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The male in his wedding dress, with jet black head, white collar, and ferruginous breast, is extremely handsome; and the artist who is fond of depicting bird-life would scarcely find a prettier subject than a male Stonechat in this plumage upon a spray of furze in full bloom.
In Ireland the Stonechat is considered to be a resident species, and this is attributed by Mr. Thompson' to the mild winters of that island. In Scotland, on the contrary, Sir Wm. Jardine has observed that the Stonechat is not nearly so abundant as either the Whinchat or the Wheatear, and frequents localities of a more wild and secluded character. It ranges, however, to the extreme north of the mainland of Scotland, and is included by Dr. Dewar in his list of birds which he found nesting in the Hebrides. It is said not to breed in either Orkney or Shetland.1
The geographical range of the Stonechat is rather more extensive than that of the Whinchat, for besides being found throughout the greater part of Europe to the Mediterranean, it goes by way of Senegal to South Africa, and extends eastward through Asia Minor, Palestine, and Persia, to India and Japan. In Europe, however, its distribution is somewhat remarkable, inasmuch as it is confined chiefly to the central and southern portions of the continent, and in Norway and Sweden is unknown. The Whinchat, on the other hand, breeds in these countries, and has been met with as far north as Archangel. In winter the male Stonechat loses the black head, and the colours in both sexes are much less vivid than in summer. Here again, as with the Wheatear, the change of plumage seems to be effected by a change of colour in the same feathers, and not by a moult. Apropos of this subject, the reader may be referred to an article contributed by me to the Natural History columns of " The Field," 16th September, 1871, on variation of colour in birds.
1 Cf. More, " Ibis," 1865, p. 22.
THE WOOD WARBLER.
ALTHOUGH often taken to comprehend every species of warbler, Professor Newton has recently shown1 that the genus Sylvia of Latham should be restricted to the group of fruit-eating warblers next to be described, and that the generic term which has priority for the willow wren group is Phylloscopus of Boie.
From its larger size, brighter colour, and finer song, the Wood Warbler deserves to be first noticed; and the first step should be to distinguish it from its congeners. Perhaps none of the small insectivorous birds have been more confounded one with another than have the members of this group, not only by observers of the living birds, but by naturalists with skins of each before them. Taking the three species which annually visit us—i. e., the Wood Warbler, the Willow Warbler, and the Chiff-chaffit will be found on comparison that they differ in size as follows—
Length. Wing. Tarsus.
Wood Warbler . 5-2 in. . 3-0 in. . 07 in.
Not only is the Wood Warbler the largest of the three, but it has comparatively the longest wings and the longest legs. The wings, when closed, cover three-fourths of the tail. In the Willow Wren, under the same circumstances, less than half the tail is hidden. The Chiffchaff's wing is shorter again: In my edition of White's "Selborne," founded upon that of Ben
nett, 1875, pp. 56, 57, will be found a long footnote on the subject, with woodcuts illustrating the comparative form of the wing in these three birds. Mr. Blake-Knox, in "The Zoologist" for 1866, p. 300, has pointed to the second quill-feather, depicted in a sketch accompanying his communication, as being an unfailing mark of distinction.1 When we reflect, however, upon the variation which is found to exist in the length of feathers, owing to the age of the bird, moult, or accident, too much stress ought not to be laid upon this as a character. At the same time there is no doubt that, taken in connection with other details, it will often assist the determination of a species. After examining a large series of these birds, I have come to the conclusion that, as regards the wings, the following formulae may be relied on: Wood Warbler, 2nd=4th; 3rd and 4th with
1 Mr. Blake-Knox subsequently corrected his statement, remarking that he had by mistake written second instead of third primary quill. The first primary is so rudimentary as almost to escape observation.