National Geographic : 1936 Jun
PARROTS, KINGFISHERS, AND FLYCATCHERS in summer. It ranges through the West Indies and along the shores of the Carib bean Sea. Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) Enter any woodland in the eastern United States in summer, walk quietly, and listen to the low sounds that come from ground and tree-top. Soon you are certain to hear the note of the great crested fly catcher, a clear, stirring call of curious tone and cadence. On dead limbs pointing skyward, half hidden by green foliage, soon there will ap pear a slender figure with reddish-brown tail, yellow underparts, and gray breast, the bird that you seek (Color Plate VI). With crest raised the bird rests, darting out at intervals for passing insects and on occasion giving his ringing call. In a hollow in a near-by tree trunk this interesting bird has placed its nest, lining the cavity with soft materials to receive from four to eight eggs. These are creamy white, most strikingly marked with lines and blotches of brown and lavender, many of the markings running lengthwise and as firmly scrawled as if laid on with a pen. In these modern times the great crest some times nests in birdhouses. As a decorative feature, almost invari ably the shed skin of a snake is woven into the nest material, or an entire skin, taken from where the snake had left it on tree trunk or ground, is wound about the upper part of the nest. The practical reason for this, whether to frighten intruders or to decorate, must be left to the reader's de cision. Few nests of the great crest are found without it. True to the habits of its family, the great crest is a pugnacious enemy of all birds that trespass or intrude on what it considers its personal rights. Often in the nesting season it may be seen or heard hustling marauding jays through the tree tops with loudly snapping bill and sharp outcries. And in protection of its nesting cavities it has been known even to whip completely the aggressive starling that ordi narily is the victor in similar encounters with other hole-nesting birds. The northern crested flycatcher (Myi archus crinitus boreus) nests from Mani toba and Nova Scotia to Texas and South Carolina, and winters from Mexico to Co lombia. The southern crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus crinitus), with larger bill and more greenish back, is found from southern South Carolina through the penin sula of Florida. Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) In the arid Southwest this bird replaces the great crested flycatcher of the East. Heat and sun are so much a part of its life that even in desert areas where there is little shade it seems as much at home as among the oaks and other trees of the lower slopes of the mountains (Plate VI). Like its eastern cousin, this bird nests in holes, occasionally occupying the domed nests of the cactus wren. In the desert it has been found using hollow iron pipes standing in the sun where it seemed incred ible that the incubating bird could endure the heat. Fragments of snake and lizard skin are sometimes used for nest decoration, but this is not so universal a custom as with the eastern bird. The eggs, which number from three to six, are similar to those of the great crest, but ordinarily have the markings more finely delineated. The typical ash - throated flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens cinerascens) is found from Washington and Colorado to northern Baja California and Tamaulipas. Olivaceous Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer olivascens) In the brush-grown canyons of the moun tains of southern New Mexico and Arizona this small cousin of the great crested fly catcher is fairly common (Color Plate VI). Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris swarthi) In the middle reaches of Pinery Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, the white trunks and light-green leaves of a line of sycamores trace in pleasantly con trasting color the winding course of the stream in the canyon bottom against the duller background of the scrub oaks that clothe the hillsides. As I admired the gnarled and contorted trunks of the trees that shaded our tents, I heard an emphatic note that drew my eyes to the yellow breast of a sulphur bellied flycatcher perched on a dead limb where its colors were prominently displayed in the sun (Color Plate VI).