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

Plate LXXV. Great auk. (Alca impennis.),   p. 114


Page 114


SMEW, WHITE NUN, WHITE-HEADED GOOSANDER-GREAT AUK.
migrating northward, although the young and the old start at the
same time, they keep in separate flocks, and continue so to do even
when approaching the higher latitudes. They also remain divided
during the winter whilst they are living in the same localities;
and Audubon informs us that, although the young and old are
often seen to repose on the same sand-bar, the flocks keep at as
great a distance as possible from each other. " Dispersed," says
Coues, " over all of North America, the Snow Goose is nowhere
a permanent resident; its migrations are extensive, and performed
with the utmost regularity; the maximum variation depending upon
the advance or retardation of the season-less strictly speaking
upon the weather-is slight. It is never seen in the United States
in summer, for it returns to high latitudes to breed. Along the
Atlantic coast, and, indeed, through the whole Eastern provinces,
it may be called rare, at least in comparison with its great abun-
dance in various parts of the West. Those found in Texas,
and anywhere about the Gulf of Mexico, undoubtedly migrate
inland, following the course of the larger rivers; while those
that pass along the Atlantic seaboard generally hug coast, and
are hardly to be met with beyond maritime districts....
On the Pacific coast itself, particularly that of California, the
birds are probably more abundant in winter than anywhere else.
Upon their arrival in October, they are generally lean and poorly
flavored, doubtless with the fatigue of a long journey; but they
find abundance of food and soon recuperate. At San Petro, in
Southern California, in November, I saw them every day, and in
all sorts of situations-some on the grassy plain, others among
the reeds of little streams or the marshy borders of the bay, others
on the bare mud-flats or the beach itself. Being much harassed,
they had grown exceedingly wary, and were suspicious of an ap-
proach nearer than several hundred yards. Yet, with all their
sagacity and watchfulness-traits for which their tribe has been
celebrated ever since the original and classic flock saw Rome, as
it is said-they are sometimes outwitted by very shallow strata-
gem. . . . A Wild Goose of any species is a good example
of wariness in birds, as distinguished from timidity. A timid bird
is frightened at any unusual or unexpected appearance, particu-
larly if it be accompanied by noise; while a wary one flies from
what it has learned to distrust or fear through its acquired percep-
tions or inherited instincts." Dr. Heerman says: "' They often
cover so densely with their masses the plains in the vicinity of the
marshes, as to give the ground the appearance of being clothed
with snow. Easily approached on horseback, the natives some-
times near them in this manner, then suddenly putting spurs to
their animals, gallop into the flock, striking to the right and left
with short clubs, and trampling them beneath their horses' feet. I
have known a native to procure seventeen birds in a single charge
of this kind through a flock covering several acres." II The eggs,"
says Sir John Richardson, in the " Fauna Boreali Americana,"
" are of a yellowish white color, and regularly oval form, are a
little longer than those of an Eider Duck, their length being three
inches, and their greatest breadth two. The young fly in August,
and by the middle of September all have departed to the southward.
The Snow Goose feeds on rushes, insects, and in autumn on ber-
ries. When well fed it is a very excellent bird, far superior to the
Canadian Goose in juiciness and flavor. It is said the young do
not attain their full plumage before their fourth year....
The Snow Geese make their appearance in spring, a few days
later than the Canada Geese, and pass in large flocks both
through the interior and on the coast.' This species is about
twenty-seven inches long, and from fifty-two to fifty-six broad; the
wing measures sixteen and the tail six inches.
Smew, White Nun, White-headed or Dwarf Goosander. (Merge
bellus.)
Fig. S.
We give this species a representation in the work, all
it is not positively known to be a native of North America
Brehm says the real habitat of the White-headed or Dwarf
ander, as it is sometimes called, seems to be in Northern
from whence it extends westward into Northern Europe
eastwardly into the northern parts of America.  Durir
winter months, however, it wanders far southward.
then to be met with in considerable numbers throughc
whole of China, being more especially abundant in the
ern provinces of the Celestial Empire. It is, moreover, a i
visitant to Northern India, and is not unfrequently seen it
tral and Southern Europe. It seems to be more scarce in the
ern provinces of the United States of North America; for At
informs us that in the Western division, at least, it was a I
unusual occurrence. In very hard winters it makes its appe
in Germany as early as the month of November, but mor
ally not until the middle of December, returning again
north in February or March. It is likewise a winter visitor
shores of Great Britain, large numbers being sometimes s4
the eastern or southern coasts of England. It is rarely
north of the Humber. and is comnarativelv rare in Snotlnr
Ireland. In some parts of Switzerland it may be met with even
so late as the beginning of May. This species is generally only
to be found in the neighborhood of fresh-water lakes; sometimes,
but only casually, it may be seen in quiet bays upon the sea-coast,
more especially in such as are at the mouths of rivers. Unlike
the divers, it seems to prefer flowing streams to stagnant water,
and often wanders along the course of rivers, from which it only
makes excursions to such lakes and ponds as may be free from
ice. When walking, this species holds its body in a horizontal po-
sition, with its head retracted; it walks with a waddling gait, but
better than the generality of its near allies. When swimming, it
keeps itself about half submerged, and when it dives it stretches
itself out to its full length, and disappears in an instant. Its flight,
which very much resembles that of the smaller Ducks, is rapid,
straight, accompanied by a slight whirring of the wings, and is
generally but little elevated above the surface of the ground or of
the water. It is remarkably lively in its disposition, and even during
the bitterest cold weather is sprightly and active. The length of
this species is nineteen inches; the breadth thirty inches; the
length of wing eight inches and a half, and the length of tail three
inches.
PLATE LXXV.
Great Auk. (Alca imjennis.)
Fig. I.
The Great Auk is a very rare bird. There are said to be but
four specimens in North America-in the Academy of Natural
Sciences, Philadelphia, the Cambridge Museum, another in the
Girard Cabinet in Vassar College, and the fourth in the Smithson-
ian Institution.  Mr. R. Deane makes record of a specimen
i' found dead in the vicinity of St. Augustine, Labrador, in No-
vember i87o." It was sold for $200, and was forwarded to Eu-
rope.
Professor James Orton (American Naturalist, III, 539,) says,
"It was an arctic bird, dwelling chiefly in the Faroe Islands, Ice-
land, Greenland, and Newfoundland." Degraded, as it were, from,
a
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