Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 10, 1877
This text is also available in PDF
(177 KB) Opens in new window
– 553 –

3. “Descriptions of two new Mollusks from Auckland Harbour,” by T. F. Cheeseman, F.L.S.

The species described were Pleurobranchus ornatus and Aclesia glauca. Coloured drawings of both were exhibited.

4. “Notes on a branched Nikau Tree,” by S. Percy Smith. (Transactions, p. 357.)

5. “On the Disappearance of the Small Birds of New Zealand,” by D. C. Wilson. (Transactions, p. 239.)

Mr. Firth entirely agreed with the remarks made by the author in reference to the operations of the Acclimatization Societies. Of late years quite a howl had been raised against the Auckland Society for its introduction of sparrows, greenfinches, chaffinches, etc., and it had been even roundly stated that the skylark had turned out an undesirable colonist. He had no sympathy with such statements; and believed that they rested on very slender foundations. He would admit that at a certain season of the year the sparrows and chaffinches might take a little grain, or that the blackbirds might help themselves to strawberries and cherries; but the fact remained that for eight months out of the twelve neither grain nor fruit could be obtained, and that then the birds must depend on insects for their existence. The small amount of evil done was conspicuous, and was consequently talked about and magnified, while the much larger amount of good performed was in a great measure hidden from view, and as a rule altogether escaped notice. Some years ago a similar outcry was set up in England, and by means

– 554 –

of sparrow clubs and similar institutions a wholesale slaughter of the smaller birds took place. But it soon became evident that as the birds decreased the insects increased, and he was happy to say that public opinion was fast undergoing a change, as was evidenced by the Small Birds Protection Act. Here in New Zealand, where the native birds were evidently unable to accommodate themselves to the changed conditions brought about by the advent of the European settlers, and were fast diminishing in numbers, it was almost a public duty to introduce others to take their place and perform their work; and he felt certain that ultimately the colony would thank the Acclimatization Societies for having taken the matter up.

Mr. Barstow agreed with much that the author had advanced, but could not assent to the view that the rat was the sole enemy of the New Zealand birds. He had long been of opinion that the introduction and spread of the honey-bee had much to do with the disappearance of the honey-eating species, such as the korimako. It was a common statement among the Maoris that the bees had appropriated the honey on which the korimakos fed, and had thus absolutely starved the birds to death. By many people the rat was credited with being the cause of the extinction of the native quail, which bred on the ground, and (so ran the story) was especially liable to have its eggs or young taken. But the same reasoning should apply still more strongly to the case of the pihoihoi, or ground lark, which nevertheless still very fairly maintained its numbers.