FAMILY TETRAONIDÆ.--GROUSE, PARTRIDGES, ETC.
The various members of the present family, while belonging to a grain eating group, are certainly quite prominent as insect destroyers. Especially is this true with respect to the Quail, Prairie Hen, Sharp-tailed Grouse, aud Wild Turkey, all of which occupy most of the summer in capturing and destroying vast numbers of such insects as are found on the prairies. Grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, caterpillars and similar insects thus form the bulk of their insect food, forms that are all among the most numerous as well as destructive species. In writing about these birds as insect destroyers Professor Samuel Aughey writes:1 "I happened to be in the Republican valley, in southwestern Nebraska, in August, 1874, when the locusts invaded that region. Prairie chickens and quails, that previous to their coming had a large number of seeds in their stomachs when dissected, seemed now for a time to abandon all other kinds of food. At least from this onward for a month little else than locusts were found in their stomachs. All the birds seemed now to live solely on locusts for a while."
In winter and at other times of the year when insect life is scarce and difficult to obtain these birds feed more or less extensively upon seeds and other kinds of vegetation. Some even enter cultivated grounds and seek food that belongs to the farmer, thereby doing more or less direct injury. The extent of such injury, of course, depends upon the number of birds engaged in the depredations, and also on the time over which it is allowed to extend. If corn and other grain is harvested at the proper time but little damage ensues; but if allowed to remain in the field throughout winter much of the crop is liable to be taken by the birds.
289. Colinus virginianus (Linn.).—B0B-WHITE; QUAIL.
Greater part of state—breeds (L. Bruner); " Common in Nebraska" (Aughey); " Resident, common" (Taylor); "the greater portion of Nebraska" (Bendire); "West to Dakota, Kansas, Indian Territory, and eastern Texas" (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt--nesting (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—breeds (L. Skow); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); Elm Creek, Elk Creek, Wood River, Verdigris, etc. (D. H. Talbot); Gage county (F. A. Colby); Omaha, "formerly an abundant resident, gradually becoming rarer, although still comparatively common, breeds April 15 to Aug. 1—two to four broods" (L S. Trostler).
Perhaps no other bird that frequents the farm pays higher prices for the grain it eats than does the Quail. Living about the hedgerows, groves, and ravines, where insect enemies gather and lurk during the greater part of the year, this bird not only seizes large numbers of these enemies daily during the summer months when they are "abroad in the land," but all winter through it scratches among the fallen leaves and other rubbish that accumulates about its haunts seeking for hibernating insects of various kinds. Being a timid little creature, the quail seldom leaves cover to feed openly in the fields, and therefore does but little actual harm in the way of destroying grain. In fact it only takes stray kernels that otherwise might be lost.
It is also one of the few birds that feeds upon that unsavory insect, the Chinch-bug; and the number of this pest that occasionally fall its prey is really astonishing. A single Chinch-bug is a small thing, still I have seen a quail’s stomach filled with them—more than 500 at least calculation having been sacrificed for a single meal of the bird examined.
No farmer or fruit-grower should ever kill a quail himself, nor should he allow any one else to hunt them on his premises.
Among the many complimentary things that have been said and written about the Quail the following is worthy of note:
A statement was made by Rev. J. K Long, of Ithaca, Mich., and printed in the Gratiot Journal to the effect that "several weeks ago a pair of quails flew up out of his garden. In making the turn about the corner of the house, one of them missed its reckoning in some way, and striking the house, fell dead. On examining its distended crop, 101 potato bugs were found, the little fellow’s breakfast, for the bugs were yet alive and began to move about when brought to the fresh air."
297b. Dendragapus obscurus richardsonii (DougL).—RICHARDSON’S DUSKY GROUSE.
"Baird mentions ten specimens collected in western Nebraska in the month of August" (Taylor); "Eastward through Wyoming and western South Dakota" (Bendire).
300. Bonassa umbellus (Linn.).—RUFFED GROUSE.
Weeping Water (T. A. Williams); "Rare in Nebraska" (Aughey); "Probably may be found in the western part of the state" (Taylor); "South through southeastern Nebraska" (Bendire) "West to the edge of the Great Plains" (Goss); South Omaha, Rockport—breeding (L. Skow); "rare resident, one killed near Florence Nov. 4, 1894, and several killed near Bellevue winter of 1893" (L S. Trostler).
305. Tympanuchus americanus (Reich.).—PRAIRIE HEN; PINNATED GROUSE.
Greater portion of the state, breeds (L. Bruner); "enormously abundant in Nebraska" (Aughey); "Resident, abundant in the western part of the state, but somewhat rare in eastern Nebraska" (Taylor); "throughout Nebraska" (Bendire); "Prairies of the Mississippi valley (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—breeds (L Skow); Peru—breeds (G. A. Coleman); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); numerous localities in eastern half of state (D. H. Talbot); Gage county—breeds (F. A. Colby); Omaha, "formerly a common resident, and may still be met with occasionally in flocks of from four to fifteen Individuals" (I. S. Trostler).
307. Tympanuchus pallidicinctus Ridgw.—LESSER PRAIRIE HEN.
Eastern border of Great Plains, from Nebraska (?), southwestern Kansas, southwestern Missouri (?),and western part of Indian Territory to western Texas (Ridgway); Vermillion, S. Dak.2 (Agersborg); a number of years ago several specimens were reported as having been seen in Cuming county near West Point (L. Bruner); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates). Hon. E. K. Valentine, of West Point, just recently told me that in the ear’y faIl, 1870, he killed two of these birds, and that H. C. Plimton and Sam Greggory killed one each out of a flock of about a dozen that was found on the west side of the Elkorn river in Canting county. In the winter of 1 871-'72, while at home for holiday vacation, I saw one of these birds in a corn-field just adjoining th. town of West Point (L Bruner). At about this time B. E. B. Kennedy, of Omaha, reports the killing of several of these birds in Washington county by Henry Roman, of Omaha. Still other birds were killed by George A. Hogland, near West Point, in Cuming county, but on the east side of the Elkhorn river (Notes collected by (I. S. Trostler).
308a. Pediocætes phasinellus columbianus (Ord).—COLUMBIAN SHARP-TAILED GROUSE.
Pine Ridge near Hay Springs (Wm. Waterman); Sioux county, Feb. 24, 1896—several specimens (W. P. Hunter, L. Skow).
308b. Pediocætes phasianellus campestris Ridgw.—PRAIRIE OR COMMON SHARP-TAILED GROUSE.
West Point, Holt county, Harrison, Thedford—breeds (L Bruner); "Formerly very abundant in Nebraska" (Aughly); "Resident, formerly abundant, - becoming rare" (Taylor); "North through western Nebraska" (Bendire); "Plains and ptairies east of the Rocky mountains" (Goss); Hay Springs— breeds (Wm. Waterman); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); Wood River, O’Neill (D. H. Talbot); "not seen in the vicinity of Omaha, but a fine male - taken in Cherry county June 25, 1895, where it is a common resident" (L S. Trostler).
309. Centrocercus urophasianus (Bonap.) — SAGE GROUSE; SAGE COCK.
Hat creek basin, Sioux county (L. Bruner); western Nebraska (Aughey); "An occasional resident in western Nebraska" (Taylor); "through western Nebraska" (Bendire); Indian creek, in Sioux county, Feb., 1896—not rare (Elliott W. Brown).
310. Meleagris gallopavo Linn.—WILD TURKEY.
Rockport and Ft. Calhoun (L. Bruner); "Formerly very abundant in Nebraska" (Aughey); "Formerly an abundant resident, but now rapidly disappearing" (Taylor); "It was not uncommon in southern South Dakota and Nebraska within the last ten years" (Bendire); west along the timbered streams to the edge of the Great Plains (Goss); Bellevue (L. Skow); "formerly found in southern part of Lincoln county, in canyons and along Medicine creek, but- none left" (M. K. Barnum).
The various species of doves or pigeons are not, as a rule, thought of as being especially harmful, yet repeated examinations of their stomach contents would indicate that their food seldom, if ever, consists of anything but grains and various kinds of seeds along with other particles of vegetation. The good done by these birds as destroyers of weed seeds more than balances for the harm done by them as grain eaters.
315. Ectopistes migratorius (Linn.).—PASSENGER PIGEON.
West Point, Norfolk (L. Bruner); "Some years abundant in Nebraska" (Aughey); "Summer resident, irregular, arrives in May and leaves in September" (Taylor); "Deciduous forest regions of eastern North America" (Bendire); west to the great plains (Goss); Florence (L. Skow); "One killed out of flock of fifteen or twenty by Hon. Edgar Howard, of Papillion, in woods five miles south east of that place, in Sarpy county, Nov. 9, 1895,—also a flock of fifteen was by Geo. W. Sabine, of Omaha, seen flying over his residence on morning of Nov. 28, 1895" (I. S. Trostler); Cuming county (J. H. Mockett, Jr.).
316. Zenaidura macroura (Linn.).—M0URNING DOVE; CAROLINA DOVE.
Especially common over wooded portions of the state where it breeds (L. Bruner); "Abundant in Nebraska" (Aughey); "Summer resident, abundant, arrives in April and leaves in September" (Taylor); "Extends over the entire United States" (Bendire); "The whole of temperate North America" (Goss); Beatrice, De Witt (A. S. Pearse); Omaha—nesting (L. Skow); Peru, breeds, winters (G. A. Coleman); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); Genoa (D. H. Talbot); Gage county—breeds (F. A. Colby); Omaha, "an abundant summer resident—breeds Apr. 1 to Sept. 1" (I. S. Trostler).
1See 1st Rept, U. S. Ent. Com., p. 341.
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2 Specimen shot by Ed. Spatz, Mechling, Clay county.
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© 2001, Lynn Waterman