Art. XXVII.—Note on Platycercus unicolor in the British Museum.
[Received by the Wellington Philosophical Society, March, 1874.] *
On my first visit, in company with the late Mr. G. R. Gray, to the fine collection of Parrakeets in the galleries of the British Museum, a mounted specimen standing on the same shelf with Platycercus novŒ-zealandiŒ and P. auriceps immediately arrested my attention. My companion informed me that this was the type of Platycercus unicolor (Vigors), and that it was supposed to have come from New Zealand. On further enquiry I found that the bird had come to the Museum from the Zoological Society's Gardens, where it had lived for some time; that its origin was unknown, and that the specimen was quite unique. It will be seen, therefore, that there is no authority for regarding it as a New Zealand bird; although, from the close relation it bears to P. novŒ-zealandiŒ, it may, I think, be fairly inferred that it belongs to the same zoological province, and is an inhabitant of some part of Polynesia. It must be borne in mind that our P. novŒ-zealandiŒ is not confined to New Zealand, but spreads over about thirty-two degrees of latitude, the range of the species extending from Macquarrie Island (lat. 55° S.) to New Caledonia (lat. 23° S.).
My present object in bringing the species before the notice of the Society is to prevent its being again confounded with Platycercus novŒ-zealandiŒ, from which it is unquestionably distinct. In my “Further Notes on the Ornithology of New Zealand,” published in a former volume of the “Transactions” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. III., pp. 37–56), I stated that Dr. Finsch's supposition of its being the ordinary young state of P. novŒ-zealandiŒ was entirely incorrect; but I expressed, at the same time, a belief
[Footnote] * Dated at London 30th December, 1873.
that it would turn out to be an accidental variety of the common species. An examination of the type specimen satisfied me at once that it was a good species, very readily distinguishable from P. novŒ-zealandiŒ by its more robust form and more powerful mandibles, independently of its uniform green colour.
The accompanying sketch of the heads of the two species (natural size) will sufficiently confirm what I have said.
Mr. G. R. Gray included this species in his List of the Birds of New Zealand (“Ibis,” 1862), and on this authority, although rejected by me in the “Essay” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. I., 1868), it has been retained on most of the subsequent lists.
As the original description by Vigors * is not very accessible, and as the account of the bird in Dr. Finsch's excellent Monograph (“Die Papageien,” p. 289) does not appear to bring out the distinctive characters, as compared with P. novŒ-zealandiŒ, with sufficient clearness, I venture to characterize the species as follows:—
Platycercus Unicolor, Vig.
Diag.—Omnino prasinus, vertice capitisque lateribus lætioribus : dorso et
[Footnote] * Proc. Zool. Soc., 1831, p. 24.
corpore subtùs flavido lavatis: alâ spuriâ, et primariis exterioribus extùs cyanescentibus: caudà sordidé viridi, subtùs flavicanti-brunneâ—rostro nigro, versus basin albido—pedibus brunnescentibus.
Adult.—General plumage grass green, brighter on the crown, sides of the head, face, and ear-coverts; back, rump, and all the under surface strongly tinged with yellow; primaries bright green on their outer vanes; the margins of the outermost primaries, as well as their coverts and the whole of the bastard quills, indigo blue; tail-feathers dull green, olivaceous or yellowish brown on their under surface. Bill black, greyish white towards the base of lower mandible; legs and feet dull brown.
|P. unicolor.||P. novŒ-zealandiŒ.|
|Extreme length||13.25 inches||11.25 inches|
|Wing from flexure||6 "||5.25 "|
|Tail||6.25 "||6 "|
|Culmen||1.25 "||.8 "|
|Tarsus||.9 "||.8 "|
|Longer fore toe and claw||1.4 "||1.15 "|
|Longer hind toe and claw||1.25 "||1 "|