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to the eastward in the prairie states, being less varied and ringing, and more guttural. The horned lark was equally characteristic, being by far the most numerous species here met with. During the excessive heat of midday it was seen crouching with half open wings in the shade of some tussock of herbage; whilst in winter, when it is equally abundant, it is not uncommon to meet with considerable numbers that have died of the extreme cold, as was the writer's experience the past winter. The yellow-winged sparrow is also one of the most abundant species. The pine wood finch (Peucea cestivalis) of the South Atlantic and Gulf States, or rather the representative of that species, was quite frequently met with near the streams, where its sweetly modulated song greets the ear with the first break of dawn, and is again heard at night till the last trace of twilight has disappeared. It is here very appreciably paler than the race of P. aestivalis found in the pine barrens more to the eastward, though not otherwise sensibly different. It here constitutes the variety of this species known in the books as P. Cassinii. The lark finch (Chondestes grammaca) was also common, but affected chiefly the vicinity of the streams and damp hollows. The yellow-headed blackbird, whose biography was so well written sometime since in the Naturalist * by Dr. Coues, was also a few times met with. But bj* far the most interesting species were the chestnut-collared bunting (Plectrophanes ornatus) and the lark bunting (Calamospiza bicolor), because both are not only characteristic of the region, but they are among the few birds strictly confined to the arid plains. Hotli were quite abundant, but were only met with on the high ridges and dry plateaus, where they seemed to live somewhat in colonies. At a few localities they were always numerous, but elsewhere were often not met with in a whole day's drive. They were rather wary, and very tenacious of life, often flying long distances when shot through vital parts. Most of the many specimens procured by us had to be killed on the wing at long range. Both are strong fliers and seem to delight in flying in the strongest gales, when all the other birds appear to move with difficulty and generally lay concealed among the grass. Both sing while on the wing, the lark bunting hovering in the wind, and shaking its tail and legs after the well known manner of the yellow-breasted chat. Indeed its song strongly
•Am.Nat., Vol. T, p. 195.
resembled the song of the chat, with which at such times its whole demeanor strikingly accords.
Among rasorial birds, the quail and the prairie chicken, both very recent emigrants, it is said, from the East, were occasional, and here reach their present western limit. The wild turkey is still abundant along all the more heavily wooded streams. The sharp-tailed grouse is also common, especially to the northward of Fort Hays.
Hawks were by no means numerous, excepting perhaps, the marsh hawk, which was moderately frequent. A single pair of duck hawks (Fulco peregrinus) was found breeding on a cliff near the Saline, and one nest of the red-tail was found. Sparrow hawks were also occasionally seen near the timber, and a single pair of ravens was observed. The black vulture (Cathartes aura) was also frequent but far less numerous than would naturally be expected, from the abundance of food afforded them by the thousands of carcasses of decaying buffaloes that are scattered over the plains. The little burrowing owl (Athane hypogea) was seen at intervals, living in colonies in the prairie dog towns.
Water birds were few, the onty ducks seen being a few representatives of the wood duck and the green-winged teal. The spotted sandpiper was more or less frequent along the streams, but the killdecr plover was by far the most numerous representative of the Gralhu. The so-called "mountain" plover was also occasional, and generally seen on the dry prairies far away from the streams and sloughs. A single stray representative of the Esquimaux curlew (Numenius boreal is) and a single small colony of the longbilled curlew (N. longirostris) were also observed, the latter breeding. The only herons seen were one or two examples each of the little green heron and the night heron.
A few weeks passed near Fori Hays, in mid-winter, enables rue to add a few notes respecting the winter birds of the Plains. One species only of the summer birds was met with in numbers in winter. This was the horned lark which was exceedingly numerous. The snow bunting was also abundant, and the Maccown's longspur (Plecfroj/hanes Maccownii) tolerably frequent. The tree sparrow was occasional along the streams wherever there were bushes; the rough-legged buzzard was the most common hawk. None of the remaining twenty-four species of the total number of thirty observed, were numerously represented, and were such as from their general known distribution would be expected here. Neither the bluebird nor the meadow lark was observed, but the kingfisher and golden-shafted flicker were both occasional.
In conclusion, some peculiarities in the nesting habits of some of the birds observed in Kansas are worthy of notice. A nest of the purple grackle was found in an old woodpecker's hole. Although this is the only instance of the kind I have as yet observed, nvy friend Mr. Win. Brewster, of Cambridge, informs me that he has repeatedly found the same species breeding in woodpeckers' holes in Maine! The Carolina dove generally bred at Fort Hays in trees, as at the eastward; sometimes, however, laying in an old grackle's nest instead of being at the trouble of building one. One uest, however, was found on the ground, although bushes were growing but a few yards distant. More to the westward I learned that this bird—more common here than at the east —always breeds on the ground, as it is of course compelled to do, owing to the absence of either trees or bushes. Meeting with this bird in pairs in the breeding season far out on the Plains, sometimes ten miles from the nearest trees, led me to believe that this would be its habit, even before I had seen positive evidence that such was the case.
Other interesting instances of the modification of nesting habits may well be mentioned in this connection. The brown thrush is well known to vary the location of its nest according to the nature of the soil, nesting on the ground in sandy districts, and in bushes where the soil is damp or clayey. Among the clayey bluffs at Leavenworth we found it nesting in bushes; at Topeka on the ground; at Fort Hays in bushes, when breeding on high ground, and in trees, ten to fifteen or twenty feet from the ground, when nesting in the timber along Big Creek (a considerable stream on which Fort Hays is situated). We had an ample explanation of this latter departure from its usual habits during our stay at Fort Hays. Big Creek, flowing in a deep narrow bed, is subject, in summer, to sudden freshets, resulting from occasional heavy rainfalls, it rising sometimes ten or a dozen feet in a single night, as we once witnessed. The trees growing chiefly along the bed of the stream, the water at such times submerges not only the scanty underbrush, but all the lower branches of the trees. Hence the brown thrush, as well as all the other birds, appears here always to
AMEll. NATURALIST, VOL. VI. 18
select high nesting sights. Can such foresight be regarded as the result of "blind instinct?" As the highwater line is always indicated by the drifted matter lodged in the trees, is not this precaution the result rather of a rational appreciation of the exceptional dangers here to be guarded against, and this caution in the selection of a safe nesting site really the result of induction?
The cliff swallow (Hirundo lunifrons) we found breeding throughout the West in its primitive way, that is, on the faces of cliffs; yet where such natural facilities abounded they in some instances abandoned the rocks for the more sheltered nesting sites afforded them by buildings, plastering their mud dwellings against the building under the projecting eaves. At Topeka, however, we saw cliff swallows frequenting the holes in the banks of the Kaw River made by the sand martin, keeping in the company of these birds, entering their holes and presenting the same appearance of breeding in them as the sand martins themselves! Throughout the mountains of Colorado we found the violet-green swallow (Hirundo thalassina) breeding in abandoned woodpeckers' holes; but in the " Garden of the Gods", near Colorado City, they were nesting in holes in the rocks. We had good evidence also that the sparrow hawk bred there in the same manner, — in holes in the cliffs instead of in hollow trees! At Ogden, Utah, we found the red-shafted flicker frequenting holes in a high bank, and that these holes entered horizontally for a few inches only and then turned abruptly downward, having the same form they would have if made by this bird in a decayed tree. These circumstances left no doubt in our minds that these birds nested in the holes in the bank we saw them entering, although it was then past the breeding season. The region being but scantily wooded for many miles, there is certainly some reason for such a modification of their habits. While on this subject I may add that every collector must have noticed how much birds vary the material used in the construction of their nests with locality, using generally whatever is most easily obtained that is serviceable. Nests of the same species from different localities hence often differ greatly' in appearance, enabling one sometimes to determine approximately the locality whence the nest came by the materials used in its construction.
Finally, I wish briefly to notice some peculiarities in the color of the plumage of the birds inhabiting the Plains. From the extreme dryness of the atmosphere, the want of shelter from the intense rays of the sun — an intensity one can hardly appreciate until he has passed a few summer days far out on the Plains — and the dry, heated powerful winds so constant here, few would be surprised at the faded, bleached and worn plumage that characterizes the birds of the Plains. It is more noticeable of course in those that do not frequent the timber, though more or less apparent in all. Here the common "house" wren is bleached and faded, forming the so-called Troglodytes Parkvianni, differing from the T. aedon of the east only in this particular. The meadow and horned larks look singularly "weather worn," the former constituting the Sturnella neglecta of authors, and the latter the Alauda rufa of Audubon, in which the yellow almost entirely disappears from the forehead, throat and lores, fading to white. The night-hawk becomes much lighter and paler, forming the race known as Chordeiles Henryi; Peucea aestivalis wears a very faded aspect, and forms the so called P. Cassinii. The yellow-winged sparrow becomes equally faded and changed, and the killdeer plover shows a similar paling of the colors, which is also noticeable in birds as brightly colored as the Baltimore oriole. The color of the mountain plover is in similar harmony with the midsummer gray tint of the plains. In respect to the Baltimore, we find here a well marked race, characterized by the middle coverts of the wing being white instead of bright yellow, and by having much more white on edges of the secondaries. The bill is also slenderer and relatively longer. The Leavenworth specimens I find are, in respect to color, about half way between the Fort Hays type and the common form of the Eastern States.