Art. III.—Ornithological Notes.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 6th July, 1887.]
1. Petrœca toitoi, Less.—Pied Tit (Miromiro).
I was recently shown a most beautiful example of this species, exhibiting pure albino plumage; it is in the private museum of Mr. S. H. Drew, of Wanganui; the only indication of the normal colouring is a small patch on one of the primaries, and that is only faint grey.
As the unfortunate victim was killed with a full charge of powder and an ounce of No. 4 shot, the internal anatomy was so much knocked about that Mr. Drew was unable to ascertain the sex. He has, however, by careful skinning and mounting succeeded in transforming the battered skin into a really good museum specimen, a result of which, as an amateur taxidermist, he may well be proud. This is, I believe, the first notice of albinism in the Pied Tit.
The specimen was procured at Paraekaretu, in the Rangitikei District, by Mr. Tripe.
2. Anthus novæ-zealandlæ, Gml.—Ground Lark (Pihoihoi).
Varieties inclining to albinism are known to occur occasionally; but while travelling through the bush on the east coast of this provincial district, I came on a Maori plantation, and was shown by one of the Natives a Ground Lark exhibiting a tendency both to albinism and melanism. The following is a description jotted down in my pocket-book:—Top of the head, and down as far as a line through the centre of the eye, were a dull black; the whole of the body and wings, with the exception of the two outer primaries, a delicate creamy white; the outer primaries of the normal greyish-brown. The outside tail-feathers, which in an ordinary specimen would be white, were in this case jet black.
This bird, which was one of the most curious freaks I ever saw, had been tamed, and would come when called and allow itself to be picked up and examined, as though conscious of deserving attention on account of its peculiar adornments.
I endeavoured to effect a purchase, but without success, the Maoris appearing to set great store by their pet.
3. Phalacrocorax punctatus, Sparrm.—Spotted Shag.
Writing of this species Dr. Buller says:—“This beautiful representative of the crested shag is abundant on the coast of the South Island, but it is seldom met with on the Northern side of Cook Strait. I observed a party of three at the mouth of the Waikanae River, in January, 1864; two young birds were killed in Wellington in the winter of 1865; and another was shot in the Gulf of Hauraki, near Auckland; and these are the only instances I know of its occurrence in the North Island…. I have never had an opportunity of examining the eggs; but I understand that three is the usual number.” (“Manual of N.Z. Birds,” p. 95.) It will therefore be interesting to note that I was lately informed by Mr. J. C. McLean that a colony of fifteen or sixteen of these birds has, for more than five years, been established on a reef inside Cape Kidnappers. He states that he has collected the eggs, but never found more than two in a nest. In December, 1885, there were five nests, placed at equal distances apart along the ledge which runs on one side of the rock, about 3 feet from the top. They were composed of sea-weed, and were but a little larger than the nests of the Mackerel Gull (Larus scopulinus, Forst.) One nest had two eggs in, and each of three others contained two young birds covered with black down, the fifth being empty. On the other side of the rock, out of reach, was another nest; this also contained but two eggs. On visiting the locality again last December, the nests were found to be more numerous, but apparently the season was much later, as there were neither eggs nor young birds visible, but the old ones were grouped about, and allowed him to approach quite close before they took wing; their breeding-place being very difficult of access, it is evident they are not often disturbed. The egg is smaller than that of the Black Shag (P. novœ-hollandiœ, Gould) and very dirty. The original colour pale blue.
Mr. McLean has kindly promised to furnish me with the measurements of the eggs in his possession.
The Cape is also the breeding ground of a large number of Gannets (Dysporus serrator).
4. Sterna antarctica, Forst.—Common Tern (Tara).
The local name of this bird in the neighbourhood of Cape Kidnappers is “The Plough Bird,” or “Plough Boy,” given on
account of its habit of closely following the plough for the purpose of obtaining the grubs, &c., thus exposed.
5. Nestor meridionalis, Gml.—Brown Parrot (Kaka).
The author of the “History of the Birds of New Zealand” has described several varieties of this bird; one gorgeously-coloured specimen he mistook for a distinct species, and differentiated it under the title of N. superbus. Further examination, however, convinced him that it was only a variety of the Kaka, and he accordingly sank the specific name. In 1884 I recorded the capture of an almost identical specimen at Waikanae—and now another, hardly to be distinguished, is to be seen on view in the shop of Mr. Liardet, taxidermist. I am informed that this latest addition to the long list of New Zealand birds presenting abnormal colouring was shot in the Kaikoura Mountains.