Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/211

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195
SKRZYNECKI—SKUA

wife defended with great intrepidity. His estates in Halland were also repeatedly ravaged by the enemy. Skram died, at an advanced age, at Urup on the 11th of July 1581.

Skram's audacity won for him the nickname of “Denmark's dare-devil,” and he contributed perhaps more than any other Dane of his day to destroy the Hanseatic dominion of the Baltic. His humanity was equally remarkable; he often imperilled his life by preventing his crews from plundering.

See Axel Larsen, Dansk-Norske Heltehistorier (Copenhagen, 1893).


SKRZYNECKI, JAN ZYGMUNT (1787-1860), Polish general, was born in Galicia in 1787. After completing his education at the university of Lemberg, he entered the Polish Legion formed in the grand duchy of Warsaw, as a common soldier and won his lieutenancy at the battle of Raszyn in 1809. At the battle of Leipzig he greatly distinguished himself and at Arcis-sur-Aube, in 1814, saved Napoleon from the sudden onslaught of the enemy by sheltering him in the midst of his battalion. On the formation of the kingdom of Poland in 1815 Skrzynecki was put in command of five infantry regiments of the line, and on joining the insurrection of 1830 was entrusted with the organization of the Polish army. After the battle of Grochow, he superseded Prince Radziwill as commander in chief; but avoided all decisive operations as he hoped for the pacific intervention of the powers in favour of Poland. In the beginning of March 1831 he even entered into correspondence with the Russian Field-marshal Diebitsch, who was taken very ill both at Paris and London. When at last Skrzynecki did take the offensive his opportunity was gone, and he committed more than one tactical blunder. At Ostrolenka (26th of May 1831) he showed his usual valour and considerable ability, but after a bloody contest Diebitsch prevailed and Skrzynecki fell back upon Warsaw, where he demanded a reconstruction of the government and his own appointment as dictator. To this the diet would not consent, though it gave Skrzynecki a vote of confidence. But public opinion was now running strongly against him and he was forced on the 10th of August, in his camp at Bolimow, to place his resignation in the hands of his successor, Dembinski. Skrzynecki thereupon joined a guerilla corps and on the 22nd of September took refuge in Austrian territory. Subsequently he resided at Prague, but migrated to Brussels where he was made commander in chief of the Belgian army, an appointment he was forced to resign by the combined and emphatic protest of Russia, Austria and Prussia, in 1839. With the permission of the Austrian government he finally settled at Cracow, where he died in 1860. Skrzynecki was remarkable for his personal courage and made an excellent general of division, but he was unequal to the heavier responsibility of supreme command, and did much harm in that capacity by his irresolution. He wrote Two Victorious Days (Pol.) (Warsaw, 1831); and Mes Erreurs (Paris, 1835).

See S. J. N. Montalembert et sa correspondance inédite avec le généralissime Skrzynecki (Montligcon, 1903); Ignacy Pradzynski, The last four Polish Commanders (Pol.) (Posen, 1865).


SKUA,[1] the name for a long while given to certain of the Laridae (see Gull), birds which sufficiently differ in structure, appearance and habits to justify their separation as a distinct genus, Stercorarius (Lestris of some writers), or even subfamily, Stercorariinae. Swift of flight, powerfully armed, but above all endowed with extraordinary courage, they pursue their weaker cousins, making the latter disgorge their already swallowed prey, which is nimbly caught before it reaches the water; and this habit, often observed by sailors and fishermen, has made these predatory, and parasitic birds locally known as “Teasers,” “Boatswains,”[2] and, from a misconception of their intent, “Dunghunters.” On land, however, whither they resort to breed, they seek food of their own taking, whether small mammals, little birds, insects or berries; but even here their uncommon courage is exhibited, and they will defend their homes and offspring with the utmost spirit against any intruder, repeatedly shooting down on man or dog that invades their haunts, while every bird almost, from an eagle downwards, is repelled by buffets or something worse.

The largest species known is the Stercorarius catarrhactes of ornithologists — the “Skooi” or “Bonxie” of the Shetlanders, a bird in size equalling a herring-gull, Larus argentatus. The sexes do not differ appreciably in colour, which is of a dark brown, somewhat lighter beneath; but the primaries have at the base a patch of white, visible even when the wings are closed, and forming, when they are spread, a conspicuous band. The bill and feet are black. This is a species of comparatively limited range, breeding only in some two or three localities in the Shetlands, about half a dozen in the Faeroes,[3] and hardly more in Iceland. Out of the breeding-season it shows itself in most parts of the North Atlantic, but never seems to stray farther south than Gibraltar or Morocco, and it is therefore a matter of much interest to find the Southern Ocean inhabited by a bird — the “Port Egmont Hen” of Cook's Voyages — which so closely resembles the Skua as to have been for a long while regarded as specifically identical with it, but is now usually recognized as distinct under the name of S. antarcticus. This bird, characterized by its stout deep bill and want of rufous tint on its lower plumage, has an extensive range, and would seem to exhibit a tendency to further differentiation, since Howard Saunders, in a monograph of the group (Proc. Zool. Society, 1876, pp. 317-332), says that it presents three local forms — one occurring from New Zealand to Norfolk Island and past Kerguelen Land to the Cape of Good Hope, another restricted to the Falklands, and the third hitherto only met with near the south-polar ice. On the western coast of South America, making its way into the Straits of Magellan, and passing along the coast so far as Rio Janeiro, is found S. chilensis, distinguished among other characters by the cinnamon tint of its lower plumage. Three other smaller species of the genus are known, and each is more widely distributed than those just mentioned, but the home of all is in the more northern parts of the earth, though in winter two of them go very far south, and, crossing the equator, show themselves on the seas that wash the Cape of Good Hope, Australia, New Zealand and Peru. The first of them is S. pomatorhinus (often incorrectly spelt pomarinus), about the size of a common gull, Larus canus, and presenting, irrespective of sex, two very distinct phases of plumage, one almost wholly sooty-brown, the other parti-coloured — dark above and white on the breast, the sides of the neck being of a glossy straw-colour, and the lower part of the neck and the sides of the body barred with brown; but a singular feature in the adults of this species is that the two median tail-feathers, which are elongated, have their shaft twisted towards the tip, so that in flight the lower surfaces of their webs are pressed together vertically, giving the bird the appearance of having a disk attached to its tail. The second and third species so closely resemble each other, except in size, that their distinctness was for many years unperceived, and in consequence their nomenclature is an almost bewildering puzzle. H. Saunders (loc. cit.) thinks that the larger of them, which is about the size of a black-headed gull, should stand as S. crepidatus, and the smaller as S. parasiticus, though the latter name has been generally used for the larger when that is not termed, as it often is, S. richardsoni, a name that correctly applies only to whole-coloured examples, for this species too is dimorphic. Even its proper English name[4] is disputable, but it has been frequently called the Arctic gull or Arctic skua, and it is by far the commonest of the genus in Britain, and perhaps throughout the northern hemisphere. It breeds abundantly on many of the Scottish islands, and in most countries lying to the northward. The nest is generally in long heather, and contains two eggs of a dark olive-colour, suffused with still darker brown patches. Birds of either phase of plumage pair indiscriminately, and the young show by their earliest feathers whether they will prove whole or parti-coloured; but in their immature plumage the upper surface is barred with pale reddish brown. The smallest species, commonly known in English as the long-tailed or Button's
  1. Thus written by Hoier (circa 1604) as that of a Faeroese bird (hodie Skúir) an example of which he sent to Clusius (Exotic. Auctarium, p. 367). The word being thence copied by Willughby has been generally adopted by English authors, and applied by them to all the congeners of the species to which it was originally peculiar.
  2. This name in seamen's ornithology applies to several other kinds of birds, and, though perhaps first given to those of this group, is nowadays most commonly used for the species of Tropic-bird (q.v.), the projecting middle feathers of the tail in each kind being generally likened to the marlinespike that is identified with the boatswain's position; but perhaps the authoritative character assumed by both bird and officer originally suggested the name.
  3. It has long been subjected to persecution in these islands, a reward being paid for its head. On the other hand, in the Shetlands a fine was exacted for its death, as it was believed to protect the sheep against eagles. Yet for all this it would long ago have been extirpated there, and have ceased to be a British bird in all but name, but for the special protection afforded it by several members of two families (Edmonston and Scott of Melby), long before it was protected by modern legislation.
  4. It is the “Fasgadair” of the Hebrides, the “Shooi” of the Shetlands, and the “Scouti-allen” of the fishermen on the east coast of Scotland.