According to Mr. NUTTALL, who has favoured me with so many observations relative to the birds described in this and the preceding volumes, "BULLOCK's Oriole occurs in nearly the same localities as the Yellow-headed Troopial. About fifty or sixty miles to the north-west of the usual crossing-place of that branch of the La Platte called Larimie's Fork, we observed it making a nest quite similar to that of the Baltimore-bird. This species, which I have since seen in upper California, where it arrives (around Santa Barbara) in the beginning of May, has the same plaintive fifing warble, but more brief and less varied. The males also, as usual, arrive in flocks considerably before the females. They have likewise the same habit of concealing themselves for a length of time carefully gleaning for small larvae, or sipping the nectareous juices of the opening blossoms of the trees they delight to frequent. On the Platte, the only trees they can resort to are the balsam poplars, which border the stream. In all respects this species resembles the Common Baltimore-bird, which it supersedes from the first great bifurcation of the Platte, to the shores of the Columbia, extending at least as far as the borders of Old California. Mr. BULLOCK, its discoverer, also met with it throughout the table-land of Mexico."
Since the above notice was transmitted to me, I have received another from Mr. TOWNSEND. He says, "it inhabits the Rocky Mountains near the Black Hills and the forests of the Columbia river. In the latter place it is a rather plentiful species. Its usual note consists of a single quavering call somewhat like one of the notes of the Scarlet Tanager, Tanagra rubra. At other times it warbles a little, but not with half the sweetness or compass of its near relative the Baltimore. It is a very active species, so much so indeed that it is very difficult to get a shot at it while sitting, but it is easily killed on the wing. It evidently breeds here, and has probably now a nest (June 16th), but I have not been able to find it. The female is rarely seen, and is particularly shy and noiseless."
XANTHORNUS BULLOCKII, Swains. Syn. of Mex. Birds, Phil. Mag. 1827, p. 436.
BULLOCK'S TROOPIAL, Icterus Bullockii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 9.
Male, 7 1/4, wing, 4 1/12.
Rocky Mountains, Columbia river, and California. Common. Migratory.
Bill a little shorter than the head, conical, very slightly decurved, compressed, tapering to a very attenuated point; upper mandible with the dorsal line almost straight, being very slightly convex, the ridge narrow, its basal extremity tapering, the sides convex, the edges overlapping, the tip extremely sharp; lower mandible with the angle long and of moderate width, the dorsal line and that of the crura slightly concave, the sides erect and nearly flat at the base, convex toward the end, the edges slightly inflected, the tip extremely slender; gap-line straight, declinate at the base. Nostrils elliptical, with a small operculum above, in the fore part of the nasal membrane, half-way between the ridge and the margin.
Head ovate, of moderate size; neck short; body rather slender. Feet of moderate length, rather stout; tarsus much compressed, with seven large anterior scutella, and two longitudinal plates behind forming a very thin edge; toes of moderate size, the hind toe much stronger, the lateral about equal, the third and fourth united at the base. Claws rather long, moderately arched, much compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.
Plumage soft and blended, the feathers ovate and rounded. Wings of moderate length, the first four quills nearly of equal length, the first being scarcely two-twelfths shorter than the second, which is the longest, but scarcely exceeds the third. Tail rather long, straight, rounded and slightly emarginate, the middle feathers being one-twelfth, and the lateral three-twelfths shorter than the longest.
Bill greyish-blue, dusky along the ridge; feet and claws light blue. The upper part of the head, the hind neck, and the anterior portion of the back, with the loral space, some feathers at the base of the lower mandible, and a rather narrow longitudinal band on the fore neck, deep black; the anterior part of the forehead, a band over the eye, the cheeks, sides of the neck, and the breast, rich orange-yellow; the rest of the lower parts paler; the lower wing-coverts and the anterior edge of the wing pale yellow; the hind part of the back and the upper tail-coverts yellow, tinged with olive, purer on the rump; wings brownish-black, with a large patch of white formed by the outer small coverts, and the edges of the secondary coverts, besides which the quills are all margined externally with white, the secondaries more broadly. The four middle tail-feathers are black, all the rest orange-yellow, with a dusky patch near the end, broader on the inner, narrower and fainter on the outer.
Length to end of tail 7 1/4 inches; bill along the ridge 9/12; wing from flexure 4 1/2; tail 3 5/12; tarsus (10 3/4)/12; hind toe (4 1/2)/12, its claw 4/12; second toe 5/12, its claw 3/12; third toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw 4/12; fourth toe 5/12 its claw (2 3/4)/12.
The female is smaller and differs greatly in colouring. The bill and feet are as in the male. The upper parts are greyish-olive, lighter on the rump, on the head and upper tail-coverts tinged with yellow; the loral space dusky, the anterior part of the forehead, a band over the eye, the cheeks, and sides of the neck, with the fore part of the breast, light greenish-yellow; the throat dull white, the lower wing-coverts and edge of the wing very pale yellow, the rest of the lower parts greyish-white, slightly tinged with olive. The wings are dark brown, the larger small-coverts tipped with greyish-white, the secondary coverts and quills edged with the same. The tail dull olivaceous-yellow. This description is taken from an individual killed on the 21st of June, 1836, on the Columbia river.
Length to end of tail 7 inches.
A young male, killed on the Columbia river, on the 21st of June, 1836, and in its first plumage, resembles the female in all the upper parts, including the tail, of which the four outer feathers, however, are more yellow. The loral space, and a streak on the throat, shorter and narrower than in the old male, are black; the band on the eye, the cheeks, the fore neck, and part of the breast, pale yellow; the rest of the lower parts as in the female.
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