Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Prairie Titlark

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80 Prairie Titlark.jpg


Anthus pipiens.


I shot two of these birds whilst traversing one of the extensive prairies of our North-western States. Five of them had been running along the foot-path before me, for some time. I at first looked upon them as of the Common Brown Titlark species (Anthus Spinoletta), but as they rose on the wing, the difference of their notes struck me, and, shooting at them, I had the good fortune to kill two, which I discovered, on examination, to be of a new and distinct species, although in the general appearance of their plumage they were very nearly allied to the Brown Titlark. The rest I pursued in vain, and was forced to abandon the chase on account of the approach of night, and the necessity of preparing for rest after a long walk.

The flight of the Prairie Titlark is irregular, and performed by jerks, although greatly protracted, when the bird is pursued or frightened. At short intervals these birds plunged through the air, came towards the ground, and flew close over the prairie, as if about to alight, and again rising, made a large circuit. In this manner they continued all the time I saw them on wing. Whilst on the ground they ran briskly, vibrating their tail, whenever they stopped, and picking up the insects near them.

The notes of the Prairie Titlark are clear and sharp, consisting of a number of tweets, the last greatly prolonged. The two individuals which I procured proved to be males. They seemed to be in imperfect plumage, it being then the month of October, and the crescent on their breast not being so distinctly defined at the surface, as it was deeper among the feathers. Of their mode of nestling, and other habits, I can say nothing, as I never happened to meet with another individual of the species.

Anthus pipiens.

Male. Plate LXXX.

Bill straight, slender, compressed, acuminate; upper mandible carinated at the base, rounded on the sides, the edges inflected towards the tip, which is slightly declinate and notched; lower mandible ascending in its dorsal outline. Nostrils basal, lateral, elliptical, half closed above by a membrane. The general form slender. Feet of ordinary length; tarsus slender, compressed; toes free; claws of the fore toes arched, compressed, acute, of the hind toe very long, subulate-compressed, nearly straight.

Plumage soft, blended. Wings of ordinary length, first, second, and third quills longest, the secondaries notched at the tip. Tail long, emarginate.

Bill dark brown, the under mandible orange at the base. Iris hazel. Feet brownish-black. The general colour of the upper parts is dull olive-brown; a brownish-white line over the eye; auricular coverts blackish. Under parts pale yellowish-grey; an obscure lunule of brownish-black on the fore neck, the lower part of which, and the sides, are streaked with dark brown, and tinged with reddish-brown.

Length 6+12 inches, bill along the ridge 12, along the gap 34; tarsus 56, middle toe 34, hind toe 34.

Phlox subulata, Willd. Sp. Pl. vol. i. p. 842. Pursh, Fl. Amer. vol. i. p. 151—Pentandria Monogynia, Linn. Polemonia, Juss.

Cæspitose, pubescent; leaves linear, pungent, ciliate; corymbs few-flowered; pedicels trifid; divisions of the corolla wedge-shaped, emarginate; teeth of the calyx subulate, scarcely shorter than the tube of the corolla. The flowers are pink, with a purple star in the centre. It grows in rocky places, and on barren, gravelly ground, flowering through the summer.