« EelmineJätka »
A List of the Birds of Massachusetts, with Annotations.
By J. A. ALLEN. .
DURING the last ten years not less than thirty-four species have been added to the avian fauna of Massachusetts. A few included in the earlier lists are now currently, recognized as merely nominal, and a few other's prove to have been inserted on erroneous identifications, or on unsatisfactory evidence. In view of the many additions and other changes made since the publication of the last general catalogue of the birds of the state, a new list seems desirable. In the present attempt to supply such a list I have endeavored to distinguish rigidly between such species as have been either actually taken, or observed under circumstances that render an erroneous identification almost impossible, from those of merely probable occurrence. I have hence separated the species below enumerated into several categories, namely: (1) species authenticated as birds of the state ; (2) species of probable occurrence; (3) exti:pated species; (4) species introduced, or probably introduced, by man's agency; (5) hypothetical and doubtful species.
The thoroughly authenticated species number three hundred and sixteen, besides several additional varieties. Of these about one hundred and thirty-five are known to breed within the limits of the state ; some of them, however, somewhat sparingly and irregularly, or only in the more elevated portions of Berkshire County. About seventy fall into the class of accidental or extremely rare
uals are concerned, no very important part of our fauna. The recorded instances of their capture, however, probably by no means fairly indicate the frequency of their occurrence.
The species indicated as of probable occurrence number twenty-four. One-fourth of these have already been taken on the very borders of the state (Suffield, Conn.), so that it seems almost finical to exclude them from the list of those known to occur in Massachusetts. Several others are southern species that have been taken in New Hampshire and Maine, to reach which points they in all probability passed through Massachusetts. The remainder are largely pelagic, and since they are of no interest or value to the sportsman, and are rarely accessible to the collector, the fact that we have no positive record of their capture within the state scarcely outweighs the strong probability of their occurrence here, as indicated by their known general range and habits. Hence at least seveneighths of the species placed in the list of those probably occurring inay certainly be considered as fairly entitled to be ranked as birds of the state. Adding to these four that have become extirpated raises the total number of species for the state to about three hundred and forty.
Several other species more ôr less commonly recognized as birds of the state I have considered as having no, or only very slight, claims to be so considered. Two of these (Myiodioctes minutus and Empidonax pygmæus) I regard as hypothetical; another (Thaumatias linnci), . as of doubtful record as taken in the state ; another (Passer domesticus) is a well known introduced species, and two or three others may have escaped from cages.
The ornithology of the eastern portion of the state may now be regarded as pretty thoroughly known; that
scarcely differ much from that of the eastern. The region west of the Connecticut valley still offers an interesting field for investigation. Owing to the elevated, mountainous character of a considerable part of this area many species must regularly breed there that do not commonly pass the summer in the more easterly portions of the state. This, in fact, is known to be the case with a few, and is inferred for others. What is needed now to complete our knowledge of the ornithology of Massachusetts are exhaustive lists of the birds of at least two localities in Berkshire County,-one near its northern boundary and the other near its southern. It is to be hoped that not many years will pass before these desiderata will be supplied.
Within the last ten years three new species have been described from specimens first taken in Massachusetts. While it is hardly probable that others yet remain to be discovered, quite a number of stragglers from the far West and South, and possibly from the Old World, will doubtless yet be added to the already long list of accidental visitors,
At the risk of extending these preliminary remarks somewhat unduly I append a brief historical summary of the literature of the subject under consideration. The first formal list of the birds of the state was prepared by Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, and published in 1833 in Prof. Hitchcock's "Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology of Massachusetts” (pp. 545-551). This contained one hundred and sixty species, all but two of wbich were valid. Excludmg the two synonyms, all but one (Rhynchops nigra) have since been confirmed as inhabitants of the state. The list was only very sparingly annotated, but symbols were employed to indicate whether the species were rare or common, resident or migratory, or whether known to breed in the state. This list, so far as it goes, is remarkably free from errors.
? In this connection it may be interesting to note, as an indication of how rapidly our knowledge of the distribution of our birds is increasing, that of twenty.
e species withourawn scarcely two years since from the list of New England birds, by one of our most eminent authorities, because he could find no satisfactory evidence that they had ever been taken in New England, over one-third have since been reinotated in consequence of their actual capture within these prescribed limits having been made known within this short period. Out of fourteen "challenged" land birds (Passeres and Waders) nine have already been placed on the record as actually taken, in some instances at several different localities, and in numbers ranging from three to five and even eight individuals. I mention this not in the spirit of criticism, but simply as an interesting fact, for I agree with the author in question that their previous record as birds actually taken in New England was, in nearly overy instance, open to serious doubt.
The same year (1833) Mr. Thomas Nuttall published a paper (written, it appears, in 1831) in the "Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences” (20 Ser., I, pp. 91–106), entitled "Remarks and Inquiries concerning the Birds of Massachusetts,” in which he added six valid, and three nominal, species to those mentioned by Dr. Emmons.
Four years later (in 1837) Dr. T. M. Brewer contributed to the "Boston Journal of Natural History” (1, pp. 435-439) a paper having the title "Some Additions to the Catalogue of the Birds of Massachusetts in Prof. Hitchcock's Report, etc.” These additions comprised nominally forty-five species, about one-third of which were given on the authority of Audubon and Nuttall, and a number of others were included inferentially or on evidence of a somewhat traditional character. Three had been given (under other names) by Dr. Emmons, and two still lack confirmation as birds of the state. Only thirty-four were thus added to the number previously recorded by Nuttall and Emmons, raising the number at this time known to inhabit the state to one hundred and ninety-seven,