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This active little bird breeds in Labrador, where I saw it feeding its young in August, when the species appeared already moving southward; but although it was common there and in Newfoundland, as was the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, we did not succeed in our search for its nest. It enters the United States late in September, and continues its journey beyond their limits, as I have met with it on the borders of our most Southern Districts during winter. Individuals remain in all the Southern and Western States the whole of that season, and leave them again about the beginning of March.
They generally associate in groups, composed each of a whole family, and feed in company with the Titmice, Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers, perambulating the tops of trees and bushes, sometimes in the very depth of the forests or the most dismal swamps, while at other times they approach the plantations, and enter the gardens and yards. Their movements are always extremely lively and playful. They follow minute insects on the wing, seize them among the leaves of the pines, or search for the larvae in the chinks of the branches. Like the Titmice they are seen hanging to the extremities of twigs and bunches of leaves, sometimes fluttering in the air in front of them, and are unceasingly occupied. They have no song at this season, but merely emit now and then a low screep.
On the 23d of January, while in company with my friend JOHN BACHMAN, I saw great numbers of them in the woods near Charleston, searching for food high in the trees as well as low down, and so careless of us, that although we would approach within a few feet of them, they were not in the least disconcerted. Their feeble chirp was constantly repeated. We killed a great number of them in hopes of finding among them some individuals of the species known under the name of Regulus ignicapillus, but in this we did not succeed. At times they uttered a strong querulous note, somewhat resembling that of the Black-headed Titmouse. The young had acquired their full plumage, but the females were more abundant than the males. At this season the yellow spot on their head is less conspicuous than towards spring, when they raise their crest feathers while courting.
The young shot in Newfoundland in August, had this part of the head of a uniform tint with the upper parts of the body. With us they are amazingly fat, but at Newfoundland we found them the reverse. I have represented a pair of them on a plant that grows in Georgia, and which I thought might prove agreeable to your eye.
GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN, Sylvia Regulus, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. i. p. 126.
REGULUS CRISTATUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 91.
AMERICAN FIERY-CROWNED WREN, Regulus tricolor, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 420.
AMERICAN GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN, Regulus tricolor, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii.
Bill short, straight, subulate, very slender, depressed at the base, compressed towards the end. Upper mandible with the dorsal outline nearly straight, the sides convex, the edges inflected towards the end, the tip slightly declinate, with an obscure notch on each side; lower mandible straight, acute. Nostrils basal, elliptical, half-closed above by a membrane, covered over by a single adpressed feather with disunited barbs. Head rather large, neck short, body small. Legs rather long; tarsus slender, much compressed, covered anteriorly with a long undivided plate above, and a few scutella beneath; toes slender, the lateral ones nearly equal and free, the hind toe proportionally large; claws arched, compressed, acute.
Plumage very loose and tufty. Bristles at the base of the bill. Wings of ordinary length; the first primary extremely short and narrow, the third, fourth, and fifth almost equal, but the fourth longest. Tail of ordinary length, slender, emarginate, of twelve narrow, acuminate feathers, the outer curved outwards towards the end.
Bill black. Iris brown. Feet brownish-yellow, the under part of the toes yellow. The general colour of the upper parts is ash-grey on the neck and sides of the head, tinged with olive on the back, and changing to yellowish-olive on the rump. There is a band of greyish-white across the lower part of the forehead, which at the eye separates into two bands, one extending over, the other under the eye; above this is a broadish band of black, also margining the head on either side, the inner webs and tips of these black feathers being of a bright pure yellow, of which colour are some of the feathers in the angle formed anteriorly by the dark band; the crown of the head in the included spaces covered with shorter flame-coloured silky feathers; an obscure line of dusky feathers from the angle of the mouth to beneath the eye, which is margined anteriorly and posteriorly with the same colour; the throat and lower parts are greyish-white, tinged anteriorly with yellowish-brown. Quills and coverts dusky, the quills margined with greenish-yellow, the secondary coverts broadly tipped with the same, as is the first row of smaller coverts; the base of all the quills, excepting the four outer, white; from the seventh primary to the innermost secondary but two, a broad bar of blackish-brown. Tail of the same colour as the quills.
Length 4 inches, extent of wings 7; bill along the back 3/12, along the edge (5 1/2)/12; tarsus 8/12.
The female is somewhat smaller than the male, from which it differs in external appearance, chiefly in having pure yellow substituted for the flame-colour of the crown, and in having less grey on the hind neck.
If we compare the American Golden-crested Wren with the European, we find that they agree in general appearance, in the proportional length of the quills, and in the form of the tail, as well as that of the bill and legs. Their differences are the following.
Regulus tricolor is longer by half an inch than R. cristatus, its bill is stronger and 1/12 of an inch shorter, its claws are also stronger and shorter, and the flame-coloured patch on the head is more extended and brighter. The European species has never so much grey on the neck and back, and its lower parts are always more tinged with brownish-yellow. The other differences are not very obvious, but the difference in the size of the bill, were there no other characters, would be enough, in a family of birds so closely resembling each other as the Reguli, to point out the American as distinct from the European species.
THALIA DEALBATA, Pursch, Fl. Amer. Sept., vol. ii. p. 584.--GYNANDRIA MONANDRIA, Linn.--ORCHIDEAE, Juss.
This beautiful plant is a native of Georgia and South Carolina, where, according to PURSCH, it was discovered by J. MILLINGTON, Esq. of the latter State. It is perennial, flowers in August and September, attains a height of four feet, and grows in swampy places. The leaves are large, ovate, with parallel oblique ribs, and a revolute apex; the flowers are pale purple, in pairs, in a large panicle. I was indebted to Mr. NOISETTE for the specimen which I have represented.