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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 67, Small-headed Flycatcher

AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Plate 67, Small-headed 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 of bird depicted: unknown

Corresponding Havell edition plate number: 434.4, Rocky Mountain Flycatcher, Little Tyrant Flycatcher, Blue Mountain Warvler, Short-legged Pewee, Small-headed Flycatcher, Bartrams Vireo

Included in this composition is Virginia spiderwort.

Audubon described the Small-Headed Flycatcher as follows:

"The sight of the figure of this species brings to my recollection a curious incident of long-past days, when I drew it at Louisville in Kentucky. It was in the early part of the spring of 1808, thirty-two years ago, that I procured a specimen of it while searching the margins of a pond. 

In those happy days, kind reader, I thought not of the minute differences by which one species may be distinguished from another in words, or of the necessity of comparing tarsi, toes, claws, and quills, although I have, as you are aware, troubled you with tedious details of this sort. When ALEXANDER WILSON visited me at Louisville, he found in my already large collection of drawings, a figure of the present species, which, being at that time unknown to him, he copied and afterwards published in his great work, but without acknowledging the privilege that had thus been granted to him. I have more than once regretted this, not by any means so much on my own account, as for the sake of one to whom we are so deeply indebted for his elucidation of our ornithology. 

I consider this Flycatcher as among the scarcest of those that visit our middle districts; for, although it seems that WILSON procured one that "was shot on the 24th of April, in an orchard," and afterwards "several individuals of this species in various quarters of Now Jersey, particularly in swamps," all my endeavours to trace it in that section of the country have failed, as have those of my friend EDWARD HARRIS, Esq., who is a native of that State, resides there, and is well acquainted with all the birds found in the district. I have never seen it out of Kentucky, and even there it is a very uncommon bird. In Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, or farther eastward or southward, in our Atlantic districts, I never saw a single individual, not even in museums, private collections, or for sale in bird-stuffers' shops. 

In its habits this species is closely allied to the Hooded and Green Blackcapt Flycatchers, being fond of low thick coverts, whether in the interior of swamps, or by the margins of sluggish pools. from which it only removes to higher situations after a continuation of wet weather, when I have found it on rolling grounds, and amid woods comparatively clear of under-growth. 

Differing from the true Flycatchers, this species has several rather pleasing notes which it enunciates at pretty regular intervals, and which may be heard at the distance of forty or fifty yards in calm weather. I have more than once seen it attracted by an imitation of these notes. While chasing insects on wing, although it clicks its bill on catching them, the sound thus emitted is comparatively weak, as is the case with the species above mentioned, it being stronger however in the Green Blackcapt than in this or the Hooded species. Like these birds, it follows its prey to some distance at times, whilst, at others, it searches keenly among the leaves for its prey, but, I believe, never alights on the ground, not even for the purpose of drinking, which act it performs by passing lightly over the water and sipping, as it were, the quantity it needs. 

All my efforts to discover its nests in the lower parts of Kentucky, where I am confident that it breeds, have proved fruitless; and I have not heard that any other person has been more successful. 

SMALL-HEADED FLYCATCHER, Muscicapa minuta, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. vi. p. 62. 
SYLVIA MINUTA, Bonap. Syn., p. 86. 
SMALL-HEADED SYLVAN FLYCATCHER, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 296. 
SMALL-HEADED FLYCATCHER, Muscicapa minuta, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 291. 

Wings short, the second quill longest; tail of moderate length, even; general colour of upper parts light greenish-brown; wings and tail dark olive-brown, the outer feathers of the latter with a terminal white spot on the inner web; a narrow white ring surrounding the eye; two bands of dull white on the wing; sides of the head and neck greenish-yellow, the rest of the lower parts pale yellow, gradually fading into white behind. 

Male, 5, 8 1/4. 

Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Exceedingly rare. Migratory. 


TRADESCANTIA VIRGINICA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. ii. p. 16. Pursch, Fl. Amer., vol. i. p. 218.--HEXANDRIA MONOGYNIA, Linn.--JUNCI, Juss. 

This species is distinguished by its erect, succulent stem; elongated lanceolate, smooth leaves; and umbellate, subsessile flowers, which are of a deep purple colour, with yellow anthers."

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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