sheathbill

sheathbill

[sheeth-bil]
noun
either of two white sea birds, Chionis alba or C. minor, of the colder parts of the Southern Hemisphere: so called from the horny sheath covering the base of the upper bill.

Origin:
1775–85; sheath + bill2

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World English Dictionary
sheathbill (ˈʃiːθˌbɪl)
 
n
either of two pigeon-like shore birds, Chionis alba or C. minor, of antarctic and subantarctic regions, constituting the family Chionididae: order Charadriiformes. They have a white plumage and a horny sheath at the base of the bill

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

sheathbill

either of two species of shorebirds comprising the genus Chionis, family Chionididae, the only bird family confined to South Polar regions. It is named for the rough, horny sheath around the base of its bill shielding its nostrils. The sheathbill is an aggressive predator on the eggs and young of penguins, petrels, and terns; otherwise it scavenges the feces and afterbirths of seals and the offal around whaling stations. The short, stout bill has pimply skin at the base, the eyes are pink rimmed, and the short, thick legs and unwebbed feet are blue gray. The snowy sheathbill (C. alba), 40 centimetres (16 inches) long, has a yellow bill. The lesser sheathbill (C. minor) is black billed and slightly smaller. Sheathbills may be seen hundreds of miles at sea but are usually encountered along shore, in small parties. Fearless of man, they fight among themselves with their wings, which are equipped with sharp spurs. Two or three eggs are laid in a rock crevice. Usually only one chick survives.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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