It is a curious fact that although this beautiful bird is by no means rare, at particular periods, along the shores of our Eastern Districts, it remained unknown to WILSON, BONAPARTE, and, until found in England by Mr. YARRELL, to myself. It was first discovered by VIEILLOT in Louisiana, where, however, I never met with it. My friend NUTTALL, who has also described it, states that it is often seen near Boston, in company with the Pectoral Sandpiper, and is not uncommon in the market there. To my friend Mr. YARRELL I am indebted for the use of his specimen, from which I made the figure in the act of starting on wing. The other figure was taken from an American specimen, procured at Boston, and now in my possession. I regret, however, that I can say nothing respecting the habits or haunts of this bird, farther than that having seen a wing of it in the possession of my friend Captain JAMES CLARK ROSS, I think it probable that it breeds near the Arctic circle, as he received a wing from the sailors, who had found it in the course of one of the numerous inland excursions in the desolate regions from which these intrepid navigators have recently returned.
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, Tringa rufescens, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 113.
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, Tringa rufescens, Aud. Orn. Biog., Vol. iii.p. 451.
Male, 8, 18.
Along the Atlantic shores from Maine to New York. Rare. Migratory. Breeds in high northern latitudes.
Bill about the length of the head, slender, sub-cylindrical, very slightly decurved, compressed at the base, the point rather depressed and obtuse. Upper mandible with the dorsal line very slightly decurved towards the end, the ridge convex, the sides sloping, the edges rather blunt and soft. Nasal groove extending to near the tip, nostrils basal, linear, pervious. Lower mandible with the angle long and very narrow, the dorsal line straight, the sides sloping outwards, with a long narrow groove, the tip a little broader, but tapering.
Head of moderate size, oblong, compressed. Eyes rather large. Neck of moderate length. Body rather slender. Feet rather long, slender; tibia bare a third part of its length; tarsus compressed, anteriorly and posteriorly with numerous small scutella; hind toe very small; the rest of moderate length, slender, the fourth slightly longer than the second, the third longest; all free, scutellate above, flat beneath, slightly marginate; claws rather small, slightly arched, compressed, rather obtuse, that of the third toe much larger, with the inner edge dilated.
Plumage very soft, blended on the lower parts, the feathers rather distinct above. Wings very long, pointed; primaries tapering, obtuse, the first longest, the second almost equal, the rest rapidly graduated; outer secondaries slightly incurved, narrow, very obliquely sinuate on the outer web towards the end, the inner web rounded, and extending beyond the outer; inner secondaries very narrow, tapering, acute, reaching, when the wing is closed, to within half an inch of its tip. Tail of moderate length, nearly even, with the two middle feathers exceeding the rest, and having the shaft projecting, of twelve narrow, rounded feathers.
Bill dull olive-green, dusky towards the point. Iris hazel. Feet dull yellowish-green, claws dusky. The general colour of the upper parts is greyish-yellow, each feather blackish-brown in the centre; wing-coverts lighter; quills and their coverts light greyish-brown, greenish-black at the end, but with a whitish tip; the inner webs whitish in the greater part of their breadth, and beautifully dotted with black in undulating lines; the inner secondaries like the feathers of the back. The two middle tail-feathers greyish-brown, dark brown, glossed with green, at the end, and slightly margined and tipped with white, the rest gradually paler to the outer, margined and tipped with white, within which are two lines of blackish-brown. Sides of the head, fore neck, and sides light yellowish-red, the throat paler, the sides of the neck and body spotted with brownish-black; the rest of the lower parts paler and unspotted. The lower wing-coverts are white, those near the edge of the wing black in the centre, the primary coverts dotted with black, and having a spot of the same near the end.
Length to end of tail 8 inches, to end of wings 8 2/12; extent of wings 18; wing from flexure 5 3/4; tail 2 11/12; bill along the ridge (10 1/2)/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1; bare part of tibia 7/12; tarsus 1 4/12, middle toe 10/12, its claw (2 1/2)/12. Weight 2 1/2 oz.
The female is somewhat larger than the male, which it resembles in colour, but has the lower parts paler, and the feathers of the upper parts of a lighter brown, with an inner margin of brownish-black and an outer of greyish-yellow.