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GOOSANDER PLATE FROM STUDERS BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA
This is an original old colored plate from the famous book on North American birds by Jacob Henry Studer (1840-1904). BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, New York: Published under the auspices of the Natural Science Association of America, 1903. There were over 100 full-color plates in the imperial quarto volume of which this is PLATE XXV – The Goosander.
This beautiful chromolithographed print measures 11 5/8” x about 14 ˝”. The top edge is somewhat uneven where it was detached from the volume, and there is one 1 ˝” tear running in from the bottom of the right edge (see scan) and another shorter tear in about the same place, but otherwise the print is in quite good condition. Ready for matting, framing & display.
The information that appeared in Studer’s book with this plate is as follows:
The Goosander. (Mergus merganser.)
This splendid bird is not only called Goosander, but also Water Peasant, Sheldrake, Fisherman, Diver, Saw-bill, etc. He is a true representative of the second family of the sixth group, belonging to the fourteenth order of the fifth class. Our plate represents him in full plumage, or in his bridal dress.
The goosander is an inhabitant of the northern part of this continent, and also of the corresponding latitudes of Europe and Asia. In all these countries he is found in about equal numbers. The proper district of his range may be said to be the belt of the globe between the thirty-second and sixty-eighth degrees of north latitude. In his wanderings, which are more regular than with his kindred, he has sometimes been observed in northern parts of India and Southern China, and almost everywhere in North America. The Goosander is ranked as one of the most handsome among swimming birds. His splendid plumage, whose chief colors are
beautifully contrasted, attracts the attention of all scientific and other observers. His unusual vivacity and his rapid motions increase this attraction. His proper element is the water, on which he is almost constantly seen, except about midday, which he generally spends on a dry sandy spot on the shore, taking a rest. His walk on land is an unwieldy waddle; on wing in the air his flight appears to be quite swift, but it is performed with great exertion. He swims with the greatest ease, and dives noiselessly and as easily as he swims. When swimming quietly on the surface, he paddles with slow but powerful strokes of his broad webbed feet,
and makes very good headway, but if he notices one of his associates has taken a fish and is about to swallow it, "1 he goes for him," and shoots over the water with almost the rapidity of an arrow, producing a considerable splash.
When swimming under the surface, the Goosander appeared to me like a fish, as he passed right under my canoe, for he shot forward with the like velocity. His stay under water is only about one minute, and at the longest, not much over two minutes; but even in this short time he often rises to the surface at the distance of over a hundred paces from the spot where he dived. This is quite a feat, when we take into account that he fishes under water, and is consequently obliged to make many zigzags. On coming to the surface he usually flaps his wings and immediately dives again.
His voice is a peculiar humming or rattling sound, which bears some resemblance to the sound of a Jew's-harp. The single sounds are somewhat like " carr " and " corr;" but these sounds are so blended together that they are best represented by the notes of the Jew's-harp. His senses are very acute, and his observations very quickly made. In watching him one can not fail to be struck with his intelligence, caution, and peculiar shyness, together with his
cunning and craftiness. He is not a sociable bird, and never associates with any of his relatives, but only with birds of his own kind. Even among themselves, Goosanders never take much notice of each other, except by showing constant signs of envy; but this does
not prevent them from helping one another in fishing, as they dive all at the same time, and thereby drive the fish from one bird to another. The food of the Goosander consists chieflv of fish, and he always prefers the smaller ones, from three to six inches in length, though he will sometimes catch and devour larger ones. He also feeds on large aquatic insects.
The pairing of these birds begins in the winter; but their nest building is not commenced in the North until June. The nests are built in different places, often in hollows in the ground, sometimes under shrubbery, among rocks, in the stump of an old tree, or in an abandoned nest of a Crow or a Hawk. The nest is composed of grasses, rushes, leaves, and lichen, but the inside is always lined with dry and warm material, such as fine feathers. The eggs number from ten to fourteen, of an oblong form, and a light greenish color, having a strong shell of a fine grain. The young, which run about as soon as they are hatched, soon take to the water. Those that are hatched in nests on rocks tumble themselves down from considerable heights, lower and lower, until they reach the water. I have seen young Goosanders tumble themselves down from heights of ten or twelve feet, so that they lay below for more than a minute in a stunned condition; but as soon as they recovered, they shook themselves and made ready for another tumble. It seems that the heavy down with which they are covered gives them a certain degree of elasticity, and thereby shields them from injury. The young Goosanders live at first exclusively on aquatic insects, and keep on the surface of the water; but after a period of three days they begin to dive, and, after a few days of practice, they become as expert fishers as their parents. In their movements and behavior, they at first resemble young Ducks; but after the first eight days they exhibit the peculiar movements of the old birds. Up to this time they take shelter under the wings of the motherbird to warm themselves after their fishing exercises; but they grow very rapidly, and soon become so independent as to take no heed of the mother or she of them. To produce warmth, they
huddle close together, forming a sort of round heap. In about six weeks they are full grown, but not able to fly, as the growth of the quill feathers does not quite keep time with the growth of the body. The male bird takes no care of the young, except to act as a sentinel, giving a warning on the approach of an enemy. The young of the Goosander suffer but little from the enemies that threaten other young swimming-birds. This is due to their strength and rapid motion. The old ones suffer but hide from enemies, as they are very cautious and shy, and their flesh is not very desirable food, having a strong fishy taste. Their feathers are
considered inferior to those of the Goose or Duck. The eggs of the Goosander are collected in the northern regions by trappers and fishermen, who are said to take from one of the same
nest successively over two dozen eggs, the mother-birad always replacing the egg that was taken away; but the egg must be pulled out of the nest with a stick, and not taken by the bare hand, as in that case the bird would abandon the nest.
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