Art. XVI.—Observations on Puffinus gavius (Forst.), Rain-bird, (Hakoakoa), their Habits and Habitats.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 21st September, 1885.]
This Puffin frequents the coast of New Zealand, especially that of the South Island, where I have seen them plentiful, but in the North it is not so common. The plumage of the whole
upper part, including wing and tail, is glossy brownish black, each feather lighter shafted, which is especially noticeable in the larger wing covers; side of the face and neck is greyish brown; throat and under-surface, white; eyes, black; feet, flesh colour, darker on the edge; webs, yellowish; upper part of the bill, blackish brown, lighter at the edges and tip.
The measurement of adult bird, from tip of bill to the end of the tail, is 14 inches. Wing, from flexor to the tips, 8.5; tail, 2.5; bill, from the gape, 1.75; tarsus, 1.5; middle toe, 2.
In December, 1880, I shot a pair of these Puffins, between Morotiri and Taranga Islands, and in the same month I found young birds on the larger Morotiri Island. In October, 1882, on the north-eastern portion of Hauturu Island, I found a female of Puffinus gavius sitting on an egg, and, at the same place, towards the end of November and early in December, I found young birds.
Puffinus gavius come on shore in September, to clean out their burrows or make fresh ones, which they accomplish by digging with the bill and extruding the refuse with their feet; they work during the day, and after sunset they leave for their ocean haunts, returning before sunrise. These birds breed in single pairs. The entrance of the burrow is from 4.5 inches in diameter; the distance to the chamber, from 1 foot 6 inches to 3 feet. The chamber is 1 foot 6 inches long, and about 1 foot 8 inches high; in this there is a deepening with a few leaves, on which, in October, the female lays a white egg, which is 2.35 inches in length, by 1.75. She hatches during the day, when the male is generally out at the ocean, from which he returns after sunset, when the female leaves for the haunts, returning before sunrise, continuing this process till the young birds are a few days old, when both parents absent themselves during the day, but return after sunset to feed their young with an oily substance or matter which they disgorge into their bills. The young birds are covered with darkish grey down, and are full-grown in March, when they leave the breeding resorts for the ocean. The Natives procure and use them for food. The adult bird makes a noise resembling the cackling of a fowl, especially before bad or wet weather, from which the natives name them Hakoakoa; and at such times, when the Natives hear this bird, they never venture out at sea in their canoes or boats.
Their enemies, besides man, are cats, dogs, and pigs. I procured a series of specimens, as you see here, for observation and examination.