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RAZORBILL

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 938 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RAZORBILL, or RAZOR-BILLED AUK, known also on many parts of the British coasts as the Marrot, Murre, Scout, Tinker or Willock—names which it, however, shares with the GUILLEMOT (q.v.) and to some extent with the PUFFIN (q.v.)—a common sea-bird of the North Atlantic,' resorting in vast numbers to certain rocky cliffs for the purpose of breeding, and returning to deeper waters for the rest of the year. It is the Alca torda of Linnaeus2 and most modern authors, congeneric with the GAREFOWL (q.v.), if not with the true Guillemots, between which two forms it is intermediate—differing from the former in its small size and retaining the power of flight, which that extinct species had lost, and from the latter in its peculiarly-shaped bill, which is vertically enlarged, compressed, and deeply furrowed, as well as in its elongated, wedge-shaped tail. A fine white line, running ' Schlegel (Mus. des Pays-Bas, Urinatores, p. 14) records an example from Japan; but this must be in error. 2 The word Alca is simply the Latinized form of this bird's common Teutonic name, Alk, of which Auk is the English modification. It must therefore be held to be the type of the Linnaean genus Alca, though some systematists on indefensible grounds have removed it thence, making it the sole member of a genus named by Leach, after Aldrovandus (Ornithologia, bk. xix. chap. xlix.), Utamania—an extraordinary word, that seems to have originated in some mistake from the no less extraordinary Vuttamaria, given by Belon (Observations, i. c. xi.) as the Cretan name of some diving bird, which could not have been the present species. on each side from the base of the culmen to the eye, is in the adult bird in breeding-apparel (with rare exceptions) a further characteristic. Otherwise the appearance of all these birds may be briefly described in the same words—head, breast and upper parts generally of a deep glossy black, and the lower parts and tip of the secondaries of a pure white, while the various changes of plumage dependent on age or season are alike in all. In habits the razorbill closely agrees with the true guillemots, laying its single egg (which is not, however, subject to the same variety of coloration as in the guillemot) on the ledges of cliffs, but it is said as a rule to occupy higher elevations, and when not breeding to keep farther out to sea. On the east side of the Atlantic the Razorbill has its breeding stations from the North Cape to Brittany, besides several in the Baltic, while in winter it passes much farther to the southward, and is sometimes numerous in the Bay of Gibraltar, occasionally entering the Mediterranean, but apparently never extending east of Sicily or Malta. On the west side of the Atlantic it breeds from 70° N. lat. on the eastern shore of Baffin's Bay to Cape Farewell, and again on the coast of America from Labrador and Newfoundland to the Bay of Fundy, while in winter it reaches Long Island. (A. N.) RAllIA (an adaptation of the Algerian Arabic ghazzah, from ghasw, to make war), a foray or raid made by African Moslems. As used by the Arabs, the word denotes a military expedition against rebels or infidels, and razzias were made largely for punishment of hostile tribes or for the capture of slaves. English writers in the early years of the loth century used the form ghrazzie, and Dixon Denham in his Travels (1826) styles the raiding force itself the ghrazzie. The modern English form is copied from the French, while the Portuguese variant is gazia, gaziva. RE, the Egyptian solar god, one of the most important figures in the Pantheon. See EGYPT, section Egyptian Religion. RE, ILE DE, an island of western France, belonging to the department of Charente-Inferieure, from the nearest mainland point of which it is distant about 2 M. The island has an area of nearly 33 sq. m., with a breadth varying from 1 to 41 M. and a length of 15 m. It is separated from the coast of Vendee on the N. by the Pertuis Breton, some 6 m. broad, and from the island of Oleron on the S. by the Pertuis D'Antioche, 72 M. broad. The coast facing the Atlantic is rocky and inhospitable, but there are numerous harbours on the landward side, of which the busiest is La Flotte. Towards the north-west extremity of the island there is a deep indentation, the Fier d'Ars, which leaves an isthmus only 230 ft. wide, strengthened by a breakwater. The north coast is fringed by dunes and by the salt-marshes which are the chief source of livelihood for the inhabitants. Some of them are employed in fishing, oyster-cultivation and the collection of seaweed for manure; the island has corn-lands and vineyards, the latter covering about half its surface, and produces good figs and pears. Apart from its orchards it is now woodless, though once covered by forests. There are two cantons, St Martin (pop. in Igoe, 8362) and Ars-en-Re (pop. 4711) forming part of the arrondissement of La Rochelle. St Martin, the capital, which has a secure harbour and trade in wine, brandy, salt, &c., was fortified by Vauban in 1681 and used to be the depot for convicts on their way to New Caledonia. In 1627 it repulsed an English force after a siege of three months.
End of Article: RAZORBILL
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