Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
ANSER HUTCHINSII, Richardson.
Although it was not my good fortune while in the State of Maine, or on the
coast of Labrador, to meet with this bird, I have no doubt that its periodical
appearance along our eastern coast will ere long be fully established. This is
the more to be expected as Dr. RICHARDSON informs us that it is abundant about
Hudson's Bay, where it was long mistaken for the Brent, or an emaciated Canada
Goose. In the mean time, having been presented with a specimen by my highly
esteemed and gallant friend Captain JAMES CLARK ROSS, I have embraced the
opportunity thus offered, of laying before you a representation, the first I
believe that has yet appeared, of HUTCHINS' Goose.
For fifteen months, rendered trebly long and wearisome by heavy and
difficult marches, under the most distressing feelings, that most amiable and
accomplished traveller carried with him many specimens of rare birds, with the
view of contributing to the advancement of our knowledge. Would, reader, that
you could sympathize with me in the feelings of pride and pleasure with which I
call him friend. May his name be as extensively known as his worth deserves!
Some weeks after my drawing was finished, and when I had arrived in
Edinburgh, I had the gratification of receiving a long and most interesting
letter from him, of which I present you with an extract. "I have very great
pleasure in having it now in my power to offer to your acceptance the specimen
of this interesting species from which your drawing was taken. It was the child
of my solicitude, and my constant companion during a long and tedious journey,
after the abandonment of our ship, until our being received on board the
Isabella, an interval of fifteen months; and this will account in a geat
measure for the miserable plight in which the specimen first came into your
hands. I will dispose of it according to your wishes, and am most happy to
place it in the bands of one who knows so well how to appreciate the interesting
associations connected with it.
"These birds arrived in flocks about the middle of June, in the
neighbourhood of Felix Harbour, and soon dispersed in pairs to their breeding
place. At Igloolik, the only place where we had before met with them, their
nests were found in the marshes near the sea; but on this occasion several pairs
constructed their nests on a ledge of rock near the foot of a high precipice;
immediately above them the Dovekies, Loons, several species of Gulls, and near
its summit, the Jer-Falcon and Raven, built their nests.
"From three to four eggs were found in each nest, of a pure white, and of
an oval form, measuring 3.1 inch by 2.1, and weighing from 1800 to 2000 grains.
"The female bird is smaller than the male. To the measurements given by
Dr. RICHARDSON, which are very accurate, we may add that its extent of wings is
fifty inches, and that it averages about four pounds and a half of weight. Its
flesh is of a most exquisite flavour."
ANSER HUTCHINSII, Hutchins' Bernacle Goose, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor.
Amer., vol. ii. p. 470.
HUTCHINS' GOOSE, Anser Hutchinsii, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 526.
Adult, 25, 50.
Breeds in the Arctic Regions. Columbia river. Abundant.
Bill shorter than the head, higher than broad at the base, somewhat
conical, depressed towards the end, rounded at the tip. Upper mandible with the
dorsal line sloping, the ridge slightly flattened at the base, convex in the
rest of its extent, the sides sloping, the edges soft, the oblique internal
lamellae about thirty; the unguis roundish, convex. Nasal groove oblong,
parallel to the ridge, filled by the soft membrane of the bill; nostrils medial,
lateral, longitudinal, narrow-elliptical, open, pervious. Lower mandible
straight, with the angle very long, narrow and rounded, the edges with about
forty oblique lamellae.
Head small, oblong, compressed. Neck long and very slender. Body full.
Feet short, stout, placed behind the centre of the body; legs bare a little
above the joint; tarsus short, a little compressed, covered all round with
angular scales, those behind smaller; hind toe very small, with a narrow
membrane, third the longest, fourth considerably shorter, but longer than
second; all reticulated above at the base, but with narrow transverse scutella
towards the end; the three anterior connected by reticulated webs, the outer
with a thick margin, the inner with the edge more dilated. Claws small, arched,
rather compressed, except that of the middle toe, which is bent obliquely
inwards and depressed, with a curved edge.
Plumage close, blended on the neck and lower parts of the body, compact on
the upper. The feathers of the head and neck very narrow, of the back very
broad and abrupt, of the breast and belly broadly rounded. Wings long;
primaries strong, curved, the second longest, but the first and third almost as
long, the rest rapidly graduated; secondaries long, rather narrow, rounded.
Tail short, slightly rounded, of sixteen rounded feathers.
Bill, feet, and claws black. Iris brown. Head and two upper thirds of the
neck glossy black. A large subtriangular patch of white on each side of the
head and neck. The general colour of the upper parts is brownish-grey, the
feathers margined with paler; of the lower parts pale greyish-brown, margined
with yellowish-grey; the abdomen and lower tail-coverts white; the hind part of
the back brownish-black. The primary quills and tail-feathers are deep brown.
Length to end of tail 25 inches, extent of wings 50; wing from flexure
16 3/4; tail 5 3/4; bill along the back 1 1/2, along the edge of lower mandible
1 1/2; tarsus 2 1/2; middle toe 2, its claw 4/12. Weight 4 1/2 lbs.
In the Fauna Boreali-Americana, the tail-feathers are stated to be
fourteen. In my specimen they are sixteen, and it is probable that the full
number is eighteen, as the two middle ones seem to be wanting.