Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Children's Warbler

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Children's Warbler (Audubon).jpg


Sylvia Childrenii.

PLATE XXXV. Male and Female.

This little bird so much resembles the young of that called, I know not why, the Blue-eyed Yellow Warbler, that I was at first inclined to think it the same; but, recollecting that the latter acquires the full colouring of its plumage, in both sexes, before the return of spring, and finding some material differences in their habits, I have not hesitated in presenting it to you, kind reader, not only as a new species, but as one extremely rare in the United States.

I shot two of these birds in May 1821, near the town of Jackson, in the State of Louisiana. They were sitting amongst the stalks of the plant, on which they are represented. Their wings were constantly drooping by the sides of their body, their tail spread out like a fan, and they uttered a low tweet note, which was very soft and sweet. They now and then chased small insects on the wing, but more commonly searched for them amongst the leaves and blossoms of the plants on which they were. After a few minutes, I discovered their nest, which contained five young ones nearly fledged. It was attached by the sides to two twigs of the plant, and was formed of the dried bark of the same plant, mixed with skins of caterpillars and some silky substances. The lining consisted of goat's or deer hair, I think the former, as there were some tame goats in an adjoining pasture. I shot both the parents, and took the young under my care, but they would not receive any food, and died towards the end of the second day after their removal. I have never seen another of these birds since.

The scarcity of this species in the United States putting me in mind of that of true friendship among men, I have named it after my most esteemed friend, J. G. Children, Esq. of the British Museum, as a tribute of sincere gratitude for the unremitted kindness which he has shewn me.

The plant is known by the name of the Wild Spanish Coffee. It grows very abundantly in almost every field in the Uplands of Lower Louisiana. The smell of its flowers, as well as of its leaves, is extremely disagreeable, if not nauseous.

Children's Warbler, Sylvia Childrenii.

Adult Male. Plate XXXV. Fig. 1.

Bill longish, straight, subulato-conical, acute, the edges sharp, the gap line slightly deflected at the base. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half closed by a membrane. Head and neck of ordinary size. Body rather slender. Feet of ordinary length, slender; tarsus longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly by a few scutella, the uppermost long; toes scutellate above, free, the hind toe of moderate size; claws slender, compressed, acute, arched.

Plumage soft, blended, tufty. Wings of ordinary length, acute, the first quill longest. Tail shortish, when closed nearly even. A few short bristles at the base of the upper mandible.

Bill brown, lighter beneath. Iris dark brown. Feet flesh-coloured. The general colour of the upper parts is yellowish-green, tinged with brown. Forehead, sides of the head, supra-ocular region, and under parts generally deep yellow. Quills dusky on the inner webs. Tail feathers dusky on the outer webs, yellow on the inner, excepting the two middle, which are dusky.

Length 43/4 inches, extent of wings 71/2; bill along the ridge 5/12, along the gap 7/12.

Adult Female. Plate XXXV. Fig. 2.

The female is considerably smaller. The distribution of its colouring is the same, but the tints are much lighter, the upper parts being pale yellowish-green tinged with grey; the sides of the head, supra-ocular and frontal spaces pale yellowish-grey, and the under parts of a tint approaching to lemon-yellow.

The Wild Spanish Coffee.

Cassia occidentalis, Willd. Sp. PI. vol. ii. p. 518. Pursh, Flor. Amer. vol. i. p. 305.—Decandria Monogynia, Linn. Leguminosæ, Juss.

This species is distinguished by its ovato-lanceolate, quinquejugate leaves, scabrous at the margin, the outer larger; its many-flowered axillar and somewhat panicled peduncles; and its linear, falciform legumes. It flowers through the summer, and grows chiefly in old fields, in the Southern States.