This bird is one of the most vivacious and beautiful members of the Finch Family. His black back, white breast, and chestnut sides form an uncommon and striking combination of color at once aesthetic and distinguished. Beside the Chewink his near relative, the Song Sparrow is a very ordinary and insignificant-appearing individual. The upper parts of the Chewink, including head, chest, wings, and tail, are a glossy black; outer edges of the primaries white; white also begins at the middle of the chest and extends downward throughout the under parts; sides a bright chestnut red—almost a pure Venetian red; the iris red, and pupil black. Female with the same color-pattern, but the black replaced by lightish brown, the sides a less brilliant chestnut, and the tail an umber brown. Nest built of dried leaves, grasses; it is generally placed on the ground, or very near it. Egg white flecked with madder brown. The bird is common throughout eastern North America, though somewhat locally distributed. There are very few in Campton, N. H., plenty on the slopes of Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire, near the summer residence of Mr. G. B. Upton, and extremely few in the recesses of the White Mountains.
As a musician the Chewink is not remarkable for melodic ability or for brilliant execution; in these respects he differs widely from both Song Sparrow and Wood Thrush. Either of these two talented singers can not fail to impress upon the hearer a sense of the beauty of melody rendered by the mellow whistle of a bird; but the efforts of the Chewink are amateurish in comparison, and one is surprised to find his song limited to a promising but exceedingly short beginning; nothing more seems to follow! There is an attempt at melody and a failure to realize it.
Excerpted from the Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music: A Description of the Character and Music of Birds, Intended to Assist in the Identification of Species Common in the Eastern United States, published in 1904.