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singular voices, of which that of only one reach the notes as they are written on species, the Whippoorwill, can be con- the scale. A few sliding notes are ocsidered musical. They are known in casionally introduced, and an occasional all parts of the world, but are particu preluding cluck is heard when we are larly numerous in the warmer parts of near the singer. America.
The note of the Quail so closely resemThe Whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vo- bles that of the Whippoorwill, that I have ciferus) is well known to the inhabitants thought it might be interesting to comof this part of the world, on account of
pare the two. his nocturnal song. This is heard only in densely wooded and retired situations,
NOTE OF THE QUAIL. and is associated with the solitude of the forest, as well as the silence of night. The Whippoorwill is, therefore, emblematic of the rudeness of primitive Na
Bob White. ture, and his voice always reminds us of seclusion and retirement. Sometimes he So great is the general similarity of wanders away from the wood into the the notes of these two birds, that those precincts of the town, and sings near of the Quail need only to be repeated some dwelling-house. Such an incident several times in succession, without pause, was formerly the occasion of superstitious to be mistaken for those of the Whippooralarm, being regarded as an omen of will. They are uttered with similar into some evil to the inmates of the dwelling. nations; but the voice of the nocturnal The true cause of these irregular visits is bird is more harsh, and his song consists probably the accidental abundance of a of three notes instead of two. particular kind of insects, which the bird The song of the Whippoorwill, though has followed from his retirement.
wanting in mellowness of tone, as may I believe the Whippoorwill, in this perceived when he is only a short dispart of the country, is first heard in tance from us, is to most people very May, and continues vocal until the mid- agreeable, notwithstanding the superstidle of July. He begins to sing at dusk, tions associated with it. Some persons and we usually hear his note soon after are not disposed to rank the Whippoorthe Veery, the Philomel of our summer will among singing-birds, regarding him evenings, has become silent. His song as more vociferous than musical.
But consists of three notes, in a sort of triple it would be difficult to determine in what or waltz time, with a slight pause after respect his notes differ from the songs of the first note in the bar, as given be other birds, except that they approach low:
more nearly to the precision of artificial
music. Yet it will be admitted that conSONG OF THE WHIPPOORWILL.
siderable distance is required to “lend enchantment” to the sound of his voice. In some retired and solitary districts, the Whippoorwills are often so numerous as
to be annoying by their vociferations; but Whip-poor-Will Whip-p'r-Will Whip-p'r-Wil Whip
in those places where only two or three
individuals are heard during the season, I should remark, that the bird usually their music is the source of a great deal commences his
song with the second syl- of pleasure, and is a kind of recommenlable of his name, or the second note in dation to the place. the bar. Some birds fall short of these I was witness of this, some time since, intervals; but there seems to be an en- in one of my botanical rambles in the deavor, on the part of each individual, to town of Beverly, which is, for the most
part, too densely populated to suit the phere,-being frequently seen, at twilight habits of these solitary birds. On one of and in cloudy weather, soaring above the these excursions, after walking several house-tops in quest of insects. The Whiphours over a rather unattractive region, poorwill finds his subsistence chiefly in I arrived at a very romantic spot, known the woods, and takes a part of it from the by the unpoetical name of Black Swamp. branches of trees, while poising himself Nature uses her most ordinary materials on the wing, like a Humming-Bird. I to form her most delightful landscapes, believe he is never seen circling aloft and often keeps in reserve prospects of like the Night-Ilawk. enchanting beauty, and causes them to The movements of the Night-Hawk, rise up, as it were, by magic, where we during this flight, are performed, for the
, should least expect them. Here I sud- most part, in circles, and are very picdenly found myself encompassed by a turesque. The birds are usually seen in charming amphitheatre of hills and woods, pairs, at such times, but occasionally there and in a valley so beautiful that I could are numbers assembled together; and not have imagined anything equal to it. one might suppose they were engaged in A neat cottage stood alone in this spot, a sort of aërial dance, or that they we without a single architectural decoration, emulating each other in their attempts at which I am confident would have dis- soaring to a great height. It is evident solved the spell that made the whole that these evolutions proceed in part scene so attractive. It was occupied by from the pleasure of motion ; but they a shoemaker,, whom I recognized as an are also connected with their courtship. old acquaintance and a worthy man, who While they are soaring and circling in resided here with his wife and children. the air, they occasionally utter the shrill I asked them if they could live contented and broken note which has been supposed so far from other families. The wife of' to resemble the word Piramidig, whence the cottager replied, that they suffered in the name is derived, -and now and then the winter from their solitude, but in the they dart suddenly aside, to seize a passspring and summer they preferred it to ing insect. the town, -" for in this place we hear all While performing these circumvoluthe singing-birds, early and late, and the tions, the male frequently dives almost Whippoorwill sings here every night dur perpendicularly downwards, a distance ing May and June.” It was the usual of forty feet or more, uttering, when he practice of these birds, they told me, to turns at the bottom of his descent, a sinsing both in the morning and the evening gular note, resembling the twang of a twilight; but if the moon rose late in the viol-string. This sound has been supevening, after they had become silent, posed to proceed from the action of the they would begin to sing anew, as if to air, as the bird dives swiftly through it welcome her rising. May the birus con- with open mouth ; but this supposition is tinue to sing to this happy family, and rendered improbable by the fact that the may the voice of the Whippoorwill never European species makes a similar sound bode them any misfortune!
while sitting on its perch. It has also The Night-Hawk, or Piramidig, (Capri- been alleged that the diving motion of mulgus Americanus,) is similar in many this bird is an act designed to intimidate points to the Whippoorwill, and the two those who seem to be approaching his species were formerly considered identi- nest; but this cannot be true, because cal. The former, however, is a smaller the bird performs the manæuvre when bird; he has no song, and exhibits more he has no nest to defend. This habit is of the ways of the Swallow. He is marked peculiar to the male, and it is probably by a white spot on his wings, which is one of those fantastic motions which are very apparent during his flight. He takes noticeable among the males of the gallihis prey in a higher part of the atmos- naceous birds, and are evidently their artifices to attract the attention of the fe- may observe that soaring habit which renmale ; very many of these motions may ders him one of the picturesque objects be observed in the manners of tame Pig- of Nature. This soaring takes place soon eons.
after sunset, continues during twilight, The twanging note produced during and is repeated at the corresponding hour the precipitate descent of the Night-Hawk in the morning. If you listen at this is one of the picturesque sounds of Na- time near the places of his resort, he will ture, and is heard most frequently in the soon reveal himself by a lively peep, fremorning twilight, when the birds are busy quently uttered, from the ground. While collecting their repast of insects. During repeating this note, he may be seen strutan early morning walk, while they are ting about, like a turkey-cock, with fancircling about, we may hear their cry fre- tastic jerkings of the tail and a frequent quently repeated, and occasionally the bowing of the head; and his mate, I bebooming sound, which, if one is not ac- lieve, is at this time not far off. Sudcustomed to it, and is not acquainted with denly he springs upward, and with a this habit of the bird, affects him with a wide circular sweep, uttering at the same sensation of mystery, and excites his cu- time a rapid whistling note, he rises in a riosity in an extraordinary degree. spiral course to a great height in the air.
The sound produced by the European At the summit of his ascent, he hovers species is a sort of drumming or whiz- about with irregular motions, chirping a zing note, like the hum of a spinning- medley of broken notes, like imperfect wheel. The male commences this per- warbling. This continues about ten or formance about dusk, and continues it at fifteen seconds, when it ceases, and he deintervals during a great part of the night. scends rapidly to the ground. We seldom It is effected while the breast is inflated hear him while in his descent, but receive with air, like that of a cooing Dove. The the first intimation of it by hearing a Piramidig has the power of inflating him- repetition of his peep, resembling the self in the same manner, and he utters sound produced by those minute wooden this whizzing note when one approaches trumpets sold at the German toy-shops. his nest.
No person could watch this playful The American Woodcock (Scolopar flight of the Woodcock without interest; minor) is a more interesting bird than and it is remarkable that a bird with we should infer from his general appear- short wings and difficult flight should be ance and physiognomy. He is mainly capable of mounting to so great an altinocturnal in his habits, and his ways are tude. It affords me a vivid conception worthy of study and observation. He of the pleasure with which I should witobtains his food by scratching up the ness the soaring and singing of the Skyleaves and rubbish that lie upon the sur- lark, known to me only by description. face of the ground in damp and wooded I have but to imagine the chirruping of places, and by boring into the earth for the Woodcock to be a melodious series worms. He remains concealed in the wood of notes, to feel that I am listening to during the day, and comes out to feed that bird, which is so familiarized to our at twilight, choosing the open ploughed imaginations by English poetry that in lands where worms are abundant; though our early days we always expect his it is probable that in the shade of the greetings with a summer sunrise. It is wood he is more or less busy in scratch- with sadness that we first learn in our ing among the leaves in the daytime. youth that the Skylark is not an inhabi
The Woodcock does not commonly ven- tant of the New World; and our mornture abroad in the open day, unless he be ings seem divested of a great portion of disturbed and driven from his retreats. their charms, for the want of this poetiHe makes his first appearance here in the cal accompaniment. latter part of April, and at this season we There is another circumstance connected with the habits of the Woodcock which which Audubon has very graphically deincreases his importance as an actor in scribed in the following passage :-"
_"The the melodrame of Nature. When we birds are met with in meadows and low stroll away from the noise and din of the grounds, and, by being on the spot before town, where the stillness permits us to sunrise, you may see both male and fehear distinctly all those faint sounds which male) mount high, in a spiral manner, are turned by the silence of night into now with continuous beats of the wings, music, we may hear at frequent intervals now in short sailings, until more than a the hum produced by the irregular flights hundred yards high, when they whirl of the Woodcock, as he passes over short round each other with extreme velocidistances in the wood, where he is collect- ty, and dance, as it were, to their own ing his repast. It resembles the sound music; for, at this juncture, and during of the wings of Doves, rendered distinct the space of five or six minutes, you by the stillness of all other things, and hear rolling notes mingled together, each melodious by the distance. There is a more or less distinct, perhaps, according feeling of mystery attached to these musi- to the state of the atmosphere.
The cal flights that yields a savor of romance sounds produced are extremely pleasing, to the quiet voluptuousness of a summer though they fall faintly on the ear. I evening
know not how to describe them; but I It is on such occasions, if we are in a am well assured that they are not promoralizing mood, that we may be keenly duced simply by the beatings of their impressed with the truth of the saying, wings, as at this time the wings are not that the secret of happiness consists in flapped, but are used in sailing swiftly in keeping alive our susceptibilities by fru- a circle, not many feet in diameter. A gal indulgences, rather than by seeking a person might cause a sound somewhat multitude of pleasures, that pall in exact similar by blowing rapidly and alterproportion to their abundance. The still- nately, from one end to another, across a ness and darkness of a quiet night produce set of small pipes, consisting of two or this enlivening effect upon our minds. three modulations. This performance is Our susceptibility is then awakened to kept up till incubation terminates; but I such a degree, that slight sounds and fec- have never observed it at any other peble sparks of light convey to our souls an riod.” amount of pleasure which we seldom ex- Among the Heron family we discover perience in the daytime from sights and a few nocturnal birds, which, though not sounds of the most pleasing description. very well known, have some ways that Thus the player in an orchestra can en- are singular and interesting. Goldsmith joy such music only as would deafen considered one of these birds worthy of common ears by its crash of sounds, in introduction into his “ Deserted Village,” which they perceive no connection or as contributing to the poetic conception harmony; while the simple rustic listens of desolation. Thus, in his description to the rude notes of a flageolet in the of the grounds which were the ancient hands of a clown with feelings of ineffa- site of the village, we read, ble delight. Nature, if the seekers after luxurious and exciting pleasures could
"Along its glades, a solitary guest, but understand her language, would say
The hollow-sounding Bittern guards its to them, “ Except ye become as this simple rustic, ye cannot enter into my para- «« The Bittern is a shy and solitary dise."
bird ; it is never seen on the wing in the The American Snipe has some of the daytime, but sits, generally with the head nocturnal habits of the Woodcock, and the erect, hid among the reeds and rushes of same habit of soaring at twilight, when extensive marshes, from whence it will he performs a sort of musical medley, not stir, unless disturbed by the sports
man. When it changes its haunts, it re- true nocturnal birds, and are most vocal moves in the dusk of the evening, and when inspired by the light of the moon. then, rising in a spiral direction, soars to Europe has several of these minstrels of a vast height. It flies in the same heavy the night. Beside the true Philomel of pomanner as the Heron, and might be mis- etry and romance, the Reed-Thrush and taken for that bird, were it not for the the Woodcock are of this character. In singularly resounding cry which it utters, the United States, the Mocking-Bird enfrom time to time, while on the wing: joys the greatest reputation ; the Rosebut this cry is feeble when compared with breasted Grosbeak and the New York the hollow booming noise which it makes Thrush are also nocturnal songsters. during the night, in the breeding season, The Mocking-Bird (Turdus polyglotfrom its swampy retreats. From the tus) is well known in the Middle and loudness and solemnity of its note, an Southern States, but seldom passes a seaerroneous notion prevails with the vulgar, son in New England, except in the that it either thrusts its head into a reed, southern part of Rhode Island and Conwhich serves as a pipe for swelling its necticut, which seem to be the northern note beyond its natural pitch, or that it limit of its migrations. Probably, like the immerges its head in water, and then
pro- Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which is conduces its boomings by blowing with all its stantly extending its limits in an eastern might."
direction, the Mocking-Bird may be gradThe American Bittern is a smaller ually making progress northwardly, so bird, but is probably a variety of the Eu- that fifty years hence both of these birds ropean species. It exhibits the same
may be common in Massachusetts. The nocturnal habits, and has received at the Mocking-Bird is familiar in his habits, freSouth the name of Dunkadoo, from the quenting gardens and orchards, and perehresemblance of its common note to these ing on the roofs of houses when singing, syllables. This is a hollow-sounding noise, like the common Robin. Like the Robin, but not so loud as the voice of the Bit- too, who sings at all hours excepting those tern to which Goldsmith alludes. I have of darkness, he is a persevering songster, heard it by day proceeding from the and seems to be inspired by living in the wooded swamps, and am at a loss to ex- vicinity of man. In his manners, howplain how so small a bird can produce so ever, he bears more resemblance to the low and hollow a note. Among this fam- Red Thrush, being distinguished by his ily of birds are one or two other noctur- vivacity, and the courage with which he nal species, including the Qua-Bird, which repels the attacks of his enemies. is common to both continents; but there The Mocking-Bird is celebrated throughis little to be said of it that would be in- out the world for his musical powers; but teresting in this connection. The Herons, it is difficult to ascertain precisely the however, and their allied species, are character and quality of his original notes. birds of remarkable habits, the enumer- Hence some naturalists have contended ation and account of which would occupy that he has no song of his own, but cona considerable space. In an essay on fines himself to imitations. That this is the flight of birds in particular, the Her- an error, all persons who have listened ons would furnish a multitude of
in- to him in his native wild-wood can testiteresting facts.
fy. I should say, from my own observa
tions, not only that he has a distinct song, Let us now turn our attention to those peculiarly his own, but that his imitations diurnal birds that sing in the night as well are far from being equal to his original as in the day, and which might be compre- notes. Yet it is seldom we hear him hended under the general appellation of except when he is engaged in mimicry. Nightingales. These birds do not con- In his native woods, and especially at an fine their singing to the night, like the early hour in the morning, when he is