National Geographic : 1915 Aug
KILLDEER (Oxyechus vociferus). Range: Breeds from central British Columbia, southern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, and central Quebec south to Gulf coast and central Mexico; winters from California, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, New Jersey, and Bermuda south to Venezuela and Peru. The killdeer is unquestionably one of the most widely distributed and one of the best known of the plover tribe. The bird student who makes its acquaintance need not ask its name, for the bird never tires of repeating it at all seasons. Its vociferous iteration of "kill-deer, kill-deer" brings down on its offending head the wrath of the sportsman whose cherished plans for a successful stalk of a flock of ducks are upset by its excited cries, rightly interpreted by the ducks as signals of danger not to be neglected. Though the killdeer is a plover, he cares very little for the seacoast, nor over much for the neighborhood of water, but finds all his wants supplied in upland pastures and plowed lands. His bill of fare is a long and varied one, and includes many pestiferous kinds of insects. As the bird's flesh is little esteemed and its services are of decided value to man, no very good reason appears why the species should not flourish. But though the bird is still numerous, it has been extermi nated in many localities. As it is now protected under the Federal law we may look to see it again occupy territory from which it has been long absent. There is the more reason to expect this since the killdeer responds quickly enough to decent treatment, as is evidenced by the fact that a pair has nested for three successive seasons on a golf course near Washington, D. C. Despite the fact that the loca tion of the nest was known to at least a hundred players and caddies, and that the piece of "rough" in which the nest was located was invaded scores of times daily, the birds were successful in bringing out their young each year, though plovers n never had a more exciting time doing it. PASSENGER PIGEON (Ectopistes migratorius). Range: Bred formerly from middle western Mackenzie, central Keewatin, cen tral Quebec, and Nova Scotia south to Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and New York; wintered principally from Arkansas and North Carolina south to cen tral Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. On September 1, 1914, aged twenty years, departed this life the sole surviving passenger pigeon. This brief obituary records the disappearance from earth not only of the last survivor of a notable American game bird, but, what is infinitely sadder, the passing of a species. The history of the passenger pigeon from the first settlement to and including our own times reads like a romance, but a romance tinged on every page with man's cruelty, rapacity, and shortsightedness. Early accounts of the enormous numbers of this pigeon that migrated from section to sec tion read like fables, but they are too well attested to be doubted. Wood's account of the passenger pigeon (1629-34) is so quaint I subjoin part of it: "These Birds come into the Countrey, to goe to the North parts in the begin ning of our Spring, at which time (if I may be counted worthy to be believed in a thing that is not so strange as true) I have seene them fly as if the Ayerie regiment had beene Pigeons; seeing neyther beginning nor ending, length or breadth of these Millions of Millions." Audubon states that he rode through a winter roosting-place in Kentucky which was more than forty miles long and three miles wide. It may be doubted if in the prime days of this pigeon its numbers were ever equalled by any bird, either in the Old World or the New. Only itsgreat numbers enabled ittosurvive the assaults of its enemies as long asitdid. Then came themarket netter, and everywhere the hapless pigeons were taken inseason and out ofseason, with eggs in their bodies ready for the nestand with nests full ofyoung. While neither the netter nor the sportsman is responsible fortheextermination ofthelast passenger pigeon, it is nevertheless true thatby the combined assaults ofthetwo, thespecies was reduced to such a low ebbthat itcould not recover. Protective legislation was too late. BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Columba fasciata fasciata). Range: Breeds from southwestern British Columbia, western Washington, western Oregon, northern Utah,and north-central Colorado south through south western United States and Mexico toNicaragua, and east towestern Texas; winters from southwestern United States southward. Though bearing no very closeresemblance tothepassenger pigeon, theband tail may be said to represent that bird onthePacific coast. Like thepigeons generally, the band-tails are sociable, and flocks ofhundreds used tobecommon in the oak groves of southern California. They are extremely fond of acorns, and although oflate years persecution has made them wary they will riskmuch toobtain their favorite food. When they find a well-laden oak tree they will swallow acorns tillthey arefull tothe very bill. As their soft bills are totally inadequate tohull the acorn, they swallow shells and all, and such are their powers of digestion that they can dispose ofatleast two full meals every day. They are saidtobreed inArizona nearly every month ofthe year, and Vernon Bailey found them nesting intheGuadalupe Mountains, Texas, as late as August. Their note inthe breeding season isahoot singularly like an owl's, but most of the year theyare silent. Onthewest coast foryears they have been persistently hunted, and asthey breed inthemountains, which aremuch resorted to by summer campers,the limits ofthe close season arebynomeans always observed. It is high timetotake active measures forthepreservation of the band-tail; otherwise it will soon meet the same fate asthepassenger pigeon. MOURNING DOVE(Zenaidura macroura carolinensis) Range: Breeds from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and southern Nova Scotia south throughout theUnited States and Mexico, and locally in Lower California and Guatemala; winters from southern Oregon, southern Colorado, the Ohio Valley, and North Carolina toPanama. The mourning dove is in no present danger ofextinction. Several traits con tribute to its safety. Although sociable enough, itnever assembles invast flocks which act as a unit, but the pairsnest more orless apart and only infall and winter assemble in large numbers in their favorite feeding places. Hence, netting the bird on a large scale is impossible. Then, too, though themourning dove never lays more than two eggs and sometimes only one, itisvery prolific, since itoften nests twice, and sometimes three times inayear. Itsprowess ofwing renders it indifferent to miles, and we used toseemourning doves inthe western deserts, miles away from their nesting places, traversing with swift pinions thedesert spaces toward some distant watering hole which they alone knew of.The thirsty prospector, when he observes numbers ofdoves hurriedly pursuing thesame line of flight in the hotter hoursof theday, shapes hiscourse accordingly and usually finds water.