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Catesby Volume I: The Cuckow of Carolina

Mark Catesby's
Description of The Cuckow of Carolina

Castanea pumila Virginiana

Is about the size of a Black-bird: the bill a little hooked and sharp; the upper mandible black, the under, yellow: the large wing-feathers are reddish; the rest of the wing, and all the upper part of the body, head and neck, is ash-colour: all the under part of the body, from the bill to the tail, white: the tail long and narrow, composed of six long and four shorter feathers; the two middlemost ash-colour, the rest black, with their ends white: their legs short and strong, having two back-toes, and two before. Their note is very different from ours, and not so remarkable to be taken notice of. It is a solitary Bird, frequenting the darkest recesses of woods and shady thickets. They retire on the approach of winter.

It is a Shrub which seldom grows higher than sixteen feet, and usually not above eight or ten: the body commonly eight or ten inches thick, and irregular; the bark rough and scaly; the leaves are serrated, and grow alternately, of a dark green, their backsides being of a greenish white; at the joints of the leaves shoot forth long spikes of whitish flowers, like those of the common chesnut, which are succeeded by nuts of a conick shape, and the size of a hasel-nut; the shell which incloses the kernel, is of the colour and consistence of that of a chesnut, inclosed in a prickly burr, usually five or six hanging in a cluster. They are ripe in September.

These nuts are sweet, and more pleasant than the Chesnut; of great use to the Indians, who for their winter's provision lay them up in store.