BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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PETRELS, SHEARWATERS, ETC.: ORDER TUBINARES

PETRELS AND SHEARWATERS: FAMILY PRO CELLARIIDÆ

Two species of Shearwater and two species of Petrel occur regularly at some distance off the shores of New York and New England. Leach's Petrel breeds on islands off the coast of Maine; Wilson's Petrel and the two Shearwaters occur as summer visitants. They may often be observed in numbers from the decks of vessels crossing to the Maritime Provinces, but still more abundantly and at close range about the fishing schooners, where they collect to feed on the refuse thrown overboard.

WILSON'S PETREL. Oceanites oceanicus
7.00 in

Ad.— Sooty-blackish; base of the tail white; tail square.

Wilson's Petrel is a common summer visitant off the coast of New York and New England from June to September. As soon as a vessel gets a few miles from shore, petrels appear flying close over the water, in this direction and that, turning quickly, or stopping to hover a moment with outstretched feet to pick up some morsel. They often collect in the wake of a vessel, and follow it for hours; but though the white rump and their habit of walking on the water proclaim them petrels, they rarely come near enough to show the square tail which separates them from the following species. Wilson's Petrel is also darker and smaller than Leach's Petrel, but both look almost black against the water. If one accompanies some fishing vessel to the fishing-grounds, petrels and shearwaters may be attracted close to the boat by throwing over cod liver, and then the two petrels may be distinguished. The common species in summer anywhere off the coast is Wilson's Petrel; Leach's Petrel, though breeding at that season on the coast of Maine, is not commonly met with except as a migrant in spring and in autumn. Occasionally petrels come close in shore, particularly, according to Dr. Townsend, in foggy weather. (See the following species.)


LEACH'S PETREL. Oceanodroma leucorhoa
8.00 in.

Ad.— Entire bird sooty-brown (often apparently black); base of tail white; tail forked.

Nest, in burrows, on rocky islands. Egg, white.

Leach's Petrel is a summer resident of the North Atlantic coast, breeding on the extreme outer islands along the coast of Maine, and from there northward. It arrives in May, and leaves in September. On Seal, Little Duck, and Green Islands there are interesting colonies of these birds. Rev. Mr. Job (“Among the Water-Fowl," p. 125) describes a visit to one of these colonies. The burrows that he opened ran under the turf just below the roots of the grass, and ended in a sort of pocket in which a single bird was incubating the single egg. Sometimes both parents were found in the burrow if the egg was not yet laid. The presence of the birds on the island would not be suspected during the daytime, for one bird keeps close within the burrow and the other is presumably feeding far out at sea. At night, however, the air is filled with the twittering of birds, coming and going to and from the burrows.

Petrels are attracted to vessels that pass across the Bay of Maine, and also follow trans-Atlantic liners far out over the ocean; they may be observed from the stern of the boat, but it is very difficult to see the tail clearly enough to distinguish between the forked tail of this species and the square tail of Wilson's Petrel.

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In flight the feet are commonly extended back under the tail, and, as Dr. Townsend has pointed out, the short legs of Leach's Petrel do not project beyond the tail or even the apex of the fork. The absence or presence of feet projecting beyond the tail may therefore serve to distinguish the two species. Leach's Petrel is occasionally found on inland waters, apparently blown in by a storm. (See preceding species.)


SOOTY SHEARWATER. Puffinus fuliginosus
17.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts sooty; under parts lighter; bill blackish.

The Sooty Shearwater is a regular summer visitant to the North Atlantic, though much less common than the following species, which it resembles closely in flight and habits. It is readily distinguished by its uniformly dark appearance. " At a distance it looks as black as a crow" (Brewster).


GREATER SHEARWATER; HAGDON; HAGLET. Puffinus gravis
20.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts dark brown; under parts white; band across middle of tail white; bill blackish.

The Greater Shearwater is a summer visitor to the North Atlantic from May to September. Shearwaters may be regularly observed by any one crossing from New York or New England to the Maritime Provinces, or from transAtlantic liners. In fact, in mid-Atlantic, shearwaters and petrels are sometimes the only birds in sight for days. The former do not seem to be attracted to the ship as the latter are. They do not congregate about the stern or follow in the wake, but are seen to the right and left, ahead behind. With set wings they glide just above the waves, over the crest and down into the troughs, occasionally settling upon the water, then rising and continuing their flight. They also gather in great numbers about the offshore fishing-boats, waiting for the "gurry” that is thrown over after the fish are cleaned.

NOTE.— Cory's Shearwater (Puffinus borealis) occurs in summer with the preceding, which it resembles in size and habits and rather closely in coloration. It may be distinguished at close range by its yellow bill.


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