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characters denoting an old inale bird of its species. On the figures of the American wigeon in the works of Wilson (Jardine's edit.) and Yarrell being shown to the shooter, he felt confident that his bird was of the same species, the former representing its plumage the better of the two, and the latter its form, as the neck was thicker than that of the common wigeon. Although he thus noted the bird particularly, and, with another fowler who accompanied him to Strangford, held a kind of inquest on its species, it was unfortunately sold with his other wild-fowl, as, from his having seen singular varieties of birds in the hands of birdpreservers, he thought this might be a remarkable state of plumage of the common wigeon :-of a second species he had not at that time heard. He is certain of having killed birds of the same kind in Belfast Bay, but never any so far advanced towards adult male plumage. Placing entire reliance on the discrimination and accuracy of Bell, I have not hesitated to notice this bird as a visitant to our coast. To him also we are indebted for the only Tringa platyrhyncha obtained in Ireland; he at once perceived that the specimen was distinct from the dunlins killed at the same time, and preserved it accordingly.
The only notice of the American wigeon having been obtained in Great Britain to the date of publication of the second edition of Mr. Yarrell's work in 1815, is, that in the winter of 1837-38 two of these birds were seen by Mr. Bartlett at the same time in the London market, but where they were killed was not known. In works on the birds of Europe, published down to 1844, this species is not noticed as having occurred on any of the coasts of continental Europe. It is common to those of North America, where the rice fields of Carolina are favourite feedinggrounds.*
* The Summer or Wood Duck, Dendronessa sponsa, Linn. (sp.), has occasionally been killed in Ireland, but the victims had probably escaped from confinement. Dr. Harvey of Cork informed me of a couple (an adult male and female ?) having been shot by Wm. Crawford, Esq., on the Carrigaline river, within, and not far from the mouth of, Cork barbour, on the 10th of October, 1845. The two only were seen. On mentioning the subject at that time to Mr. R. Ball, he stated that some of these birds had been kept on ponds in and about Cork, and that six or eight individuals had flown away from the Zoological Garden, Phænix Park, Dublin. Two very fine adult males, which had been shot on the river Blackwater, near Youghal, about the month of December 1849, came under the notice of Dr. Harvey. There are many fine demesnes on the banks of this noble river. About Belfast too—where they were kept on ponds-one or two are said to have been killed.
THE EIDER DUCK.
Somateria mollissima, Linn. (sp.)
Anas » »
In 1834, I was informed by Mr. Glennon, bird-preserver, Dublin, that he had set up, for Sir Richard Levinge, Bart., a specimen which was shot at Wexford. In 1838, he mentioned that since the former period he had been sent two or three fresh birds, but where they were killed was unknown to him. Dr. C. Farran kindly wrote to me on the 23rd of May, 1840, that he had just received from Mr. John King, of Bremore, Balbriggan (county Dublin), a fine male eider alive. Its captor, attracted by the size and unusual plumage of the bird, when struggling to get up some rocks, launched a boat and secured it. On examination, it was found to have received a severe injury in one of the thighs. This individual was noticed by me in the 'Annals of Natural History' (vol. v. p. 365), as the first obtained in Ireland, of which I had certain and full information. In January 1842, the Rev. H. H. Dombrain announced, at a meeting of the Dublin Natural History Society, that he had just received two fresh specimens of the king eider, from the coast of Mayo, one of which he would present to the Society.* This bird was a female, and in that state of plumage in which the king and the common eider are scarcely
The summer duck is noticed as having been shot in England, in the ‘Zoologist' (vol. vii. pp. 2353, 2382, and 2421).
Wilson inforins us that this “most beautiful of all our ducks * * * is familiarly known in every quarter of the United States, from Florida to Lake Ontario,
* * and is equally well known in Mexico and the West India Islands. During the whole of our winters they are occasionally seen in the States, south of the Potowmac. * * * In the more northern districts, however, they are migratory.”-- Amer. Ornit.,' vol. iii. p. 120. Jardine's edit.
* Report Dublin Nat. Hist. Society, 1841-42, p. 1.
distinguishable; the form and size of the bill alone determining to which species an individual belongs. As I required positive information respecting the bird, the attention of Mr. Wm. Andrews, the present secretary of that society, was called to it. This gentleman kindly examined the specimen, and favoured me with drawings of the bill, which proved it to be the common eider. This and the individual noticed immediately before it, are the only birds obtained in Ireland that can positively be announced here as the Somateria mollissima.
The most southern breeding-haunt of this species, on the British coast, is the Farn Islands, off Northumberland, which are in latitude a little to the north of the extreme northern point of Ireland. Southward of this, in the British and European seas, the eider duck seems to be only of occasional occurrence. It breeds on various islands, &c., both on the eastern and western sides of Scotland, as well as on some of those off its northern coast.
The late Mr. G. Matthews, on return from his sporting tour in Norway, supplied me with the following note :--"Eider ducks were observed on all parts of the coast from Trondjeim to the Alten Fiord, and, I believe, are quite as numerous southwards. The ducks are very tame; the drakes very wild. We seldom shot any of these birds, as they are valuable, and preserved on account of their down. This is not of any use taken from the duck after death, but is obtained from the nests after the brood is hatched, the parent birds having plucked it from their breasts to line them with. At Neræ Sound, Bergsfiord, Tromsoe, and Volkvar, we saw great numbers, especially at the last place. They appeared at all seasons of the year.” The eider is one of the northern birds of America as well as of Europe.
THE KING EIDER.
Somateria spectabilis, Linn. (sp.)
Is extremely rare.
In the ‘Annals of Natural History' (vol. v. p. 6), I recorded the occurrence of a female bird which was shot at Kingstown harbour, near Dublin, about the 1st of October, 1837, and a few hours afterwards came into the possession of Mr. R. Ball: when first seen it was accompanied by two others. The specimen is preserved in the University Museum, Dublin. Mr. R. Chute has obtained two king eiders on the coast of Kerry (as determined by comparison of their bills with drawings of those of the eider and king eider), one in the winter of 1843, from Derrynane, and the other in that of 1845–46, from Tralee Bay : they were either females or immature males. On the 11th of March, 1850, a bird of this species, while swimming alone, was shot in Belfast Bay, and came under my examination on the 12th. Its weight was 3 lbs. 5 oz. The entire bill was dusky, having the colour and general appearance of india-rubber as it is sold at the stationers'. Tarsi and toes very pale olive or dull fawn-colour; the membranes dusky. Irides very dark brown. On dissection, it was found to be a female; the eggs only one-twelfth of an inch in diameter. The stomach was filled with the remains of crustacea and mollusca, viz., an Inachus of middle size, the largest Portunus arcuatus that I had seen (and perfect excepting the arms), a Nucula margaritacea, and a small buckie-whelk (Buccinum undatum).
The preceding notes relate to more king eiders than are on record as obtained in Great Britain, south of the Orkney Islands,* at least until 1845. Mr. Macgillivray mentions the species as not having occurred south of that group, while Sir Wm. Jardine and Mr. Yarrell merely notice the individual, said by Mr. Jenyus to have been killed in Sussex. According to Mr. St. John, it is rarely seen at the Kyle of Tongue.*
* It is only "a rare occasional visitant” to these islands.- Hist. Nat. Orcad.' (1848),
The king eider is still more of a northern species than the common eider, and breeds abundantly on the shores and islands of the arctic regions. It does not retire far southward during the winter, but frequents the Northern Atlantic in large flocks. These birds often afforded a valuable supply of fresh provision to the crews of the vessels employed on the arctic voyages.f According to Dr. Richardson, they “ have not been seen to the southward of the 59th parallel.” I
During a sporting tour to Norway, made in a yacht in the summer and autumn of 1849, by Captain May, late of the Inniskilling dragoons, and two other officers of that regiment, the common and the king eider were thus observed ;-—the common species frequently, from the middle of June to September, between Copenhagen and Bodo, and a little to the northward of the latter place. Some were shot on the islands of the Kattegat, between Copenhagen and Christiansand, at the first-named period. They became gradually scarcer towards the arctic circle, and far north, towards Hammerfest, none were seen. Here their place was supplied by the king eider, which appeared commonly in the fiords from July till September, from Bodo northwards, and increased thence in numbers towards the North Cape. Some of them were killed : they “carried away" a great deal of shot. A few were baked in pies when nothing better could be had, but were considered to have a very strong disagreeable flavour.
STELLER'S WESTERN DUCK, Somateria ? Stelleri, Pall. (sp.), Anas dispar, Sparm., has been included in the British catalogue from a single individual procured in Norfolk, in February 1830. Since the publication of the 2nd edition of Yarrell's work (1815), another of these birds is stated to have been obtained-in Yorkshire, in August 1845.||