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Aud. Birds Oct. 1 - 200

Plates from John James Audubon's first octavo edition of The Birds of America Plates 1 - 200

AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Plate 66, Least Pewee Flycatcher

AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Plate 66, Least Pewee Flycatcher


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Hand-colored lithograph by Ralph Trembly for the firm of J.T. Bowen after John James Audubon (1785 - 1851)

From Vol. 1 of the first octavo edition of the The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories. New York: J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier, 1839 - 1840.

Paper dimensions: approximately 10 x 6 ½ inches

Octavo part number: 14

Current name: Least Flycatcher, Empidonax minimus 

Corresponding Havell edition plate number: 434.1, Rocky Mountain Flycatcher, Little Tyrant Flycatcher, Blue Mountain Warvler, Short-legged Pewee, Small-headed Flycatcher, Bartrams Vireo

Included in this composition is swamp chestnut oak.

Audubon described the Least Pewee Flycatcher as follows:

"This small and plainly-coloured species, first described by my friend WILLIAM SWAINSON, Esq. in the Fauna Boreali-Americana, under the name of "Tyrannula pusilla," is a common inhabitant of the northern and north-western parts of America, but has not, I believe, been known to pass along our Atlantic shores. Dr. RICHARDSON, who observed it in the Fur Countries, says that "it was first seen by us at Carlton House, on the 19th of May, flitting about for a few days among low bushes on the banks of the river, after which it retired to the moist shady woods lying farther north." 

My friend THOMAS NUTTALL, Esq. procured this bird on Wapatoo Island, which is formed by the junction of the Multnomah with the Columbia, 20 miles long, and 10 broad. The land is high and extremely fertile, and in most parts supplied with a heavy growth of cotton-wood, ash, and sweet-willow. But the chief wealth of tic island consists of the numerous ponds in the interior, abounding with the common arrow-head, Sagittaria sagittifolia, to the root of which is attached a bulb growing beneath it in the mud. This bulb, to which the Indians give the name of Wapatoo, is the great article of food, and almost the staple article of commerce, on the Columbia. It is never out of season, so that at all times of the year the valley is frequented by the neighbouring Indians, who come to gather it. It is collected chiefly by the women, who take a light canoe in a pond, where the water is as high as the breast, and by means of their toes, separate the root from the bulb, which on being freed from the mud rises immediately to the surface of the water, and is thrown into the canoe. This plant is found through the whole extent of the Columbia Valley, but does not grow farther eastward. 

"I observed," he continues, "a male of this species very active and cheerful, making his chief residence in a spreading oak, on the open border of a piece of forest. As usual, he took his station at the extremity of a dead branch, from whence, at pretty quick intervals, he darted after passing insects. When at rest, he raised his erectile crest, and in great earnest called out sishui, sishui, and sometimes tsishea, tsishea, in a lisping tone, rather quickly, and sometimes in great haste, so as to run both calls together. This brief, rather loud, quaint and monotonous ditty, was continued for hours together, at which time, so great was our little actor's abstraction, that he allowed a near approach without any material apprehension. As I could not discover any nest, I have little doubt it was concealed either in some knot or laid on some horizontal branch." 

I found this species both in Newfoundland and on the coast of Labrador in considerable numbers. In the latter country, where the bushes are low and the fir-trees seldom attain a height of thirty feet, I observed that it preferred for its residence the narrow and confined valleys which at that season (July) are clothed with luxuriant herbage, and abound in insects, to which this little Flycatcher gives chase with great activity, returning, as is the well-known habit of all our small species, to the twig or top of the plant which it has selected for its look-out station. Two males I observed one morning, were constantly engaged in pursuing each other, when at times they would mount to some height in the air, there meet, snap their bills violently, separate, and return to their posts. Their continued cries induced me to believe that they had females and nests in the valley; and after searching a good while, I had the gratification of finding one of them placed between two small twigs of a bush not above four feet in height. This nest was composed of delicate dry grasses and fibrous roots, so thinly arranged as to enable me to see through it. It contained five eggs, so nearly resembling those of our Little Red-start Flycatcher, that, had I not started the female from the nest, I should have been induced to pronounce them the property of that bird. They measured five and a half eighths by four-eighths, and were rather sharp at the smaller end, pure white, thinly spotted, and marked with different tints of light red, with a few dots of umber, principally toward the apex. Many of the young were able to fly before our departure, which took place on the 12th of August; and I think that the pair which I found breeding must have been later than usual in arriving in that country, as a very few days afterwards I found a good number fully fledged, and travelling along the shore of St. George's Bay in Newfoundland. This species may perhaps breed in Nova Scotia, as I have seen a specimen obtained there in the collection of my young friend THOMAS M'CULLOCH, Esq. of Halifax. 

TYRANNULA PUSILLA, LITTLE TYRANT FLYCATCHER, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 144. 
LITTLE TYRANT FLYCATCHER, Muscicapa pusilla, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 288. 

Third quill longest, fourth scarcely shorter, second nearly one-twelfth shorter, and exceeding the first by three and a quarter twelfths; tail slightly emarginate; upper parts light greenish-brown; loral band whitish, a narrow pale ring surrounding the eye; wings olive-brown, with two bands of dull white, secondaries margined with the same; tail olive-brown, the lateral feathers lighter, the outer web pale brownish-grey; fore part of neck and a portion of the breast and sides ash-grey, the rest of the lower parts pale yellow. 

Male, 5 2/12, wing, 2 5/12. 

Columbia river. Fur Countries. Labrador. Newfoundland. Rare in the Atlantic States. 


QUERCUS PRINUS, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. iv. p. 439. Pursch, Fl. Amer., vol. ii. p. 633.--QUERCUS PRINUS PALUSTRIS, Mich., Arb. Forest. de l'Amer. Sept., vol. ii. p. 51. Pl. 7.--MONOECIA POLYANDRIA, Linn. --AMENTACEAE, Juss. 

Leaves oblongs-oval, acute, largely toothed, the teeth nearly equal, dilated, and callous at the tip; cupule craterate, attenuated at the base; acorn ovate. This species grows in low shady woods, and along the margins of rivers, from Pennsylvania to Florida. The wood is porous, and of inferior quality."

From: AUDUBON, John James: The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories; New York and Philadelphia: J. J. Audubon and J. B. Chevalier, 1840 - 1844.



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