Art. V.—On the Occurrence of the Masked Plover (Lobivanellus personatus, Gould) in New Zealand.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 6th July, 1887.]
Several instances are mentioned in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” of the discovery of Australian birds on the coasts of these islands, viz.:—
The Australian Tree Swallow (Hirundo nigricans, (Vieill).*
The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia, Gould). By Dr. Buller.†
The Australian Roller or Dollar-Bird (Eurystomus pacificus, Lath.). By Mr. F. E. Clarke.‡
The Red-Capped Dotterel (Charadrius ruficapillus, Temm.). By T. W. Kirk.§
The species now to be noticed is more beautiful than any of our previous visitants. The Masked Plover is one of the spurwings, and stands about 12 inches high. The body is slight,
[Footnote] *“Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” vol. xi., p. 360.
[Footnote] † Ibid., vol. ix., p. 337.
[Footnote] ‡ Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 454.
[Footnote] § Ibid., vol. xii., p. 246.
very elegantly proportioned, and the general appearance is extremely graceful. It is thus described in Gould's “Handbook to the Birds of Australia:”—“Crown of the head and occiput jet-black; sides of the face, back of the neck, rump, and all the under-surface pure white; back and scapularies light brownishgrey; wing-coverts grey; primaries deep-black; secondaries white at the base on their inner webs, cinnamon-grey on their outer webs, and largely tipped with black; tail white at the base, broadly tipped with black, the extreme ends of the feathers being cinnamon-grey, particularly the two centre ones; irides primrose-yellow; wattles lemon-yellow; bill lemon-yellow at base, black at the tip; legs and feet carmine-red; the scales in front blackish-green.”
The bird was observed in a field at Kai Iwi by Mr. G. Penke, who at once went to the house for a gun; taking a long shot he fired, and the bird dropped, but when secured appeared quite unhurt, and lived for some time in confinement. Refusing food almost entirely, it died after a short captivity. It was mounted, and is now in Mr. S. H. Drew's Museum at Wanganui.
Both sexes possess the spur on the wing, which is a very noticeable feature; but it is much more developed in the male than the female, and proves a very effective weapon in warfare. The yellow-coloured mask is supposed to be for the protection of the feathers, the bird being very fond of thrusting its beak into mud and sand in search of small crustacea, or the larvæ of Coleoptera, which form the staple of its food.