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Photograph by E. A. McIlhenny The roseate spoonbills (A jaia ajaja) nest among the dense moss-hung cypresses by the lagoons and bayous near the Gulf Coast. The birds dwell near together on flat nests built with sticks of considerable size, and lay their three or four eggs about the first of June. Previous to nesting, the old birds pass through their spring molt, after which they are arrayed in a plumage of beautiful carmine and white, in marked contrast with the dark green of the cypress

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Photograph by E. A. McIlhennya The beautiful little snowy egrets (Egretta candidissima candidissima) were once common throughout the Gulf region, but they have fallen before the hunters of "aigrettes" for the millivery; trade until now the species is on the verge of extinction. The snowy egrets start nesting late in March, building their nests in remote marshes or on the margins of lakes and ponds. Mr. McIlhenny started "Avery Heronry” with eight of these egrets on a little pond artificially prepared for them. The birds have become much attached to their nesting place, and return to the heronry year after year to enjoy its protection

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Photograph by E. A. McIlhenny The Louisiana heron (Hydranassa tricolor ruficollis) is the most common wader in the South. This long-necked and long-legged bird, with its beautiful colors-and its harsh squawks-nests in various heronries throughout the state and on many of the mangrove islands bordering the gulf. Being very pugnacious, it is almost a pest in some of the heronries, for it tends to drive out the more gentle snowy egret

used to be their great slaughter ground, It would be hard to estimate the from which fact it derived its name; number of breeding birds on the islands for the old-timers would say, "If you for their habits are so varied. Close in want to give the geese hell, go to the among the salt grasses are the forkgravel hole!”

Now the birds may tailed Forster's terns. These active litgravel in safety. For "Ilell Hole” is tle fellows build their nests on the dead included among the protected areas. grass piled high by the tide; and the

But if the geese are numerous, there black-headed laughing gulls and least is no word to describe the numbers of terns find comradeship with them. Too ducks that sometimes crowd these numerous to count are the Cabot, royal, sanctuaries. Yet even with such num- and Caspian terns nesting on the outer bers during migration, spread them

shell keys. over the country, as at other times of The Cabot tern is my favorite, for he the year, and we have only too few. is more fearless, more unconcerned, and

Off the Louisiana coast are the fa- seems to take better care of his youngmous breeding islands of the birds. A sters than the other species. When we few years ago the boatmen plundered approached the Cabots, they stretched the colonies as they pleased, taking the their necks to full length, with crest eggs and killing the beautiful terns for erect, and protested at the tops of their their wings. Some species became so voices. If we came too near, they rose scarce as to be almost extinct in this and drifted gracefully away, and then region, but now the birds are swarming circled in from behind and fluttered once again on these shell kevs, the down to protect their babies from the thousands of flashing wings lending

One tern I watched did her their beauty and breaking the monotony best to coax her little one over the rim of the wide stretches of salt marsh and of the beach toward the water's edge. shimmering gulf.

She would go ahead a few steps, teasing

hot sun.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE WATER BIRDS OF LOUISIANA

55

and scolding, and then go back again as though out of patience with the wayward offspring

Terns are ideal birds to study and photograph from a blind. They sail back to their eggs within a few feet of the photographer almost before he has had time to conceal himself. At first

ously with the light shell of the ground, so that their elongated form and bill seem all the more out of proportion.

The skimmers receive their name from their habit of skimming the water for food. Whole strings of them may be seen darting along, their lower mandibles cleaving the surface. They

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Photograph by E. A. McIlhenny The adults of the little blue herons (Florida cærulea) are dark blue, but their young are white and easily mistaken for the young of the snowy egrets. All stages of plumage are found between the adult and young, the birds of mixed colors being known locally as "crazy herons" or "calico birds” (see page 67). The herons are timorous and seclusive and their rookeries are always in the wildest and most inaccessible places. The species is still very abundant in different parts of Louisiana

they are very suspicious and stand at are particularly active at dusk and I "attention," but they soon lose their believe they are more or less nocturnal caution and devote themselves to their for I have seen them about at all hours domestic duties.

of the night. Skimmers, too, nest on these islands The young are fuzzy little fellows by the thousands. These grotesque birds and have a habit of “taking to their stalk solemnly along the shell keys, heels" immediately they see anyone, but whole flocks of them together, their they crouch down when cornered and black colors gleaming in striking con- depend upon their gray coloration to trast with the sea and the sky, and their protect them. They can make a little white underparts blending harmoni- pit in the sand in no time by using their feet and breast, and when so They often receive so many fish that crouching they will allow one even to the tail of the last remains in sight, and step on them.

when an extra large fish is taken, its Then there are the clumsy-looking course can be followed down the skinny pelicans which have so aroused the neck. Often they become so gorged wrath of the fishermen recently along that they sprawl over on their breasts, the Gulf Coast. The largest colony of or flop over on their backs with feet brown pelicans in the country is at the extended in the air. At first when I mouth of the Mississippi River on the walked around the rookery, I thought United States Bird Reservation locally these stuffed fellows were dying, but called "Mud Lumps." These lumps when they were straightened out, they themselves are of geologic interest be- immediately disgorged and started cause of their peculiar formation, paddling away. Those birds large being squeezed up from under the river enough to travel take to the water imbottom by pressure beneath. Here fifty mediately on the approach of danger, thousand pelicans nest with their thou- and they gather in large flocks as they sands of downy young and make the drift idly on the quiet water and wait "lumps” one of the most interesting until their rookery is undisturbed again. places in the world.

Besides the birds which make up the The young when first hatched re- vast colonies, there are many other insemble little black India-rubber balls, teresting species nesting in this state. and are extremely sensitive to the sun The ibis, the awkward wood stork, and and therefore constantly sheltered by the beautiful roseate spoonbill are their parents. In a few days the white found in different parts. The anhingas down appears and the rookery is then choose the cypress, hiding their nests white as a cotton field. As soon as the among the dense curtains of moss, and youngsters are able to paddle aboutdarting away at the first approach of they keep their parents busy fishing in danger. What wonderful divers they order to satisfy their enormous appe

are, and how interesting their young! tites. Then there is a continuous ar- (See page 52.) rival of old birds from afar; a long Louisiana is not a state of greatly string of birds flying with methodically diversified scenery, but she offers a timed strokes,-a few strong beats and beautiful contrast when compared with then a coast, each bird following the other states of the Union. The placid wing strokes of the leader and all scal- lagoons are bordered with huge cying so close to the water that it seems presses and wide-stretching live oaks, they must strike the surface at every

all clothed with a drapery of Spanish beat. And what excitement there is

The swamps are often a jungle among

the
young

when the old birds ar- of tropical luxuriance, impassable berive! The white fellows follow after cause of the clinging vines. The lowwith anxious begging cries; the parent lands have their fascination with their bird opens wide her bill and disgorges beaches and wind-blown trees, their the fish, while the youngster antici- wave-beaten palmettos, and inviting pates its arrival by thrusting his head waters. down the old bird's throat. It is amus- As a natural bird paradise, the state ing to see a heavy young one, weighing of Louisiana is admirably adapted to more than the adult, feeding this way, become a haven of refuge, which will and the more they receive the more they be able gradually to send its feathered beg. They flop their wobbly wings and folk throughout the country to gladden jerk their heads back and forth, blink- the hearts of the thousands who wander ing their eyes, and staggering about. out of doors.

moss.

A SERIES OF DUOTONE REPRODUCTIONS SHOWING THE PROTECTED BIRD LIFE OF OUR

LOUISIANA COAST

BY ALFRED M. BAILEY

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Photograph by Alfred M. Bailey GRACEFUL FOLLOWERS OF BOATS AT SEA The laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) fish far out at sea, where their cries may be heard early and late as they follow the boats for the trails of refuse. The prolonged call of the flock is the most peculiar of gull cries and not unlike harsh, derisive laughter. Fast fiers, light of wing, and keen of vision, they sail with mar. velously controlled movements in graceful, clear-cut figures which make them a delight to the eye. They circle the boat round and round, without apparent wing movement; they suddenly stop in their flight to hover above the surface or to dive downward upon scrap which they

snatch as they sail past

some

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