Hyperborean Phalarope.

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Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Red-necked Phalarope.]

[Phalaropus lobatus.]


Few individuals of this species are ever seen to the south of New York. Near Boston I procured several, and my learned friend THOMAS NUTTALL presented me with some that had been shot in the neighbourhood of that city, as did Mr. JOHN BETHUNE and Mr. RODMAN of New Bedford. As we advanced eastward in the month of May, we saw more and more of them, and while at Eastport in Maine my son JOHN shot several out of flocks of sixty or more. At one time a flock consisting of more than a hundred was seen in the Bay of Fundy. They were exceedingly shy, and the gunners of Eastport, who knew them under the name of Sea Geese, spoke of them as very curious birds.

They procure their food principally upon the water, on which they alight like Ducks, float as light as Gulls, and move about in search of food with much nimbleness. The sight of a bank of floating sea-weeds or garbage of any kind induces them at once to alight upon it, when they walk about as unconcernedly as if on land. Their notes, which resemble the syllables tweet, tweet, tweet, are sharp and clear, and in their flight they resemble our common American Snipe. At the approach of an enemy, they immediately close their ranks, until they almost touch each other, when great havoc is made among them; but if not immediately shot at, they rise all at once and fly swiftly off, emitting their shrill cries, and remove to a great distance. These Phalaropes congregate in this manner for the purpose of moving northwards to their breeding-grounds, although some remain and breed as far south as Mount Desert Island. I have met with them in equally large flocks at a distance of more than a hundred miles from the shores.

They were feeding on great beds of floating seaweeds, and in several instances some Red Phalaropes were seen in their company.

Whilst in Labrador, I observed that the Hyperborean Phalarope occurred only in small parties of a few pairs, and that instead of keeping at sea or on the salt-water bays, they were always in the immediate vicinity of small fresh-water lakes or ponds, near which they bred. The nest was a hollow scooped out among the herbage, and covered with a few bits of dried grass and moss. The eggs are always four; they measure at an average an inch and three-sixteenths in length, seven-eighths in their greatest diameter, are rather pointed at the smaller end, and are more uniform in their size and markings than those of most water-birds. The ground colour is deep dull buff, and is irregularly marked with large and small blotches of dark reddish-brown, which are larger and more abundant on the crown. The birds shewed great anxiety for the safety of their eggs, limping before us, or running with extended wings, and emitting a feeble melancholy note, as if about to expire. When we approached them, they resumed all their natural alacrity, piped in their usual manner, flew off and alighted on the water. Captain EMERY and myself followed some nearly an hour, assisted by a pointer dog, in the hope of tiring them out; but they seemed to laugh at our efforts, and when Dash was quite close to them, they would suddenly fly off in another direction, and with great swiftness, always leading us farther from their nests. The young leave the nest shortly after they are hatched, and run after their parents over the moss, and along the edges of the small ponds; but I saw none on the water that were not fully fledged. Both young and old had departed by the beginning of August.

The Hyperborean Phalarope seems to undergo an almost continual moult, and is in full plumage only about six weeks each year. The young when fledged are nearly grey above, and all white beneath. Some of them breed before they have acquired what may be considered the perfect plumage; and the very old birds become greyish also at the approach of winter, the red of the throat and other parts becoming bright again in the beginning of May, or sometimes in April. The scapulars of the young are conspicuously shorter than the longest primaries, but after the first moult are equal in length. The upper wing-coverts are then also short.

I have never met with this species in any part of the interior, although I have procured the Red Phalarope and Wilson's Phalarope in many parts to the west of the Alleghany Mountains, at a distance of more than a thousand miles from the sea-coast.

HYPERBOREAN PHALAROPE, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 239.
HYPERBOREAN PHALAROPE, Phalaropus hyperboreus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii.p. 118; vol. V. p. 595.

Male, 6, 13 1/2; wing 5 3/4.

Rarely seen south of New York. Plentiful at some periods from Massachusetts to Maine. Abundant in the Bay of Fundy during spring and autumn. Breeds in Labrador and along all the Arctic coast. Migratory.

Adult Male in summer.

Bill long, very slender, flexible, nearly cylindrical, but towards the point tapering. Upper mandible with the dorsal line straight, excepting at the end, where it is a little curved, the ridge broad and depressed, the sides slightly sloping, the edges rounded, and inflected towards the narrow, slightly curved, acute tip. Nasal groove long, linear; nostrils basal, linear, pervious. Lower mandible with the angle very long and narrow, the sides convex, the tip narrowed.

Head small, with the fore part high and rounded. Eyes small. Neck rather long and slender. Body slender. Wings long. Feet of moderate length, slender; tibia bare a considerable way above the joint; tarsus much compressed, narrowed before, very thin behind, covered anteriorly with numerous scutella; toes slender; first extremely small, free, with a slight membrane beneath; second slightly shorter than fourth, third considerably longer; toes all scutellate above, margined on both sides with lobed and pectinated membranes, which are united at the base, so as to render the foot half webbed; the outer web much longer than the inner. Claws very small, compressed, arched, that of the middle toe with a recurved sharp edge.

Plumage soft and blended. Feathers of the back, and especially the scapulars, elongated. Wings long and pointed; primary quills tapering, but rounded, the first longest, the second scarcely shorter, the rest rapidly graduated; secondary quills rather short and narrow, the inner tapering and elongated so as nearly to equal the longest primaries when the wing is closed. Tail rather short, much rounded, of twelve feathers.

Bill black. Iris dark brown. Feet bluish-grey; claws black. The general colour of the upper parts is greyish-black, the head lighter and more tinged with grey, the scapulars and some of the feathers of the back edged with yellowish-red, of which colour also are the sides of the head and neck; throat and sides of the upper part of the neck white. Wing-coverts and quills brownish-black, tinged with grey, the shafts of the quills, the margins and tips of the secondaries, and a broad bar on the tips of the secondary coverts, white. Tail light grey, the feathers margined with white, the two middle ones dark brownish-grey, the lateral upper tail-coverts white, barred with dusky. The breast and abdomen white.

Length to end of tail 6 inches, to end of claws 6 1/4, to end of wing 5 3/4; extent of wings 13 1/2; wing from flexure 4 1/2; tail 2 1/4; bill along the back 11/12, along the edge of lower mandible 11/12; tarsus 10/12, middle toe 10/12, its claw 2/12.

Adult Female.

The female is similar to the male, but the red markings are not so deep in tint.

Young fully fledged.

The young bird has the markings similarly disposed, but the upper parts are in general of a dull dark grey, the red of the neck much fainter, and that of the scapulars much paler, and inclining to greyish-yellow.

The mouth is extremely narrow, its breadth being only 2 1/2 twelfths; the palate straight, with two longitudinal ridges, and three anterior series of papillae; the upper mandible concave, with a median prominent line, the lower more deeply concave; the posterior aperture of the nares linear. The tongue 10 1/2 twelfths long, emarginate and papillate at the base, immediately after contracted, extremely slender, as high as broad, grooved above, tapering to a point, and horny on the greater part of its extent. OEsophagus, Fig. 1 [a b c], 3 1/2 inches long, its width 2 twelfths; proventriculus, [b c], 4 twelfths in breadth. Liver very large, the right lobe 1 1/2 inches long, the left 10 twelfths. Stomach, [c d e], roundish, oblique, of moderate size, 8 twelfths long, 7 twelfths broad; the lateral muscles large and distinct, the lower prominent and thick; the epithelium of moderate thickness, dense, with numerous longitudinal rugae. Contents of stomach small crustacea. Intestine, [e f g h i j], of moderate length and width, the former 11 1/4 inches, the latter 3 twelfths, diminishing to 1 1/2 twelfths; coeca, [i i], 10 twelfths, 1/4 twelfth in width for 1 1/4 inches, afterwards 1 twelfth, their distance from the extremity 1 1/4 inches; cloaca, [j], ovate, 5 twelfths in width. Trachea 2 inches 7 twelfths long, much flattened, 1 1/2 twelfths in width; the rings 90, cartilaginous. Bronchi wide, of about 15 half rings. Lateral muscles rather strong; a single pair of inferior laryngeal. Female.

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