (9 1/2)/12; first toe
(4 1/2)/12, its claw 5/12; middle toe 8/12, its claw 5/12.
The female is scarcely inferior to the male in size. The bill is dusky,
the feet as in the male. The upper part of the head and hind neck are
yellowish-brown, each feather with a central dusky streak; the rump
brownish-yellow; the rest of the upper parts light brownish-grey. Wings and
tail as in the male, the white edgings and the tips tinged with grey; the cheeks
and throat greyish-white or yellowish; the fore part and sides of the neck, the
breast, sides, and abdomen ash-grey, as are the lower tail-coverts.
Length to end of tail 8 1/4 inches, to end of wings 6 1/4, to end of claws
6 3/4; extent of wings 13 1/2; wing from flexure 4 1/2; tail 3 10/12; tarsus
(9 1/2)/12; middle toe and claw 1 1/12.
Young fully fledged.
The young, when in full plumage, resemble the female, but are more tinged
An adult male from Boston examined. The roof of the mouth is moderately
concave, its anterior horny part with five prominent ridges; the lower mandible
deeply concave. Tongue 4 1/2 twelfths long, firm, deflected at the middle,
deeper than broad, papillate at the base, with a median groove; for the distal
half of its length, it is cased with a firm horny substance, and is then of an
oblong shape, when viewed from above, deeply concave, with two flattened
prominences at the base, the point rounded and thin, the back or lower surface
convex. This remarkable structure of the tongue appears to be intended for the
purpose of enabling the bird, when it has insinuated its bill between the scales
of a strobilus, to lay hold of the seed by pressing it against the roof of the
mandible. In the Crossbills, the tongue is nearly of the same form, but more
slender, and these birds feed in the same manner, in so far as regards the
prehension of the food. In the present species, the tongue is much strengthened
by the peculiar form of the basi-hyoid bone, to which there is appended as it
were above a thin longitudinal crest, giving it great firmness in the
perpendicular movements of the organ. The oesophagus [a b c d],
Fig. 1, is two
inches 11 twelfths long, dilated on the middle of the neck so as to form a kind
of elongated dimidiate crop, 4 twelfths of an inch in diameter, projecting to
the right side, and with the trachea passing along that side of the vertebrae.
The proventriculus [c], is 8 twelfths long, somewhat bulbiform, with numerous
oblong glandules, its greatest diameter 4 1/2 twelfths. A very curious
peculiarity of the stomach [e], is, that in place of having its axis continuous
with that of the oesophagus or proventriculus, it bends to the right nearly at a
right angle. It is a very powerful gizzard, 8 1/2 twelfths long, 8 twelfths
broad, with its lateral muscles 1/4 inch thick, the lower very distinct, the
epithelium longitudinally rugous, of a light reddish colour. The duodenum,
[f, g], first curves backward to the length of 1 1/4 inches, then folds in the
usual manner, passing behind the right lobe of the liver; the intestine then
passes upwards and to the left, curves along the left side, crosses to the
right, forms about ten circumvolutions, and above the stomach terminates in the
rectum, which is 11 twelfths long. The coeca are 1 1/4 twelfths in length and
1/4 twelfth in diameter. The entire length of the intestine from the pylorus to
the anus is 31 1/2 inches (in another male 31); its greatest breadth in the
duodenum 2 1/2 twelfths, gradually contracting to 1 1/4 twelfths.
represents the convoluted appearance of the intestine. The oesophagus [a b c];
the gizzard [d], turned forwards; the duodenum, [e f]; the rest of the
intestine, [g h]; the coeca, [i]; the rectum, [i j], which is much dilated at
The trachea is 2 inches 2 twelfths long, of uniform diameter, 1 1/2
twelfths broad, with about 60 rings; its muscles like those of all the other
species of the Passerinae or Fringillidae.
In a female, the oesophagus is 2 inches 10 twelfths long; the intestine 31
In all these individuals and several others, the stomach contained a great
quantity of particles of white quartz, with remains of seeds; and in the
oesophagus of one was an oat seed entire.
Although this bird is in its habits very similar to the Crossbills, and
feeds on the same sort of food, it differs from them in the form and extent of
its crop, in having the gizzard much larger, and the intestines more than double
the length, in proportion to the size of the bird.