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HIS is not nearly so common a bird, nor so generally distributed in Great Britain, as the last-named. It is confined more or less to the midland and southern counties of England, is very rare in Scotland, and unknown in Ireland. Mr. Rodd, in his “List of Birds” before quoted, says the Lesser Whitethroat is only seen in Cornwall during the autumn migration, and then only occasionally at Scilly. In Wales it appears to be equally scarce (cf. More, “Ibis,” 1865, p. 25), but it is possible that, from its general resemblance to the last-named bird, it may have been often overlooked. The respective measurements of the two species are as follows:—
Total length. Wing. Tarsus. Common Whitethroat . 5-5 in. . 2:9 in. . 8 in.
Independently, however, of its smaller size, the Lesser Whitethroat may be distinguished by its black ear-coverts, and by the absence of the pale rufous edgings to the secondaries, which are so conspicuous in the larger species. The legs also are slate-coloured instead of yellowish-brown.
In haunts, habits, and mode of nesting the two species are very similar, and what has been said of one will apply almost equally well to the other. Both arrive also about the same time— namely, the third week in April; and by the end of August, when the young are strong enough to shift for themselves, they depart again southwards. Although the nests of the two
species are very similar, the eggs of the Lesser Whitethroat have a much clearer ground-colour, and are never so profusely freckled as those of its congener. On the contrary, the spots of ash-brown, or ash-green, are almost always at the larger end, leaving the smaller end of the egg almost spotless. The range of the Lesser Whitethroat southward is probably more or less identical with that of the Common Whitethroat. It is abundant in Spain in winter and early spring, but does not remain to breed there. In Malta, strange to say, it has only been recognised once; but in Egypt and Nubia, especially from Dendera to the First Cataract, it is very numerous in winter. Individuals of this species have been seen to alight on vessels in the Mediterranean, even when upwards of sixty miles from the nearest land, and thus its ability to migrate from Europe to Africa, and back, is sufficiently established. Eastward it penetrates to Lower Bengal, where, in the cold season, it is said to
PRIGHTLY in its actions, and more vividly coloured than many of our Summer Migrants, the Redstart cannot fail to attract attention in the districts which it frequents during its sojourn with us. It would be difficult, indeed, to find a more beautiful little bird than the male Redstart in his nuptial plumage. The pale grey colour of the head and back, relieved by a silvery white spot upon the forehead and a jet-black throat, contrasts strongly with the bright chestnut of the breast, upper tail coverts, and tail. From the bright colour of its tail, in fact, it has derived the name Redstart, which is simply the Anglo-Saxon equivalent for “Redtail.” “Fire-tail,” “Brand-tail,” and “Quickstart,” are other local names by which it is variously known. The last-named has reference to the singularly characteristic movement of the tail, which is rapidly flirted horizontally instead of vertically, as in the case of most other birds. Upon this point, however, there seems to be some difference of opinion. Macgillivray, a high authority in such matters, observes, “As to the motion of the tail in this bird, which has supplied some observers with a subject of dispute, I am convinced that it is vertical—that is, up and down, and not alternately to either side, although at each jerk the feathers are a little spread out, as is the case with those of many other birds of this order, as the Stonechat and Whinchat.” I feel sure, notwithstanding this