Art. LXI.—Notes on the Antarctic Petrel (Priocella antarctica).
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 25th November, 1876.]
This Petrel has been seldom met with, and the specimen I have now to describe was lately presented to the Museum by Mr. J. J. Buckrell, as a rare bird shot by him in Lat. 46° S., Long. 118° 9′ E., or about 1,000 miles west of Tasmania and in the latitude of Otago. It has not yet been recorded as a New Zealand bird, except that, in the “Zool. of the Voyage of the ‘Erebus’ and ‘Terror,’” a figure of it is given among those from our colony. It is on this figure that I have to rely for the identification of the species, not being able to find any published description, although the name has been frequently quoted, as shewn in the following synonymy:—
Procellaria antarctica, Gmelin, “Syst. Nat.,” I., 565, taken from Forster's “Icon.,” ined., t. 95; Id., “List, Grallœ, etc., B.M.” 163; Id., “Zool. ‘Err.’ and ‘Terr.,’” PI. 33.
Thelassoica (lege Thelassœca antarctica), Rich. (1853), “Coues. P. Phil. Acad, 1866,” 31.
Fulmarus antarcticus, Gray, “Hand List,” B. iii., 105.
Priocella antarctica, Sharpe, “App. Zool. ‘Err.’ and ‘Terr.,’” 1875, 37.
Description.—Head, neck, back, rump, scapularies, and small wing-coverts, dark brownish-grey, shaded off to brown on the side of the neck and on the throat; outer webs and tips of inner webs of the primaries dark brown; quills white; wing-coverts white; inner secondaries, secondaries, and coverts white, forming a distinct alar bar; tail white, with a terminal bar of brownish-black; underparts white; bill, brownish-black; legs and feet, pale brownish-grey, with brown claws.
Length, 14.4 inches; wing from flexure, 11.8 inches; tail, 4.9 inches; bill following curvature, 1.5 inches; lower mandible, from tip to gape, 1.8 inches; tarsus, 1.5 inch; mandible, toe, and claw, 2.3 inches; hind-claw, .25 inch.
This elegant Petrel should be easily recognized by the drab colour of its surface, broken only by the marked white band across the tail and wings. I am under the impression that I have seen it after heavy weather in Foveaux Straits.
The species was founded on Forster's drawing taken on Cook's second voyage; but there are five specimens in the British Museum obtained during Ross's Antarctic Expedition, and I presume it is from one of them that the published figure was taken.