Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

( 24 )

THE PURPLE FINCH.

Fringilla purpurea, Gmel.

PLATE IV. Male and Female.


From the beginning of November until April, flocks of the Purple Finch, consisting of from six to twenty individuals, are seen throughout the whole of Louisiana and the adjoining States. They fly compactly, with an undulating motion, similar to that of the Common Greenfinch of Europe. They alight all at once, and after a moment of rest, and as if frightened, all take to wing again, make a circuit of no great extent, and return to the tree from which they had thus started, or settle upon one near it. Immediately after this, every individual is seen making its way toward the extremities of the branches, husking the buds with great tact, and eating their internal portion. In doing this, they hang like so many Titmice, or stretch out their necks to reach the buds below. Although they are quite friendly among themselves during their flight, or while sitting without looking after food, yet, when they are feeding, the moment one goes near another, it is strenuously warned to keep off by certain unequivocal marks of displeasure, such as the erection of the feathers of the head and the opening of the mouth. Should this intimation be disregarded, the stronger or more daring of the two drives off the other to a different part of the tree. They feed in this manner principally in the morning, and afterwards retire to the interior of the woods. Towards sunset they reappear, fly about the skirts of the fields and along the woods, until, having made choice of a tree, they alight, and, as soon as each bird has chosen a situation, stand still, look about them, plume themselves, and make short sallies after flies and other insects, but without interfering with each other. They frequently utter a single rather mellow clink, and are seen occupied in this manner until near sunset, when they again fly off to the interior of the forest. I one night surprised a party of them roosting in a small holly tree, as I happened to be brushing by it. In their consternation they suddenly started all together, and in the same direction, when, not knowing what birds they were, I shot at them and brought down two.

It is remarkable that, at this season, males in full beauty of plumage