25 February 2010

Critical Habitat Designation for the Belted Piping Plover - A Historic Perspective

The following text is a written request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designate critical habitat for the Piping Plover, which was sent to the agency in the summer of 1988. Though this account was submitted at that time, under my name, I was not the original author. An employee of the Fish and Wildlife Service provided the information on one a 5 1/4" floppy disk of that time. A note on the disc, was dated July 8, 1988:

"If you're still interested, here's how a petition to designate CH should read. Please leave my name out of any discussion on this. Thank your for your interest." The note was signed, and with office and home phone numbers provided. The man which provided the document is still a federal employee, though now working for the Forest Service.

The document was retrieved, reviewed, and printed - basically in its entirety - and sent to the Washington D.C. office, via registered mail, with a number of R386449649.

There was no subsequent action. Then in 1993, a representative of the National Audubon Society asked whether documentation was available that would indicate the FWS had received the document.

My records indicated: "This is to acknowledge receipt of your petition of July 25, 1988. requesting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to designate critical habitat for the piping plover, Charadrius melodus. The designation of critical habitat is not a petitionable action under the Endangered Species Act. In accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553), the Service will take your petition and information provided into active consideration in deciding about piping plover critical habitat." The letter - signed by the acting director and with a date of Aug 31 1988 - continued, mentioning there would be no deadlines for a reply, but that information would be provided about the Services's decision.

There was also a letter submitted by the conservation committee and president of the Audubon Society of Omaha, with the same date, as included with the 15 page petition, and was sent to Frank Dunkle, director of the FWS.

Nothing occurred for several years, and questions were finally raised in 1993. There was a request from the National Audubon Society about any available proof that the FWS had received the material. They had, and a confirmatory letter was provided to the conservation group in June 1993.

This information is being presented to convey a perspective on the "early times" of efforts to conserve this species more than twenty years ago, when the times were much different...

In the 1984 proposed rule to list the Piping Plover (49 Federal Register 44712), a major factor for listing was "the present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range":

The damming and channelization of rivers in the Midwest has resulted in the elimination of nesting sandbar habitat along hundreds of miles of rivers in the Dakotas, IA and NE... Channelization and withdrawal of water for irrigation have altered water flows in the Platte River in Nebraska and elsewhere. This has lead to elimination of sandbar scouring by high water and ice and the formation of vegetation less suitable for nesting...

The December 11, 1985 final rule (50 Federal Register 50726) states: "The primary threats to the Piping Plover are habitat disturbance and destruction, and disturbance of nesting adults and chicks."

The Fish and Wildlife Service obviously recognizes that the destruction of habitat, in particular nesting habitat, is the primary cause of the alteration of the species' numbers and range. This recognition warrants the protection and restoration of existing and potential Piping Plover habitat (an example for Nebraska is the Missouri River Mitigation Plan).

The Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Recovery Plan emphasizes habitat protection. Habitat protection, conservation or even enhancement and creation should be options for providing habitat.

One positive step for habitat protection is designating critical habitat. However, the FWS in the 1984 proposed rule determined that such designation for the Piping Plover "would not be prudent because of the often ephemeral nature of the plover's nesting habitat."

We have considered the ephemeral habitat information as given in the classification rule, examined data regarding Piping Plover nesting habitat and examined some existing critical habitat designations made by the Departments of Commerce and Interior for other species. Two points are obvious:

1). Piping Plovers nest in dynamic ecosystems where habitats are changing. These ecosystems are not ephemeral and are stable when protected from degradation. Such habitats are easily defined in geographic terms and have been readily recognized. These sites are thoroughly reviewed in the Piping Plover Recovery Plan; and

2) Critical habitat has been designated for other wide-ranging species indicating that critical habitat designation for the Piping Plover is a biologically sound and realistic requirement.

Some of the information we reviewed is summarized here according to geographic regions where plovers occur. The FWS has seen many of these references during the listing process. Some material is based on important new research findings that are pertinent. The most recent information is included since in the December 11, 1985 final rule listing the Piping Plover, the FWS decided to review additional data prior to making a decision on critical habitat designation.


As given in the Piping Plover Recovery Plan, essential habitat in the northern Great Plains consists of certain, defined river segments in ND, SD and NE as well as groups of alkali wetlands in ND. Riverine sites comprise only a few segments of four rivers which have the flow regime and channel morphology necessary for breeding Piping Plovers. Most of the Missouri River, for example, is a stabilized channel, or ditch as it has been called locally, or reservoir where nesting habitat has been engineered away. However, three stretches - Garrison Dam at Hazelton ND; Fort Randall to Springfield SD; and Gavins Point Dam to Ponca State Park, NE) where Piping Plovers predictably occur, often on the same sandbar year after year. There are also stretches of the Platte, Niobrara and Loup Rivers, NE where Plovers regularly occur. Many of these sites have been named and yearly visited and described by field personnel.

Designating stretches of rivers for threatened and endangered species has been a common practice as indicated by the current designation of over 1,500 kilometers of rivers in the U.S. for threatened and endangered fishes. These fish do not occupy every meter of the rivers but occur, depending on the year, at various locations within the designated reaches. In a similar manner, reaches of rivers and groups of alkali wetlands can be designated as critical habitat for the Piping Plover.

The following references, including excerpts of letters received by your agency, provide the biological basis to support the designation of critical habitat in the northern Great Plains.

1). Letter from Dr. Mark Ryan (a member of the Recovery Plan team) University of Missouri- Columbia, to FWS dated 13 December 1984:

The proposed rule as published in the Federal Register suggests that it is not possible to designate areas that, if protected, would aid conservation of the Piping Plover. We are not in complete agreement with this view. Although Piping Plovers occur sporadically over much of the Missouri Coteau physiographic region and the Missouri River basin of ND, there are two specific regions where they occur predictably. These regions are the only major Glacial Outwash Plains in ND (refers to map attached to letter). Although numbers of breeding pairs fluctuate at specific lakes, we believe these areas are critical centers of distribution for breeding Piping Plovers in ND. Protection of alkali lakes in these glacial outwash plains would significantly effect conservation of the Piping Plover. (Specific lakes are listed in our attached 1984 report). Lakes in the northernmost outwash plain are currently threatened by development and adjacent land uses.

Dr. Ryan and his students are continuing their studies of the Piping Plover in ND. Data on banded plovers show that Piping Plovers return to groups of alkali wetlands in central North Dakota. One of Dr. Ryan's students. Eleanor Prindiville Gaines details the specific habitats utilized in this area of ND (Prindiville, E. 1986. Habitat selection and productivity of piping plovers in central North Dakota. MS thesis, University of Missouri- Columbia. 34 pp.) Her work was also presented in the Journal of Wildlife Management 52(2) in 1988.

2). Haig, S.M. 1987. The population and life history patterns of the piping plover. PhD. dissertation, Univ. of North Dakota, Grand Forks. 121 pp. Dr. Haig, leader of the Plover Recovery Team, conducted the most detailed study of Piping Plover behavior to date. The following excerpts from her dissertation cover nest-site tenacity of adults (philopatry) and ephemeral habitat. Her research was conducted at a site at Lake Manitoba, Canada.

The Piping Plover ... is a monogamous, biparental territorial shorebird which often breeds repeatedly in the same area (citing Wilcox 1959, Cairns 1982, Haig 1985, Wiens 1986, Haig and Oring 1987). Throughout their range, Piping Plovers nest in highly ephemeral beach habitat that is regularly washed out or altered (Haig et al. 1986). Based upon previous studies of monogamous shorebirds (Soikkeli 1967, Hale and Ashcroft 1982, Gratto et al. 1985, Lessells 1984 and others), one might predict that Piping Plovers exhibit a high evidence or perennial monogamy and site fidelity. The dynamic environment they inhabit, however, provides more occasions for birds to reassess mate and nesting territory retention both within and between years.
Once Piping Plovers, like other Charadriis, have bred at a site, they tend to return in subsequent years... Familiarity with an area has been shown to facilitate acquisition of food, territories, and mates; and to enhance territory defense and predator avoidance (Shields 1982, 1984; Moore and Ali 1985; Dobson and Jones 1986). While there are potential benefits to site fidelity, lack of other breeding site options may also influence return patterns. When local population densities are high, a bird may be more successful if it returns to a familiar area than if it moves elsewhere (Weatherhead and Boak 1986). In Manitoba, Piping Plover site fidelity may be intensified due to a lack of suitable, stable habitat.
In Manitoba and MN (Wiens 1986), Piping Plovers return regardless of their previous success at the site. This may indicate a lack of suitable alternatives, or reflect the species' adaptation to breed in ephemeral sites where annual nest destruction is common. Because philopatric birds in Manitoba had better reproductive success than the overall population for any given year, experience in an area may improve an individual's lifetime reproductive success, thus providing an additional explanation for return patterns.
Piping Plovers in Manitoba nest in highly ephemeral beach habitat and experience widespread destruction of nests and territories throughout the breeding season. A skew towards males in the population and an apparent limit in the number of suitable nesting territories may affect intensity of mate and site retention during and between years, although it does not change the monogamous nature of the Piping Plover mating system.
On an annual basis, Piping Plovers manifest high levels of breeding site fidelity. Regional constraints on nest site availability may contribute to high rates of annual return observed among male and female Piping Plovers. Both sexes return as would be predicted from Greenwood's (1980, 1983) hypothesis regarding dispersal patterns in territorial birds. Males returned more often than females, and both sexes returned regardless of previous reproductive success. Annual mate retention was low despite the availability of many former mates in subsequent years. The opportunity to improve mate and/or territory quality may outweigh benefits attained from mate retention. Furthermore, many birds paired with individuals present the year before; this gives them the benefit of pairing with a familiar individual, but could improve their choice or territory or mate.

Dr. Haig also presents data revealing a 67.7% return rate for nesting adults and 17.7% return rate for chicks. She states:

During the breeding season, most Piping Plovers return to former nest sites. The variability in return patterns among local sites, however, is equivalent to the range of differences reported among other migratory shorebird species. The distribution of local breeding sites, including the availability of adjacent breeding sites, may account for some of this variability among Piping Plovers.

Drs. Haig and Lewis Oring further discuss nest site fidelity in two forthcoming papers in the Auk: Distribution and Dispersal in the piping plover; and Mate, site and territory fidelity in Piping Plovers.

3). Letter from the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union to FWS dated 17 January 1985:

The Nebraska Ornithologists' Union (NOU) questions the validity of the critical habitat selection on p. 44714 of FR 49(218). Specific nest sites may be "ephemeral"; however general localities have extremely high fidelity by nesting Piping Plovers as evidenced by the annual occurrence and nesting efforts at several sites in Nebraska and as documented conclusively by Wilcox (1959. A 20 year banding study of the piping plover. Auk 76:129-152). Furthermore, in Section 424.14 e FR 49(191):38909; provisions are given whereby the Secretary of the Interior "... shall designate as critical habitat areas outside the geographical area presently occupied by a species..." Therefore, NOU feels the Service's views that it is not possible to designate an area which, if given protection, would be used by plovers in the future and that an area may or may not be used each year because of varying water levels has no relevance to critical habitat designation. These sites should be looked at as a dynamic habitat complex. Certainly if water is too high at a particular site, an adjacent area would have the potential for use. Some degree of active habitat management may be necessary in order to ensure its availability: ie. mechanical clearing of woody vegetation on former nesting islands. Also critical habitat has been designated for the Whooping Crane (Grus americana) within its migration corridor with no assurance that the birds will use these sites annually. That, in no uncertain terms, does not negate the value of such habitat or the necessity of such habitat for Whooping Cranes.

4). Letter from Dale L. Heneger, Commissioner, ND Game and Fish Department to FWS dated 16 January 1985:

We believe further that the FWS should designate Chain-of-Lakes and the Missouri River from Garrison Dam to Hazelton as "critical habitat." These two areas support over 50% of the known ND breeding population, and we doubt if any other major area remains unidentified. Critical habitat designation for these areas would ensure half of the species known habitat in ND would be protected.

5). Schwalbach et al. 1986. Status, distribution and production of interior least terns and piping plovers along the mainstem Missouri River in South Dakota; Schwalbach, M.J. 1988. Conservation of least terns and piping plovers along the Missouri River and its major western tributaries in South Dakota. MS thesis, South Dakota State University; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1986.

These reports discussed location of habitat important to federally listed bird species on the Missouri National Recreational River. They also define specific locations of sandbars that have been continually used by nesting Piping Plovers on the Missouri River between Gavins Point Dam and Ponca State Park.

6). NE Games and Parks Commission. 1981-1987. Platte River interior Least Tern and Piping Plover nesting surveys. Unpublished reports, Lincoln, NE.

These reports show that Piping Plovers consistently nest at certain riverine sandbars and stretches of the Platte, Niobrara and Missouri Rivers. They may nest at other sandbars not previously used depending on the condition of those bars. The results of these surveys is that certain stretches of these rivers are consistently used by plovers and can be designated as critical habitat.

7). The Platte River Whooping Crane Critical Habitat Maintenance Trust has been researching the Piping Plover on the central Platte for several years.

Their findings indicate that nesting habitats are finite, predictable and known. Banded Piping Plovers show a high rate of return to the central portion of the Platte River.


The following references and excerpts of letters document the feasibility of critical habitat designation in the Great Lakes region.

1). Wiens, T.P. 1986. Nest-site tenacity and mate retention in the piping plover (Charadrius melodus). MS thesis, University of Minnesota. 34 pp.

Wiens carried out his research at Pine and Curry Island in Lake of the Woods MN. He states in part:

Nest-site tenacity. Although the criteria for comparing nest-site tenacity are not well defined in the literature, it is reasonable to conclude that Piping Plover site tenacity was strong in this study. Eighty-four percent of all breeding birds nested within 200 meters of their nest of the previous years; the median distance between nests in consecutive years was 41 m.
The strong philopatry of adults (almost 70% returning in consecutive years) was typical of migrant species that defend breeding territories.

2). Letter from Michigan Natural Features Inventory to FWS dated 4 January 1985:

Recovery efforts are critical to the continuation of the Piping Plover in Michigan and throughout its range. To that end, it is important that federal protection be conferred as soon as possible. Although critical habitat will not be conferred at the time of listing, further investigation into the advantages and feasibility of critical habitat designation within the region where the species is proposed for endangered status is recommended. Arguments regarding the ephemeral nature of plover nesting habitat generally do not apply to the Great Lakes shoreline, where plovers nest on brad sand/gravel beaches.

3). Letter from Dr. William C. Scharf, Professor of Biology, Northwestern Michigan College to FWS dated 3 January 1985. Dr. Scharf, a Great Lakes authority on shorebirds, states in part:

However, I find the "Critical Habitat" section on page 44714, vol. 49, no. 218 of the Federal Register to be inaccurate. I believe it is possible to designate critical habitat to be used by the plover. My records indicate appropriate critical habitat for nesting and migration is the beach area one mile west on both sides of Gull Point, South Manitou Island, Leelanua County, Michigan and the beach area between Donner's Point and Dimmick's Point on North Manitou Island, Leelanua County, Michigan. Other critical habitat in this region would include the beach of Cathead Bay, Leelanua Township, Leelanua County, Michigan.

4). Letter from Robert Russell, author of a paper on the status of the Piping Plover in the Great Lakes, to FWS:

Critical Habitat: I strongly protest the sentence "The Service has determined that critical habitat for the Piping Plover would not be prudent because of the often ephemeral nature of the plover's nesting habitat." ... Great Lake beaches are known for their stability over long period of time. Long-term fluctuations may cause a rise or fall of lake levels of several feet but the several key remaining breeding areas on the Great Lakes for the plover and some of the major formerly occupied areas, are only affected in a minor way by these rises and falls. For instance, Wilderness State Park, Michigan, contains many dozens of acres of suitable habitat at both high and low lake water levels and the birds have bred continuously since the 1940's and probably many decades before that time. Similarly, Long Island in the Apostle Islands chain retains habitat whether lake levels rise or fall. Long Point, Ontario, while undergoing some major geological changes in the recent past, seems always to have had a large amount of suitable habitat available.
I maintained that several Great Lakes sites have been continuously occupied by plovers for the past several decades and that the historic sites should be considered critical habitat. From a historical perspective and from a biogeographical viewpoint in which critical habitats could act as seed reservoirs for eventual spread of the species, I believe the following sites should be considered critical habitat:
1). the entire island of Long Island, Wisconsin. The population, while small, apparently has inhabited this island for at least 35 years.
2). the beaches of Wilderness State Park, Michigan west of the campground west to the Waugoshance Point area.
3). Beaver Island, Michigan. Much of the beach area is already in state hands. Beaches on the west and southern shores appear to be utilized by plovers. For breeding sites, I refer you to Lambert and Ratcliff's 1981 study and their followup by the state of Michigan.
4). Beaches from Whitefish Point, Michigan west for at least five miles along the Lake Superior shoreline.


It is our understanding the FWS is currently pursuing critical habitat designation for the Piping Plover on the Atlantic Coast in apparent recognition of the feasibility and importance of such designation. Nevertheless, we present here various references that support the feasibility of critical habitat designation on the Atlantic Coast.

1). Letter from Bradford G. Blodget, state ornithologist, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to FWS dated 28 November 1984. Mr. Blodget states that Piping Plovers have bred at Monomoy NWR for over 20 years.

2). Letter from Dr. Scott M. Melvin, Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program to FWS dated 17 January 1985. Dr. Melvin lists seven sites consistently used by breeding Piping Plovers between 1970 and 1984.

3). Letter from Dr. Benjamin Dane, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, MA to FWS service dated 22 January 1985. Dr. Dane is carrying out a long-term study of the sociobiology of the Piping Plover and for the years 1982-1984 Piping Plovers consistently used a 14 kilometer stretch of barrier beach.

4). Letter from Julie Zickefoose, Director of Conneticut's Least Tern/Piping Plover recovery program, to FWS dated 3 December 1984. Ms Zickefoose states:

In the Critical Habitat section of your report, I was interested to read that "...it is not possible to designate areas which, if given protection, would be used by the plover in the future and whose protection would advance the plover's conservation." Of all the nesting migratory birds in CT, the Piping Plover must be among the most predictable in its choice of nest site. Of the nine plover nesting sites in CT, three (all mainland beaches) have been used more or less consistently over a period of decades. Piping Plovers were found by Aretas Saunders in 1932 on Long Beach, Stratford, and four pairs nest there to this day. Two other such areas are Griswold Point on old Lyme and Milford Point in Milford. In CT, then, I believe it is entirely possible to designate such area which would, if protected, advance the plover's conservation. I might also point out that if a given nesting area is consistently protected, plovers might be more likely to use it consistently. That is one goal of this recovery plan.

5). Seatuck Research Program. 1983. Nineteen eighty-three Long Island least tern and piping plover survey. Cornell Univ. Laboratory of Ornithology. The following excerpt indicates that Piping Plovers have consistently used a specific stretch of beach.

From the scattered records available it would appear that the Piping Plover has experienced a sharp drop in population on Long Island. Wilcox (1939) estimated that there were approximately 500 pairs on Long Island. From 1936-1958, Wilcox (1959) studied the Piping Plover population in the area between Moriches Inlet and Mecox Bay. In 1941 along a 17 mile stretch from Moriches Inlet to Shinnecock Bay he found 64 pairs. In 1958 there were 55 pairs found between Moriches Inlet and Mecox Bay. The 1983 survey found only 24 adults along this stretch of beach from Moriches Inlet to Macox Bay.

6). Letter from Russell A. Cookingham, Director of New Jersey's Fish, Game and Wildlife Division, to FWS dated 26 March 1985:

We believe there are several areas in NJ which, if designated as critical habitat and protected accordingly, would advance the plover's conservation. Non-designation and evaluation of proposed actions on a case by case basis may result in unacceptable continued loss of potential habitat. It may be difficult to protect areas not occupied at the time of evaluation, but historically used or with a potential for future use.

7). Letter from Ann M. Faulds, Shorebird Nesting Project, Delaware Audubon Society, to FWS dated 24 March 1985. Ms. Faulds identifies several sites in Delaware consistently used by Piping Plovers.

8). Letter from the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to FWS dated 15 January 1985. Nesting sites are consistently found on a series of barrier islands on the Virginia coast.

9). Letter from Dr. Erica Nol, Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of British Columbia to FWS dated 7 January 1985. Dr. Nol has researched Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes and on the Atlantic Coast. She states:

Contrary to what was maintained in the Federal Register, Piping Plovers (particularly males) are site tenacious from year to year and hence habitats could be set aside for their nesting. From what we know as well, females will return to previous nest sites if successfully raising young in that site.

10). Letters from a.) the Northern Atlantic Region of the National Park Service and b.) from Assateague Island National Seashore to FWS dated 7 January 1985:

a.) We do not find convincing the rationale for failing to designate any critical habitat. Alluvial deposits in and along stream channels, which comprise the species habitat, are decreasing through societal action (ie. gravel mining, damming, stream channelization, etc.). Alluvium naturally shifts slowly through time and space; however, this does not negate the need to designate critical habitat as there is no net loss of habitat in a truly natural, but dynamic, ecosystem. Since major habitat loss is the result of human manipulation, we feel it is imperative that the remaining habitat sites be identified and protected to preserve this species.
Similarly, it would be reasonably easy to identify those sections of Atlantic beaches that have (or did have in recent years) important aggregations of breeding plovers and then protect them by exclusion of those disturbances known to be unnatural.
b.) The Piping Plover ... is a common breeder and summer resident on the northern six miles of Assateague Island. Censuses conducted by the NPS since 1980 indicate a average of eight to ten pairs breeding there each summer.

11. Draft Atlantic Coast Piping Plover Recovery Plan and several FWS sponsored research projects on the Atlantic Coast lend further support to the feasibility of identifying specific locations used year after year by Piping Plovers.


The following references indicate that critical habitat designation is feasible on wintering areas which are recognized and defined.

1. Letter from Dr. Anthony F. Amos, Marine Science Institute, Univ. of Texas at Austin to FWS dated 22 January 1985. Over a seven year period of study, Piping Plovers occurred yearly at Mustang Island, TX, averaging 8.03 birds per km for September to 0.006 birds per km in June when birds would be on northern breeding areas.

2. Letter from Keith Miller, acting regional Director of the National Park Service's Southwest Region to FWS dated 7 December 1984. The Piping Plover occurred yearly on the South Beach of the Padre Island National Seashore during the three year period of observation, 1980-1982.

3. Letter from Dr. Guy A. Baldasarre, Dept. of Zoology, Auburn University to FWS dated 21 December 1984. The west end of Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama is a major wintering area for Piping Plovers. During the period of study 1972-1982, Piping Plovers were observed yearly at this location and consistently used certain feeding sites (see Johnson, C.M. 1987. Aspects of the wintering ecology of piping plovers in coastal Alabama. MS thesis, Auburn Univ.).


There are additional references supporting the fact that Piping Plovers nest at predictable locations. We believe that the best available biological data shows Piping Plovers nest in geographically definable areas which can be designated as critical habitat.

Furthermore, the Departments of Commerce and Interior have designated extensive critical habitats for other endangered and threatened species. Commerce designated critical habitat for the Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinsland) whose habitat, like the Piping Plover is located in a highly dynamic ecosystem (51 Federal Register 16047; April 30, 1986). The monk seal's habitat was described this way:

Many of the habitat components such as beach areas, vegetation, near shore shallow water areas and offshore banks and shoals cannot be simply delineated as specific stretches of beach or specific offshore areas. Therefore, it is necessary to designate entire areas without piecemeal delineations. For example, monk seals use all of the beaches on Green Island at Kure as hauling areas and certain other areas for pupping areas. Additionally, the various sand spits and islets grow, shrink, disappear, change shape and even change location. In some cases, new islets appear after storms or strong tide conditions. Therefore, reference to beaches or beach areas should be assured to include all sand spits and islets.

The critical habitat regulation (50 C.F.R. 226.11 91987) for the monk seal reads:

All beach areas, sand spits and islets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters and ocean waters out to a depth of 10 fathoms around the following, with a specific latitude and longitude that was given for each:
Kure Atoll
Midway Islands, except Sand Island and its harbor Pearl and Hemes Reef
Lisianske Island
Laysan Island
Gardner Pinnacles
French Frigate Shoals
Necker Island
Nihoa Island

Critical habitat was designated for the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow over a broad geographic area (50 C.F.R. 17.95, 1984). The sparrow does not occupy all the habitat but could over the years because the habitat is dynamic and different areas become available depending on environmental conditions.

For the Piping Plover, critical habitat designations could include habitats along certain river stretches, and aquatic and shoreline habitats along certain types of wetlands, deep water and marine areas. Critical habitat for the Piping Plover can be designated just as it was designated for these species.

The FWS's reasons for not designating critical habitat for the Piping Plover are given in the 1984 proposed listing rule:

The Service has determined that critical habitat for the Piping Plover would not be prudent because of the often ephemeral nature of the plover's nesting habitat. The plover's breeding and wintering habitats are spread over a large geographic area. Alluvial islands in rivers appear, disappear and reappear depending upon water conditions. Beaches and interior wetlands may or may not be used each year because of varying water levels or changes in beach characteristics. Accordingly, it is not possible to designate areas which, if given protection, would advance the plover's conservation. The effect of a given action upon the plover will have to be assessed in terms of its effect upon the species itself at the time of the action.

None of the above reasons is a valid argument against critical habitat designation. Many components of any species' habitat are ephemeral. Along the Platte River in Nebraska, for example, banks erode, sandbars form and disappear but the rivers character persists and in specific reaches the Piping Plover and other species find habitat. Along the Atlantic Coast storms and hurricanes shape and reshape beaches creating and destroying sand nesting habitat. But the beaches and the river stretches have been recognized and identified.

There are few species in North America for which we now as much about their ecology and habitat requirements as the Piping Plovers (see references cited in the Piping Plover Recovery Plans). Such information allows easy identification of critical habitat.

How could critical habitat designation for the Piping Plover assist the FWS and other federal agencies in their conservation duties? We believe designation would provide a real benefit in Section 7 consultations. Unlike most listed species which are endemic to a few small sized locations and potentially affected by few actions and agencies, the Piping Plover is widespread and subject to many formal consultations. A legal notice of critical habitat designation would prevent confusion over what is and is not Piping Plover habitat; what is and is not important to the species. It would prevent prolonged and unneeded discussions of whether a currently unused alkali wetland, beach or river stretch is habitat that should be protected from a proposed action. In the case of the Piping Plover, federal agencies really do not need critical habitat designation for a definitive notification.

Critical habitat designation for the Piping Plover would make it easier for the Service to handle cumulative impact problems arising from different actions over a period of years. In the case of an endemic species it is usually clear if an action will affect the species and critical habitat review is often not warranted. However, when the protection of wide-ranging species falls solely on the jeopardy clause of Section 7, it may often be difficult to arrive at a jeopardy opinion without critical habitat designation. A finding under destruction and adverse modification of critical habitat would better facilitate Piping Plover conservation than trying to determine if proposed actions in SD and NJ will jeopardize the entire species throughout its range. Critical habitat designation would prevent the gradual loss of small habitat areas which can, over time, cause a great loss in the overall extent of the Piping Plover's habitat.

It costs money and takes staff hours to designate critical habitat, to publish the proposed and final rules. These reasons cannot be used, based on legal regulations, as the basis for not designating critical habitat. Determinations of Effects and Economic Analyses and other required procedures, however, can be stream-lined to reduce expenses.

Given the support for critical habitat designation shown by state agencies, assistance could be available from many sources. Because critical habitat designations are already being made sparingly, the resources that are being saved in other species' listings, those without critical habitat designation, could be used for Piping Plover critical habitat designation.

It is useful to point out in comparison, that the North America Waterfowl Management Plan calls for millions of acres of protected wetlands at a price tag of over $1.5 billion and extensive federal/state cooperation. Critical habitat designation the Piping Plover would cost a trivial fraction of that sum. Habitat conservation efforts would probably benefit waterfowl.

We would also like to mention that in the December 1985 final listing rule for the Piping Plover (50 Federal Register 50731) the FWS stated:

The Service will review the determinability of these [Great Plains/Great Lakes/Atlantic Coast] and other critical habitat areas.... The prudence of such a determination will be reviewed within one year, as allowed under section 4(b)(6)(C) of the Act.

In the same rule the FWS states:

Under Section 4(b)(6)(C) of the Act, the Service extends for a period of one year the determination of critical habitat for the plover. ...A final rule must be published within one year, unless the determination is not prudent.

Over two years have passed and to our knowledge no such determination has been made, at least none publicly in the Federal Register. This lack of action was noted by Senator James McClure in a letter to you dated 23 April 1987. He said in part:

As I have reviewed the two recovery plans for the plover, I fail to see, in light of the virtual extirpation of the plover from many areas, how you can arrive at the determination that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent. The recovery plans clearly identify a number of areas where plovers return year after year... It appears to me that information contained in the [draft] recovery plan beginning on page 39 clearly indicates that areas of critical concern as well as the causes for those concerns have, indeed, been identified by the Service.

We do not agree with the FWS response to Senator McClure's letter that "... actions already underway and those identified in the recovery plans will result in recovery of the species without benefit of a critical habitat designation... ."

By our petition we ask that the FWS examine the biological data and its legal responsibilities to decide, in a timely manner, on the appropriate critical habitat designation for the Piping Plover.

Designating the Belted Piping Plover as a Threatened Species - A Historic Perspective

This information supporting the designation of the belted Piping Plover as a threatened species is presented to convey a perspective on this endeavor 25 years ago. The document was prepared as chairman of the conservation committee of the Audubon Society of Omaha. The document was dated 15 January 1985.

The Audubon Society of Omaha is pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided this opportunity to present additional comments on classification of the belted Piping Plover as a threatened species.

After reading the federal register, it was evident that important information needed to evaluate the status of the Plover was not considered in this public notice. Relevant documents include notes on the historic breeding distribution of birds in Nebraska, changes in breeding habitat and specifics on identification of the subspecies resident on the northern Great Plains.

First of all we would like to provide a perspective on the recorded breeding distribution of this species in Nebraska. Observations of Piping Plovers during the past 180 years show that nesting has occurred on the four major river systems, a saline lake in southeast Nebraska and in association with groundwater wetlands in the Sandhills.


The first known observation on the Missouri River was during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804-05. The Piping Plover was identified as being a species that frequent drift (or sandbars) on the river as far north as the mouth of the Little Sioux (Swenk 1935). Several additional records document breeding in 1866 in Dakota County (Moser 1942), while during the 1940's nesting was also recorded near Omaha at two cutoff lakes, Lake Manawa (Stiles 1940) and Carter Lake (Moser 1940, Moser and Haecker 1941). During the early sixties birds occurred at DeSoto NWR (CNRC R.G. Cortelyou, 1966). Recent Nebraska Game and Parks Commission surveys show nesting occurrence only along sandbars of the Missouri National Recreation River in northeast Nebraska, with only two additional breeding sites along the southern portion of the river in Iowa. One site is at the settling ponds of the power plant south of Council Bluffs (Wilson and Padelford 1983) and at similar ponds at a power plant near Sioux City (Iowa Conservation Commission, unpublished records, B. Wilson, pers. comm).

There are few documented records for nesting but those available do indicate the range that Piping Plover once had along the Missouri. The observations by Lewis and Clark indicate a species occurrence in suitable habitat present along the Missouri River adjacent to the present day boundary of Nebraska. The habitat available was first quantified by land surveys during the 1890's by Corps of Engineer personnel who prepared detailed maps of landscape features (Missouri River Commission 1892-95). The illustrations show the common occurrence and large extent of sandbars. Some of which were up to several miles in length. Cutoff lakes also were shown to have sand beaches. The large amount of sand substrate available for nesting prior to the 1940's would have provided excellent habitat for use by Piping Plover.


Decades ago, breeding activity was noted along the river in Cass (Heinemann 1944), Platte (Shoemaker 1941), Dawson (Wycoff 1960), and Lincoln (Audubon Field Notes 3:244, 1949). Counties that indicate this species was breeder along this portion of the river. More recent observations add Hall (CNRC L.A. Peterson, 1958; Lingle and Hay 1982) and Keith (CNRC S. Stephens and R. Brooks, 1967) Counties to the known area of distribution. Records that have been collected in association with Least Tern surveys during the past few years provide a perspective on the current known distribution. Nesting has been documented by personal field efforts, Game Commission surveys, as well as in association with activities at the Morman Island Crane Meadows. Plover distribution along the Platte River in the eighties occurs along the eastern two-thirds of the river with birds also breeding on the shoreline of Lake McConaughy (American Birds 32:1180; Rosche and Johnsgard 1984). More typical nesting sites used include mid-channel sandbars as well as sandpits adjacent to the river.


On the Loup River system, the first record for nesting was on the South Loup near Dannebrog, Howard County at the turn of the century (Anderson 1900). There were no additional records until recently when nesting was found on river sandbars along the river and dredged sand piles at the mouth of the Loup irrigation canal in Nance County (Molhoff 1983). Nesting was probably continuous during the period between these dates.


Nesting birds common along the Niobrara east of Springfield in 1902 (Ducey 1983) as well as observations made in the past few years confirm nesting of the plover during the historic period as well as currently. The Niobrara has suitable habitat only along the approximately lower 100 miles with the sandbars that are present today providing important undisturbed breeding sites. Nesting birds are recorded each year by Game Commission personnel. This river has been relatively unchanged as a haven for breeding waterbirds like the Plover.

The Piping Plover has also been found to occur away from rivers. At the turn of the century nesting was noted at Trout Lake in the sandhills of Cherry County (Moser 1942). Around 1920 nesting was once again recorded in this region with a set of eggs being collected in Garden County (Maryott 1922). During the 1920's nesting activity was observed at Capital Beach near Lincoln (Pickwell 1925). The nests were placed on sand left by dredging operations. There has been no recent efforts made to determine if Piping Plover still occur in association with the alkali flats or sand beaches of lakes in the Sandhills. The Capital Beach area is now predominantly a residential development.


Recent field research investigating the occurrence of Least Terns has meant additional information to assess the distribution range and data on populations of the Plover. The more numerous records of nesting for the past few years are a direct result of increased field activity with nesting being confirmed for counties within the breeding range. As for populations, the Game and Parks has information collected in 1983 that showed a population of over 130 pair on the 50 miles of the Missouri National Recreation River. At two sites upriver from Lewis and Clark Lake an additional 4 pair were noted. On the lower Platte River, numbers exceeded 25 pair in 1981 but fewer were recorded in 1982. Additional numbers from scattered Tern colony locations provide further basis for population estimates. The total population for Nebraska, when using a combined count, exceeds the range of 100-300 given in the federal notice. A comprehensive census would show a small total population of birds that can be easily threatened.


The nesting records available for the Piping Plover in Nebraska provide a historic perspective on the extent of breeding habitat that can be compared to the current known occurrence. Within the overall distribution range of the Plover, the sites suitable for breeding, both past and present, were even further limited by strict requirements needed for nesting. Only when a suitable combination of open sand, water, and no more than scattered vegetation conditions occur, do birds dig their scrapes and rear young successfully. If the proper habitat for breeding is lost, for example due to a complete loss of sandbars or as a result of vegetative encroachment, birds would be forced to move to a different site.

Without suitable habitat, breeding birds would no longer occur in areas where they were once present. It has been changes in habitat that have had the most severe effect on the distribution of Piping Plover in Nebraska.

This impact has been most pronounced on the Missouri River. As a result of the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Act construction during the last half century, over 25,000 acres of sandbar and sandbeach habitat are known to have been destroyed. This includes 20,000 acres or 99% of what was once noted between Nebraska City and Sioux City (Hallberg et al. 1979). Oxbow lakes no longer have suitable habitat either. Many of these old channels have dried up or been cultivated. Lake Manawa and Carter Lake are two examples of what has happened to habitat around Omaha. Open areas are now covered with vegetation, housing, or other urban development. From the mouth of the Little Sioux River to Gavins Point Dam, 7,804 acres of sand were changed to other land use between 1956 and 1975 (Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council 1978). This includes a decrease in the amount of overall sand habitat along the Missouri National Recreation River. Additional unrecorded acreage was lost for the portion of the river south of Nebraska City to the southern boundary of the state.

Sandbars along the entire eastern boundary of Nebraska have been virtually eliminated with the exception of those along the Missouri National Recreation River. What remained along the fifty mile stretch in 1980 was only 2,198 acres of terrestrial sandbar (Schmulbach et al. 1981) of which even a smaller amount would be appropriate for nesting. So from an approximate figure of at least 30,000 acres in the past less than 10% remains somewhat similar despite less than 100 years of landuse and development.

On the Platte, changes in channel characteristics have meant a loss of open sandbar habitat. The decrease in overall width of the river and vegetative encroachment on sandbars are problems caused by narrowing of the active channel and changes in the flow regime of the river.

There have been no recognized impacts on breeding habitat along the Niobrara and Loup River systems that have had a negative effect on breeding habitat. The Niobrara especially has excellent quality, relatively undisturbed sandbars supporting a good number of birds.


Habitat loss is the most severe long term influence on breeding bird populations. In order to conserve a species, breeding habitat must be maintained. Identification of sites that are recognized as having the habitat needed by Plovers can help maintain conditions suitable for breeding. We would suggest that the Fish and Wildlife Service designate as critical habitat, specific known nesting areas with a history of use by Piping Plover. Two examples are federal wildlife refuges and river stretches with sandbar habitat.

Planning considerations available through Endangered Species Act classification would insure that federal projects which may influence Plover would be evaluated prior to any activity. Several past projects have had profound negative impacts with planning underway on additional projects that could influence Plover habitat. These include the proposal for the increase in the pool level of Lewis and Clark Lake, the O'Neill Unit irrigation project on the Niobrara, and numerous plans for water diversion and dam structures on the Platte.


Despite the overall trend for declines in the extent of habitat available to this species, several current management efforts help protect and maintain habitat. At DeSoto NWR, there is plant control underway to maintain a large open sand area that was cleared of vegetation attract nesting Least Terns can be used by Piping Plover. The settling pond nesting area at the Iowa Power and Light power plant south of Council Bluffs has a protective easement. On the Platte, sandbar clearing efforts by the Platte River Whooping Crane Habitat Maintenance Trust have provided habitat for nesting Terns as well as Plover.

On the Missouri River, the Corps of Engineers is considering how general plans for reservoir operation can be established to modify flow releases from Gavins Point Dam and reduce the potential for inundation of downriver breeding activity. The prevention of flooding of nesting sites would be extremely beneficial for this portion of the river. Along the fifty miles below the dam, the cooccurrence of Piping Plover and Least Tern is unique in the Great Plains. There is no other site in this region with such a high combined density of both species.


The Piping Plover in Nebraska should be considered a unique part of our wildlife heritage with a special history of its own. The status of this species through the years confirms a decline in breeding range, with other known or potential negative influences A indicate the need for active conservation and management. Not only is there the inherent need to retain a viable population of Plover in Nebraska, but it is important to realize the natural resource value and aesthetic appreciation provided by Piping Plover and other native wildlife running along the sandbars and beaches of Nebraska and elsewhere. But also, here in our state there are two additional scientific facts about Piping Plover that need special recognition.

One is that specimens of the Piping Plover collected in the mid 1850's at the confluence of the Platte and Loup Rivers provided the skins used to describe the belted subspecies found on the Great Plains. The government sponsored Warren expedition collected a few birds with a distinctive black pectoral band completely across the upper chest that did not occur on birds of the east coast or Great Lakes region. The interior race was designated the Belted Piping Plover with ecological differences in the birds breeding environment contributing to the plumage differences. Almost 100 years later, at Carter Lake, just north of town, an Omaha birder made further observations that detailed the variation in markings between the three recognized subspecies of the Piping Plover (Moser 1942). The reference detailing these characteristics was not even mentioned in the federal notice.

Just recently, in 1983, field work on nesting activity along the Missouri National Recreation River, there were two records of eggs of the Least Tern being found in nests of the Piping Plover. Such an occurrence has never been previously recorded in the ornithological literature.


To conclude, the Audubon Society of Omaha strongly supports classification of the Piping Plover as a threatened species. The information available shows there has been a marked decline in suitable habitat that has had a direct effect on breeding distribution and success. Proper recognition of this part of our natural heritage, suitable management and active conservation measures are needed. Federal classification would implement action to help achieve these goals.

Literature cited and pertinent references

Anderson, G.P. 1900. The belted piping plover. Oologist 17: 156.

Bennett, E. 1983. Nineteen eighty-two Nebraska nesting survey. Nebraska Bird Review 51: 26-32.

Bennett, E.V. 1984. Nineteen eighty-three Nebraska nesting survey. Nebraska Bird Review 52: 47-50.

Ducey, J. 1981. Breeding of the least tern and piping plover on the lower Platte River, Nebraska. Nebraska Bird Review 49: 45-51.

Ducey, J. 1982. The 1982 least tern and piping plover breeding season on the lower Platte River, Nebraska. Nebraska Bird Review 50: 68-72.

Ducey, J. 1983. Notes on the birds of the lower Niobrara River in 1902 as recorded by Myron H. Swenk. Nebraska Bird Review 51: 37-44.

Hallberg, G.R., J.M. Harbaugh, and P.M. Witinok. 1979. Changes in the channel area of the Missouri River in Iowa. Iowa Geological Survey, Special Report Series Number 1. 32 pp.

Heinemann, L. 1944. Nesting of the piping plover and least tern in Cass County, Nebraska. Nebraska Bird Review 12: 9-10.

Lingle, G. and M. Hay. 1982. A checklist of the birds of Morman Island Crane Meadows. Nebraska Bird Review 50: 27-36.

Maryott, M. 1922. Unpublished collection records.

Missouri River Commission. 1892-95. Maps of the Missouri River from its mouth to Three Forks, Montana. Missouri River Commission. Index and 83 pp.

Molhoff, W. 1983. Piping plover and least terns. Nebraska Bird Review 51: 94.

Moser, R.A. 1940. The piping plover and least tern nesting in Omaha. Nebraska Bird Review 8: 92-94.

Moser, R.A. 1942. Should the belted piping plover be recognized as a valid race? Nebraska Bird Review 10: 31-37.

Moser, R.A. and F.W. Haecker. 1941. The belted piping plover returns to its nesting site in Omaha. Nebraska Bird Review 9: 14-15.

Pickwell, G. 1925. Some nesting habits of the belted piping plover. Auk 42: 326-332.

Rosche, R.C. and P.A. Johnsgard. 1984. Birds of the Lake McConaughy and the North Platte River valley, Oshkosh to Keystone. Nebraska Bird Review 52: 26-35.

Schmulbach, J.C., J.J. Schuckman, and E.A. Nelson. 1981. Aquatic habitat inventory of the Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam to Ponca State Park, NE. Corps of Engineers Job Completion Report Contract #DACW45-80-C-0155. 15 pp.

Shoemaker, F.H. 1941. Unpublished field records.

Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council. 1978. Missouri River woodlands and wetlands study. 105 pp.

Stiles, B.F. 1940. Nesting of the piping plover in Iowa. Iowa Bird Life 10:48-49.

Swenk, M.H. 1935. A history of Nebraska ornithology. III. Period of the explorations of the early century (1804-1854). Nebraska Bird Review 3: 115-120.

Wilson, B.L. and L. and B. Padelford. 1983. Piping plovers nests in Pottawattamie County. Iowa Bird Life 53: 69-70.

Wycoff, R.S. 1960. The least tern. Nebraska Bird Review 38:39-42.

CNRC stand for Cornell Nest Record Card.
@ - circa, which indicates a general time period when a specific date is not presented.

23 February 2010

Historic Breeding Distribution of Least Tern in Nebraska

Originally issued: 1985. The Historic Breeding Distribution of the Least Tern in Nebraska. Nebraska Bird Review 53(1): 26-36.

There has been quite a lot of attention given in recent years to the status of the Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) in the United States. Most of the information published to date, however, has dealt with changes of the beach habitat and breeding occurrence of coastal populations, but the interior subspecies (S. a. athalassos) that nests on and along the rivers of the Great Plains has been affected by different circumstances. In Nebraska there are records available that document the breeding season occurrence of the Least Tern for over 125 years and show how changes in habitat have led to a decline in their range.

Although early observations were on an occasional basis and scattered throughout the state they nonetheless indicate sites where Terns were known to occur and help to determine their historic range. The period covered is from 1804 to 1975, when the first aerial count of Terns was made (Downing 1975, Downing 1980).

The breeding occurrence of the Least Tern is dependent on the availability of the open sand substrate on which they dig out scrapes for their eggs. Colonies in Nebraska have been recorded on river sandbars and sand beaches, with any vegetation present usually covering less than 5 to 10% of the area. Colony size varies, with nests spread about the suitable habitat. The Belted Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) is often associated with the Terns.

The first historical observation of the Interior Least Tern in Nebraska was made in 1804 by the Lewis and Clark expedition. This party was traveling up the Missouri River to explore the Louisiana Territory that had just recently been purchased by the government. Another government sponsored expedition was undertaken by G.K. Warren in the middle 1850's to find a travel route to the Black Hills. During the reconnaissance and exploration in the Nebraska and Dakota Territories, three Least Tern specimens were collected, with a notation in the expedition narrative of their occurring on western rivers (Warren 1875). These were the first two known records of this bird in the present-day Nebraska. A river by river analysis of sightings made by university professors, resident birders, and others follows.

Missouri River

The historic Missouri River had a dynamic ever-changing character. The natural channel had islands, sandbars, wetlands, open water of various depths, and forested lands. High flood flows would cover the floodplain or cut a new path and leave oxbow lakes behind. The river water with its heavy sediment load would deposit sand and alluvium at one spot but wash it away from another site. This constant hydrologic cycle of erosion and deposition would continually create and destroy sandbars, which were an obvious feature of the channel and were used by breeding Terns and other wildlife.

The steamboats traveling up the Missouri ran aground on a regular basis while making their way up the river. Sandbars, shallow water, and snags were a navigation hazard that had to be continually dealt with. The Lewis and Clark journals had numerous entries that referred to sandbars. The boat would pass a sandbar, the party would camp on a sandbar, or an elk would be shot on a sandbar are just a few examples (Thwaites 1969).

An expedition along the Missouri in 1833 and 1834 also gives some indications of the common occurrence of sandbars. Prince Maximilian of Wied traveled along the present boundary of Nebraska in the first half of May, 1833, which was probably too early to see Terns, but made numerous references to sandbars. Notes in the journal include mentions of sandbanks far and wide, the boat running into a large sandbank, that sandbanks soon emerged, and numerous sandpipers on the sandbanks (Orr and Porter 1983).

Vegetative encroachment on the open sand was noted on several occasions when willow sandbanks were seen, when the sand or, the bank was covered with young cottonwoods or willows a foot high, and when sandbanks with low-lying willows were seen. Plants would grow on the sandbars but the spring rise or scouring flood flows would remove the vegetation or entirely destroy a sandbar but create one at another site. The open sandbar habitat needed by Terns was an obvious feature during both expeditions, but changes took place that were to further increase the amount of sandbars.

The Missouri River in the early 1800's had different characteristics above and below the confluence of the Platte River. North of the Platte the channel was more meandering, while to the south the channel was semi-braided, with several subchannels. Sometime after this period, during a later part of the century, there was a transformation in the channel above the Platte. The river became more semi-braided, with the change attributed to a long period of frequently occurring high flood flows (Hallberg et al. 1979).

By the late 1800's the river had similar characteristics along both stretches, due to the natural evolution of the channel. There were, however, some differences on the lower part of the Missouri River as it changed its form to compensate for the influx of water and sediment from the Platte. In 1879 there was about 136 acres of sandbar and island habitat per river mile above the confluence of the Platte, while to the south of this point there was a broader channel, with about 264 acres of sandbar and island per mile. By 1923 the channel was similar both above and below the Platte (Hallberg et al. 1979).

Detailed maps prepared in the 1890's provide additional documentation of the extensive distribution of sandbars in the Missouri River along the entire eastern boundary of Nebraska (Missouri River Commission 1892-95). Drawings made in the last three months of the year show a multitude of sandbars of various sizes, both in the channel and completely surrounded by water, and connected to the bank on the inside of river bends. Their size varied from very small to very large, with one sand area near Fort Calhoun over 5 miles long and in some places .5 mile wide. Another was 2 miles long and .5 mile wide. These sandbars were often cut through by small water subchannels. An example of sandbar habitat in the southeast part of the state is shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Channel characteristics of the Missouri River near Rulo, Nebraska, around 1890 (modified from Missouri River Commission 1892-95).

Breeding activity of Least Terns on the Missouri River was noted during the period of record for more than 170 years. The many records of breeding Terns along the Missouri River illustrate the availability of suitable habitat along this river.

Breeding occurrence records begin with the notes in the zoology portion of the journals of Lewis and Clark. They refer to the Least Tern as a frequently observed aquatic bird that finally was collected on 5 August 1804 in the vicinity of the current Washington County. Several downy young were captured and the Terns were more plentiful in this area than on the river below the Platte (Thwaites 1969).

Sixty-two years later, in 1866, young Least Terns were recorded in the Dixon County area (Bruner et al. 1904) and were still present and a summer breeding resident in the same general area in southeast Dakota Territory during the 1880's (Agersborg 1885). Records from around the turn of the century added the Omaha and Peru areas as breeding locations (Bruner 1896).

Observations in the Clay County area of South Dakota, especially during 1910-13, recorded nesting of the Tern on the Missouri near the mouth of the Vermilion River, with nests found on several occasions in small colonies, consisting of not more than 7 to 8 pair (Vischer 1915).

Cutoff, or Carter Lake as it is now called, was formed north of Omaha in 1877 when the channel of the Missouri River moved to the east. The first record of breeding at this site was in 1893 (Bruner et al. 1904). About thirty years later Least Terns were counted at the lake during waterbird censuses carried out in 1926, 1929, and 1930. Highest numbers were 20, 6, and 12 respectively, and the birds were noted several times during the summer, so were resident, although no information was given on nesting activity (Nebraska Ornithologists' Union Letter of Information 34: 4, 44: 3, and 52: 3).

The last recorded observations of breeding at Carter Lake were in 1940 and 1941 (Moser 1940, Moser and Haecker 1941). The nesting site used in these years was dredged sand fill with only a small amount of vegetation. The area with Tern nests originally had water on only two sides, but later became completely surrounded when a dike was built to act as an outlet for lake dredging operations. Breeding at the Cut-off Lake locality covers almost fifty years, with Terns probably present until vegetation became established on the open sand.

The first observations made in the Dakota County-Sioux City area were in the 1910's, and eventually the Tern was considered to be a fairly common summer resident, known to nest on sandbars of the river and on narrow dirt ledges in the almost vertical banks of the river (Stephens 1957). The second nesting site given does not conform with the usual behavior of Terns to nest on ground with a sand substrate.

There are several confirmed nesting records from 1929 through the 1930's near Sioux City. In 1929 several fledglings were noted on a large sandbar in the river while the adults foraged at a nearby lake (Youngworth 1930). Two years later birds were noted in many parts of northeast Iowa and southeast South Dakota, but the birds nested in particular at a sandbar near Sioux City. On 2 August 1931 no less than 150 Terns, including many immatures, were gathered for migration (Youngworth 1931). The next year conditions for nesting were not favorable, due to government work on the channel of the river, but the birds were expected to have moved upriver (Youngworth 1932).

Nesting Terns did remain in the area, since habitat must have still been available, and a colony of 14 nests was located near Sioux City, in Dakota County, Nebraska, and Woodbury County. Iowa, in both 1937 and 1938. Sandbars were used for nesting. As a result of these observations the Tern was considered to be a comomon summer nester (Stiles 1938, Stiles 1939).

Three locations along the Missouri on the Iowa side of the river provide additional information on nesting distribution along Nebraska's eastern boundary. In 1933, nesting was recorded in Pottawattamie County. (DuMont 1933). Two observations were made at lake locations in 1934. One site was at a marsh 11 miles east of the river, along the Little Sioux River in Monona County (Bennett 1934). On 25 June, 30 birds were observed and birds were still present on 25 July. On the same date, at a 400 acre lake and marsh 2 miles southwest of Anthon in Woodbury County, Least Terns were also observed, although no numbers were recorded (Bennett 1934).

Two other localities along the northern part of the Missouri River in Nebraska with nesting activity were north of Decatur in Thurston County, where the birds were also considered as being commonly found flying overhead along the river (Haecker 1937a) and near the town of Arizona in extreme southeast Burt County (Haecker 1937b).

But as the Missouri River valley was settled there were many drastic changes made in the river. The most profound alteration was the result of construction of the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project. This project was initiated when statutes authorized a 6-foot-deep channel as far as Kansas City, Missouri. A 200-foot-wide channel was added in 1925, with both features extended to Sioux City in 1927. In 1945 the design was modified to create a 9-foot-deep and not less than 300-foot-wide channel between Sioux City and the mouth of the river. A variety of engineering works, such as revetment of banks, closing of subchannels, and dike construction to narrow and deepen the main channel, meant a permanent change in riverine wildlife habitat.

Even though the laws were enacted years earlier, the first changes in the character of the Missouri did not begin along the Nebraska-Iowa boundary until 1923 (Hallberg et al. 1979). Project construction that would modify the natural uncontrolled river through major realignment of the channel began in earnest during the mid 1930's in the Nebraska region. Youngworth at this time noted that Least Terns that nested at Sioux City were disturbed not only by construction activity but were expected to move upstream to undisturbed areas. Habitat was still available at alternate sites but eventually, as the Corps of Engineers moved along the river, all available habitat was affected.

The braided character of the channel was engineered into a single navigation channel. An example of this change is at Indian Cave Bend in Richardson County, where pictures taken through the years document channelization (Figure 2). Not only was the river shortened but midriver sandbar and island habitat was lost (Table 1). The Missouri River became at least 58 miles shorter and sandbar habitat was lost entirely from Ponca State Park, Dixon County, Nebraska, downriver to Kansas City, Missouri, due to project implementation from 1923 through 1976. Further upriver, Gavins Point Dam was built in the 1950's to create Lewis and Clark Lake, which inundated additional river habitat.

Figure 2. A series of pictures showing the channelization of the Missouri River at Indian Cave Bend. The 1934 picture is the original, natural river; the other pictures show subsequent changes (photographs courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha).

As a result, in the latter historic period Terns would have been limited to nesting in the only portion of the river with suitable sandbar habitat within the channel area and other offriver locations. The only two sites with any record of Tern use were the unchannelized Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam to Ponca State Park and at an upland, open sand area at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.

Table 1. Changes in the channel characteristics of the Missouri River.


River Miles - Rulo to Niobrara*

Bar Area Present in Iowa, acres **









31, 481






3,120 ***







* Based on U.S. Corps of Engineers information
** From Hallberg et al. 1979
*** Active channel only, which omits cutoff areas

Terns were observed at Gavins Point Dam from 1959 through the early 1970's. The impression, based on recorded observations, was that the birds were becoming scarce in the area, due largely to development of the nesting site, which measured 900 feet along the beach and 220 feet back from the water line, and was located .25 mile below the dam. The changes noted were that the beaches and sandbars once present were being replaced by swimming beaches, boat ramps, and park-like transformations, with an associated increase in the number of people (Hall 1975).

Numbers recorded at this site were:

1959 6 nests
1960 immature birds observed
1961 1 nest 10+ birds *
1962 1 bird
1969 1 nest, 4 adults
1972 2 birds *
1973 2 birds *
1974 2 birds *
* highest count

Two additional records for this areas of the Missouri River were made in 1968. A colony with an estimated 35 birds with 5 nests was found southeast of Vermillion, South Dakota, and 4 nests with eggs were observed west of Elk Point, South Dakota (Harris 1968).

The main feature of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is an oxbow lake formed when the channel of the river was cut off. The nesting area used by the Terns was sand beaches along the waters edge and on the inside of the lake. Annual Refuge narrative reports provide the number of birds counted but the only reference to actual breeding activity would be a comment such as "Least Terns again used the large sandbar area for nesting" (Vischer 1980). Peak numbers observed were:

1960 40
1961 30
1963 50
1964 75
1965 40
1966 30 *
1967 40
1968 25
1969 20
1970 20
1972 15
1973 12
1974 3
1975 4
* A nest with eggs was found on the beach at the north end of the lake (Cortelyou 1966).

Use of this area declined as vegetation developed on the sandy sites used for breeding, and the numbers reflect this decline. The last year that nesting was believed to occur was 1972.

Platte River

The Platte River was characterized as being a mile wide and an inch deep during the early settlement period in Nebraska. Lewis and Clark wrote that near where the river emptied into the Missouri it was 2 to 3 miles wide in many places, and contained a great number of small islands and sandbars (Thwaites 1969). The central Platte near Grand Island during the period of 1813-57 varied in width from .5 to 3 miles across. Additional documentary evidence provides measurements in the same area that list the width as greater than 1,100 yards prior to 1899, but showing a drastic decrease to about 550 yards in 1899, 330 yards in 1913, and 305 yards in 1919 (Williams 1978). Further west, the North Platte River in the fall of 1845 was merely a succession of sandbars among which the channel was divided into rivulets a few inches deep (Fremont 1845: 77).

Although historic observations beginning in 1804 along the Platte indicate the availability of suitable sandbar habitat within the channel, the first record of Tern occurrence on this river system wasn't until the 1920's.

At this time, Least Terns were found nesting in a colony on sandbars in the South Platte River near North Platte (Tout 1947). Observations made from 1926 through 1929 showed populations were:

Year - Population - Nests
1926 - 34 * - 17
1927 nesting
1928 - 36 * - 18
1929 - 50 - 22
* based on number of nests found

Terns were also present in 1930, but a terrific storm killed some adults and reduced the colony to about half its former size.

The next observation was in 1941 when birds were found nesting on sandbars in the river near Columbus (Shoemaker 1941). Ten and possibly more nests indicate the colony size was at minimum 20, but the difficulty of telling the difference between Tern and Piping Plover eggs makes the exact number uncertain.

Downriver, in 1943, a single nest, and then young, was found at Merritt's Beach swimming lake, northwest of Plattsmouth (Heineman 1943).

Two miles east of Brule, 6 pair of Terns were found nesting on a sandbar in the South Platte River in 1948 (Benckeser 1948). In 1949 nesting was recorded again on the South Platte River in the North Platte area (Audubon Field Notes 3: 244).

The longest field study of Least Terns on the Platte was carried out by Dr. Ray S. Wycoff, who studied activity south of Lexington for 17 years (Wycoff 1960). The nesting area was a low sandbar not over 75 feet wide and about 200 feet long. Observations made throughout the years include limited population data, dates of arrival and departure, behavioral notes, nesting dates, and how habitat changes forced the birds to move to a different breeding site. Some of the higher populations recorded were: 1949 35; 1950 20; 1953 24; and 1954 25. Vegetative encroachment on the sandbar decreased the suitability of the site, and the birds eventually moved to nearby sandpits to nest. And although observations for the long term study ended in 1959, nesting was observed again in this locality ten years later (Wycoff 1969).

As the Platte River valley was settled and developed, the character of the river changed dramatically. Changes in the flow regime led to narrowing of the water channel and an increase in vegetation, which included growth of woody plants on once open sandbars (Williams 1978, Fish and Wildlife Service 1981). Wycoff noted that following the building of dams along the Platte the river in the vicinity of the colony site became covered with sprouting cottonwoods, willows, and other vegetation (Wycoff 1960). Most of the trees on the floodplains in the central Platte valley developed due to a change in the river flow characteristics and became established after the closure of Kingsley Dam, that was built to create Lake McConaughy (Fish and Wildlife Service 1981).

This decrease in channel size and the plant development on open sandbars meant an extensive decline in the amount of suitable riverine habitats available for Terns along the western and central Platte. Fewer changes took place on the lower reaches of the river, where flow characteristics were less affected by water depletions and construction of dams.

One change that occurred as the river was developed was the extraction of sand for commercial use. The pumping of sand created open sandpit lakes and open sandpiles on the floodplain adjacent to the channel that were used by breeding Terns. Wycoff was the first to observe this shift in habitat use.

Middle Loup River

The only historic record documented were specimens collected during the Warren Expedition that were attributed to the Loup Fork (Coues in Hardy 1975: 11), which would be the Loup River. The exact location was not given in the expedition narrative. on the Middle Loup River, 3 miles south of St. Paul (Short 1966).

Niobrara River

The historic condition of the lower portion of the Niobrara River was described in the 1850's as having a width that exceeded that of the Missouri, with the water spread out over sandbars (Warren 1875).

The first recorded observation on the Niobrara River was in 1902, by an expedition from the University of Nebraska that floated the river from north of Long Pine, Brown County, to Niobrara, Knox County. The first observation of Terns was a flock of 8 to 9 observed near the historic settlement of Badger, in north-central Holt County. From this point on to the town of Niobrara, Terns were very common, being noted every day, and every large bar had birds present. They were said to breed commonly from Badger to Niobrara (Ducey 1983).

During the middle 1950's nesting was recorded 5 miles southeast of Spencer, Boyd County (Short 1966), with an additional notation that Terns were known to breed far out on the Niobrara River in the 1950's period (Youngworth in Hardy 1957: 10). Nesting no doubt took place on a yearly basis on the Niobrara River as suitable habitat was available and there were no major changes that would cause a loss in habitat. This river is still very similar to what it was in the past.

Off-River Sites

Three other historic records of Tern breeding activity were made that were not associated with the typical river system nesting sites used by this species. In 1896 and 1897, 5 nests with eggs were reportedly found on the shore of a nearly 600 acre wetland basin southwest of York (Tout 1902).

Another set of records from a wetland basin were made near Lincoln. In 1920 and 1922 Least Terns were observed at Capital Beach for several weeks during the summer. The dates in 1920 were 20 and 27 June and 4, 18, 25, and 28 July. In 1922 observation dates given were 28 May, 3 June, and 31 July (unpublished field notes of Ralph E. Dawson, Lincoln, located at the Nebraska Hall museum library, University of Nebraska at Lincoln). With birds being present over a period of weeks during the breeding season, this would indicate the Terns were resident and possibly nesting. Piping Plover, which use similar habitat, nested at this same locality in 1922, on sand and gravel spoil from a dredging operation (Pickwell 1925).

A final offriver location was found in 1955. A small colony with at least 6 birds, since 3 nests were found, was present at a small sandpit north of Aurora. Nesting was on a small area of sand, covering no more than a "half block" (Swanson 1956). These three records from two types of locations are unusual in that they are not similar to all the other observations of breeding activity that occurred in riverine habitat or associated lakes.

Table 2. Summary of historic breeding season occurrence records of the Least Tern in Nebraska.

Map No.



Missouri River



Washington County and downstream



Dixon County


1885 +-

southeast Dakota Territory



Cut-off Lake (Carter Lake), Douglas County


1896 +-

Omaha, Douglas County


1896 +-

Peru, Nemaha County


1915 +-

south of Vermillion, Clay County, South Dakota



Dakota County



Carter Lake, Douglas County


1929, 31, 32

near Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa


1933 +-

Pottawattamie County, Iowa



Monana County, Iowa



southwest of Anthon, Woodbury Co., Iowa



north of Decatur, Thurston County



near Arizona, southeast Burt County


1960 +-, 1969

below Gavins Point Dam, Cedar County



DeSoto NWR, Washington County



southwest of Vermillion, Clay County, S.D.



west of Elk Point, Plymouth County, S.D.

Platte River System


1926-29, 30

common breeder in Lincoln County



near Columbus, Platte County



Northwest of Plattsmouth, Cass County



S. Platte River near Brule, Keith CountyCounty



S. Platte River near North Platte


1948-59, 69

south of Lexington, Dawson County

Loup River System


1855 +-

collected on Loup River, no locality given



south of St. Paul, Howard County

Niobrara River



Holt and Knox counties area



southeast of Spencer, Holt County



breed well out on the river, no localities given

Off-river Sites



near York, York County


1920, 22

near Lincoln, Lancaster County



north of Aurora, Hamilton County

+- general period instead of actual year


The historic breeding range of the Least Tern included the entire stretch of the Missouri River along the state's eastern boundary, the Platte River (including portions of the North and South Platte rivers), the Middle Loup River, and about 75 miles along the lower portion of the Niobrara River (Table 2, Figure 3).

Major losses of nesting habitat were a result of channelization of the Missouri that destroyed all midriver sandbars below Ponca State Park, and changes in the flow regime that reduced channel size and increased riverine vegetative growth along the Platte. No major changes have occurred along the Loup and Niobrara rivers. Overall, there has been a marked decline in the availability of suitable habitat within the breeding range of the Least Tern In Nebraska, which would have caused an associated reduction in populations. Differences in distribution are especially apparent when the historic period of record from 1804 to 1975 is compared to modern survey efforts and records (Ducey 1981).

Literature Cited

Agersborg, G.S. 1885. The birds of southeast Dakota. Auk 2: 289.

Benckeseer, H. R. 1948. Notes from Brule. Nebraska Bird Review 16: 94-96.

Bennett, W.W. 1934. Miscellaneous unpublished Missouri River waterfowl refuge project reports. Prepared by the Iowa State Planning Board for the Iowa Fish and Game Commission.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1966. Cornell nest record card. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Ithaca, New York.

Downing, R.L. 1975. Details of interior least tern survey. 10 pp. Unpublished manuscript.

Downing, R.L. 1980. Survey of interior least tern nesting populations. American Birds 34: 209-211.

Ducey, J.E. 1981. Interior least tern Sterna albifrons athalassos. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pierre, South Dakota. Unpublished report. 56 pp.

Ducey, J.E. 1983. Notes on the birds of the lower Niobrara valley in 1902 as recorded by Myron H. Swenk. Nebraska Bird Review 51(2): 37-44.

Dumont, P. 1933. A revised list of the birds of Iowa. University of Iowa Studies in Natural History 15: 1-71.

Fish and Wildlife Service. 1981. The Platte River ecology study. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Research Report, Jamestown, North Dakota. 187 pp.

Fremont, J.C. 1845. Report of an exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains. Washington, D.C. 693 pp.

Haecker, F.W. 1937a. The eastern least tern breeding in Thurston county. Nebraska Bird Review 5: 9.

Haecker, F.W. 1937b. The eastern least tern breeding in Burt County. Nebraska Bird Review 5: 110.

Hall, W. 1975. Personal communication to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Pierre, South Dakota.

Hallberg, G.R., J.M. Harbough, and P.M. Wittinok. 1979. Changes in the channel area of the Missouri River in Iowa, 1879-1976. Iowa Geological Survey; Special Report Series Number 1, 32 pp.

Hardy, J.W. 1957. The least tern in the Mississippi valley. Michigan State University Biological Series 1(1). 60 pp.

Harris, B.K. 1968. Nesting records for the least tern and piping plover. South Dakota Bird Notes 20: 70-71.

Heineman, L.D. 1944. Nesting of the piping plover and least tern in Cass County. Nebraska Bird Review 12: 9-10.

Missouri River Commission. 1892-1895. Map of the Missouri River from its mouth to Three Forks, Montana. 83 pp. and 9 pp. index.

Moser, R.A. 1940. The piping plover and least tern nesting in Omaha. Nebraska Bird Review 8: 92-94.

Moser, R.A. and F. W. Haecker. 1941. The piping plover returns to its nesting site in Omaha. Nebraska Bird Review 9: 14-15.

Orr, W.J. and J. C. Porter. 1983. A journey through the Nebraska region in 1833 and 1834: from the journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied. Nebraska History 64(3): 325-453.

Pickwell, G. 1925. Some nesting habits of the belted piping plover. Auk 42:326-332.

Shoemaker, F.H. 1941. Notes on nesting least tern and piping plover. Unpublished field notes. 1 p.

Short, L.L., Jr. 1966. Notes on birds distribution in the central plains. Nebraska Bird Review 29: 2-22.

Stephens, T.C. 1957. The birds of Dakota County, Nebraska. Nebraska Ornithologists' Union Occasional Paper #3. 28 pp.

Stiles, B.F. 1938. Nesting of the least tern in Iowa. Wilson Bulletin 50: 61.

Stiles, B.F. 1939. The least tern in Iowa. Iowa Bird Life 14: 18-21.

Swanson, K.S. 1956. Least tern nests near Aurora. Nebraska Bird Review 24: 25.

Thwaites, R.G. 1969. Original journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Arno Press. New York. Vol. 1 and 6.

Tout, W. 1902. Ten years without a gun. Proceedings of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union 3: 42-45

Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County Birds. Privately published. 191 pp.

Vischer, S.S. 1915. Birds of Clay County, South Dakota. Wilson Bulletin 3: 321-335.

Visscher, L. 1980. Interior least tern, DeSoto NWR. Fish and Wildlife Service memorandum.

Warren, G.K. 1875. Preliminary report of explorations in Nebraska and Dakota in the years 1855-56-57. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 125 pp.

Williams, G.P. 1978. The case of the shrinking channels - the North Platte and Platte Rivers in Nebraska. Geological Survey Circular 781. 48 pp.

Wycoff, R.S. 1960. The least tern. Nebraska Bird Review 38: 39-42.

Wycoff, R.S. 1969. Cornell nest record card. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Ithaca, New York.

Youngworth, W. 1930. Breeding of the least tern in Iowa. Wilson Bulletin 42: 102-103.

Youngworth, W. 1931. The American egret and least tern in South Dakota. Wilson Bulletin 43: 309-310.

Youngworth, W. 1932. Field notes from Sioux City, Iowa. Auk 49:494.

22 February 2010

Hudson Bay Collection Included First-ever Described Eskimo Curlew

When a species of small curlew got shot and collected on the western coast of Hudson Bay, there is nothing known which conveys something of particular importance occurred for that unknown day. The event was probably of subdued significance for the three men shooting different birds at various places in Canada. They were out and in pursuit about the mouth of the Churchill River, Fort Albany in James Bay and nearby Moose Fort, Fort Prince of Wales, Fort York, and the Severn River where it empties into the bay.

Their distinctive collecting endeavours in 1768 and 1769 Canada - based on subsequent consideration - document a variety of species of a time more than 240 years before present, including a curlew which was later carefully studied and described to the scientific community for the first time.

Andrew Graham was governor of the Hudson's Bay Company post at the Severn River at Hudson Bay. Humphrey Martin was involved with the effort from his place at Fort Albany. And William Wales (also spelled Wailes) was visiting at the Churchill River.

Each bird was subject to a blast of gun-shot which sent it to the ground, and thence picked up and kept, for latter care and preparation back at each mans quarters. The specimens were then eventually transported to England for further evaluation. There were apparently more than 75 returned in carefully packed boxes.

Essential to this scenario was William Wales. By some type of order from the Royal Society, he was sent to Churchill, apparently with the primary purpose of viewing the transit of the planet Venus. But his voyage contributed much more than stellar stuff as he was at the Bay for thirteen months, which provided an valuable opportunity to consider a variety of other topics.

Although the essential ornithological result was his caring for the specimens shipped eastward, his brief yet interesting personal journal issued in the Philosophical Transactions in 1770, convey the time and place when the birds were being pursued.

Journal of William Wales

The date of departure from Europe was May 31, 1768 with basically no narrative for the voyage until reaching the island of Resolution at the entrance of Hudson's Straits on July 23rd. Eskimaux were the subject of his first notations. A few days later, the travelers arrived at Cape Churchill, on August 7th. On the 10th, based on the scribbles noted in the journal, the surgeon of the factory walked some people about to show them the nearby country. Soil and some flora were the primary topics noted in the record.

There was also a fine paragraph about the foremost observations of the local birds:

"They saw some wild ducks and curlews, but could handle none of them: they shot a few birds, much about the size, colour, and make of a woodcock: these they call here stone-plover. They saw another bird, not much unlike a quail, which they call here the whale-bird, from its feeding on the offal of those fish after the oil is boiled out of it. Besides those, they saw many, and great variety, of the gull, or sea-mew kind; and also of small birds, like our linnets, larks, &c. But the most extraordinary bird yet met with is, Mr. W. knows not for what reason, called a man-of-war, and feeds on the excrements of other birds; its way of coming at its food is also a little extraordinary; he pursues the bird which he pitches on for his supply, until fear makes it void what he wants, and so soon as this happens, he catches the morsel in his mouth; after which he leaves that bird and pursues another."

Insects were also discussed, so the variety of natural history subjects ranged from geology to plants and fauna and entomology.

The narrative conveys additional notes of the birds seen and pursued.

"Mr. W. gives the following short abstract of the circumstances of their residence at Churchill in Hudson's Bay. They arrived at Churchill just in the height of what is called the small bird season, which consists of young geese, ducks, curlews, plovers, &c. This begins about the latter end of. July, and lasts till the beginning of September, when the greater part of these birds leave that part of the country. The geese then begin to go fast to the southward, and continue to do so until the beginning of October. This is called the autumnal goose-season, in which every person, both native and European, that can be spared, is employed; but they seldom kill more geese at this time than they can consume fresh. By the middle of October the ground is generally covered with snow. The partridges then begin to be very plentiful; and as soon as that happens, the hunters repair to such places as they think most probable to meet with plenty of game in. The English generally go out in parties of 3 or 4, taking with them their guns, a kettle, a few blankets, a buffalo, or beaver skin coverlid, and a covering for their tent; which is made of deers skins, dressed by the natives, and sewed together, so as to make it of a proper form and size. In pitching their tents, they have an eye also to their own convenience with respect to shelter from the winds, and getting of fire-wood; which, it will easily be imagined, makes a considerable article here in the necessaries of life, at this season of the year."

During this period, the men at Churchill River were prepping for winter, with its arrival no uncertain prospect. Clothing was being given especially close attention.

"But, to return to Hudson's Bay. November the 6th, the river, which is very rapid, and about a mile over at its mouth, was frozen fast over from side to side, so that the people walked across it to their tents: also the same morning, a half pint glass of British brandy was frozen solid in the observatory. Not a bird of any kind was now to be seen at the factory, except now and then a solitary crow, or a very small bird about the size of a wren; but our hunters brought us home every week plenty of partridges and rabbits, and some hares; all of which are white in the winter season; and the legs and claws of the partridges are covered with feathers, in the same manner as the other parts of their bodies."

North-land winters were harsh. A brief section of the journal mentions how the head of "Mr. W.'s" bed-place" got frozen to the boards even though it was inside a shelter made of three feet of stone, and lined with inch boards.

"Before the end of February, these boards were covered with ice almost half as thick as themselves."

The journals continues to convey the frigid conditions of any northern winter, but in this case in the early weeks of 1769:

"It was now almost impossible to sleep an hour together, more especially on very cold night, without being awakened by the cracking of the beams in the house, which were rent by the prodigious expansive power of the frost. It was very easy to mistake them for the guns on the top of the house, which are 3 pounders. But those are nothing to what we frequently hear from the rocks up the country, and along the coast; these are often bursting with a report equal to that of many artillery fired together, and the splinters are thrown to an amazing distance."

The spring thaw started in late March, especially during mid-day, and the first rain was near the end of April. Grass began to grow. The Gooseberry bushes put of buds.

As the land opened, attention was focused on the pending arrival of the migratory fowl.

"The latter end of April, the hunters began to come home from the partridge tents, in order to prepare for the spring goose season, which is always expected to begin about that time; and is, in truth, the harvest to this part of the world. They not only kill, so as to keep the whole factory in fresh geese for near a month, but to salt as many as afterwards make no inconsiderable part of the year's provision. There are various sorts of the geese, as the grey-goose, the way-way, the brant, the dunter, and several more. The gander of the dunter kind is one of the most beautiful feathered birds ever seen, its colours being more bright and vivid than those of the parrot, and far more various."

Notes of the birdlife were done, but Wales carried on at Churchill until his departure, and arrival at England, where the Royal Society of London received and appreciated the collected birds.

Johann Reinhold Forster was given the specimens to closely examine and carefully consider, and then identify based on the current knowledge of birds from the region. The essential results were thence published in 1772 in an issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

Avifauna of the Times

Quite a fine variety of birds have been denoted for the Hudson Bay region during this period of time. According to the published sources, the following is a list of the known species, listed in a sequence based on modern taxonomy constricts.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Ruffed Grouse
Spruce Grouse
Willow Ptarmigan
Rock Ptarmigan
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Greater Prairie-Chicken
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
American White Pelican
American Bittern
Bald Eagle
Rough-legged Hawk
Golden Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
Sandhill Crane
Whooping Crane
Northern Lapwing
Black-bellied Plover
Eskimo Curlew
Hudsonian Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Wilson's Snipe
Red Phalarope
Bonaparte's Gull
Herring Gull
Arctic Tern
Parasitic Jaeger
Passenger Pigeon
Great Horned Owl
Snowy Owl
Northern Hawk Owl
Great Gray Owl
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Northern Shrike
Gray Jay
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Blackpoll Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
Rusty Blackbird
Pine Grosbeak
Red Crossbill
Common Redpoll

Interesting details are given in the seminal work by the attentive Mr. Forster. His article has all the trivial details of essential importance and convey a spectacular glimpse in the era when new species were being collected by gun and described by latter analysis.

The following is the article as originally published and which within is an essential presentation of something of importance to the historic ornithology of the region.

XXIX. An Account of the Birds sent from Hudson's Bay; with Observations relative to their Natural History; and Latin Descriptions of some of the most uncommon.

By Johann Reinhold Forster, F.R.S. Read June 18-25, 1772. This article was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 62: 382-433. (Volume 13).

I. Land-Birds.

I. Acciptres - Rapacious. Faun. Am. Sept.

I. Falco, Falcon.

I. Columbarius. 182. 21. Pigeon Hawk. [Merlin]. Faun. Am. Sept. [= Fauna Americana Septentrionalis, published by Forster in 1771, with the title: A Catalogue of the Animals of North America.] p. 9. Catesby I, t. 3. Epervier de la Caroline. Brisson I, p. 378.

Severn River, No 19.

This species is called a small-bird hawk at Hudson's Bay. It is migratory, arriving near Severn River in May, breeding on the coast, and then retiring to a warmer climate in autumn. It feeds on small birds; and, on the approach of any person, will fly in circles, making a hideous shrieking noise. The breast and belly are yellowish, with brown streaks, which are not mentioned by the ornithologists, though their descriptions answer in other respects. It weighs six ounces and a half, its length is 10 1/2, the breadth 22 1/2. Catesby's figure is a very indifferent one.

Falco, 2. Spadiceus. New Species. Chocolate Falcon. [Rough-legged Hawk].

Faun. Am. Sept. p. 9.

This species, at first sight, bears some resemblance to the European Moor Buzzard, or Aeruginosus, Linn. but is much less, and wants the light spots on the head and shoulders. No description was sent along with it.

Falco, 3. Sacer. [perhaps an immature Peregrine Falcon] Brisson, I. p. 337. Sacre de Busson, Oiseaux, (edition in 12 mo.) Tom. II. p. 349. t. 14. Faun. Am. Sept. p. 9.

Severn River, No 16.

Speckled Partridge Hawk, at Hudson's Bay. The name is derived from its feeding on the birds of the Grous tribe, commonly called partridges, at Hudson's Bay. Its irides are yellow, and the legs blue. It comes nearest the Sacre of Brisson, Busson, and Belon; but Busson says it has black eyes, which is very indistinct; for the irides are black in none of the falcons, and in few other birds; and the pupil, if he means that, is black in all birds. It is said, by Belon, to come from Tartary and Russia, and is, therefore, probably a northern bird. It is very voracious and bold, catching partridges out of a covey, which the Europeans are driving into their nests. It breeds in April and May. Its young are ready to fly in the middle of June. Its nests, as those of all other falcons, are built in unfrequented places; therefore, the author of the account from Severn River could not ascertain how many eggs it lays; however, the Indians told him it commonly lay two. It never migrates, and weighs 2 1/2 pounds; its length is 22 inches, its breadth 3 feet.

2. Strix, Owl. 4. Brachyotos. The Short-eared Owl. Brit. Zoology, folio, plate B. 3. octavo, I. p. 156. Faun. Am. Sept. 9.

Mouse Hawk at Hudson's Bay. It answers the description and figure in the British Zoology; but its ears or long feathers do not appear. The smallness of the head has, probably, given occasion to call it a hawk, though it does not fly about in quest of prey, like other hawks (as the account from Severn River says); it sits quiet on the stumps of trees, waiting mice with all the attention of a domestic cat, being an inveterate enemy of those little animals. It migrates southward in autumn; and breeds along the coast. Its irides are yellow. Its weight is 14 ounces; its length 16 inches, the breadth 3 feet.

Strix, 5. Nyctea. 132. 6. Snowy Owl. Faun. Am. Sept. 9.

Churchill River, No 7. White Owl.

It seems to be in its winter dress, as it is intirely [sic] white. The feet are covered with long white hair-like feathers to the very nails, but there are none of the soles or under parts of the toes.

Strix, 6. Funerea. 133. 11. Canada Owl. [Northern Hawk-Owl]. Faun. Am. Sept. 9.

Severn River, No 13. Churchill River, No 11.

Cabeticuch, or Cabaducutch, is the Indian name of this bird. Linnaeus's description answers perfectly. The male, which in the class of birds of prey is generally smaller, is, however, in this species, larger than the female, according to the account from Severn River. Its colour is likewise much blacker, and the spots more distinct. The eyes are large and prominent; the irides of a bright yellow. The weight is 12 ounces; its length 17 inches, the breadth 2 feet. It has only two young at one hatching.

Strix, 7. Passerina. 133. 12. Little Owl. [Northern Saw-whet Owl] 12 Brit. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 9.

(The number belonging to this bird is lost, but is most probably that from Severn River, No 15. called Shipomospish by the natives).

The crown of the head is speckled with white, as in the Strix funerea.

Strix, 8. Nebulosa. New species. The grey Owl. [Great Gray Owl]. Severn River, No 36.

This fine non-descript owl lives upon hares, ptarmigans, mice, &c. It has two young at a time. The specimen sent over is said to be one of the largest. It is not described by any author. Its weight is 3 pounds, length 16 inches, breadth 4 feet.

3. Lanius, Shrike. 9. Excubitor. 135. 11. Great Butcher-bird. [Northern Shrike]. Brit. Zool. Cinereous Shrike. Faun. Am. Sept.

Severn River, No 11.

White Whiskijohn at Hudson's Bay. The specimen is a male; it weighs two ounces and a half, is seldom found on the coast, but frequent about a hundred miles inland; and feeds on small birds. It corresponds with ours in every respect.

II. Picae. Pies. Faun. Am. Sept.

Corvus, Crow. 10. Canadensis. 158. 16. Cinereous Crow. [Gray Jay]. Faun. Am. Sept. 9.

Severn River, No 9 and 10.

These birds are called Whiskijohn and Whiskijack at the Hudson's Bay. They weigh 2 ounces; and are 9 inches long, and 11 broad. Their eyes are black, and their feet of the same colour. Their characters correspond with the Linnean description. They breed early in spring; their nests are made of sticks and grass, and built in pine trees; they have two, rarely three, young ones at a time; their eggs are blue; they fly in pairs; the male and female are perfectly alike; they feed on black moss, worms, and even flesh. When near habitations or tents, they are apt to pilfer every thing they can come at, even salt meat; they are bold, and come into the tents to eat victuals out of the dishes. They watch persons baiting the traps for martins, and devour the bait as soon as they turn their backs. These birds lay up stores for the winter, and are seldom seen in January, unless near habitations; they are a kind of mock-bird; when caught, they pine away and die, though their appetite never fails them.

Corvus, 11. Pica. 157. 13. Magpie. [Black-billed Magpie]. Brit. Zool. Fauna Am. Sept. 9.

Albany Fort, No 5.

It is called Oue-ta-kee aske, i.e. Heart-bird, by the Indians. It is a bird of passage, and rarely seen; it agrees, in all respects, with the European magpie, upon comparison.

Picus, Woodpecker. 12. Auratus. 174. 9. Gold-wing Woodpecker. [yellow-shafted subspecies of the Northern Flicker]. Faun. Am. Sept. 10. Catesby, I. 18.

Albany Fort, No 4, the large Woodpecker.

The natives of America call this bird Ou-thee-quan-nor-now, from the yellow colour of the shafts of the quill and underside of the tail feathers. It is a bird of passage; visits the neighbourhood of Albany Fort in April, leaves it in September; lays from four to six eggs in hollow trees, feeds on small worms and other insects. Its descriptions answer exactly.

Picus, 13. Villosus. 175. 16. Hairy Woodpecker. Faun. Am. Sept. 10. Catesby I. 19.

Severn River, No 56.

The specimen sent over is a female, by its wanting the red on the head. The description of Linneus and Brisson agree; only the two middlemost feathers are black, the next are of the same colour, but have a white rhomboidal spot near the tip; the next are black, with the upper half obliquely white, the very tip being black; the next after that are white, with a round black spot on the inner side close to the base, and the lower part of the shaft is black, the outermost feathers are quite white, the shaft only at the base being black.

14. Tridactylus. 177. 21. Three-toid Woodpecker. Faun. Am. Sept.

Severn River, No 8.

A female, weight 2 ounces, length 8 inches, breadth 13; eyes dark blue, legs black. It builds its nest in trees, lives in woods upon worms picked out of trees, is not very common at Severn River. The descriptions answer.

III. Gallinae. Gallinaceous. Faun. Am. Sept.

6. Tetrao, Grouse. 15. Canadensis, 274.3. Canace, 275. Faun. Am. Sept. 10. Spotted Grous. [Spruce Grouse]. Gelinotte du Canada, male et femelle, Pl. enl. 131 et 132. Busson Oiseaux II. p. 279. 4to. Brisson I. p. 203. t. 20. f. i, 2, and p. 201, app. 10. Edwards, t. 118 and 71.

Severn River, No 5. Woodpartridge.

These birds are all the year long at Hudson's Bay, and never change the colour of their plumage. The accounts from Hudson's Bay say, there is no material difference between the male and female; which must be a mistake, as they are really very different. Linneus's descriptions of the Tetrao Canadensis, and Canace, both answer to the specimens sent over, so that, after comparing them, I find they are only one and the same species. I suppose dividing them into two, was occasioned by Brisson's and Edwards's descriptions, being taken from specimens sent from different parts of the continent of America, and perhaps caught at different seasons. Mr. de Busson has, I find, the same opinion with me, and by comparing the drawings of Edwards, with those of the Planches enluminées, it is put beyond a doubt. These birds are very stupid, may be knocked down with a stick, and are frequently caught by the natives with a stick and a loop. In summer they are good eating; but in winter they taste strongly of the pine spruce, upon which they feed during that season, eating berries in summer. They live in pine woods, their nests are on the ground; they generally lay but five eggs.

Tetrao, 16. Lagopus, 274. 4. White Grous. [Willow Ptarmigan]. Faun. Am. Sept. 10. Ptarmigan. Br. Zool. Lagopéde de la Baye Hudson. Busson Oiseaux II. p. 276. Edw. t. 72.

Severn River. No 1-4. Willow-partridges.

The Hudson's Bay ptarmigan has been separated from the European in the British Zoology, and afterwards by M. de Busson: however I must own, I cannot yet find the differences which they assign to these species. They contend that the Hudson's Bay bird figured by Edwards is twice as big as the European ptarmigan; Mr. Edwards, I think, does not intimate this, when he says, the bird is of a middle size, between partridge and pheasant; he on the contrary supposes them to be the same species. The British Zoology, after Willoughby, says, the ptarmigan's length is 13 3/4 inches. The account from Severn River says it is 16 1/4 inches. The breadth in the British Zoology is said to be 23 inches. The breadth in the Hudson's Bay birds, according to the accounts from Severn River, is 23 inches. Willoughby's ptarmigan weighed 14 ounces; that in the British Zool. illustr. t. 13. 19 ounces; that from the Hudson's Bay (1 1/2 lb) 24 ounces. These differences are of little consequence, and far from increasing the Hudson's Bay bird to double the size of the European. The British Zoology says, there is a difference in the summer colours; but Mr. Edwards informs us, that he compared the Hudson's Bay bird with the descriptions of former ornithologists, and found them to answer; he likewise assures us he had the same bird from Norway. Therefore I cannot help dissenting from the British Zoology, in this one particular, and thinking with Linneus and Brisson, that the European and Hudson's Bay ptarmigans are the same, especially as the colours vary very much in the different sexes and at different seasons.

To this we may add the testimony of a gentleman well versed in natural history, who, having had opportunities of comparing numbers of Hudson's Bay and European ptarmigans, assured me that he did not see any difference between them. They go together in great flocks in the beginning of October, living among the willows, of which they eat the tops (Whence they have got the name of willow partridges): about that time they lose their beautiful summer plumage, and exchange it for a snowy white dress, most providently adapted by its thickness to screen them against the severity of the season, and by its colour against their enemies the hawks and owls, against whose attacks they would otherwise find no shelter. Each feather is double, that is, a short one under a long one, to keep them warm. In the latter end of March, they begin again to change their plumage, and have got their full summer dress by the end of June. They breed every where along the coast, and have from nine to eleven young at a time; making their nests on the ground, generally on dry ridges. They are excellent eating, and so plentiful that ten thousand have been taken at Severn, York, and Churchill Forts. The method of netting or catching them, is as follows: a net made of jack-twine, twenty feet square, is laced to four long poles, and supported in front with the sticks, in a perpendicular situation; a long line is fastened to these supports, one end of it reaching to a place where a person lies concealed; several men drive the ptarmigans (which are as tame as chickens, especially on a mild, snowy day), towards the net, which they run to, as soon as they see it. The person concealed draws the line, by which means the net falls down, and catches 50 or 70 ptarmigans at once. They are sometimes rather wild, but grow better humoured (as Mr. Graham says) by being driven about, for they seldom forsake those willows which they have once frequented.

Tetrao. 17. Togatus, 275.8. Shoulder-knot Grous. [Ruffed Grouse]. Grosse Delinotte du Canada. Pl. enl. 104. Briss. I. 207. t. 21. f.1. Busson Oiseaux II. p. 287.

Severn River, N 60 and 61. Albany Fort 1 and 2.

This bird answers the descriptions given of it by the ornithologists in all respects, and perfectly resembles the figure in Brisson, and in the Planches enluminées. It differs from Edwards's ruffed heathcock, t. 248. or Linneus's Tetrao umbellus, as the latter has not the shining black axillar feathers, or shoulder-knot, but a ferruginous one, is much less, and has brighter colours. M. de Busson, however, thinks they are the same, and suspects at the same time, that the bird which he calls la grosse Gelinotte du Canada (and which is the same with the Society's specimens) is the female of Mr. Edwards's bird, t. 248. This conjecture is destroyed by the specimens now sent from Hudson's Bay, which by the accounts from thence are expressly said to be males. The shoulder-knot grouses bear the Indian name of Puskee, or Puskuskee, at Hudson's Bay, on account of the leanness and dryness of their flesh, which is extremely white, and of a very close texture, but when well prepared is excellent eating. They are pretty common at Moose Fort and Henly House, but are seldom seen at Albany Fort, or to the northward of the above places. In winter they feed upon juniper tops, in summer on goose berries, raspberries, currants, cranberries, &c. They are not migratory, staying all the year at Moose Fort; they build their nests on dry ground, hatch nine young at a time, to which the mother clucks, as our common hen does; and on the least appearance of danger, or in order to enjoy a comfortable degree of warmth, the young ones retire under the wings of their parent.

N.B. A specimen, which is supposed to be either a young bird or a female, wants the blueish black shoulder-knot; but it is the same in all other respects.

Tetrao, 18. Phasianellus. [Sharp-tailed Grouse]. Linn. Syst. Nat. Ed. X. p. 160. n. 5. Edw. 117. Longtailed Grous. Faun. Am. Septentr. 10.

Severn River, No 6 and 7. Albany Fort, No 3.

This bird, which Mr. Edwards has drawn plate 117, was by Linneus in the tenth edition of his System, ranged as a new species of grous or tetrao, by the specific name of Phasianellus (alluding to the name of Pheasant which it bears at Hudson's Bay, and likewise to its pointed tail). He afterwards in the new or twelfth edition of the System, p. 273. makes it a variety of the great Cock of the Wood, or Tetrao Urogallus, probably from the account in Mr. Edwards, that the male struts very upright, is in general of a darker colour than the female, and has a glossy neck. These circumstances, however, are not sufficient to bring them under the same species, for it is known that the males of all the grous tribe, and indeed of most of the gallinaceous birds, are used to strut in a very stately manner, and that the colours of their plumage are much more distinct than those of the females. But the specific difference alone, which Linneus assigns to the cock of the wood, absolutely excludes our Hudson's Bay species; he calls it Tetrao pedibus hirsutis, cauda rotundata, axillis albis. Whoever examines Mr. Edwards's figure, and the specimens now in the Society's possession, will find the tail very short, but pointed, the two middle feathers being half an inch longer than the rest, (Mr. Edwards says two inches) and the axillae, or shoulders, by no means white: besides this difference, the colour and size of the Hudson's Bay bird are likewise vastly different from those of the cock of the wood. Its length is 17, inches, its breadth 24 and, as Mr. Edwards justly says, it is somewhat bigger than the common pheasant. The great cock of the wood is as big as a turky; and its female, which is much less, however far exceeds our bird, it being 26 inches long, and 40 broad. See British Zool. octavo, p. 200. The figures given of the female of the T. Urogallus, or great cock of the wood, in the Br. Zool. folio, plate M, and the Planche enluminée 75, will serve upon comparison as a convincing proof of the vast difference there is between the Hudson's Bay pheasant grous and the European cock of the wood. The figure, which Mr. Edwards has given of the former bird, does not exactly correspond with the Society's specimens, as he has represented the marks on the breast half-moon shaped, though they are heart-shaped as those on the belly in the dried bird; that is, they are white spots, with a pale brownish yellow cordated brim. Nor can I agree with Mr. Edwards, when he calls this bird the long-tailed grous from Hudson's Bay; for its tail is really very short, in comparison with that of other grouse, and its smallness and acuteness afford one of the most distinguishing characters of the species.

The native Indians call these pheasant grouses, Oc-kiss-cow: they are found all the year long, amongst the small juniper bushes, of which the buds are their principal food, as also the buds of birch in winter, and all sorts of berries in summer. They never vary their colours; nor is there any great difference between the male and female, except in the caruncula or comb over the eye, which in the male is an inch long, and 3/8 of an inch high. The account from Albany Fort adds, that the colour of the male is somewhat browner, and almost a chocolate on the breast. Their flesh is of a light brown, exceeding juicy, and they are very plump. They lay from 9 to 13 eggs; their young can run almost as soon as they are hatched; they make a piping noise somewhat like a chicken. The cock has a shrill crowing note, not very loud; but when disturbed, or whilst flying, he makes a repeated noise of cuck, cock. They are most common in winter at Albany Fort.

Before I leave the genus of grouses, I must observe that their feet have a peculiarity, taken notice of by few authors; the toes, in several species, have on each side a row of short flexible teeth, like those of a comb; so that the toes appear pectinated. The species, which are known to have such pectinated toes, are,

1. The great Cock of the Wood, Tetrao Urogallus, Linn.
2. The Black Cock, T. Tetrix, Linn. [Black Grouse]
3. The Spotted Grous, and {T. Canadensis, and T. Canace, Linn. [Spruce Grouse]
4. The Ruffed Grous, T. Umbellus, Linn. [Ruffed Grouse]
5. The Shoulder-knot Grous, T. Togatus, Linn. [Ruffed Grouse]
6. The pheasant Grous, T. Phasianellus. [Sharp-tailed Grouse]
7. The Hazel Hen, T. Bonasia, Linn.
8. The Pyrenaean Grous, T. Alchata, Linn.

This is a circumstance, which ought to be attended to in all other species of grouses, as it may in time afford a distinguishing character for a division in this great genus; the ptarmigan, or T. Lagopus, Linn. is without these teeth.

IV. Columbae. Columbine. Faun. Am. Sept.

7. Columba, Pigeon. 19. Migratoria. 285. 36. Migratory Pigeon. [Passenger Pigeon]. Catesb. I. 23. Kalm II. p. 82, t. Passenger Pigeon, Faun. Am. Sept. II. Severn River, No 63. Wood-Pigeon.

These pigeons are very scarce so far northward as Severn River, but abound near Moose-fort, and further inland to the southward. Their common food are berries and juniper buds in winter; they fly about in great flocks, and are reckoned good eating. This account is confirmed by Kalm in his travels (English edition) Vol. II. p. 82 and 311. They hatch only two eggs at a time, and their nests are built in trees. Their eyes are small and black, the irides yellow, the feet red: the neck finely glossed with purple, brighter in the male. They weigh 9 ounces.

V. Passeres. Passerine. Faun. Am. Sept.

8. Alauda. Lark. 20. Alpestris. 289. 10. Klein, Hist. of Birds, 4to, p. 73. Shore Lark. [Horned Lark] Faun. Am. Sept. 12. Catesb. I. 32.

Albany Fort, No 6.

This species is indifferently described by Linneus, who says that all the tail-feathers on their inner web are white, (rectricibus dimidio interiore albis); though it does not appear that he saw a specimen of it himself. Both the quill and tail-feathers are dusky, and in both the outermost feather only has a white exterior margin. The coverts of the tail are of a pale ferruginous colour, and two of them are nearly as long as the tail itself. The scapulars are ferruginous; in the male, the head and whole back have a tinge of the same colour, marked with dusky streaks; in the female, the back is grey, and the dusky stripes of a darker hue. The crown of the head is black in the male, dusky in the female; the forehead is yellow, the bill and feet are black, the belly of a dirty reddish white. These larks are migratory, they visit the environs of Albany Fort in the beginning of May, but go further northward to breed: they feed on grass-seeds, and buds of the sprig-birch; run into small holes, and keep close to the ground, from whence the natives give them the name of Chi-chup-pi-sue.

9. Turdus. Thrush. 21. Migratorius, 292. 6. American Thrush. Fieldfare. [American Robin]. Kalm I. p. 90. Faun. Am. Sept. II. Catesby I. 29.

Severn River, No 59. Albany Fort, 7, 8, 9.

The descriptions of these birds in various authors coincide with the

specimens; at Severn River they appear at the beginning of May, and leave the environs before the frost sets in. At Moose Fort, in the north latitude 51o. they build their nest, lay their eggs, and hatch their young in the space of fourteen days; but at York fort and Severn settlement this is done in 26 days: they build their nests in trees, lay four beautiful light-blue eggs, feed on worms and carrion: when at liberty they sing very prettily, but confined in a cage, they lose their melody. There is no material distinction between the male and female. Their weight is 2 1/4 ounces, the length 9 inches,39 and the breadth 1 foot; they are called red birds at Hudson's Bay; their Indian name is Pee-pee-chue.

Turdus, 22. [Rusty Blackbird].

Severn River, No 54 and 55, male and female.

From the striking similarity with our blackbird, the English at Hudson's Bay have given this bird the same name. However, upon a close examination, I find the difference very great between our European blackbird, and the Hudson's Bay or American one. The plumage of the male, instead of being deep black without any gloss, as in ours, has a shining purple cast, not unlike the plumage of the Gracula Quiscula, Linn. or shining Gracule, Faun. Am. Sept.; or the Maize thief, of Kalm. The female indeed is very like our female blackbird, being of a dusky colour on the back, and a dark grey on the breast. The feet and bill are quite black in both sexes; the former have the back claw almost as long again as any of the other claws. There are no vestiges of yellow palpebrae in either the male or the female; the bill in both is strong, smooth, and subulated; the upper mandible being carinated, but very little arched, and without any tooth or indenture whatever, on the lower side. The nostrils are as in other thrushes. This bird has no bristles at the base of its bill, its feet have such segments as Scopoli in the Annus I. Historico-Naturalis attributes to the stares. Instead of being solitary and living retired like the European blackbirds, these American ones come in flocks to Severn River in June, live among the willows, build in all kinds of trees, and return to the southward in autumn. They feed on worms and maggots; their weight is 2 1/4 ounces, and they are nine inches long, and one foot broad. One that was kept twelve months in a cage pined away, and died. Notwithstanding these circumstances, I cannot help remaining undetermined with regard to this bird, which at first sight is like the blackbird, has the bill of a thrush, and the feet and gregarious nature of a stare. It is to be hoped, that future accounts from Hudson's Bay may inform us further, of the nature of this bird, its time of incubation, the number of eggs it lays, and the colour of those eggs, together with the note of the bird, the difference and characteristick marks of both the male and female, and other circumstances, which may serve to determine to what genus and species we are to refer this bird.

10. Loxia, Grosbeak. 23. Curvirostra, 299. I. Crossbill. [Red Crossbill]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 11. The small variety.

Severn River, No 27 and 28.

This bird comes to Severn River the latter end of May, breeds more to the northward, and returns in autumn, in its way to the south, departing at the setting in of the frost. The irides in the male are of a beautiful red, in the female yellow: the weight is said to be 10 ounces (probably by mistake for 1 ounce, as it is impossible so small a bird should weigh more), the length is 6 inches, the breadth 10.

24. Enucleator, 299. 3. Pine Grosbeak. Br. Zool. and Faun. Am. Sept. Edw. 123, 124. Pl. enl. 135, f. 1.

Severn River, No 29, 30.

It answers to the descriptions and figures of the ornithologists pretty well; only Edwards's female has the red too bright, which is rather orange in our specimen, on the head, neck, and coverts of the tail. This bird only visits the Hudson's Bay settlements in May, on its way to the north, and is not observed to return in autumn; its food consists of birch-willow buds, and others of the same nature; it weighs 2 ounces, is 9 inches long, and 13 broad.

11. Emberiza. Bunting. 25. Nivalis. 308. I. Greater Brambling, Br. Zool. Snowbird, Snowflake, ibid. Snow-bunting. Faun. Am. Sept. II.

Severn River, No 24-26.

The bird, in summer dress, corresponds exactly with the description of the greater brambling, Br. Zool. The description of the snowflake, or the same bird in winter dress, ibid. vol. IV p. 19 is somewhat different, perhaps owing to the different seasons the birds were caught in, as it is well known they change their colour gradually. They are the first of the migratory birds, which come in spring to Severn settlement; in the year 1771 they appeared April the 11th, stayed about a month or five weeks, and then proceeded further northward in order to breed there; they return in September, stay till the cold grows severe in November, then retire southward to a warmer climate. They live in flocks, feed on grass-seeds, and about the dunghills, are easily caught under a small net, some oatmeal being strewed under it to allure them; they are very fat, and fine eating. The weight is 1 ounce and 5 drams, the length 6 1/2 inches, and the breadth 10 inches.

Emb[e]riza 26. Leucophrys. New Species. White-crowned Bunting. [White-crowned Sparrow].

Severn River, No 50. Albany Fort, 10.

This elegant little species of Bunting is called a hedge sparrow at Hudson's Bay, and has not hitherto been described. It visits Severn settlement in June, and feeds on grass-seeds, little worms, grubs, &c. It weighs 3/4 of an ounce, and is 7 1/2 inches long, and 9 inches broad; the bill and legs are flesh-coloured; the male is not materially different from the female, its nests are built in the bottom of willow bushes, it lays three eggs of a chocolate colour. It visits Albany Fort in May, breeds there, and leaves it in September.

Fringilla, Finch. 27. Lapponica. 317. I. [possibly Hoary Redpoll]. Faun. Suec. 235.

Severn River, No 52.

It is called Tecurmashish, by the natives at Hudson's Bay. The description in Linneus's Fauna Suecica concides exactly with the specimen; that in his System answers very nearly: Mr. Brissons's description (though he quotes Linneus, and Linneus quotes him) is widely different. The specimen sent over is a female; the males have more of the ferruginous colour on the head; the eyes are blue, the legs dark brown. It is only a winter inhabitant near Severn river, appears not before November, and is commonly found among the juniper trees; it weighs 1/2 of an ounce, its length is 5 inches, and its breadth 7.

Fringilla. 28. Linaria. 322. 29. Lesser red headed Linnet. [Common Redpoll].

Br. Zool.

Severn River, No 23.

The descriptions of Linneus, Brisson, and the British Zoology, answer perfectly well. The figure in Planche enluminée 151. f. 2. has a quite ferruginous back contrary to all the descriptions and the specimen before us, in which all the feathers on the back are dusky, edged with dirty white.

29. Montana, 324. 37. Mountain Sparrow, Tree Sparrow [American Tree Sparrow].

Br. Zool. Edw. 269. Brisson III. p. 79. Faun. Am. Sept.

Severn River, No 20.

This seems to be a variety, as its tail is rather longer than usual, and forked; it answers nearly to the descriptions given by the ornithologists, and seems to be a female, as it has no black under the throat and eyes, and no white collar. The bill and legs are black, the eyes blue. At Severn settlement it arrives in May, goes to breed further northwards, and returns in autumn: the weight is 1/4 of an ounce, the length 6 1/4 inches, and breadth 10. I was inclined to make this bird a new species, on account of the many differences between it and the mountain sparrow; but considering the specimen sent over was not in the best order, and might be a female, I thought it best to leave it where it is, till we are better informed.

Fringilla. 30. Hudsonias. New Specimen. [Slate-colored Junco]

Severn River, No 18.

This is certainly a nondescript species; it only visits Severn settlement in summer, not being seen there before June, when it stays about a fortnight, goes further to the northward to breed, and passes by Severn again in autumn on its return south. It is very difficult to procure, and therefore it could not be determined whether the specimen was a male or female. It frequents the plains, and lives on grass-seeds; it weighs 1/2 an ounce, is 6 1/4 inches long,56 and 9 inches broad: it has a small blue eye, and a whitish bill faintly tinged with red; the whole body is blackish, or of a foot colour, the belly alone with the two outermost tail feathers on each side being white. It is to be wished that more specimens and circumstantial accounts of this bird were sent over, which would enable us to determine its character with more precision.

Muscicapa, Flycatcher. 31. Striata. New Species, Striped Flycatcher. [Blackpoll Warbler]

Severn River, No 48 and 49. Male and Female.

This species visits Severn River only in summer, feeding on grass-seeds, etc.; it weighs half an ounce, is 5 inches long, and seven broad; the male is widely different from the female: this species is entirely nondescript.

14. Motacilla, Wagtail. 32. Calendula. 337. 47. Ruby-crowned Wren. [Ruby

crowned Kinglet.] Edw. 254. Faun. Am. Sept.

(The number belonging to this bird is lost; however, it is most probably that sent from Severn river, No 53.)

It answers to the descriptions and the figure of Edwards; its weight is 4 drams, its length 4 inches, and its breadth 5. It migrates, feeds on grass-seeds and the like, and breeds in the plains; the number of eggs is not known.

15. Parus, Titmouse. 33. Atricapillus. 341. 6. Black Cap Titmouse [Black-capped Chickadee.]

Albany Fort, No 11.

The description given by Linneus answers, and so does M. Busson's in most particulars, except that the quill-feathers are not white on the inside. These birds stay at Albany Fort all the year, yet seem most numerous in the coldest weather; probably being then more in want of food, they come nearer the settlements, in order to pick up all remnants. They feed on flies and small maggots, and likewise on the buds of the sprig-birch, in which they perhaps only search for insects; they make a twittering noise, from which the native call them Kish-kiss-ke-shish.

Parus. 34. Hudsonicus. New Species. Hudson's Bay Titmouse. [Boreal Chickadee].

Severn River, No 12.

This new species of titmouse, is called Peeche-ke-ke-shish, by the natives. They are common about the juniper bushes, of which the buds are their food; in winter they fly about from tree to tree in small flocks, the severest weather not excepted. They breed about the settlements, and lay 5 eggs; they have small eyes, with a white streak under them, and black legs: the male and female are quite alike; they weigh half an ounce, are 5 1/8 inches long, and 7 inches broad.

Hirundo, Swallow. 35. [Barn Swallow nest beneath the windows; Cliff Swallow or Bank Swallow along the river banks]

Severn River, No 58.

The swallows build under the windows, and on the face of steep banks of the river, they disappear in autumn; and the Indians say they were never found torpid under water, probably because they have no large nets to fish with under the ice. The specimen sent answers in some particulars to the description of the Martin, Hirundo Urbica, Linn. but seems to be smaller, and has no white on the rump. I have, therefore, thought it best to leave the species undetermined, till further informations are received from Hudson's Bay, on this subject.

2. Water-birds. VI. Grallae, Clovenfooted. Faun. Am. Sept.

17. Ardea, Heron. 36. Canadensis. 234. 3. Edw. 133. Canada Crane. [Sandhill Crane]. Faun. Am. Sept. 14.

Severn River, No 35.

Blue Crane. The account from Severn settlement says, there is no material difference between the male and female; however, the specimen sent over, I take to be a female, as its plumage is in general duller than that figured by Edwards, and as the last row of white coverts of the wing are wanting. These cranes arrive near Severn in May, have only two young at a time, retire southward in autumn; frequent lakes and ponds, and feed on fish, worms, &c. They weigh seven pounds and a half, are 3 1/4 feet long, and 3 feet 5 inches broad; the bill is 4 inches long, the legs 7 inches, but the leg and thigh 19.

Ardea. 37. Americana. 234. 5. Hooping Crane. [Whooping Crane]. Edw. 132. Catesby, I. 75. Faun. Am. Sept. 14.

York Fort.

Edwards's figure is very exact; Catesby's is not so good, as it represents the bill too thick towards the point.

38. Stellaris, 239. 21. Varietas. The Bittern. [American Bittern]. Br. Zool. Edw. 136. Faun. Am. Sept. pag. 14.

Severn River, No 14.

At first sight, I thought the specimen sent from Hudson's Bay, was a young bird; but upon nearer examination and comparing it with Mr. Edwards's account and figure, I take it to be a variety of the common bittern peculiar to North America; it is smaller, but upon the whole very much resembles our bittern. Mr. Edwards's measurements and drawings correspond very well with the specimen.

This bird appears at Severn river the latter end of May, lives chiefly among the swamps and willows, where it builds its nest, and lays only two eggs at a time; it is very indolent, and, when roused, removes only to a short distance.

18. Scolopax, Woodcock. 39. Totanus. 245. 12. Spotted Woodcock. [c.f. Greater Yellowlegs and/or Lesser Yellowlegs] 70 Faun. Am. Sept. 14.

Albany Fort, No 16.

This bird is called a yellow leg at Albany fort, from the bright yellow colour of the legs, especially in old birds; a circumstance, in which it varies from the descriptions of Linneus and Brisson, probably because they described from dried specimens, in which the yellow colour always changes into brown. It agrees in other respects perfectly well with the descriptions: it comes to Albany fort in April or beginning of May, and leaves it the latter end of September. It feeds on small shell fish, worms, and maggots; and frequents the banks of rivers, swamps, &c. It is called by the natives Sa-sashew, from the noise it makes.

Scolopax. 40. Lapponica. 246. 15. Red Godwit. [Hudsonian Godwit]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 14. Ed. 138.

Churchill River, No 13.

Linneus describes this bird very exactly in his Systema Naturae: the middle of the belly has no white in the Society's specimen, as that had from which the description in the Br. Zool. octavo I. p. 353, 354, was taken. All the other characters correspond.

Scolopax. 41. Borealis. New Species. Eskimaux Curlew. [Eskimo Curlew]. Faun. Am. Sept, 14.

Albany Fort, No 15.

This species of Curlew, is not yet known to the ornithologists; the first mention is made of it in the Faunula Americae Septentrionalis, or catalogue of North American animals. It is called Wee-kee-me-nase-su, by the natives; feeds on swamps, worms, grubs, &c; visits Albany Fort in April or the beginning of May; breeds to the northward of it, returns in August, and goes away southward again the latter end of September.

19. Tringa, Sandpiper. 42. Interpres. 248. 4. Turnstone. [Ruddy Turnstone]. Edw. 141. Faun. Sept. 14.

Severn River, No 31 and 32.

This species is well described by the ornithologists; its weight is 3 1/2 ounces, the length 8 3/4 inches, and the breadth 17 inches; it has four young at a time; its eyes are black, and the feet of a bright orange: this bird frequents the sides of the river.

43. Helvetica. 250. 12. [Black-bellied Plover] Brisson, Av. V. p. 106. t. 10. f. 2.

(The number was lost, perhaps it is No 17, from Fort Albany, upon that supposition the account is as follows: "the natives call it Waw-pusk-abreashish, or white bear bird; it feeds on berries, insects, grubs, worms, and small shell-fish; visits and leaves Albany fort at the same time with the Scolopax Totanus, and Borealis.")

I find this bird answers very well to its description; the throat, breast, and upper part of the belly are blackish, as in the descriptions, but mixed with white lunulated spots, which are neither described nor expressed in Mr. Busson's figure, and may be owing to the differences of sex, or climate.

VII. Anseres. Web-footed. Faun. Am. Sept.

29. Anas, Duck. 44. Marila. 196. 8. Scaup Duck. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 17.

Severn River, No 44 and 45. Fishing Ducks.

Linneus's description, and the figure in the Br. Zoology, folio, plate Q. p. 153, agree perfectly well with the specimens. The female, as Linneus observes, is quite brown, the breast and upper part of the back being of a glossy reddish brown; the speculum of the wing and the belly are white. The eyes of the male have very bright yellow irides; those of the female are of a faint dirty yellow. The female is two ounces heavier than the male, which weighs one pound and an half, is 161/2 inches long, and 20 inches broad.

Anas. 45. Nivalis. Snow Goose. Faun. Am. Sept. p. 16. Lawson's Carolina. Anser niveus Briss. VI. 288. Klein. Anser nivis. Schwenkfeld, Marsigli. Danub. p., 802. t. 49.

Severn River, No 40, and a young one, No 41. white Goose.

These white geese are very numerous at Hudson's Bay, many thousands being annually killed with the gun, for the use of the settlements. They are usually shot whilst on the wing, the Indians being very expert at that exercise, which they learn from their youth; they weigh five or six pounds, are 2 2/3 feet long and 3 1/2 broad; their eyes are black, the irides small and red, the legs likewise red; they feed along the sea, and are fine eating; their young are bluish grey, and do not attain a perfect whiteness till they are a year old. They visit Severn river first in the middle of May, on their journey northward, where they breed; return in the beginning of September, with their young, staying at Severn settlement about a fortnight each time.

The Indian name is Way-way, at Churchill river. Linneus has not taken notice of this species.

Anas. 46. Canadensis. 198. 14. Canada Goose. [Hutchins' Goose] Faun. Am. Sept. 16. Edw. 151. Catesby I. 92, &c.

Severn River, No 42.

The Canada Geese are very plentiful at Hudson's Bay, great quantities of them are salted, but they have a fishy taste. The specimen sent over agrees perfectly with the descriptions and drawings. At Hudson's Bay this species is called the Small Grey Goose.

Besides this, and the preceding white goose, Mr. Graham, the gentleman who sent the account from Severn settlement, mentions three other species of wild geese to be met with at Hudson's Bay; he calls them,

1. The large Grey Goose. [a larger subspecies of the Canada Goose].
2. The Blue Goose. [blue phase Snow Goose].
3. The Laughing Goose. [Greater White-fronted Goose].

The first of these, the large grey goose, he says, is so common in England, that he thought it unnecessary to send specimens of it over. It is however presumed, that though Mr. Graham has shown himself a careful observer, and an indefatigable collector; yet, not being a naturalist, he could not enter into any minute examination about the species to which each goose belongs, nor from mere recollection know, that his grey goose was actually to be met with in England. A natural historian, by examination, often finds material differences, which would escape a person unacquainted with natural history.83 The wish, therefore, of seeing the specimens of these species of geese, must occur to every lover of that science. Mr. Graham says, the large grey geese are the only species that breed about Severn river. They frequent the plains and swamps along the coast. Their weight is nine pounds.

The blue goose is as big as the white goose; and the laughing goose is the size of the Canada or small grey goose. These two last species are very common along Hudson's Bay to the southward, but very rare to the northward of Severn river. The Indians have a peculiar method of killing all these species of geese, and likewise swans. As these birds fly regularly along the marshes, the Indians range themselves in a line across the marsh, from the wood to high water mark, about musket shot from each other, so as to be sure of intercepting any geese which fly that way. Each person conceals himself, by putting round him some brush wood; they likewise make artificial geese of sticks and mud, placing them at a short distance from themselves, in order to decoy the real geese within shot: thus prepared, as soon as the flock approaches, they all lie down, imitating the call or note of geese, which these birds no sooner hear, and perceive the decoys, than they go straight down towards them; then the Indians rise on their knees, and discharge one, two or three guns each, killing two or even three geese at each shot, for they are very expert. Mr. Graham says, he has seen a row of Indians, by calling round a flock of geese, keep them hovering among them, till every one of the geese was killed. Every species of geese has its peculiar note or call, which must greatly increase the difficulty of enticing them.

Anas. 47. Albeola. 199. 18. The Red Duck. [c.f. Merganser]. Faun. Am. Sept. 17. Edw. t. 100. Sarcelle de la Louisiane. Brisson VI. t. 41. f. 1.

Severn River, No 37 and 38. Fishing Birds.

The descriptions and figures answer very well with the male, except that the three exterior feathers are not white on the outside, but all dusky.

The female is not described by any one of the ornithologists; and therefore deserves to be noticed, to prevent future mistakes. The whole bird is dusky, a few feathers on the forehead are rusty, and some about the ears of a dirty white; the breast is grey, the belly and speculum in the wings white; the bill and legs are black.

Anas. 48. Clangula. 201. 23. Golden Eye. [Common Goldeneye] Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 16.

Severn River, No 51.

These birds frequent lakes and ponds, and breed there: they eat fish and slime, and cannot rise off the dry land. The legs and irides are yellow; their weight is 2 3/5 pounds, and their measure 19 inches in length, and two feet in breadth. The specimen sent is the male.

Anas. 49. Perspicillata. 201. 25. Black Duck. [Surf Scoter]. Faun. Am. Sept. 16. Edw. 155.

Churchill River, No 14.

This species is exactly described, and well drawn by Edwards. The Indians call it She-ke-su-partem. It ought to come into the first division of Linneus's ducks, "rostro basi gibbo," as its bill is really very unequal at the base.

Anas. 50. Glacialis. 203. 30, and Hyemalis, 202. 29. Edw. t. 156. Swallow tail. [Long-tailed Duck]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 17.

Churchill River, No 12.

At Churchill River the Indians call this species, Har-har-vey,89 it corresponds with Edwards's description and drawing, plate 156, but differs much from Linneus's inexact description of the Anas Hyemalis, to which he, however, quotes Edwards. Upon the whole it is almost without a doubt that the bird represented by Edwards, plate 280, and Br. Zool. folio, plate Q. 7, and quoted by Linneus for his Anas glacialis, is the male, and that the bird figured by Edwards t. 156, and quoted by Linneus for the Anas Hyemalis, is the female, of one and the same species. Linneus mentions a white body (in his Anas hyemalis) which in Edw. Tab. 156, and in the Society's specimen, is all brown and dusky, except the belly, temples, a spot on the back of the head, and the sides of the rump, which are white. Linneus says, that the temples are black; in the specimen now sent over, and in Mr. Edwards's figure, which Linneus quotes, they are white; the breast, back, and wings, are not black as he says, but rather brown and dusky. A further proof, that Linneus's Anas Glacialis and Hyemalis are the same, is that the feet in both t. 156 and 280 of Edwards are red, and the bill black, with an orange spot.

Anas. 51. Crecca. 204. 33. Varietas. Teal. [Green-winged Teal]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 17.

Severn River, No 33, 34. Male and female.

This is a variety of the teal, for it wants the two white streaks above and below the eyes; the lower one indeed is faintly expressed in the male, which has also a lunated bar of white over each shoulder; this is not to be found in the European teal. This species is not very plentiful near Severn river; they live in the woods and plains near little ponds of water, and have from five to seven young at a time.

Anas. 52. Histrionica. 204. 35. Harlequin Duck. Faun. Am. Sept. 16. Edw. t. 99.

This bird had no number fixed to it; it agrees perfectly with Edwards's figure.

Anas. 53. Boschas. 205. 40. Mallard Drake. [Mallard]. Faun. Am. Sept. Br. Zool.

Severn River, No 39.

It is called Stock Drake at Hudson's Bay, and corresponds in every respect with the European one, upon comparison.

21. Pelecanus, Pelican. 54. Onocrotalus. 251. 1. A variety. [American White Pelican]

This variety of the pelecan, agrees in every particular with Linneus's oriental pelecan (Pelecanus onocrotalis orientalis), but has a peculiar tuft or fringe of fibres in the middle of the upper mandible, something nearer the apex than the base. This tuft has not been mentioned by any author, and is likewise wanting in Edwards's pelican, t. 92. with which the Society's specimen corresponds in every other circumstance. The P. Onocrotalus occidentalis, Linn. or Edw. t. 93 American pelican [Brown Pelican], is very different from it : the chief differences are the colour, which in our Hudson's Bay bird is white, but in Edwards's is of a greyish brown; and the size, which in the white bird is almost double of the brown one. The quill-feathers are black, and the shafts of the larger ones white. The Alula, or bastard wing, is black. The bill and legs are yellow.

22. Colymbus, Diver. 55. Glacialis. 221. 5. Northern Diver. [Common Loon]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 16.

Churchill River, No 8. Called a Loon there.

This bird is well described and drawn in the British Zoology, in folio.

56. Auritus, a 222. 8. Edw. 145. Eared Grebe. [Horned Grebe]. Faun. Am. Sept. 15.

Severn River, No 43.

This is exactly the bird drawn by Edwards, t. 145. The specimen sent over is a female. It differs much from our lesser crested Grebe. Br. Zool. octavo I. p. 396, and Br. Zool. illustr. plate 77. fig. 2. and Ed. 96. fig. 2. However, in both these works, it is looked on only as a variety, or different in sex. Mr. Graham has the same opinion.

It lives on fish, frequenting the lakes near the sea coast. It lays its eggs in water, and cannot rise off dry land. It is seen about the beginning of June, but migrates southward in autumn. It is called Sekeep, by the natives. its eyes are small, the irides red; it weighs one pound, and measures one foot in length, and one third more in breadth.

Larus, Gull. 57. Parasiticus. 226. 10. Arctic Gull. [Parasitic Jaeger] Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept. 16. Edw. 148. 149.

Churchill River, No 15.

This species is called a Man of War, at Hudson's Bay. It seems to be a female, by the dirty white colour of its plumage below; it agrees very well with Edwards's drawing, and that in the Br. Zool. illustr.

24. Sterna, Tern. 58. Hirundo (Variety), 227. 2. The greater Tern. [?Arctic Tern]. Br. Zool. Faun. Am. Sept.

(The number belonging to this bird is lost, perhaps it is No 17, from Churchill River, called "A sort of Gull, called Egg-breakers, by the natives.")

The feet are black; the tail is shorter and much less forked than that described and drawn in the Br. Zool. The outermost tail-feather likewise wants the black, which that in the British Zoology has. In other respects it is the same.

Descriptiones Avium Rariorum

e Sinu Hudsonis.

1. Falco sacer.

Falco, cera pedibusque coeruleis, corpore, remigibus rectricibusque fuscis, fasciis pallidis; capite, pectore & abdomine albis, maculis longitudinalibus fuscis.

Habitat ad sinum Hudsonis et in reliqua America Septentrionali; victitat Lagopodibus & Tetraonum speciebus.

Descr. Magnitude Corvi.
Rostrum, cera, pedes coerulea; rostrum breve, curvum, coeruleo-atrum; mandibula utraque, basi pallide coerulea, apice nigrescente, utraque emarginata.
Caput tedium pennis albidis, maculis longitudinalibus, fuscis.
Oculi magni; irides flavae.
Gula alba, fusco-maculata.
Dorsum et tectrices alarum, plumis fuscis, ferrugineo-pallide marginatis, maculatisque, maculis rachin non attingentibus.
Pefius, venter, crissum, tectrices alarum inferiores, & femora alba, maculis longitudinalibus nigro-fuscis.
Remiges fusco-nigri, viginti duo; primores apicibus margine albis, maculis ferrugineo-pallidis, intra majoribus, transversis, extra minoribus, rotundatis.
Rectrices duodecim, supra fuscae, fasciis circiter duodecim & apice albidis; infra cinereae, fasciis albidis.

2. Strix nebulosa.

Strix capite laevi, corpore fusco, albido undulatim striato, remige sexto longiore, apice nigricante.

Habitat circa Sinum Hudsonis, victitat Leporibus, Lagopodibus, Muribusque.

Descr. Rostrum fusco-flavum, mandibula superiore superius magis flava.
Oculi magni, iridibus flavis.
Caput facie cinerea, e pennis fusco et pallide cinereo alternatim striatis. Pone hasce pennas collum versus est ordo plumularum fuscarum ad utramque genam, semicirculum nigrum efficiens.
Occiput, cervix, et collum fusca, pennis, marginibus albo-maculatis.
Pectus albidum, maculis longitudinalibus transversisque fuscis.
Abdemen album, superius uti pectus maculis longitudinalibus, sed inferius striis transversis notatum.
Dorsum totum et teclrices alae, caudaeque confertim ex fusco & albido undulatostriatae.
Alae fuscae; remiges primores fusci, griseo transversim fasciati, fasciis latis nebulosis.
Remex sextus, reliquis longior, apice magis nigricans; primus vero reliquis primoribus brevior. Remiges reliqui pallidiores, obscurius fasciati.
Cauda rotundata, reflricibus duodecim: duae intermediae paullo longiores, totae cinerascente albido fuscoque undulatim striatae, lineis duplicatis fuscis transversis pluribus. Reftrices reliquae fuscae albido substriatae.
Pedes tecti pennis albidis fusco-striatis.
Magnitude fere Strigis Nycteae, Linn.
Longitudo unciarum 16 pedis Anglicani.
Latitude pedum quatuor.
Pondus librarum trium.

3. Tetrao phasianellus.

Linn. Ed. X. p. 160. n. 5.

Tetrao pedibus hirsutis, cauda cuneiformi, remigibus nigris, exterius albo-maculatis.

Habitat ad Sinum Hudsonis.

Descr. Magnitude fere Tetraonis Tetricis. Linn.
Rostrum nigrum.
Oculorum irides avellaneae.
Caput, collum & dorsum testacea, nigro transversim fasciata : macula albida interrostrum et oculos : latera colli notata maculis rotundatis albidis.
Dorsum testaceum, plumis omnibus late nigro-fasciatis.
Uropygium magis albido-cinereum, nigredine fimbriata secundum rachin plumarum.
Pectus & Venter albida, maculis cordatis fusco-testaceis in ventre saturatioribus.
Alarum tectrices dilute testaceo, nigro, alboque transversim fasciatae, maculis pluribus rotundis albis. Remiges primores nigri, latere exteriore albo-maculati; secundarii fusci, apice & ad marginem exteriorem albo subfasciati: postremi vero testaceo fasciati, apice tantum albi.
Rectrices breves, exteriores pallide fuscae, apice albae, duae intermedia reliquis longiores, testaceo-maculatae.
Pedes plumis albo-griseis vesti digitis pectinatis.
Longitude unciarum 16 pedis Anglicani.
Latitude pedum duorum.

4. Emberiza leucophrys.

Emberiza remigibus rectricibusque fuscis, capite nigro, fascia verticis, superciliisque niveis.

Habitat in America Boreali ad Sinum Hudsonis.

Descr. Magnitude circiter fringillcs coelibis.
Rostrum rubrum, s. carnei coloris : Nares subrotundae.
Caput fascia verticali lata Candida, paululum ante rostrum desinente; fascia atra lata lata ad utrumque latus fasciae albae. Supercilia alba, desinentia in lineas, fasciam albam verticalem adtingentes; arcus dein atri, ex angulis oculorum, fere in occipite confluentes.
Collum cinerascens, in pectore dilutius.
Dorsum ferrugineo-fuscum, marginibus plumularum cinereis.
Alae fuscae; remigum primorum margines exteriores tenuissimi pallidi, interiores cinerascentes : secundarii & pennae tectrices fuscae, marginibus latiusculis, versus apicem albis, efficientibus fasciam albam; super quam fascia altera alba ex maculis albis in apice tectricum minorum, s. plumarum scapularium. Alulae albae. Remiges subtus cinerei, marginibus albis.
Pectus cinereum, abdomen dilutius, fere album.
Crissum & plumulae femora tegentes lutes centia.
Uropygium cinereo-fuscum.
Cauda aequalis; rectrices duodecim fuscae, marginibus paullo pallidioribus, subtus cinereae.
Pedes carnei coloris, digito intermedio & ungue postico reliquis longioribus. Longitude unciarum 7 pedis Anglicani.
Latitude inter alas extensas 9 unciarum pedis Anglicani.
Cauda partem tertiam longitudinis totius aviculae efficit.
Alae complicatae paululum ultra caudae exortum protenduntur.
Pondus drachmarum sex.

5. Fringilla Hudsonias.

Fringilla fusco-cinerascens, rostro albido, pectore inferiore, abdomine, rectricibusque quatuor extremis albis.

Habitat in America Boreali.

Descr. Magnitude circiter fringillae carduelis.
Rostrum albidum, rubedine aliqua imbutum.
Oculi parvi, coerulei.
Corpus totum cinereo-nigricans, s. potius fuliginosum.
Pectus inferius & abdomen alba.
Remiges fusci, cinereo-marginati: alae complicatae mediam fere caudam adtingunt.
Rectrices fuscae, extimae utrinque duae totae albae, tertia fusca, macula oblonga alba, ad latus interius, prope rachin, apicem attingens; reliquae totae fuscae.
Pondus semunciae.
Longitude unciarum 6 1/4 pedis Anglicani.
Latitude unciarum novem.

6. Muscicapa striata.

Muscicapa cinereo-virens, dorso nigro striato, subtus flavescenti-alba, gula lateribusque pedloris fusco maculatis.

Habitat ad Sinum Hudsonis.

Quum mas a foemina multum differat, utique congruum est, utrumque sexum separatim describere.

Descr. Mas.
Rostrum trigonum, mandibu superiore paululum longiore, ante apicem leviter emarginata, nigra; inferiore basi flavescente.
Nares subrotundae.
Vibrissce nigrae.
Caput supra totum atrum ad oculos usque. Genee a rostro in occiput totae albae; occiput albo & nigro variegatum.
Gula flavescenti-alba maculis fuscis.
Pectus albidum, lateribus, sive versus occiput maculis nigris variegatum.
Dorsum cinereo-virens, striis sive maculis longitudinalibus nigris latioribus, e plumulis nigris, margine virentibus.
Abdomen album.
Uropygium cinereum, nigro-maculatum.
Alae fuscae; remiges primores pallido marginati, secundarii apice tenuissimo albo; duae ultimae margine exteriore albo; tectrices fuscae, majores flavescenti albo, minores candido in apice maculatae, unde fasciae albae binae in alis.
Cauda fusca; rectrix utrinque prima s. extima, latere interiore macula magna alba, marginem interiorem attingente; proxima s. secunda macula oblonga minore alba, etiam marginem interiorem attingente; utrinque tertia, latere interiore versus apicem albo-marginata.
Pedes lutei; ungues breves, pallide fusci.
Magnitude circiter Pari atricapilli; Linn.
Longitudo 5 unciarum.
Latitude 7 unciarum pedis Anglicani.
Rostrum, alae, cauda, abdomen, uropygium, pedes & mensurae ut in mare.
Caput flavo-virens, striis brevibus tenuibusque longitudinalibus nigris; linea flavissimaa basi rostri incipiens super oculos ducta; palpebrae flavae.
Gula, genae & pectus albido-flava; maculae sparsae oblongiusculae fuscae, ab utroque oris angulo usque in pectoris latera.
Dorsum, ut in mare, sed viridius, & striae nigrae minores.

7. Parus Hudsonicus.

Parus capite fusco-rubescente, dorso cinereo, jugulo atro, fascia suboculari, pectoreque albis, hypochondriis runs.

Habitat ad Sinum Hudsonis.
Descr. Rostrum subulatum, integerrimum, atrum, basi e regione narium tectum fasciculis setarum ferruginearum, lineas 4 (unciae pedis Anglicani) longum. Caput fusco-ferrugineum, fascia sub oculis alba; gula atra, nigredine extensa sub hac fascia alba.
Dorsum cinereo-virens, e plumis longioribus, fuscis, apice tantum cinereo-viren
tibus, s. olivaceis.
Pectus & Abdomen alba, sed plumae omnes basi nigrae, apice tantum albae.
Latera abdominis & lumbi ferruginei.
Alae fuscae, remigum margine omni cinereo.
Cauda fusca, rotundata, rectricibus 12, margine cinereis.
Uropygium tectum plumulis aliquot nigris, apice albido-rufis.
Pedes nigri; digitus posticus cum ungue anticorum digitorum medio, duplo longior.
Longitudo unciarum 5 1/8 pedis Anglicani.
Latitude unciarum 7.
Cauda uncias 2 1/2 longa.

8. Scolopax borealis.

Scolopax rostro arcuato, pedibusque nigris, corpore fusco, griseo-maculato, subtus ochroleuco.

Habitat in Sinus Hudsonis inundatis, & pratis humidis, victitans vermibus & insectis : mense Aprili vel initio Maii primum visa est, circa Castellum Albany, inde in terras magis arcticas migrat, ibique nidificat; redit ad idem castellum mense Augusto; regiones Australiores petit circa finem Septembris.

Affinis scolopace arquata Linn. sed differt corpore triplo minore, rostro ratione corporis breviore, colore in dorso saturate fusco, in abdomine ochroleuco.

Descr. Caput pallidum, lineolis confertis longitudinalibus fuscis: sinciput saturate fuscum, pallido maculatum.
Rostrum nigricans, arcuatum, longitudine duarum unciarum pedis Anglicani, mandibula inferiore basi rufa.
Collum, pectus, abdomen & crissum ochroleuca; pectore colloque lineolis longitudinalibus fuscis confertioribus, abdomine & crisso fere nullis, vel tenuibus notatis.
Femora semi-tecta plumulis ochroleucis, fusco maculatis.
Latera abdominis sub alis praesertim, rufa, pennis transversim fusco fasciatis.
Dorsum totum saturate fuscum, pennis margine albido griseis.
Alae fuscae; remiges primores immaculati, primores rachi tota alba; reliqui, s. secundarii pallide griseo-marginati. Tectrices late griseo-marginati. Tectrices inferiores alae, ferrugineae fusco transversim fasciatae. Alae complicatae fere mediam caudam attingunt.
Uropygium fuscum, marginibus maculisque pennarum albidis.
Cauda brevis, fusca, rectricibus albido transversim fasciatis.
Pedes nigri, s. coerulescentes.
Longitudo unciarum 13 1/2.
Latitudo circiter unciarum 21.

9. Anas nivalis.

Anas, rostro cylindrico, corpora albo, remigibus primoribus nigris.

Habitat in America Boreali, per Sinum Hudsonis migrans.

Descr. Corpus totum album, magnitudine anseris domestici nostratis.
Rostrum luteum, mandibulis subserratis.
Oculi iride rubra.
Remiges decem primores nigri, scapis albis : tectrices infimae cinereae, scapis nigris ; pennae duae alulae, itidem cinereae, scapis nigris.
Pedes rubri.
Longitudo pedum duorum & unciarum ofto.
Latitude pedum 3 1/2.
Pondus librarum 5 vel 6.