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time during the present voyage, specimens of the arctic gull (Lestris Richardsonii) pursuing, as is their wont, the other kinds of gull—forcing them to disgorge their food. Observed a feature of this manæuvre which we had never before noticed. When they descend upon what may be called the victim gull, either actually striking it on the back, or with an angry menace seeming to do so, they frequently tumble themselves head over heels beyond and beneath it, so as to hang, as it were, for a few seconds in the air, back downwards, but with ready beak, intent to seize the savoury half-digested morsel, disgorged in terror by their timorous cousins.” Mr. Hewitson, in his work on the ` Eggs of British Birds,' gives an interesting account of this species in its breeding-haunts in the Orkney and Shetland Islands and on the coast of Norway.
At a meeting of the Dublin Nat. Hist. Soc. in January 1842, the Rev. H. H. Dombrain made the following communication :“I may mention a circumstance that occurred to my father [Sir James Dombrain] while grouse-shooting in the Isle of Rum, Scotland, in 1837. The dogs had come to a set at a pack of grouse, and while the sportsmen were walking up to them, they observed two birds hovering over their heads, which my father, from having observed eagles, &c., do the same in Donegal, took to be hawks. The grouse rose and a brace were shot; the birds made a stoop at the wounded grouse when falling, but failed. The dogs having left the game, my father was anxious to try whether he could shoot the "hawks' also, and, having loaded, directed the man to throw up one of the dead grouse into the air. The birds made a stoop at it, and he shot them both, when, to his surprise, they seemed to be sea-gulls ;-he brought them home to me, and they proved to be a male and female skua (Lestris Richardsonii);"—I have seen both these birds in Mr. Dombrain's possession. The measurements of the male (adult) are
. in. Length (total) .
. . . . . 21 0 , exclusive of long tail-feathers . . . . 17 6 , of bill above in a straight line . . . . . 2 „ of bill from rictus . . . . . . 1 11
iu. lin. Length of tarsus . .
„ of middle toe and nail in a straight line . .
, of wing from carpus . . . . . . 124 Bill, broad at base . . . . . . . . 0 6
This species was killed by Captain May in the summer and autumn of 1849 along the coast of Norway.
THE LONG-TAILED SKUA.
Buffon's Skua (Yarrell).
Lestris Buffonii, Boie, Yarrell.
In a communication made to the Zoological Society of London in 1834, it was remarked by me that “ specimens of the true Lestris parasiticus, Temm., have repeatedly occurred in the bays of Belfast and Dublin."* I was induced to mention this circumstance from so very little being known of the bird as a British species. Mr. Gould in 1832 exhibited a specimen from Orkney at a meeting of that society, as the first one that had been met with.† My note has been transferred by Mr. Yarrell to L. Richardsonii 1—“the true Lest. parasiticus, Temm.,” which I termed it, was intended to particularize the species now under consideration, as that was the name used by Mr. Gould when calling the attention of the society to it as distinct from L. Richardsonii, and also, the name applied to it in the 'Fauna Boreali-Americana,' where the two species were first distinguished. All Mr. Yarrell says of the L. parasiticus as British, is, that“An adult specimen, killed in this country, is preserved in the British Museum ; and the Zoological Society, in 1832, received the species from Orkney. * * * Young birds have been killed in the vicinity of the Tyne and on the coast of Durham, in the month of September; and Mr. John Hancock, of Newcastleupon Tyne, obtained a mature individual that was shot near Whitburn, in Durham, at the end of October 1837” (p. 495).
† Ibid. 1832, p. 189.
* Proceedings Zool. Soc. 1834, p. 31. | Brit. Birds,' vol. iii. p. 492.
To myself, this is the best-known species of Lestris, and it was the first to come under my observation both in Belfast and Dublin. A beautiful adult male—now preserved in the Belfast Museum-was shot near Holywood, Belfast Bay, on the 12th of September, 1822, in the presence of my friend, William Sinclaire, Esq.; and on the 21st of October that year an immature bird fell to my own gun on the shore there—at Holywood rabbitwarren. I was but a juvenile shooter, and it was my first victim killed on the wing, but certainly not after the most approved fashion. Having observed it coming towards me, my gun was pointed upwards, and I waited until the poor skua, flying very leisurely, came innocently almost right above my head, when, as it was about to cross my barrel, the trigger was pulled, and it came down “stone-dead.” The late Mr. John Montgomery, a keen observer of birds, and who formed a collection of native species, noted the adult specimen alluded to as the “ arctic gull, Lestris parasiticus.” Under that name, it appears by a note in his MS., that in August 1824 two of these birds were sent to him from Dundrum (Down); to which it is added, that they were both in the plumage of the black-toed gull of Bewick.* One of them lived for a month, by being fed on bread and milk : one certainly (now in the Belfast Museum), and probably the other also, was the true L. parasiticus. Dr. J.D. Marshall procured, on the 13th of September, 1831, an adult male bird of this species which was wounded off Holywood, Belfast Bay, in which locality also, but some miles nearer to the entrance of the harbour, Mr. Hyndman, when dredging in the autumn of 1841, saw an adult male on wing; its extremely long tail-feathers satisfying him of its species. In the 'Dublin Penny Journal' of March 9th, 1833 (p. 292), a bird of an unknown kind was described and figured. Being in Dublin that month I went to see the specimen, which was in the collection of Mr. Massey of the Pigeonhouse Fort, and found it to be an immature long-tailed skua. It was shot on the 9th of October, 1832, from the Pigeon-house wall, which runs far into the Bay of Dublin.
* Bewick’s “ Black-toed Gull” is L. Richardsonii, but its plumage (and that only is mentioned in the MS. ; no dimevsions being given) will serve for immature L. parasiticus almost as well.
Mr. J. V. Stewart informed me in June 1845, that while sea-shooting at Ards in the north-west of Donegal in November 1816 or 1817, four of these skuas, in company, flew over his head, and he killed one of them ;—he had not seen the species since. He considered skuas generally as very rare there, and though yachting much at one period, had observed only two or three more of the genus :--they were all larger than the bird now under consideration.
On the 20th of October, 1845, two of these long-tailed skuas were seen flying in a south-west direction above Belfast Bay. One was shot on the 1st of March, 1846, in a ploughed field near Tramore (county Waterford), in which it was picking up objects from the ground. It came in rapid flight direct from the sea to the field. This bird is in the collection of Mr. Warren, Dublin. Its
of wing . . . . . . .
of tarsus . . . . . . .
the second passes others. I 6
others . . . . . . . . . 0 1 This bird would have been adult at the following moult. VOL. III.
On the 17th of October, 1848 (weather stormy), a fine adult male bird was shot when flying over the point of the Kinnegar,
Belfast Bay, by Capt. Bradshaw, R.N. I made the following notes on it previous to its being skinned :
in. lin. Length (entire)* . .
, of wing from carpus to end quills. .
: : . 1 1
.. 0 4
0 5 The entire plumage is precisely that of the adult L. parasiticus described by Gould, viz., “ Top of the head and space between the bill and eyes of a deep blackishbrown, terminating at the occiput; the whole of the upper surface of a clear brownish-grey; quills and tail-feathers much darker; the throat, neck, and under surface of a pure white, with the exception of the cheeks and sides of the neck, which are tinged with a delicate straw-yellow; legs and feet black” (quoted from Jenyns's Manual). To this it may be added, that the straw-yellow occupies nearly two inches from the base of the bill on each side of the head; it likewise occupies about an inch of the back of the neck between the black of the occiput and the commencement of the grey of the back, thence to the breast for three inches, white appears -at the commencement of the belly or lower plumage it is very pale grey, but becomes gradually darker thence to end of tail. The tarsi differ in colour from Gould's description in being dull leaden grey instead of black; the entire toes and webs on both sides are uniform black; legs above tarsal joint blackish.† Eye very dark bluish-black; bill blackish; cere, bluish-black.
Comparing this bird with the L. parasiticus already noticed in the Belfast Museum --which has the two longest tail-feathers exceeding the others by six inches-I find, in all the characters of form, colour of bill, tarsi, and toes, precise similarity. But a difference consists in the recent bird having the beautiful straw-coloured feathers on sides of neck and the white breast of maturity. The stuffed one has merely the throat white, the entire breast being greyish-ash. Straw-yellow appears faintly indicated on the sides and back of the neck over dull grey feathers; next moult would have brought mature plumage with it. In all other respects the plumage of
* This bird has lost the two long tail-feathers; the two longest that remain exceed the others by half an inch ; so that the length, exclusive of the two longest tail-feathers, is 151 inches.
+ The light-coloured portion of the legs and feet in the adult male specimen, nearly thirty years preserved in the Belfast Museum, is pale greyish-yellow,