Art. XXII.—On Apteryx bulleri.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 13th June, 1888.]
During a recent examination of some skins of Apteryges, in company with Sir Walter Buller, I became firmly convinced that the ordinary brown Apteryx of the North Island is certainly specifically distinct from the Apteryx australis of the South Island; and I was a little surprised to find, on going over the literature of the subject, that, notwithstanding a similar verdict on the part of such excellent naturalists as Sir James Hector, Sir Julius von Haast, Professor Hutton, Mr. Potts, and others, the North Island bird has not yet received a distinctive name. It has generally been called by naturalists Apteryx mantelli of Bartlett, under which name it appeared in the first edition of Buller's “Birds of New Zealand;” and it is the Apteryx australis var. mantelli, of Finsch's paper in the “Journal für Ornithologie,” 1873, p. 263. The characters given by Mr. Bartlett for his Apteryx mantelli are founded on the natural variations in Apteryx australis, of which A. mantelli is a pure synonym; and the North Island Apteryx awaits a title. The pair of adult birds in Sir Walter Buller's collection are relatively much smaller than the corresponding sexes of A. australis, and the colour is of a blackish brown instead of a tawny tint; while the curious harsh structure of the plumage, especially of the feathers of the rump and nape, is a further character of importance.
It gives me great pleasure to adopt a suggestion of my friend Dr. Finsch that the North Island Apteryx should be called Apteryx bulleri, after the learned author of the “Birds of New Zealand,” a work which in its first edition seemed to me to be as complete as it was possible to make a history of the birds of any single area, until I saw the magnificent new edition on which Sir Walter Buller is now engaged, and on the completion of which I should think any one would find it difficult to write anything more about the birds of New Zealand.