Bewick's British Birds, Vol. 2: The Great Northern Diver

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Illustration from Bewick



(Colymbus glacialis, Linn.—L'Imbrim, Buff.)

THE Great Diver weighs about sixteen pounds; measures three feet six inches in length, and four feet eight in breadth. The bill is black, four inches and a half long, and strongly formed: the head is of a deep black, glossed with green and purple reflections: the neck appears as if wrapped obliquely round with a bandage of the same colours as the head; the feathers in the spaces between are white, streaked down the middle with narrow black lines; the sides of the breast are marked in the same manner: the whole of the upper parts are black, spotted with white: the spots on the scapulars are the largest, and of an oblong square shape, placed in rows, two on the end of each feather: the under parts are white: quills and tail black. The female is less than the male, and her whole upper plumage inclines more to brown. Her under parts are of a dirty white, and the bandages on her neck, and the spots on her body are not so distinct.

This species seldom visits the British shores, except in very severe winters. One was shot on the Tyne, at Newcastle, on the 12th October, 1824, supposed to have been driven from its northern haunts by the severe storm, from the north-east, which then raged for two days, on this coast. In the summer season it inhabits the north of Europe, and the arctic coasts, as far as the river Ob in the Russian dominions, and Hudson's Bay, in North America.* They seldom quit the sea, or are seen inland, except at the breeding season, when they repair to the fresh water lakes in the Ferro Isles, Spitzbergen, Iceland, Greenland, and Zetland, &c. The female lays only two eggs, which are of a dirty white or stone colour: when she quits her nest, she flies very high, and on her return darts down upon it in an oblique direction.

Illustration from Bewick*


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