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chick (Podilymbus podiceps), for example, found abundantly on the larger lakes and streams throughout the United States, captures its food, sleeps, and breeds without leaving the water. The loons living in the same situations as the dabchick are also remarkable swimmers and divers. Of the three species found in this country, the common loon or diver (Gavia imber) attains a length of three feet, and is otherwise distinguished by its black plumage, mottled and barred with white, which is also the color of the under parts. The auks, murres, and puffins are marine, and, like their inland relatives, are expert swimmers and divers, strong fliers, and spend much of their time on the open sea. During the breeding-season they assemble in vast numbers on rugged cliffs along the shore, and lay their eggs on the bare rock or in rudely constructed nests.
204. The gulls, terns, petrels, and albatrosses (Longipennes).—The birds belonging to this group are among the most abundant along the seacoast, and several species make their way inland, where they often breed. All are characterized by long, pointed wings and pigeon or swallow-like bodies, which are carried horizontally as the bird waddles along when ashore. Many are excellent swimmers and powerful fliers, especially the petrels and albatrosses, which sometimes travel hundreds of miles at a single flight.
The gulls are abundantly represented along our coasts, where they frequently associate in companies, usually resting lightly on the surface of the water, or wheeling lazily through the air on the lookout for food. The terns are of lighter build than the gulls and are more coastwise in their habits, and are further distinguished by plunging like a kingfisher for the fishes on which they live. Both the gulls and terns breed in colonies, every available spot over acres of territory being occupied by their nests, which are usually built of grass and weeds placed on the ground.
The petrels and albatrosses are at home on the high
seas, rarely coming ashore except at the breeding-season. Some species of the former are abundant off our shores, especially the stormy petrel (Procellaria pelagica) or Mother Carey's chickens (Oceunites oceanicus), which are often seen winging their tireless flight in the wake of ocean vessels. Among the dozen or so albatrosses few reach our shores. The wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), celebrated in story and as the largest sea-bird (fourteen feet between the tips of its outstretched wings), is an inhabitant of the southern hemisphere, and only rarely extends its journeys to more northern regions.
205. Cormorants and pelicans (Steganopodes).—The cor. morants and pelicans are comparatively large water-birds black in color, with hooked bills, long necks, and short wings, which give them a duck-like flight. The much larger pelicans (Fig. 124) are at once distinguished by long bills, from which is suspended a capacious membranous sac. All these birds are sociable in their habits, breeding, roosting, and fishing in great flocks. Their food consists of fishes, which the shags pursue under water and capture in their hooked beaks; while the pelicans, diving from a considerable height or swimming rapidly on the surface, use their pouches as dip-nets. The nests, usually built of seaweed or of sticks, are placed on rocky cliffs or on the ground in less elevated places.
Fig. 124.-White pelicans (P. erythrorhynchus) and whooping-crane (Grus ameri.
cana). Photograph by W. K. FỊSHER.
206. Ducks, geese, and swans (Lamellirostres).—The birds of this order, with their broad, flat, serrated beaks, short legs, and webbed feet, are well known, for in a wild or domesticated state they extend all over the earth. All are excellent swimmers, many dive remarkably well, and are strong on the wing. While a considerable number breed within the United States, their nesting-grounds are generally farther north, and in the early spring it is not unusual to see them migrating in flocks from their warmer winter homes. Among the ducks, the mergansers, mallards (from which our domestic species have been derived), the teals, and the beautiful wood-duck remain with us the year round, dwelling on quiet streams and shallow ponds, living on fish, Crustacea, and seeds. In the more open waters of the larger lakes and along the seacoast we find the canvasback, the scaup-ducks, and the eiders which supply the famous down of commerce. Of the few species of geese which inhabit the United States, the Canada goose (Branta canadensis) is perhaps the most familiar. During their migrations to the nesting sites they fly in V-shaped flocks, their “honks” announcing the opening of spring. The brant (B. bernicla) is also common in the eastern part of the country, where it, like its relations, lives on vegetable substances entirely. The swans are familiar in their semi
domesticated state, but the two beautiful wild swans found in this country are rarely seen.
207. The herons and bitterns (Herodiones).—The herons and bitterns are also aquatic in their habits, but, unlike the swimming-birds, they seek their food by wading. Adapting them for such an existence, the legs and neck are usually very long, and the bill, longer than the head, is sharp and slender. Among the relatively few species in the United States, the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is widely distributed, and may often be seen standing motionless in some shallow stream on the lookout for fish, or it may wander away into the meadows and uplands to vary its diet with frogs and small mammals. Even more familiar is the little green heron or poke (Ardea virescens), which also is seen widely over the country. The night-herons, as their name indicates, stalk their prey by night, and during the day roost in companies—a characteristic common to most herons. The bitterns or stake-drivers are at home in reedy swamps, where they live singly or in pairs, and throughout the night, during times of migration, utter a booming noise resembling the driving of a stake into boggy ground. As a rule, the herons breed as they roost—in companies—building bulky platforms, usually in trees. The bitterns, on the other hand, secrete their nests on the ground in the rushes of their marshy home.
208. Cranes, rails, and coots (Paludicolæ).—In their external form the cranes and rails resemble the herons, but in their internal organization they differ considerably. They likewise inhabit marshy lands, but usually avoid wading, picking up the frogs, fish, and insects or plants along the shore or from the surface of the water. The cranes are comparatively rare in this country, yet one may occasionally meet with the whooping-cranes (Grus americana) and sand-hill cranes (Grus mexicana), especially in the South and West. They are said to mate for life, and annually repair to the same breeding-grounds, where they build their