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?2 Cheney, Some Bird Songf. [(anuary 



With something of the style of the Brown Thrush, the Catbird 
is not his equal in song. He is generally considered a mocking- 
bird, and does make use of the notes of difTerent birds, delivering 
them in snatchy, disconnected fashion. It is easy to trace in the 
Catbird's singing the notes of the Red-eyed Vireo, the Brown 
Thrasher, Bluebird, Robin, and Yellow-breasted Chat. His 
performance on the whole is very interesting, given, as it is, in a- 
lively manner, with an occasional tone truly sweet and musiciil. 
Much of his singing, however, is mere twitter, often little more 
than a succession of squeaks, too antic to be put on paper. 


ftb 4 ;f j-^4-^ ;TEg jLl L r\,Jh:gf^ 


Despite a lack of quality in tone, the Thrasher is one of the 
favorites ; his fame is assured. In exuberance and peculiarity 


Cheney. Some Bird Songs 


of performance he is unsurpassed, unless it be by the Catbird. 
While prone to the conversational style, he is capable of splendid 
inspiration. On a fine morning in J.une, when he rises to the 
branch of a wayside tree, or to the top of a bush at the edge of 
the pasture, the first eccentric accent compels us to admit that the 
spirit of song has fast hold on him. As the fervor increases, his 
long and elegant tail droops, his whole plumage is loosened and 
trembling, his head is raised, and his bill is wide open ; there is 
no mistake, it is the power of the god. No pen can report him 
now ; we must wait till the frenzy passes. Then we may catch 
such fragments as these : 

Lively. , . , ^ , *-_ 



s fe^^^ ^ ^T^V^^ 

i^s E^^^r^^H^E^jEas^ Esa 

-•— p: 


SP— •— ^ * s 1 \^ ;;;^^ — 7— g — fej — g — y — ^^ J — ^ 


No bird in New England is more readily known by his song 


•J^ Cheney, Some Bird Songs. Itanuary 

than is the Whippoorwill. In the courageous repetition of his 
name he accents the first and last syllables, the last most ; always 
measuring his song with the same rhythm, while very consider- 
ably varying the melody — which latter fact is discovered only by 
most careful attention. Plain, simple and stereotyped as his song 
appears, marked variations are introduced in the course of it. 
The whippoorwill uses nearly all the intervals in the natural scale, 
even the octave. I have never detected a chromatic tone. Per- 
haps the favorite song-form is this: 

An eccentric part of the Whippoorwill's musical performance 
is the introduction of a '■cluck' immediately after each '•whif-foor- 
wiir ; so that the song is a regular, unbroken, rhythmical chain 
from beginning to end. One must be near the singer to hear the 
'■cluck' ; otherwise he will mark a rest in its place. 

This bird does not stand erect with head up like the Robin 
when he sings, but stoops slightly, puts out the wings a little and 
keeps them in a rapid tremor throughout the entire song. Wilson 
decided that it required a second of time for the delivery of each 
'•■whif-foor-will.' "When two or more males meet," he adds, 
" their ■whip-poor-will altercations become much more rapid arid 
incessant, as if each were straining to overpower or silence the 
other." These altercations are sometimes very amusing. Three 
AVhippoorwills, two males and a female, indulged in them for 
several evenings one season, in my garden. They came just at 
dark, and very soon a spirited contest began. Frequently they 
flew directly upward, one at a time. Occasionally one flew down 
into the path near me, put out his wings, opened his big mouth, 
and hissed like a goose disturbed in the dark. But, the rhb'st 
peculiar, the astonishing feature of the contention was the finale. 
Toward the close of the trial of speed and power, the unwieldy 
name was dropped, and they rattled on freely with the same 
rhythm that the name would have required, alternating in their 
rushing triplets, going faster and faster, louder and louder, to the 


Chbney, Some Bird Sougs. 


Crescendo ed Accelerando. 

Whip - p'lor-will, whip - poor-will 1st voice. 2nd voice. 1st. 

•tj+— ^^^==---^^^ 







2ncl. 1st. 2nd. Ist. 2nd 1st. 2nd. 

Various melodic forms : 



»^ — -i» 

- y 1^ = — -r^ a ^ i . — gj — 5^^ =■ , , ^ ,, 


Whip - poor-will (cluck) Whip . poor-will (cluck)Whip - poor-will (cluck) 



fe^=#^^^g ^ ^V g d 


- > ^ -t, 1^ ^ 














-*=>« • *^ — -«=^ — 0^—^ — J 


; g^^^'^^p #?^^^3 =ff =^i 

^6 Cheney, Some Bird Songs. [January 

Scarlet Tanager. 

This Tanager, the Baltimore Oriole's rival in beauty, is the less 
active, the less vigorous charmer of the two, and has less vocal 
power; but it would be diflRcult to imagine a more pleasing and 
delicate exhibition of a bird to both eye and ear than that pre- 
sented by this singer in scarlet and black, as he stands on the 
limb of some tall tree in the early sun, shining, and singing, high 
above the earth, his brief, plaintive, morning song. The Tana- 
ger's is an unobtrusive song, while the percussive, ringing tones 
of the Oriole compel attention. In the spring of 1888 a beautiful 
singer greeted me one summer morning from the top of a tall oak 
near the house. He paid frequent visits to the same tree-top 
during the entire season, and sang the same song, beginning and 
ending with the same tones : 

Still, like other birds, he had his variations : 

- Tlf T ^ i>,.J .. 


s±z^zJa=- ^E g 

These were all June songs, the last two being sung late in the 

Though the singer's home was in the near woods, we did not 
discover the nest of his mate. There came a time of silence, and 
an absence of flaming plumage, and finally a family of Tanagers 
— undoubtedly ours — male and female and three unfinished young 

iSgi.J CoKY OH the Species of Coereba. 2 7 

Tanagers of a neutral, olive tint, were about our grounds in the 
last days of August, evidently preparing to leave for their home 
in the tropics. The husband and father had doffed both his 
'singing-robe' and his garment of scarlet, and wore in silence a 
traveling-dress of mixed pea-green and willow-yellow. More 
desirous than ever to avoid notice, there was about him a most 
captivating air of quietness and modesty. 



Genus Ccereba Vieillot. 

Caereba ViElLLOT, Ois. Am. Sept. I, 1807, p. 70. Type, C. flaveola 

A. Throat ash color or ashy white; large, luhite Tuing-spot on quills ex- 
tending beyond primary coverts. 

Coereba bahatnensis {Reich.'). 

Cerihia bahamensis Briss. Orn. Ill, p. 620 (1760). 

Certhiola bahamensis Rbich. Handb. I, p- 253 (1853). — Cory, Birds Ba- 
hama Islands, p. 76 (1880); id. Birds West Indies, p. 61 (1889). 
Certhiola bairdii Cab. J. f. O. 1865, p. 412. 
Coereba bahamensis RiDGW. Man, N. A. Birds, p. 590 (1887). 

Throat ashy white; ash white on abdomen. 

Habitat. — Bahama Islands (6t).t 

Coereba sharpei ( Cory") . 

Certhiola sharpei CofCi. Auk, III, pp. 497, 501 (1886). — Ridgw. Proc. U. 
S. Nat. Mus. p. S74 (1887). 

Throat more ashy than in bahamensis; belly pale yellow or yellowish 

Habitat. — Grand Cayman (36), Little Cayman (19), and Cayman 
Brae (13). 

•According to Mr. Ridgway (Manual of N. Am. Birds, p. 590 (1887), Ccereia 
must be used for this genus. 

t Ihe numbers of specimens examined are given after the names of the islands 
on which the species occur.