This beautiful species is the most common and abundant that visits the State of Louisiana and those States situated on the borders of the Mississippi. In Kentucky it is much less common, and in the State of Ohio scarcer still. It is an extremely active and lively bird. It is found in all the low rounds and damp places near water-courses, and generally among the tall rank weeds and low bushes growing in rich alluvial soil. Continually in motion, it is seen hopping in every direction from stalk to stalk, or from one twig to another, preying upon insects and larvae, or picking small berries, seldom, however, pursuing insects on wing. During spring, its agreeable notes are heard in every quarter. They are emphatic, and resemble the words tweedle, tweedle, tweedle, distinctly repeated. This little bird is seen at intervals of a few minutes on the skirts of the tall plants, peeping cunningly to discover whether any intruders may be near; after which it immediately re-enters the thicket, and repeats its little ditty.
I never saw this bird fly farther than a few yards at a time. Its flight is low, and performed in a quick gliding manner, the bird throwing itself into the nearest bush or thicket of tall grass. It arrives in the Southern States, from Mexico, about the middle of March, and remains with us until the middle of September, during which time it rears two broods. Its nest is small, beautifully constructed, and usually attached to several stems of rank weeds. The outer parts are formed of the bark of stalks of the same weeds in a withered state, mixed with a finer kind and some cottony substances. It is beautifully lined with the cottony or silky substance that falls from the cotton-wood tree. The eggs are from four to six, of a pure white colour, finely sprinkled with bright red dots.
This species destroys great numbers of spiders, which it frequently obtains by turning over the withered leaves on the ground. The young males do not attain the full beauty of their plumage until the first spring, and resemble the mother during their stay with us the first season. Young and old associate together, and live in great harmony. I have not seen this species farther eastward than North Carolina.
The branch on which two of these birds are represented, is that of the tree commonly called the white cucumber, a species of magnolia. It flowers as early in the season as the dog-wood. The flowers open before the leaves are expanded, and emit an odour resembling that of a lemon, but soon becoming disagreeable, as the blossom fades. This tree seldom grows to the height of thirty feet, and is consequently disregarded as a timber-tree. I have met with it only in the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, where it grows on the grounds preferred by the Kentucky Warbler during its stay in those States.
KENTUCKY WARBLER, Sylvia formosa, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. iii. p. 85.
SYLVIA FORMOSA, Bonap. Syn., p. 34.
KENTUCKY WARBLER, Sylvia formosa, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i. p. 196.
Third quill longest, second scarcely shorter, first longer than fourth, the outer three being nearly equal. Tail slightly emarginate and slightly rounded. Male with the upper part of the head and a band from the base of the upper mandible under the eye and down the side of the neck black; a streak from the nostril over the eye, and all the lower parts bright yellow; the upper parts yellowish-olive; wings brown, the feathers margined with yellowish-olive; tail light greenish-brown. Female similar, without the black band on the cheek and neck, and the black of the head less extended.
Male, 5 1/2, 8.
Valley of the Mississippi, and Kentucky. Migratory.
MAGNOLIA AURICULATA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. ii. p. 1268. Pursch., Flor. Amer. vol. ii. p. 482. Mich., Arbr. Forest. de l'Amer., Septentr., vol. iii. p. 94. Pl. 7.--POLYANDRIA POLYGYNIA, Linn. --MAGNOLIAE, Juss.
This species, which is remarkable for the beauty of its foliage, is known in America by the names of while cucumber tree, long-leaved cucumber tree, and Indian physic. The latter name it has obtained from the circumstance of its bark being used in intermittent fevers. It is characterized by its rhomboido-oboval acute leaves, which are narrowed and two-lobed at the base; and its ovate acute petals. The flowers are greenish-white.