Water Birds, Game Birds and Birds of Prey

By Chester A. Reed

Order 4


Order Steganopodes



Family Phaethontid


112. Phcethon americanus. 30 to 34 in.

Form tern-like, but with the central tail feathers much lengthened (about 18 in.) ; legs short and not very strong; all four toes connected by webs.

These beautiful creatures fly with the ease and grace of a tern, but with more rapid beating of the wings, They are strong and capable of protracted flight, often being found hundreds of miles from land. They feed upon small fish which they capture by diving upon from a height above the water, and upon snails, etc., That they get from the beaches and ledges. They are very buoyant, and sit high in the water with their tails elevated to keep them from getting wet.

Nest. A mass of weeds and seaweed placed upon rocky ledges. The single egg that they lay is creamy, so thickly sprinkled and dotted with purplish brown as to obscure the ground color. (2.10x1.45).

Range. Breeds north to the Bahamas and Bermudas.


Family Sulid


114. Sula cyanops. 28 in.

Bill, face and naked throat pouch, slaty-blue; eye yellow; feet reddish. Plumage white except the primaries, secondaries and other tail feathers, which are black. Young birds are streaked above with gray and brownish, and are dull white below. Boobies are birds of wide distribution in the Tropics, this species being rarely seen in southern Florida, but quite abundant on some of the West Indian islands. Owing to the numerous air cells beneath their skin, they are very buoyant and can ride the waves with ease during severe storms. They secure their prey, which is chiefly fish, by plunging after it.

Nest. Their one or two eggs are laid usually upon the bare ground on low islands, or sometimes in weed-lined hollows. The eggs are pure white, covered with a thick chalky deposit (2.50x1.70).

Range. Breeds north to the Bahamas and the Gulf of California; sometimes strays to Florida.


115. Sula leucogastra. 30 in.

This species, commonly called the Brown Booby, is brownish black with the exception of a white breast and underparts. Young birds are entirely brownish black; bill and feet greenish yellow; eye white. They are one of the most abundant breeding birds upon many of the Bahaman and West Indian Islands. They have great powers of flight and dart about with the speed of arrows, carrying their long bill and neck at full length before them. They are awkward walkers, and, owing to their buoyancy, it is difficult for them to swim under water, but they are unerring in securing their prey by plunging upon it from a height.

Nest. They breed in colonies of thousands, laying their two eggs upon the bare sand or rocks. The eggs are chalky white, more or less nest stained. (2.40x 1.60).

Range. Breeds in the Bahamas and West Indies; wanders north casually to the Carolinas.


117. Sula bassana. 35 in.

Primaries black; rest of plumage white; back of head tinged with straw color; bill and feet bluish black. Young grayish or brownish black, mottled above and streaked below. This species is the largest and most northerly distributed of the gannet family. Thousands upon thousands of them breed upon high rocky islets off the British coast. The only known nesting places used by them in this country are Bird Rock and Bonaventure Island in the Gulf of St. -Lawrence; in these places they nest by thousands, their rough piles of seaweed touching each other in long rows on the narrow ledges.

Notes. A harsh " gor-r-r-rok." (Chapman).

Range. North Atlantic, breeding, on the American side, only on islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Winters along the whole United States coast, floating in large flocks out at sea, and rarely coming on land.


Family Anhingd


118. Anhinga anhinga. 35 in.

Adult male with a glossy greenish-black head, neck and underparts, the neck being covered behind, in breeding season, with numerous filamentous, whitish plumes. Female and young with neck and breast fawn color in front. Eyes red, face greenish and gular pouch orange. Middle tail feathers curiously crimped. These peculiar birds spend their lives within the recesses of swamps, the more dismal and impenetrable, the better. They perch on limbs overhanging the water and dive after fish, frogs, lizards, etc., that pass beneath, from which they get one of their names, American Darter. They swim with the body submerged, with only their serpent-like head and neck visible; hence they are called Snakebirds.

Nest. Of sticks and leaves in bushes or trees over water, large colonies of them nesting in the same swamp. The 3 to 5 eggs are bluish, covered with a chalky deposit (2.25x1.35).

Range. Breeds north to the Carolinas and Ill. Winters in Gulf States.


Family Phalacrocoracid


119. Phalacrocorax carbo. 36 in.

Largest of our cormorants; tail with 14 feathers. Adults with glossy black head, neck and underparts; in breeding season with white plumes on the neck and a white patch on. the flanks. Young with throat and belly white, rest of underparts mixed brown with black. Cormorants feed chiefly upon fish which they pursue and catch under water. They were formerly extensively, and are now to a less extent, used by the Chinese to catch fish for them, a ring being placed around their neck to prevent their swallowing their prey.

Nest. Made of seaweed and sticks on narrow ledges of rocky islets or sea cliffs, this species being entirely maritime. The four eggs are greenish-white, covered with a chalky deposit. (2.50x1.40).

Range. Breeds from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland north to Labrador and Greenland; winters south to the middle states.


120. Plialacrocorax auritus. 30 in.

Tail with 12 feathers; distinguished from the last species in any plumage by the shape of the gular sac; on the common Cormorant the feathers on the throat extend forward to a point, making the hind end of the pouch heart-shaped, while in the present species it is convex. In breeding plumage, this species has a tuft of lack feathers on either side of the head. The throat pouch is orange yellow: eyes green. These cormorants are found to some extent along the Atlantic coast, in summer, from Maine northward, but they are chiefly birds of the interior, being particularly abundant in R Manitoba.

Nest. On ledges on the coast, and on the ground in the interior, or in trees. The nests are made of sticks and weeds, shallow, shabby platforms holding 3 or 4 eggs. The eggs are bluish-green and chalky.

Range. Breeds from Maine, on the coast, Minnesota northward; locally in North Carolina. Winters in the Gulf States. 120a., Fla. Cormorant, found in the South Atlantic and Gulf States, is smaller.


121. Phalacrocorax vigua mexicanus. 25 in.

Adults with feathers bordering on the gular sac, white. In breeding plumage, the sides of head and neck have tufts of filmy white feathers, eyes green, as they are in all cormorants. All cormorants are expert swimmers and fishermen. They never plunge for their prey, but pursue and catch it under water, the same as do the grebes. When perching, they sit erect with their neck bent in the form of a letter S. They fly with their necks outstretched, and with rather slow wing beats. They are very gregarious and nest in large colonies, this species always being found in swamps or heavy shrubbery, surrounding bodies of water.

Nest. Usually in trees overhanging the water, or upon the ground, in either case being made of stick; and weeds. The 3 to 5 eggs are bluish-green, covered with a chalky deposit (2.25x1.35).

Range. Breeds north to the extreme southern boundary of the United States ; wanders north casually to Ill. in summer.


Family Pelecanid


125. Pelecanus erythrorhynchus. 5 feet.

White with black primaries. Eve white: bill and feet yellow, the former in the breeding season being adorned with a thin upright knob about midway on the top of the upper mandible. The large pouch, with which pelicans are armed, is used as a dip net to secure their food, which consists of small fish. The White Pelican scoops up fish as he swims along the surface of the water; when he has his pouch partially filled, he tilts his head, contracts the pouch, thereby squeezing the water out of the sides of his mouth, and swallows his fish.

Nest. Of sticks and weeds on the ground on islands or shores of inland lakes. They breed in colonies, and lay their eggs in June. The two or three eggs are pure white (3.45x2.30).

Range. Breeds in the interior from Utah and Minn, northward. Winters on the Gulf coast and in Florida; rare on the Atlantic coast.


126. Pelecanus occidentalis. 4.5 feet.

Pouch greenish; eye white; back of neck in breeding season, rich velvety brown; at other seasons the whole head is white. These pelicans nest abundantly on some of the islands on the Gulf coast of the U. S., on Pelican Island on the east coast of Florida, and sometimes on the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. Like the White Pelican, this species lives chiefly upon small fish, but they procure them in a different manner. They are continually circling about at a low elevation above the water and, upon sighting a school of fish, will plunge headfirst into it, securing as many as possible.

Nest. Either on the ground or in low trees, in the latter case being more bulky than in the former; composed of sticks and weeds. The three to five eggs that they lay are pure white with the chalky covering common to eggs of birds belonging to this order.

Range. Breeds on the Gulf coast, and on the South Atlantic, north to South Carolina; later may casually stray to New England; winters on the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts.


Family Fregatid


128. Fregata aquila. 40 in.

Eye brown; bill long, comparatively slender, and flesh colored; gular sac orange; feet small and weak, with the four toes joined by webs. Frigate birds are strictly maritime; they nest in large colonies and usually travel in large companies. In expanse of wing compared to size of body they are unequalled by any other bird, and in power of flight they are only surpassed, possibly, by the albatrosses. They can walk only with difficulty and are very poor swimmers, owing to their small feet and long tail, but they are complete masters of the air and delight to soar at great heights. Their food of small fish is secured by plunging, or preying upon other sea birds.

Nest. A low, frail platform of sticks in the tops of bushes or low trees. They lay but a single white egg in March or April; size 2.80x1.90.

Breeds in the Bahamas, West Indies, Lower California and possibly on some of the Florida Keys.