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

[Plate LXXV. Great auk. (Alca impennis.) cont.],   pp. 115-116

Page 115

GUILLEMOT-PETREL-PUFFIN.                  118
hered rank, said Nuttall, and almost numbered with the
bious monsters of the deep, the Auk seems condemned to
lone in those desolate and forsaken regions of the earth.
was an unrivalled diver, and swam with great velocity. One
by Mr. Bullock, among the Northern Isles, left a six-oared
rbehind. It was undoubtedly a match for the Oxfords. It
ally shot, however, and is now in the British Museum. "It
ved by seamen," wrote Buffon a hundred years ago, "' that
rer seen out of soundings, so that its appearance serves as
lible direction to the land." It fed on fishes and marine
and laid, either in the clefts of the rocks or in deep bur-
solitary egg, five inches long, with curious markings re-
ior Chinese chnrracferR  'hP- --l-r --iQ ;tAl4n..
utter was a gurgling sound. We know of no changes on our
northern coast sufficient to affect the conditions necessary to the
existence of this oceanic bird. It has not been hunted down like
the Dodo and Dinornis. The numerous bones on the shores of
Greenland, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Norway, attest its former
abundance; but within the last century it has gradually become
more and more scarce, and finally extinct. There is no better
physical reason why some species perish, than why man does not
live forever. We can only say with Buffon, " it died out because
time fought against it."
Common or Foolish Guillemot, Murre. (Uria troik.)
Fig. 2.
This species is a common inhabitant of the high northern lati-
tudes of both hemispheres. " From the numbers that congre-
gate," observes Farrell, " and the bustle apparent among them,
confusion of interests might be expected; but, on the contrary, it
will be found that the Guillemots occupy one station or line of
ledges on the rocks, the Razor-bills another, and the Puffins a
third, Kittiwake Gulls a fourth, while the most inaccessible pin-
nacles seem to be left for the use of the lesser Black-backed and
Herring Gulls. Two distinct species scarcely ever breed close by
the side of each other."
The egg is laid on a ledge or hollow of the bare rock; it is
pear-shaped, about three inches and a quarter long, of a bluish
green, or yellowish green color, with streaks and blotches of brown
or black; sometimes the eggs are plain white or green. Great
numbers of these eggs are collected by men who descend from the
cliff above by means of ropes. The eggs are hatched in about a
month. The young are fed for a short time on the rocks by their
parents, after which they accompany them to the sea. In what
manner they descend seems to be a problem. Mr. Waterton was
assured by the men about Flamborough Head that when the young
Guillemot gets to a certain size, it manages to climb on the back
of the old bird, which conveys it down to the ocean; and Mr.
Farrell, in support of this statement, assures us that he has seen,
at the base of very high cliffs in the Isle of Wight, the young of
Razor-bills and Guillemots " so small that they could not have
made the descent by themselves from the lofty site of their birth-
place without destruction; yet these little birds knew perfectly well
how to take care of themselves, and, at the approach of a boat,
would swim away and dive like so many Dabchicks." About
August, old and young leave the rocks and take to open water.
Audubon gives the following curious description of these birds on
a group of rocks, which consist of several low islands, destitute of
vegetation, and at no great height from the water. " Here thou-
sands of Guillemots annually assemble at the beginning of May,
to deposit each its single egg and raise its young. As you ap-
proach these islands, the air becomes darkened with the multitudes
of these birds that fly about. Every square foot of the ground
seems to be occupied by a- Guillemot, planted erect, as it were, on
the granite rock, but carefully warming its cherished egg. All
look toward the south, and if you are fronting them, the snowy-
white of their bodies produces a remarkable effect, for the birds at
some distance look as if destitute of head, so much does that part
assimilate with the dark hue of the rocks on which they stand. On
the other hand, if you approach them in the rear, the isle appears
as if covered with a black pall." This species is seventeen inches
and a half long, and from twenty-seven to twenty-eight broad; the
wing measures three inches, and the tail two and a half.
Giant Petrel, or Giant Fulmar, Mother Carey's Geese.
Fig. 3.
This is the largest of the Petrels, and may be regarded as hold-
ing a position intermediate between the Albatross and the Storm
Petrels. The length of this species is about two feet eight inches,
and the spread of the wings from four feet and a half to five feet.
Its migrations extend over the temperate and antarctic zones of
the southern hemisphere.  Nuttall says: "The Giant Petrels,
though so infatuated, probably in the breeding season, as to submit
to death rather than abandon their resorts and young, are at other
times sufficiently active and adventurous, being seen to assemble
in great numbers on the approach of a stowrn, sailing majestically
with wide expanded and scarcely moving wings close to the sur-
face of the water, scanning the agitated bosom of the deep in quest
of some fish or other object of prey raised toward the surface by
the foaming billows. They also feed, when opportunity offers, on
the dead bodies of seals or birds, and are themselves, by sailors,
considered as good food." Pennant thinks it probable that they
migrate with the Albatross into the southern Hemisphere to breed.
Sea Parrot, Common Puffin, or Coulterneb. (Ftatercula arcticus.)
Fig. 4.
The cold and inclement regions of the whole northern hemis-
phere is the general resort of this species. Its migrations, in win-
ter, extend as far south as the middle states. " The Puffins,"
Dr. Brehm, " are eminently aquatic birds, only visiting the land
for the purpose of hatching and rearing their young; nevertheless
they often approach the shore or visit harbors on the coast. They
are generally met with in little flocks consisting of from eight to
twenty individuals, and employed in fishing for food.
"1 During the breeding season, however, they assemble in such
vast numbers as almost to cover the rocks on which they build.
Their food consists principally of fishes and molluscous animals,
which are invariably caught by diving. The Puffins are distin-
guishable from all their allies by the impetuosity of their flight.
Sometimes they may be seen swimming quietly upon the water
and diving into the advancing waves; generally, however, they
are observed flying, and not only shooting over but dashing through
them. With outstretched wings they plunge into the billows, urg-
ing their career with rapid strokes, twisting and turning in the
water, not only sideways, but completely round, so that sometimes
the dark-colored back, sometimes the shining white under the sur-
face becomes visible; now they seem to follow the outline of the
wave, climbing upon one side of it, and plunging down the other,
as they suddenly emerge from the water, and, after rising ten or
twelve feet into the air, once more plunge obliquely into the sea,
when they again dive, rowing themselves along with feet and
wings till, after making their way to a considerable distance, they
come up into the air, apparently simply to take breath, and forth-
with disappear in the same manner. The interest attaching to this
spectacle is considerably increased from the circumstance of so
many of the birds joining in these active evolutions; just as one
plungres beneath the surface another emerges, and as they are all

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