Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/71

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43
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.

During the warmer days, they remove partially to the woods, but never out of reach of their favourite briar thickets, ascend the tops of hollies, or such other trees as are covered with tangled vines, and pick either a berry or a winter grape. Their principal enemies in the daytime, are the little Sparrow Hawk, the Slate-coloured or Sharp-shinned Hawk, and above all, the Hen-harrier or Marsh Hawk. The latter passes over their little coteries with such light wings, and so unloocked for, that he seldom fails in securing one of them.

No sooner does spring return, when our woods are covered with white blossoms, in gay mimicry of the now melted snows, and the delighted eye is attracted by the beautiful flowers of the Dog-wood tree, than the White-throated Sparrow bids farewell to these parts, not to return till winter. Where it spends the summer I know not, but I should think not within the States.

It is a plump bird, fattening almost to excess, whilst in Louisiana, and affords delicious eating, for which purpose many are killed with blow-guns. These instruments—should you not have seen them—are prepared by the Indians, who cut the straightest canes, perforating them by forcing a hickery rod through the internal partitions which intersect this species of bamboo, and render them quite smooth within by passing the rod repeatedly through. The cane is then kept perfectly straight, and is well dried, after which it is ready for use. Splints of wood, or more frequently of cane, are then worked into tiny arrows, quite sharp at one end, and at the other, instead of being feathered, covered with squirrel hair or other soft substances, in the manner of a bottle-brush, so as to fill the tube and receive the impulse imparted by a smart puff of breath, which is sufficient to propel such an arrow with force enough to kill a small bird at the distance of eight or ten paces. With these blow-guns or pipes, several species of birds are killed in large quantities; and the Indians sometimes procure even squirrels by means of them.

The Dog-wood, of which I have represented a twig in early spring, is a small tree found nearly throughout the Union, but generally preferring such lands as with us are called of second quality, although it occasionally makes its appearance in the richest alluvial deposits. Its height seldom exceeds twenty feet, or its diameter ten inches. It is scarcely ever straight to any extent, but the wood, being extremely hard and compact, is useful for turning, when well dried and free of wind-shakes, to which it is rather liable. Its berries are eaten by various species of birds,