The Ornithologist and Oölogist. Vol. VIII No. 3, March 1883 Birds_ Their Nests and Eggs
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|VOL. VIII.||BOSTON, MARCH, 1883.||No. 3.|
Among the Buteos.
The voices of our New England Buzzardsare again ringing through theirold haunts, and it may now be seasonableto review my local notes ontheir breeding habits last Spring. Inshort, then, I took 104 eggs. And fromother nests in my circle of observationwere taken or destroyed by farmers, hawk-huntersand others, sixty more eggs andyoung birds. So until a more favoredbreeding range is made known I shallclaim this to be the home of the Buteos.A correspondent in Rochester writes thathe thinks as many eggs can be taken yearlyin that vicinity, but until this is shown tobe true I shall not believe the distributionof species is so equal. If this article couldbe accompanied by a good physical map ofNorwich and its environs, it would helpgreatly to support my claims. An irregularline drawn around the city just outsidethe suburbs would pass through the breedingplaces of sixteen pairs of Red-shoulderedHawks which I marked down the secondweek in April. Except a few hemlocks,the groves and strips of first growthare all deciduous and nearly all nut-bearing.The red squirrel, which is not so relentlesslyshot down as his gray cousin, isamazingly plenty in these suburban woods.While skating yesterday on Yantic cove,within the city limits, I saw seven squirrelsplaying in the small patch above Christ’schurch on the river bank. Every one whohas climbed to nests of young Buteosnearly fledged, must have been astonishedat the great quantity of these youngrodents, supplied by the parent birds. Inone nest of Red-tailed Hawks I have seenportions of nine red squirrels, and fromanother have counted out on the groundseven entire bodies. A game bird or chickennow and then, but red squirrels forevery day bill-of-fare. Mousing, MasterButeo will go. And frogging, too, for Ihave several times surprised him in muddysloughs in the woods, and field collectorsoften are called to notice the black mud onfresh Hawk’s eggs. Given then a greatfood supply and the species that follow itwill be abundant. Over the grove of secondgrowths to the left of Love Lane,last Spring, I saw a pair of Red-shoulderedHawks hovering for days in succession.I knew they were not breeding inthe patch, as they had not done so informer years, and there were but three oldCrow’s nests very low down. But to bevery sure I examined the grove repeatedlywith care and found it to be alive with redsquirrels. In one apple-tree hole was alitter of six; in the butt of an oak werefive with eyes unopened, and the conspicuousoutside nests were many. A BarredOwl clung to the top of a white birch withone claw, and was tearing away at a squirrel’snew domed nest with the other claw.The Hawks had their nest with two youngin the swamp beyond, and this grove wastheir handy larder, and very noisy theywere over their daily grace before meat.
The Buteos’ nests from which my ’82series was taken, were for the most partold ones, the very few exceptions beingsmaller than those used for several seasons.The use of an old nest by the18Great-horned Owl is habitual. The BarredOwl takes a hole when it can find one,and if not, an old nest. Failing there, hebuilds a very small nest of the flimsiestsort. To show the dislike of our Raptoresto nidification, let me reproduce an aviandrama to which usher nature gave me afree pass and open stall last Spring. Thescene opens late in March on Plain Hill,where a pair of Red-shouldered Hawkswere furbishing up the nest in which offand on they had bred for five years. Theirdalliance was pleasant, no doubt, but dangerouslylong, for a Barred Owl slipped inand laid two eggs April 1 and 3. TheHawks were virtually indignant, and wereoften seen to dash down towards the nest,as if to dispossess the intruder, but theyalways wisely stopped a few inches abovethe snapping bill and mass of fluffy featherswith nine points of law in its favor.The Hawks at length went across a smallswamp and re-upholstered the nest inwhich the Owl bred in ’81. I now tookthe two Owl’s eggs, supposing the clutchcomplete, but she then went across theswamp and laid the third egg in her oldtenement. When I climbed to the secondnest, with the Hawks in possession, it containedthree Buteo’s eggs and one BarredOwl’s. Blowing showed that the Owl’segg was slightly incubated, and it wouldhave been interesting perhaps to have letnature had her course with this motleyclutch. The unwearied owl now wentback to the first nest and laid and hatchedher second clutch of two eggs. Ovipositingafter a while again becoming a necessityfor the Hawks, they too repaired tothe opening scene of our drama fromhigh life, and after a few noisy demonstrationsagainst the Owl, took up their newquarters in a tree within gunshot of thefirst. The nest was so small I could notbelieve that even our smallest Buteo (pennsylvanicus),could breed in it, though I sawthe great female Red-shouldered come fromit, and could see that it was featheredthrough my field glass. Climbing showedit to have a very large and bright initialegg, which was riddled with shot the nextday by so-called hawk-hunters. The marauderscompleted the series of reprisalsby carrying away my young owls.
Aside from my first object, I have dwelton the final details of this little tragedy,because it also is a fair illustration of thedomestic troubles of the Rapaciæ here inthe breeding season. With every man’shand against them—hunter, farmer andcollector—it is a continued source of wonderthat so many eggs are taken and somany hawks left. Some may be alien birdsdrawn by the food supply. But as a solutionto this question it is not unreasonableto suppose that later in the season whenthe farmers are busy with field work andthe collector is eagerly following the smallbirds in their Summer homes in the outskirtsof the woods, that made wary bypursuit, and screened by the dense foliage,the resident Buteos manage to “steal” anoccasional nest and bring up enough youngto keep up the old local race. This ideais in part born out by the fact that in myWinter tramps through our leafless woods,I now and then run across a Hawk’s nestwhich I knew was not there the year beforeand the first chapter of whose life historyhad not been revealed to me.—J. M. W.,Norwich, Conn.
Notes from Nebraska.
April 21, ’82, found my first nest of theAmerican Long Eared Owl. ’Twas in theforks of a small white oak tree fifteen feetfrom the ground and contained five eggsready to hatch. It resembled that of theCommon Crow, only smaller. While I wasexamining this nest the old birds showedtheir displeasure by flying and dartingclose to me, continually snapping the bill.
At times they would alight upon theground and with spread wings and tailflutter around, doubtless for the purposeof alluring the intruder from their nest.19The same day I found the nest of a BlackCap Chickadee containing six fresh eggs.
April 23d I found the nest of a ScreechOwl in a hollow oak tree twenty inches belowthe opening. It contained three fresheggs. From this same tree during theWinter of 1881 and ’82 I captured five finespecimens of this owl.
May 1st I took another set of eggs ofthe American Long-eared Owl. This, likethe former, contained five eggs and theywere incubated about two weeks. Anothernest was found on May 4th with five eggsalmost hatched.
May 6th I discovered the nest of a Red-tailedHawk in a Red Elm tree fifty-eightfeet from the ground. After a very hardclimb I found the nest contained four (?)young about two weeks old. On the 13thof May I found two more nests of thishawk, both of which contained eggs; onetwo, and the other three.
May 18th I was informed by a herder or“Cow Boy” that he had found a burrowon the prairie inhabited by a BurrowingOwl. The next evening armed with a spadewe repaired to the place and after diggingsix feet we came upon the nest. It wasabout two feet under the ground and containednine young of various sizes, and twoeggs, one of which was pecked. The burrowwas evidently made by some burrowinganimal, probably a skunk.
Cooper’s Hawk.—The following is thedate of different nests found this year:May 11th, one nest containing four fresheggs. May 15th, one containing four andanother containing five eggs, all of whichwere fresh. May 17th, two more nests containingfive eggs each. These were slightlyincubated. May 11th I received a full setof eggs of the Marsh Harrier, five in number.The nest was placed on the groundin the prairie grass. Two more nests werefound, May 18th, containing respectivelyfive and six eggs. These last were slightlyincubated. May 17th I also found a nest ofthe Short-eared Owl. It was on theground in the prairie grass and containedeight beautiful white eggs. A good Pointerdog is invaluable to any one collecting eggshere, as these Owls and Hawks give chasewhenever he comes near their nest. Thedog will come very handy also to find thenests of Prairie Hens, Plover, Larks, &c.—H.A. Kline, Polo, Ill.
The Prothonotary Warbler.
This beautiful little Protonotaria citreais quite rare in Kansas, yet I had thegood fortune to find four nests last June.
Early in May I saw a Downy Woodpeckermaking an excavation in the deadlimb of a small elm tree standing on theedge of a forest and on the bank of theBig Blue River. I watched the tree forseveral days, but, for some cause, the birdsabandoned the work.
On June 9, in passing this tree I saw abird fly from the hole so swiftly that I couldnot determine the species. I hid in somebushes near by, and after waiting aboutten minutes was rewarded by seeing a pairof the Prothonotary Warblers approachthrough the trees. They flew directly tothe elm tree; and, after a moment’s hesitation,the female entered the hole, whilethe male flew away into the forest.
I then crept silently to the nest, whichwas not more than six feet above theground. By quickly placing my hand overthe hole and allowing sufficient openingbetween my thumb and finger for the admissionof the bird’s head but not its body,I easily caught the bird and examined itat my leisure. I have frequently caughtWoodpeckers, Bluebirds, Chickadees andWrens in this manner.
When the bird was released it uttered ashort, distinct call which brought the malebird promptly from the trees near by. Theythen flew away together.
Returning to the tree I secured the nestand complement of five fresh eggs.
This nest was composed of fine grapevinebark, dry weeds, and horse hair. The20structure was rather frail and deeplyrounded. Around its upper edge were arrayedbits of skeleton oak leaves whosedelicate lace-like tracery of veinlets gaveevidence of greater taste than I had beforeseen in bird architecture.
The eggs were much rounded in shape.The color was white with a pinkish hue,and dotted with spots of brown and lavender.At the larger end these spots wereso thick as to become confluent. The eggswere similar in size and markings.
Two more nests of this bird were reportedto me on the same date, June 9.Upon visiting them I found in one fiveyoung nearly fledged, and in the other twoaddled eggs.
A week or more after the discovery ofthe first nest I found a pair of the birdsnot far from the same place. I watchedthem closely and afterward frequently sawthe male alone, but failed to find the nestuntil after the young had left it, whenI found it in the deserted nest of a Bluebirdnot a hundred feet away from a dwellinghouse.
I identified the nest by its peculiar architectureand a few egg shells at the baseof the tree.
These four nests were alike in situation,all being in damp forests near the river,and in deserted nests of other birds, aboutsix or seven feet above the ground. Theywere all built of like material and wereornamented with skeleton leaves. Two ofthe nests were in elm trees and two in willowstumps. I have read no description ofthe nest of this warbler and do not knowwhether the above agrees