The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 104

here to be found, among which
may be mentioned sea-hens, blue peterels, teal, ducks, Port Egmont hens,
shags, Cape pigeons, the nelly, sea swallows, terns, sea gulls, Mother
Carey’s chickens, Mother Carey’s geese, or the great peterel, and,
lastly, the albatross.

The great peterel is as large as the common albatross, and is
carnivorous. It is frequently called the break-bones, or osprey peterel.
They are not at all shy, and, when properly cooked, are palatable food.
In flying they sometimes sail very close to the surface of the water,
with the wings expanded, without appearing to move them in the least
degree, or make any exertion with them whatever.

The albatross is one of the largest and fiercest of the South Sea birds.
It is of the gull species, and takes its prey on the wing, never coming
on land except for the purpose of breeding. Between this bird and the
penguin the most singular friendship exists. Their nests are
constructed with great uniformity upon a plan concerted between the two
species--that of the albatross being placed in the centre of a little
square formed by the nests of four penguins. Navigators have agreed in
calling an assemblage of such encampments a rookery. These rookeries
have been often described, but as my readers may not all have seen these
descriptions, and as I shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the
penguin and albatross, it will not be amiss to say something here of
their mode of building and living.

When the season for incubation arrives, the birds assemble in vast
numbers, and for some days appear to be deliberating upon the proper
course to be pursued. At length they proceed to action. A level piece of
ground is selected, of suitable extent, usually comprising three or four
acres, and situated as near the sea as possible, being still beyond its
reach. The spot is chosen with reference to its evenness of surface, and
that is preferred which is the least encumbered with stones. This
matter being arranged, the birds proceed, with one accord, and actuated
apparently by one mind, to trace out, with mathematical accuracy, either
a square or other parallelogram, as may best suit the nature of the
ground, and of just sufficient size to accommodate easily all the birds
assembled, and no more--in this particular seeming determined upon
preventing the access of future stragglers who have not participated in
the labor of the encampment. One side of the place thus marked out runs
parallel with the water’s edge, and is left open for ingress or egress.

Having defined the limits of the rookery, the colony

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