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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/335

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GLIMPSES OF LIFE ALONG A CORAL REEF.

eye. The bill is long and cylindrical, the upper mandibles curving over the lower in the form of a sharp hook, and the lining. of the mouth and gular-pouch is bright blue. The long, black quills of the frigate-bird were scattered over the island, and the bushes were whitened with their ordure.

I had not been many minutes on the key before I discovered a large snow-white bird nestling on the ground under a spray of Rhacichallis. Its wings were barred with jet-black; its bill was bright yellow, and tapered to a spear-like point, which forbade too close familiarity. This proved to be the yellow-billed tropic-bird (Phaeton flavirostris), and we afterward caught several in our hands, taking them from the nest. When held up by the wings, they strike lustily with their bills and utter a peculiarly shrill cry. The tropic-bird lays a single egg on the ground beneath rocks or bushes. It is about the size and make of the hen's, and is finely sprinkled with reddish-brown so as to appear of an almost uniform tint. One of these birds which my companion shot and slightly wounded, flew a short distance and then alighted on the water. As we sailed toward it, first one and then another bird came and hovered over it as if urging it to take flight, which It presently did, and with its attendants soon passed out of sight. These birds resemble the gulls in many points, but are distinguished from other sea-fowl by two long streamers in the tail, which wave behind them as they fly.

PSM V32 D335 Egg of the yellow billed tropic bird.jpg
Fig. 5.-The Egg of the Yellow-Billed Tropic Bird. (From Paw-Paw Key, natural size.)

Joe Key, forty miles northwest of Green Turtle, was the most interesting island we visited. Its windward side, facing the sea, is rocky and precipitous A mangrove-swamp nearly divides it into two, and on the inside there is a smooth beach and a good harbor for small boats. It was nearly dark when we landed, but our attention was soon called to the great numbers of pigeons which were constantly flying to and fro from one point to another on the island. Before going ashore, we rowed to a narrow inlet between a detached cliff and the