Family XVI.--Agelainae. Marsh Black-Birds

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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Bill of moderate length, sometimes short, seldom longer than the head, stout, straight, conical, compressed, tapering, pointed; upper mandible with the dorsal line nearly straight, the nasal sinus short and very wide, the ridge thus appearing to encroach on the forehead, the sides rounded, the edges without notch; lower mandible with the angle short and rounded, the dorsal line straight, the edges involute. Nostrils basal, roundish or oblong. Head rather large, ovate; neck short; body moderately full. Legs of moderate length, stout, rather slender; tarsus compressed, with eight anterior scutella; hind toe large, lateral toes equal, the outer adherent at the base. Claws generally long, arched, compressed, acute. Plumage soft, blended, in the males usually glossy. Wings of moderate length, with the outer three or four quills longest, the first being very little shorter than the second, or sometimes even exceeding it; tail of twelve feathers, of moderate length, or elongated. The roof of the upper mandible concave, with three longitudinal ridges, of which the middle is larger, and at the base forms a hard prominence; tongue sagittate and papillate at the base, narrow, deep, pointed. OEsophagus wide, dilated about the middle; proventriculus oblong; stomach roundish or elliptical, with the lateral muscles distinct and well developed; the epithelium dense and longitudinally rugous; intestine short and rather wide; coeca very small, cylindrical; cloaca oblong. Trachea simple, with four pairs of inferior laryngeal muscles. Female much smaller. Nest various, on trees or bushes, or on the ground, generally elaborate. Eggs about five, ovate, spotted and streaked.

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