Art. XXXV.—Notice of the Occurrence of the Australian Roller (Eurystomus pacificus) in New Zealand.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 14th November, 1881.]
The Auckland Museum has lately received a specimen of the Australian Roller (or Dollar Bird, as it is often called in New South Wales), obtained under circumstances which clearly prove it to be a straggler from the Australian continent. The bird was shot by Mr. Charles Cowan, at Piha, a
secluded little bay about eight miles to the north of the Manukau Heads, and on the west side of the Waitakerei Range. When first observed by Mr. Cowan it was feeding on the outskirts of the forest, and on being disturbed flew noisily away. Later in the day it returned to the same locality, and was then secured by Mr. Cowan. Mr. J. McElwaine, who happened to be on the west coast at the time, kindly offered to deliver the bird to me, and I thus received it in a fresh condition. It proved to be an adult male, in full plumage. From the state of the long feathers of the wings and tail, which are quite entire and unworn, even at the extremities, it is obvious that the bird has never been kept in confinement, and cannot therefore have been brought over in some vessel. The bird possesses considerable powers of flight, and there is no great improbability in supposing that it has crossed the 1300 miles of ocean separating the two countries, a passage that is made every year by our little cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus).
Mr. Gould, in his “Handbook to the Birds of Australia,” observes that the Roller is a local species, and is chiefly confined to New South Wales. He makes the following remarks respecting its habits; “It appears to be most active about sunrise and sunset; in sultry weather it generally perches upon some dead branch in a state of quietude. It is a very bold bird at all times, but particularly so during the breeding season, when it attacks with the utmost fury any intruder that may venture to approach the hole in the tree in which its eggs are deposited.”
“When intent upon the capture of insects, it usually perches upon the dead upright branch of a tree overhanging the water, where it sits very erect, until a passing insect attracts its notice, when it suddenly darts off, secures its victim, and returns to the same branch. At other times it may constantly be seen on the wing, mostly in pairs, flying just above the tops of the trees, diving and rising again with many rapid turns. During flight the silvery spot in the centre of each wing shows very distinctly, and hence the name of ‘ Dollar Bird’ bestowed upon it by the colonists.”
The species appears to be purely an insect feeder. Mr. Gould remarks that the stomachs of all the specimens dissected by him contained Coleoptera only. This agrees exactly with the specimen now under notice, its crop being distended in a wonderful manner with these insects.
For further particulars respecting this interesting bird, reference may be made to Gould's work quoted above. The plumage differs in no respect from that of Australian specimens contained in our museum.