Become an Audubon Member
Membership benefits include one year of Audubon magazine and the latest on birds and their habitats. Your support helps secure a future for birds at risk.
We had been in Labrador nearly three weeks before this Finch was discovered. One morning while the sun was doing his best to enliven the gloomy aspect of the country, I chanced to enter one of those singular small valleys here and there to be seen. The beautiful verdure of the vegetation, the numerous flowers that grew sprinkled over the ground, the half-smothered pipings of some frogs, and the multitudes of mosquitoes and flies of various sorts, seemed to belong to a region very different from any that I had previously explored. But if the view of this favoured spot was pleasing to my eye, how much more to my ear were the sweet notes of this bird as they came thrilling on the sense, surpassing in vigour those of any American Finch with which I am acquainted, and forming a song which seemed a compound of those of the Canary and Wood-lark of Europe. I immediately shouted to my companions, who were not far distant. They came, and we all followed the songster as it flitted from one bush to another to evade our pursuit. No sooner would it alight than it renewed its song; but we found more wildness in this species than in any other inhabiting the same country, and it was with difficulty that we at last procured it. Chance placed my young companion, THOMAS LINCOLN, in a situation where he saw it alight within shot, and with his usual unerring aim, he cut short its career. On seizing it, I found it to be a species which I had not previously seen; and, supposing it to be new, I named it Tom's Finch, in honour of our friend LINCOLN, who was a great favourite among us. Three cheers were given him, when, proud of the prize, I returned to the vessel to draw it, while my son and his companions continued to search for other specimens. Many were procured during our stay in that country. They became more abundant and less shy the farther north we proceeded, but no longer sang, in consequence of the advance of the season. We did not, however, succeed in finding a nest.
The habits of this sweet songster resemble those of the Song Sparrow. Like it, mounted on the topmost twig of the tallest shrub or tree it can find, it chants for hours; or, diving into the thickets, it hops from branch to branch, until it reaches the ground, in search of those insects and berries from which it derives its support. It moves swiftly off when it discovers an enemy; and, if forced to take wing, flies low and rapidly to some considerable distance, jerking its tail as it proceeds, and throwing itself at the foot of the thickest bush it meets. I found it mostly near streams, and always in the small valleys, guarded from the cold winds so prevalent in the country, and which now and then nip the vegetation, and destroy many of the more delicate birds.
Like every other species of the genus, Lincoln's Finch is petulant and pugnacious. Two males often chase each other, until the weaker is forced to abandon the valley, and seek refuge in another. On this account I seldom saw more than two or three pairs in a tract seven or eight miles in extent.
On the 4th of July, the young were out of the nest, following their parents; and as, from that time, the old birds ceased to sing, I concluded that they raise only one brood each year. Before we left Labrador, these Finches had all disappeared. In what parts this species passes the winter is unknown to me; nay, I never met with it in any of the Southern States, although I saw several specimens in the collection of the learned WILLIAM COOPER, Esq. of New York, that had been procured in the vicinity of that city.
The plants represented along with a pair of these birds, grew in the little valley in which the first individual seen by us was procured. They were taken up with a spade from the midst of a rich broad bed of mosses, and may serve to convey an idea of the nature of the vegetation of those places.
New York and Labrador. Rather rare. Migratory.
LINCOLN'S FINCH, Fringilla Lincolnii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. ii. p. 539.
Bill short, conical, acute; upper mandible almost straight in its dorsal outline, rounded on the sides; lower mandible slightly convex beneath, the sides rounded; edges of both sharp and inflected; gap-line deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, roundish, partially concealed by the feathers. Head rather large, neck short, body rather full. Feet of moderate length, slender; tarsus covered anteriorly with a few longish scutella; toes free, scutellate above, the lateral ones nearly equal; hind-toe not much stouter; claws slender, compressed, slightly arched, acute.
Plumage soft, blended, the feathers somewhat distinct on the back, slightly glossed. Wings shortish, curved, second and third quills longest, and equal, first almost as long as fifth, secondaries long and rounded. Tail rather long, graduated and emarginate, of twelve straight, narrow, rather acute feathers.
Bill dark brown at the end, greyish-blue at the base. Iris brown. Feet yellowish-brown. The upper part of the head has a greyish-blue band in the centre, and two at the sides, the intermediate spaces chestnut, streaked with brownish-black. The general colour of the upper parts is yellowish-brown, with streaks of brownish-black. Quills and larger coverts deep brown, margined externally with yellowish-brown, and the latter slightly tipped with whitish. Tail yellowish-brown, the outer feathers paler. Cheeks of the same tint, tinged with grey, beneath which is a curved band of ochraceous yellow; throat white, streaked with dusky, and having a line of dusky spots on each side; fore part of the breast and the sides pale greyish-yellow, streaked with dusky, the rest greyish-white.
Length 5 3/4 inches, extent of wings 8 2/12; bill along the ridge 5/12, along the edge 7/12; tarsus 10/12.
The female differs from the male only in having the tints a little duller.
THE SWEDISH OR DWARF CORNEL. Fig. 1.
CORNUS SUECICA, Linn., Sp. Pl., p. 171. Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. i.p. 660.--TETRANDRIA MONOGYNIA, Linn.--CAPRIFOLIA, Juss.
A small herbaceous plant with stems from three to five or six inches high, with opposite, ovate, acute leaves, and two branches, between which is the involucrum of four large unequal white leaves, containing an umbel of dark purple flowers. The berry is red, and has a sweetish taste.
RUBUS CHAMAEMORUS, Linn., Sp. Pl., p. 708. Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. ii. p. 1090. Pursch, Flor. Amer. Sept., vol. i. p. 349. --ICOSANDRIA POLYGYNIA, Linn.--ROSACEAE, Juss.
An herbaceous bramble with simple, plaited, and lobed leaves; stem without prickles, undivided and singe-flowered. The flowers are white, and the berries large and of a yellowish-red colour. They are ripe in July, when they drop from the stalk at the slightest touch, make an excellent preserve, and are collected by Indians, fishermen and eggers in great quantities. In Newfoundland I found them larger and better than in Labrador. Their ripeness is a sure intimation of the arrival of the Esquimaux Curlew (Numenius borealis), which comes in clouds from the north to feed upon them.
THE GLAUCOUS KALMIA.
KALMIA GLAUCA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. ii. p. 601. Pursch, Flor. Amer. Sept., vol. i. p. 296.--DECANDRIA MONOGYNIA, Linn.
A small shrubby plant, with brown bark, opposite, sessile, ovato-oblong leaves, which have the margins revolute and the under surface glaucous; and terminal bracteated corymbs of beautiful rose-coloured flowers.