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float on the waves :-their busy feeding-time is when the tide ebbs. Minute crustacea (often Idote@) form the bulk of their food. The contents of the stomach of one bird killed in Belfast Bay, were about fifty univalve mollusca, including Rissoa labiosa (fine specimens), R. ulva, Lacuna quadrifasciata, and small Littorinæ; they also partake of marine plants. In addition to earth-worms and insect larve found on dissection of birds killed inland, vegetable food, including husks of grain, frequently occurs :--a frog was found in one killed in November, near Wexford. A gentleman of my acquaintance induced a gullthat he believed to be of this species--to follow a steamer from Liverpool to the Isle of Man, merely by throwing towards it pieces of bread, which were invariably seized before they reached the water.
Many notes descriptive of size, plumage, &c., at different seasons, and at the various ages of the bird, are before me, but it will suffice to select two or three of the most striking :
October 23rd, 1833.—An adult Larus canus, killed to-day in Belfast estuary, had the plumage of the breast, belly, and under tail-coverts, faintly blushed with red, like the same portions of the L. ridibundus ; the tarsi were yellow, with the bluishgreen colour of the approaching season, indicated only as yet at the folds of the tarsal joints. Of two other adult birds, obtained on the 10th of September and the 18th of October of the preceding year, the former had the tarsi, toes, and webs of feet of a uniform bluish ash-colour, and the latter of a delicate bluish fleshcolour, faintly clouded with pale yellow about the tarsal joints ; its bill was wholly bluish-green.* December 24th, 1835.--Being struck with the appearance of the short bill of an adult L. canus, procured near Belfast, I measured it, and found this organ to be of similar dimensions with that of the L. brachycentrus, Rich, and Swains. February 13th, 1838.-On examination of two specimens of L. canus, shot to-day, the one adult, and the other immature (a bird of last summer), their entire length was the same, but the wings of the young bird, from the carpus to the end of the longest quill, were an inch longer than those of the old. The bill of the old bird was blackish-green, tipped with wax-yellow; in the young, leaden-blue at base ; blackish towards the point. The tarsi of the old were greyish-green; of the young, bluish flesh-colour.
Of the breeding-haunts of the common gull around the coast
* Adult birds shot at Horn Head, in the last week of June this same year, had the tarsi and toes brilliant yellow :--they are described as being at this season “greenish-grey” (Jardine), and “ dark greenish-ash” (Yarrell). VOL. III.
of Ireland, the marine cliffs of Rathlin and Horn Head, and a low grassy islet off Kerry, are all that I can positively name; other places will doubtless be added. Even at St. Kilda, however, we learn that in the breeding season it is not only less common than the kittiwake or herring-gull, but than either the lesser or greater black-backed species.* We are also told by Mr. Dunn, in reference to the island of Bressa, that “there are several cliffs in the neighbourhood where the herring-gull breeds, and also a few of the common gull, which are the scarcest of the tribe in Shetland, with the exception of the skua gull.” It is likewise said of the L. canus —“During the summer season, this bird is the scarcest of the gull tribe in these islands. I have found a few pairs incubating in company with the herringgull, and occasionally a solitary pair breeding in the cliffs without any associates ; they may be found occasionally on the small islands in the lakes.”+.
When at the island of Islay (Scotland) in January 1849, I visited what in the season is apparently one of their finest breeding-haunts on the British coast. On making inquiry respecting all the sea-birds that nidify in that quarter, I was told of a small gull annually resorting to Kinrevock, a low grassy islet a few miles distant, also frequented by terns for the same purpose ; that their nest is placed on the short pasture of the island, like that of the tern; the difference being that the gull makes a regular nest of grass, while the other deposits its eggs on the bare ground. Though the site of the nest and the description of the bird were applicable to L. canus, I was anxious to have some corroborative proof, and this was afforded by the gamekeeper pointing out to me some gulls on wing (flocks of which were feeding in the ploughed fields), as the species which bred there ;—these were all common gulls, as were also the specimens pointed out by him in the museum at Islay House as the kind which breeds on the island. He considers that about a hundred and fifty pair breed on Kinrevock and the closely adjoining islet; from the middle to the end of May 1848, great numbers of their eggs were found.
* Mr. John Macgillivray, 1842. t 'Ornith. Guide to Orkney and Shetland,' pp. 53 and 108.
I requested that a few eggs would be procured during the ensuing season in proof of the species, and they were obtained for me ;-genuine eggs of L. canus. But with them I received the grievous information that in two days eight hundred and fifty of their eggs and those of terns were collected by my friend and his assistants. By far the greater number were those of the gull, as it was early in the season; this bird laying three weeks sooner than the tern (S. hirundo).
The north of Europe—coast of Norway, &c.—is the great breeding-haunt of the common gull.
In the summer of 1826, I remarked immature gulls of this species in Holland ; very far up the Rhine; about the lakes of Switzerland, and what seemed to be they also, near the shores of Italy. When proceeding by steam-packet, on the 13th and 14th of April, 1841, along the coast from Leghorn to near the Bay of Naples, a number of gulls, which appeared to be L. canus, were seen about the vessel : all that I particularly observed were immature—no other Larus was within view during these two days. On the 16th; gulls, apparently L. canus, were seen in the Straits of Messina. When sailing in H.M.S. Beacon, from Malta to the Morea_21st to the 28th of April—similar gulls were in view as we approached within twenty-five miles of land, towards Navarino, and became numerous at the entrance of the bay; where they seemed to have breeding-places in the cliffs. A note dated Syra, May 7th, is to the effect that the only bird now common in the harbour here is a gull like L. canus in size and colour, but a dead specimen which I saw on the beach differed from this species in having on the lower mandible a red spot, like that of the herring-gull; all the rest of the bill was yellow; the upper plumage was of a darker blue than in L. canus ; the tarsi yellow as in the adult L. canus at this season. All I have seen here, during two or three days, were adult birds, of which small flocks were always in view;subsequently immature birds were met with. I do not find in Temminck's or Degland's
works any indication of a gull differing, as here described, from L. canus. On the 10th of June, at a small rocky islet with high cliffs, to the north-east of Port Naussa, island of Paros, I remarked the same species, and another like the L. argentatus : it was just such a locality as the two kinds would select for breeding quarters in the north of Ireland.
The Bishop of Norwich, in his ‘Familiar History of Birds' (vol. ii. p. 240), gives an interesting account of gulls, as observed by himself at the South Stack, off Holyhead. Mr. James Wilson, in his · Voyage round the coast of Scotland and the Isles' (vol. i. p. 336), mentions a ludicrous encounter between gulls (species not mentioned) and young goats in a small island in Loch Laxford, from which the goats were routed, in consequence it was supposed of their encroachments on the nests of the birds. In the ‘Recreations of Christopher North' (vol. ï. p. 181), we find gulls commented on in the author's own eloquent manner.
Larus argentatus, Brunn.
Breeding-haunts. UNDER L. canus a few observations were made respecting the frequency of the breeding-haunts of the herring-gull around our coast, compared with those of the so-called common gull. Proceeding from Belfast Bay, northward, we have seen (June 12th, 1834) several hundreds of herring-gulls about their nests at the range of precipitous rocks just outside its entrance, called the Gobbins, and all but one were in full plumage. Of late years herring-gulls have bred here in great numbers ;-in 1849, it was estimated that at least 1,000 pair bred. In the very early spring of that year, about a fourth of the number which breed here had collected about the rocks so early as the 22nd of March, when the place was visited by an ornithologist, but very severe weather ensued, and they were later in laying than had been previously known. I visited the rocks on the 2nd of May, and on sending a man down to their chief building-places, in three different parts of the cliffs, not an egg was found, but the nests, which are formed of grass, &c., were completed for their reception. The rocks were said never before to have been without eggs on May-day. Heddles, who has gone down the cliffs here in the season, to collect eggs, for above thirty years, states—that the usual number is three, rarely four; that there is one brood, and the period of incubation is a month. He thinks that they would continue laying in the same nest for a month if the eggs were all regularly taken away when quite fresh, but that if one be left they will incubate it. He is in the habit of taking the eggs for his own use, and that of his friends ;—as objects for sale, they are not collected here, unless specially ordered, nor is any one accustomed to go down the rocks but himself.* These gulls, with the exception of a few, leave the rocks every morning, and do not return before evening, until the complement of eggs has been laid and incubation commenced. They are said to breed occasionally before being perfectly mature, but the plumage, &c., of such birds described to me denotes their being three years old. They leave the rocks so soon as the young are able to fly, which is generally early in August. During the winter not one is seen here. At all times of spring and summer that I have known this locality visited, some of these gulls were about the newly ploughed ground; occasionally in little flocks of from six to ten in number, "following the plough," and in such cases generally exhibiting more caution than the black-headed gulls when so engaged, by alighting behind the ploughman. From these birds frequenting the newly-sown oatfields, it is imagined that their visits are in search of the grain, in proof of which it is urged that “shellings” of corn are seen