Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/145

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117
PURPLE MARTIN.

twitter in united accord, as if congratulating each other on the successful issue of the contest.

The usual flight of this bird more resembles that of the Hirundo urbica of Linnæus, or that of the Hirundo fulva of Vieillot, than the flight of any other species of Swallow; and, although graceful and easy, cannot be compared in swiftness with that of the Barn Swallow. Yet the Martin is fully able to distance any bird not of its own genus. They are very expert at bathing and drinking while on the wing, when over a large lake or river, giving a sudden motion to the hind part of the body, as it comes into contact with the water, thus dipping themselves in it, and then rising and shaking their body, like a water spaniel, to throw off the water. When intending to drink, they sail close over the water, with both wings greatly raised, and forming a very acute angle with each other. In this position, they lower the head, dipping their bill several times in quick succession, and swallowing at each time a little water.

They alight with comparative ease on different trees, particularly willows, making frequent movements of the wings and tail as they shift their place, in looking for leaves to convey to their nests. They also frequently alight on the ground, where, notwithstanding the shortness of their legs, they move with some ease, pick up a goldsmith or other insect, and walk to the edges of puddles to drink, opening their wings, which they also do when on trees, feeling as if not perfectly comfortable.

These birds are extremely courageous, persevering, and tenacious of what they consider their right. They exhibit strong antipathies against cats, dogs, and such other quadrupeds as are likely to prove dangerous to them. They attack and chase indiscriminately every species of Hawk, Crow, or Vulture, and on this account are much patronized by the husbandman. They frequently follow and tease an Eagle, until he is out of sight of the Martin's box; and to give you an idea of their tenacity, when they have made choice of a place in which to rear their young, I shall relate to you the following occurrences.

I had a large and commodious house built and fixed on a pole, for the reception of Martins, in an enclosure near my house, where for some years several pairs had reared their young. One winter I also put up several small boxes, with a view to invite Blue-birds to build nests in them. The Martins arrived in the spring, and imagining these smaller apartments more agreeable than their own mansion, took possession of them, after forcing the lovely Blue-birds from their abode. I witnessed the different