Art. XXV.—Notes on some New Zealand Birds.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 13th February, 1889.]
1. Rhipidura Fuliginosa (Black Fantail, Tiwakawaka).
This bird is generally believed to be confined to the South Island. There are, however, several well-authenticated records of its capture in the North. A specimen was quite recently shot at Levin, a new township on the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company's land, and presented to the Colonial Museum by Mr. Charles Gillespie.
I have been informed by a settler in the Manawatu district that the season before last a pair of them nested in the bush at the back of his property, and successfully reared their brood. He is positive as to the species. This would seem to show that they are not quite so scarce in the North Island as is usually supposed, even if they are not to be doomed indigenous.
2. Carpophaga novæ-zealandiæ (Wood-pigeon, Kuku, Kereru).
I have yet another instance of abnormal colouring of this magnificent bird to record. The specimen was shot at Kaikoura in June, 1887, and presented to the Colonial Museum by Mr. H. Inglis. The following is a description of it : Head, neck, and breast, normal colour, but of a duller shade. Hind-neck and front portion of scapulars and wing-covers rich brown, profusely interspersed with white (the body of each feather is quite white, but broadly tipped with rich chocolate-brown, which gives the colour to those parts); hind portions of scapulars, and wing-covers, white, the feathers in some places tinged and edged with slaty-grey; shafts of feathers deep-brown, almost black. Wings slaty-grey, much blotched with white, the feathers in most instances edged with coppery-green, shafts normal colour. Rump white, but bluish-grey feathers are profusely mixed. Tail-feathers white, but margined all round with bluish-black, shafts black ; below these feathers are white, but so thickly spotted with brown as to appear of that colour; the two outer shafts are nearly white. Abdomen and lower tail-cover white. Sides and lining of wings pale silvery-grey, in places almost white. Beak and feet normal colour.
3. Lobivanellus lobatus (Wattled Plover).
In a previous volume* I recorded the occurrence of the masked plover (L. personatus), in New Zealand. The identification was made from a drawing and description supplied to me, but I have since had an opportunity of examining the specimen, which Mr. Drew, in whose possession it is, kindly brought to Wellington for my inspection.
I find that the previous identification was incorrect—that the species is really L. lobata, the wattled plover; I therefore hasten to correct the mistake. The two species are very similar, the most striking difference being the amount of black on the neck, which was not sufficiently shown in the sketch.
This species is called the “alarm-bird” by the settlers in some parts of New South Wales, on account of its habit, when disturbed, of rising in the air, flying about excitedly, and
[Footnote] * “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” vol. xx., p. 33.
screaming so loudly that every creature within reach of its cry is on the alert.
4. Chætura caudacuta (Spine-tailed Swift, Needle-tailed Swallow).
Mr. Drew also brought with him a very good specimen of this bird. It was shot at Manaia, Hawera County, in March, 1888, and was given to the present owner by Mr. Budge. This latest visitor is a female, as proved by dissection, the only difference between the sexes being that the male is rather larger than his mate. This species has a wide range—it is said to breed under the snow-line in the Himalayas, it was found by Von Schrenck in Amoorland, it has been captured in England, is common in Australia, and now has visited New Zealand. Large flocks visit the eastern parts of Australia and Tasmania in the summer, but only stay a short time. It is probable that our specimen was merely an exhausted straggler from one of these flocks. It agrees well with the description given by Gould: “Crown of head, back of neck, and ear-coverts, deep shining-green, strongly tinged with brown; a small space immediately before the eye, deep velvety-black; band across the forehead, throat, inner webs of the secondaries nearest the back, a patch on the lower part of the flanks, and the under tail-coverts, white; wings and tail deep shining-green, with purple reflections; centre of the back greyish-brown, becoming darker towards the rump; chest and abdomen dark clove-brown.”
Mr. Gould makes the following remarks with regard to the enormous powers of flight possessed by this bird:—
“The keel or breastbone of this species is more than ordinarily deep, and the pectoral muscles more developed than in any bird of its weight with which I am acquainted. Its whole form is especially and beautifully adapted for extended flights; hence it readily passes from one part of the world to another, and, if so disposed, may be engaged in hawking for flies on the continent of Australia at one hour, and in the next be similarly employed in Tasmania.
“So exclusively is this bird a tenant of the air that I never in any instance saw it perch, and but rarely sufficiently near the earth to admit of a successful shot; it is only late in the evening, and during lowery weather that such an object can be accomplished. With the exception of the crane, it is certainly the most lofty as well as the most vigorous flier of the Australian birds. I have frequently observed in the middle of the hottest days, while lying prostrate on the ground, with my eyes directed upwards, the cloudless blue sky peopled at an immense elevation by hundreds of these birds, performing extensive curves and sweeping flights, doubtless
attracted thither by the insects that soar aloft during serene weather.”
5. Phalacrocorax Punctatus (Spotted Shag).
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I have already published a description by Mr. McLean of the nesting of this species, as observed near Cape Kidnappers. He has since forwarded me an egg, taken from the nest by himself. It measures 28/20in. in length, by 18/20in. greatest diameter.