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

Plate LXVI. Kittiwake gull. (Larus tridactylus.),   p. 94

Page 94

stroked upon the back with the hand. Even the houses are covered
with nests, the window embrasures and the turf-slopes of the roof fur-
nishing resting-places for these birds. Walls are built on the coasts,
and grassy banks cut up like a chess-board for their accommodation.
But two eggs are left for hatching, the balance being taken and
pickled for winter consumption.
Laughing Gull. (Larus atricilla.)
Fig. 2.
The Laughing Gull is put down by Wheaton as among the birds
of Ohio. In the summer it reaches the Atlantic coasts as far north
as Maine. It is known on the Pacific coast north to California, on
both coasts of Central America, the various West Indies, and is
casual in Europe. It nests in marshes, making a loose structure
of sea-weeds and grasses two or three inches high and three times
as wide, and lays from two to three eggs. These vary from an
olivaceous-drab to a grayish-green, spotted and blotched more or
less thickly with different shades of brown and purple, and measure
about 2.28 by x.65 inches. Their food consists of fish, mollusks,
crustacea, and the eggs and young of some of the Terns. They
congregate in immense numbers, flocks of over a thousand being
frequently seen.  A peculiarity of this bird is that during the
breeding season the white plumage of the under parts receives a
rosy tint.  Coues poetically says: "Nature blushes, filling the
bird's breast with amorous imagery, till the feathers catch a glow
and reflect the blush. Burning with inward fire, the whole frame
thrills with the enthusiasm of sexual vigor. The dark glittering
eye is encircled with a fiery ring; now it flashes defiance at a rival,
now tenderly melts at sight of its mate." When the love-season
is over the rosy plumage fades back to white, and the bird, dull-
colored, ragged, seems to lose all ambition beyond the satisfaction
of a gluttonous appetite. The name is derived from its joyous
twitter, which in the vernal season takes on the sound of a laugh.
Razor-billed Auk-Tinker. (Alca torda.)
Fig. 3.
This well-known species is quite abundant on the North Atlantic
coast of North America, and is probably identical with the bird of
the northern regions of Europe. It wanders to the South in the
winter, and is occasionally seen on the coasts of the Middle States.
Audubon tells us of the picturesque sight they present in flying,
first turning the white of their bellies and then the black of their
backs to the spectator. They are, however, more frequently seen
swimming than flying, and if pursued, apparently do n9t take
alarm until approached within a few feet, when they dive, but only
to reappear very soon at a short distance. In breeding they do
not build a nest, laying their eggs, or rather egg, on the shingle
of the beach. This egg is generally pure white, greatly blotched
with spots of dark reddish-brown, and measuring about 3.I2 by
inches, and is said to be excellent eating. The food of the Razorbill
consists of small fish, shrimps, and various marine animals, includ-
ing roe. When one is killed, its mate paddles around it seemingly
in wonder that it does not dive or fly away, and at such times it
may be approached and knocked over with an oar. Constant men-
tion of this bird is made by Dr. Kane, to whom, on his last voyage,
they became an absolute necessity, as they are to the poor savages
of the Arctic regions.
Velvet Duck-White-winged Coot. (Melanetta velvetina.)
Fig. 4
This bird is common to both continents, is found all along both
the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to the north, and has also been ob-
served on Lakes Erie and Michigan. It reaches the shores
Middle States in September, often proceeding as far sou
Georgia. In the beginning of April immense flocks congi
together, and in bands of from twenty to thirty individuals i
to their northern breeding places. The nests, according to Audu-
bon, are placed within a few feet of the borders of small lakes, a
mile or two distant from the sea, and usually under the low boughs
of the bushes, of the twigs of which, with mosses and various
plants matted together, they are formed. These nests are large,
lined with feathers from the birds themselves, and contain when
ready for incubation six eggs. These are of a uniform cream color,
tinged with green, and measure about 2.75 by I.87 inches. The
flight of the Velvet Duck is strong and sustained, and never at any
great height unless when pursued by gunners. They swim with
great buoyancy, and are expert divers. Their food consists of small
fish, crustacea, shell-fish, spawn and sea-weeds. The flesh is
strong and oily; notwithstanding it is sometimes used as an article
of food.
Harlequin Duck. (Hisirionicus torquatus.)
Fig. 5.
This Duck is an inhabitant of the northern coast of North
America, is rarely found as far south as Long Island, has been ob-
served on Lakes Erie and Michigan, and is a casual visitor on the
coast of England. It is a very shy and vigilant bird, and dives
beneath the water at the least approach of danger; even when on
the wing, at the first flash of the sportsman's gun, plunging into
the waves beneath. It is usually found in flocks of from twelve to
fifteen, one of whom always acts the part of a sentinel. It breeds
in Newfoundland and Labrador, where it selects some small lake
a mile or so inland and builds its nest on its margin. This nest is
composed of dry plants of various kinds, arranged in a circular
manner and lined with fine grasses. The eggs are from four to
six, plain yellowish-green in color, and measuring about 2.o8 by
i.46 inches. After the eggs are laid, the female plucks the down
from her breast after the manner of the Eider Duck, for the pur-
pose of protecting them. The male entirely deserts his mate as
soon as incubation commences, and when the young are hatched
the mother leads them to water and carefully teaches them how to
dive, by a slight note warning them of coming danger. The food
of this Duck consists of small fish, roe, shrimps, mollusks, and
aquatic insects. The flesh is very dark, has a strong fishy taste,
and is not much esteemed as an article of food.
Kittiwake Gull. (Larus iridactylus.)
Fig. I.
This beautiful Gull is common to the Arctic regions of both hemi-
spheres, migrating south in winter as far as the Middle States, and
according to Ridgeway and Wheaton, it occurs on Lake Michigan.
It prefers the open seas to estuaries, except during the time of in-
cubation, when it resorts to high cliffs such as the Raven would
naturally seek, where it builds a nest out of sea-weeds and coarse
grasses, and which with additions and slight reconstructions is used
from year to year. The eggs are three in number, the form usu-
ally ovoidal, in color creamy-drab with a very slight olivaceous
tint, and measuring about 2.20 by I.6o inches. The young birds
remain in their airy nest until fully fledged, when with their parents
they disperse over the neighboring seas. Upon land the Kittiwake
makes a very awkward appearance, but in the air or when swim-
ming, but few birds surpass it in buoyancy, grace, and ease of

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