[From Birds of the IoM, 1905]



PARROT, SEA PARROT. Manx, Pibbin (Cr.); Poltrag (Kermode).

The Puffin is in summer very numerous on the Calf, where a century ago it was noted by Townley and Feltham. The former found them used as food on the Calf. 'We got,' he says, 'a second refreshment from our stores, to which was added, by the very civil old lady, a dish of cold parrots, with an assurance from her that they were excellent food, and that they afforded a broth, or soop (sic), that was uncommonly good and nourishing I tasted one of the birds, and found it savoury, not ungrateful to the palate, and was therefore induced to purchase the new-taken ones, in order to try their excellency in the article of broth, or soup, which was so highly commended by the old lady.'

There is much ground on the islet suited to its breeding habits. Above, and sometimes alternating with the sheerer cliff, are steep slopes of soil covered with a rich growth of scurvy-grass, seacampion, and sea-feverfew, and sometimes, as on much of the north-west of the Calf, mixed with fallen debris of stone and great earth-fast boulders, amidst which the nesting holes are inaccessible. On the east side, about Kione Roanyr, however, they are perhaps most numerous, and in the season the agitated sideways of the Sound are dotted with their swarming multitudes. They are here very tame, and sit on the grassy burrowed verge of the brows within a few yards of the spectator. About Spanish Head, just opposite, they also nest in smaller numbers, and Mr. Graves in 1896 noticed a large colony among the fallen stones at the bottom of the cliff at the Chasms; and these are the only mainland stations where at least they are at all plentiful, though I have been told of a few on Bradda and on Peel Hill in the breeding season, and residents in Maughold think that a few, formerly at least, bred there

In winter the Puffin becomes extremely scare but we probably have a few off our coast at all seasons reported at the Chickens in large numbers, with Razorbills on 30th March 1887.1

The Puffin breeds on Lambay, its only nesting place on the east of Ireland, and in vast abundance on Rathlin. It is not known to breed on the Galloway coast, though it possibly does so on the Scar. On the English side of the Irish Sea it does not breed, and is chiefly known from storm-driven specimens. There is a large colony on St. Tudwal's, and it nests in numbers on Priestholm and near the South Stack lighthouse, Holyhead. Its enormous colonies among the Scottish isles are well known. There are few stations on the south and east coasts of England, but many in western Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

1 Among a set of 'unpublished sketches in the British Museum, supposed to date from the middle of the 17th century,' and of which there are copies in the Manx Museum at Castletown (a large number of them being viewers of Castle Rushen), are two of birds. One of these apparently represents a Puffin The yellow beak, very long, is crossed by red bands, and the black head has a white spot before the eye, something after the fashion of that on the Great Auk. This picture has the legend, 'These kind of Birds are about the Isle of Man.' The other, 'A Landskip with Gaunts,' shows two Gannets, pretty well drawn, on a crag, and it is added, 'being birds that mount like fauleons i' th' airs, and when they see their Prey strike into the water.'


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001