The Bill of a Skimmer

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‘Rhynchops. Skimmer. Bill hypognathous Among the singular bills of birds that frequently excite our wonder, that of the skimmers as one of the most anomalous. The under mandible is much longer than the upper, compressed like a knife-blade; its end is obtuse; its sides come abruptly together and are completely soldered; the upper edge is as sharp as the under, and fits a groove in the upper mandible; the jawbone, viewed apart, looks like a short-handled pitchfork. The upper mandible in also compressed, but less so, nor is it so obtuse at the end; its substance is nearly hallow, with light cancellated structure, much as in a toucan; it is freely movable by means of an elastic hinge at the forehead.” Elliot Coues, 1884


Bird Anatomy


Elliot Coues Key to North American Birds (Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat, 1884)


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