Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/250

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222
ORCHARD ORIOLE.

with some persons in America, who maintain that the differences of colour are indicative of different species. But, since the habits of these birds under all these singular changes of plumage are ascertained to be precisely the same, the argument no longer holds good. I shall now endeavour to describe these habits with all the accuracy supplied by long observation.

The migration of the Orchard Oriole from south to north is performed by day, and singly, as is that of its relative the Baltimore Oriole, the males appearing a week or ten days sooner than the females. Their flight is lower than that of the Baltimore, and considerably shorter in its continuance, the Orchard Oriole alighting more frequently on the tops of the trees, to rest or to feed. They exhibit a greater repetition of motions of the wings, although sliding through the air for a few yards only at a time, and whilst about to alight, as well as afterwards, perform strong and well marked jettings of the tail. This the Baltimore seldom does. No sooner have they reached the portion of the country in which they intend to remain during the time of raising their young, than these birds exhibit all the liveliness and vivacity belonging to their nature. The male is seen rising in the air for ten or twenty yards in an indirect manner, jerking his tail and body, flapping his wings, and singing with remarkable impetuosity, as if under the influence of haste, and anxious to return to the tree from which he has departed. He accordingly descends with the same motions of the body and tail, repeating his pleasant song as he alights. These gambols and carollings are performed frequently during the day, the intervals being employed in ascending or descending along the branches and twigs of different trees, in search of insects or larvæ. In doing this, they rise on their legs, seldom without jetting the tail, stretch their neck, seize the prey, and emit a single note, which is sweet and mellow, although in power much inferior to that of the Baltimore. At other times, it is seen bending its body downwards, in a curved posture, with the head greatly inclined upwards, to peep at the under parts of the leaves, so as not to suffer any grub to escape its vigilance. It now alights on the ground, where it has spied a crawling insect, and again flies towards the blossoms, in which many are lurking, and devours hundreds of them each day, thus contributing to secure to the farmer the hopes which he has of the productiveness of his orchard.

The arrival of the females is marked with all due regard, and the males immediately use every effort in their power to procure from them