Art. XXIX.—Notes by Captain Hutton on Dr. Buller's “Birds of New Zealand,” with the Author's Replies thereto.*
[Received by the Wellington Philosophical Society, March, 1874.] †
“Although fully recognizing the value to ornithologists of Dr. Buller's handsome work on the birds of New Zealand, especially in his determination of Thinornis rossii as the young of T. novŒ-zealandiŒ, and in his identification of Gallinago pusilla with G. aucklandica, I wish to point out what I consider to be certain inaccuracies that I have noticed in it, and also to record my dissent from some of the opinions expressed therein.
“I have in these notes followed Dr. Buller's nomenclature, but I do not agree with it in all cases.”
[When I undertook to write a “History” of the birds of New Zealand, I was not insensible to the difficulties of the task. The field was a comparatively unbroken one, and, with a few notable exceptions, the existing literature was confined to dry lists of names and characters of species. In the preparation of my work I had, therefore, to rely mainly on the results of my own observations, extending over a period of many years. At the same time, I freely availed myself of the assistance of Mr. Potts and other local observers, whose contributions were, in every instance, duly acknowledged. Having produced a royal quarto volume of some 400 pages, the bulk of it being purely original matter, it was not to be expected that my statements on every point would pass unchallenged, or that naturalists who think for themselves would
[Footnote] * See “The Ibis,” January, 1874.
[Footnote] † Dated at London 26th December, 1873.
endorse all my views. Besides, as I have explained in my preface, our present knowledge of many of the rarer species is confessedly imperfect, while in regard to all of them some new fact is being constantly added to the general stock of information. The notes and corrections of impartial observers in New Zealand will be very valuable to me, as they will assist in making a future edition of my work more exhaustive and complete. The first contribution of this kind is Captain Hutton's paper, which appeared in the last number of “The Ibis.” But, in attempting to correct my inaccuracies, Captain Hutton appears to have fallen into many errors himself.]
“I cannot agree with Dr. Buller's remark that ‘the extinction of the native rat has been followed by the almost total disappearance of this singular bird,’ nor with the conclusion that he draws from it; for I have elsewhere pointed out (Trans. N. Z. Inst. V., p. 230) that there is no evidence that an indigenous rat ever existed in this country; and supposing even that there had been a ‘native rat,’ it could only have been exterminated by other rats and mice taking its place. There is also no evidence to show that the Laughing Owl was formerly ‘more plentiful than it now is,’ or that it has now almost totally disappeared. During a short tour of six weeks through the Nelson Province last summer, I twice heard it, once at Fox Hill, and again on the river Conway.
“Besides its laugh it has a peculiar note, like two branches of a tree rubbing together, repeated twice over at considerable intervals.
“Its laugh is very different from that of the bird that I heard on the Little Barrier Island (Trans. N.Z. Inst. I., p. 162), which I think must be of another species.”
[Capt. Hutton states that there is no evidence to show that the Laughing Owl was formerly more plentiful than it now is, or that it has almost totally disappeared. Of the former fact I have abundant evidence in the accounts given by the Maoris. As to its present scarcity, it may be sufficient to state that I have never heard of more than a dozen specimens, and have never seen but one living example. Capt. Hutton does not state that he has ever met with the bird outside of a museum; and the peculiar sound, “like two branches of a tree rubbing together,” which he has so often heard in the forest, may, I think, be accounted for in a very simple manner.]
“Dr. Buller's mistake in supposing that the superficial analogy of the facial disk of this bird to that of an Owl, as well as the softness of its plumage and its nocturnal habits, seem ‘to prove that it supplies in the grand scheme of nature the connecting link between the Owls and Parrots,’ has been already
pointed out (Ann. Nat. Hist., 1872, p. 477), so that I have only to record my total dissent from Dr. Buller's views. Dr. Buller also states that this ‘bird is known to be a ground-feeder, with a voracious appetite, and to subsist chiefly on mosses.’ That it may sometimes eat moss is probable; but I have tried in vain to induce it to do so in captivity, and one that escaped in a garden in Auckland remained for a fortnight in a clump of pine trees feeding on the flowers, and was never seen to descend to the ground. He also states that ‘there is no physiological reason why the Kakapo should not be as good a flier as any other Parrot.’ I should have thought that the small pectoral muscles, almost total absence of keel on the sternum, and soft primary feathers of the wing, were quite sufficient physiological reasons.”
[Captain Hutton ought to have quoted the whole of the sentence, for I stated that “in all the essential characteristics of structure it is a true Parrot.” My statement that this species subsists chiefly on mosses rests on the authority of Dr. Haast, who has collected and dissected far more specimens than any other person in the colony, and whose close study of the bird in its native haunts is sufficiently manifest from the paper which appeared in “The Ibis” (1864, pp. 340–346). Captain Hutton does not inform us what particular kind of moss he offered in vain to his captive bird. My statement that “there is no physiological reason why the Kakapo should not be as good a flier as any other Parrot,” must of course be read with the context. My argument was, that disuse, under the usual operation of the laws of nature, had, in process of time, occasioned this physical disability of wing.]
“I agree with Dr. Finsch that this species must be united with N. meridionalis.”
[I am very doubtful myself about this species, and Dr. Finsch may, therefore, be right in uniting it to Nestor meridionalis. (See my remarks “Birds of New Zealand,” p. 50.) I have in my possession, however, a note from Captain Hutton, declaring himself in favour of N. occidentalis as a species distinguishable from N. meridionalis “by having the upper mandible more compressed and flat on both sides, with the tooth further out, and the lower mandible not reaching it.”
For my own part, I attach very little importance to these variations in the character of the bill, for that member is more or less variable in all the members of the genus Nestor.]
“The tongue of this bird is not, according to my observations, ‘bifurcate at the tip,’ nor is it ‘furnished with minute barbs,’ but is deeply fringed at the tip, and slightly so down each side for about a third of its length.”
[Mr. A. H. Garrod, in his exhaustive account of the anatomy of this bird (Proc. Zool. Soc., 1872, pp. 643–7), states that the tongue is “slightly bifid at its apex, and a little prolonged backwards at its lateral borders.”]
“I have never known an instance of this bird catching fish; like the rest of the genus it subsists entirely on insects and crustaceans.”
[Captain Hutton is quite mistaken on this point. I have myself observed our bird catching fish in the manner described; and Mr. Potts, who is known to be a very accurate observer, states that “fish and crustacea furnish some portion of its food supply” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1869, Vol. II., p. 53). Nor do “the rest of the genus subsist entirely on insects and crustaceans.” Dr. Jerdon states that Halcyon smyrnensis catches fish, “for which it sometimes dives,” and that Halcyon pileata “feeds both on fish and insects.” Halcyon gularis is said to be a fish-eater; and Mr. Motley declares that Halcyon coromanda “subsists entirely on fish.” Dr. von Heugtin states that Halcyon semicŒrulea is “more of a fish-eater than fond of Orthoptera,” and that Halcyon chloris likewise habitually fishes. To come nearer home, I may add that Mr. E. P. Ramsay, of Sydney, records that he has watched Halcyon sanctus “catching flies from the surface of the water, and occasionally a stray fish or two.”]
“The bird described and figured as young must surely be a variety. I have seen several young specimens, but none of them had a white crescent on the throat.”
[The young figured in my work is from a specimen in the British Museum. My artist has somewhat exaggerated the white, and given it too much of a crescent form. I must refer the reader to my description of the young (“Birds of New Zealand,” p. 88), where this feature is specially mentioned.]
“Dr. Buller is certainly in error in saying that this bird is dying out all over New Zealand, for it is one of the commonest of birds in the South Island, and can be seen in almost every garden. The district in which it is all but exterminated corresponds far better with the district thickly inhabited by Maoris than with the district thickly inhabited by Mus decumanus. I have never observed any bright-coloured feathers in its nest.”
[The extensive wooded district lying between Whangarei and the North Cape is not inhabited by Maoris at all, and Captain Hutton's argument therefore fails. Dr. Hector, who made a geological survey of this district in 1868, did not meet with a single Anthornis, whereas formerly these birds existed there in thousands! As Captain Hutton has “never observed any bright-
coloured feathers,” he cannot, I think, have collected many nests. The observations recorded by Mr. Potts. (Trans. N.Z. Inst., 1869, Vol. II., p. 56) fully accord with my own.]
“I quite agree with Mr. Potts that this bird is by no means the representative in the North Island of O. ochrocephala. The structure of its feet shows that it is not an Orthonyx at all; and in its habit and song it is quite different from O. ochrocephala. According to my observations it does not prefer low bush, nor does it climb the boles of trees, but is almost always seen hopping about in the very topmost boughs of tall trees.
“Dr. Buller is also mistaken in saying that it sings like the canary. It is the robin (Miro longipes) that sings like the canary, while the song of the white-head (O. (?) albicilla) is much like that of the yellow-hammer (Emberiza citrinella), but without the last note.”
[I cannot concur in the opinion expressed by Captain Hutton, for the two birds certainly belong to the same genus. I confess, however, that this form is somewhat aberrant from the typical Orthonyx. As to resemblance of song, that is purely a matter of fancy and association. I have never considered the song of our wood-robin (M. longipes) in the least degree like that of the Canary.]
“Dr. Buller says that the egg of this bird is not known; but I described it in 1871 in my ‘Catalogue of the Birds of New Zealand’ from specimens that had been in the Otago Museum for several years.”
“[I cannot accept Captain Hutton's identification of the supposed eggs of this bird in the Otago Museum without further proof. I have already pointed out (“Birds of New Zealand,” p. 105) that he had confounded this species with the very common Orthonyx albicilla of the North Island.]
“I cannot accept Dr. Buller's identification of this bird with X. stokesii without further proof. Dr. Buller obtained specimens of X. stokesii which he wrongly determined as X. longipes; in fact all the specimens of X. longipes in his collection were X. stokesii; these he compared with X. stokesii in the British Museum, and naturally found them identical. But until it is explained how it is that the figure and description of X. longipes in the ‘Voyage of the Erebus and Terror’ differ so much from specimens of X. stokesii, I must continue to regard them as two species.
“Dr. Buller also states that this bird is strictly arboreal in its habits, never being seen on the ground. This is quite incorrect of X. stokesii, which is constantly on the ground, and never ascends into high trees.”
[Captain Hutton is in error in stating that the specimens of Xenicus longipes in my collection (Colonial Museum) were wrongly determined. There is no such species as Xenicus stokesii. The explanation of the strikingly incorrect figure of X. longipes in the “Voyage of the Erebus and Terror” will be found at page 116 of my “Birds of New Zealand.” I may mention that, in company with the late Mr. G. R. Gray, I examined Foster's original (unfinished) drawing of this bird, in which the bill is depicted as straight, and the eye-circlet almost wanting. Mr. Gray told me that his artist was responsible for the alterations in the published figure (which represents a bird with an upturned bill, like Acanthisitta), and that his own description of the species (“Voy. Ereb. and Terr.,” p. 4) was taken from the latter! After we had thus sifted the matter and compared specimens, Mr. Gray readily admitted that his Xenicus stokesii (“Ibis,” 1862, p. 219) would not stand.]
“In the figure given of this bird the breast is white, whereas it should be grey; while in the description of G. albofrontata the breast is described as grey when it should have been white.
“I was in error in saying that this bird never uses spiders' nests in the construction of its nest. Dr. Powell informs me that the green spider's nest made use of is that of Epeira verrucosa. It is remarkable that G. albofrontata in the Chatham Islands uses the very same species of spider's nest as G. flaviventris, and neither ever employs the orange-coloured nest of Epeira antipodiana.”
[The fact that this species uses spiders' nests in the construction of its own nest was first mentioned by me in 1870 (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. III., p. 41), and was contradicted by Captain Hutton, in his usual emphatic manner, in the Critical Notes appended to his “Catalogue.” There is nothing unaccountable, as it seems to me, in the use of the green-coloured nests of Epeira verrucosa and the rejection of the orange-coloured nests of E. antipodiana. It is easily explained on the principle of assimilative or protective colouring. My description of Gerygone albofrontata is from the type specimen in the British Museum.]
“I am not aware that I ever suggested to Dr. Buller that he should call this bird after Mr. H. Travers. The facts of the case are these:— When Mr. Travers' collection of Chatham Island birds arrived at the Museum, Dr. Hector handed it over to me, with instructions to make a list of them, describe the new species, and pick out a set of the novelties to send to Dr. Buller. This I did, and described the bird as Petroica traversi; and with Dr. Hector's consent, the list was sent for publication in ‘The Ibis' (‘Ibis,’
1872, p. 243) in order that Dr. Buller might avail himself of it in the preparation of his book. The birds sent to Dr. Buller had also my names attached to each. My list was published in ‘The Ibis’ in July, 1872; and I have a letter from Dr. Buller saying that the Editor had sent him a proof of my paper before the part of his book containing M. traversi was published. I do not think this can be considered as a suggestion to Dr. Buller that he should name this species after Mr. H. Travers.”
[Captain Hutton misquotes me in a very unfair manner. I never said that he had made any “suggestion” to me about naming this bird. The specimen was kindly sent to me by Dr. Hector, without any restriction, and I might have anticipated Captain Hutton by describing it under any other name. Knowing how the case stood, however, I stated (p. 123) that I had “much pleasure in adopting Captain Hutton's proposal” to name the species in honour of the discoverer. At that time no description of the bird had been published; nor did I receive the proof of Captain Hutton's paper in “The Ibis” till after my account of Miro traversi had been printed off. Part II. of my work, containing this, was published in June; “The Ibis” a month later.]
“I am still not convinced that this species is identical with M. dieffenbachii. The bright yellow of the breast, which characterizes the latter, is seen in the young before it is fully fledged; and the difference cannot, therefore, be due to age or to season.”
[Dr. Finsch agrees with me that Miro dieffenbachii is not separable from M. macrocephala.]
“Dr. Buller has omitted to notice the habit this bird has of holding its food in its foot when eating. Mr. W. Travers has described this in G. cinerea (Trans. N.Z. Inst., IV., p. 212); and I have myself observed it in G. wilsoni. Porphyrio melanotus has the same habit.”
[Captain Hutton and Mr. Travers are quite right about the peculiar feeding habit of this bird. I frequently observed it in my captive specimen of G. wilsoni, but somehow omitted to record it. I have noticed this habit in Porphyrio melanotus (“Birds of New Zealand,” p. 186).]
“In ‘The Ibis’ for July, 1872, p. 246, I described two eggs supposed to belong to this bird, brought by Mr. H. Travers from the Chatham Islands. Mr. Travers has since informed me that he is not sure to what bird these eggs belong, as he found them on the ground, but supposed them to be those of the Pigeon, because in each case a pigeon was sitting in a tree above (!). The colour, however, and small size are sufficient proofs that they cannot belong to
C. novŒ-zealandiŒ; and when Mr. Potts saw them he at once recognized them as the eggs of a Stormy Petrel. Both Mr. H. Travers and myself now believe that they belong to Thalassidroma fregata.
“It is the more necessary that I should correct this mistake, as Dr. Buller, in his book (p. 160), states that the egg of C. novŒ-zealandiŒ is ‘1.5 inch in length by 1.1 in breadth; the surface is smooth without being glossy, and, as a rule, pure white, but sometimes marked with obscure purplish spots at the thicker end,’ and, although not given as a quotation, the measurements and latter part of this description must have been taken from my paper in ‘The Ibis,’ as they correspond entirely with it. The egg of this bird is still a desideratum in collections.”
[My description of the egg of this species was taken from one obtained by me in the Upper Manawatu many years ago. The specimen came into my hands very much broken, and as my measurements were consequently uncertain, I adopted those given by Captain Hutton as from a perfect specimen, never supposing that he could mistake the egg of a Petrel for that of a Pigeon!
The addition “sometimes marked with obscure purplish spots,” was on the same unfortunate authority; for my specimen had no spots whatever, and the natives had always described the egg to me as perfectly white.]
“It is much to be regretted that Dr. Buller does not produce better evidence in support of his statement that this bird occasionally breeds with the Barn-door Fowl. It is certainly astonishing that a naturalist should see and ‘carefully examine’ several supposed hybrids, and never preserve specimens, nor even take an intelligible description of them, nor ascertain what these supposed hybrids developed into. Dr. Buller cannot expect that other naturalists will accept as true a statement made in such a loose and unscientific manner.”
[Captain Hutton expresses astonishment at my not having preserved Dr. Hewson's specimen of the hybrid Wood-hen, and my not having ascertained what it developed into. The bird was promised to me, but unfortunately was shortly afterwards consigned to the pot; and this put an end both to the specimen and its “development.” Captain Hutton quotes me incorrectly in stating that I carefully examined several supposed hybrids.]
“The male bird described by Dr. Buller under this name is O. troglodytes (Gm.), while the female is the true O. australis (Sparrm.). These two species are quite distinct, as has been pointed out by Dr. Finsch in the ‘Journal für Ornithologie,’ May, 1872, p. 174, etc. Another species of this genus has been lately received at the Colonial Museum from Otago, which I shall shortly describe.”
[Dr. Finsch is probably right in distinguishing a second species (Ocydromus troglodytes). I have myself stated (“Birds of New Zealand,” p. 171) that “examples from different localities exhibit so much variety in size and plumage as to suggest the existence of another closely-allied species.”]
“Dr. Buller states that this bird ‘occurs occasionally on the New Zealand coast;’ but as both Mr. Gould and Dr. Jerdon state that it resembles in habits the Golden Plover of Europe, this is very unlikely to be the case. He also makes no mention of the only specimen contained in any New Zealand collection, viz., that in the Auckland Museum, which was presented by Dr. Buller himself, but without any mention of the locality.”
[Captain Hutton is under a wrong impression as to my having presented the specimen of. C. fulvus which exists in the Auckland Museum. It was there as far back as 1855; and, beyond the assurance of the curator that it was a New Zealand example, I know nothing whatever about it. The species (according to Drs. Finsch and Hartlaub) is distributed over the islands of the South Pacific, and there is nothing unlikely in its occurrence in New Zealand.]
“I cannot follow Mr. Potts and Dr. Buller in thinking that the bent bill of this bird is useful in enabling it ‘to follow up retreating insects by making the circuit of a water-worn stone with far greater ease than if it had been furnished with a straight beak.’ In the first place, unless the bird is also furnished with some means of seeing round a corner, it would not be able to see the insect it wanted to catch; in the second place, the bird is just as common in the sandy bed of the Waikato, and on the mud-flats of the Manukau harbour, where there are no stones, as it is in the shingle-beds of the rivers of the South Island; and, in the third place, I have often watched the bird feeding and never yet saw it run round a stone more than any other bird might do.
“It seems to me that a bill bent on one side would be very useful to a bird whose usual food was either minute but numerous organisms, such as Diatomaceæ, etc., or small animals hidden among fine Algæ, etc.; for by slightly inclining its head it could lay a considerable part of its bill flat on the ground, and thus, in the first case, take up a much larger quantity of those minute organisms at a time, or, in the latter, could search over a greater extent of Algæ for creatures that it could not see, than if it used only the point of the bill. The broad bill of the duck performs the same office in a different manner. I by no means assert, however, that this is the use of the peculiar shape of the bill; for I have had no opportunity of observing one through a
telescope when feeding, neither have I examined the contents of the stomach to ascertain on what they feed; but it must be remembered that the curve in the bill would not prevent the bird from eating insects and other animals also.”
[Captain Hutton says he has never seen this bird run round a stone in the manner described by Mr. Potts. But this is merely negative evidence. Mr. Potts describes this habit from actual observation. Captain Hutton's principal argument against it is, that “unless the bird is also furnished with some means of seeing round a corner, it would not be able to see the insect it wanted to catch”; but an essential part of his own theory of the use of the bent bill is, that it enables the bird “to search over a greater extent of Algæ for creatures that it could not see, than if it used only the point of the bill.”]
“Dr. Buller says that several instances have been reported of this bird occurring in the South Island; but both Dr. Haast and Mr. Fuller assure me that they never heard of it. The only authenticated New Zealand specimen appears to be the one mentioned by Dr. Buller as having been shot in the Province of Wellington sixteen years ago; but when I came to the Colonial Museum I found two or three specimens, without labels, among the New Zealand birds, and I somehow got the idea into my head that they had been obtained in the South Island: this made me state, in my ‘Catalogue of the Birds of New Zealand,’ that the bird was found in both islands, a mistake which has probably led Dr. Buller astray.”
[Captain Hutton acknowledges that his only reason for recording this species as occurring in both islands was that he “somehow got the idea into his head.” Statements made in this “loose and unscientific manner” are not very creditable to a professed naturalist. My specimen of Nycticorax caledonicus was obtained in the North Island, and I heard of two instances of the occurrence of this bird at Hokitika, in the South Island. This was my authority for including the species in my work; and Captain Hutton is, therefore, mistaken in supposing that his “Catalogue” had led me astray.
I did not give any particulars of locality, etc., when I handed my collection of New Zealand birds over to the Colonial Museum; but a number was affixed to each specimen, corresponding to that on my list. With Dr. Hector's concurrence, and for obvious reasons, all further information was reserved for my own work, then in course of preparation.]
“The young of this bird takes a year and a half to arrive at the full colours of the adult. When one year old they lose the brown feathers of the wings and back and assume the plumage of the adult; but the red bill and legs are not got until the second spring.
“This bird is, no doubt, identical with. L. pomare. It does not ‘deposit its eggs on the ground,’ but forms a very good nest.”
[Although this bird may sometimes form a rude nest of dry bents, it usually deposits its eggs on the ground. So also does Larus scopulinus.]
“Dr. Buller will find more information on the subject of Petrels flying at night in ‘The Ibis’ for 1867, p. 192.”
[I had unfortunately overlooked Captain Hutton's paper, or would certainly have quoted it, especially as it qualifies his former statement (‘Ibis,’ 1865, p. 278) that D. melanophrys is “quite diurnal in its habits.”]
“This bird flies very fairly; and it is quite incorrect to describe it as ‘a rapid fluttering movement along the surface of the water.’;”
[Mr. Gould, in his account of this species, says that “its flight is a curious fluttering motion, performed so close to the surface that it rarely rises high enough to top the waves, but upon being met by them makes progress by a direct course through instead of over them;” and Latham states that it congregates in flocks “fluttering upon the surface of the water, or sitting upon it.”]
“This bird is not by any means abundant on our coasts; only one specimen has as yet been obtained, which was exhibited by Dr. Buller in the New Zealand Exhibition of 1865. The nesting-places mentioned by Dr. Buller, in the Kaimanawa ranges, and in the Taupo-Patea country, are no doubt those of Procellaria parkinsoni.”
[My specimen was-picked up on the sea beach between Waikanae and Rangitikei, where this bird is often cast ashore. The natives on that coast identified it as the same that breeds in the Kaimanawa and Taupo-Patea ranges. I can hardly think they would confound it with Procellaria parkinsoni, which is a very different bird.]
“Dr. Buller gives P. opisthomelas (Coues) as a synonym of this species. In this he probably follows me, as he does not say that he has been able to compare it with any typical specimens. But this is another of my mistakes that he has unfortunately adopted without acknowledgment; for on a further examination I find that our bird always has the tail-coverts pure white, while in P. opisthomelas most of them are fuliginous. P. gavius can hardly be said to ‘enjoy a wide oceanic range,’ when it has never yet been found out of sight of New Zealand.”
[In giving P. opisthomelas (Coues) as a synonym of this species, I had no wish to ignore Captain Hutton; but it is manifestly impossible, in a list of synonyms, to do more than give the leading reference in each case. Captain Hutton has apparently forgotten that we went into the question together before I left the colony, and came to the conclusion that P. opisthomelas and P. gavius were the same. Dr. Coues states that the former species is abundant on the South Pacific coast of North America. Assuming, therefore, the identification, I was justified in assigning our bird a “wide oceanic range.” To Dr. Finsch belongs the credit of having since put us right on this point. This author says (Journal für Ornithologie, 1872, p. 256):—“Hutton's account of this species, which, since Forster's time, has not been examined, appears to be perfectly correct, but he is certainly mistaken when he asserts most positively that P. opisthomelas (Coues) is the same species. This could only be determined by actually comparing the typical specimens, and this would clearly show a difference between the two species. Hutton's description is far too superficial to allow of anything approaching to a correct opinion.” As Captain Hutton is so very sensitive about not being acknowledged, it is rather surprising that when he wrote to “The Ibis” stating he “had found out his mistake” in describing Graucalus melanops as Colluricincla concinna, he did not also state to whom that discovery was due.]
“This species is far more plentiful in New Zealand than T. melanogaster.”
[My experience differs from Captain Hutton's, for I have always found Thalassidroma melanogaster more plentiful on our shores than T. fregata.]
is common all round the New Zealand coasts, and not by any means confined to the Hauraki Gulf, as Dr. Buller would seem to imply. It breeds in the Rimutaka Mountains near Wellington.”
[When I left the colony all the known examples had been obtained in the Hauraki Gulf. I am aware that it has since been met with in Cook Strait, and on other parts of our coast.]
“I cannot agree with Dr. Buller that the history of this bird has been fully recorded, when even its breeding-place is not yet known.”
[What I meant, of course, was the known history of this familiar species, for I had nothing to add to it. It is equally common in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and many excellent accounts have been written of it.]
“This bird differs from European specimens in never getting so white on the head and neck; but this is not, in my opinion, sufficient to entitle it to
rank as a distinct species. Dr. Buller, in his quotation from my catalogue, omits the first part of the sentence, in which I say that the change in my opinion about this bird was owing to my having visited the South Island.”
[I cannot see how Captain Hutton's visit to the South Island in any way affects the argument. The only question is, whether the difference of plumage (admitting it to be constant) entitles our bird to rank as a distinct species. I follow Mr. Gould in believing that it does.]
“According to Mr. H. Travers, this bird is not found in the Chatham Islands.”
[This species certainly does occur in the Chatham Islands, for I shot a specimen there myself during a short visit in 1855.]
“The stage of plumage figured and described by Dr. Buller as that of the female is the winter dress of both sexes. The plumage of the sexes is similar in all Cormorants. This bird is quite as abundant at Napier and in the Firth of the Thames as in any part of the South Island.”
[I stated (“Birds of New Zealand,” p. 336) that I was “by no means certain whether this was not only a seasonal state of plumage.” I cannot, however, accept Captain Hutton's dictum on this point till he gives some facts in support of it. Mr. Fuller, who has collected scores of these birds at all seasons, rejected this view, and assured me that he had found the crested and uncrested birds breeding in separate pairs at one and the same time. Both Dr. Haast and Mr. Fuller were inclined to consider the uncrested bird a distinct species.]
“This bird is not so scarce in the North Island as Dr. Buller imagines. In 1866 I heard it at the Waikato coal-mines; and a few months previously a surveying party killed five at Taupiri, on the opposite side of the river. The natives also told me that it was common on the Piako ranges. In 1868 I heard of four being killed at Howick, and two in the Waitakerei ranges, both places being within a few miles of Auckland; and I have on several occasions had eggs brought me from Pirongia.”
[The few instances that Captain Hutton records do not suffice to make Apteryx mantelli a common species in the North Island. Its practical scarcity may be inferred from the fact that an offer of £5 for a specimen, which appeared some time ago in the Maori newspaper, failed to obtain one.
I must here record my total dissent from the opinion expressed by Captain Hutton, and based on the structure of the egg-shell, that Apteryx “belongs to the Carinate type of birds” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., IV., p. 167), for such a view is entirely opposed to the principles of modern classification.]