This diminutive and elegant species of Bunting may certainly be ranked among our constant residents, numerous individuals remaining during the winter within the limits of the Union. In Louisiana and the countries along the Mississippi, as far as Kentucky, and in all the Southern States, as far as Maryland, they are to be found in the coldest weather. In South Carolina they are met with along every hedge-row and in every briar-patch, as well as in the old fields slightly covered with tall slender grasses, on the seeds of which they chiefly subsist during the inclement season. Loose flocks, sometimes of forty or fifty, are seen hopping along the sandy roads, picking up particles of gravel. On the least alarm, they all take to wing, and alight on the nearest bushes, but the next moment return to the ground. They leave the south as early as March, move northwards as the season advances, and appear in the States of New York and Pennsylvania about the middle of April.
The song of the Field Sparrow is remarkable, although not fine. It trills its notes like a young Canary Bird, and now and then emits emphatical, though not very distinct sounds of some length. One accustomed to distinguish the notes of different birds can easily recognise the song of this species; but the description of it, I confess, I am unable to accomplish, so at least as to afford you any tolerable idea of it.
It is a social and peaceable bird. When the breeding season is at hand they disperse, move off in pairs, and throw themselves into old pasture grounds, overgrown with low bushes, on the tops of which the males may be heard practising their vocal powers. They usually breed on the ground, at the foot of a small bush or rank weed; but I have also found several of their nests on the lower branches of trees, a foot or two from the ground. The nest is simple, formed chiefly of fine dry grasses, in some instances scantily lined with horse-hair or delicate fibrous roots, much resembling hair. The eggs are from four to six, of a light ferruginous tint, produced by the blending of small dots of that colour. So prolific is this species, that I have observed a pair raise three broods in one summer, the amount of individuals produced being fifteen. The young run after their parents, leaving the nest before they can fly, and are left to shift for themselves ere they are fully fledged; but as they find every where abundance of insects, berries, and small seeds, they contrive to get on without help.
These birds are fond of orchards, enter our country towns in autumn, alight on the tallest trees in open woods, and migrate solely by day. Their flight is rapid, even, and occasionally sustained; for, when fairly alarmed, they move at once over fields of considerable extent.
I saw few in Maine, and none in the British provinces, in Labrador or in Newfoundland.
The colour of the bill varies with the seasons, being in winter of a dingy reddish-brown, and in summer assuming a tint approaching to orange. There is no perceptible difference in the size or colour of the sexes. The young acquire their full plumage the first autumn.
Travelling from Great Egg Harbour towards Philadelphia, I found a nest of this species placed at the foot of a bush growing in almost pure sand. Near it were the plants which you see accompanying the figure.
From Texas to Maryland, in Kentucky and the intermediate parts, during winter. Breeds from Maryland to Maine. Abundant.
FIELD SPARROW, Fringilla pusilla, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. ii. p. 121.
FRINGILLA PUSILLA, Bonap. Syn., p. 110.
FIELD or RUSH SPARROW, Fringilla juncorum, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 499.
FIELD SPARROW, Fringilla pusilla, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 229.
Bill short, rather small, strong, conical, acute; upper mandible rather narrower than the lower, very slightly declinate at the tip, rounded on the sides, as is the lower, which has the edges inflected and acute; the gap-line very slightly arched, slightly deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, roundish, partially concealed by the feathers. The general form rather robust. Legs of moderate length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a few longish scutella; toes scutellate above, free, the lateral ones nearly equal; claws slender, slightly arched, that of the hind toe scarcely larger, much compressed, acute.
Plumage soft, blended, rather compact on the back; wings shortish, curved, rounded, the third quill longest, the second and fourth scarcely shorter; tail long, emarginate.
Bill reddish-brown or cinnamon-colour. Iris chestnut. Feet pale yellowish-brown. Upper part of the head chestnut; anterior portion of the back and scapulars of the same tint, but marked with blackish-brown spots, the middle part of each feather being of that colour; sides of the neck pale bluish-grey, and a line of the same over the eye; rump and tail yellowish-grey, the inner webs of the latter light-brown; quills and coverts blackish-brown, margined with whitish, the two rows of coverts slightly tipped with brownish-white; the under parts are greyish-white; the sides of the neck and fore part of the breast tined with chestnut.
Length 6 inches, extent of wings 8; bill along the back 1/4, along the edge 5/12.
The female is rather less, and somewhat duller beneath, but in other respects is precisely similar.
CALOPOGON PULCHELLUS, Brown.--CYMBIDIUM PULCHELLUM, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. iv. p. 105. Pursch, Fl. Amer. Sept., vol. ii. p. 592.--GYNANDRIA MONANDRIA, Linn.--ORCHIDEAE, Juss.
Root tuberous, of an oblong form; radical leaves linear-lanceolate, nerved; scape few-flowered; lip at the back clawed, the inside bearded; five distinct petals of a light purplish-red. It grows in sandy soils from Maine to the Floridas; I have not observed it in the more Southern or Western States.
THE DWARF HUCKLEBERRY.
VACCINIUM TENELLUM, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. ii. p. 353. Pursch, Flor. Amer. Sept., vol. i. p. 289.--DECANDRIA MONOGYNIA, Linn.--ERICAE, Juss.
The branches angular, green; leaves sessile, ovato-lanceolate, mucronate, serrulate, glossy on both sides; flowers in sessile clusters; corolla ovate. This plant grows in most of the lands of the Middle and Eastern Districts, both in woods and in open places. Its berries are eaten by various birds, as well as by children.
For more on this species, see its entry in the Birds of North America Field Guide.