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I, pp. 401 - 412, October, 1877.



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Recent Literature. 87

On the Moult op the Bill and Palpebral Ornaments in Fra-
TKRCULA ARCTiCA.* — The remarkable changes which the bill and eyelids
of the Common Puffin imdergo after the breeding season have been
hitherto unknown. The author's exposition of the matter reveals a
phenomenon as yet unparalleled among birds. Temminck acknowl-
edged (Man. Om. 2d ed. ii, 932) his inability to describe the various con-
ditions of this common bird, and the efforts of subsequent naturalists to
supply the required information have been unavailing. The Puffin is a
bird which must be studied alive. Discovering that two islands off Brit-
tany, one in the Channel and the other at sea, harbored hundreds of these
birds during the breeding season, the author found the material for his
investigations.

In the spring, when the birds come to breed on these islands, they are
all alike in plumage and ornamentation : the cheeks are grayish-white ;
the bill is high and thick opposite the nostrils ; there is a boss or bead
(ourlet, a " hem ") along ttie base of the upper mandible ; the gonys is

* Be la Mue du Bee et des Omements Palp^braux da Macareox arctique,
FreUercula arctiea (Lin.) Steph. apres la saison des amours. Par le Docteur
Louis Bureau. Extrait du Bulletin de la Socidt^ zoologique de France, 1877.
8vo. Paris, 1878. pp. 1-21, plL IV, V.

The translator presents this remarkable 'and most important paper nearly en-
tire, though with the utmost condensation in language, to bring it within
limits. As reviewer, he need only witness the care and fidelity with which Dr.
Bureau's investigations were evidently conducted, and the clearness with which
the novel results are brought out. The paper is illustrated with several figures
on two plates, one of them colored and furnished with movable pieces gummed
on, on raising which both the process of the moult and its results are seen at a
glance. How much we learn — how little we know ! Here is a biixi that
sheds part of Us bUl, and we only just now find it out, though the bird has
been "Known** forages. The author's happy experience should provoke new
inquiry into the various curious North Pacific species, some of which may yield
up similar secrets. ** Sagmatorrhina lathainif*' the •* Saddle-billed Auk ** was
made a new genus of, though now known to be nothing more or less than Lunda
eirrhata. The remarkable case of CetxUorhina ** suckleyi,'* — C. nonoeercUa,
now seems less singular, though we do not yet know the details ; perhaps the
" horn *' may be moulted. Ptychorhampkus aletUicus has a wrinkled membrane
at base of the bill, which may be something different at other times. Simo-
rhynchus anstetaZlus, as known to us in full dress, has a curious homy formation
at the angle of the mouth, wanting in the so-called S. **dubius " and S. ^^Utra-
cultis" Simorhynchus microceroa has a curious knob or caruncle on the base of
the culmen, not seen in the so-called S* **pu8illus/* M. Bureau*s discovery
puts the family in an entirely new light. Besides its special application, it has,
what the author might have signalized, an interesting bearing on the homology
of feathers with other epidermal productions ; we may now speak of the
** moulting " of the homy covering of the beak, as well as of the feathers. —
Translator.



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88 Becent Literature.

regolarly eonrex ; the eyelids are Termilion red, and furnished with two
homy plates, and there is a laige yellow rosette at the angle of the mouth.
The young are reared by the middle of July, and by the end of this
month, or early in August, the birds go to sea ; after which not one is to
be seen on the rocks so lately full of life. Autumn advances ; the Puf-
fins are scattered over the waters, and a blank in their history ensues.
But soon the wintry winds grow violent, and after some storm, hundreds
of Pufi&ns are washed ashore, dead or dying oi inanition. These victims
are mainly young birds; but adults share the same fate if the storm
occurs during the moult, when the loss of the quills reduces the wings to
mere stumps. Three times in the winter of 1873, after storms, M. Mar-
mottan found thousands of dead Puffins rolling in the sand. Willughby
and Baillou have recorded similar observations. The Puffins which are
thus washed on the French coast in winter are emaciated to the last
degree, and are different in plumage from those we kill in the breeding
season. The orbital region is more or less blackish ; there is no red ring
round the eyes, nor homy plates on the lids, nor rosette at the angle of
the mouth. Still more curiously ihe hiU itself is differently formed ; it has
neither the same size nor shape nor color ; the homy covering even is
not the same. Th^ bill is small, without any boss at the base, and fur-
nished opposite the nostrils with a soft grayish skin instead of a solid and
bluish homy plate. Authors considered such Puffins as the youngf until
M. Yian, recognizing adults among them, described them as a new spe-
cies. Mormon grabce (Bull, de la Soc. Zool. de Francfe, l** ann6e, 1876,
p. 4). Neither one nor the other of these conclusions is admissible. The
first supposition, of immaturity, falls before the facts the author presents ;
in view of which, Vian himself has abandoned his position.

The author devotes a couple of pages to the steps of the investigation by
which he was led to discover the metamorphosis he had already suspected,
being at length rewarded with actual witness of the transformation. He
continues : The covering of the bill of these birds, which in spring forms
a solid homogeneous homy sheath, loosened and fell apart like the pieces of
a coat of mail; the rosette at the angle of the mouth shrivelled and grew
pale ; the homy plates about the eye had fallen in some specimens and
were loosened in others ; the red feet became yellow ; and finally the
change of plumage began in some specimens. In a word, the adult Lor-
ventauscher * grew under his eyes into what some have considered as the
young of Mormon arctica, and into what has been called M, graha.

* Brehm (Handb. der Naturg. Yog. Deutschl.) once calls the Puffin Larven-
tav^ckerf elsewhere invariably writing LarvctUaucher, If the first orthogniphy
is correct, we may conclude that the moult of the bill was known to the fisher-
men of the Baltic long before M. Bareau discovered it. For der LarvefUauscher
is, in effect, der Vogel der seine Larve iauscht, Voiseau qui charige son masiiue,
the bird that unmasks. As to der Larventaucher, it properly signifies der Tau-



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Recent ZitercUure, 89

To get an idea of these remarkable changes (which the author illustrates
as already described) it is first necessary to understand the composition oi
the bill in the adult in spring and in winter. Fratercula arctica, adult, in
spring has the bill high at the base, with the under outline regularly
curved from base to tip. The bill is divided into two very distinct parts :
one posterior, which is moulted ; the other anterior, and persistent.

1. The hind part is made up of a set of nine sutured homy pieces which
come apart and iall off after the breeding season. Those of the upper man-
dible are : (1) the homy basal boss, 2) the nasal buckler, (3, 4) the two
(one on each side) subnasal lamellae, (5, 6) the two (one on each side)
transparent lamellae, which cover the hind part of the first ridge ; and of
the under mandible, (7, 8) the two (one on each side) homy selvages
(corresponding to the boss on the upper mandible), and (9) the mental
buckler.

2. The fore part, which is persistent, shows three ridges and three
grooves, designated, from base to tip, as the first or great ridge, the sec-
ond or middle ridge, the third or lesser ridge ; the first or great groove,
the second or middle groove, the third or lesser groove ; the bill ending
with a smooth space, forming a triangle with curvilinear base, and termed
the point of the bilL

At the angle of the mouth a thickened skin, folded and scalloped, forms
a large orange-yellow rosette. The ornaments of the eyelids consist of a
thick vermilion-red edge, and two dark gray horny appendages, the upper
one triangular, the lower elongate.

Let us now see what the appearance is in winter, or after the breeding
season. The aspect is entirely different The bill is smaller, as if cut
away at the forehead, especially the under mandible, the outline of which
is broken instead of forming a regular curve. We still find the two well-
distinguished parts already indicated in the breeding adult ; the fore
part is intact, but the hind part is strangely modified by loss of the nitie
homy pieces. It has lost its thickness and its firm texture ; it is covered
with a thick skin, which presents on the upper mandible (1) the membra-
nous boss ; (2) the nasal membraTie ; and on the lower mandible (3) the
membranous selvage^ and (4) the mental matrix. The commissural rosette
is reduced to a narrow pale yellow band. The eyelids are uncolored, and
have lost the homy appendages.

cher m,it einer Larve versehen, le Flongeon d masque^ the masked Diver, — a
very suitable name, though any German reader will perceive that its composi-
tion is not very happy. It is therefore not impossible that the true vernacular
name was the first ; though ornithologists, not understanding the allusion to
the change of the "mask," would see in the ^n^-tauscher nothing but the Ger-
man name of Diver, Taucher, If der Larventatiscfier, Changetir de masque,
Unnuxsker, is the real name of Fratercula arctica, it might be well restored, as
none could possibly be more appropriate or expi-essive.



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90 BecerU Literature.

Understanding then the conformation of the hill, hoth in the hreeding
season and in the winter, it remains to show how the change is effected.
The hird acquires its full breeding array in three ways : (1) by hypertro-
phy, (2) by homy growths, (3) by coloration ; and, conversely, loses it in
three ways, (1) by atrophy, (2) by loss of the homy growths, (3) by de-
coloration.

The transformations of the bill relate exclusively, as already said, to the
hinder part. A. Upper Mandible : 1. The hcmy ho$$ is that forked
piece which surrounds the base of the upper mandible. It is perforated
with many little holes in regular oblique series, through which rudimen-
tary perforating fecUhers pass out. In May, at the height of the breeding
season, it is translucent, of a sort of flesh-color difficult to describe, more
or less tinged with yellow or violet, rather variable in shade in different
specimens. In falling off it loses this coloration, and becomes horn-yel-
low, like any claw about to be shed. It generally comes off whole, but
may break apart at the top, or towards the middle of either of its forks.
Its fall leaves exposed the membranoiu hosi, in which the perforating
feathers are implanted, and which, the following season, reproduces a new
homy boss. 2. The ruuctl hucJclerf situated in front of the homy boss, is
forked like the last, and saddled on the upper mandible, having two broad
triangular sides united. It falls off in three pieces, — one laige and two
small. The two little pieces (one on each side) called the avhncudl hmd-
la are always detached first ; the large saddle-shaped piece follows ; but it
is so fragile that it is generally broken near the top before it finally falls
off. The author, however, succeeded in securing one nasal buckler intact,
this " fr^cUate pUee com/e " coming from a wounded Puffin held by the
wings, who clawed it off in trying to defend himself. The nasal buckler
has the effect of causing a hard homy protuberance of the nasal region,
and thus thickening the base of the bill. Its loss uncovers the natdl mem-
braney which in winter shrinks away from the forehead, and the following
.spring produces a new buckler. 3. The pre-nasal fissure establishes the
separation between the nasal buckler and the first or great ridge ; in win-
ter it is wanting, being replaced by the corresponding temporary groove.

4. The transparent lamella is a horny pellicle of a beautiful orange-color,
which covers the hinder part of the first or great ridge, and is so closely
blended therewith as to be only distinguished in spring by its coloration.
This lamella grows transparent when about to fall, and is detached by ex-
foliation, exposing the first or great ridge, which is entirely red in winter.

5. Ridges and grooves. These are subject to no other changes than those
resulting from simple desquamation and partial decoloration. B. Lower
Mandible. Its transformations are still more curious and note-
worthy. 1. The homy selvage is of the brightest orange in the breeding
season. Its fall exposes the membranotts selvage, which, yellow at first,
soon loses its coloration. 2. The mental buckler represents both the nasal
buckler and the transparent lamella. It comes off whole, its two sides joined



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Recent Literature, 91

below. The fall of this large piece exposes the mental matrix, and a mem-
branous triangular space, susceptible of being retracted or drawn in.
This is the Triangle of atrophy (U Triangle alrophique) to which special
attention should be paid.

The strangest change is certainly that produced in the depth and shape
of the lower mandible. In the adult, in spring, the base of the lower
mandible is produced (downward and backward), and the outline of the
gonys is a regular curve. In winter the base is narrowed or constricted,
and the lower border forms two straight lines meeting at an angle. It
looks as if the lower comer of the bill had been chopped off; and the way
this comes about is as follows : Loss of the mental buckler exposes the
yellowish membranous " triangle of atrophy," which gradually shrinks,
and is withdrawn into the fossa formed by the slight divergence of the
forks of lower jaw (L e. into the interramal space). In some speci-
mens the process of retraction is not accomplished at once ; for after the
loss of the mental buckler, the atrophic triangle is often covered with a
delicate homy pellicle which exfoliates and soon falls. This disappearing
triangle can only be studied on the living subject ; and ornithologists
should be on their guard lest they fall into error in examining speci-
mens in course of transformation, either after complete drying or before
the secondary and final exfoliation just mentioned. In default of exami-
nation of the living subject a good idea may be gained by getting a speci-
men in full breeding array, with a bill so thin as to be translucent at this
part In a very favorable specimen in the author's possession examined
by transmitted light, the bony part of the jaw formed the shadow, the
atrophic space the penumbra, while the homy tip was translucent It is
supposed that such specimens might easily be secured in April or early
May, before the homy pieces are fully developed. Another good way,
open to any one, is to remove the homy sheath of the mandible by pro-
longed maceration ; when the atrophic part, thus uncovered and softened,
is seen in its normal condition. The homy sheath of either mandible
will come off whole by maceration, — the separation of the several pieces
of which it is composed being a vital process only accomplished at the
time of the moult.

The commissural rosette, in spring a thick naked mgous skin of a
beautiful orange-color, afterwards wastes away and turns pale. The
transformations of the parts about the eye seem very simple after what
has gone before. The red border of the lids shrinks and loses color. The
homy protuberances fall off, leaving a naked skin which rapidly shrinks
and disappears.

The author concludes this remarkable paper with some pertinent and
suggestive observations on other species of Fraterculay and on Lunda cir-
rhcUa. — Elliott Couks, WaehirvgUm, March 15, 1878.



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92 Gmeral Notes.



Habits of the Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). — The following observa-
tions are communicated by Mrs, Mary Treat, Green Cove Spring, Florida :
" A Kingfisher whose feeding-groimd is just in front of my windows fishes
from a private wharf, where he is seldom disturbed, and has become so
tame that he pursues his avocations without concern, though I may be
standing within a few feet of him. I learned that he ejects from the
mouth the bones, scales, or other indigestible portions of his food, just
like a bird of prey. When the water is so rough that it is difficult
for him to procure fish, instead of seeking some sequestered pool he
remains at his usual post, occasionally making an ineffectual effort to se-
cure his customary prey, until, nearly starved, he resorts to a sour-gum
tree (Nyssa aqaaticay L.) in the vicinity, and greedily devours the berries.
Returning to his post, he soon ejects a pellet of the large seeds and skins
of the fniit. I have saved some of these pellets, as well as those composed
of fish-bones and scales." The remains of fish which are found in the
bird's breeding-holes, giving rise to a very general impression that the nest
is constructed of these materials, are probably deposited in this way. The
interesting instance of the bird's feeding on fruit brings out the relation-
ship between the truly piscivorous species and certain exotic non-aquatic
representatives of the family. — Elliott Coues, Waskington^ D, 0,

The Painted Lark Bunting {Plectrophanes pictus) in Texas.—
On November 23, 1876, I saw a flock of PUctrophaneSj which I thought
were different from either P. maccovmi or P. omatus^ and shot one,
which proved to be different. On December 20 I shot another, and
on December 22 three others. One of these, being sent to Mr. Robert
Ridgway, of the Smithsonian Institution, he has kindly identified it for
me as Plectrophanes pictus, and states that this is its first record south
of Illinois. They are less easily taken than P. maccovmi, as they do
not fly so compactly as does that species. Their note while on the wing
is a simple chirp, while the flocks of P. maccovmi keep up constant chat-
ter while on the wing. Whether P. pictus is an accidental or a regular
winter visitor to Texas, I am unable to state. They were quite plentiful
here last winter (1876- 77), but may have been driven farther south than
usual by the uncommonly cold weather, which had driven away the Robins,
Harris's Sparrow, and even Plectrophanes omatus, all of which were abun-
dant the previous winter. — G. H. Ragsdale, Gainesville, Texas,

Notes on a few Birds observed in New Mexico and Arizona in
1876. — 1. TurduB migratorius. Winters abundantly in New Mexico ;
a few summer in the high mountains.



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Chneral Nates. 93

2. BCmtia polyglottna. Abundant in summer. Nesting in low
bashes, grape-vines, etc.

3. HarporhynohuB orissalis. I saw this species on the Qila in New
Mexico, and in Arizona, in brushy broken localities. Not common.

4. Sialia mezicana. Abundant in winter. A few staj in the high
mountains all summer.

6. Sialia arotioa. Very scarce in winter. I saw not more than a
dozen in the season. They frequent the low valleys.

6. Anripartui flavioeps. Sparingly found in summer in broken
localities along the Gila in New Mexico, usually in the mouths of canons at
the edge of the river bottom. In Arizona frequents the mesquit. Nests
in a low bushy tree, called there " hackberry." The nests are bulky, com-
posed of thorny twigs on the outside, and lined with grass, with a small
hole in one side. June 2 I found a nest containing four young birds able
to fly ; June 16, another nest containing three eggs. The eggs were green,
much blotched with brown. Very young birds have the head uniform in
color with the back.

7. DendroBca blaokbnmias. I killed a female, near Fort Bayard,
N. M., in May.

8. Vireo vicinior. Kare. Found in rough broken localities in the
bluffs bordering the Gila, keeping in the scrub oaks. They are very shy.
Their song is similar to that of V. pltmbevs, but the pauses between the
notes are not as distinct.

9. Vireo pnailliiB. Common on the Gila. Nests in willow thickets,
the nest being placed in a fork of a twig, usually about two feet from the
ground.

10. Hesperiphona Teapertina. Sparingly found in piny districts in
New Mexico, both sunmier and winter.

11. Pipilo abertL February 11, I saw several birds of this species in
the cottonwoods on the Qila bottom near old Fort West, N. M. They
were clinging to the bark of the larger trees like Nuthatches, searching
for insects in the crevices. I never saw these birds away from the imme-
diate bottom of the Gila or its larger tributaries. They usually nest in
the thick willows, although I found one nest in a cottonwood-tree, thirty
feet or more fix)m the ground, concealed in a thick bunch of the mistle-
toe, so common in such trees. They are abundant, but very shy at all
times. *

12. Pipilo megalonyx. Very abundant all through New Mexico and
Arizona, in brushy districts.

13. Pipilo fmictifl. Common over the same region as the last, but
more partial to rocky localities.

14. Pipilo ohlorurus. Observed on the Gila during the early spring
migration.

15. Junoo oregonus. This species, and var. annecterUy are plenty in
timber everywhere.



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94 General Notes.

16. Jtinoo olnereuB var. dorsalis. Common in the high mountains.
July 16, I found a nest under a tuft of grass, which contained three eggs,
perfectly fresh. The eggs are, when blown, white, slightly tinged with
green, speckled sparsely all over, except at the smaller end, with small
brownish dots. They measure .58x.74, .62x.76, and. 63x.77. I took
young birds of the year in the early part of July.

17. Conrus americanaa. I saw a flock of a dozen or so on the Rio
Mimbres in April, and killed one. These were the only ones I had seen
since leaving Kansas, except three seen in South Park in October, 1873,
one of which I killed.

18. Myiarchus crinituB. I killed a male in the cotton woods along
the Qila, New Mexico, June 12.

19. Soops asio var. macoalU. On April 19 I heard a screaming noise
proceeding from a Woodpecker's hole in a pine. I climbed the tree, and
pulled out a female McCall's Owl, and immediately after a male Sparrow-
Hawk flew out The Owl was apparently breeding, but the hole con-
tained no eggs.

20. Cyrtonyx massena. April 14 1 nearly stepped on a pair of Mas-
senas, in a trail. I stopped, and was hesitating whether to put my hat
over them or step back and shoot them, when they settled the matter by
flying away, both my barrels missing fire. May 12, as I was riding
through the timber, I heard a Partridge fly up behind the horse. Look-
ing back, I saw that it was a female Massena. I stopped the horse, and,
without getting off, looked for the mate, and saw it lying flat in the grass
within eight inches of the track of the horse's hind foot. The female will
not lie as close as the male, but both lie so close that it is only by acci-
dent that they are ever seen. — F. Stevens.

Capture of ^Egialitis meloda var. circumcincta, Rido., on Loko
Island. — While collecting April 30, 1873, on the outer beach, near
Rockaway, Long Island, I shot several specimens of the Piping Plover.
One, an adult male, had the pectoral band complete across the jugulum, a
peculiarity I could not discover in any others. The band is unusually
broad, curving anteriorly somewhat, and is slightly enlarged in the mid-
dle toward the throat, giving it the outline of a top of a shield, whereas
in those specimens which have the markings on the neck nearly meeting,
the lines converge to a point in an hour-glass shape. The dimensions are,
6.77 X 14.25 X 4.65 ; tail, 2.10 ; bill, .55 ; tarsus, .dO, male adult, agreeing in
the main M'ith Mr. Ridgway's type (breeding plumage, male adult, July 8,
Loup Fork of the Platte, Am. Nat., VIII, 1874, 109) excepting length,
which he gives as 6J inches, which is much below the average. The
same day I shot a female with just a faint line of dusky uniting the dark
patches of the neck, formed by the edgings only of two or three feathers,
all the way across. I doubt whether this should be regarded as the fe-
male of var. circumcinctaf however. — C. H. Eagle.



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General Notes, 95

Nest and Eggs op Selasphorus platycercus. — The following inter-
esting obnervations are communicated by Mr. Edwin A. Barber, of West
Chester, Pa. : "While stationed in the extreme southwestern comer of
Colorado, near the head-waters of the Rio la Plata, with a branch of the



Online LibraryNuttall Ornithological ClubBulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club: a quarterly jjournal of ornithology → online text (page 36 of 50)