The Hermit Thrush, the Dainty Golden Crowned Kinglet and the Bobolink

Mrs Mabel Osgood Wright

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Here we review some American species of birds. In my articles I like to include historical accounts to compare our modern day perceptions with those of historical perceptions of the species concerned. The historical accounts in this article are taken from Bird Craft 1895 written by Mrs Mabel Osgood Wright, a famed American author,{ 1859-1934} married to James Wright an English man. She became president of the Audubon Society of the State of Connecticut in 1889.

The black and white 'plates' were created by Louis Agassiz Fuertes {1847-1927}. although the images are in black and white they are exceptional for their detail and clarity. The book is no longer in copyright.

Hermit thrush

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Creative Commons attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. | Source

The Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus

The hermit thrush is a medium sized thrush that inhabits north America and is closely related to the Mexican Russet Nightingale Thrush, Catharus occidentalis, endemic to Mexico.

The adults are mainly brown on the upper parts with a reddish coloured tail. The under parts are white with dark spots on the breast and grey or brown flanks. They have pinkish coloured legs. The eye ring is white. Birds in the east are more olive brown on the upper parts while western birds tend to be more grey brown.

The feed on the forest floor, but also on trees and shrubs where the seek out insects and berries when available.

Historical account --The bird was called Turdus aonalaschkoe pallasii in the time of Mabel Wright. Here the bird is described by Mrs Wright along with the accompanying notes.

Length--7 to 7.25 inches. Male and female is above olive brown, reddening on the rump. yellowish eye ring. Throat, sides of the neck and breast washed with buff and thickly sprinkled with brown arrowheads, growing larger on the belly. Under parts are white. The bill blackish above, lower mandible lighter.

The song is flute like ascending.

Season-- Comes in migration before the northern thrushes. Breeds from mountainous parts of southern New York and New England north wards. Range--eastern north America, wintering from northern states southwards.

Burroughs says " If we take the quality of the melody as a test, the Wood thrush, Hermit thrush and the Veery thrush stand at the head of our list of songsters."

At first glance the Hermit closely resembles the Wood thrush, but a good field glass will enable you to see the colour distinction of the back, and also that the Hermit has a more yellowish throat and that the breast spots are more acute. Its rarity differs very much according to location. It is reasonably common in the north east and Dr, Warren says that in Pennsylvania it is, with the exception of the Robin, the commonest of the thrushes and breeds occasionally in some of the higher mountain districts her as well as in many of the Middle States, where it is only a migrant, its full song is seldom heard.

I have not found it a shy bird, not more so than the Wood thrush, but it doubtless becomes shy in its breeding haunts. I made its acquaintance, several years ago, in the lane at the back of my garden, and had watched its rapid nervous motions during the May migration before I heard it sing. This spring in the first week of May, when standing at the window about six o' clock in the morning I heard an unusual note, and listened, thinking at first a Wood thrush and then a Thrasher, but soon finding that it was neither of these. I opened the window softly and looked among the nearby shrubs with my glass. the wonderful melody ascending gradually in scale as it progressed, now legato, the most perfect, exalted, unrestrained, yet withal, finished bird song I have ever heard.

At the final note I caught sight of the singer perching among the lower sprays of a dogwood tree. I could see him perfectly it was a hermit thrush! in a moment it began again. I have never heard a nightingale, but those who have, say that it is the surroundings and the continuous night singing that makes it even the equal of our hermit; for while the nightingale sings in numbers in the moonlit groves, the hermit tunes his lute, sometimes in inaccessible solitudes, and there is something immaterial and immortal about the song. Presently you cease altogether to associate it with a bird, and it inspires a kindred feeling in every one that hears it.

Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller tells delightfully of her pursuit of the hermit in northern New York, where it is sid to be abundant, but when she looked for him, he had always 'been there', and was gone; until one day in August she saw the bird, and heard the song and exclaims;" this only was lacking---this crowns my summer"

Among many local names this bird has received that given by the early settlers in the Adirondack region is the most appropriate; they call it the swamp angel.

Hermit thrush and the Golden crowned Kinglet

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Golden crowned kinglet

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Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Source
The European Goldcrest is very similar to its American cousin
The European Goldcrest is very similar to its American cousin | Source

The Golden Crowned Kinglet

The Golden crowned kinglet Regulus satrapa belongs to the Order of birds known as the Passeriformes {perching birds} and the Family Regulidae and placed in the genus Regulus. Their breeding habitat is coniferous forests across Canada, north eastern and western United States, Mexico and Central America.

Although of a migratory nature some birds are residents in coastal regions and in most southern parts of their range. they are very active foragers which feed in the main on insects and their larva and other small invertebrates. They are similar to our Goldcrest here in the UK, Regulus regulus, which also occurs throughout much of Europe. The Golden crowned kinglet of America has been recorded in Britain but only has a very rare vagrant.

Mrs wright-describes the birds as follows along with her accompanying notes.----

the length of the bird is four inches. The Male has a flame coloured spot edged with yellow and enclosed by a black line upon its crown. Above plumage of the bird is olive green and yellowish olive, which is more decided on the wings, rump and tail. The underparts are yellowish grey, There is a whitish line above the eye. the bill and feet are black.

Female the crown is yellow, no flame colour or black line.

Season--a fairly constant winter resident. Breeds from Northern New England. The nest is bulky for the size of the bird; a ball of hair moss etc, often lined with feathers, placed on a high bough of an evergreen. the eggs are white, thickly spotted and number 6-10.

Range--North America in general, migrating south to winter in Guatemala.

The dainty little Golden Crowned Kinglet shares with the winter Wren and Hummingbird the distinction of being one of the the three smallest birds in the United Staes. It is ranked as a winter resident, for, coming from the north with the Ruby Crowned specie, it lingers well into winter, passing southwards in rigorous seasons, for a time in January and February, but returning very early in March en route to its northern breeding grounds.

It has a decided preference for evergreens and searches tirelessly by the hour for insects in the rough bark, but is so very small and restless that it may easily escape notice. My first discovery of the bird in the garden was in December, while looking in the spruces for the source of what I supposed to be the wiry note of some belated insect. A gleam of sunlight shooting through the branches, touched the flaming crown of the kinglet who was quite close and eyeing me inquisitively.

The bird has been known to breed in Worcester County,Mass; and the nest is described by Mr. Brewster, who says that in one nest the outer walls were made of soft green mosses and lichens; near the top were feathers of the Ruffed Grouse, Hermit thrush and Ovenbird, arranged with the quills down so that they made a tent-like protection for the eggs.

In the two nests which contained eggs, whether they are turned and stirred daily in order to bring all equally to the warmth of the body, or if perhaps the top row hatches first and the young birds, by their warmth, aid the bringing out their brothers and sisters.

Bobolink

Bobolink -plate created by  Louis Agussiz Fuertes
Bobolink -plate created by Louis Agussiz Fuertes

Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus

The bobolink is the only member of the Genus Dolichonyx. it is thought that the birds migrate to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraquay, often migrating in flocks. they are seldom seen in Europe however, like many other vagrants or 'accidentals' there are records from here in the UK. they belong to the Order of birds Passeriformes {perching birds} and the Family Icteridae.

Their natural range includes Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and The United States of America. Because they feed on cultivated grains especially rice grains they are considered to be a pest in some regions. They are classed as a bird of least concern as far as conservation issues are concerned. However, there are concerns that population numbers are declining in some parts of their range.

Bobolink-Male

Source

The Bobolink-Mrs Wrights Description and accompanying notes.

Length--6.50 to 7 inches.

Male-Black head, chin, tail, wings and under parts. Buff patch on the back of the neck; also buff edges to some tail and wing feathers. Rump and upper wing coverts white. Bill brown. In Autumn similar to the female.

Female---below yellowish brown. Above striped brown except on rump. yellow and white tips on some feathers. two dark stripes on crown.

Season --Early May until October.

Breeds-- From the Middle United States, northwards, and, winters south of the United States.

Nest--- A loose heap of twigs and grass on the ground in low meadows and hay fields;common but very difficult to discover.

Eggs--4-6, clear gray, with clouds and markings of dark brown.

Range--eastern North America, to the Great Plains, north to Southern Canada; South in winter to the West Indies and South America.

The bobolink, the bird of two lives in one! The wild, ecstatic black and buff singer, who soars above the May meadows, leaving a trail of rippling music, and in the autumn, the brown striped bird, who, voiceless, but for a metallic 'chink', is hunted through the marshes by gunners' making his last appearance as an article of food, heralded on the restaurant bill of fare thus--" Reed birds, four on a skewer, 50 cents."

Strange to say that two thirds of the gunners' who do the shooting deny that the birds are identical and that they are killing so much talented music, they say " Which,being greatly in excess of the males, they remain after the latter have disappeared". I would advise all such incredulous ones to buy the Auk { an intelligible ornithological quarterly} for October, 1983, where they will find a paper on this subject by Mr. Frank M.Chapman, and a colored plate showing the bobolink life sized, in the spring transition, when he is again moulting the stripes for the breeding coat.

Of all our songsters none enter into the literature of fact and fancy more than the bobolink, and none should be wittingly destroyed; and yet we buy " Reed birds, four on a skewer for 50 Cents"

The first in a series.

This is the first in a series about beautiful bird species of America. More are to follow.

Thank you for visiting

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Comments 7 comments

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Awesome photos, and an original write here you have such talent in writing these hubs.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

tillsontitan,

Thank you for your kind comments I hope you will enjoy the rest of the series as they are published. There are indeed some fascinating birds to discover in your vast country. Best wishes to you.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

This is a great start for a series. You've chosen some interesting birds and of course the history and our introduction to Mrs. Osgood Wright just adds icing to the cake!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Fossillady, you are welcome. Many bird species, as you are aware, are some times difficult to tell apart. Only persistence and experience will give these skills. I wish you good luck with your bird watching. Best wishes to you.


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 3 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

Excellent article . . . thanks for introducing us to a historical bird lady, Mable Osgood. I'm a bird watcher myself and provide a nutty suet mixture for them on my forest property. Never have I been visited by most of these with the exception maybe of the hermit thrush, but then I'm sure I thought is was a wood thrush. Will pay closer attention! Take care, Kathi :O)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aviannovice------Both these ladies were obviously pioneers, Cordelia Stanwood being a respected ornithologist and wildlife photographer. She was born in August 1865. Mrs Mabel Osgood Wright was born in 1884 and was the author of other books such as 'The Friendship of Nature' and 'Four Footed Americans ' We owe these ladies a debt of gratitude not only for their pioneering work but as a fascinating insight to their perception of the species at that time in our history. Thank you for being the first to visit and for leaving your your comment. It is appreciated. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I had never heard of Mrs., Wright until now. She sounds like a pioneer ornithologist, like Cordelia Stanwood was, from Ellsworth, Maine USA.

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