National Geographic : 1915 Aug
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta canadensis minima) (See page 121). Range: Breeds in western Aleutians and from Norton Sound south to northern coast of Alaska Peninsula; winters from British Columbia south to San Diego County, California. The cackling goose is simply a dwarf form of the Canada goose with somewhat darker colors. It is chiefly limited to the West-Coast States. Nelson found this the most common and generally distributed goose breeding along the Alaska coast of Bering Sea. His spirited account of it as he saw it in the Yukon Delta gives an excellent idea of the nature of the visits of this and other waterfowl to Alaska. He says: "The first goose of the season is hailed with delight by both natives and white residents, who set at work repairing their guns and making ready for the welcome change from a diet of fish, eaten all through the winter, to geese, which soon become the staple. As May advances and one by one the ponds open, and the earth looks out here and there from under its winter covering, the loud notes of the various wild fowl are heard, becoming daily more numerous. Their harsh and varied cries make sweet music to the ears of all who have just passed the winter's silence and dull monotony, and in spite of the lowering skies and occasional snow-squalls every one makes ready and is off to the marshes. The flocks come cleaving their way from afar, and as they draw near their summer homes raise a chorus of loud notes in a high-pitched tone like the syllable 'luk' rapidly repeated, and a reply rises upon all sides, until the whole marsh re-echoes with the din, and the newcomers circle slowly up to the edge of a pond amid a perfect chorus raised by the geese all about, as if in congratulation. Even upon first arrival many of the birds appear to be mated, as I have frequently shot one from a flock and seen a single bird leave its companions at once and come circling about, uttering loud call-notes." EMPEROR GOOSE (Philacte canagica) (See page 121). Range: Breeds from Kotzebue Sound south to the mouth of the Kuskokwim, on St. Lawrence Island, and also on Chukchi Peninsula, Siberia, near East Cape" winters from Commander and Near lands east through Aleutians to Bristol Bay and Sitka. Geese are strong of wing and of adventurous disposition and to most of the tribe a migration of a thousand miles or so is a trifling matter. The emperor goose appears to be as strong as any of its fellows and equally good on the wing, which makes all the more remarkable the limited area it occupies in Alaska. It ordi narily ranges only from the Aleutian Islands to the vicinity of Bering Strait, and the life of the species is practically restricted within this narrow territorial compass. Nelson enjoyed the unusual opportunity of observing the emperor goose in Alaska. "By the Aleuts these birds are called 'beach geese,'" he says, "from their habit of frequenting the island beaches to feed. These geese arrived in force in the Yukon delta about the first of June, while the river was still under a firm sheet of ice and heavy snow banks covered half the earth. Soon after arrival they paired, the males when mated being very pugnacious. They nested on the salt marshes, and the eggs, five to eight in number, were frequently deposited among the driftwood below high-water mark. The young appear about the last of June and the adults moult from the last of July to the middle of August. Now comes the opportunity of the Eskimo, who set long lines of nets across the marshes, into which they drive the hapless waterfowl which have moulted their quill feathers and cannot fly. The slaughter is enormous and the natives make it worse by killing thousands of young birds for nP other purpose than to prevent them being in the way next drive" AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana) (See page 128). Range: Breeds from eastern Oregon, central Alberta, and southern Manitoba south to southern California, southern New Mexico, northwestern Texas, northern Iowa, and central Wisconsin; winters from southern California and southern Texas to southern Guatemala. Though not a game bird inany proper sense, the avocet finds mention here because it furnishes a shiningmark for the gunner, and inconsequence has practi cally disappeared from the Atlantic coast. Numbers of avocets are still tobe seen along the borders of sloughs and ponds inthe far West, though even there the bird by no means enjoys the immunity from persecution itdeserves. Its striking colors, its vociferous voice, long neck and bill, and its longer legs, combine to render the avocet so conspicuous thatits only chance for safety rests inseeing its enemies before it is seen by them. Itslong legs have another function as they enable the bird to wade in the shallows,where its food ischiefly obtained, while its webbed toes enable it to swim easilywhen need arises. Its slender, upward-curved bill may well excite wonder, but Nature knew what she was about indesigning it,for its form admirably adapts it for finding and seizing any prey that may rest on the surface of the muddy ooze, orfor probing for various larval forms common infresh water. It nests on the margins ofthe ponds which itfrequents, and no sooner does an intruder appear thanitflies to meet him with loud outcries that unmis takably betray the secret it isso anxious to conceal. The avocet, soinnocent and beautiful, is now protected bythe Federal law and, asits flesh isworthless, neither sportsmen nor gunners have any excuse for slaughtering it. DOWITCHER (Macrorhamphus griseus griseus) (See page 128). Range: Breeding range unknown, but probably northern Ungava; winters from Florida and the West Indies south to northern Brazil. The dowitcher, or brown back, asitisknown inmany places, isone of our most important shorebirds, both by reason ofits great numbers, its excellence for the table, and the sport it furnishes. Ifwe include under the name "dowitcher" the western form, with its longer bill and other slight differences, the bird may be said to visit all parts of the United States inits migration. Itis,however, far more common on the coast than inthe interior, and formerly itvisited the Atlantic shore in multitudes. The brown-back, however, isone of the most unsuspicious of our shorebirds, and comes to wooden decoys with the utmost readiness. Even after a flock is decimated andthe dead and dying cover the ground, the survivors will return again to the fatal spot. No wonder that the multitudes spoken ofby many earlier writers no longervisit our shores. There isevery reason tobelieve that the absolute prohibition ofthe shooting ofthis bird for aterm ofyears will do much toward rehabilitatingthe species. Then, with the prohibition of spring shooting and with a small bag limit, itmay be possible to retain the brown-back on the list of game birds. But sportsmen may rest assured that anything short of drastic measures will be followed by the extermination ofthis important wader.