DESCRIPTIONS OF BIRD SPECIES
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A shore bird, about the size of our common killdeer plover but chunkier. In summer it is brownish on the back and top of the head; the under parts are white, with triangular, bold, black markings; the feet are yellowish, and the bill is olive-colored. Length, 9.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The species may be recognized as a plump, grayish bird, with a white bar across the wing and a broad white patch at the base of the tail, which is conspicuous when the bird takes flight.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed along the Pacific coast of North and South America. It breeds high up on the mountains of central Alaska. This bird may be looked for on bare, rocky ridges, well above timber line. It has been observed at the head of Savage River and at various places near the crest of the northern, or secondary, range. It is only a summer resident of the park, spending the winter in southern South America.
HABITS.The surfbird was found by us nesting in the park in May 1926. The nest was discovered by George M. Wright on May 28. Previous to to this its nest and eggs were unknown, although the downy young had been collected above timber line in the mountains of interior Alaska. The nest was 1,000 feet above timber line, on a rocky ridge, with a south exposure, so that it and its surroundings were free from snow, although extensive snowbanks were found nearby.
The nest was placed in a slight natural depression, entirely out in the open, without the least concealment. It was within 12 inches of a well travelled trail of the Alaska mountain sheep. The nest was not fabricated; the eggs were deposited on a slight lining of dry leaves and a few bits of lichen and caribou moss. The four eggs were of a buff color and were well marked with bay-colored spots (fig. 29). The nest was discovered through Wright's flushing the male bird directly from the nest. Although we kept watch during the entire night and a part of the following day, we found that only the male bird incubated the eggs. During this entire time he did not leave unless we forced him off; then he returned and covered the eggs within a few minutes, seemingly realizing that if they were left for any length of time they would become chilled and would not hatch. When it began to snow and rain, the male bird merely fluffed out his feathers over the eggs, so that the moisture ran off and was absorbed by the mossy covering surrounding the nest.
During the entire time that we watched, no female surfbird put in an appearance. All of the males secured for specimens had bare patches on the lower portions of their breasts. Such incubation patches show conclusively that it is the male bird who attends to the domestic duties of the household. This seems to be especially certain since none of the females which we collected had any sign of incubation patches. Furthermore, the females were all fat and in good flesh, whereas the males were uniformly lean or emaciated.
While we were watching the nest, a female mountain sheep appeared out of the mist and walked directly toward the surfbird nest. Just as she was about to step on it, the surfbird suddenly flew directly up into her face. The unexpected attack, the sudden noise, and the flash of white on the bird's wings and tail caused the startled sheep to jump back. By repeated observation and experiment, we found that this was the regular method that the surfbird employed to protect its eggs from being trampled on by numerous mountain sheep and caribou grazing daily all around the nest. Even when a person approached the nest, the bird would remain on it until the last moment and then, instead of sneaking off, would fly directly up into the intruder's face. Although we knew what to expect, we were always startled by the suddenness of the attack. After flushing it from the nest, the bird would run off a little way to one side, usually to a distance of about 10 feet. Here he would perch on a rock, fluffing out his feathers like a sitting hen, and uttering a low call, "tee-tee-teet!" The call would be repeated several times, with a slight pause between calls. If we started in pursuit of the bird, he would lead us carefully away from the nest, and then as soon as he had decoyed us away to a safe distance, he would fly directly back to the eggs. If, on the other hand, we remained at a distance and stood still, instead of approaching him, he would not bother to distract us further but would hustle back. In approaching the nest, the bird was very careful not to step on the eggs. He would run up to them and after inspecting them would reach out with his bill and turn them about (fig. 30); then he would squat at the edge of the nest, fluff out the feathers on his breast, and slide gently forward until the eggs were completely covered.
The summer diet of the surfbird was found to consist almost entirely of insects, which the bird captured by active chase among the bare, broken rocks. Thus, we found that the food of the surfbird in summer varied greatly from that which the bird obtains along the seashore in winter, when mollusks, barnacles, and other sea foods are eaten.
The surfbirds were usually encountered at the base of some rugged cliff which was often inhabited by mountain sheep (fig. 3). We also found that the surfbirds were closely associated with a small, white-blossomed plant, Dryas octopetala (fig. 31), which grew abundantly along the slopes just above timber line.
During the entire 72 days which we spent in the park, in 1926, we encountered surfbirds only seven times, and many days were spent in good territory in search of them without discovering a single bird. May 30, 1932, I found that due to the heavy snowfalls during a long hard winter, snowbanks several feet thick still covered much of the area where we had found surfbirds regularly during the latter part of May 1926. Snow conditions and fresh falls of snow continued through the early summeras much as 6 inches of snow falling at 4,000 feet on June 16, 1932, in the typical surfbird habitat. Although repeated visits were made to the identical places where we had found these birds regularly present in 1926, possibly as a result of this unusual snow condition, not a single surfbird could be found in the entire area. The severe late spring snowstorms, occurring as they did, made it difficult for surfbirds to nest successfully in this area. It is our opinion that in 1932 these birds nested at lower elevations farther in the interior where the snowfall was less and spring came much earlier than it did in Mount McKinley National Park.
Our experience would indicate that during favorable, early, warm summers, surfbirds nest in limited numbers in McKinley Park but that during late, cold summers they may be absent there.
There are many hundreds of square miles of territory along the northern, or interior, slope of the Alaska Range in the McKinley district which are suitable for surfbirds during the breeding season. It is therefore reasonable to believe that there are isolated pairs of nesting surfbirds scattered at intervals over this territory.
For a detailed account of this discovery, see The Surfbird's Secret by Joseph S. Dixon, published in The Condor, Vol. XXIX, pp. 3-16, January 1927.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A medium sized, brown, meadow inhabiting bird. It has a large dark eye and a boldly streaked head. Its long slender flexible bill is slightly enlarged and is sensitive at the tip. Length, 11.2 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The long bill, the reddish tail, the corkscrew flight leading to and from its wet meadow habitat; its harsh rasping alarm notethese are all good field characters for this bird.
DISTRIBUTION.It breeds across the continent in suitable wet meadow habitat. In the McKinley region it is found in wet meadows along the larger rivers.
HABITS.The Wilson's or Jack snipe is an excellent example of concealing coloration. So well does its plumage blend with the surrounding vegetation that the bird may be almost stepped on before being seen. The first spring arrival of this species was noted as early as May 14. Late in June 1932, a nest and four eggs of the Wilson's snipe were discovered by a ranger near Igloo Creek. The bird is a rather common but inconspicuous summer resident in the McKinley region.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A very large shore bird of general buff color, with a long, curved bill. It is faded brown above mixed with buffy below, and it has a decided light stripe running from the base of the bill along the side of the head above and behind the eye. Length, 17 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The long curved bill, the large size, brownish color, whitish stripe on the side of the head (fig. 32), and the loud, nerve-racking cries of the birds when their home territory is invaded, all serve to distinguish this species.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America. It breeds in northwestern Alaska and in northern Canada; and it is found breeding in fair numbers on wet tundra areas in the higher passes of the Mount McKinley region between Savage River and Copper Mountain.
HABITS.On June 16, 1926, we found three breeding pairs of Hudsonian curlews on a wet meadow on the divide between the Sanctuary and Savage Rivers. Nesting in the same meadow were two pairs of long-tailed jaegers. In several other places we found these two species closely associated during the nesting season. The curlews are excellent watchmen and detect an intruder while he is yet a long way off. They inform the entire neighborhood, by their outcry, whenever they see danger in any form approaching. On the other hand, the jaegers act as a police patrol and drive away any caribou, gull, or other intruder which they find invading the common nesting ground. There appears to be no friction between the jaegers and the curlews and our own experience confirmed the statements of persons who live in the region, namely, that the Hudsonian curlews and long-tailed jaegers in this region are always found nesting near each other on boggy patches of wet tundra. An adult female (No. 8789 J. D.) in breeding condition was collected by us on June 16, and on June 24 another female (No. 11 G. M. W.) with well-marked incubation patches on her breast was collected by Mr. Wright.
On July 13, at Muldrow Glacier near Copper Mountain, a female Hudsonian curlew with chicks about the size of a spotted sandpiper, kept trying to decoy us away from her offspring by spreading her tail and wing and then sneaking off through the fireweeds as if crippled. Although we saw the young curlews several times, they always eluded capture by cleverly concealing themselves in clumps of this fireweed. We watched the parent curlew as it fed amid the blossoming plants and found that, instead of foraging along the water's edge, as we had expected, the bird stalked and captured large bumble bees that visited certain large purple-red blossoms. At first we could scarcely believe our eyes when we watched with binoculars and saw a curlew slip up and deftly pick insects out of the flowers. The birds held the larger flies and bees in the tip of their bills; then before swallowing the insects they banged them against the ground until they were killed and broken. The smaller insects were gulped down whole as captured and without ceremony.
In 1927, the first curlews were seen at Wonder Lake on May 11, at 2 p. m. There were about 50 birds in the flock. In 1932, curlews were found in about the same numbers and at the same places that they were found in 1926. These birds occur commonly and are regular breeders in the McKinley region.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A buff-colored wading bird slightly larger than a killdeer. The bill is short, about the length of the head. Length, 11.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The Hudsonian curlew is the only bird in McKinley Park which is liable to be confused with the upland plover. They are sometimes found near each other, but the upland plover has a short bill and is decidedly smaller than the curlew; and the upland plover has a habit of alighting in treetops, which we have never known the curlew to do.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America. It breeds from Oregon north to northwestern Alaska. In McKinley Park they were found by us on the McKinley River bar, below Muldrow Glacier, and in Polychrome Pass. This species is partial to the drier meadows and gravel bars.
HABITS.On July 16, 1926, on an open gravel bar beside McKinley River, we saw a bird which at first sight we took to be a curlew, because of the manner in which it hurried out to greet us. The excited call notes of the bird were also very curlewlike, but this bird perched in the top of a dead cottonwood, which was not characteristic of the curlew. By the aid of the binoculars we could see that the bill of the bird was short and straight, not long and curved downward at the tip, as is the curlew's bill. The side of the bird's head was a light tan color which, together with the large dark eye, gave the bird a ghostlike appearance. In flight, the bird flapped its wings rapidly and then soared on set piñons, just as does the male mourning dove during the mating season.
Three pairs, all apparently breeding, were encountered between Muldrow Glacier and Wonder Lake. Mr. and Mrs. John E. Anderson collected the eggs and a parent bird of this species and sent them to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
On July 21, 1926, in Polychrome Pass, we found a pair of upland plovers fluttering about. They were trying with their cries and contortions to distract our attention from the young which were dodging about in the grass eluding capture.
On July 16, 1932, I found several pairs of upland plovers along the Toklat River upon the open flats, near Charles Sheldon's old cabin. Sheldon's experience and our own observations indicate that the upland plover breeds regularly, though in rather limited numbers, in the McKinley region.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A typical wading bird about the size of a robin. The upper surface, including the tail, is olive brown with a faint greenish lustre. The under parts of the body are white, sprinkled everywhere with rounded brownish black spots. Length, 7.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION. The small size, the conspicuous round blackish spots on its white breast and its habit of teetering at frequent intervalsthese are all characters and habits which distinguish the species.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America. It breeds over most of northern North America. and it is found in McKinley Park breeding on Savage River at 2,800 feet elevation. It is not common in the park.
HABITS.On June 3,1926, Wright watched 5 spotted sandpipers which were busy at love-making. He recorded that a male passing or catching up with a feeding female would hover 10 to 15 feet above and directly over her and then drop slowly to the ground beside her, only for her to lead him a merry chase by running off ahead of him. At other times the male would fly away for a few feet, then alight and strut back to the female with his breast feathers puffed out and his wings slightly drooped. These courtship displays were accompanied by a series of frequently repeated notes, "tsweet, tsweet, tsnet, tsne." On June 24, 1926, near this same spot Mr. Wright found a nest of the spotted sandpiper containing three well-incubated eggs. The parent bird returned to the nest as soon as Mr. Wright hid at a distance. During the next hour the same bird returned to the nest several times and was flushed from it several times. When collected, just as it left the nest, this bird proved to be the male and not the female.
WESTERN SOLITARY SANDPIPER
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A dark slender wader, slightly larger than the common spotted sandpiper. The bill is slender and slightly longer than the bird's head. The wings are black. The long slender toes and legs are olive green. Length, 8.4 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.It may be identified by the barred axillar feathers under the wing; too, it lacks the white bars on the wing that are conspicuous in the spotted sandpiper when in flight. Another good field character of this species is its solitary habit.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America. It breeds in Alaska and adjacent areas, chiefly west of the Rocky Mountains. It was noted by us in the McKinley region at Igloo Creek, where a breeding bird was collected July 26, 1932, and at Wonder Lake on August 9, 1932, when a bird of the year was taken.
HABITS.The Western solitary sandpiper was found to be a rare but breeding species in the McKinley region. Although special watch was kept for it in its favorite haunts, about small quiet ponds in deep woods, only two individuals rewarded our search.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A medium sized gray wading bird; plain slate above, from head to end of tail; under parts white crossed by irregular slate gray bars. The throat is white, finely speckled with gray; the bill is black and slender, and it is as long, or longer, than the head. Length, 10.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The heavy gray barring on the under parts of the wandering tattler and the plain slate back are diagnostic. These birds are very noisy during late June and July. Frequently when an intruder approaches they fly toward him with a loud noise of alarm and often perch on the tops of willows, scolding vigorously.
DISTRIBUTION.It inhabits the rocky islands and shores of the Pacific in North and South America. This is a purely maritime species except during the breeding season. It breeds in the interior of Alaska along the eastern flank of the Alaska Range. In McKinley Park it is found in summer along the rocky stream beds, especially near the upper portions and the headwaters of streams. Savage River, Igloo Creek, and Sanctuary River are favorite haunts of this rare species.
HABITS.The wandering tattler has been found nesting only in the Mount McKinley National Park. It is, therefore, worth making an effort to see this species on its breeding ground. The tattler and the surfbird are the elite in Alaskan bird society. Several pairs of tattlers are to be found in summer along the upper portion of the Savage River.
Generally speaking, the birds are to be found foraging along the water's edge, particularly where the stream flows swiftly, and the streambed is composed of fair-sized cobblestones. The slatish color of the back of the bird blends surprisingly well with the rocky background (fig. 33). A person may be within 20 or 30 feet of a tattler and still not notice the bird. They seemed to be aware of the fact that they were practically invisible so long as they stood stock still, and they often remained motionless and let us pass within a few yards of them.
In foraging, the tattlers would thrust their bills down, keeping their heads in a nearly vertical position, feeling around under the water about the edges of the larger pebbles and stones. In shallow water we could see the smaller pebbles, those about the size of marbles, move as the birds worked around them and under them with their bills, searching for certain fresh-water slugs and aquatic insects. On one occasion, where the water was 4 inches deep, the bird's whole head and part of the neck were immersed for as long as 10 seconds at a time. On May 21, while we observed them, one of the birds waded out into a pool of water until it got beyond wading depth. Instead of trying to fly across to the other side of the pool, this bird just sat down in the water and swam across, paddling vigorously with its feet, in true duck fashion.
The tattlers are noisy birds when flushed, particularly when they have young, but during the period of incubation they are remarkably quiet and secretive. The male bird usually stands on guard. He gives a warning to his mate of the approach of enemies, and this warning enables the brooding female to sneak off the inconspicuous nest, unobserved, while enemies are still at some distance. The eggs are spotted and colored in such a manner as to blend with the background, rendering them, too, difficult of detection, even when a person is standing almost over them.
The nesting sites are located on open, gravelly bars, where the accumulated rocks are about the size of cantaloupes. The nest itself is merely a depression, wallowed out by the bird, between small boulders. A scant lining of interwoven willow rootlets cradles the eggs and keeps them from coming in direct contact with the broken, sharp edges of the rocks.
On May 24, a male tattler began to scold as soon as we came near him. Then he flew around us on a tour of investigation, finally alighting, as is their usual way, in the top of a slender, dead willow (fig. 34). His mate was feeding at the edge of a nearby pool; soon he flew back and circled over her, fluttering and pausing momentarily while he uttered a clear "tweet tweet tweet", very much as does the spotted sandpiper in its mating season.
The perching ability of tattlers, which are strictly wading birds, is not very great, and they have considerable difficulty in maintaining their balance when perched for vantage in a willow top. Most of the tattler chicks heed the warning of their parents instantly and crouch motionless, with neck extended, on the gray gravel, their gray backs blending perfectly with the slatish color of the rocks. As long as the intruder remains in sight, the parent tattlers keep up their warning cries, and when close pressed, they often teeter nervously up and down just as the sandpipers do. However, we found that if we walked away, as if apparently leaving the locality, the parent tattlers would soon call forth their chicks and resume hunting for minute aquatic insects along the shallow margins of the clear, seepage water.
On June 21, near the head of Savage River, we found a tattler feeding in water which was only an inch or so deep. It kept its eye on us as it fed (fig. 35), frequently reaching under the stones with its bill. As long as we remained in sight, it stood motionless, crouched between two rocks.
On June 22, as we again approached this spot, the male tattler began to chirp excitedly, the warning call being very much like the metallic warning note of the California ground, or digger, squirrel. As we stood listening, we heard a faint reply to the parent's call, and looking upstream, saw a downy young tattler chick running about, seeking food. We ran up and caught this chick, which instead of hiding at once, ran across the open gravel bars toward a clump of willows. Looking around, we discovered another chick, running up the gravelly stream bed. As we ran after him, we almost stepped on the third chick, which had crouched motionless on the rocky ground. The fourth and last chick in the brood was then spied just as he was going out of sight. During this time, both parents fluttered about wildly at our feet, finally flying up and perching in the willow tops nearby. When we put the chicks into our rucksack, the male tattler came up and nestled down about 4 feet away from the sack and tried to call the chicks to him. This call, or brooding note, was a low "deedle-deedle-cherr."
The general appearance of the parent birds was much the same. However, the male is about one-half an inch smaller in length than his mate. He is also darker, particularly with regard to the dark bars across the breast. The white area on the chin of the male is covered with small, faint, dark spots. It, rather than the female, showed the greatest anxiety and solicitude for the welfare of the chicks. When one of the downy youngsters, which we had turned loose, peeped plaintively, the male tattler flew over and, with partially spread wings, hovered the chick (fig. 36), uttering, meanwhile, a series of reassuring notes. Then both parents accompanied and coaxed this youngster about until the chick came to a steep gravel bank, where it sought refuge under a shelving rock. At this time we saw the adult birds pursue crane-flies which they captured on the wing, jumping clear off the ground in doing so; and again we watched them feeding on small fresh-water snails and small larvae. The chicks are able to swim as soon as they are hatched. This was demonstrated by one downy youngster when he came to a place where the water was deep. However, the young do not take to water as readily as do the chicks of the semipalmated plover.
By July 12, we found that the young tattler chicks had grown surprisingly and that their slate-colored primary wing feathers were already more than an inch long. The gray, natal down on their backs was entirely replaced by slate-colored feathers, and on the lower breast and belly the natal down was replaced by cream-colored pinfeathers. When we attempted to capture a young tattler, he sought to hide, not out upon the open gravel, as he did when 2 or 3 days old, but by running and hiding (fig. 37) amid the grass and flowers that grew on the stream bank. If closely pursued, he would take to the water, where he swam readily, making headway even against a fairly stiff current. By this date, when about 12 days old, young tattlers were active and fleet enough to capture flying insects that moved about the clumps of fireweed growing on the sandy bank. The young tattlers mature rapidly and leave their birth places early in the fall. As early as August 9, 1908, at Prince William Sound, in a locality about three or four hundred miles distant from their known breeding ground, I collected a barely fledged young tattler.
In 1932, our experience with wandering tattlers was similar to that of 1926, except that fewer pairsonly about one-half as manywere present. This seasonal decrease is believed to have been due to the adverse weather and snow conditions in Mount McKinley National Park where this species breeds each season in limited numbers.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A graceful wader, about the size of a killdeer with long yellow legs. It is finely patterned in black and white. Length, 10.7 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.Good identification characters for this bird are its long, slender yellow legs, gray back, and the large amount of white on the tail and rump, which latter is particularly noticeable when the bird takes flight. The lesser yellow-legs has a straight bill and is smaller in size than the greater yellow-legs.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America. It breeds from northern British Columbia northward at least to the McKinley district in Alaska. This species is rare in McKinley Park and is a bird of the lower grassy plains.
HABITS.On July 2, 1926, near Healy on the Alaska Railroad, we saw two pairs of lesser yellow-legs feeding about a grassy pool. One pair had two downy young which stood about 4 inches high. On June 16, 1926, near the Sanctuary River, I collected an adult male lesser yellow-legs which was feeding along the margin of a grass-rimmed pool. This specimen (No. 8784 J. D.) had testes more than one quarter of an inch in length and was found to be in full breeding condition.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A true sandpiper slightly smaller than a robin. This bird is white below and brown above; it has a pale buff band across the breast. Length, 7.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.Baird's sandpiper resembles a large least sandpiper, but the back has a scaly, rather than a streaked, appearance. It may be distinguished from the buff-breasted sandpiper by its whitish chin and black instead of dull yellow legs.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout North and South America, breeding in the Arctic regions of northwestern North America. In the McKinley region it is found only in the higher mountain passes above timber line.
HABITS.One of the surprises of our trip to Mount McKinley was the finding of Baird's sandpipers breeding high above timber line in nearly all of the higher, wet passes. On June 28, 1926, at the extreme head of Savage River, two male birds of this species were collected. These were found on the frozen shore of a little lake in a hanging meadow, at 5,500 feet, near the very crest of the range. The regional conditions at this point were truly arctic, since deep snow slides filled many of the hanging valleys. The two male birds collected were in hot pursuit of a female and went through ardent courtship flights and displays. Their reproductive organs indicated that they had not yet bred.
At Copper Mountain on July 11, a male Baird's sandpiper was collected that pretended to have a broken wing and successfully decoyed us away from its nest, which was probably located in a marshy stretch of tundra.
Again, at Copper Mountain, near Muldrow Glacier, on July 13, we collected an immature female (No. 8897 J. D.). There still existed a patch of natal down on the back of the bird's head. However the bird still had the white-margined feathers of the immature plumage on its back and was able to fly a short distance and to forage by itself along the margin of a shallow pool. This individual was in exactly the same plumage as a specimen which I collected at Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, on July 30, 1914, and was figured in The Condor for May 1917 (p. 84).
On July 18, 1932, a mated pair of Baird's sandpipers was found high up in Sable Pass. Their actions indicated that they had a nest nearby. This species is believed to breed regularly in limited numbers in the mountain passes of Mount McKinley National Park.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A chunky sandpiper slightly smaller than a killdeer. The bill is longer than the head and has a slightly down-curved tip. In summer, it has a black patch across the belly; the back is reddish. The chin and hind lower surface and wing band are white. Length, 8 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.In summer, this sandpiper may be recognized in the field by its red back, black patch across the belly, and its slightly down-curved bill tip.
DISTRIBUTION.It breeds on the northern coast of Siberia and in Alaska from Demarcation Point to the mouth of the Yukon River. It was observed in midsummer at Copper Mountain near Mount McKinley.
HABITS.On July 19, 1926, Wright saw two waders at close range on a gravel bar, which, because of their reddish backs and other markings, he believed to be red-backed sandpipers. It is therefore possible that this species will be found breeding on the Arctic tundras in the higher meadows of the McKinley region.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A "peep" or small sandpiper. The bill is longer than the head and is usually slightly curved down at the tip. It has a blackish spotted breast band which lacks the buffy ground color found in the Baird's sandpiper. It has webs between the bases of its front toes. Length, 6.5 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The upper parts are bright chestnut, mottled with gray and black, and the spotting on the breast is sharply defined. It is a "peep" with black legs and with a bill that is longer than its head.
DISTRIBUTION.It breeds on the northwestern coast of Alaska. It is found along Savage River in McKinley Park.
HABITS.On June 18, 1926, I found a lone western sandpiper foraging quietly along a backwater pool of Savage River. Its tameness and solicitous actions as it tried to decoy me away from the locality led me to believe that the bird was nesting. Frequently afterwards, a bird of this species, believed to be the same individual, was watched at this locality, but repeated searching failed to disclose the nest. Therefore, we are unable to produce positive proof that this species nests in the McKinley region; however, our observations indicate that it does breed in the park area.
GENERAL APPEARANCE.A small, graceful sea snipe, wader-like in form, but with dense plumage and webbed toes. It is an expert swimmer. The female is larger and, in summer, more brightly colored than the male. These birds are dark gray above. The under parts and the throat patches are white and the bill is needlelike. The sides of the neck are brick red. Length, 7.7 inches.
IDENTIFICATION.The needlelike bill, small size, and scalloped toe webs, and the bird's ability to swim serve to distinguish the species from other shore or wading birds.
DISTRIBUTION.It is distributed throughout the northern and southern hemispheres. It breeds across the Arctic portion of North America, and is usually found in small ponds above timber line in McKinley Park.
HABITS.Five northern phalaropes were noted busily feeding in a small pond on July 1, at Jenny Creek. These birds were whirling and spinning about on the water, meanwhile uttering a low "churr."
At the summit of Thompson Pass, on July 11, we found four Northern phalaropes feeding in a small pond. Their actions indicated that they were nesting in a grass-grown pond. This was further substantiated by us when we collected a male bird which was in full breeding condition at Copper Mountain, on July 19, near the same place where the five adults, which were apparently breeding, had been observed on July 13, 1926.