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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

Plate LX. American or whistling swan. (Cygnus americanus.),   p. 86

Page 86

minutes he has progressed three miles;" and adds, "over the
moors he sweeps at the height of two or three hundred feet, bend-
ing his course to either side, his wings wide spread, his neck and
feet retracted, now beating the air, and again sailing smoothly
along. Now he ascends a little, wheels in short curves, presently
rushes down headlong, assumes the horizontal position when close
to the ground, prevents being dashed against it by expanding his
wings and tail, and grasping a poor terrified Ptarmigan that sat
cowering among the gray lichens, squeezes it to death, raises his
head exultingly, emits a clear shrill cry, and, springing from the
ground, pursues his journey."
American or Whistling Swan. (Cygnus amerscanus.)
Fig. x.
The American Swan is unknown in the United States in its incu-
bating season, but during the winter months it is plentiful along
the Pacific coast, and it also winters in limited numbers in Chesa-
peake Bay. They breed within the Arctic Circle, choosing some
marsh, where, in a tussock of grass, sometimes completely sur-
rounded by water, they lay two eggs. These eggs have a rough-
ened surface, in color of a dull, dirty white, with more or less of
brownish markings, measuring about 4.50 by 2.75 inches. Some
time in July they moult, and as at such times they are unable to
fly, the natives find little trouble in capturing them. The flesh,
when in proper condition, is said to be tender, well-flavored, and
excellent. They commence their southern migrations in October,
when the weather is propitious, and mounting high into the air in
the shape of a prolonged V, and with loud screams, launch out for
a more genial clime. It is claimed that in these journeys a dis-
tance of more than one hundred miles per hour is frequently at-
tained. Their food consists of duck-grass, worms, insects, and
shell-fish, and while feeding, one is always delegated to act the
part of sentinel. They are very shy birds, and have some means
of signaling which as yet remains undiscovered. When dressing
their feathers they are extremely noisy, and at night their wild cries
may be heard several miles. According to Dr. Sharpless, quoted
in Audubon, " their notes are extremely varied, some closely re-
sembling the deepest bass of the common tin-horn, while others
run through every modulation of false note of the French-horn or
Mr. A. Strauch, superintendent of Spring Grove Cemetery, in
Cincinnati, writes us as follows: "There are now six fine speci-
mens of the American Whistling Swan, on the lakes at the ceme-
tery. They were captured about three years ago on the Potomac
river. Some of these birds have a yellow patch on the base of the
bill anterior to the eye, while others again have lost this mark dur-
ing the last year. On young birds, this spot is reddish. Although
very suitable localities are afforded these birds, they have not as
yet shown any sign of breeding, while the Trumpeter Swans have
been breeding in the same vicinity the past twelve years, and about
fifty have been reared and distributed through the United States."
Marsh Torn. (Sterna aranea.)
Fig. 2.
The Marsh Tern is a rare visitor along the Atlantic coasts of
New York and New England. According to Audubon, it is pretty
abundant about the salt-marshes of the mouths of the Mississippi
in the beginning of April, which it reaches by following the Gulf
shores from Texas and from still further south. Its journeys are
performed over the waters of the sea, a few hundred yards from
shore, coming inland for food. The cry of these birds is rough
and sharp, often repeated from their desire of keeping in close
company, and so loud as to be heard at great distances. Their
food consists largely of insects, a black water-spider proving a
great dainty with them. In incubating, no nest is made, the female
depositing three eggs in the dried rushes found in the salt marshes,
and far enough inland to be beyond the reach of the tide. The
eggs are of a greenish color, marked with irregular splashes of
very dark umber, and measuring about I.75 by X.12 inches. The
parents are longer incubating than birds hatched upon the sand,
and the young, until the following winter, have different markings
from the parent birds. Audubon tells us that " when an accident
happens to the female during the breeding season, her mate mani-
fests a most affectionate concern; but the female in such a case
acts differently. On shooting several males on various occasions,
whether they were killed outright, or fell wounded on the earth or
the water, I observed that the female would only take a round as
she rose above the reach of shot, and move off at once to some
considerable distance; but when the female dropped, if on the
water, the male would plunge headlong toward her, and alighting
by her side, would do all in his powver to aid her in swimming
or flying off. If she fell on the ground, he would alight there,
and exhibit the same marks of anxious care, thus affording to the
gunner the best opportunity of destroying him."  N
Ross' Gull-Wedged-tailed Gull. (Rhodosteihia rosea.)
Fig. 3.
Almost absolutely nothing is known regarding this bird. There
is no record of its appearance in the United States, and up to i865
but five specimens were known. It is confined to the polar world,
and has been observed in zones of water beyond 820 latitude. One
or two have been seen in England. MacGillivray first mentioned
the bird in X826, and later, Dr. Richardson, in the Fauna Boreali-
Americana, says that "two specimens of this Gull were killed on
the coast of Melville Peninsula, on Sir Edward Parry's second
voyage, one of which is preserved in the Museum of the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh. Commander Ross, in his Zoological Appendix
to Sir Edward Parry's narrative of his most adventurous boat voy-
age toward the Pole, relates that several were seen during the
journey over the ice north ef Spitzbergen, and that Lieutenant
Forster also found the species in Waygait Straits, which is proba-
bly one of its breeding places."
Buffalo-headed Duck-Buffie-head-Butter-ball-Dipper-Spirit Duok.
(Bucephala albeola.)
Fig. +
Until recently this Duck was supposed not to breed within the
United States, but Dr. Coues states that he has reason to believe
that it nests in Northern Dakota. In the spring and autumn it is
a very common bird all along our coasts, where it associates with
other Ducks. It is an expert diver, and is so wary that only the
most expert gunner is enabled to bag it. When feeding, one
always remains as sentinel, while the others dive in search of food.
In case of an alarm the sentinel gives a sharp quack, when all rise
to the surface, and learning the cause of the warning, immediately
dive again, and, under water, swim off to a distance of several hun-
dred feet. It flies with great velocity, and when on the wing gives
utterance to a quick succession of guttural "lquacks I quack!
quack!" It builds a feathery nest some distance from the ground,
selecting a dead tree for the purpose, and lays from five to eight
eggs. The eggs are without markings, in color a compromise be-
tween a creamy white and a grayish-olive, and measure about 2 by
1.50 inches. Its food consists principally of fish, which gives a

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