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Volume 5, 1872
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Art. XXI.—Remarks on some Birds of New Zealand.

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 5th June, 1872.]

Through the kindness of my friend Dr. Julius Haast, I had the pleasure to receive a collection of bird-skins, which, in connection with some others kindly sent me for comparison by Capt. Hutton and Dr. Buller, enabled me to proceed with my studies of the New Zealand avifauna, and to become better acquainted with a number of its species. In accordance with these investigations I have prepared an article which will shortly appear in the “Journal fur Ornithologie,” under the title “Revision of the Birds of New Zealand.”

I intend to report in that paper, not only on my own researches but also on the useful labours of my antipodean ornithological brethren, in order to make known to our German colleagues the interesting reports given by Dr. Buller, Capt. Hutton, Mr. Potts and Mr. Travers. The excellent accounts on habits and breeding as published by Mr. Potts will especially be thankfully received, and I regret that I was only able to give extracts from his very interesting papers.

My paper will also contain a new revised enumeration of all New Zealand birds, after a new systematical arrangement which proved to be necessary.

The total number of species amounts to 149, but amongst them are still some which on further investigation will lose their specific rank.

I thought it would be of interest to my ornithological friends in New Zealand to offer them the most important facts of my researches before publishing them in the German Journal, but I beg to apologize for their shortness and imperfection, and therefore must refer them to my forthcoming extensive paper.

Falco novœ-zealandiœ, Gml.

After a careful examination of specimens of both sexes from the South and North Island, I see no reason for a specific separation of F. brunneus, G. Mr. Gurney (Ibis, 1870, p. 535) is inclined to believe that there exist two species, differing only in size, but his larger form (novœ-zealandiœ) surely refers only to the large females.

Full accounts and descriptions of this species will be found in my paper.

Circus assimilis, Jard.

I should like to see an old specimen in order to prove whether this species in New Zealand ever assumes the dress of the old Australian bird.

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Platycercus novœ-zealandiœ, Sparrm.

My Pl. forsteri, based upon Forster's authority, must become united with this species.

Nestor esslingii.

This will prove to be only a variety of N. meridionalis. When I wrote my monograph on the Parrots, I had to admit it as a good species because there was a notice by Dr. Haast, stating he had seen the bird himself during his stay on the Alps; he mistaking the alpine form of N. meridionalis for the above variety.

Nestor occidentalis, Bull.

This can scarcely stand longer as a species, and is after my examinations inseparable from N. meridionalis. The diagnosis given by Capt. Hutton “cere very small” (“Cat. Birds N.Z.” p. 20) is of no specific value.

Halcyon vagans, Less.

Having examined a large series of this kingfisher I consider it as a good species, distinguished from sanctus, Vig., by the constant broader bill. The colours are generally darker, but certain specimens are difficult to distinguish from sanctus.

Measurements in Inches.
H. vagans. H. sanctus.
Frontal length of Bill .65 to .71 .53 to .69
Rictal " .87 " .98 .79 " .91
Breadth of bill below .23 " .26 .19 " .21

Certhiparus novœ-zealandiœ, Gml.

I agree, after examination of specimens from both islands, with Capt. Hutton, in uniting C. maculicaudus with this species, but the figure in the “Voy. l'Astrol.,” t. 11., f.3, as well as the description, are by no means accurate enough.

Sphenœacus fulvus, Gray.

After my suggestions Sph. rufescens, Bull. will probably turn out to be this species. Mr. Gray does not notice a proper locality, so it might be that his bird came also from the Chatham Islands.

Petroica longipes, Garn., and P. albifrons, Gml.

These birds seem to be scarcely distinct. They are by no means true Petroicœ, but form a singular genus, Myioscopus, Reich., distinguished by its long legs, the shorter wings and the stouter bill. Myioscopus belongs to the Luscininœ, and is nearest to Erythacus.

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Anthus grayi, Bp. (Hutton, “Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 13).

This is based on Forster's “Alauda, No. 96” (Descr. anim., p. 91), and has no right to stand as a species. Most probably Forster described only a darker coloured specimen of A. novœ-zealandiœ.

Petroica macrocephala, Gml., and P. toitoi, Less.

These are Muscicapine birds, and form the well-marked genus Myiomoira, Reich. P. dieffenbachii cannot be separated from P. macrocephala. I examined specimens from both Islands.

Rhipidura fuliginosa, Sparrm., = Rh. tristis, Hombr. and Jacq.

All the specimens I have seen showed not the slightest sign of a white spot above the eye. So I hesitate to unite Rh. melanura, Gray, as Capt. Hutton has done, although I am not convinced of the validity of the latter.

Keropia tanagra, Schleg.

There can be not the slightest doubt about the identity of K. hectori, Bull. with this species, as Prof. Schlegel kindly compared one of Dr. Buller's types with his type in the Leyden Museum.

Glaucopis wilsoni, Bp.

Gl. olivascens will prove to be this species, as noticed by Capt. Hutton, but it must be based upon an extremely large female, as the measurements given by Von Pelzeln are much larger than any yet recorded.

Aplonis obscurus, Du Bus.

This can not be admitted as a New Zealand bird; there is no evidence of its occurrence in New Zealand.

Creadion carunculatus, Gml.

It is somewhat satisfactory that the examination of the types by Capt. Hutton has shown Cr. cinereus, Bull. to be undoubtedly the young of the above-named species, as I suggested long since (“Journ. f. Orn.,” 1867, p. 343).

Prof. Giebel, in his new “Thesaurus Ornithologiæ,” puts this characteristic form as a synonym of Anthochœra inauris, Gould! I think ornithologists will not be very satisfied with this arrangement.

Ardea egretta, Gml.—A. alba, Finsch, “Journ. f. Orn.,” 1870, p. 345.

I received specimens from both Islands, which are inseparable from A. egretta, the American form of our A. alba, which differs from the latter only in having the legs and feet black. The New Zealand specimens are indistinguishable from Mexican and Chilian specimens in the Bremen collection.

Ardea sacra, Gml.

A specimen from New Zealand agrees with others from Australia, the Pelew and other Pacific Islands.

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Himantopus novœ-zealandiœ, Gould.

This is the unicolour black one, and the same as H. melas, Homb. and Jacq. The pied stilt, therefore, named H. novœ-zealandiœ by Capt. Hutton, (“Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 29), will be nothing as a state of the black species, whereas H. novœ-zealandiœ, Potts (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. II., p. 70), is probably H. leucocephalus, Gould.

Tringa canutus, Hutton (“Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 30).

This, I expect, will turn out to be Tr. crassirostris, Temm. and Schleg. (Faun. jap. pl. 64), the larger eastern representative of canutus.

Ocydromus troglodytes, Gml.; O. australis, Finsch, “Journ. f. Orn.” 1870, p. 352.

This species has been hitherto confused with australis, Sparrm. I shall treat of all the New Zealand Ocydromi (four species) extensively in my paper, with full descriptions and their corrected synonymy. O. troglodytes is the largest, and easily recognizable by its olive brownish-yellow colouration, and is the bird figured by Gray (“Ereb. and Terr.” t. 14).

Ocydromus australis, Sparrm.

Considerably smaller, and of an olive, rufescent-brown, ground colour; tail feathers barred regularly with black and rufous brown.

I received one specimen from Dr. Haast.

Ocydromus fuscus, Du Bus.

I examined one of the types of O. nigricans, Bull. There can be no doubt of its identity, as I declared already.

Rallus pectoralis, Less.

Specimens from the Okarita Lagoon, sent by Dr. Haast, agree perfectly with others from Australia, the Pelew and Samoa Islands.

Mr. Potts' new R. pictus (Ibis, 1872, p. 36) based upon a specimen from the same locality, has no claim as a species.

Lestris parasitica, Hutton (“Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 40)

Is apparently not this species, but L. longicaudatus, Briss. (Buffoni, Boie—spinicauda, Hardy nec Layard.)

Larus novœ-hollandiœ, Steph. (L. scopulinus, Finsch, Hutton, Potts.)

I shall describe all the plumages of this very confused species and settle the synonymy.

The larger L. jamesoni, Gould, is not yet separated exactly, although there exists a great variety in size, especially in the bill.

Larus pomare, Bruch. “Journ. f. Orn.,” 1855, p. 285, nec 1855, p. 103.

To this species belong L. melanorhynchus, Bull.; L. bulleri et jamesoni,

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Hutton (“Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 41); and L. bulleri, Potts (Ibis, 1872, p. 38); as I can state positively, having type specimens of all these so-called species, and besides the types of Bruch from the Museum at Mayence.

The colouration of the bill varies (after season and age) from black to reddish-yellow with black tip (this latter form represents L. bulleri, Potts), that of the feet from black to reddish. I have seen intermediate specimens. This species is characterized by its slender bill, and chiefly by the white on the inner web of the four first remiges, which are white shafted. The extent of this white on the remiges varies after age, as is also the case in our L. ridibundus and L. lambruschius, which show also a similar variation in respect to the colouration of bill and legs.

I shall treat this species also in extenso, and make it thoroughly known.

Sterna—(?) n. sp. Potts, Trans. N.Z. Inst., II., p. 77.

This is certainly St. nereis, Gould.

Hydrochelidon leucoptera, Hutton, (“Cat. Birds N.Z.,” p. 43.)

I suggest that this species has been confounded with H. hybrida, Pall. (fluviatilis), at least I come to this conclusion in comparing the measurements given by Capt. Hutton.


The species of this family are, with certain exceptions, far from being well known. I should like to examine specimens of this group, having seen from New Zealand only a single specimen of Prion ariel.

Puffinus gavius, Forster.

I think Capt. Hutton is quite right to refer his P. assimilis and opisthomelas to this since Forster almost unknown species.

P. opisthomelas, Coues, is, according to my views, not so positively to be united with gavia as Capt. Hutton thinks; at least a comparison with the types would be the only way to settle the question.

Puffinus tristis, Forst.

Layard's “Mutton Bird” from New Zealand, named by him P. brevicaudatus (Ibis, 1863, p. 245), belongs apparently to this species.

I am not as sure as Capt. Hutton whether P. (Nectris) amaurosoma, Coues, is indeed identical, and I should hesitate to declare this with certainty until I had compared specimens.

Prion ariel, Gould.

The differences between this species and Pr. turtur are indeed very minute, and the identity of both seems very possible to me. I should like to see series of these allied species in order to be clear about their specific value.

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Dysporus serrator, Banks.

This species is by no means identical with D. capensis, Licht., as Capt. Hutton is inclined to believe, but is a well distinguished species.

D. capensis is easy to recognize in having all the tail feathers black and in having the naked gular space extended in a narrow line to about the middle of the neck in front.

Graculus carbo, L.

Specimens from New Zealand, received through Captain Hutton, are exactly the same as those from Europe, China, Japan, etc.

Graculus brevirostris, Gould.

Whether this species is really different from Gr. melanoleucus, Vieill., I doubt very much, after having seen more specimens in a different state of plumage. One specimen is throughout black, another has chin and throat white, and in a third the whole under surface to the flank is white, differing in no way from specimens in the characteristic plumage of melanoleucus.

The young of this latter species are black on the under parts.

Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, Gray.

In examining two species from New Zealand I find that the characteristics pointed out for this species by Mr. Gray are not constant. A comparison with E. chrysocome, Forst., seems necessary.

Eudyptes chrysolophus, Brandt.

Prof. Schlegel enumerates s. n. Spheniscus diadematus, Gould, a specimen in the Leyden Museum (“Mus. P.B. Urinat,” p. 8), which certainly belongs to this species. This specimen is labelled as coming from New Zealand, but without the name of the collector.

Eudyptula minor, Forster.

I see no reason to distinguish Eu. undina, Gould, specifically after having carefully compared more specimens.

Apteryx australis, Shaw.

Through the kindness of Dr. Buller I received two specimens of the Apteryx of the North Island for comparison, which after careful and repeated examination I cannot consider as distinct species. In respect to the colours I have specimens from the South Island before me which are as dark as those from the North Island. The plumage of the latter is harsher to the touch, but in a series there are also different degrees observable. The only difference which I can notice, and which perhaps may be constant, consists in the structure of the feathers which cover the occiput and hind neck. These, in the North Island bird, have longer and harsher black shafts, whereas in the

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South Island bird they are shorter and softer. As I do not consider this slight difference important enough I can regard the kiwi of the North Island only as a race or local form,—A. australis var. mantelli, Bartl.

I shall give an extensive treatise of the known species of Apteryx in my revised list of the birds of New Zealand.

Apteryx haastii, Potts.

Judging from the communications on this species sent me by Dr. Haast and Capt. Hutton I take it for a good species. I cannot agree with Mr. Potts as to a hybridism between A. australis and oweni, because I am sure a hybrid of those species would stand in size intermediate between the two, as is the case in our Tetrao medius.

Mr. Potts' name ought to be preserved for this species, for from A. maxima, Verr., there exists no other source than the simple name, noticed first by Bonaparte, without any reference to the Roa-roa.

The following species are in my opinion worthy no longer to stand amongst the list of the birds of New Zealand:—

Strix parvissima, Ellm., Potts, Trans. N.Z. Inst., III., p. 68.

Halcyon cinnamonimus, Sws.

Anthochæra carunculata, Lath. (Mimus carunculatus, Bull.)

Anthus grayi, Bp., Hutton's Cat., p. 13.

Rhipidura motacilloides, Vig., Hutton's Cat., p. 14.

Aplonis obscurus, Du Bus.—caledonicus, Hutt.

Crex pratensis.—(Rallus featherstoni, Bull.)

Anous stolidus, L.

Procellaria æquinoctialis, L.

Puffinus brevicaudatus, Br.

Dysporus piscator, L.

Graculus carunculatus, Gml.

Aptenodytes pennantii, Gray.