National Geographic : 1936 Jan
BIRDS OF THE NORTHERN SEAS against specialized modern methods aimed at their destruction. The great auk early became extinct (Color Plate I). Razor-billed auks, murres, and others in southern parts of their range on our northeastern coasts have been much re duced in numbers. In recent years they have been afforded protec tion through the Mi gratory Bird Treaty in effect between the United States and Can ada and through other means, so once more there has been a slow increase among them. SOME WEAR BIZARRE PLUMES AND BRIL LIANT BEAKS Black, gray, and white are the predomi nating colors in the plumage of members of the auk group, with the markings often con trasted and highly at tractive. Many, such as the tufted puffin, and some of the auk lets in breeding dress, have plumes and tufts of feathers about the head that give a bi zarre appearance (see Plates IV, V, and VII). These plumage oddi ties usually are orna ments of the breeding season and are shed in lack them in winter. Photograph by J. D. Rattar FOUR SOLEMN PUFFINS RULE A ROCKY ROOST IN THE SHETLAND ISLANDS Puffins generally arrive there about the first of April and leave around the twenty-third of August. About the third week in May they lay a single egg in a hole from eighteen inches deep to beyond the reach of a man's arm (see text, page 103). They often nest in rabbit bur rows, which are numerous in the vicinity, but for the most part the birds dig the holes themselves with their strong claws. fall. Most species The bill of the puffin is one of the most curious and unusual among birds. In the nesting season it is large and brilliantly col ored, giving the bird the appearance of a grotesque mask (see Plates III and IV). In fall the horny plates are shed in several pieces, and in winter the bill is not only more plainly colored but is actually smaller than in spring. The horned puffin and the common puf fin also shed the curious horny spike above the eye, and the rhinoceros auklet loses the projecting horn on the base of the bill (see Plate VII). Birds of the auk group have their exist ence remote from the lives of most of us and are little known at first hand, even among naturalists. To see them one must go to northern seas or visit lonely places. The auks as a whole seem to occupy in the North the place taken by the penguins of Antarctic regions, but the similarity lies merely in habit and in manner of life, as the two groups are only remotely related.