Art. IX.—Notice of the Capture of a Specimen of the Shy Albatross (Diomedea cauta) near Auckland.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 2nd July, 1888.]
So far as I am aware, only two instances are on record of this rare bird being obtained in New Zealand. Some time in 1876 a specimen was captured in Blueskin Bay, Otago, and came into the possession of Professor Hutton, who was at that time in charge of the Otago Museum. Professor Hutton identified it as the Shy Albatross, or Diomedea cauta; and I believe the specimen still exists in the collections of the Museum. In July, 1887, another example came ashore near the pilot-station, at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. It was secured by some fishermen, and ultimately passed into the hands of Dr. (now Sir Walter) Buller. In the tenth volume of the “Transactions” an account will be found of the circumstance, and a full description of the bird.*
About six weeks ago Mr. D. Bate, of Brighton, Parnell, informed me that he had an albatross differing in plumage from any of the stuffed examples in the Museum. On calling to see it, I found that it was undoubtedly a male, in full plumage, of the Shy Albatross. Mr. Bate informed me that a friend of his, while shooting curlew by the side of the Manukau Harbour, near Penrose, observed the bird in a grasspaddock. Albatrosses are unable to take flight from a level piece of ground, so that there was no difficulty in approaching it; in fact, it could do little more than waddle about in a circle. Concluding that it was injured, an attempt was made to seize it by the neck. This was evidently done in a most incautious manner, for I am informed that the bird retaliated by seizing its assailant by the lower part of the nose, inflicting a severe tear. However, it was at length captured and despatched. Mr. Bate has kindly presented the specimen to the Museum, so that I am able to exhibit it to you this evening.
The Shy Albatross is easily distinguished from all the other species by the beautiful pearl-grey feathers of the face and neck, and by a narrow yellow line at the base of the bill. This latter character can only be observed in living specimens, although conspicuous enough in them; the membrane soon losing its colour after death. Very little is known of its habits. Unlike the other species it is not at all bold, and seldom approaches ships. Nothing is known of its breeding-places, nest, or eggs. Mr. Gould, the author of the “Birds of Aus-
[Footnote] *“Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” vol. x., art. xxv., p. 217.
tralia conjectures that it may breed on the Mewstone and some other small islands to the south of Tasmania, from the fact that adult birds are commonly seen in the neighbourhood during the spring months; but up to the present time this supposition has not been verified. It will be interesting to ascertain whether the few specimens caught off our shores have come from a breeding-station to the south of New Zealand, or have wandered across from Tasmania.