BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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CROWS, JAYS, ETC.: FAMILY CORVIDÆ

FISH CROW. Corvus ossifragus
16.00 in.

Ad.— Entire bird black, with blue or purplish reflections at close range.

Nest, of sticks, in trees, generally in evergreens. Eggs, like those of the common Crow.

The Fish Crow is a common permanent resident of the lower Hudson Valley, and occurs regularly but not commonly along the coast of Connecticut, as far east as Stratford. It has been taken at Springfield, Mass., but is probably very rare north of Long Island Sound; in fact, it is almost always found near the sea or on large streams. Though the Fish Crow is smaller than the Common Crow, it is very difficult to distinguish it by the size alone, but its car is distinctive; it is higher, more nasal, and less powerful than the caw of the common Crow.

AMERICAN CROW. Corvus brachyrhynchos
19.30

Ad.— Entire bird black, with blue or purplish reflections when seen in strong light.

Nest, of sticks, in tall trees. Eggs, generally bluish-green, marked with brown.

The Crow is a permanent resident of the warmer portions of New York and New England, but a summer resident of that portion only of the interior where the winter is not severe. Great numbers move to the coast at this season, and find food on the marshes and beaches. Each evening multitudes assemble and fly off to certain roosts several miles away; in the morning they return and scatter over the feeding-ground. In March long trains flying northward show that the migration has begun. Mating begins early in April; Crows are now seen pursuing each other in the air, turning and swooping with considerable grace. Besides the ordinary caw, and the many modifications of which it is capable, the Crow utters commonly two other striking notes. One is like a high-pitched laugh, -=-=-=-=-= ; the other a more guttural sound, like the gobble of a turkey, ców ców ców. Crows have a strong antipathy towards the larger hawks and owls, pursuing them sometimes in great flocks, and cawing vehemently each time the victim makes an attempt to escape his noisy escort.


NORTHERN RAVEN. Corvus corax principalis
22.00 - 26.50 in.

Ad.— Entire bird black; the long feathers of the throat and the thick bill show only at close range.

Nest, of large sticks, lined with grass and wool, on cliffs or in trees. Eggs, bluish-green or olive, spotted with brown.

The Raven is a rare permanent resident of the coast of Maine, breeding on some of the small islands of Penobscot Bay. According to Mr. Brewster, it “ regularly visits the interior of northern New England in late autumn and winter.” It probably still occurs in the Adirondacks. In spite of its greater size, it is often difficult to distinguish it from a Crow, unless it utters its hoarse curruck.


CANADA JAY. Perisoreus canadensis
12.00 in.

Ad.— Forehead, sides of head, and throat whitish; hind part of head dusky grayish; back gray; tail gray, feathers tipped with white. Im.— Entire plumage sooty-slate.

Nest, in coniferous trees, of twigs, bark, etc. Eggs, grayish or whitish, speckled with brown.

The Canada Jay is a permanent resident of the coniferous forests of northern New England and New York. It is especially common in autumn, but rarely appears far south of central New Hampshire and Vermont; its presence in Massachusetts is accidental. It is noted for its fondness for meat, and in winter comes boldly about the logging-camps in its search for scraps of refuse. It is noisy, like its relative the Blue Jay, and has a variety of notes, many of which bear a strong family resemblance to its relative's. Its fluffy appearance and its pattern of coloration has suggested a comparison with a "magnified Chickadee" (Seton). The white spot on the forehead is the best recognition mark; the bird has no crest.

BLUE JAY. Cyanocitta cristata
11.74 in.

Ad.— Upper parts grayish-blue; head furnished with a crest, which is often, however, depressed; wings and tail bright blue, with narrow black bars and broad white spots; throat gray; collar about breast and neck black; lower belly white.

Nest, placed in thick evergreen from five to twenty feet up. Eggs, greenish, spotted with brown.

The Blue Jay is a common permanent resident of New England and New York, but is most numerous in the autumn. It inhabits woodland of any sort, feeding in fall and winter on grain, acorns, and nuts; in spring and summer it lives largely on insects, but too often robs the nests of other birds of eggs or young. Though a noisy bird at times, a pair can be so silent about the nesting site that the eggs will perhaps be laid before their presence is suspected. Their bright contrast, too, of blue and white, is not nearly so conspicuous in leafy shade as one might expect. Jays have a habit of hopping upward from one branch to the next till they reach the top of a tree. When flying through open spaces, they keep at almost an exact level, and may by this peculiarity of flight be recognized at some distance. Jays are very vigilant and give notice by their screams of the presence of an intruder; hawks and owls are frequently pursued by a noisy mob.

Their notes vary greatly; the commonest are the well known strident djay djay, a higher and more prolonged tee-ar tee-ar, which exactly simulates the scream of the Red-shouldered Hawk, a resonant, trumpet-like teerr and a too-wheedle too-wheedle, which suggests the creaking of a wheelbarrow. When uttering these sounds from a perch, Jays open the wings, and bend the head back and forth, like crows when cawing. They have also, in spring, low, sweet crooning notes. Many good observers believe that the Jay imitates the cries of various hawks, such as the Broadwinged and the Sparrow Hawk. The fact remains that even where the Red-shouldered Hawk is uncommon, the Jay frequently uses a note like his scream, so that it may be a part of his original repertoire, and not an imitation.

[graphic]

Blue Jay


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