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Mr. Mitford I believe has not altered the opinion which he originally expressed; but, from a careful examination of the birds shot by him, I am inclined to regard them all as S. stropera. This peculiarity in the Reed Warbler of nesting at a distance from water has since been noticed by naturalists in other parts of the country. In 1866 I referred to a confirmation of the fact as communicated by a friend at Ealing,' and Mr. A. C. Kennedy, in his “Birds of Berks and Bucks” (p. 81), has alluded to the same habit from his own observation near Windsor. In all probability the birds seen by Lord Clermont in lilac bushes at Twickenham * were also Reed Warblers.
Mr. Frederick Bond some time since called my attention to the occurrence of the rarer S. palustris in Norfolk, and kindly lent me a series of skins of both species procured in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Sussex. Of these, two specimens of S. palustris were killed at Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, many years ago, under the impression that they were S. strepera ; and three others near Norwich in June, 1869, under the like misapprehension. They do not differ in any way from skins of palustris from France and Germany, with which I have compared them. The characters by which this species may be distinguished from S. strepera may be briefly stated as follows:— Although the colour of the upper portion of the plumage in both is a uniform olive-brown, S. palustris is yellower. It is a somewhat longer bird, with a shorter and broader bill; a buffy-white line, extending from the base of the bill over the eye, is clearly defined. In strepera this line is so faint as to be scarcely discernible. Mr. Yarrell, indeed, considered it to be absent in strepera; but, from this circumstance, and from the fact of his describing the legs of this species as pale-brown, it may be inferred that he had before him, and figured, a young bird. The first primary in the wing of both is very
* “The Birds of Middlesex,” p. 47. * “Zoologist,” 1865, p. 97.29.
short, quite rudimentary, in fact; while the third in each is the longest in the wing. In palustris the second primary is equal to the fourth; while in strepera the second is equal to the fifth. It is doubtful whether this can be invariably relied upon, for the length of feathers, even in the same species, will sometimes vary considerably, through age, moult, or accident. The readiest means of distinguishing the two birds at a glance will be by the colour of the legs and toes. In living or freshly-killed specimens it will be observed that the tarsi and feet of stropera are of a slaty-brown colour, while in palustris the same parts are flesh-colour. In dried skins, the former turns to hair-brown; the latter to yellowish-brown. The tarsus of palustris, moreover, is rather longer and stouter than that of its congener. From this it appears that Mr. Gould in his “Birds of Great Britain” has figured palustris for stropera. Dr. Bree, in his “Birds of Europe,” has unfortunately figured palustris with slate-coloured
legs and feet, which quite alters its appearance, although he has been careful in the text to describe the colour correctly. The tail in palustris is less rounded than in strepera; the outer tail-feather in the former being not so short as in the latter. The measurements of the two species, taken
The nests and eggs differ as much as do the birds themselves.
The nest of palustris is much neater and more compact, and, as regards depth, not more than half the size of that of strepera. The eggs of both are subject to variation; but, as a rule, it may be said that in those of palustris the white ground colour has little if any of the greenish or brownish tinge with which those of stropera are invariably suffused.
I have seen two nests in the collection of Mr.
Bond, one containing three, and the other two eggs, taken at Whittlesford, which I have no doubt belonged to palustris. In Badeker's work on the eggs of European birds, it is stated that the Marsh Warbler “builds in bushes, in meadows, and on the banks of ditches, rivers, ponds, and lakes. The nest is made of dry grass and straws, with panicles, and interwoven with strips of inner bark and horsehair outside. The rim is only very slightly drawn in. It has a loose substructure, and is by this and its half globular form, suspended on dry ground between the branches of the bushes or nettles, easily distinguished from the strongly formed nest of S. stropera, which is moreover built over water." It lays five or six eggs the beginning of June, which have a bluish-white ground, with pale-violet and clear brown spots in the texture of the shell, and delicate dark brown spots on the surface, mingled with which are a number of black dots. The ground