Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/44

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The Passenger Pigeon

beat the whole nuts from a tree with their wings, while all is a scramble, both above and below, for the same. They have the same cooing notes common to domestic pigeons, but much less of their gesticulations. In some flocks you will find nothing but young ones, which are easily distinguishable by their motley dress. In others they will be mostly females, and again great multitudes of males with few or no females. I cannot account for this in any other way than that, during the time of incubation, the males are exclusively engaged in procuring food, both for themselves and their mates, and the young, being yet unable to undertake these extensive excursions, associate together accordingly. But even in winter I know of several species of birds who separate in this manner, particularly the red-winged starling, among whom thousands of old males may be found with few or no young or females along with them.

Stragglers from these immense armies settle in almost every part of the country, particularly among the beech woods and in the pine and hemlock woods of the eastern and northern parts of the continent. Mr. Pennant informs us that they breed near Moose Fort, at Hudson's Bay, in N. latitude 51 degrees, and I myself have seen the remains of a large breeding place as far south as the country of the Choctaws, in latitude 32 degrees. In the former of these places they are said to remain until December; from which circumstance it is evident that they are not regular in their migrations