Birds - Maryland Yellowthroat
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Geothlypis trichas) Wood Warbler family
Called also: BLACK-MASKED GROUND WARBLER
Length—5.33 inches. Just an inch shorter than the typical English sparrow.
Male—Olive-gray on head, shading to olive-green on all the other upper parts. Forehead, cheeks, and sides of head black, like a mask, and bordered behind by a grayish line. Throat and breast bright yellow, growing steadily paler underneath.
Female—Either totally lacks black mask or its place is indicated by only a dusky tint. She is smaller and duller.
Range—Eastern North America, west to the plains; most common east of the Alleghanies. Nests from the Gulf States to Labrador and Manitoba; winters south of Gulf States to Panama.
Migrations-May. September. Common summer resident.
" Given a piece of marshy ground with an abundance of skunk cabbage and a fairly dense growth of saplings, and near by a tangle of green brier and blackberry, and you will be pretty sure to have it tenanted by a pair of yellowthroats," says Dr. Abbott, who found several of their nests in skunk-cabbage plants, which he says are favorite cradles. No animal cares to touch this plant if it can be avoided; but have the birds themselves no. sense of smell ?
Before and after the nesting season these active birds, plump of form, elegant of attire, forceful, but not bold, enter the scrubby pastures near our houses and the shrubbery of old-fashioned, overgrown gardens, and peer out at the human wanderer therein with a charming curiosity. The bright eyes of the male masquerader shine through his black mask, where he intently watches you from the tangle of syringa and snowball bushes ; and as he flies into the laburnum with its golden chain of blossoms that pale before the yellow of his throat and breast, you are so impressed with his grace and elegance that you follow too audaciously, he thinks, and off he goes. And yet this is a bird that seems to delight in being pursued. It never goes so far away that you are not tempted to follow it, though it be through dense undergrowth and swampy thickets, and it always gives you just glimpse enough of its beauties and graces before it flies ahead, to invite the hope of a closer inspection next time. When it dives into the deepest part of the tangle, where you can imagine it hunting about among the roots and fallen leaves for the larva, caterpillars, spiders, and other insects on which it feeds, it sometimes amuses itself with a simple little song between the hunts. But the bird's indifference, you feel sure, arises from preoccupation rather than rudeness.
If, however, your visit to the undergrowth is unfortunately timed and there happens to be a bulky nest in process of construction on the ground, a quickly repeated, vigorous chit, pit, quit, impatiently inquires the reason for your bold intrusion. Withdraw discreetly and listen to the love-song that is presently poured out to reassure his plain little maskless mate. The music is delivered with all the force and energy of his vigorous nature and penetrates to a surprising distance. " Follow me, follow me, follow me," many people hear him say; others write the syllables, " Wichity, wichity, wichity, wichity "; and still others write them, " I beseech you, I beseech you, I beseech you," - though the tones of this self-assertive bird rather command than entreat. Mr. Frank Chapman says of the yellowthroats : " They sing throughout the summer, and in August add a flight-song to their repertoire. This is usually uttered toward evening, when the bird springs several feet into the air, hovers for a second, and then drops back to the bushes."