National Geographic : 1943 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine uttered a "chug," the sounds coming closer and closer together until at the time of the last run they slid together into a prolonged hiss. At a little distance the performance sounded like a far-off locomotive getting under way. In most of the training centers the boys report they are kept so busy that they don't have much time to look for birds, but always there are some that demand attention. In Florida it is the snowy herons that line the roadside ditches; in Louisiana and Texas it is the great flocks of geese that go honking overhead. One does not have to be very observant to see a Bullock's Oriole (Plate IX, upper) or a Vermilion Flycatcher (Plate IX, lower) if one is stationed in the South west, though neither bird goes out of its way to make friends with anyone. The Vermilion Flycatcher is really a trop ical species that reaches the northern limit of its range along our Mexican border and is much more common farther south. When you approach its nest, the male flutters up into the air like a little ball of flame, its feathers all puffed out until it is practically spherical, with a little wing vibrating at each side. It does not come very close to the nest, however, until the eggs have hatched, but leaves the earlier domestic chores to its dull brownish mate. The Bullock's Oriole is found west of Brownsville, Texas, to the Pacific coast and northward to South Dakota, and it is very conspicuous in the acacia trees of the South west, where the foliage is sparse. In the east its place is taken by the closely related Balti more oriole. Every Spring Sees a Bird Invasion As often as the month of May rolls around in eastern United States and Canada, two great armies meet in the parks and woodlands. One army is that of the migratory birds in vading us from the south. The other is the army of bird observers, mustered from every walk of life, who get out early in the morning, not to repel the invasion but to cheer it on its way. If April has been cool so that the leaves do not obscure the branches, the warblers are conspicuous as they feed about the opening buds. Bird observers enjoy a wonderful few days with these feath ered jewels. To the beginner, the warblers seem an end less array of provocative color combinations and confusing sounds, while their restless habits are his despair. There are really only 41 species that migrate through eastern United States, but there seem to be twice as many, because, with most species, the males and females have different color patterns, though their shapes and sizes and idiosyncrasies are alike. Additional species found in western United States bring the total up to 55, which is about a third of the whole family, but the spring rush of warblers is nowhere else so conspicu ous as in the eastern half of the United States. The family of Wood Warblers to which ours belong is strictly one of the New World, with resident species in Central and South America where ours go visiting during the winter months. Some Wood Warblers Travel Far Some of our species are greater travelers than others. The myrtle and yellow-throated and palm, for example, winter in the southern States, while others, such as the ovenbird and chat and Hooded (Plate XV), go down into Mexico, and the chestnut-sided and cerulean to Panama. The Canada (Plate XIV, upper) and Golden-winged (PlateXIV, lower) seldom stop short of Colombia or Venezuela, while the blackpoll continues on to the Guianas and Brazil. Some, like the ovenbirds and water thrushes, are terrestrial, seeking their food on the ground. Others, like the black and white, search out the crevices in the bark, or, like the chestnut-sided and yellow-breasted chat, live mostly in the low vegetation. Still others, like the Blackburnian and Tennessee, keep mostly to the treetops. Some, like the prothonotary and hooded, stop off in the southern States to nest; others, like the yellow and redstart, continue on to the northern States. The black-throated blue and Canada nest in southern Canada and only in the moun tains farther south; the Wilson's and black poll continue on to the northern spruce forests. On migration a single flock may contain a dozen different kinds feeding in different strata in different ways and aiming toward different destinations, but all traveling together and landing in one's garden overnight, to the de light of the bird lovers of the neighborhood. If you really wish to feel content with your lot and find some consolation in having to make the daily trek to your office on foot; if you desire to enjoy a trip to the park or your neighbor's garden, seek out a bird-loving friend as you would a doctor and get an in jection of Warbleritis or Thrushmania. If it "takes," you will be looking at birds the rest of your life.