The amusement of trap-shooting is pursued in the Northern States, on the
margins of the western lakes–as some eminent marksmen of Buffalo and
Niagara Falls can testify–and on the sea-coast–as some famous matches
at Islip would prove. It is not a field sport; it is hardly a sport at
all; and a pigeon is not, properly speaking, a game-bird, in spite of
the instances quoted. If this work were to be confined strictly to its
professed objects, this chapter would have to be excluded; but for the
reason that it belongs nowhere else, that an account of this peculiar
style of shooting will be useful to many sportsmen, and that no
published book contains any information on the subject, the writer has
presumed to collate the experience of his friends rather than of
himself–for he does not pretend to much skill in this particular
art–and to offer it to the sporting public.
Trap-shooting, although quite an ungrammatical expression, is perfectly
understood as a sporting term, having acquired a conventional meaning;
it signifies neither shooting at a trap, which its construction implies,
nor shooting out of a trap, but shooting at a bird–generally a
pigeon–released from a trap. Although not a highly scientific sport,
and somewhat open to the charge of cruelty, it has its devotees; and
certainly, amid a crowd of spectators and competitors, to take the palm
and carry off the prize is no mean glory. The birds probably suffer as
little, cut down with the whistling charge of fine shot while on the
wing, and with a chance for life, as though their necks were
remorselessly wrung by the poulterer; and in either case they find their
way to market and furnish food for the people.
The most serious objection to this sport is, that the wild pigeons have
to be taken from their nests in the spring, and thus, either prevented
laying their eggs, or hatching their broods. As the preservation and
increase of all species of wild birds, animals, and fishes, and the
prevention of their destruction at unseasonable times, are the first
duties of a sportsman, the killing of pigeons ere they have raised their
broods is on a par with shooting ducks and snipe in spring, and is
excusable only because the feeling of the people does not require the
enactment of thoroughly appropriate laws; and while it prevents the
protection of the latter, makes the preservation of the former–which is
a comparatively valueless bird–scarcely worth the trouble.
Under these circumstances, and in order to fill up a season of the year
when there is no other legitimate sporting excitement, trap-shooting has
grown in public estimation, and being adopted by a large class of
sportsmen, has led to the employment of a numerous body of followers,
skilled in the secrets of trapping and preparing birds so that they may
be presented to the shooter in the best possible condition.
This class of underlings, who attend to the many wants of the
sportsman, whether in the field or at the trap; who break his dogs,
carry his bag, or tend his birds; with their quaint wisdom and innate
honesty,–deserve more consideration than they receive: but above all,
in trap-shooting, are they a necessity, and is their uprightness above
price? An unfair trapper may give one man strong birds, and another
weak; may pull their wing-feathers, or keep some without water or food,
and thus almost decide a contest beforehand.
Their labor is excessive; they have first to catch the birds, and attend
to their arrival at the place of shooting early enough to meet the
sportsmen; and then they have to run eighteen or twenty-one yards over
the uneven and often muddy ground for every bird they place in the trap.
Hence, in selecting a place to shoot pigeons, it is desirable, by
avoiding sand or soft earth, to save the trapper; under the most
favorable circumstance, he will soon be exhausted, and with every
advantage, cannot trap more than five hundred birds in a day. Two birds
are released, either together or successively, ere the traps are
replenished; the trapper, carrying two birds, runs to the traps, sets
one after the other, and returns also on the run–for the marksman by
this time is at the score–and selects two more birds from the box; this
labor, continued during the noontide hours of a blazing day, is not
over-remunerated by liberal pay and the surplus birds, that, unless
claimed by the shooter, fall by common consent to the share of his
The most rapid way is to use five traps, in single-bird shooting, and
employ five boys–with a relay of five others when the first are
exhausted–to set them; boys are naturally more active than men, and are
buoyed up by an excitement that the latter do not feel. The five birds
are shot at before the traps are refilled; and by the time the last bird
is released the boys stand armed with a fresh one apiece, ready to reset
the traps in a moment. In this mode, with good luck in not having too
many birds that have to be retrieved, and with regularity, fifteen
hundred birds may be shot at in ten hours.
The difficulty of obtaining pigeons in our seaboard cities has been so
great of late years, as advancing civilization has reduced the number,
and driven westward the migratory hosts which once visited the Eastern
States, that not only has the expense enormously increased, but the
practice of trap-shooting has diminished. The ordinary price along the
Atlantic coast is from twenty to thirty dollars a hundred, and the
supply is so small, that the collection of any considerable number, even
at that rate, is extremely difficult.
As skill in the act of shooting birds released from a trap, where the
sportsman stands prepared, gun in hand and nerves disturbed, if at all,
only by the presence of spectators, does not imply ability to acquit
oneself well in the field, and tends but little to that end; so it is
pursued not for improvement so much as for temporary excitement during
the dull months of the year. Pigeons nest in June, a season during
which there is absolutely no legitimate sport with the gun whatever; the
woodcock are not yet grown, the snipe have passed to their northern
homes, and the sportsman fills the vacancy with the emulation of
surpassing his associates at trap-shooting. The attempt is exciting, and
the art peculiar, requiring great self-command and utter disregard of
the jeers, praises, or contemptuous laughter of a thousand spectators.
Tame pigeons are not so well adapted to the purpose as their wild
brethren, having a quiet way of ignoring the object for which they are
produced, and walking towards the stand, or picking up scraps of food
the moment they are released, that is trying to the expectant shooter.
Then they are strong of wing and well feathered, so that the shot must
be driven hard to penetrate to a vital spot; and they fly as often
towards the crowd assembled behind the score as in the contrary
direction. Their flight is uneven, and frequently, after rising a few
feet, they will suddenly alight, or pitch down part of the way. The best
shots, therefore, prefer the wild birds, that go off with a rush the
moment the trap is pulled–for, although they fly faster, they are more
certain in their motions. Tame birds are collected in the neighborhood
of towns and through the country, but rarely in large numbers; and being
accustomed to the presence of man, require little special care. Wild
birds are brought from long distances, frequently from the confines of
Wisconsin, and in consequence of their timid, excitable nature, require
continued care. They are captured on their nests, where they congregate
in millions; and being cooped in shallow boxes made of slats, only deep
enough to allow them to move, but not to use their wings or bruise
themselves, are transported as rapidly and tenderly as possible to their
destination. They must invariably be accompanied by a careful person to
wait on them, and supply food and water, of the latter of which they
require large quantities, and they must be moved as rarely and carefully
The moment they arrive, they should be placed in a prepared room; and
each one, as he is taken out, must have his head plunged in water, and
be allowed to drink freely. The ceiling of their apartment should be
low, or there will be difficulty in catching them, and the windows may
be slatted; a sufficient number of perches to accommodate them readily
should be set up, and they must be disturbed as little as possible. Food
and water should be introduced three times a day, either very quietly,
or after the apartment has been darkened by closing the shutters. In
spite of the best of care, about ten per cent. will perish on the
journey, or in consequence of it.
Having been retained in the room two or three days, they will be in
their best condition, recovered from their exposure, and not yet injured
by their confinement; and may then be caught, replaced in the boxes, and
carried to the shooting-ground. It is a common practice to pull out
some of the smaller feathers under the tail, or to stick a pin in the
gristle of the rump, with a view of making them fly better; as a bird
that remains in the trap, when a ground-trap is used, after it is
pulled, and refuses to rise, baulks the shooter, and any pain inflicted
on them just as they are being used will make them wild and anxious to
There are three kinds of traps used, called the ground, spring, and
plunge traps; the former is so arranged that when the string is drawn,
the trap, which is composed of tin plates, falls over and lies flat on
the ground; while the others, through the instrumentality of a spring,
or by a vigorous jerk on the line, throw the birds into the air. The
ground-traps are considered by many the most scientific, leaving the
shooter in doubt as to the direction of the bird’s flight, and
preventing his shooting on the calculation which can be made very
accurately with a spring-trap–that the bird will invariably be thrown
to a certain place, and may be killed there, nominally on the wing, but
before he has really got under weigh; but in the West the plunge-traps
are generally preferred, as they insure the bird’s flying at once.
The traps are also spoken of as “H and T,” or “head and tail” traps, and
are usually marked with a large H or T; but this means merely that the
shooter may select the trap to be pulled by the toss, in case the terms
of the contest permit it. The sportsmanlike mode, however, as claimed by
Eastern sportsmen, is to allow the trapper, provided he can be
perfectly relied upon, to pull any trap he may choose, without notice to
Four or five traps are generally used, placed several feet apart, at
twenty-one yards from the score in single-bird shooting, and at eighteen
yards in double-bird shooting. In double-bird shooting the two birds are
not placed in the same trap, but two traps are pulled at the same time.
In single-bird shooting only one barrel can be discharged at one bird;
and to save time, the shooter should fire at two birds, one after the
other, before he leaves the score, being thus compelled to use both
barrels of his gun.
A bird, to be credited as killed, must be retrieved within the
bounds–that is to say, must be gathered with the hands alone; and it
was formerly permitted to take him not only on the ground or in the air,
but from a tree, and the shooter might walk round a running bird and
drive him towards the trap; but more modern rules require that the bird
shall fall, and shall be proceeded to straight from the score. The
bounds are eighty yards radius from the centre of the traps in
single-bird shooting, and one hundred yards in double-bird shooting. The
distance should be measured with a rope, and marked by small flags or
painted stakes set up in the ground.
The judges order the shooter to retrieve any bird they think proper; and
in case there is doubt whether a bird was hit, although duly retrieved,
they must examine and decide, being occasionally compelled to pick the
feathers in order to ascertain.
In case of a missfire, according to the rules of the New York Club, if
the cap explodes, the bird is counted against the shooter, although his
gun may be properly loaded, he being responsible for the cleanliness of
the gun; but in case the cap fails to explode, he is allowed another
bird. Other clubs only require that the gun shall be properly loaded;
and others score the bird as missed. If in double-bird shooting one bird
only rises, it used to be counted to the shooter, and he was allowed
another bird in place of the one that failed to fly, thus really
shooting at two single birds. This was so manifestly unjust that the
rule has been changed by the State Association, and the shooter is
required to shoot at a fresh brace. The sportsman stands at the score
and directs the trapper when to pull; he must hold the butt of his gun
beneath his elbow, but usually drops his head, and bends his body into
the position it would take were the gun at his shoulder, so that he
merely has to raise his gun to his eye and point it. In double-trap
shooting, undoubtedly, the marksman requires every advantage he can
obtain, and then will have many birds pass beyond range ere he can fire;
but where a single pigeon is presented, it would be advisable to require
every contestant to hold his gun with the muzzle above his head.
Professional shots usually extend the arms and assume an attitude, and
gain an advantage that would be impossible to them in game-shooting.
* * * * *
The weight or character of gun and load of powder have not heretofore
been restricted, although it is unreasonable to match a light field-gun,
loaded with three drachms, against a fourteen-pound ducking-gun, driving
its charge of No. 10 shot with six drachms of powder. The load of shot
should not be over one ounce and a quarter; but even with this
restriction the heavy guns will have the advantage, being able to send
fine shot stronger, and have the benefit of the extra quantity of
pellets. The size of shot in light guns is generally No. 7, with three
and a quarter drachms of powder. The guns are loaded in the presence of
a judge selected for the purpose, and the shot is poured into a measured
charger; but with breech-loaders, as the cartridges are already
prepared, it is customary to select one of the latter at random and open
A good shot will frequently kill twenty single birds in succession, and
some persons who have made this sport their specialty have been known to
kill many more; but the majority of excellent sportsmen will not kill
over nineteen out of twenty. The best field-shots are often bunglers at
trap-shooting. Where double birds are shot at, it is rare that twenty
are killed without a miss, and an excellent average out of ten double
rises would be seventeen birds. The second bird is frequently so far off
ere he is fired at, that, even if hit, he will go out of bounds and be
recorded as missed, although he falls dead. In this shooting there is
much in accident, not only as to the bird’s falling out of bounds, but
as to the mode of flight; for if both birds go directly away from the
stand, the chances are against the shooter, whereas if one approaches,
the difficulty of killing is not much greater than with single birds.
In England a better rule in shooting single birds generally prevails, by
which the rise is extended to twenty-five or thirty yards, but the
shooter is allowed to use both barrels; thus occasionally making some
brilliant shots at long distances, and proving the qualities, not merely
of the sportsman, but of his weapon. Firing a single barrel at a pigeon
within thirty yards, is dull sport; better marksmanship is required to
stop him at from thirty-five to forty with the first barrel, even with
the additional chance with the second at from forty to fifty.
No scattering gun, filling the air with its cloud of mustard-seed, will
answer for this work; the closest and strongest-shooting gun will have
to be held so true that the centre of the charge will hit the object, to
obtain the least chance with the second barrel, or to insure certainty
even with the first. Fewer birds that are fairly hit will go out of
bounds, as the second barrel may complete the work of the first; and the
best marksman will generally exhibit himself by the management of this
barrel, to use which at all will require extreme rapidity and accuracy.
This fact has been recognised occasionally at conventions, or where the
contests were for honor and not money, by increasing the distance at
which ties are shot off. In a large match there are always several ties,
which are shot off at five birds, and frequently not finished till
repeated several times. At the New York State Convention of 1865, held
at Niagara Falls, the parties tying one another were set back five yards
at every tie, and still at thirty-one yards four birds out of five were
killed with a single barrel–although, of course, at this distance much
will depend upon the direction and mode of flight. Success, even with
the use of both barrels, will require far more brilliant shooting than
in the present mode.
There has always been great dispute among trap-shooters as to the best
trap. The New York City Club claims that a bird released from a
ground-trap, selecting his own time to rise, and mode and direction of
flight, is harder to kill than one tossed heels over head from a plunge
or spring-trap. But our Western brethren, who are naturally more rapid,
and who have less difficulty in obtaining pigeons, are so annoyed with
the waste of time occasioned by a dilatory pigeon, that they universally
prefer the plunge-trap.
Probably the mesne between these two opinions is correct, or more
properly a combination of them both; a single bird is undoubtedly harder
to kill at a ground-trap, whereas the plunge-trap will free the two
birds in double-shooting, to go off at the same moment. So that for
these reasons, and to insure skill at both, they should be appropriated
to these offices respectively. The best Western shot, if not the best
gentleman shot in the world, who has killed his eighty-four out of
ninety double birds, was terribly baulked by the ground trap, to which
he had not been accustomed, when he first attempted to kill even single
birds from it. But for double-shooting, as it is essential that both
birds should fly together, the trap that insures this is preferable.
One of the worst features of trap-shooting is, that it has fallen mainly
into the hands of professionals; and although there is no reason for not
pursuing a legitimate sport because blacklegs enjoy it also, they have
introduced tricks and artifices that degrade the entire amusement. The
use of heavy guns is one of the mildest of these, for it is madness for
the best shot in the world to match his ordinary field-gun against a
number six bore single-barrelled piece; and they will put a clod of
grass or even a dead bird in the same trap with the live one, and if
this is a spring-trap, the adversary will be taken at a disadvantage.
They deaden their own birds by squeezing them under the wings, and
excite those of their opponent by plucking them or pulling their
feathers, and can even give them an irregular flight. The professionals,
therefore, may be expected to gain a nominal superiority, and claim to
be champions, more from their cunning unscrupulousness than from their
actual skill, and, by this fancied superiority, degrade the entire
The rules which were adopted at a convention of the principal clubs in
the State of New York, held in 1865, when the best sporting talent in
the country was represented, are given in the Appendix. Although an
improvement in many particulars on the former rules, they are not
perfect; it is probable that they will be further amended, so as, while
increasing the difficulty of killing the bird, to place all sportsmen on
an equal footing, and to remove as far as possible the influence of
* * * * *
And now, apologizing to the many sportsmen who are abler shots and have
had far greater experience than himself, the author urges in extenuation
of his presumption in publishing this book, that as they would not
commit their experiences to paper, he felt justified in attempting it;
and as the other sporting writers have utterly neglected this field of
labor as beneath their notice, he could not be blamed for entering upon
it and doing with it the best of which he was capable. And to those
persons who follow in the track of the literary sporting men, and affect
to despise the various kinds of water-fowl and bay-shooting, the author
would say that he only wishes they may have such days with the geese and
ducks, the marlins, yellow-legs, and dowitchers, the rail and the
plover, as he has had, in the full confidence that they will be very
The following technical descriptions are taken mainly from “Giraud’s
Birds of Long Island,” a work that is now almost out of print, but which
is more valuable to the student of nature than some of its more
pretentious rivals; and I have interpolated such suggestions and made
such alterations as my experience dictated and the purposes of this work
demanded. A discourse on the wild-fowl of the Northern States hardly
seemed complete without such a description of them as would enable the
sportsman to distinguish one from another; and yet it was not within the
purview of a work intended for sportsmen, to devote much attention or
many of its pages to ornithology. This is therefore condensed into an
Appendix, where it will not trouble the general reader, but will be easy
of reference when the information it contains is wanted.
_Genus Anser_, Briss.
_Generic Distinctions._–In this class of birds, the bill is shorter
than the head, rather higher than broad at the base; head small,
compressed; neck long and slender; body full; feet short, stout, and
central, which enables them to walk with ease; wings long; tail short,
THE WILD GOOSE.
_Anas Canadensis_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Length of bill from the corner of the mouth to
the end, two inches and three-sixteenths; length of tarsi, two inches
and seven-eighths; length from the point of the bill to the end of the
tail, about forty inches; wing, eighteen; the head and greater portion
of the neck black; cheeks and throat white. Adult with the head, greater
part of the neck, primaries, rump, and tail, black; back and wings
brown, margined with paler brown; lower part of the neck and under
plumage, whitish-grey; flanks, darker grey; cheeks and throat white, as
are the upper and under tail-coverts. The plumage of the female rather
This bird is nowhere very abundant, but migrates across the Northern
States in their entire breadth from ocean to ocean; it obeys the call
well, and stools readily if the gunner is carefully concealed. It is the
latest in its migrations of the wild-fowl.
Barnacle Goose–Brent Goose.
_Anas Bernicla_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill black; head and neck all round black; a
patch on the sides of the neck white; upper parts brownish-grey, the
feathers margined with light greyish-brown; quills and primary coverts
greyish-black; fore part of breast light brownish-grey, the feathers
terminally margined with greyish-white; abdomen and lower tail-coverts
white; sides grey; feathers rather broadly tipped with white. Length two
feet; wing fourteen inches and a half. Female rather smaller.
The brant is not fond of the fresh lakes and streams, but prefers the
ocean and its contiguous bays and lagoons; it is far more abundant along
the sea-coast than upon the western waters, and in fact I am not aware
that I have ever killed one in the inland States. It responds to its
peculiar note, stools well, and is often killed in great numbers on the
South Bay of Long Island.
_Genus Cygnus_, Meyer.
_Generic Distinctions._–Bill longer than the head, higher than broad at
the base, depressed and a little widened towards the end; upper
mandible, rounded, with the dorsal line sloping; lower mandible
flattened, with the angle very long, and rather narrow; nostrils placed
near the ridge; head of moderate size, oblong, compressed; neck
extremely long and slender; body very large, compact, depressed; feet
short, stout, placed a little behind the centre of the body; tarsi
short; wings long, broad; tail very short, graduated.
THE WHITE SWAN.
_Cygnus Americanus_, Aud.
_Specific Character._–Plumage, pure white; bill and feet black; length
of the specimen before us, four feet; wing twenty-one and a half inches.
These magnificent birds, the most majestic of the game-birds of our
continent, are rarely shot to the northward and eastward of Chesapeake
bay, but are much more abundant in the far West–even to and beyond the
_Genus Anas_, Linn.
_Generic Distinctions._–Bill higher than broad at the base, widening
towards the end, and about the same length as the head; the upper
mandible with a slight nail at the end; neck rather long; body full;
wings moderate, pointed; feet short, stout, and placed behind the centre
of the body; walks with a waddling gait; hind toe furnished with a
Green Head, English Duck, Grey Duck (female), the Duck, the Wild Duck.
_Anas Boschas_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Speculum bright purple, reflecting green,
bordered with black; secondaries broadly tipped with black; secondary
coverts towards their ends white, broadly tipped with black; adult male
with the entire head and upper part of the neck bright green, with a few
touches of reddish-brown passing from the forehead, on the occiput;
middle of the neck with a white ring; the lower part of the neck and
breast reddish-brown, approaching to chocolate; fore part of the back
light brown, rest of the back darker; rump black; upper tail coverts
greenish-black; upper parts of the wings brown, intermixed with grey;
breast, sides, flanks, and abdomen, grey, transversely barred with
dusky; bill greenish-yellow; feet reddish-orange; tail rounded,
consisting of sixteen pointed feathers, nearly white; speculum violet;
length two feet, wing eleven inches.
Female smaller than the male; speculum less brilliant; general plumage
brown; head and neck streaked with dusky; the feathers on the back and
flanks margined with white, with a central spot of brown on the outer
webs; bill black, changing to orange at the extremity.
This bird is abundant both at the West and along the coast, but on the
fresh water it frequents the mud-holes and shallow marshes, in
contradistinction to the open water-ducks that affect the broad unbroken
stretches of water.
_Anas Obscura_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–General plumage dusky; speculum green, reflecting
purple, bordered with black; secondaries tipped with white. Adult with
the forehead, crown, occiput, and middle space on the hind neck
brownish-black, the feathers slightly margined with greyish-brown;
cheeks, loral space, and sides of the neck dusky grey, streaked with
black; throat reddish-brown; general plumage dusky, lighter beneath;
under wing-coverts white; speculum brilliant green; bill yellowish; feet
reddish-orange. Female rather smaller, plumage lighter, speculum less
brilliant. Length of male about two feet; wing eleven inches.
These ducks are killed equally in the fresh and salt waters; they come
to the decoys warily.
Welsh Drake, German Duck.
_Anas Strepera_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Speculum white; secondary coverts black; upper
wing-coverts chestnut-red; general plumage dusky grey, waved with white;
abdomen white. Adult with the bill bluish-black; head and upper part of
the neck grey, streaked with dusky–darkest on the upper part of the
head, as well as the middle space on the hind neck; lower neck, upper
part of the breast and fore part of the back blackish-brown, the
feathers marked with semi-circular bands of white, more distinctly on
the fore part of the neck and upper part of the breast; sides of the
body pencilled with greyish-white and dusky; lower part of the breast
and abdomen white, the latter barred with dusky towards the vent; lower
and upper tail-coverts and sides of the rump greenish-black; tail
greyish-brown, margined with white; hind part of the back dark brown,
faintly barred with white; primaries brown; secondaries greyish-brown,
tipped with white; middle coverts reddish-brown; a few of the outer
secondaries broadly margined with greenish-black; inner scapulars brown,
broadly margined with dull yellowish-brown; outer undulated with dark
brown and yellowish-white; feet dull orange. Female two inches shorter;
about four inches less in extent. Length twenty-one inches and a half;
This is an ugly duck, and not much esteemed by epicure or sportsman.
_Anas Americana_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill short, the color light greyish-blue;
speculum green, banded with black; under wing-coverts white. Adult male
with the loral space, sides of the head below the eye, upper part of the
neck and throat, brownish-white, spotted with black; a broad band of
white, commencing at the base of the upper mandible, passing over the
crown; behind the eye, a broad band of light green, extending backwards
on the hind neck about three inches; the feathers on the nape rather
long; lower neck and sides of the breast, with a portion of the upper
part of the breast, reddish-brown; rest of the lower parts white,
excepting a patch of black at the base of the tail; under tail-coverts
same color; flanks brown, barred with dusky; tail greyish-brown, tipped
with white; two middle feathers darker and longest; upper tail-coverts
white, barred with dusky; lower part of the hind-neck and fore part of
the back undulated with brownish and light brownish-red, hind part
undulated with greyish-white; primaries brown; outer webs of inner
secondaries black, margined with white–inner webs greyish-brown;
secondary coverts white tipped with black; speculum brilliant green,
formed by the middle secondaries. Length twenty-one inches, wing ten and
a half. Female smaller, plumage duller, without the green markings.
This duck is much prized along the sea-coast, but at the West he holds
an inferior rank.
_Anas Acuta_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill long and narrow, lead color; at the tip a
spot of black, at the corner of the mouth a spot of similar color; neck
long and slender; speculum bright purple, with reflecting deep green
bordered with black; the feathers broadly tipped with white; tail long
and pointed. Adult male with head, cheeks, throat, upper parts of the
neck in front and sides, dark brown; a band of light purple behind the
eye, extending about three inches on the sides of the neck; on the hind
neck a band of black, with green reflections, fading as it extends on
the back–a band of white commencing between the two former, passing
down the neck on the lower part of the fore neck; breast and fore part
of the abdomen white, tinged with pale yellow–hind part of the abdomen
and vent greyish-white tinged with yellow, and marked with undulated
lines of brown or dusky; at the base of the tail a patch of black; under
tail-coverts black, margined with whitish; two middle feathers black,
with green reflections, narrow, and about three inches longer than the
rest, which are rather long and tapering; upper tail-coverts ash-grey,
margined with yellowish-white, with a central streak of dusky. Rump
greyish-brown, marked with undulating lines of white; sides of the rump
cream color; sides of the body, back, and sides of the breast, marked
with undulating lines of black and white. Primaries brown; shafts
brownish-white, darker at their tips; secondaries and scapulars black,
with green reflections, the former margined with grey, which is the
color of the greater part of the outer web, the latter margined with
white; speculum bright purple, with splendid green reflections edged
with black, the feathers broadly tipped with white. Length twenty-nine
inches, wing eleven. Female with the upper part of the head and hind
neck dark brown, streaked with dusky; sides of the throat and fore neck
lighter; a few touches of rust color on the chin and on the base of the
bill. Upper plumage brown, the feathers margined and tipped with
brownish-white; lower plumage brownish-white, mottled with brown;
speculum less extensive, and without the lengthened tail feathers so
conspicuous in the male.
This duck is more abundant in the neighborhood of the great lakes than
along the margin of the ocean; in epicurean qualities it ranks with the
_Anas Sponsa_, Aud.
_Specific Character._–The pendant crest, the throat, upper portion of
the fore neck, and bands on the sides of the neck white, with the
speculum blue, glossed with green and tipped with white. Adult male with
the bill bright red at the base, the sides yellow; between the nostrils
a black spot reaching nearly to the black, hooked nail; the head is
furnished with long silken feathers, which fall gracefully over the hind
neck, in certain lights exhibiting all the colors of the rainbow; a
narrow white line from the base of the upper mandible, passing over the
eye; a broader band of the same color behind the eye, both bands
mingling with the long feathers on the occiput; throat and upper portion
of the fore neck pure white, a band of the same color inclining towards
the eye; a similar band on the sides of the neck, nearly meeting on the
nape; lower portion of the neck reddish-purple, the fore part marked
with triangular spots of white; breast and abdomen dull white; sides of
the body yellowish-grey, undulated with black; the feathers towards the
ends marked with a broad band of black, succeeded by a band of white;
tips black; tail and upper tail-coverts greenish-black; lower
tail-coverts brown; sides of the rump dull reddish-purple; rump, back,
and middle portions of the hind neck, dark reddish-brown, tinged with
green; a broad white band before the wings, terminating with black;
lesser wing-coverts and primaries brown, most of the latter with a
portion of their outer webs silvery white; the inner webs glossed with
green towards the ends; secondaries tipped with white; their webs blue,
glossed with green; the inner webs brown, their crowns violet-blue;
Female, upper part of the head dusky, glossed with green; sides of the
head, upper portion of the sides of the neck, with the nape,
greyish-brown; a white patch behind the eye; throat white, the bands on
the sides of the neck faintly developed; fore part and sides of the
neck, with the sides of the body, yellowish-brown, marked with
greyish-brown; breast and abdomen white, the former spotted with brown;
lower tail-coverts greyish-white, mottled with brown; tail and upper
tail-coverts dark brown, glossed with green; rump, back, and hind neck,
dark brown, glossed with green and purple; bill dusky, feet dull green.
The crest less than that of the male, and plain dull brown. Length
twenty inches; wing eight inches and a half.
This is an extremely beautiful duck, but of moderate size; it is rare on
the sea-coast, but absolutely swarms during the month of September among
the lily-pads of the Western swamps. Fed upon the berry of this plant,
called at the South chincapin, it becomes fat and deliciously tender. It
does not pay much attention to decoys.
_Anas Crecca_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill black, short, and narrow; the outer webs of
the first five secondaries black, tipped with white; the next five plain
rich green, forming the speculum; secondary coverts tipped with pale
reddish-buff. Adult male with a dusky band at the base of the bill, of
which color is the throat; a faint white band under the eye; upper part
of the neck, sides of the head, and the crown, chestnut brown; a broad
band of bright green commencing behind the eye, passing down on the
nape, where it is separated by the terminal portion of the crest, which
is dark blue; lower part of the hind neck, a small space on the fore
neck, and the sides of the body, undulated with lines of black and
white; lower portion of the fore neck and upper part of the breast
reddish-brown, distinctly marked with round spots of brownish-black;
abdomen yellowish-white, faintly undulated with dusky; a patch of black
under the tail; outer tail-feathers buff, inner white, with a large spot
of black on the inner webs; tail brown, margined with whitish, the outer
feathers greenish-black; upper parts brown, faintly undulated with black
and white, on the fore part of the back; outer scapulars similar, with a
portion of their outer webs black; lesser wing-coverts brown-ash;
greater coverts tipped with reddish-cream; the first five secondaries
velvety-black; the next five bright green, forming the speculum, which
is bounded above by pale reddish-buff, and on each side by deep black;
before the wing a transverse, broad white band.
Female smaller; head and neck streaked with brownish-white and dusky,
darker on the upper part of the head; lower parts reddish-brown, the
feathers margined with dusky, upper parts dusky-brown, the feathers
margined and spotted with pale reddish-white, without the chestnut red
and the green on the head; the black patch is wanting, as is the white
band before the wings, the conspicuous spot on the wings is less
extensive. Its short and narrow bill is at all times a strong specific
character; length fifteen inches; wing seven inches and a half.
This is an excellent little duck, too confiding for its own security,
but capable of saving itself by great rapidity of flight. It is greatly
attracted by decoys, and will generally alight among them if permitted.
_Anas Discors_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill bluish-black and long in proportion with the
other dimensions of this species; smaller wing-coverts light-blue;
speculum purplish-green. Adult male with the upper part of the head
black; a broad band of white on the sides of the head, before the eye
margined with black; rest part of the head, and upper part of the neck
greyish-brown, with purple reflections on the hind neck; chin black;
lower parts reddish-brown; lower part of the fore neck and sides of the
body spotted with blackish-brown; breast and abdomen barred with the
same color; lower tail-coverts blackish-brown; tail brown, margined with
paler, the feathers pointed, a patch of white on the sides of the rump;
back brownish-black, glossed with green; the feathers on the fore part
of the back and lower portion of the hind neck margined with
yellowish-white; primaries brown; inner webs of the secondaries same
color; outer vanes dark green, which form the speculum; secondary
coverts brown, the outer broadly tipped with white, the inner tipped
with blue; tertials dark-green, with central markings of deep buff;
feet dull yellow.
Female without the white patch on the sides of the head; throat white;
lower parts greyish-brown, the feathers spotted with darker; upper parts
blackish-brown, the feathers margined with bluish-white and pale buff;
smaller wing-coverts blue; speculum green; secondary coverts the same as
those of the male; length fourteen inches, wing seven inches and a half.
This species greatly resembles the last.
_Anas Clypeata_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill brownish-black, about three inches in
length, near the end it is more than twice as broad as it is at the
base; much rounded and closely pectinated, the size of the upper
mandible at the base having the appearance of a fine-toothed comb. Adult
male with the head and the neck for about half its length glossy green,
with purple reflections; lower part of the neck and upper part of the
breast white; rest of the lower plumage deep chestnut-brown, excepting
the lower tail-coverts and a band across the vent, which is black, some
of the feathers partly green; flanks brownish-yellow pencilled with
black and blackish-brown; inner secondaries dark green with terminal
spot of white; outer secondaries lighter green; primaries dark brown,
their shafts white, with dusky tips; lesser wing-coverts light blue;
speculum golden-green; rump and upper tail-coverts greenish-black, a
patch of white at the sides of the rump; tail dark brown, the feathers
pointed, broadly edged with white, of which color are the inner webs of
the three outer feathers.
Female with the crown dusky; upper plumage blackish-brown, the feathers
edged with reddish-brown; breast yellowish-white, marked with
semi-circular spots of white. Young male with similar markings on the
breast; length twenty inches and a half, wing ten.
_Generic Distinctions._–In this class the head is rather larger, neck
rather shorter and thicker, than in the preceding genus (Anas), plumage
more dense, feet stronger, and the hind toe with a broad appendage,
which is the principal distinction.
_Fuligula Valisneria_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill black, the length about three inches, and
very high at the base; fore part of the head and the throat dusky;
irides deep red; breast brownish-black. Adult male with the forehead,
loral space, throat, and upper part of the head dusky; sides of the
head, neck all round for nearly the entire length, reddish-chestnut;
lower neck, fore part of the breast and back black; rest of the back
white, closely marked with undulating lines of black; rump and upper
tail-coverts blackish; wing-coverts grey, speckled with blackish;
primaries and secondaries light slate color; tail short, the feathers
pointed; lower part of the breast and abdomen white; flanks same color,
finely pencilled with dusky; lower tail-coverts blackish-brown,
intermixed with white; length twenty-two inches, wing nine and a
Female, upper parts greyish-brown; neck, sides, and abdomen the same;
upper part of the breast brown; belly white, pencilled with blackish;
rather smaller than the male, with the crown blackish-brown.
This is without question the finest duck that flies, as it is the
largest and gamest; it is abundant late in the season, but wary.
_Fuligula Ferina_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Bill bluish, towards the end black, and about two
inches and a quarter long; irides yellowish-red. Adult male with head,
which is rather large, and the upper part of the neck all round, dark
reddish chestnut, brightest on the hind neck; lower part of the neck,
extending on the back and upper part of the breast, black; abdomen
white, darker towards the vent, where it is barred with undulating lines
of dusky; flanks grey, closely barred with black; scapulars the same;
primaries brownish-grey; secondaries lighter; back greyish-brown, barred
with fine lines of white; rump and upper tail coverts blackish-brown;
tail feathers greyish-brown, lighter at the base; lower tail-coverts
brownish-black, rather lighter than the upper; length twenty inches;
wing nine and a half. Female about two inches smaller, with the head,
neck, breast, and general color of the upper parts brown; darker on the
upper part of the head, lighter on the back; bill, legs, and feet,
similar to those of the male.
This duck, as it is scarcely distinguishable from the canvas-back, and
has mainly the same habits, is but little inferior to that incomparable
Blue Bill, Scaup, Black Head, Raft Duck.
_Fuligula Marila_, Linn.
_Specific Character._–The head and neck all round, with the fore part
of the breast and fore part of back, black; the sides of the head and
the sides and hind part of the neck dark green, reflecting purple;
length of bill, when measured along the gap, two inches and
five-sixteenths; length of tarsi one inch and three-eighths; length from
the point of the bill to the end of the tail nineteen inches; wing eight
inches and five-eighths; a broad white band crossing the secondaries
and continues on the inner primaries. Adult male with the forehead,
crown, throat, and upper part of the fore neck brownish-black; sides of
the head, neck, and hind neck, dark green; lower portion of the neck all
round, with the upper part of the breast, purplish-black; rest of the
lower parts white, undulated with black towards the vent; under
tail-coverts blackish-brown; tail short, dark brown, margined and tipped
with lighter brown; upper tail-coverts and rump blackish-brown; middle
of the back undulated with black and white; fore part black; wings
brown, darker at the base and tips; speculum white, formed by the band
crossing the secondaries and inner primaries; scapulars and inner
secondaries undulated with black and white; secondary coverts
blackish-brown, undulated with white. Female with a broad patch of white
on the forehead; head, neck, and fore part of the breast umber brown;
upper parts blackish-brown; abdomen and lower portions of breast white;
scapulars faintly marked with white.
Golden Eye, Great Head.
_Fuligula Clangula_, Linn.
_Specific Character._–Bill black, high at the base, where there is
quite a large spot of white; head ornamented with a beautiful crest, and
feathers more than an inch long and loose; insides yellow; the entire
head and upper part of the neck rich glossy-green, with purple
reflections, more particularly so on the throat and forehead; rest of
the neck, with the entire plumage, white; sides of the rump and vent
dusky grey; tail greyish-brown; back and wings brownish-black–a large
patch of white on the latter, formed by the larger portion of the
secondaries and the tips of its coverts; legs reddish-orange. Length
twenty inches; wing nine inches. Female head and upper part of the neck
dull brown; wings dusky; lower parts white, as are six of the
secondaries and their coverts; the tips of the latter dusky. About three
inches smaller than the male.
Butter Ball, Buffel-Headed Duck, Spirit Duck.
_Fuligula Albeola_, Linn.
_Specific Character._–Bill blue, from the corner of the mouth to the
end about one inch and a half, the sides rounded, narrowed towards the
point; head thickly crested, a patch behind the eye and a band on the
wings white. Adult male with the plumage of the head and neck thick, and
long forehead; loral space and hind neck rich glossy green, changing
into purple on the crown and sides of the head; from the eye backwards
over the head a triangular patch of white; the entire breast and sides
of the body pure white; abdomen dusky white; tail rounded,
greyish-brown; upper tail-coverts lighter; under tail-coverts soiled
white; back and wings black, with a patch of white on the latter. Female
upper plumage sooty-brown, with a band of white on the sides of the
head; outer webs of a few of the secondaries same color; lower part of
the fore neck ash-color; breast and abdomen soiled white; tail feathers
rather darker than those of the male. Male fourteen and a half inches
long; wing six inches and three-fourths. Female rather smaller.
The dipper is quite plentiful everywhere in the Northern States, but not
South Southerly, Old Squaw, Long-Tailed Duck.
_Fuligula Glacialis_, Linn.
_Specific Character._–Length of bill, from the termination of the
frontlet feathers to the point, one inch and one-sixteenth–the upper
mandible rounded; the sides very thin; the bill rather deeply serrated,
and furnished with a long nail; tail feathers acute. In the male the
middle pair of tail feathers are extended about four inches beyond the
next longest, which character is wanting with the female. Adult male
with the bill black at the base; anterior to the nostril reddish-orange,
with a dusky line margining the nail; fore part of the head white, the
same color passing over the head down the hind neck on the back; eyes
dark red; cheeks and loral space dusky-white, with a few touches of
yellowish-brown; a black patch on the sides of the neck terminating in
reddish-brown; fore neck white; breast brownish-black, terminating in an
oval form on the abdomen–the latter white; flanks bluish-white;
primaries dark brown; secondaries lighter brown, their coverts black; a
semi-circular band of black on the fore part of the back; the outer two
tail feathers white–the rest marked with brown, excepting the four
acuminated feathers, which are blackish-brown, the middle pair extending
several inches beyond the others. Female without the long scapulars or
elongated tail feathers; bill dusky-green; head dark, greyish-brown–a
patch of greyish-white on the sides of the neck; crown blackish; upper
parts dark greyish-brown; lower parts white. Length of male from the
point of the bill to the end of the elongated tail feathers twenty-three
inches; wing eight inches and five-eighths. Female about six inches less
This bird is abundant along the coast, but is generally tough and fishy.
_Genus Mergus_, Linn.
_Generic Distinctions._–Bill straight, higher than broad at base; much
smaller towards the end; upper mandible hooked; teeth sharp; head rather
large, compressed; body rather long, depressed; plumage very thick; feet
placed far behind; wings moderate, acute; tail short, rounded.
_Mergus Merganser_, Wils.
_Specific Character._–Forehead low; head rounded, crested; bill bright
red, the ridge black, high at base; upper mandible much hooked. Adult
male with the head and upper part of the neck greenish-black; lower
portion of the neck white; under plumage light buff, delicately tinged
with rose-color, which fades after death; sides of the rump
greyish-white, marked with undulating lines of dusky; fore part of the
back and inner scapulars glossy black; hind part of the back ash-grey;
the feathers margined and tipped with greyish-white, lighter on the
rump; upper tail-coverts grey, the feathers marked with central streaks
of dusky; tail feathers darker; primaries dark brown; wing coverts and
secondaries white, the outer webs of the latter edged with black; the
basal part of the greater coverts black, forming a conspicuous band on
the wings; under tail-coverts white, outer webs marked with dusky grey,
which is the color of the greater part of the web; bill and feet bright
red. Female with the head and upper part of the neck reddish-brown;
throat and lower neck in front white; breast and abdomen deeply tinged
with buff; upper parts and sides of the body ash-grey; speculum white.
Length of male, twenty-seven inches; wing, ten and a half. Female about
three inches smaller. Young like the female.
RULES FOR TRAP-SHOOTING
NEW YORK SPORTSMEN’S ASSOCIATION.
RULE I. _Traps, Rise, and Boundaries._–All matches shall be shot from H
and T plunge-traps. Rise for single birds to be twenty-one yards; and
for double birds eighteen yards. The boundaries shall be eighty yards
for single birds, and one hundred yards for double birds, which, in
single-bird shooting, shall be measured from a point equidistant from,
and in a direct line between, the two traps; in double-bird shooting
from a point equidistant from, and in a direct line between, the
RULE II. _Scoring._–When a person is at the score and ready to shoot,
he is to call “pull;” and, should the trap be sprung without his having
given the word, or in single-bird shooting should more than one bird
rise at a time, he may take the bird or birds, or not; but if he shoot,
the bird or birds shall be charged to him. The party at the score must
not leave it to shoot, and must hold the butt of his gun below his elbow
until the bird or birds rise; and in case of infraction of this
provision, the bird or birds shall be scored as missed.
RULE III. _Rising of Birds._–A bird must be on the wing when shot at.
All contingencies from missfire, non-explosion of cap, gun not cocked,
etc., etc., are at the risk of the party shooting.
RULE IV. _Recovering Birds._–It shall be optional with the party
shooting to recover his own birds, or to appoint a person for that
purpose. He shall in all cases walk directly up to the bird and take it
without injury; and, in case of doubt, hand it to the Judges for their
decision. If a bird flies outside the bounds it shall be scored as
missed. Should a bird alight upon a tree, house, or any other
resting-place within the bounds, after it has been shot at, the party
shooting, or his deputy, shall proceed immediately to the spot, and if
the bird does not fall, without any extraneous means being used, such as
throwing clods, stones, sticks, or using poles, etc., within three
minutes from the time it alights, it shall be scored a miss.
RULE V. _Flight of Birds._–In double shooting, both birds shall be on
the wing when the first is shot at; if but one bird flies, and but one
barrel is fired or snapped, the birds shall in no wise be scored,
whether hit or missed, but the party shooting shall have two more birds;
or if both birds fly and are killed with one barrel, he must shoot at
two other birds.
RULE VI. _Placing the Traps._–In single-bird shooting the distance
between the traps shall be eight yards; in double-bird shooting, as four
traps are used, the H and T traps shall be set alternately, and four
yards apart. When five traps are used, they shall be four yards apart.
RULE VII. _Powder and Shot._–The charge of shot shall not exceed 1½
ounces. All the guns shall be loaded from the same charger, except in
cases of breech-loaders, when the Referee may open one or more
cartridges to ascertain if the charge of shot is correct.
RULE VIII. _Ties._–In case of a tie at single birds, the distance shall
be increased five yards, and shall be shot off at five birds. In case of
a second tie, the distance shall again be increased five yards, and this
distance shall be maintained till the match is decided. The ties in
double-bird shooting shall be shot off at twenty-one yards rise without
any increase, at five double rises.
RULE IX. _Judges and Referee._–Two Judges and a Referee shall be
appointed before the shooting commences. The Referee’s decision shall be
final; he shall have power to call “No bird,” in case any bird fails to
fly; and may allow a contestant another bird in case the latter shall
have been baulked, or interfered with, or may, for any reason
satisfactory to the Referee, be entitled to it. If a bird shall fly
towards parties within the bounds, in such a manner that to shoot at it
would endanger any person, another bird may be allowed; and if a bird is
shot at by any person besides the party at the score, the Referee shall
decide how it shall be scored, or whether a new bird shall be allowed.