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and blunt apex; color dark brown splashed toward apex and dotted on flattened sides with purplish black markings; shell very thin, brittle; partitions thin and fragile; cracking quality excellent; kernel bright brown, smooth, usually plump, narrowly grooved; texture firm, fine grained; flavor pleasant; quality good.
In form and habit of growth the Havens tree resembles its parent, although it is rather more symmetrical than that variety. Its bearing habits are also very much the same. Mrs. Havens reports that this variety is a vigorous grower and a heavy annual bearer, but says that the nuts from the parent tree are rather inclined to be defective in plumpness. Mr. F. H. Lewis, of Pascagoula, Miss., who has had trees in bearing for some years, reports little trouble in that respect. In his opinion its productiveness, thinness of shell, and excellent cracking qualities make it one of the most promising varieties for planting in the Gulf coast region at the present time. The specimens examined at the Department of Agriculture during the past several years have not shown an objectionable number of defective kernels. Its known habits of bearing, together with its resistance thus far to fungous diseases and its excellent cracking qualities, should commend it to planters in sections to which the Russell variety is adapted.
The specimens illustrated in Plate VIII were of the crop of 1911 and were grown by Mr. F. H. Lewis, of Pascagoula, Miss.
OUR MEADOW LARKS IN RELATION TO AGRICULTURE.
(Sturnella magna and Sturnella neglecta.)
By F. E. L. BEAL,
Assistant in Charge of Economic Ornithology, Biological Survey.
Belonging to the same family as the orioles and blackbirds, our meadow larks occupy a somewhat peculiar position. Living in grassy fields and meadows, they are common over much of the United States and in some districts are very numerous. Though not usually classed among songsters, meadow larks have a pleasant song, are of decidedly insectivorous habits, and in certain States are classed among game birds and are allowed to be shot during the open season. In some districts they are reported to destroy considerable quantities of grain, and their destructiveness in this respect is given as one of the reasons why they should be removed from the class of protected birds and allowed to be shot for sport and food. Thus the economic position of the meadow lark is of considerable importance and the present paper is intended as a contribution to the subject.
Two species of meadow larks inhabit North America. The first (Sturnella magna), with its several subspecies, occupies the eastern part of the country as far west as western Iowa and eastern Kansas and from the interior of British America to the Gulf. The other species (Sturnella neglecta) inhabits the Pacific coast region and extends eastward to meet, and in some places overlap, the range of the first. In winter the eastern form moves to the south, but a limited number remain as far north as southern Illinois. The western form winters somewhat farther north. The two species are so nearly alike in plumage that only an expert can tell them apart. Their songs, however, are very different. Meadow larks are not partial to a timbered country, though they appreciate an occasional tree as a lookout, but a fence will answer for this purpose, while a telegraph wire or pole is better than either. Level, or somewhat undulating land, covered with grass or weeds and having plenty of water at hand, furnishes the conditions best suited to the meadow lark's taste.
In the matter of food the two species are scarcely distinguishable. Being of terrestrial habits, the greater part of their food is gathered from the ground and so naturally consists of ground-living insects, grain and other seeds, and a little fruit.
In southern California the meadow lark is accused of eating peas. to an injurious extent, especially early peas. The damage is greatest when peas are grown in small lots, and some years the losses are less than others. Mr. J. B. Handy, of Orange, Cal., writing to Mr. Lee Chambers, of Santa Monica, Cal., under date of November 17, 1908, says:
If a farmer has a half acre of early peas the meadow lark will harvest most of his crop if he does not stand guard with a shotgun and do what he can to prevent their destructive beaks from tearing open the pea pods.
In and about Modesto, Cal., this bird is accused of pulling up sprouting grain and eating it to a harmful extent. The author interviewed a number of grain growers in that vicinity and obtained some very decided testimony. The bird is said to get the kernels by boring a hole down beside the shoot, usually causing the sprout to die. Mr. J. S. Morton stated that he had seen limited areas where the crop had been reduced 50 per cent by the meadow lark. In consequence he claimed that the bird was a great nuisance and should be shot on sight. Mr. Willis Bloodsaw, who farms 4,500 acres, says that although meadow larks pull up some grain he never saw a field seriously injured by them. Mr. Charles Swan, who farms a large area, has never suffered any appreciable loss by meadow larks. Mr. Johnson, another grain raiser, stated that meadow larks do him no harm whatever. Mr. J. M. Bomberger said that on his oat field. the meadow larks pulled up a considerable number of the blades, but there was a good crop in. spite of this, and that in his opinion the birds did more good than harm, and farmers would be badly off without them. Mr. W. R. High, banker, was formerly a wheat raiser. He said that he often found the meadow lark very destructive to grain and that in some years the birds were worse than in others. He thinks meadow larks are a constant menace to the grain crop if they are at all numerous, and said that formerly he was forced to poison them by thousands.
The reader will notice the lack of agreement among the above statements and will probably infer that the causes which make the meadow larks a nuisance on one ranch and a blessing on a neighboring one are narrowly local.
In Tennessee the eastern species (magna) has been accused of eating clover seed, but this was probably an error of observation, as
examination of many stomachs, including those sent by the complainant, fail to show clover seed to any harmful extent.
Among the stomachs examined were several taken when the ground was covered with snow, but in spite of this the birds succeeded in filling themselves with food, a large percentage of which consisted of insects. This illustrates the bird's ability to procure its natural sustenance under what would appear to be trying circumstances. A few individuals of the eastern species sometimes winter far north of their usual winter range, and in spite of snow and cold they manage to obtain food and come through the winter safely. This is in part due to the fact that for a time they can subsist on a purely vegetable diet, such as seeds, which are usually obtained more easily than insects in the winter season.
In the laboratory investigation of the food of the meadow larks 1,514 stomachs were examined, of which 312 were known to be of the species neglecta. Of the remaining 1,202 the great majority were magna, but as many of them had been collected before the two species were separated it is probable that some of them were really neglecta. Since there is so little difference in the food habits of the two species and some of the stomachs are in doubt, the two species are here treated as one, as they really are from an economic standpoint. They were collected in 36 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada, and in every month of the year. The food was found to consist of 74.22 per cent of animal matter to 25.78 of vegetable.
Of the animal food 25.46 per cent is composed of the remains of beetles, and of these 12.10 per cent are useful species, mostly Carabidæ or ground beetles. Weevils, or snout beetles, amount to 4.94 per cent, and all others to 8.44 per cent. The number of ground beetles eaten is more than is taken by most birds, but these insects are so terrestrial that they are found by the meadow larks probably oftener than any other insect, and as they live through the winter to a great extent they are obtainable at all times when the weather is mild enough for them to be out. More are eaten in spring and early summer before the grasshopper season is on.
Among the beetles found in the stomachs of the meadow lark were several specimens of the adult insects of the southern corn rootworm (Diabrotica 12-punctata). In the Southern States and as far north as Illinois this insect is more or less of a pest to young corn and often causes great damage. The eggs are laid in the ground near the young corn plants and when hatched the young bore at once into the plants. In many cases the destruction amounts to 50 per cent; in southern Illinois and farther south it is often worse. The
same beetle has been known for a long time as an enemy of cucumber and melon vines and other cultivated plants.
Agonoderus pallipes is a small carnivorous beetle that, as far is known to the writer, has never yet received a common name. This insect seems to have forgotten its natural food habits so far as to eat and spoil seed corn in the ground. Several of these beetles were found in the meadow lark's diet.
To the genus Lachnosterna and several closely allied ones belong the numerous white grubs so often found in cultivated land. They are among the worst enemies to many cultivated crops, notably grasses and grains, and to a less extent strawberries and garden vegetables. While in the larval stage they eat the roots of these plants, and being large, one individual will destroy several plants. In the adult stage they feed upon the foliage of trees and other plants, and in this way continue the damage which they began in the earlier form. Forty-two individuals of different species of this genus were found in the stomachs of meadow larks and there were probably many more which were past recognition. As these enemies of husbandry are not easily destroyed by man, it is obviously wise to encourage their natural enemies.
Among the weevils the most important economically are the cotton-boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) and the recently introduced alfalfa weevil (Phytonomus posticus) of Utah. Several hundred meadow larks were taken in the cotton-growing region, and the boll weevil was found in 25 stomachs of magna and 16 of neglecta. Of the former one stomach contained 27 individuals. Of 25 stomachs of neglecta taken in the alfalfa fields of Utah in May, June, and July, 1911, 15 contained the alfalfa weevil in either the adult or larval stage. In one stomach 23 adults were found, in another 70 larvæ and 32 adults, still another had 40 larvæ and 10 adults, and a fourth contained 100 larvæ and 4 adults. In all these cases the number of larvæ is probably underestimated, as they were badly broken. Hymenoptera are eaten by the meadow lark but sparingly and are represented mostly by ants, which amount to only 2.79 per cent. Bees and wasps amount to about half as much. Hemiptera (bugs) also are not extensively eaten and aggregate but 3.43 per cent. They belong to 8 families, but the Pentatomidæ, or stinkbugs, far outnumber all the others and were found in 166 stomachs. A few scales (Eulecanium) occurred in one stomach.
Diptera are conspicuous by reason of their absence from the food of the meadow lark. They aggregate for the year only 0.36 per cent. Lepidoptera in the shape of caterpillars hold a prominent position in the food from February to June, inclusive. They attain their maximum of 24.49 per cent in May and for the year average 10.54 per cent. A great many of these caterpillars belong to that group