Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE CAROLINA TURTLE-DOVE.
ECTOPISTES CAROLINENSIS, Linn.
PLATE CCLXXXVI.--MALES AND FEMALES.
I have tried, kind reader, to give you a faithful representation of two as
gentle pairs of Turtles as ever cooed their loves in the green woods. I have
placed them on a branch of Stuartia, which you see ornamented with a profusion
of white blossoms, emblematic of purity and chastity.
Look at the female, as she assiduously sits on her eggs, embosomed among
the thick foliage, receiving food from the bill of her mate, and listening with
delight to his assurances of devoted affection. Nothing is wanting to render
the moment as happy as could be desired by any couple on a similar occasion.
On the branch above, a love scene is just commencing. The female, still
coy and undetermined, seems doubtful of the truth of her lover, and virgin-like
resolves to put his sincerity to the test, by delaying the gratification of his
wishes. She has reached the extremity of the branch, her wings and tail are
already opening, and she will fly off to some more sequestered spot, where, if
her lover should follow her with the same assiduous devotion, they will
doubtless become as blessed as the pair beneath them.
The Dove announces the approach of spring. Nay, she does more:--she forces
us to forget the chilling blasts of winter, by the soft and melancholy sound of
her cooing. Her heart is already so warmed and so swelled by the ardour of her
passion, that it feels as ready to expand as the buds on the trees are, under
the genial influence of returning heat.
The flight of this bird is extremely rapid, and of long duration. Whenever
it starts from a tree or the ground, on being unexpectedly approached, its wings
produce a whistling noise, heard at a considerable distance. On such occasions,
it frequently makes several curious windings through the air, as if to prove its
capability of efficient flight. It seldom rises far above the trees, and as
seldom passes through dense woods or forests, but prefers following their
margins, or flying about the fences and fields. Yet, during spring, and
particularly whilst the female is sitting on her eggs, the male rises as if
about to ascend to a great height in the air, flapping his wings, but all of a
sudden comes downwards again, describing a large circle, and sailing smoothly
with wings and tail expanded, until in this manner be alights on the tree where
his mate is, or on one very near it. These manoeuvres are frequently repeated
during the days of incubation, and occasionally when the male bird is courting
the female. No sooner do they alight than they jerk out their tail in a very
graceful manner, and balance their neck and head. Their migrations are not so
extensive as those of the Wild Pigeon (Ectopistes migratoria); nor are they
performed in such numbers, two hundred and fifty or three hundred Doves together
being considered a large flock.
On the ground, along the fences, or on the branches of trees, the Carolina
Turtle walks with great ease and grace, frequently jerking its tail. It is able
to run with some swiftness when searching for food in places where it is scarce.
It seldom bathes, but drinks by swallowing the water in long draughts, with the
bill deeply immersed, frequently up to the eyes.
They breed in every portion of the United States that I have visited, and
according to the temperature of different localities, rear either one or two
broods in the season. In Louisiana, they lay eggs early in April, and sometimes
in the month of March, and have there two broods. In the State of Connecticut,
they seldom begin to lay before the middle of May, and as seldom have more than
one brood. On the borders of Lake Superior, they are still later. They lay two
eggs of a pure white colour, and having some degree of translucency. They make
their nest in any kind of tree, on horizontal branches or twins. It is formed
of a few dry sticks, so loosely put together as to appear hardly sufficient to
keep the eggs or young from falling.
The roosting places which the Carolina Turtles prefer are among the long
grasses found growing in abandoned fields, at the foot of dry stalks of maize,
or on the edges of meadows, although they occasionally resort to the dead
foliage of trees, as well as that of different species of evergreens. But in
all these places they rise and fly at the approach of man, however dark the
night may be, which proves that the power of sight which they then possess is
very great. They seldom place themselves very near each other when roosting on
the ground, but sometimes the individuals of a flock appear diffused pretty
equally over a whole field. In this particular, they greatly differ from our
Common Wild Pigeon, which settles in compact masses on the limbs of trees during
the night. The Doves, however, like the Pigeons, are fond of returning to the
same roosting grounds from considerable distances. A few individuals sometimes
mix with the Wild Pigeons, as do the latter sometimes with the Doves.
The Turtle-Dove may with propriety be considered more as a gleaner than as
a reaper of the husbandman's fields, scarcely ever committing any greater
depredation than the picking up a few grains in seed-time, after which it
prefers resorting to those fields from which the grain has been cut and removed.
It is a hardy bird, and stands the severest winters of our Middle States, where
some remain the whole year.
The flesh of these birds is remarkably fine, when they are obtained young
and in the proper season. Such birds become extremely fat, are tender and
juicy, and in flavour equal in the estimation of some of my friends, as well as
in my own, to that of the Snipe or even the Woodcock; but as taste in such
matters depends much on circumstances, and perhaps on the whim of individuals, I
would advise you, reader, to try for yourself. These birds require good
shooting to bring, them down, when on wing, for they fly with great swiftness,
and not always in a direct manner. It is seldom that more than one can be
killed at a shot when they are flying, and rarely more than two or three when on
the ground, on account of their natural propensity to keep apart.
In winter, they approach the farm-houses, feed among the Poultry, Sparrows,
Grakles, and many other birds, and appear very gentle; but no sooner are they
frequently disturbed or shot at, than they become extremely shy. When raised
from the nest, they are easily tamed. I have even known some instances of their
breeding in confinement. When caught in traps and cooped, they feed freely, and
soon become fat, when they are excellent for the table.
When shot, or taken alive in the hand, this and our other species of
Pigeon, lose the feathers on the slightest touch, a circumstance peculiar to the
genus, and to certain gallinaceous birds.
This species does not extend very far eastward or northward. It is
exceedingly rare in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and none were seen by my
party in Newfoundland or Labrador. Dr. RICHARDSON makes no mention of it as
having been observed in the Fur Countries. Yet it was met with on the shores of
the Columbia river by Mr. TOWNSEND, who informs me, that although Ectopistes
migratoria is found on the Rocky Mountains, E. carolinensis and Columba fasciata
are the only species which he observed on the Columbia. On the other hand, I
found the present species abundant in the Texas, where it was breeding on the
ground, as well as on low bushes, and feeding on blackberries late in the month
The Carolina Dove breeds in aviaries, even although caught when old,
raising several broods in the season, insomuch that my friends Dr. BACHMAN and
Dr. SAMUEL WILSON of Charleston, have had to kill the young for the table. The
former intimates to me that a male was put into a cage with a female European
Turtle-Dove, on which they paired, formed a nest, and laid eggs, but the cage
having accidentally fallen, the eggs, which now contained young, were broken,
and the Carolina Dove escaped. The same friend has found this species breeding
on the ground in the States of New York and South Carolina, among tall wheat and
rye. In the latter country it is very numerous during winter, and is shot in
great numbers by sportsmen, who hide themselves under low huts at the foot of
moderately tall trees, such as persimmons, while their servants drive the Doves
from the adjacent fields. In this manner more than a hundred have been shot by
one man in the course of a morning. When snow is on the ground, wonderful havoc
is committed among them, and he has heard of a party of sportsmen having shot
about five hundred in one day.
The egg of the Carolina Dove measures one inch one-eighth in length, by
five and a half eighths in breadth, is equally rounded at both ends, and is of a
pure white colour, somewhat translucent.
The Stuartia Malacodendron, on which I have placed the two pairs alluded to
at the commencement of this article, is a tree of small height, which grows in
rich grounds at the foot of hills not far from water-courses. The wood is
brittle and useless, the flower destitute of scent, but extremely agreeable to
the eye. Little clusters of twenty or thirty of these trees are dispersed over
the southernmost of the United States. I have never met with it in the Middle,
Western or Northern Districts.
COLUMBA CAROLINENSIS, Linn. Syst. Nat., vol. i. p. 286.
CAROLINA PIGEON OR TURTLE-DOVE, Columba carolinensis, Wils. Amer. Orn.,vol. v. P. 91.
COLUMBA CAROLINENSIS, Bonap. Syn., p. 119.
CAROLINA PIGEON OR TURTLE-DOVE, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 626.
CAROLINA TURTLE-DOVE, Columba carolinensis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i. p. 91;vol. v. p. 555.
Male, 12, 17. Female, 11, 15 1/2.
Breeds from Texas to Massachusetts, and throughout the interior to the
eastern bases of the Rocky Mountains, and again on the Columbia river. Common.
Resident in all the Southern Districts.
Bill straight, of ordinary length, rather slender, broader than deep at the
base, with a tumid fleshy covering, compressed towards the end, rather obtuse;
upper mandible slightly declinate at the tip; edges involute. Head small. Neck
slender. Body rather full. Legs short and strong; tarsus covered anteriorly
with scutella, rather rounded; toes scutellate, slightly webbed at the base;
claws short, depressed, obtuse.
Plumage compact on the back, blended and soft on the head, neck and under
parts. Wings long, second quill longest. Tail wedge-shaped, long, of fourteen
feathers, the middle ones tapering, the rest obtuse.
Bill blackish, at the base carmine-purple. Iris hazel; orbit
greenish-blue. Feet carmine-purple; claws dusky. Crown of the head, and upper
part of the neck, bright greenish-blue; the rest of the upper parts, including
the wing-coverts, light yellowish-brown, tinged with light blue, of which colour
are the edges of the wings, and the outer webs of the quills towards the base.
Some of the proximal wing-coverts spotted with black. Forehead and sides of the
head brownish-yellow, which colour predominates on the under parts, the breast
and neck tinged with blue, and the abdomen and under tail-coverts paler. Quills
dusky, margined externally with whitish, the last secondaries light brown and
spotted with black. The two middle tail-feathers, and the outer webs of the
next five on each side like the back; all the feathers, excepting the middle
ones, have a spot of black about an inch from their extremity, the space between
which and the base is bright greenish-blue, that beyond it being paler and
tinged with brown, excepting in the three outer feathers, where it is white, as
is the outer web of the outermost.
Length 12 inches, extent of wings 17; bill along the ridge 7/12, along the
The female is somewhat duller in the tints of the plumage; the bright blue
of the head is wanting, that part being coloured like the back; the neck and
breast have less blue, and the white of the tail is less pure.
Length 11 inches, extent of wings 15 1/2; bill as in the male.
THE WHITE-FLOWERED STUARTIA.
STUARTIA MALACODENDRON, Willd. Sp. Pl., vol. iii. p. 840.
--STUARTIA VIRGINICA, Pursh, Fl. Amer., vol. ii. p. 451.
--MONADELPHIA POLYANDRIA, Linn.
A small tree, with smooth spreading branches; ovate-acute leaves, generally
entire at the margins; axillar flowers, which are solitary, or two together;
large white corollas, of five rounded petals, and reddish-purple stamina. The
leaves vary in being sometimes serrated, and more or less downy. It flowers
from June to September.