Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
(State Bird of Colorado)
CORYDALINA BICOLOR, Towns.
PLATE CCII.--MALE AND FEMALE.
This species, of which there are in my possession several specimens,
presented to me by my friend Mr. NUTTALL, was discovered by that zealous
naturalist and his companion Mr. TOWNSEND on the plains of the Platte, and
briefly characterized in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of
Philadelphia. From its general appearance, and especially from what is known of
its habits, I consider it closely allied to the Rice Bunting, Dolichonyx
oryzivora; I have adopted the appellation given by its discoverers, the latter
of whom has favoured me with the following notice respecting it.
"The Prairie Finch inhabits a portion of the Platte country, in large
flocks. It is strictly gregarious, and feeds upon the ground, along which it
runs like the Grass Finch, Fringilla graminea, to which it is somewhat allied.
As the large flocks, consisting of from sixty to a hundred individuals, were
started from the ground by our caravan in passing, the piebald appearance of the
males and females promiscuously intermingled, presented a curious, but by no
means unpleasing, effect. While the flock is engaged in feeding, the males are
frequently observed to rise suddenly to a considerable height in the air, and
poising themselves over their companions, with their wings in constant and rapid
motion, they become nearly stationary. In this situation they pour forth a
number of very lively and sweetly modulated notes, and at the expiration of
about a minute descend to the ground, and course about as before. I never
observed this bird to the west of the Black Hills."
Mr. NUTTALL'S notice respecting it is as follows:--"On the 24th of May,
soon after crossing the north branch of the Platte, we met with this very
interesting species of Fringilla. The males associated in flocks with the
Cow-birds, uttering a most delightful song. Towards evening in particular, we
sometimes saw them in all directions around us on the hilly grounds, rising to a
little height, hovering and flapping their wings, at the same time singing
something like weet, weet, wt, wt, wt, notes betwixt the hurried warble of the
Bob-o-link, and the melody of the Sky Lark. It is in short one of the sweetest
songsters of the prairie, is tame and unsuspicious, the whole employment of the
little band being an ardent emulation of song."
FRINGILLA BICOLOR, Prairie Finch, Towns., Jour. Acad. Nat. Sc. Phil.,vol. vii. p. 189
PRAIRIE FINCH, Fringilla bicolor, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 19.
Bill short, robust, conical, compressed; upper mandible a little narrower,
with the dorsal line very slightly convex, the ridge slightly prolonged on the
forehead, the sides convex and bulging, the edges direct, the gap-line nearly
straight, deflected at the base, the tip sharp and a little exceeding that of
the lower mandible; the angle of the latter short and very broad, the dorsal
line ascending and slightly convex, the back broad, the sides rounded, the edges
inflected, the tip pointed. Nostrils basal, oval, in a very short deep
depression, nearly concealed by the feather's.
Head rather large; neck short; body full. Feet of ordinary length, rather
strong; tarsus of moderate length, compressed, anteriorly covered with seven
scutella, behind with two plates meeting so as to form a very thin edge; toes of
moderate size, the hind toe stouter, the lateral equal. Claws rather long,
arched, much compressed, laterally grooved, tapering to a very acute point.
Plumage soft and blended, the feathers ovate and rounded. There are
distinct but small bristles at the base of the upper mandible. Wings of
moderate length; the outer three quills nearly equal, the second being longest,
the fourth slightly shorter than the third; outer secondaries broadly rounded
and emarginate; inner tapering to a rounded point, one of them, when the wing is
closed, little shorter than the outer primaries. Tail of moderate length, a
little rounded, the lateral feathers shorter than the longest by two and a half
The bill is light blue, the upper mandible somewhat dusky along the ridge;
the feet and claws reddish-brown. The general colour of the plumage is
greyish-black, the rump blackish-grey. The quills are blackish-brown, the inner
secondaries black. There is a large patch of white on the wing including some
of the smaller coverts, the tips of the first row, and the secondary coverts;
the primaries and outer secondaries are narrowly, the inner secondaries broadly
margined with white, with which most of them are also tipped. The middle
tail-feathers are black, the rest brownish-black, all narrowly edged with white,
and having a narrow speck of the same at the end of the inner web. Some of the
feathers on the abdomen and the lower tail-coverts are also tipped with white.
Length to end of tail 7 inches; bill along the ridge (7 1/4)/12, along the
edge of lower mandible 7/12; wing from flexure 3 5/12; tail 2 8/12; tarsus
(11 1/4)/12, hind toe (4 1/4)/12, its claw (4 1/2)/12 middle toe 8/12, its claw
The female, which is smaller than the male, differs greatly in colour. The
bill is dusky above, pale beneath; the feet as in the male. The upper parts are
greyish-brown, streaked with dusky brown, the lower white, with oblong spots of
brownish-black, the abdomen nearly pure, the sides tinged with reddish-brown.
The quills are dark brown, edged and tipped with reddish-white, and the patch on
the wing is of the same tint. The tail feathers are also dark brown, the outer
externally edged, and all tipped with white on the inner web.
Length to end of tail 6 1/2 inches; bill along the ridge (5 1/4)/12; wing
from flexure 3 1/2; tail 2 5/12; tarsus 11/12; hind toe 4/12, its claw 4/12;
middle toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw (3 1/4)/12.