Solitary Sandpiper, or Tatler

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Birds of America

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


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[Solitary Sandpiper.]

[Tringa solitaria.]


The only nest of this bird that I ever met with was placed in an elevated part of the woods near Bayou Sara, on the margin of a small pond scarcely ten yards broad, overgrown with low bushes, and cumbered with fallen branches of trees. It was formed of grass and withered leaves, arranged without much care, and contained three eggs. Both birds were greatly disconcerted, ran round me, and frequently alighted on the twigs and branches with all the nimbleness of land birds, constantly throwing their heads forward and vibrating their body and tail in the manner of the Louisiana Water Thrush. The eggs measured one inch one eighth and a half in length, seven and a half eighths in breadth; the colour was greenish-yellow, with spots and patches of umber, more abundant around the crown, where the larger marks formed a conspicuous circle. I carried one of the eggs home, and, on returning a few days after to the spot, found one of the birds sitting, which proved to me that the great anxiety shewn at my first visit was chiefly because the female was about to lay her last egg. The male was absent, nor did it shew itself during my stay. About a fortnight after I found the wings of one of the birds near the place; the eggs also were gone; and I concluded that some quadruped, probably a racoon, had committed the havoc. No bird of this species was in the neighbourhood.

In the Fauna Boreali-Americana, Dr. RICHARDSON says that in high northern latitudes these birds deposit their eggs on the bare sand, which is another proof in addition to the many already given, that great differences as to the mode of nestling may exist in the same species in different parts of the country. Indeed, almost all the habits of this curious bird differ according to the locality. In the Southern States, they are particularly fond of low flat lands among deep woods and cane brakes, and rarely approach ponds of any great extent, but prefer those which are small and most secluded. In the Middle Districts I have found them along the Lehigh, and in watery places both on low and on elevated ground. In the State of Maine they frequented similar localities. In the prairies of Indiana I have seen them in early spring, during rainy weather, wading and running through the water, on the very foot-path before me, for eight or ten yards at a time. When flushed, they would fly in a semicircle close over the ground, and re-alight at the distance of a hundred yards or so on the same path. Not one of the species was observed in Labrador or Newfoundland by my party; and my friend THOMAS MACCULLOCH informs me that only a few single birds are seen near Pictou, and that in autumn, when they keep in marshy grounds in the neighbourhood of the sea.

The flight of the Solitary Sandpiper is swift and protracted. It moves in a zigzag manner, and at times makes its way through the woods with surprising ease, seldom leaving the starting place without uttering a clear and pleasant tweet. In re-alighting it pitches downwards like the Common Snipe. On the ground they are very active, and at times so indifferent to the approach of man, that they will merely fly across or around a small pond for a considerable time, and, if shot at and not touched, they will be sure to be found in the same place a few hours after. Its alighting on trees has often appeared to me as singular as that of Bertram's Snipe and the Semipalmated species. The Solitary Snipe is, however, the most expert at catching insects on the wing, especially the smaller kinds of dragon-flies, which it chases from the sticks on which they alight, and generally seizes before they have flown across the little ponds, which are the favourite place of resort of this species. I have found their stomachs filled with aquatic insects, caterpillars of various kinds, and black spiders of considerable size.

I consider this bird to be a constant resident in the United States, although it ranges over a great space in summer and winter. Scarcely any difference is observable in the sexes; and I am of opinion that the young acquire their full plumage the first spring.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER, Tringa solitaria, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. vii. p. 53.
TOTANUS CHLOROPYGIUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 325.
TOTANUS CHLOROPYGIUS, Green-rump Tatler, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii., p. 393.

GREEN-RUMP TATLER, Tetanus chloropygius, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol., iii.p. 576; vol. v., p. 583.

Male, 8 1/2, 16 1/2.

Distributed from Texas over the United States, breeding in deep woody situations, in the Fur Countries on the bare sand. Columbia river. Partially migratory.

Adult Male.

Bill a little longer than the head, very slender, sub-cylindrical, straight, flexible, compressed at the base, the point rather depressed and obtuse. Upper mandible with the dorsal line straight, the ridge convex, broader at the base, slightly depressed towards the end, the sides sloping, towards the end convex, the edges soft and obtuse, the tip very slightly deflected. Nasal groove long and narrow, extending to a little beyond the middle of the bill; nostrils basal, linear, pervious. Lower mandible with the angle very long and extremely narrow, the dorsal line straight, the sides convex, with a slight groove in their basal half.

Head small, oblong, anteriorly narrowed. Eyes large. Neck rather long and slender. Body slender. Feet long and slender; tibia bare nearly half its length, scutellate before and behind; tarsus also scutellate before and behind; hind toe very small and elevated; fore toes rather long, very slender, connected at the base by webs, of which the outer is much larger; second or inner toe considerably shorter than fourth, third longest; all scutellate above, flat and marginate beneath. Claws small, slightly arched, much compressed, rather obtuse, that of middle toe much larger, with the inner edge enlarged.

Plumage very soft, blended, on the fore part of the head very short. Wings long, narrow, pointed; primaries rather narrow and tapering, first and second equal, the rest rapidly graduated; secondaries short, broad, incurved, obliquely rounded, the inner elongated and tapering. Tail rather short, slightly rounded, of twelve rounded feathers.

Bill greenish-black. Iris brown; edges of eyelids dark grey. Feet greenish-grey, claws brownish-black. Upper part of the head, lores, cheeks, hind neck and sides of the neck deep brownish-grey, the edges of the feathers brownish-white; a dull white line from the bill to the eye; upper part of throat greyish-white; fore-neck of the same colour, streaked with brownish-grey, as are the sides; the rest of the lower parts greyish-white. The general colour of the back and scapulars is deep greenish-brown, the feathers edged with a few small spots of white and dusky, those on the inner secondaries more numerous. Wing-coverts similar, excepting those along the edge of the wing, which, with the alula and primary coverts, are deep brownish-black; primary quills brownish-black, secondaries greyish-brown; lower wing-coverts mottled with brownish-black and white, the axillar feathers barred with greyish-white and dusky, as are the upper tail-coverts and the tail-feathers, of which the two middle are merely spotted with white on the edges.

Length to end of tail 8 1/2 inches, to end of wings 9, to end of claws 10; extent of wings 16 1/2; wing from flexure 5 1/4; tail 2; bill along the back 1 2/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 (2 1/2)/12; tarsus 1 2/12; middle toe 11/12, its claw (2 1/2)/12. Weight 1 3/4 oz.

Adult Female.

There is no decided difference between the sexes in the colouring, but the female is somewhat larger. From the only instance in which I found this species in the act of depositing its eggs, I conclude that it generally forms its nest on the higher grounds or along the declivities of hills.

Mouth very narrow, 21 twelfths in width. Tongue 11 twelfths long, channelled above, extremely slender toward the point. OEsophagus 3 inches 2 twelfths long, 2 twelfths wide; proventriculus 3 twelfths in breadth. Stomach roundish, oblique, 9 twelfths by 8 twelfths: its lateral muscles large; epithelium dense and longitudinally rugous. Intestine 13 1/2 inches long; duodenum 2 twelfths in width, the rest 1 1/2 twelfths; coeca 1 inch 2 twelfths long, 1 twelfth wide, and 1 1/4 inches distant from the extremity; rectum slightly dilated toward the end. Trachea 2 1/4 inches long, 1 1/2 twelfths in width, much flattened, the rings narrow, unossified, 128. Bronchial half rings about 15. Muscles as in the other species of this family. Male.

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