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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/114

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102
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The eggs of wild birds are not very generally eaten in this country, but in some localities those of sea-fowl are largely consumed, and a considerable trade is carried on in gulls' eggs on many of our coasts. There is a great demand for plovers' eggs in the city markets for epicures. They are the eggs of the lapwing (Vanellus cristatus), a bird which lays about four eggs of an olive cast, spotted with black. These eggs come chiefly from Holland, the home produce being now very small, and they are received during the spring and summer, from March to June. Mr. Yarrell, who wrote many years ago, mentions that two hundred dozens of peewits' eggs were sent in one season from Romney Marsh to London. The eggs of many other species of birds are imposed upon the Londoners in the place of plovers' eggs.

In the sea islands of Alaska, the eggs of the thick-billed guillemot have an economic value, being the most palatable of all the varieties found in the islands, and hence are much sought after by the natives. The bird lays a single egg, large and very fancifully colored. The shell is so tough that, in gathering them, they are thrown into tubs and baskets on the cliffs, and poured out upon the rocks with a single flap of the hand, just as a sack of potatoes would be emptied, and only a trifling loss is sustained from broken or crushed eggs.

On the Faro Islands the number of eggs laid by the lesser black-backed gull, and sent annually to shore for culinary purposes, must be prodigious. The eggs of the common guillemot lie there so close together that it is difficult to move among them.

The eggs of the stork are very good eating, whether hot or cold. The natural color of the cormorant's egg seems to be a bluish green, like the usual variety of the common domestic duck, but over this is a thick, white, irregular covering of lime, which is frequently in such abundant quantity as to stand out in lumps on the surface, seldom allowing much of the original color to be visible. No doubt this superabundance of lime is produced by the bones of the fish, of which this bird is said to eat prodigious quantities, and perhaps also from shell-fish.

Turtles' eggs are held in great esteem wherever they are found, as well by Europeans as by others. They have a very soft shell, and are about the size of a pigeon's egg. The mother turtles lay three or four times a year, at intervals of two or three weeks. An experienced eye and hand are required to detect the eggs, as they are always ingeniously covered up with sand. The Orinoco and Amazon Indians obtain from these eggs a kind of clear, sweet oil, which they use instead of butter. In the month of February, when the high waters of the Orinoco have receded, millions of turtles come on shore to deposit their eggs. The certainty and abundance of the harvest is estimated by the acre. The yearly