Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/70

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Fringilla pennsylvanica, Lath.

PLATE VIII. Male and Female.

This pretty little bird is a visitor of Louisiana and all the southern districts, where it remains only a very short time. Its arrival in Louisiana may be stated to take place in the beginning of November, and its departure in the first days of March. In all the Middle States it remains longer. How it comes and how it departs are to me quite unknown. I can only say, that, all of a sudden, the hedges of the fields bordering on creeks or swampy places, and overgrown with different species of vines, sunnach bushes, briars, and the taller kinds of grasses, appear covered with these birds. They form groups, sometimes containing from thirty to fifty individuals, and live together in harmony. They are constantly moving up and down among these recesses, with frequent jerkings of the tail, and uttering a note common to the tribe. From the hedges and thickets they issue one by one in quick succession, and ramble to the distance of eight or ten yards, hopping and scratching, in quest of small seeds, and preserving the utmost silence. When the least noise is heard, or alarm given, and frequently, as I thought, without any alarm at all, they all fly back to their covert, pushing directly into the very thickest part of it. A moment elapses, when they become reassured, and ascending to the highest branches and twigs, open a little concert, which, although of short duration, is extremely sweet. There is much plaintive softness in their note, which I wish, kind reader, I could describe to you; but this is impossible, although it is yet ringing in my ear, as if I were in those very fields where I have so often listened to it with delight. No sooner is their music over than they return to the field, and thus continue alternately sallying forth and retreating during the greater part of the day. At the approach of night, they utter a sharper and shriller note, consisting of a single twit, repeated in smart succession by the whole group, and continuing until the first hooting of some owl frightens them into silence. Yet, often during fine nights, I have heard the little creatures emit here and there a twit, as if to assure each other that "all's well."