12 August 2012

Strange Birds in New Jersey, 1876

Strange Birds.

A Flock of birds, flying at such a height in the air that it was impossible to determine their character, was observed by Mr. Isaac S. Payne, on Thursday last. Something singular in the actions of the birds aroused Mr. Payne's curiosity as to what they might be, and he watched their movements until the flock descended slowly, and alighted near the pond and swamp on the farm of Mr. Samuel C. Nelson. Chas. Gilman, being informed of the fact, sent his son William to see what manner of fowl of bird the newcomers were. William proceeded with his gun to the pond where he found the birds, and, being a good shot, brought down five of them, at which time Chas. Gilman and Chas. W. Drummond arrived at the scene of action, and Mr. Gilman killed one, and wounded another slightly, which was then dispatched by Drummond. On the following day B. Mawbey shot another in the old clay-pit ponds on the farm of C.F Newton.

No one has been able to say definitely what these birds are. The body is entirely white, the tail and ends of the wings being black. The bill is of a purplish hue, and six inches in length; the legs are white, measuring 22 inches, and the feet are similar to those of a turkey.. The largest bird weighed about seven pounds, and the wings when extended measure five feet from tip to tip.

Mr. J. Ross Valentine took some of them to New York, where they are to be stuffed, and will, most probably, be on exhibition in some prominent place in the village. They are thought to be a species of heron, and have probably found their way here from some southern swamp.

June 29, 1876. Woodbridge Independent Hour 1(12): 1. This newspaper was issued at Woodbridge, Middlesex County, New Jersey.

The description of these birds most closely matches the features of the Wood Stork. How splendid that a number of descriptive features were presented for a detailed analysis. The account is especially interesting since it mentions the people involved, the places where the birds occurred, and most especially features of the dead birds which are an obvious aid in determining a probable identification.