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Knobbed-billed Phaleris

Knobbed-billed Phaleris

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

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


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[Least Auklet.]

[Aethia pusilla.]


This bird, which at first sight bears a considerable resemblance to the Little Guillemot, Mergulus Alle, I have also represented from a specimen belonging to the Zoological Society of London. The following description, however, is taken from one in my own possession. The species is said to occur on the north-west coast.

KNOBBED-BILLED PHALERIS, Phaleris nodirostris, Bonap., Aud. Orn. Biog.,vol. v. P. 101.

Adult, 6, wing, 4.

North-west coast of America.


Bill shorter than the head, stout, quadrangular at the base; upper mandible with a roundish, compressed, decurvate knob on its ridge, between the nostrils, beyond which the outline is deflected and convex, the sides sloping, the edges sharp and overlapping, with a sinus behind the small rather obtuse tip; nostrils linear-oblong, operculate, basal, near the margin; lower mandible with the angle rather long, the dorsal ascending and slightly convex, the sides sloping outwards and flat, the edges directed outwards, thin, the tip acute, with a slight sinus behind.

Body full and compact; neck short and thick; head rather large, ovate. Feet short, stout, placed far behind; tibia bare for two-twelfths of an inch; tarsus very short, compressed, covered anteriorly with oblique scutella; hind toe wanting; anterior toes united by emarginate webs; the inner toe considerably shorter than the outer, which is nearly as long as the middle. Claws rather small, moderately arched, compressed, rather acute.

Plumage dense, blended, glossy above. Wings of moderate length, narrow, pointed; primaries tapering, the first longest, the rest rapidly graduated; secondaries rounded. Tail very short, rounded, of fourteen feathers.

Bill orange-red, with its base, including the knob, greyish-blue; feet dusky-grey, claws brownish-black. The general colour of the upper parts is brownish-black; the fore part and sides of the head streaked with linear, acuminate, elongated, white feathers; the tips of the secondaries also white. The cheeks and a small portion of the throat at the base of the bill are dusky; the lower parts white, mottled with dusky, the tips of the feathers being of that colour.

Length to end of tail 6 inches; bill along the ridge 5/12, excluding the outline of the knob, which is (1 1/2)/12 in height, and about the same length, along the edge of lower mandible 7/12; wing from flexure 4; tail 1 1/4; tarsus 9/12; inner toe 7/12, its claw 3/12; middle toe 10/12, its claw (3 1/2)/12; outer toe 10/12, its claw 2/12.

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