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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America
(1903)

Plate LXIX. Common gannet--salon goose. (Sula bassana.),   p. 98


Page 98


COMMON GANNET-SOLON GOOSE.
lieve that in their mode of life they differ in no respect from the
species with which we are best acquainted. These remarkable
birds are widely distributed over the warmer portions of the globe,
and are met with principally in Asia, Africa, and South Europe.
According to accounts of both ancient and modern writers, they
make their appearance every year in great numbers in the vicinity
of the lakes of Sardinia and Sicily, as also in Aibufera de Valen-
cia and other parts of Spain. Along the coasts of Egypt, Tripoli,
Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco, they are abundant, as also in
Smyrna, and near the banks of the Volga, but are very rarely
met with in Greece. Occasionally a few stragglers have been
seen as far north as the banks of the Rhine. Generally speaking,
however, the south coast of Europe must be regarded as their
northern limit, and North Africa and Central Asia as their usual
habitat. Those species that inhabit the Western Hemisphere are
likewise confined within corresponding limits. Lakes of salt or
brackish water in the vicinity of sea-coasts are the favorite resorts
of the Flamingoes. To lakes of fresh water they are only casual
visitants, and never resort to them for any length of time. On the
other hand, they are always very abundant on the sea-coast, more
especially where the shores are flat and swampy. Only those who
have had the good fortune to see these birds assembled in flocks,
consisting of many thousands, can form an adequate idea of the
beauty of their appearance."
" Looking from Cagliari to the sea," says Cetti, " it seemed
to
be banked in with a wall of red bricks, or to be covered with
countless numbers of roses. On nearer approach these proved to
be Flamingoes ranged in regular ranks. Aurora herself was
never adorned with more roseate tints than the wings of these
birds. They seemed literally to glow with pink and carmine.
The name of the Flamingo, both in Greek and Latin, was derived
from the magnificent hues of their glorious wings, and the French,
in the epithet fammant, only repeat the same idea. The first im-
pression produced by such a spectacle is not easily to be forgotten.
Fhe birds stood in ranks, not merely of thousands, but literally of
hundreds of thousands, ranged in interminable array. As the
sunlight played upon the dazzling white and glowing red, the ef-
fect was indescribable. At length, taking alarm at something, the
whole body of them rose into the air, displaying their wings to
still greater advantage as they formed themselves into an immense
wedge-shaped phalanx, and winged their way far up into the blue
sky."
When standing quietly upon the shore the appearance of these
birds very much resembles that of an army drawn up in order of
battle. The Cingalese call them "English soldier birds," the South
Americans simply " soldiers," and, indeed, not without cause, for,
as Humboldt informs us, the inhabitants of Angostura, soon after
the establishment of that colony, were one day thrown into a state
of great alarm by the sudden appearance of what they took to be
a numerous army, and it was only when the supposed enemy took
flight to the shores of the Orinoco, that they discovered their mis-
take. A solitary Flamingo is very rarely seen, never perhaps be-
fore the commencement of the pairing season, and even then it must
be some young bird that has strayed by accident from its fellows.
Usually they keep together in flocks, and carefully avoid any local-
ity where danger might be apprehended. Open waters are usually
selected as their fishing place, and should a boat approach they at
once take flight whilst it is still far off, so that it is by no means easy
to observe their proceedings, except with the aid of a telescope. In
general they may be seen with their legs immersed in the water, or
more rarely on the dry shore of our sand-banks, with their necks
curved in a very peculiar manner (see plate) in front of the breast,
the head being laid as it were upon the back, or buried beneath the
shoulder-feathers of the wing; generally the whole weight of the
body is supported by one leg, the other being held obliquely back-
ward or drawn up close to the body; in this strange position the Fla-
mingo sleeps. The manner in which these birds obtain their food is
equally remarkable. Like all other sieve-beaked birds, the ma-
terials upon which they subsist are procured by raking in the
The Flamingo, when in search of food, wades into the wate'
convenient depth, and then bends down its long neck until its
is upon the same level as its feet; it then plunges its beak, wil
upper mandible downward, into the mud. In this positio
bird rakes about at the bottom of the water, moving baclk
and forward with short steps, and opening and shutting it
whilst its tongue is busily at work.  When taking flight
the sea or lake in which it has been feeding, it not unfreqi
goes to a considerable distance, half running and half flying
the surface of the water, much after the the manner of a
or Water-hen. When fairly on the wing a flying Flamingo
not be mistaken for any other bird, even by the most unpra
novice. Unlike the generality of long-necked birds, it strn
not only its long legs, but its neck straight out, thus presenti
appearance of extraordinary length and slenderness; so
with its narrow wings exactly in the center, it assumes pretty
the shape of a cross. The loud, harsh voice of these birds
what resembles that of a goose. The food of the Flamingo cc
principally of water-snails, worms, crustaceans, and small f
but it by no means despises vegetable substances, and in a st
captivity will eat boiled rice, corn, or soaked bread. The r
made in shallow places in the water, or as the Arabs assert,
flat insular spots, overgrown with low vegetation. In the firs
the nest is a conical heap of mud scraped together by the fi
the bird, and raised so high that its top is a foot and a half
the water.  In the second case it consists of a mere I
trough, scooped out in the soil and lined with sedge, rushes,
and similar materials. The number of eggs laid is generall
occasionally three. Their shape is elongated, and their shell s
and of chalky whiteness.
PLATE LXIX.
Common Gannet-Solon Goose. (Sula bassana.)
Fig. x.
The Gannet, or Solon Goose, is a species of marine bird com-
mon on the coasts of both Europe and North America. The Arc-
tic regions of both continents furnish the necessary abiding-place
during the summer months.
According to McGillivray, "' When sitting, the Gannets allow a
person to approach within three feet, sometimes much nearer, so
that one may even touch them. When approached, they merely
open their bill and utter their usual cry, or rise to their feet and ex-
press some degree of resentment, but little apprehension of danger.
They take advantage of the absence of their neighbors to pilfer
the materials of their nests; frequently two join in the same act,
and occasionally they may be seen at the same bunch, endeavoring
to wrest it from each other. They are constantly repairing their
nests, which, being composed in great measure of seaweeds, shrink
up in dry weather, and decompose in wet; and when seated close
together have frequent quarrels. I saw one seize its neighbor by
the back of the neck, and hold fast until the assaulted bird, I may
say, roared out; but in general they are satisfied with menacing
each other with their open bills and loud clamor. Their cryis hoarse
and harsh, and may be expressed by the syllables ' carra, carra,
kirra, kirra;' sometimes it is ' crai, crai,' or I cru, cru,' or ' cree,
cree.' The cry varies considerably in different individuals, some
having a sharper voice than others; and when unusually irritated
they repeat it with great rapidity."
" The fishermen," says Mr. Couch, "learn by their actions
when shoals of pilchards are present, and what course they are
pursuing. The Gannet takes its prey in a different manner from
n8


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