Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/417

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389
VIRGINIAN PARTRIDGE.

of trees of ordinary size, where they remain until danger is over. They walk with ease on the branches. If they perceive that they are observed, they raise the feathers of their head, emit a low note, and fly off either to some higher branch of the same tree, or to another tree at a distance. When these birds rise on wing of their own accord, the whole flock takes the same course; but when put up (in the sportsman's phrase), they disperse, after alighting call to each other, and soon after unite, each running or flying towards the well-known cry of the patriarch of the covey. During deep and continued snows, they often remain on the branches of trees for hours at a time.

The usual cry of this species is a clear whistle, composed of three notes; the first and last nearly equal in length, the latter less loud than the first, but more so than the intermediate one. When an enemy is perceived they immediately utter a lisping note, frequently repeated, and run off with their tail spread, their crest erected, and their wings drooping, towards the shelter of some thicket or the top of a fallen tree. At other times, when one of the flock has accidentally strayed to a distance from its companions, it utters two notes louder than any of those mentioned above, the first shorter and lower than the second, when an answer is immediately returned by one of the pack. This species has moreover a love-call, which is louder and clearer than its other notes, and can be heard at a distance of several hundred yards. It consists of three distinct notes, the two last being loudest, and is peculiar to the male bird. A fancied similarity to the words Bob White renders this call familiar to the sportsman and farmer; but these notes are always preceded by another, easily heard at a distance of thirty or forty yards. The three together resemble the words Ah Bob White. The first note is a kind of aspiration, and the last is very loud and clear. This whistle is seldom heard after the breeding season, during which an imitation of the peculiar note of the female will make the male fly towards the sportsman, who may then easily shoot it.

In the Middle Districts, the love-call of the male is heard about the middle of April, and in Louisiana much earlier. The male is seen perched on a fence-stake, or on the low branch of a tree, standing nearly in the same position for hours together, and calling Ah Bob White at every interval of a few minutes. Should he hear the note of a female, he sails directly towards the spot whence it proceeded. Several males may be heard from different parts of a field challenging each other, and should