National Geographic : 1915 Aug
BLUE GOOSE (Chen carulescens) Range: Breeds probably in interior of northern Ungava; winters from Nebraska and southern Illinois south to coasts of Texas and Louisiana. We know comparatively little of the life history of the blue goose. That it breeds in the far North is certain and it is surmised that it nests in the interior of Ungava. Few ornithologists have ever seen the bird, even in migration, though it is known to pass down the Mississippi Valley in considerable numbers. If, as is said, this goose migrates by night as well as by day, one reason for its apparent scarcity is evident. A new chapter was added to the bird's history when, in 1910, McAtee and Job found it wintering by thousands in the delta of the Missis sippi River. These observers report that the geese were in such numbers as to inflict great damage on pasture lands. Like all its relatives, this species is a strict vegetarian and is paicularly fond of the tender shoots of grass or grain. Eaton, in his "Birds of New ork," after remarking that the blue goose is one of the rarest waterfowl which visits the waters of New York State, gives the following synonyms under which the bird is known locally: blue snow goose, blue-winged goose, blue wavy, white-headed blue brant, white-headed goose. The list would seem to indicate that at some time or other the goose was more widely distributed or better known than at present. SNOW GOOSE (Chen hyperboreus hyperboreus) (See page 146). BRANT (Branta bernicla glaucogastra). Range: Breeds on the Arctic Islands north of latitude 740 and west to about o longitude 1000, and on the whole west coast of Greenland; winters on the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts south to North Carolina. The brant has a peculiar interest for eastern sportsmen since, while its nesting grounds are within the Arctic Circle, the bird winters on the Atlantic coast from New England south to North Carolina. Brant have always been favorite objects of pursuit by sportsmen, and many clubs have been formed the main object of which is brant shooting. Whatever be the cause, or the combination of causes, the brant is nowhere near as abundant as it was formerly, and while there would seem to be no danger of immediate extinction, a halt should be called on the indis criminate destruction of the bird before it is too late. As pointed out by Forbush, while brant are well protected in summer by the remoteness and inaccessibility of their nesting grounds, the short Arctic season with the possibility of early storms exposes their young to great danger. One or more unfavorable breeding seasons in the Arctic, combined with the activity of sportsmen along the south Atlantic coast, might quickly jeopardize the safety of the species. The brant is not a diver and it procures its favorite food, eel-grass, when the tide is low, and when the rising water interferes with its activities it has to content itself with the floating fragments. Its apparent inability to dive for its food seems all the more remark able since when wounded it not only can dive well but swim under water for a considerable distance. The flesh of the brant is usually excellent, although, as is the case with waterfowl generally, its flavor depends largely upon a variety of circumstances, especially upon the nature of its food for a few weeks prior to its being killed. * BLACK BRANT (Branta nigricans) (See page 146). CANADA GOOSE(Branta canadensis canadensis). Range: Breeds from the valley oflower Yukon, northwestern Mackenzie, and central Keewatin south to southern Oregon, northern Colorado, Nebraska, and Indiana; winters from southern British Columbia, southern Colorado, southern Wisconsin, southern Illinois, andNew Jersey south to southern California, Texas, and Florida. This, one of the largest of our waterfowl, isnotable inmany respects other than mere size. The wedge-shaped flocks of wild geese that, spring and fall, with melodious honking, wing their way respectively to their breeding and wintering grounds are a very familiar sight,and advertise inamost spectacular way that wonderful phenomenon-bird migration. The bird observer of speculative mind may find interest in answering the question-Why do geese usually fly inwedge formation? Is it because the powerful wings ofthe leader make easier the pas sage of those behind him or, as suggested by Forbush, does the wedge formation enable each individual member ofthe flock to see better? Formerly the Canada goose, despite its name, nested inmuch of our territory and as far south at least as Massachusetts. To-day comparatively few geese nest within our borders, although flocksofgoslings, convoyed by their parents, may still be seen on some of our western lakes. The "honker" isstill far from extinct, and owes its present numbers both to the fact that itnests chiefly inthe unfrequented territory of the far North, where its only enemies are the wild beast and the roving Indian, and to its wariness, the result of much and long-continued persecution. CACKLING GOOSE (Branta canadensis minima) (See page 147). EMPEROR GOOSE(Philacte canagica) (See page 147). TRUMPETERSWAN (Olor buccinator). Range: Breeds from the Rocky Mountains to the western shore ofHudson Bay and from the Arctic Ocean to about latitude 60°; winters from southern Indiana and southern Illinois south toTexas, and from southern British Columbia to southern California. This swan, the largest of American waterfowl, though by no means an infrequent visitor to both coasts, is by preference aresident ofthe interior where formerly it was very numerous. It used tonest inour northern tier ofStates west ofthe Mississippi, and Cooke states thatitnested inIowa aslate as 1871. Its former breeding resorts were and still areinthe region west ofHudson Bay. The bird, however, has become extremely rare, and there islittle doubt that the days of the species are numbered. Several causes have contributed to this end. Swans are not divers and have to procure their food, mainly aquatic roots and grasses, in shallow water, their long necksgreatly aiding them to secure the coveted deli cacies three feet or so under thesurface. Thus, when feeding, they are greatly exposed to attack by hunters whocan pot them almost at will. Then, too, inthe days of Hudson's Bay Company,swans' skins formed aregular article oftrade with the Indians, who killed largenumbers also for the pot. These may becon sidered contributory causes, but itwas the shotgun and rifle inthe hands of our gunners that settled the fate of this superb species. The whistling swan, a near relative ofthe trumpeter, and only alittle smaller, has not suffered to the same extent, asitbreeds farther north. Still it,too, has diminished greatly, and it must soon follow the fate ofits larger relative.