Art. XXXIV.—Observations on a species of Shag inhabiting Queen Charlotte Sound.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, November 25th, 1876]
At a meeting of this Society, held last year, I exhibited three specimens (male, female, and young) of a species of Shag from Queen Charlotte Sound, which appeared to differ in some of its characters from Phalacrocorax carunculatus.
I did not venture to pronounce the species distinct, but I suggested that if it should prove to be new, it might be fittingly named in honour of Dr. Otto Finsch, the well-known ornithologist. As already explained, however (p. 336), I have been anticipated by Mr. R. B. Sharpe, of the British Museum, who has named another recently discovered species from New Zealand, Phalacrocorax finschii. Strange that two ornithologists, working at opposite corners of the globe, should have independently and almost at the same moment decided on dedicating a new Shag to one of the Continental savants! That the true P. finschii will stand, I have very little doubt, for I have had frequent opportunities of observing how extremely cautious Mr. Sharpe always is in the discrimination of species. As to the bird for which I had designed the same honour, in the event of its proving to be new, it will be remembered that in the paper which I read before the Society on the 29th of July last, I expressed a strong doubt as to its being really distinct from Phalacrocorax carunculatus. I have lately, however, received, by purchase, two fine specimens lately killed at Queen Charlotte Sound, and on comparing these with the only determined example of P. carunculatus in the Colonial Museum, I observe so much difference that I have thought it right to exhibit the specimens and to make some observations upon them.
It will be observed that there is considerable difference in the size, the respective measurements being as follows:—
|P. carunculatus.||Sp. exhib.|
|Extreme length||26.0 inches.||32.0 inches.|
|Wing, from flexure||10.75 "||12.5 "|
|Tail||5.0 "||5.75 "|
|Bill, following curvature||2.25 "||3.0 "|
|Tarsus||2.25 "||3.0 "|
|Longest toe and claw||4.25 "||5.0 "|
Another conspicuous difference is that one form is crested and the other is not. Mr. Henry Travers assures me that these characters are constant. He met with P. carunculatus in large numbers at the Chatham Islands, and there was always a crest, or some indications of it, in both sexes. The other bird he found nesting on the White Rock in Queen Charlotte Sound; and although it was the height of the breeding season, in a colony of some 40 or 50 nests, with birds of both sexes and of all ages frequenting them, he did not observe a single example with a crest, or anything approaching it.
On comparing the heads it would be seen that the bill is much larger and stronger in one than in the other (see Figs. 3 and 4, Plate); and although the colours of the soft parts are no safe criterion in dried specimens, it would appear that the naked spaces, which in P. carunculatus are
orange-red, are of a bluish colour in the other bird, with the exception of the patch of papillæ extending from the base of the upper mandible towards the crown.
The general style of colouring is the same in the two birds, although the tints altogether are duller in the uncrested form. There is the same conspicuous' alar bar of white, formed by the middle wing coverts; but in addition to this the uncrested bird has a patch of the same on the outer scapulars. All the specimens of the latter which I have examined have two closely approximating spots of white, nearly of the size of a crown-piece, about the centre of the back. On a close inspection of the example of P. carunculatus, now exhibited, I observe, on disturbing the feathers, some indications of these white markings, but they are so well concealed that they escaped my notice when I originally described this bird.*
I think I have now sufficiently indicated the differences which may on further observation prove of specific value as distinguishing characters; but it is evident that the subject requires further elucidation before any definite conclusion can be arrived at.
[Footnote] * “Birds of New Zealand,” p. 332.