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i "25-1 '4 inch; diam. 0*9-1 *o.


Anous, Steph. in Shaw's Gen. Zool. xiii. part i. p. 139 (1826).

Type A. stolidus (L.).

The Noddies are remarkable for their sombre plumage.
The tail is graduated, and the outer pair of tail-feathers are
shorter than the next pair, the fourth pair from the outside
being the longest. The toes are short, and the middle toe
and claw do not equal the culmen in length. The bill is
strong and decurved at the tip, and the distance from the
angle of the genys to the tip is less than the distance from
this angle to the gape. (Cf. Saunders, Cat. B. Brit. Mus. xxv.
P- 5-)


Sterna stolida, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 227 (1766); Seebohm,

Hist. Brit. B. iii. p. 294 (1885).
Megalopterus stolidus, Macgill. Brit. B. v. p. 672 (1852).


A nous stolidus, B. O. U. List, Brit. B. p. 186 (1883) ; Saunders,
ed. Yarrell's Brit. B. iii. p. 567 (1884); id. Man. Brit. B.
p. 639 (1889) ; Lilford, Col. Fig. Brit. B. part xxix. (1894) ;
Saunders, Cat. B. Brit. Mus. xxv. p. 136 (1896).

Adult Male in Breeding Plumage. General colour above dark
chocolate-brown, rather darker on the rump and upper tail-
coverts ; wing-coverts like the back ; primary-coverts and quills
blackish, the inner secondaries chocolate-brown like the back ;
tail-feathers blackish ; forehead white, extending in a narrow
line above the eye ; rest of the crown pearly-grey, slightly
darker on the nape and hind neck ; lores and feathers round
the eye leaden-black ; eyelid white ; remainder of sides of face
and under surface of body chocolate-brown, with a shade of
grey perceptible on the sides of the face and throat, as well as
on the under wing-coverts ; " bill blackish ; tarsi and feet
reddish-brown, fully webbed, the webs ochraceous" (H.
Saunders}. Total length, 14*5 inches; culmen, 1*2; wing,
in; tail, 5-6; tarsus, 1-05.

Adult Female. Similar to the male, but slightly smaller, with
a weaker bill, and, as a rule, somewhat browner on the
shoulders and with less lead-colour on the throat. Total
length, 14*5 inches ; wing, io - 5.

Young. Browner than the adults and rather paler ; forehead
and crown greyish-brown, with a narrow white superciliary line,
conspicuous by contrast against the blackish lores. A fledge-
ling from Ascension Island is umber-brown above and below,
with the whitish streak above the lores very marked and
continuous round the base of the bill, and with a slight greyish
tint on the forehead. A downy nestling about five days old,
from British Honduras, has the forehead and crown dull white,
the lores blackish ; the upper surface mouse-brown ; the nape
and the throat darkest, with the lower parts paler ; another,
only just hatched is nearly uniform sooty-brown (Saunders).

Eange in Great Britain. The only examples of the Noddy
recorded from the British Islands, or, for that matter, from any
part of Europe, are two specimens obtained in Ireland, off the
coast of Wexford, between the Tuskar Lighthouse and the Bay


of Dublin, about the year 1830. One of them is still preserved
in the Dublin Museum.

Range outside the British Islands. The following summary of
the distribution of the Noddy is given by Mr. Saunders in the
British Museum " Catalogue of Birds " : " Tropical and
juxta-tropical America, chiefly on the Atlantic side, but also
on the Pacific, in Mexico and the central region ; Atlantic
down to Tristan da Cunha (breeding) ; inter-tropical African
and Asian seas, up to Yeddo ; Australasia down to about 35
S. ; islands of the Pacific up to Laysan, &c., and as far as Sala
y Gomez, 105 W. ; also Chatham Island, Galapagos (Jtde
Ridgway), but not on the coasts of Peru or Chile. Breeding,
as a rule, where found."

Habits. The Noddies nest in enormous numbers in some of
the islands of the Southern Ocean, generally in the vicinity of
the Sooty Tern (S. fuliginosa) with which the Noddy is always
on good terms. The birds are generally so tame as to be with
difficulty removed from their nests, but Mr. Palmer says that
he has known them boldly drive away Albatroses. Gilbert gives
a good account of the nesting of the Noddy on Houtman's
Abrolhos off Western Australia, and he declares that the
increase in the number of the Terns would be overwhelming
but for the check which nature has provided against it in the
shape of a lizard, which is extremely abundant about their
breeding-places, rinding an easy prey in the Noddy and
Sooty Terns. " I am satisfied," he writes, "from constant
observation, that, on an average, not more than one out of
every twenty birds hatched ever reaches maturity or lives long
enough to take wing ; besides this, great numbers of the old
birds are constantly killed. These lizards do not eat the whole
bird, but merely extract the brains and vertebral marrow ; the
remainder, however, is soon cleared off by the Dermestes
lardariuS) a beetle which is here in amazing numbers, and gave
me a great deal of uneasiness and constant trouble to preserve
my collection from its repeated attacks." The food of the
Noddy is said by Gilbert "to consist of small fish, small
mollusca, medusae, cuttle-fish, &c."

Nest Made of sea-weed, according to Gilbert ; about six
inches in diameter, and varying in height from four to eight


inches, but without anything like regularity of form ; the top is
nearly flat, there being but a very slight hollow to prevent the
egg rolling off. The nests are so completely plastered with
the excrement of the birds, that at first sight it appears to be
almost the only material ; they are either placed on the ground,
in a clear open space, or on the tops of the thick scrub, over
those of S. fuliginosa. These two species, the Noddy and
the Sooty Tern, incubate together in the utmost harmony,
the bushes to an immense extent wearing a mottled appearance
from the great mass of birds of both species perched on the
top, the male Sooty Tern sitting quite close to the nest of the
Noddy, whilst its mate is beneath, performing her arduous
duties of incubation. (Cf. Gould's Handb. B. Austr. ii. p. 413).
Sometimes no nest is made and the egg is placed in a crevice
of rock or coral-reef.

Eggs. One only, according to the observations of all recent
observers. Audubon gives the number as three. They
are similar to those of the Sooty Tern, and of the same
character, but they are always much paler and never exceed a
light stone-colour, the spotting being much more sparsely
distributed and smaller ; the type with scratches or zig-zag
markings appears to be absent. On the other hand, there are
one or two eggs in the British Museum which have distinct
blotches, confluent at the larger end, and in one example, the
large end of the egg is taken up by an immense patch of red-
dish-brown. Axis, 2'o5-2*i5 inches ; diam. 1*4-1*55.

Mr. Saunders points out that the yolk of the Noddy's
egg is yellow, while that of the Sooty Tern is deep orange-
red. The Hon. Walter Rothschild also calls attention to the
fact that the inside of the Noddy's egg is darker and more
green when held up to the light.


In the Gulls, the bill is what is called " epignathous,"
the upper mandible being longer and bent down over the
tip of the lower one ; tail usually square, seldom forked,
exceptionally cuneate. (Cf. Saunders, Cat. B. Brit. Mus. xxv,
p. 4 (1895).)



Xema, Leach in J. Ross's Voy. Baffin's Bay, App. ii. p. 57


Type X. sabinii (J. Sabine).

In this genus the tail is considerably forked, and the wings
long, the hind-toe being free and very small.

Only two species of Fork -tailed Gull are known, the
Arctic X. sabinii, and X. furcata of the Galapagos Islands,
which seems to wander down the Pacific coast of South
America, as it has been found at Paracas Bay, in Peru.


Larus sabinii) J. Sabine, Trans. Linn. Soc. xii. p. 520, pi. 29

(1818); Seebohm, Hist. Brit. B. iii. p. 298 (1885);

Lilford, Col. Fig. Brit. B. part xx. (1891).
Gavia sabinii, Macgill. Brit. B. v. p. 607 (1852.)
Xema sabinii, Dresser, B. Eur. viii. p. 337, pi. 593(1874);

B. O. U. List Brit. B. p. 193 (1883); Saunders ed.

Yarrell's Brit. B. iii. p. 573 (1884); id. Man. Brit. B.

p. 641 (1889) ; id. Cat. B. Mus. xxv. p. 162 (1896).

(Plate XCVIIL}

Adult Male in Breeding Plumage. General colour above light
ashy-grey, including the wing-coverts and inner secondaries,
the latter as well as the greater wing- coverts being tipped with
white, the latter very broadly, so that nearly the terminal half
of the external greater wing-coverts is white ; exterior lesser
coverts, bastard-wing, primary-coverts, and primaries black,
the latter tipped with white, and having the inner half of the
inner web longitudinally white, but this not reaching to the end
of the quill on the first five primaries ; the black much
diminished on the next two primaries, the inner primaries and
the secondaries being white ; the innermost secondaries light
ashy-grey, white at their ends; lower rump, upper tail- coverts,
and tail white, the latter conspicuously forked ; head, sides of
face, and throat dark slaty-grey ; the hind-neck, sides of neck,
and under surface of body, from the lower throat downwards,"


pure white ; the slaty-grey head being separated from the white
neck and chest by a band of black ; bill black to the angle,
chrome-yellow anteriorly ; inside of mouth vermilion ; iris dark
brown, a narrow vermilion ring round the eye, beneath which
is a white speck ; tarsi and toes brown to blackish. Total
length, 13*3, culmen, 1*15; wing, 11*4; tail, 4*0; tarsus, 1*6.

Adult Female. Similar to the male. Total length, 12*5 inches ;
wing, ii'o.

Adult in Winter Plumage. According to Mr. Saunders, the
winter plumage is similar to the breeding dress, excepting as
regards the head, which is white, with grey streaks, which
coalesce on the nape and hind-neck, producing a greyish-black
appearance. The quills become worn and faded in colour,
and their tips abruptly broken off, as if cut artificially ; the bill
is duller in colour and the tips brown. By the beginning of
April the new primaries, with broad white tips, are fully de-
veloped, and the head is plentifully besprinkled with slaty-grey.

Young. Ashy-brown above, mottled all over with ashy-buff
edges to the feathers, emphasized by a sub-terminal bar of
black ; the head rather lighter ashy, with obscure fulvescent
margins ; lores and base of forehead, as well as a streak behind
the eye, white, as also the fore part of the cheeks; the feathers
below the eye and the ear-coverts slaty-grey ; under surface of
body white, with a large patch of ashy-brown on each side of
the upper breast, the feathers being margined with ashy-buff;
tail with a conspicuous black band at the end.

Range in Great Britain. Young specimens of Sabine's Gull
have been frequently obtained off our coast, chiefly in autumn
and winter, between the months of August and December.
Two adults in summer plumage have been recorded, one from
Bridlington, in Yorkshire, and another from the Island of Mull.

Range outside the British Islands. The present species is
circumpolar in distribution, and breeds throughout Arctic
America from Baffin Bay to Alaska, whence to the eastward
it has been found nesting on the Taimyr peninsula, by Dr. Von
Middendorff. In winter it visits the shores of Northern
Europe as a straggler, but in the New World it goes as far
south as the Bermudas and Southern Texas on the Atlantic
side, and on the Pacific side the species has been found by


Commander Macfarlane in swarms as far south as Callao Bay,
in Peru. It has not yet been recorded from Novaya Zemlya
or Franz-Josef Land, and, according to Mr. Howard Saunders,
it is very rare or local in Spitsbergen, while it is believed to be
merely a visitor to Jan Mayen.

Habits. Mr. E. W. Nelson has given an interesting account
of this Gull as observed by him in Alaska. He writes : " My
acquaintance with this bird began on my first excursion near
Saint Michael's, on June 26, 1877. We were caught by a head-
tide at the mouth of the ' canal,' some fifteen miles from the
fort and tied up to the bank to await the change. We stopped
soon after midnight, and taking my gun I strolled off across
the marshes in the soft twilight. For some time only the
hoarse cries of distant Loons, or the rolling note of a Crane
broke the silence. The whole scene was desolate in the
extreme ; not a living thing could be seen, and the bleaching
fragments of drift-wood scattered among the numberless ponds
were all that the wide extent of level marsh presented. About
1.30 a.m. the sky became brighter, and the rich tones of the
Swans, mellowed by the distance to a harmonious cadence,
came from the larger lakes, while various other inhabitants of
the marsh from time to time added their voices to the chorus.
In a few minutes a long straggling train of small Gulls was
seen passing over the ponds in silent procession. Approaching
them, they were found to be busily engaged in feeding on the
small fishes and various small larvae found in these pools. Their
motions and appearance were much like those of Bonaparte's
Gull, when seen at distance, but they rarely plunged into the
water like the latter, as the Xemas have the habit of hovering
gracefully close over the water to pick up a morsel, or of
alighting for an instant in the water and rising again on the
wing so lightly that scarcely a ripple is made on the surface.
Ten or a dozen beautiful specimens were shot without difficulty
as the birds flew about. Their food throughout the season
consists of sticklebacks at times, but mainly of such small larvae
and crustaceans as occur in brackish ponds. As August draws
to a close, young and old forsake the marshes to a great extent,
and for the rest of the season are found scattered along the.
coast, feeding at the water-line on the beaches.


" On a number of occasions I have mistaken the young of the
year of these Gulls for Plover or other Waders as they sought
their food along rocky beaches. In such cases they ran out
with each retiring wave and back before the incoming one,
with all the agility of a Wader.

" Sabine's Gull has a single harsh, grating, but not loud note,
very similar to the grating cry of the Arctic Tern, but somewhat
harsher and shorter. When wounded and pursued or captured,
it utters the same note in a higher and louder key, with such a
grating file-like intensity that one feels like stopping one's ears.
It has the same peculiar clicking interruptions which are so
characteristic of the cry of a small bat held in the hand. A low,
chattering modification of this is heard at times as the birds
gather about the border of a favourite pool, or float gracefully
in company over the surface of some grassy-bordered pond.
The same note in a higher key serves as a note of alarm and
curiosity as they fly off overhead when disturbed. When one
of these Gulls is brought down, the others of its kind hover
over it, but show less devotion than is usually exhibited by the

Nest. The nests are described by Mr. Nelson as having been
found by him on an island near St. Michael's. " The island,"
he says, " was very low, and the driest spots were but little
above the water. Built on the driest places were twenty-seven
nests, containing from one to two eggs each, and as many others
just ready for occupancy. Four or five nests were frequently
placed within two or three feet of each other. In about one
half of the cases the eggs were laid upon the few grass blades
the spot afforded, with no alteration save a slight depression
made by the bird's body. In the majority of the other nests
a few grass blades and stems had been arranged circularly
about the eggs, and in the remainder only enough material had
been added to afford the merest apology for a nest.

Eggs. Two in number, of a very dark olive-brown with
reddish- brown spots, nowhere very distinct, the underlying grey
markings being still more obscure. In some examples the spots
are congregated near the large end of the egg, but, as a rule 3
they are generally distributed over the whole surface. Axis,
r6-i'8inch; diam. i^-i^.



Rhodostethia^ Bp. Comp. List B. Etir. and N. Amer. p. 62

Type R. rosea (Macgill.).

The present genus, which contains only a single species, has
the tail wedge-shaped, the two middle feathers more than half
an inch longer than the next pair, and nearly two inches longer
than the outermost tail-feather.


Larus roseus^ Macgill. Mem. Wern. Soc. v. no. xiii. p. 249

Rhodostethia rossi^ Richardson; Macgill. Brit. B. v. p. 618

Rhodostethia rosea. Dresser, B. Eur. viii. p. 343, pi. 594

(1877); B. O. U. List Brit. B. p. 192 (1883); Saunders,

ed. Yarrell's Brit. B. iii. p. 572 (1884); id. Man. Brit. B.

p. 643 (1889) ; Lilford, Col. Fig. Brit. B. parts xvii. xxiii.

(1893); Saunders, Cat. B. Brit. Mus. xxv. p. 167 (1896).
Larus rossii, Seebohm, Hist. Brit. B. iii. p. 305 (1885).

Adult Male in Breeding Plumage. General colour above light
pearly -grey ; quills pearly-grey, with a blackish outer web to
the first primary ; secondaries white at the ends ; rump, upper
tail-coverts, and wedge-shaped tail white; head and neck all
round white, with a black collar round the latter; under
parts white, the under wing-coverts and quill-linings grey ;
axillaries white ; bill black ; a vermilion ring round the eye ;
tarsi, toes, and their webs bright red,

The whole of the white parts in this species are suffused
with a beautiful blush of rose-colour, whence the bird is often
popularly known as " Ross's Rosy Gull."

Adult in Winter Plumage. Wants the black collar round the
neck, and, according to Mr. Saunders, the rosy colour is not so
prominent at this season of the year.


Young. Similar to the winter plumage of the adult and wanting
the black collar. The head, neck, and under surface of the
body white, with a greyish shade on the crown and a little black
behind the eye ; tail wedge-shaped and having a black band at
the end of all the feathers except the outer ones ; feathers of
the rump and upper tail-coverts tipped with black ; wing-coverts
and innermost secondaries black, with indistinct white tips,
forming a band down the wing ; bastard-wing and primary-
coverts black ; primaries black along the outer web and on the
inner side of the shaft, the rest of the inner web white, which
cuts across the end of the inner primaries and forms a sub-
terminal bar ; the innermost primaries white, with a black tip ;
the secondaries white ; tarsi and toes brown.

Range in Great Britain. One specimen of the Wedge-tail Gull
has been recorded from England, having been said to have been
shot near Tadcaster, in December, 1846, or February, 1847.
This example, formerly in Sir W. Milner's collection, is now in
the Leeds Museum. Some doubt has been thrown on the
authenticity of the occurrence, as the specimen appears, in the
opinion of several naturalists, to have been mounted from a
skin and not from a freshly killed bird. As Mr. Saunders points
out, however, the species has occurred in Heligoland, and there
is nothing improbable in its having turned up in Yorkshire, to
which I may add that it would have been difficult for a dealer
to have purchased a skin fifty years ago.

Range outside the British Islands. The following range for this
species is given by Mr. Howard Saunders : " Arctic Regions,
N.W. Greenland (Disco); Melville Peninsula; Boothia; Point
Barrow, N. Alaska, coming from the direction of Herald
Island; St. Michael's, Alaska (once); icy sea from Bering
Strait to the mouth of the Lena ; Barents Sea between Franz-
Josef Land and Spitsbergen, including the latter; Faeroe
Islands (once); Yorkshire (once); Heligoland (once)." Dr.
Nansen discovered the breeding-place of this species on some
islands which he has called Hvitenland, in lat. 80 38' N.,
long. 63 E. He writes in the " Daily Chronicle," of
November, 3, 1896:

"This, the most markedly polar of all bird forms, is easily


recognisable from other species of Gull by its beautiful rose-
coloured breast, its wedge-shaped tail, and its airy flight.

"It is, without comparison, the most beautiful of all the
animal forms of the frozen regions. Hitherto it has only been
seen by chance on the utmost confines of the unknown Polar
Sea, and no one knew whence it came or whither it went ; but
here we had unexpectedly come upon its native haunt, and
although it was too late in the year (August, 1895), to find its
nests, there could be no doubt about its breeding in this region."

Habits. Little is known of the habits of this rare Gull ; Mr.
John Murdoch, of the U.S. Signal Corps, procured a number
of specimens at Point Barrow. He writes: " In 1881, from
September 28 to October 22, there were days when they were
exceedingly abundant in small flocks generally moving
towards the north-east either flying over the sea or making
short incursions inshore. Not a single one was seen during
the spring migrations or in the summer, but two or three
stragglers were noticed early in September a few out among
the loose pack-ice and on September 21, 1882, they were
again abundant, apparently almost all young birds. They
appeared in large loose flocks, coming in from the sea and
from the south-west, all apparently travelling to the north-east.
They continued in plenty for several days while the east
wind blew all following the same track, moving up the
shore, and making short excursions inland at each of the
beach lagoons. After September 28th they disappeared till
October 6th, when, for several days, there was a large flight.
On October gih in particular there was a continuous stream
of them all day long, moving up the shore a short distance
from the beach and occasionally swinging in over the land.
None were seen to return. The nature of our duties at the
station prevented any investigation as to where they came
from or whither they went. They appeared to come in from
the sea, in the west or north-west, and travelled along
the coast to the north-east. They were not observed on
Wrangel Island by either the ' Jeannette,' the ' Corwin,' or the
'Rodgers/ and yet the direction from which they come to
Point Barrow in the fall points to a breeding-ground some-
where in that part of the world. May it not be that some land


yet to be discovered, and north of Wrangel Island, will one
day yield a glorious harvest of the eggs of this splendid species?
It is difficult to form any idea of what becomes of the thousands
which pass Point Barrow to the north-east in the autumn. It
is certain that they do not return along the shore as they went.
Nevertheless, at that season of the year, they must of necessity
soon seek lower latitudes. Perhaps the most plausible sup-
position is that, soon after leaving Point Barrow, perhaps when
they encounter the first ice-pack, they turn and retrace their
steps so far out to sea as to be unnoticed from the land, and
pass the winter on the edge of the ice-field, proceeding north
to their breeding-ground as the pack travels north in the spring."

Nest. As yet undescribed.

Eggs. The British Museum contains an egg ascribed to this
species, from Christianshaab, on the south shore of Disco Bay,
in Greenland. The old bird is said to have been shot on the
nest, and its skin sent home with the egg, according to Mr.
Seebohm, to whose collection it formerly belonged. It is figured
in his " Coloured Illustrations of the Eggs of British Birds "
(plate 36, fig 6). The egg of the Wedged-tailed Gull seems
to be very similar in colour and in character to that of Sabine's
Gull, but is a little larger. Axis, 1-9 inch; diam. 1-3.


Larus, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 224 (1766).

(Type not indicated.)

In all the remaining Gulls the tail is nearly, or quite
square, and in this section of the sub-family Larintz, Mr.
Saunders places five genera, characterised principally by the
size of the hind-toe and its web. Thus the genera Larus and
Gabianus (the latter containing only one species, G. patifiais
from the southern ocean) have the hind-toe free, and mode-

Online LibraryRichard Bowdler SharpeHand-book to the birds of Great Britain (Volume 4) → online text (page 5 of 28)