Subfamily ALCINAE

Subfamily ALCINAE.


Feathers on lores extend at least to posterior border of nasal opening. Nostril rather exposed, or overhung, or partially concealed by dense velvety feathers. Seven genera.

Bill greatly compressed and tranversely grooved.

One genus, Plautus. With inter-ramal feathers extending beyond anterior border of nasal opening. Tail of fourteen feathers. One species, viz.—

B. impennis. 30". The Great Auk or Garefowl, now extinct. Head, throat, back, and tail black. Breast and abdomen white. A large white oval patch in front of the eye. No nest, one egg (4 7/8 x 2 7/8), white, clouded brown. Formerly inhabiting coasts and islands of N. Atlantic, south of the Arctic Circle. Wing from 6" to 6 1/2", and incapable of flight.

"Mr. Stevens, the auctioneer of King Street, Covent Garden, sold on 12.3.88 a Great Auk's egg for £225. There are only sixty-seven recorded specimens of this egg. So plentiful was this bird some 250 years ago, that vessels fishing on the Newfoundland coast were victualled with Garefowls, and as the crews could secure them when found on land by the simple process of placing a plank from shore to the boat up which the birds could be driven, they were not slow to avail themselves of the supply. This wholesale slaughter naturally resulted in the extinction of a bird which had no power of flight. It survived in Europe but a few years after its extinction in America, and the last two specimens of which we have trustworthy evidence were killed in Iceland in 1844" {Illustrated London News, 17.3.88).

One genus, Alca. With inter-ramal feathers extending to anterior border of nasal opening. Tail of twelve feathers. One species, viz.—

A. tarda. 15" to 17 1/2". The Razorbill, Wings 7 1/8", fully developed, reaching nearly to end of tail. Flies well. Head and above black, below white. Bill black, with transverse white band across both mandibles. Coasts of N. Atlantic, ranging south in winter to New England in America, the Mediterranean, and occasionally to the Canary Islands. No nest, one egg (2.8 x 1.8), buff, marbled and spotted brown. Both male and female take part in duties of incubation, and when the young bird is ready for the sea, it is taken by one of the parents by the neck (like a cat would her kitten), and carried to the water.

Bill small and swollen, without ridges. One genus, Alle. With inter-ramal feathers extending far beyond nasal opening. Tail of twelve feathers. One species, viz.—

A. alle. 7 1/2" to 8 1/2". The Rotch or Sea-Dove or Little Auk. Wing 4 2/3", well developed.
Flight rapid. Above black, edged white. Wings and tail black. Below white. Noisy birds.
Almost exclusively oceanic, and seldom approach land except in the breeding season. Sleeps
on the water. No nest. One egg (2 x 1.33), greenish white. Arctic Ocean, ranging in winter
as far south as Azores and Canary Islands.

Bill elongate and moderately compressed. One genus, Uria. With inter-ramal feathers extending to or slightly beyond anterior border of nasal opening. Eight species, viz.—

With tail of twelve feathers. Wing-lining white.

U. troile. 17" to 18". The Guillemot. Wing 7 1/2" to 8". General colour above smoky brown, below white. An expert diver. A remarkably silent bird. Remiges twenty-six. Coasts and islands of N. Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, ranging south to Japan, California, New England, Portugal, and occasionally in Mediterranean and in Atlantic to about 30° N. lat. No nest. One egg (3.2 x 2.0), green or buff, plain or blotched with brown.

U. ringvia. The Bridled Guillemot. Similar to U. troile, but has feathers round eye and along the crease behind it white.

U. lomvia. 18" to 19". Brunnich's Guillemot. Similar to XT. troile. Colour of upper parts is grey-black. Remiges twenty-six. Arctic Ocean, visiting Norway in winter and more rarely the British Isles.

U. grylle. 11 1/2" to 13". The Black Guillemot. Black above and below. Greater and median wing-coverts white. Legs and feet vermilion. In winter, white below and flanks barred black. The change is performed by a direct moult. Remiges thirty. No nest. Two eggs (2.3 x 1.6), greenish, clouded and spotted brown. Dives as quickly as it flies. North Atlantic, and in winter as far south as north of France.

U. mandti. 12". Similar to U. grylle. Primary coverts white almost to base. Circumpolar, south to Labrador, Alaska, E. Siberia, and Kamschatka.

With tail of fourteen feathers. Wing-lining grey.

U. columla. 14 1/2". Similar to U. grylle. Plumage above slaty black with grey gloss. N. America. From California across Behring Sea, probably to E. Siberia.

U. snowi. Similar to U. columba, but wings entirely black or with three narrow white bands. Orbital region black. Kurile Islands, ranging south to Kamschatka and Japan.

U. carlo. 14 1/2". Like U. snowi, but orbital region white. Coasts of N. Asia.

Also the genus Brachyrhampus. With tail of fourteen feathers, and inter-ramal feathers extending slightly beyond nasal opening. Three species, viz.—

B. marmoratus. 9 1/2". Outer tail brownish black, upper parts barred chestnut. Pacific
coast of N. America.

B. perdix. 10". Outer tail brownish black, and upper parts barred buff. Coast of N. E. Asia. B. brevirostris. 9 1/2". With outer tail-feathers white. Coasts of N. Pacific and Behring Sea. Also the genus Micruria. With tail of twelve feathers. From the coast of Labrador. Two species, viz.—

M. hypoleuca. 8 1/2". Lining of wing pure white. M. cuvieri. 8 1/2". Lining of wing smoky grey.

Also the genus Synthliborhampus. With tail of fourteen feathers. Two species, viz.— S. antiquus. 10 1/2". With forehead without crest, and black on throat continued down foreneck. Coast of N. Pacific.

S. wumizusume. 10 1/2". With crest of narrow black feathers on forehead; grey on throat not continued down middle of foreneck. Coasts of Japan.

Game, Shore And Water Birds Of India
Le Messurier, Augustus. Game, Shore, and Water Birds of India Fourth Edition, 1904.
Title in Book: 
Subfamily ALCINAE
Book Author: 
A Le Messurier
Page No: 
4th ed.

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