Art. XIII.—Notes on the Ornithology of New Zealand.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 17th February, 1897.]
As this will be the last occasion on which I shall have the pleasure of addressing the Society before my departure on a lengthy visit to Europe, I desire, in the first place—before submitting my usual budget of notes—to refer to an address which I gave in June, 1894, under the title of “Illustrations of Darwinism; or the Avifauna of New Zealand considered in relation to the Fundamental Law of Descent with Modification.” My object at that time was to place before the Society certain facts and inferences derived and deducible from my own observations in this country, extending over a considerable period, in support and illustration of the doctrine of the evolution of species by a process of natural selection, on Darwin's well-known principle of the “survival of the fittest.” The address dealt with a debatable subject, and it will be remembered that it led to a discussion in which several members of the Society took part. In order to invite a wider criticism I had 250 extra copies separately printed, and these I distributed among scientific friends and correspondents all over the world. It was naturally very gratifying to me to receive, as I did, from many quarters appreciative and commendatory letters. It is not my purpose to refer to those letters of approval, except in this general way, as affording an indication of the common acceptance of the doctrine of evolution at the present day—as another proof, if small in its way, of the truth of Professor Newton's remark (quoted in my address) that Darwin's famous book “On the Origin of Species” had effected the greatest revolution of human thought in this or perhaps in any other century. I shall accordingly pass by these letters as a whole, and refer only to those of them which contain, in any sense whatever, adverse criticism of my treatise. My desire is to elicit the truth, whether favourable to my views or otherwise.
In the first place, then, I will refer to a communication from Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, the great apostle of Darwinism. It will be remembered that I ventured to differ with that eminent scientist on one or two points—chiefly as to the position assigned by him to the genus Apteryx. I said (p. 80*), “I cannot for a moment admit that the Kiwi is one of the lowest birds in the sense implied. It rather seems to me to be an extremely specialised form, and one to which Mr. Wallace's own felicitous remarks (at page 105†) are specially applicable: ‘In species which have a wide range the struggle for existence will often cause some individuals to adopt new habits in order to seize upon vacant places in nature where the struggle is less severe. Some, living among extensive marshes, may adopt a more aquatic mode of life; others, living where forests abound, may become more arboreal. In either case, we cannot doubt that the changes of structure needed to adapt them to their new habits would soon be brought about, because we know that variations in all the external organs and all their separate parts are very abundant, and are also considerable in amount. That such divergence of character has actually occurred we have some direct evidence.’” I then proceeded to argue that the Apteryx was, in every way, the most specialised type of its kind—an extreme form of degeneracy, using that term in its Darwinian sense.
Mr. Wallace, in acknowledging receipt of my pamphlet, writes in appreciative terms of the paper as a whole, and stating that on the only points on which he disagreed with me he had communicated an article to Nature. On turning this up (vol. lii., p. 60) I find the following criticism: “Its main subject-matter is a discussion of the various ways in which the peculiarities of structure, colour, distribution, and habits of. New Zealand birds serve to illustrate the theory of natural selection, and often to afford very strong arguments in its favour. The address is very clear and forcible, full of interesting facts and suggestive observations, and will be read with interest by all naturalists. One or two points only call for any critical observation. Sir Walter Buller objects to the Apteryx being classed by Mr. Wallace as among ‘the lowest birds,’ because he says it is really ‘an extremely specialised form.’ But surely the Ratitæ are lower than the Carinatæ, and the Apteryx is so specialised as to be almost the least bird-like of the Ratitæ. If it is not to be classed among the lowest existing birds, where are they to be found?”
It will be seen, on referring to what I said, that what I objected to was the placing of the Kiwi among the lowest
[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxvii.
[Footnote] † “Darwinism”
forms of bird-life “in the sense implied.” In the sense now used by Mr. Wallace, I admit, of course, that the Kiwi as a Ratite form comes at the end of the chain in our modern system of classification; but, as I understand it, that is a very different point to the one I was discussing. In accordance with that system, and having regard to their natural affinities, I have placed the group of Kiwis at the very end of my “Birds of New Zealand,” but that is in no way inconsistent with my argument as to Apteryx being a highly specialised form. Writing of this bird, the late Professor Owen said: “Here we have a true bird, exhibiting a remarkable modification of the whole ornithic structure, in reference to exclusively terrestrial life and nocturnal habits; and we learn, from this adherence to a typical organization, in a very rare exception, that the teleological conclusions respecting the typical construction, as it is manifested in the general rule, are in no way affected by such an exception, because the modification of one part necessarily affects that of many others, perhaps of the whole body. If, for example, the fixation and structure of the lungs require a broad sternum and concomitant modifications of the coracoid and scapula for the mechanical part of the respiratory process, then it may be more convenient for the levator of the humerus to rise below that bone from the sternum, and act in the due direction by a modification of its course, although the locomotion of the bird may in no way be facilitated by the aggregation of muscular substance beneath the centre of gravity, nor the size of the levator be such as to render its particular position a matter of any consequence in regard to that centre.”
Professor Newton, in his admirable article on “Birds” in the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” referring to the extraordinary development of our Ratitæ, says: “If we take the birds alone, and compare the two subclasses into which the existing or recent members of the class are divided, we find the Australian region remarkable for its ornithic singularity. The smaller of these two subclasses, the Ratitæ, contains six very natural groups—which might well be called orders—including, according to the most exaggerated computation of their number, less than forty species, while the large subclass, the Carinatæ, comprehends some ten thousand species.” In a footnote he adds: “If it be true, as seems to be most likely the case, that Dinornis and its allies were absolutely devoid of wings, we should in them have a divergence from the normal ornithic type which is altogether unique in the whole class, and for its singularity might well be set off against the multifariousness exhibited by the Didelphia”—one of the subclasses of mammals characteristic of the Australian region.
Mr. Wallace's criticism proceeds: “Again, the statement
that the larger forms of animals have universally preceded the smaller in geological time (p. 101) is only a half-truth, if so much, since all these large forms have been developed from smaller ones, as shown in the case of the horse, as well as that of the early marsupials of the Mesozoic period. Even more open to objection is the statement (p. 102) that the Siberian mammoth ‘would clearly have required a growth of tropical luxuriance to satisfy the wants of its capacious stomach′; and that its being found by thousands imbedded in ice or frozen soil implies ‘a revolutionary change of climate.’ A sufficient answer to this theory is the fact that leaves and cones of firs have been found in the stomach, showing that it fed only a few degrees south of the places where it is now imbedded.”
Another very distinguished scientist, however (Sir Joseph Hooker), takes a somewhat different view. He writes: “Yesterday I received yours of 10th May, and this morning your ‘Illustrations of Darwinism.’ Such is my avidity for anything relating to the natural history of New Zealand that I read your papers through at once and with very great pleasure. They reminded one of ‘White's Selborne,’ * and interested me exceedingly. I go along with you throughout the Darwinism discussion, especially with regard to so-called degraded types being in reality advanced ones. The only criticism which I would offer is that (p. 102) too much stress must not be put on the correlation of gigantic animals with a luxuriant and, especially, a tropical vegetation. I think that the contents of the stomachs, or an examination of the teeth, at any rate, of Siberian mammoths prove them to have fed on birch, willow, and other shrubs like the existing dwarf plants of the tundras; and elephants swarmed at the Cape of Good Hope itself when discovered, and for years afterwards. The Greenland whale feeding on minute mollusca is an analogous case, and there are a multitude of others. There is no reason to
[Footnote] * To my mind Sir Joseph Hooker could not have paid a higher compliment to the literary quality of these papers. From boyhood “White's Natural History of Selborne” has been one of my favourite books, as I suppose it has been with every student of ornithology. It is thus referred to by the learned author of the article on Ornithology in the “Encyclopædia Britannica”: “It has passed through a far greater number of editions than any other work on natural history in the whole world, and has become emphatically an English classic, the graceful simplicity of its style, the elevating tone of its spirit, and the sympathetic chords it strikes recommending it to every lover of Nature, while the strictly scientific reader can scarcely find an error in any statement it contains, whether of matter of fact or opinion. It is almost certain that more than half the zoologists of the British Islands for the past seventy years or more have been infected with their love of the study by Gilbert White, and it can hardly be supposed that his influence will cease.”
Suppose that the bogs over which the Irish elk roamed and fed supported a more luxuriant vegetation than they now do.”
“How profoundly interesting is the islet fauna of New Zealand ! Much of this is new to me. I wonder when their plants will receive the same treatment as you give to their birds, &c. I hope that you will gather your facts into a general work on the natural history of New Zealand. Your difficulty will then be to keep it down to a moderate size, especially as I hope you will illustrate plentifully. A good map will be necessary, as it is impossible to find in the ordinary ones many of the places you mention. I am always glad to see Colenso's name brought forward. I wish he could have been persuaded to treat of plants as you have of animals. As it is, I can only marvel at the results of his eye-work as a collector and his indefatigable industry, zeal, and self-denial; and I look back on my weeks of personal intercourse and years of active correspondence with him as a long episode of few Zealand in my life.”
As anything written by Sir Joseph Hooker is of special interest to New Zealand readers, I will give just one more extract from his letter: “You may be interested to know that I am printing Banks's ‘Narrative of Cook's First Voyage,’ which is full of matter not contained in ‘Hawksworth,’ and will, I hope, give an unexpected view of Banks's marvellous industry and powers of observation as a naturalist and ethnologist. The journal is of portentous length, and to bring the best parts into a volume of four hundred pages I shall have to omit a multitude of details of daily life at sea—of no interest—and much of the nautical details already published by Hawksworth; also many long passages relating to the customs of the natives that will not bear reproduction—most of which are, indeed, in ‘Hawksworth’ already. Though I, through my father, who was intimate with him, have, I suppose, heard more of Banks than any other living man, I never before realised, what my father used to affirm, his great knowledge as a naturalist, and his powers.”
From Mr. Roland Trimen, F.R.S., the Director of the Cape Museum, I have a very similar criticism: “In your very interesting ‘Illustrations of Darwinism,’ &c. (p. 102), I notice that you refer to the case of frozen mammoths in Siberia as indicating a very sudden change from tropical to arctic conditions there; but it has always seemed to me that the change must have been very gradual indeed until the final unexplained catastrophe, because not only were the mammoths clothed with shaggy hair, but the last food they took (as shown by the undigested and actually unaltered quantity in their stomachs) consisted of shoots of the very same species of Pinus, &c., which now flourish on the tundra wastes.”
Lord Kelvin, the late President of the Royal Society, after thanking me for the address, says: “You and the geologists must, however, be satisfied with twenty million years for the earth's age. The 306 million years for the denudation of the Weald in Kent, given as part of his foundation in the first edition of The Origin of Species,’ was dropped by Darwin himself after I showed it to be inconsistent with dynamics, and I think you will not find it in the third or later editions. The 270 million years ‘since the Cambrian period,’ which you quote from Lyell, is utterly untenable. He supported his assumption of infinite past time for geology by a thermo-electric invention of a perpetual motion as good as many of the million ‘perpetual motions’ that have been invented by ingenious persons who have not learned dynamics or physics.”
A sufficient length of time was my postulate; and twenty million years suits my argument quite as well as the more-extended period.
Sir John Lubbock, F.R.S., whom I gently twitted with inaccuracies, whilst I admitted to the fullest extent the charm of his writings, writes to me: “Many thanks for the ‘Illustrations,’ which I have read with much interest. Huia is, of course, allied to the Crow, and I said Crow rather than Starling as giving a better idea of the size and colour. I observe you say that the female comes to the aid of the cock, so that my account does not differ so very much from what you say. Probably if the cock has not had enough he would take some.”
Professor Parker, F.R.S., writes: “I have read your article, ‘Illustrations of Darwinism,’ with some care, and approve highly of most of it. There are a few criticisms I should like to make.
“P. 79. The upper mandible (of Apteryx) is a prolongation of precisely the same bone as in other birds—premaxillæ, nasals, &c. The ‘cranial pan’ is rather exceptionally large in Apteryx. I have often wondered what it wants with such a big brain.
“P. 80. You are quite right about the extreme specialisation of Apteryx. See my paper on its development: ‘Philosophical Transactions, 1891,’ summary, p. 116. See also the brief account of the matter in the ‘New Zealand, Journal of Science’ (sent herewith).
“P. 85. Megalapteryx is not a ‘Giant Kiwi,’ but a Moa, as Lydekker first showed.
“P. 87. My observations on the skull of the Dinornithidæ (see Proc. Zool. Soc., 14th Feb., 1893) distinctly contradict your view that the larger forms of Moa are the most ancient. The oldest (least specialised, &c.) type of skull is Mesopteryx (including Casuarinus, Didinus, &c.), while the very, tall forms.
(robustus, giganteus, &c.) and the thick-legged forms (elephant-opus and crassus) are highly specialised in different directions.
“Your observations on the numerous species of Apteryx and their distribution are very interesting. What strikes me at once is, what a pity that the skeletons are not properly described. If you ever have the chance of getting any, I wish you would lend them to me for that purpose. I think I may say without undue vanity that I could monograph the skeleton of Apteryges as well as most men. Unfortunately, it is of little use to begin until one has a good series of well-authenticated specimens of all the species, and I am sorry to say I cannot give the collectors carte blanche.”
I am glad to add that I have since been able to procure for Professor Parker a specimen in the flesh and. two rough skeletons of the Giant Kiwi (Apteryx lawryi) from Stewart Island. He has devoted special attention to the anatomy of Apteryx, and his remarks quoted above are therefore valuable.
In my address (at p. 87) I gave reasons for my conclusion that the larger forms are the more ancient, being those that roamed originally over the afterwards submerged continent, and that the smaller-sized Moas, of different genera and species, are the descendants of those which had been specialised, in the various islands during the long epoch following the continental submergence. As will be seen, Professor Parker differs with me on this point. I mentioned, on the page already cited, Captain Hutton's published view that the smaller forms of Ratitæ in New Zealand must have preceded the larger, but; I also quoted from his paper “On the Moas of New Zealand” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxiv., p. 149) a passage which seemed to show that a difficulty about this existed in his own mind. It was this: “Evidently Anomalopteryx and Palapteryx are the oldest forms; but if Palapteryx had wings it could not have been derived from; the wingless Anomalopteryx, and, if. the birds were increasing in size, Anomalopteryx could not have been derived from Palapteryx.” I added, by way of commentary, “[Exactly so; but on my hypothesis these difficulties disappear, and the supposed conditions are in harmony with it.” It would seem that Captain Hutton—who has studied the subject very closely, and whose opinion is entitled to great respect—has arrived at the same conclusion as myself, for in a very interesting article lately communicated by him to the Canterbury Press* he says: “The commoner kinds of Moas were comparatively small birds, from 3ft. to 5ft. high, and it seems probable that the giants of the race, which attained a height of about 12ft., had all died out before the
[Footnote] * “The Rise and Fall of the Moa,” by Captain Hutton, F.R.S.—The Press, 2nd November, 1896.
advent of man. At any rate, there is no record of any bones-of Dinornis maximus or of Dinornis giganteus having been found among the remains of Maori feasts.”
Before passing on, I may say that it was a matter of regret to me that my address had caused pain or annoyance to a member of our Society, who wrote to me saying that my strictures on his paper had been far too severe. I can only answer him in his own words, “Magna est Veritas, et prævalebit.” Whilst vindicating the truth from my point of view, there was no desire on my part to wound; and that I kept within reasonable limits is, I think, sufficiently attested in the following letter from Dr. Morris, C.M.G., the assistant. director at Kew: “You evidently have to hold the torch of science with no uncertain light in the antipodean community to keep out error and conclusions opposed to truth. I admire your frank, outspoken words, for, while they undoubtedly will reach conviction, they will not cause ill-feeling nor sympathy for the vanquished, as is too often the case in the conflict between the trained and untrained in scientific discussions.” This being the view of a competent judge, looking on from outside, I cannot believe that I. have abused my undoubted right of criticism, or made myself too personal.
I now invite the attention of the Society to some brief notes on various species of native birds, in continuation of similar contributions on former occasions.
Miro albifrons, Gmelin. (South Island Robin.)
A partial albino received from Canterbury has the back and under-parts entirely white; the rest of the body-plumage slaty-black and white intermixed irregularly; quills and tail-feathers normal. Bill bright-yellow; legs darker yellow.
Sphenœacus punctatus, Quoy and Gaim. (Fern-bird.)
I have received a pair of Fern-birds from Stewart Island, which seem to represent a larger race than the one inhabiting the North and South Islands. In plumage it is precisely similar, except that the black spots on the breast appear to be more pronounced. The male gives the following measurements: Total length, 7.5in.; wing from flexure, 2.75in.; tail, 3.75in.; bill, along the ridge, 0.5in.; along the edge of lower mandible, 0.7in.; tarsus, 0.9in.; middle-toe and claw, 085in.
Sphenœacus rufescens, Buller. (Chatham Island Fern-bird.)
A collector living on Pitt Island states that, partly through the firing of the low vegetation and partly through the introduction of cats which have run wild, this interesting species has become quite extinct.
Anthus novæ-zealandiæ, Gmelin. (New Zealand Pipit.)
A partial albino from Canterbury has the upper surface of wings, sides of body and abdomen, scapulars and tail-feathers greyish-white; the rest of the plumage normal. A specimen which I saw in Dunedin in January last had the entire plumage of the body pure white, the head only betraying the natural colours.
Rhipidura fuliginosa, Sparrm. (Black Fantail.)
One of these birds in perfect plumage was recently seen in the bush reserve at Papaitonga, where it was associating with the ordinary Fantail. As the occurrence of these stragglers from the South Island has become more numerous of late years than formerly, there is some chance of the species establishing itself in the North Island.
Anthornis melanura, Sparrm. (Bell-bird.)
To the accidental varieties which I have previously recorded I have now to add an albino from Akaroa, the whole of the plumage being white, slightly tinged with golden-yellow.
Specimens of this bird from the Auckland Islands appear to be, as a rule, a trifle larger than New Zealand examples.
Prosthemadera novæ-zealandiæ, Gmelin. (Tui.)
From Stewart Island I have received a beautiful albino of this species. The whole of the plumage is of the purest white; the bill and the feet are also white.
Xenicus longipes, Gmelin. (Bush Wren.)
At Milford Sound in February last I saw a single example of this very rare species, and managed to procure it undamaged with a small charge of dust-shot. I saw another a few weeks later on Stewart Island. It was in a low shrub by the roadside, and on my approach descended quickly to the ground, but it was so nimble in its movements that I was unable to get a shot at it. The specimens sent to me by Mr. Brough were captured by him by means of a hand-net, and, as specimens, were entirely uninjured. Writing to me of this species, he says: “On my last visit to the mountains I found four very neatly made nests of the Bush Wren. They were placed under an overhanging clay bank, but there were no eggs in any of them. I found out when I was living for months in this solitude among the Wrens that if by chance you wound or hurt one it is sure to fly away to its nest. I observed, too, that in wet or stormy weather they rest in their old abandoned nests.”
Xenicus insularis, Buller. (Island Wren.)
Very diligent search has been made on Stephen Island for further, specimens of the Island Wren, but without success, and there is too much reason to fear that this species has, almost immediately after its discovery, become extinct. It is much to be regretted that there is not a specimen in any one of our local museums.
I am informed by Mr. Henry Travers that he sent seven examples (including two in spirits) to the Hon. Walter Rothschild. It is a comfort, therefore, to know that this vanished species will, at any rate, be well represented in the magnificent New Zealand collection now existing in the Tring Museum. Of its habits, unfortunately, we know nothing. Mr. Lyall, the lighthouse-keeper, through, whom, I believe, all the specimens were procured, reports that, so far as he could judge, it was crepuscular in its habits. If that be so, it is certainly a very interesting fact in the natural history of such a bird.
Halcyon vagans, Lesson. (New Zealand Kingfisher.)
I have already placed on record many observations showing the predatory character of our Kingfisher. The following note received from Captain H. F. Way is only another count in the indictment: “Whangamata, 22nd November.—The other day, while I was waiting at the entrance of a drive for my mate to turn up (7 a.m.), I noticed a lot of Blight-birds (Zosterops) flying about a tree; then I heard a strange noise—whack-whack-whack. At first I could not make out where the noise came from-another whack. Presently I saw a Kingfisher sitting on the branch of a tree with something in his beak. Then came a rapid succession of whacks—first to the right, then to the left—and I noticed something flying about in the air. Then I made out that he had a Blight-bird in his beak, and was a-whacking the poor little beggar on the branch to get rid of the feathers. As fast as he got rid of the feathers so he kept on swallowing the bird, and the last thing I saw of the latter was his legs protruding from the Kingfisher's beak. The most singular thing was the vigour with which the Kingfisher struck his victim against the branch—generally three whacks on each side and then a rest, and so on to the end.”
Platycercus novæ-zealandiæ, Sparrm. (Red-topped Parrakeet.)
There is a remarkable example of this widely-spread species in the Southland Museum. The curator (Mr. Fraser) very courteously unscrewed the face of the glass case containing it, to enable me to make a closer inspection: Forehead and front part of vertex, as well as the ear-coverts, dark-crimson; the whole of the body-plumage bright-yellow, varied more or less on the upper surface, and washed on the neck with green;
bastard quills and outer webs of first four primaries, in. their basal portion, blue; the rest of the primaries brownish-grey, clouded with darker grey on their inner webs; the fifth primary in each wing yellowish-white, the outer vane changing to yellowish green towards the base; the two middle tail-feathers dark-green, edged and tipped, with yellow, and the lateral ones varied and clouded with green; the under-tail-coverts washed with green. Bill normal; feet pale-brown. This specimen is marked “Female,” and there is a note attached stating that it was obtained-in December, 1876.
Platycercus auriceps, Kuhl. (Yellow-topped Parrakeet.)
I have described elsewhere: the beautiful yellow Parrakeet in the Colonial Museum. There is an equally lovely object in the Southland Museum: On the forehead there is the usual mark of arterial red, and with this exception the whole of the plumage is of a vivid canary yellow; primaries and their coverts white. Bill and feet white.
Platycercus cooki, Gray. (Norfolk Island Parrakeet.)
The confusion about this species appears to have been, cleared up at last. The Ibis of last year (p; 156) contains the following: “Mr. North, having procured two authentic specimens of the Parrakeet of Norfolk Island, admits that Count Salvadori was correct in stating (Ibis, 1893, p. 466) that the species is quite distinct from Cyanoramphus novæ-zealandi&calig;, and that C. rayneri is identical with C. cooki — the proper name for the Norfolk Island bird. It would seem that the species of this genus which formerly inhabited Lord Howe's Island has become extinct.” So, I may add, has that which, a few years ago, inhabited Macquarie Island.
Nestor meridionalis, Gmelin. (The Kaka.)
I have received a beautiful specimen of Nestor meridionalis from Stewart Island—another form to be added to the remarkable series of well-marked varieties enumerated in my “Birds of New Zealand.” The general plumage is of a delicate fawn-colour, flushed more or less with orange, particularly on the upper wing-coverts, the feathers of the back-having darker margins; ear-coverts orpiment-orange; the overlapping feathers on the cheeks dark-wine-red; nuchal collar conspicuous, and of red and orange intermixed; croup and upper tail-coverts, lining of wings, abdomen, and under tail-coverts arterial red; feathers on the breast and those along inner margin of wings with yellow and red crescents and dark margins; tail-feathers strongly flushed with reddish-orange. Bill and feet whitish-horn colour.
Nestor meridionalis, var. esslingii, Gould.
I have had an opportunity of examining another of these birds from Collingwood. It is a very handsome bird. The bill is finer or more produced than in ordinary specimens of Nestor, and the shafts of the tail-feathers project half ani nch beyond the webs. The colours are very brilliant; the overlapping cheek-feathers are vivid wine-red, and the ear-coverts are bright orpiment-orange. The nuchal collar of red is continued all round the lower neck, the upper breast-feathers, having arterial red and orange borders; on the feathers immediately below, the red disappears and the orange is more spread; the transverse belly-band, which is of a brilliant canary-yellow, is 2.5in. wide; the lower abdominal feathers, with the flanks and under tail-coverts, are, like the croup and upper tail-coverts, banded with bright arterial-red. On the crown and hind-head the grey is shaded with dusky, and the feathers have a greenish tinge; many of the small wing-coverts have brilliant tips of arterial-red and yellow; the toothed markings on the under-surface of the quills are very conspicuous and of a pale-red colour; the tail-feathers are-flushed underneath with red for two-thirds of their length, then they are dark-brown, with a terminal band of obscure-red, beyond which the black shafts are produced in extremely fine points. The plumage of the upper-surface is greyish-brown, tinged with green, and with broad black margins to the feathers. The colours are distinct and pronounced, and, this being the fourth example since Gould's Nestor esslingii was described, one is tempted to recognise a distinct species, the yellow sides on the lower mandible showing an approach to Nestor notabilis. But I feel constrained to regard it still as a variety of the highly variable Nestor meridionalis, because t think I can detect undoubted signs of albinism. In the right foot the terminal scale on each toe is white, while in the left foot nearly the whole of one fore-toe and one hind-toe are white, even to the claw of the latter, besides two scutella on each of the other toes. It gave the following measurements: Extreme length, 21in.; wing from flexure, 12in.; tail (to end of produced shafts), 8in.; bill, along the ridge, 2.25in.; along the edge of lower mandible, 1.50in.; tarsus, 1.25in.; longer fore-toe and claw, 2.75in.; longer hind-toe and claw, 2.25in.
Nestor meridionalis, var. superbus, Buller.
I have received a very beautiful example, of which the-following is a description: General plumage canary-yellow, with brighter washes of yellow on the breast, shoulders, and upper-surface of wings; ear-coverts orpiment-orange; feathers overlapping under mandible wine-red; broad nuchal collar orpiment-orange and red intermixed; lower part of back,
croup, and upper tail-coverts bright-scarlet; under-surface of wings, sides of the body, abdomen, flanks, and under tail-coverts scarlet, mixed more or less with orpiment-orange; quills and tail-feathers greyish-white, the former toothed on their inner webs with yellow and crimson, the latter with red.
Carpophaga novæ-zealandiæ, Gmelin. (New Zealand Pigeon.)
A partial albino from Martin's Bay has the breast metallic blue and green intermixed; upper part of. breast and small upper wing-coverts, rich vinous-brown; back pale bluish-green, and. grey; scapulars largely marked with white; upper-surface of wings pale bluish-green and brown intermixed; quills margined and tipped with pale-brown; tail-feathers brown, tipped with brownish-white; under tail-coverts dark-cream colour.
In the Hawke's Bay Museum there is an almost perfect albino, the whole of the plumage being white, with the exception of a sprinkling of coppery-brown feathers on the head-and upper-surface of wings. In the Wanganui Museum there, is a peculiar example of partial albinism, already described by Mr. Drew. This bird looks just as if it had been sitting out-in a fall of snow, the head, shoulders, and more-exposed portions of the back being perfectly white, and presenting a striking appearance.
At Otaki I recently saw a perfectly tame one in the possession of the Maoris. It would perch on the shoulder, take food from the hand, and show in an unmistakable manner that it was quite at home in. the hut of which it was allowed the freedom.
Charadrius obscurus, Gmelin. (New Zealand Dottrel.)
Mr. Marklund has sent me two skins of this well-known, species, in summer plumage, which he obtained on Table Hill, on Stewart Island, at an elevation of 2,100ft. above the sea-level, and at a distance of fully eight miles from the coast, with heavy intervening bush-country. They were breeding there, for he saw the unfledged young ones.
Thinornis novæ-zealandiæ, Gmelin. (New Zealand Shore-plover.)
In a case of stuffed birds, at Invercargill, on the occasion of a recent visit, I observed the young of the above, rare species, the specimen, as I was informed by the taxidermist, having been obtained at the mouth of the Cargill River.
Hæmatopus longirostris, Vieill. (Pied Oyster-catcher.)
Young of the First Year.—Differs from the adult in having the white of the under-parts intermixed with the black in
about equal proportions, there being no pectoral line of demarcation. The lining of the wings is varied With white, in an irregular way, down the line of the humerus, the quills are greyish-white towards the base on their under-surface, and the under tail-feathers are tipped with white. The secondary coverts are white in their outer portion, but on one web only, the alar-bar being somewhat broken along the edges; and the under tail-coverts are narrowly margined with white. The specimen from which these notes are taken was captured at the Pelorus Sound in the month of January.
Tringa canutus, Linn. (Knot.)
Referring to Mr. Cheeseman's specimens, shot by his brother in Hobson's Bay, I said, in my “Birds of New Zealand” (vol. ii., p. 36): “This is the first authentic record of this species in the Worth Island; but Captain Mair has described to me a bird found associating in considerable numbers with the Godwit on the East Coast, which I have no doubt is the same.”
I have received some fine specimens, in both summer and winter plumage, from Cape Farewell. A male bird gave the following measurements: Length, 10.5in.; extent of wings, 19.5in.; wing from flexure, 6.5in.; tail, 2.75in.; bill, along the ridge, 1.25in.; along the edge of lower mandible, 1.12in.; tarsus, 1.12in.; middle toe and claw, 1.1in.
The female is slightly smaller in all its proportions.
Porphyrio melanonotus, Temm. (Swamp-hen.)
A partial albino obtained at Lake Ellesmere has the entire body varied with pale-brown and white feathers intermixed with the ordinary plumage, the feathers composing the mantle being almost entirely pale-brown and brownish-white; wings and tail normal, except that the primaries are whitish on the outer vane towards the base; under tail-coverts pure white. Another specimen from the same district has a few white feathers scattered over the breast and among the wing-coverts, whilst all the quills and tail-feathers are pure white, with terminal bands of brownish-black.
Ocydromus greyi, Buller. (North Island Woodhen.)
This once very common species—whose cry, by the way, exactly resembles that of the European Curlew—is fast disappearing. In districts where only a few years ago it was extremely plentiful its shrill cry is now seldom or never heard.
On a recent visit to Hawke's Bay I saw a lovely albino of Ocydromus greyi, obtained in the Mohaka district. The whole of the plumage is snow-white, with the exception of a small patch between the shoulders, the croup, and the upper
tail-coverts, which are of the normal colour; bill and feet pale reddish-brown.
Mr. Morgan Carkeek, who has recently returned from a two months surveying expedition through the mountainous country in the interior of the Marlborough District, found, to his astonishment, that the South Island Woodhen had vanished altogether, for he had met with only a single example during the whole of that time. He attributes this result entirely to the ravages of the imported stoats and weasels, which have become fairly established in that country.
A specimen of Ocydromus greyi which I received from the Hutt Valley had the quills of the wings entirely black, with out any barred markings. On some of the secondaries there were obsolete bars, but very obscure and broken. A specimen of Ocydromus earli from the West Coast (Martin's Bay), on the other hand, had the quills entirely chestnut-brown, owing to a complete fusion of What, in ordinary birds, are barred markings of that colour.
Ocydromus australis, Sparrm. (South Island Woodhen.)
I have received two albino specimens of this species from the South Island. One is a male bird from Otago, in which the whole of the plumage is pure white, with the exception of a slight creamy tinge on the shoulders and upper-surface of wings; bill and feet whitish-horn colour. The other is a female bird from Canterbury. This, too, is all white, except that vestiges of the normal plumage appear on the wings and flanks, and an irregular sprinkling of brown on other parts of the body; there is also a shade of ash-grey on the abdomen.
Ocydromus earli, Gray. (Brown Woodhen.)
I have received from Westport two partial albinoes of this species marked almost exactly alike. They are both males, and, having been captured at the same time, they presumably, belonged to the same clutch. The finer one of the two has the forehead, sides of the head, throat, fore-neck, breast (with the exception of a central patch of brown), and the whole of the abdomen, sides of the body, and flanks pure white; the rest of the plumage-normal. The other bird is almost exactly similar in plumage, but has a little more brown on the sides of the head, a larger patch of brown on the breast, and an admixture of brown with the white of the abdomen and thighs.
I obtained one example of the Brown Woodhen on Stewart Island, and I am assured that the Black Woodhen is found there also.
We had landed our party at Price's Cove, in Paterson's Inlet, a charming spot near a sandy beach, enclosed by a thick belt of vegetation, among which the beautiful Senecio
rotundifolia was conspicuous. Kindling a fire in front of a huge block of granite, we put on our “billy” of tea, and prepared for an al fresco lunch. Whilst this was proceeding a Woodhen came out of the bush, and, with characteristic curiosity, peered round in its usual stealthy manner to see what we were about, coming right out on to the beach and approaching to within a few feet of our party. I drove him off to a convenient distance, and then brought him down with a very small charge of shot. He proved to be a male of the above species, and was in very fat condition. I found his crop gorged with the berries of the tataramoa bramble (Rubus australis), with which the ground, as I had noticed, was plentifully strewed in the vicinity of our camp.
Ocydromus brachypterus, Lafr. (Black Woodhen.)
Of this species I obtained a fine specimen in Dusky Sound in January last. It was very abundant in this locality during Sir James Hector's exploration in 1865, but it is now scarce, and this was the only one I even heard of during our visit. I have since received one from Stewart Island, also a chick, of which I took the following note: Apparently about a month old (end of November); covered with thick and long blackish-brown down, which has evidently taken the place of an earlier growth—short, woolly, and of a greyish-black colour—vestiges of which are still to be seen on the back of the neck and above the shoulders; feathers of a. blackish brown colour are beginning to appear on the-shoulders and on the sides of the neck and body, the latter barred with paler brown.
Cabalus modestus, Hutton. (Hutton's Flightless Rail.)
There seems little doubt that this remarkable form has, like its larger congener of the Chatham Islands, Cabalus dieffenbachii, become extinct. The small island of Mangare, on which it was originally discovered, and whence fortunately a good many specimens have been obtained for the various museums, is now overrun with cats, besides which the native vegetation has been burnt off for the purpose of sowing grass-seed, even this bleak spot having been annexed by the enterprising sheep-farmer.
The occurrence of these flightless forms of bird-life in detached insular areas is a most interesting and suggestive fact in the zoology of this sub-region, as I have more than once pointed out, and it is of the utmost scientific importance that we should obtain full information as to the structure and anatomy of these peculiar endemic species before they pass away for ever.
The flightless Waterhen of Tristan d'Acunha (Gallinula
nesiotis) was discovered by Sir George Grey in a very peculiar way, already recorded by me.* In forwarding a living example of it to the Zoological Gardens, Sir George reported that “it can flutter a little, but obviously uses its wings and not its legs as a means of escape.” On examining this form, Dr. Sclater, who named and described the species, found that the wings, sternum, and coracoids are all reduced in length, and the crest of the sternum in depth, in comparison with the same bones in the European Waterhen (G. chloropus), whilst, on the other hand, the thigh-bones and pelvis are increased in length, the former by-four lines, relatively to the same bones in the common Waterhen. “Hence,” as Mr. Darwin remarks, “in the skeleton of the natural species nearly the same changes have occurred, only carried a little further, as with our domestic ducks, and in the latter case I presume no one will dispute that they have resulted from the lessened use of the wings and the increased use of the legs.†
phalacrocorax punctatus, Sparrm. (Spotted Shag.)
An albino of this species from Canterbury has the whole of the under-parts pure white; entire upper-surface very pale brown, the centre of each feather dark; varied on the hind-neck and on the right shoulder with grey, the feathers on the latter having darker margins; back, rump, and thighs, also wings and tail, very pale-brown, varied more or less with darker brown; on the left side the white on the neck and breast has an ashy shade, the broad white stripe from the back of the eye down the side of the neck being very conspicuous.
Phalacrocorax varius, Gmelin. (Pied Shag.)
It is a very curious fact in local distribution that this species of Shag is commonly found only at the far north and in the far south. On a visit to Stewart Island in February last I met with several shaggeries of this species in Paterson's Inlet. The birds were rather shy, but I was able to get some by rowing in a boat straight up to the overhanging trees, and, having brought them out of the shaggery, shooting them as they circled overhead. I obtained two pairs, and as they were in good plumage I converted them all into specimens. In both sexes the high colouring on the soft parts of the face is very conspicuous. In front of the eye there is a broad pear-shaped bare patch of vivid orange, and the rest of the naked membrane enclosing and surrounding the eye is of a bright mazarine-blue, changing to turquoise-green on the eye-
[Footnote] * Birds of New Zealand,” vol. ii., p. 104.
[Footnote] † Animals and Plants under Domestication.”
lids. The irides are clear sea-green. I measured the larger male, with the following result: Extreme length, 33in.; extent of wings, 50in.; wing from flexure, 12.5in.; tail, 6.75in.; bill, along the ridge, 3in.; along the edge of lower mandible, 4in.; tarsus, 2.25in.; longest toe and claw, 4in, The female is similar to the male, but somewhat smaller in all its proportions.
The nest of this Shag is comparatively small for the size of the bird, and is composed of dry twigs laced together, and becoming so compact under the pressure of the sitting bird that it is a difficult thing to dislodge them from the tree. The cavity is rather deep, and carefully rounded off on the inside. I could only examine one of them, which the boy, who had partially climbed the tree, succeeded in dislodging with the boat-oar.
I obtained only two eggs, and these were too much incubated to be blown. They are ovoido-elliptical in shape, but with a distinctly smaller end, measuring 2.37in. by 1.37in. The shell is of a pale-green colour, but this is much obscured by a rough, chalky matter which is pretty evenly distributed over the entire surface. Both of the eggs were much soiled through contact with the birds' feet, and they contained embryos apparently just ready for extrusion. This was at the end of February.
Phalacrocorax novæ-hollandiæ, Stephens. (Great Sea-shag.)
I had recently an instance of the marvellous vitality of this bird. I was standing, gun in hand, on the western point of the island in Papaitonga Lake when I observed one of these Shags at a high elevation coming in from the sea. Taking a very long shot, I gave him the choke-barrel, and saw at once that my bird was hard hit, for he immediately doubled back and made for the sea. After a flight of nearly half a mile, at full speed, he came down into the lake with a splash, and on being picked up shortly afterwards was found to be shot in the head.
I have received from Stewart Island a female of this species in full plumage with a well-defined “mane,” or nuchal crest, from which it is, clear that both sexes possess this adornment at that season.
Phalacrocorax stictocephalus, Bonap. (Black Shag.)
I have much pleasure in adding this species to our list of indigenous New Zealand birds, on the authority of a skin recently received by me from Mr. A. T. Pycroft, of Opua, Bay of Islands. It is the same bird as that inhabiting-Australia, and named Phalacrocorax sulcirostris in Gould's folio edition, although, subsequently, in his “Handbook of
the Birds of Australia,” he adopted Bonaparte's name as above. The species was, if I remember aright, included in Mr. G. B. Gray's “List of New Zealand Birds,” of 1862, on the authority of specimens said to have come from New Zealand, but, not having been met with again, it has dropped out of our list as of doubtful origin, the last reference to it being in Captain Hutton's Manual of 1872, with this note: “I have seen no specimens.” It is satisfactory, therefore, to be able to reinstate it on indubitable evidence. Accompanying the specimen, I had a letter from Mr. A. T. Pycroft, from which I extract the following:—
“I am sending you by parcels post a skin of a small Black Shag which was shot at the mouth of the Waitangi River in July last. I have sent the Auckland Museum two skins similar to the one which I am sending to you. Mr. Cheeseman favours the idea that this bird is a distinct species from the White-throated Shag (Phalacrocorax brevirostris). From the information which I have collected myself I should think it was a distinct bird; but I should feel satisfied if you would kindly take the trouble to examine the skin and tell me if it is so or not. I cannot, unfortunately, tell you if it was a male or female. Seven of these birds were shot at one shot at Waitangi, and there were fully one hundred of them in a flock. They were all black, and I can give you indisputable evidence to that effect. Some would remain on the surface while the remainder were fishing. It is a shy bird, and I have always' had trouble to get within range. However, that time we surprised them, and were within about thirty yards of them. During the same day, at the Haumai Creek, I shot a White-throated Shag. This bird, compared with the other varieties here, is rare. The small Black Shag appears in numbers in the winter, but I have not seen it later than September. I know nothing about their breeding-places or habits. It seems strange to me that, if it is a variety of P. brevirostris, I have never seen any of them with any sign of white. I should think that if it was a variety I should have seen White-throated Shags amongst them.”
Mr. Gould writes that this Shag “is found in most of the southern parts of the Australian Continent, and appears to affect the rivers and lagoons of the interior rather than the sea-coast; at least, such was the result of my observations. I found it nowhere' more abundant than on the Rivers Mokai, Peel, and Namoi. Its habits did not appear to differ from those of the other members of the family; it was usually seen perched on the branches of the eucalypti ‘overhanging the water, and on the spars and snags of the fallen trees which protruded above its surrface, in small companies of from
five to twenty in number. Its food consists of fish, frogs, newts, &c.”
Dysporus serrator, Gray. (Gannet.)
Through, the kind attention of Mr. Hill, the Inspector of Schools at Napier, I had recently an opportunity of visiting a famous breeding-ground of the Gannet at Gape Kidnappers. The following short account of my visit may be interesting to members of the Society.
In the afternoon of the 30th December we started in a buggy from Napier and drove some fourteen miles to Clifton, the picturesque and well-ordered homestead of the Messrs. Gordon, where we remained a short time for refreshment. Mr. G. F. Gordon gave us some interesting particulars about the Gannet “rookery” on his property that we were about to visit, and lent us horses for the trip along the coast. It was intensely hot, the thermometer registering 130° in the sun and 93° in the shade-undoubtedly the hottest day of the season. We rode about five miles along the beach, then left our horses and scaled the side of the cliff and crossed the slope beyond (a distance of about a mile altogether), and then we found ourselves right above the great Gannet nursery, to which we at once descended by a very narrow and slippery path along the face of the cliff. We were amply repaid for our trouble, for we happened to arrive at a fortunate time (just after sunset), when all the old birds had come in from their fishing, so that we were able to view the proceedings on the breeding-ground under the most favourable conditions.
Standing boldly out of the sea beyond the Cape are two conical “sugar-loaves” of Lower Miocene formation, and the cape itself presents a rounded headland, with an arched passage right through it, which is distinctly visible from the decks of steamers following their usual track along the coast. From this headland the land rises in three little peaks, each successively higher, all of the same clay-marl formation, and then we come to a small plateau, about an acre in extent and about 200ft. above the sea, the whole of which is occupied by the Gannets. On each side of this little plateau the land slopes upwards. The actual breeding-ground is in the centre, which is perfectly level, and the birds occupy the higher ground for resting on, the whole surface being worn bare by the constant traffic over it. At the time of our visit there were probably over a thousand birds nesting there. Some of the nests contained sitting birds, there being only one egg in each nest; but by far the larger proportion contained young birds (never more than one) in all stages of growth, from the newly-hatched naked chick of a uniform black colour to the half-fledged nestling. But most, of the occupants of the nesting
ground were unfledged birds covered with a thick growth of down of snowy whiteness. These were to be seen all over the ground, either squatting beside an old bird that was incubating or strutting about the ground in a very important fashion. In the hollow I have described the nests were so crowded together that it was a matter of difficulty to step between them. The nests are carefully formed, looking like inverted shallow clay basins, with a depression in the centre filled with soft seaweed, and measuring about 18in. in diameter.
As I have said, we arrived just as the old birds had completed their fishing operations for the day. They were crowded close together on the rising ground on both sides, of the nesting-place, each of them doubtless stewing in his crop a supply of fish to be regurgitated later on for the benefit of the young birds, who were manifesting the utmost impatience for their supper by a continuous “swirling”. cry like that of young shags. We sat down about a dozen yards from the breeding-ground and watched operations with much interest for some time, without apparently causing any alarm to the birds, but, on our attempting to get nearer, the Gannets not actually sitting on the nests or attending to the young ones rose in a body and. filled the air with the graceful sweeping of their black pinions. They were so closely packed together as they rose that it seemed to us quite a marvel that they could vibrate their wings so rapidly and at such close quarters without coming into actual contact with one another. Having once risen into the air, the birds continued their hovering overhead during the whole of our visit, and we could see them still on the wing, long afterwards, as we rode homewards along the beach. It was certainly a very pretty sight, and quite an unexpected one, for visitors at an earlier period of the day find only the incubators or the birds that happen, to be at home performing their domestic duties. We walked boldly down into the breeding-ground and found that, as a rule, old birds sitting on newly-hatched chicks would not vacate their post of duty till compelled to do so, striking fiercely with their bills at the feet of any intruder. I switched one in the face with my pocket-handkerchief, but she showed fight and refused to leave the nest, so I left her there. I noticed that where the nest contained only an egg they were not so devoted, always rising in the air as soon as we had approached within a yard or two. There were many dead young birds strewed about the breeding-ground, in various stages of decomposition, and from these decaying objects there came an unpleasant smell, but there was nothing disagreeable in the nursery itself. Everything seemed well-ordered and under excellent discipline. In protecting its naked nestling the old bird would cover it up with her broad
webbed feet and press it down into the nest as if determined to stamp its young life out, but without any apparent injury to the chick, which was quite active and perky immediately on being released from this parental pressure. I did not come for Specimens, but to inspect the breeding-place; however, before leaving I annexed a fine woolly nestling which was strutting about with the air of a lord chancellor, and this specimen I have much pleasure in exhibiting to you this evening. The rest of the birds, old and young, we left unmolested, and came away from Cape Kidnappers much pleased with the result of our visit, and, after a delightful drive in the cool evening air, arrived at Napier at 10 p.m. On our way along the beach we found a fledgling which had evidently fallen from the “rookery” and had floated a couple of miles down the coast, but was apparently still attended by the parents, for it was in excellent condition. From this bird I took the following notes:—
Fledgling.—Feathers appearing on the head, shoulders, and upper-surface of wings, lower part of back, breast, and sides of body of a slaty-black colour, each feather with a large triangular apical spot of white, even the secondaries and primary coverts being thus marked; bill and naked face brownish-black; legs blackish-grey with broad whitish lines down the tarsus and along the toes.
Œstrelata neglecta, Schl. (Schlegel's Petrel.)
I have in my collection a series of four (from Sunday Island, one of the Kermadec Group) which appear to bear out completely Mr. Salvin's view as to Œstrelaia leucophrys (of Hutton) being only a condition of that species. They are all of pretty nearly the. same size. No. 1 is in the ordinary uniform dark plumage of Œ. neglecta. No. 2 has whitish, throat; breast, sides of the body, and abdomen white. No. 3 has the forehead and lores whitish; throat, sides of the head, and the whole of the fore-neck pale-grey and white intermixed, the former colour assuming the shape of small crescents on the cheeks and lower part of throat; feathers on vertex and crown with obscure, narrow margins of greyish-white; nape and hind-neck inclining to greyish-white, being paler than the rest of the upper-surface, but without any markings. No. 4 is in the perfect plumage of the so-called Œ. leucophrys. No one examining this series critically, could come to any other conclusion than that they all represent one-and the same species in various states of plumage.
Anas chlorotis, Gray. (Brown Duck.)
Hearing from Mr. Brough, of Nelson, of the capture of a “Crested Teal,” I was naturally anxious to see it, and,
through, his kind assistance, the specimen, was sent over for my inspection. It turns out to be Anas chlorotis in a condition of partial albinism, the head being largely marked with white. But the curious thing is that, by a freak of nature, there is a well-developed “top-knot.” of feathers on the hind part of the head standing fully half an inch above the surrounding plumage. This top-knot, which extends forward into a line with the eyes, is white, with some irregulars plashes of brownish-black, and the vertex and cheeks are also more or less variegated with white. The rest of the plumage is normal, the rounded spots on the breast and under-parts being particularly prominent, and the white edging on the speculum very conspicuous; and there is a creamy-white ring encircling the neck. (See Plate XI.)
Fuligula novæ-zealandiæ, Gmelin. (New Zealand Scaup.)
On the Papaitonga Lake a “Black Teal” brought out a brood of five young ones about the middle of December. The old bird was to be seen daily swimming, about near the boatshed followed by her little family, huddled together in a clump as it were, and at the slightest appearance; of danger the ducklings would instantly dive and reappear on the surface further out on the lake. Early one morning, on going down for a plunge in the water, I had an illustration of the force of maternal instinct in this bird. On opening the door of the boathouse leading to the springboard I surprised the duck and her brood disporting themselves in the water only ten or twelve yards out. On my appearance the young birds instantly dived, whilst the old bird, evidently to divert attention from its brood, came swimming up to within a few feet of me with its mouth open and uttering a low cry. In the meantime the young had got to a safe distance under water, and. then came to the surface again, when the parent, seeing that the apprehended danger was past, quietly joined them. On mentioning this circumstance to my son, he told me that he had witnessed a somewhat similar device on the part of the same bird only a short time before. On this occasion two snorting dogs took to the water and swam out in the direction of the young brood. The old duck-at once rose in the air, flew, up to the dogs, and kept circling round them, so as to distract their attention till the young birds were well out on the lake.
Hymenolæmus malacorhynchus, Gmelin. (Blue Duck.)
There is a nestling of this species in the Auckland Museum: Entire upper-surface olivaceous-brown the down filaments being long and coarse; under-parts yellowish-white,
tinged with brown on the breast; sides of the face yellowish white, with a conspicuous blackish-brown streak through the-eyes; there is an obscure crescent-shaped mark of white behind each wing, and another of a more rounded form on each side of the croup. The tail consists of small feathers with downy filaments. Bill brown; under-mandible pale-yellow; legs yellowish.
Rhynchaspis variegata, Gould. (New Zealand Shoveller.)
Two partial albinoes of this species received from Lake Ellesmere are very remarkable and beautiful objects. No. 1 differs from the ordinary bird by the absence of the white-cheek-mark, the head and neck being entirely black, with green metallic reflections. The whole of the breast—front, sides, and a narrow collar at the back—white, with scattered horseshoe markings of dull chestnut-brown, the white being boldly defined against the black of the fore-neck, but on the lower margin it melts insensibly into the chestnut-brown of the sides and abdomen; large upper wing-coverts white, with broad crescentic bands of blackish-brown; the scapulars with, a very broad stripe of white down the centre.
No. 2 has a dark head and neck, with green metallic reflections, but differs from the other in having the whole of the shoulders and scapulars pure white, there being only a dividing-strip of the normal colour down the spine; the long scapulary plumes are pale-blue on their outer and white on their inner vanes. The blue on the small wing-coverts presents a broad surface, and the angular patch of white between that and the speculum is very conspicuous. The dark colour of the head and neck is sharply defined against the white plumage below it. There is a large patch of pure white on each side of the croup, which has dark-green reflections; and the tail-feathers are greyish-white on their outer webs.
Eudyptes vittatus, Finsch. (Thick-billed Penguin.)
I obtained a specimen of this very rare Penguin at Stewart Island at the end of February last. The bird landed of its own accord in the little bay in which we were temporarily residing, and came hopping up the steep garden-path to the very door of the house, as if anxious to make the acquaintance of a practical ornithologist. It passed bravely through a group of tourists who were standing about, and snapped savagely at those who attempted to arrest its progress; I saw at a glance that it was not one of the common species, and, receiving my visitor with every expression of delight, speedily annexed him. Curiously enough, he allowed me to stroke his head without resistance, and later on submitted to be killed with the philosophy of a Penguin.
Eudyptes antipodum, Homb. and Jacq. (Yellow-crowned Penguin.)
There is a distinct tendency in this species to melanism. I had an opportunity of examining eleven specimens that were taken together, in a sort of breeding colony, on the Otago coast, near the Heads, last year. Several of them had scattered black feathers among the pure-white plumage of the under-parts, and in one of them I counted as many as nine jet-black feathers.
Apteryx haasti, Potts. (Haast's Kiwi.)
I have in my possession some interesting notes supplied tome by a collector who went to the West Coast some years ago specially in quest of this rare species. I have hitherto refrained from publishing these notes from a desire to protect this Kiwi from the professional bird-hunter; although I fear such precautions are of little avail now against the inroad into our fair country, through official instrumentality, of stoats, weasels, and polecats. The last intelligence concerning the spread of these destructive animals is contained in a letter lately received by me from Mr. H. C. Field, C.E., of Wanganui (dated 9th December). He says, “My son Charles—who for several years past has been laying off and constructing roads for the Government in the country between the Tongariro Range and the Upper Wanganui—informs me that the weasels have become extremely numerous in the region where he has been working, and are destroying the Wood-pigeons wholesale. He says that, as those birds roost low down, among scrubby bush, the weasels climb up and attack them. He says that in walking through the bush he has constantly come across the remains of pigeons lying on the ground, and. that, on examining those freshly killed, he found in every case that they had been bitten in the neck, so that the blood might be sucked out, after which the body was left. This pretty clearly indicates weasel's work. He tells me that, in consequence of this, the number of pigeons in that region has very perceptibly decreased during the last two or three years, and he believes that in a very few years more the birds will be extinct thereabouts. He thinks the weasels have come from the Auckland side, as he has heard that some were turned out in the Waikato for the purpose of destroying the rabbits. I am sure my son's information about the killing of the pigeons may be thoroughly relied on. No doubt other birds are being destroyed also; but the larger size and more conspicuous colour of the pigeon renders their remains more noticeable.” If perching birds suffer to this extent, how must it fare with Kakapos, Kiwis, and Woodhens? That all. these flightless
species are doomed to rapid extinction goes without saying, and every lover of natural history will therefore learn with delight that, under the direction of the Otago Acclimatisation Society, Resolution Island is now being stocked with all these vanishing forms, so that there is yet a chance of a remnant being preserved for the naturalist of the future. The Little Barrier Island having recently been taken over by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society, we may-look for excellent “work there also.
But to return to Apteryx haasti. I elicited from my collector one very singular fact: on the western watershed of the Heaphy Range, where, as a rule, Apteryx haasti alone is found, the loose ground is inhabited by a very large earthworm, on which this species principally feeds. On the eastern side, where the Grey Kiwi (Apteryx oweni) abounds, the large earthworm is not to be found, its place being supplied by a very small earthworm, on which this species seems exclusively to subsist. The summit of the main range—say a tract about a mile in width—distinctly divides the range of one species from that of the other. May not this remarkable difference in the natural food-supply have influenced the development of these two closely-allied species in divergent lines—the one being now distinguished by its massive skeleton and robust proportions, and the other by its slender structure and generally feeble development? The general style of the plumage is the same in both, it being easy, in a sufficient series of specimens, to trace a gradation from the dappled-brown plumage of Apteryx haasti to the dappled-grey plumage of Apteryx oweni.
Apteryx lawryi, Rothschild. (Stewart Island Kiwi.)
On the 21st February I killed a pair of Apteryx lawryi received from Stewart Island. Although the birds had been in captivity for six weeks, and had lost all their fat, the male weighed 5½lb. and the female 7½lb.
The following measurements were taken from the specimens before being skinned:—
Male.—Extreme length, to end of tail 26in., to end of out-stretched legs 36in.; rudimentary wing, 1in.; terminal claw, following curvature, 0.25in.; bill, along the ridge 4.56in., along the edge of lower mandible 5.25m.; tarsus, 3in.; middle toe and claw, 3.5in.; hallux, 0.6in.; circumference of tarsus, in the middle 2.25in., at the junction of the toes 4–2in
Female.—Extreme length, to end of tail 30in., to end of outstretched legs 39.5in.; rudimentary wing, 1.5in.; terminal claw, following curvature, 0.5in.; bill, along the ridge 6.75m., along the edge of lower mandible 7.25in.; tarsus,
3in.; middle toe and claw, 3.5in.; hallux, 0.75in.; circumference of tarsus, in the middle 2.4in., at the junction of the toes 4.25in.
Externally the sexes are alike, except as to size. Both specimens exhibited in the bill a slaty-black upper-surface, but in younger examples I have noticed that it is horn-coloured. The thighs are of great size and strength, testifying: to the bird's power of rapid locomotion. In the female, which is appreciably the larger bird, the thighs would weigh each, I suppose, not less than a pound.
I obtained some interesting particulars from Mr. Marklund, by whom these two large Kiwis and about a dozen others were collected. He says that the bird is very scarce r and has to be hunted for over a large extent of country. Its favourite feeding-ground is the summit of Table Hill, rising to an elevation of 2,300ft., which is covered with grass and stunted vegetation, and in the daytime it has to descend some 500ft. in order to camp in the bush, the summit not affording, sufficient covert. He has never found any on the western slope of Table Hill below a level of 1,000ft.; but on the eastern side the Kiwis go right down to the plain, or practically to the level of the sea. He has found them inhabiting holes among the roots of the “mutton-bird woods.”
He generally found a pair of birds together in one hole, sometimes accompanied by a single young one. On one occasion he found five birds inhabiting an extensive chamber. Being without provisions, he had to cook and eat them, rare as he knew the bird to be. From the retreat of this party of five to the summit of Manuka Flat (a distance of half a mile) there was a broad beaten track, as if sheep had been accustomed to travel over it. The roots crossing this track were so worn and abraded-that he came to the conclusion the Kiwis had been using the path continuously for several years. He says that this species has three distinct calls: one is a loud, shrill whistle, especially in fine evenings when the atmosphere is clear; the second is a deep rasping note, seldom heard; and the third is a low clucking sound, rarely uttered. In hunting these birds his plan was to start about 3 a.m., before daybreak, while the scent was strong upon the ground, and then to intercept them on their way from their open feeding-grounds to the shelter of the “mutton-bird woods,” or track them by means of the dog to their holes. The old birds often make a stubborn resistance, and the first time his dog tackled one of them he got his foreleg ripped up about six inches by the bird's claws.
Apteryx lawryi is very rare in collections, both here and at Home, and' I should have been glad for Mr. Marklund to
procure more of them before he went to Australia, but, the provisions of the Wild Birds Protection Act having been extended to Kiwis in general, I wrote warning him to take no more. There is a chance of this bird being preserved in Stewart Island, which has happily escaped the introduction of stoats and weasels, but on the mainland the protection comes too late, both for the Kiwi and the Kakapo.
In the same hole with the very large example forwarded to me there was a nestling, apparently only a few days old, from which I have been enabled to furnish a description of the species in that stage.
Young.—Head, throat, and under-parts generally greyish-brown, the disunited filaments of the feathers imparting a hairy-like appearance to the plumage; on the hind-neck these filaments assume a more arrow-head appearance, the plumage being at the same time very fluffy; upper-surface generally, tawny-brown, with yellowish-brown shaft-lines, the latter being & distinctive feature; bill and feet pale-brown.
The adult, as already stated, resembles very nearly in its plumage Apteryx mantelli of the North Island; but the young is very different to that of the latter species, being far more like that of Apteryx australis.
Half-grown bird (probably a year or eighteen months old).—Plumage similar to that of adult, but with more chestnut-colour in it; feathers covering flanks with shining amber-coloured shafts; bill, 3in.
Towards the end of November Mr. Marklund obtained two eggs of this species of Kiwi, after nearly a month's continuous search; but it was so late in the season that, in both cases, the chick was fully formed within the shell, and had to be removed by incision. This somewhat damaged the specimens, but I am nevertheless able to give a full description of them. They differ conspicuously both in size and in contour. The larger one measures 5.4in. in length by 3.25in. in breadth, and is perfectly elliptical in shape, there not being the least indication of a smaller end. The other egg is smaller, measuring 5.1in. by 3.1in., and is narrower at one end. Both of them are of a very pale green colour, or perhaps, more properly speaking, greenish-white, and the shell, especially in the smaller egg, exhibited minute, widely-scattered punctæ on the surface, distinctly visible under a magnifying glass, and similar to the markings on the eggshell of the Moa. In forwarding the specimens, my collector says: “I had a very hard job in procuring these eggs, as the birds do not go far away from their nests while hatching, and of course the dog got a very poor chance of picking up the scent. One of the eggs was somewhat damaged, through the bird defending it from the dog, before I could reach the place; nevertheless
it has a good show-side. The larger of the two I procured in a locality where I had never been before, and, owing to the dog being muzzled, the bird that was. sitting on the egg managed to escape; and, inclement weather coming on, it was impossible to get another specimen before I had to leave. In the breeding season the birds never come out on the open ground—in fact, they seem to be starving themselves in their fear of leaving the nest or its close vicinity.”
Apteryx bulleri, Sharpe, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxi., p. 224.
There can be no doubt that there are two forms of Apteryx inhabiting the North Island—one chestnut-brown, in colour, the other blackish-brown—as easily distinguishable by their plumage as the Brown Woodhen and the Black Woddheh. The specimen which I have the: pleasure of exhibiting this evening (a fine male bird) is wholly brownish-black, being the darkest I have seen. This, with six others of both sexes, came from the Waitara district, where, so far as I can learn, all the birds are of dark colour. My specimens exhibit different shades of colour, and in some of them the brown predominates; but they present a very different appearance to the ordinary bird, and, in addition to this distinctive feature, the plumage is more wiry in structure, with stiffened points. Sir James Hector was the first to call my attention, some years ago, to the existence of this darker race, telegraphing to me from Gisborne to examine a live pair passing through Wellington on a homeward-bound ship; but I was anxious to see a good series of specimens before attempting to differentiate it. As readily distinguishable from the typical chestnut, brown Kiwi, it ought to have a name, and I think we must adhere to the one imposed by Dr. Sharpe. His distinguishing characters for Apteryx bulleri as compared with Apteryx australis—“blackish-brown instead of a tawny tint,” and “the curious harsh structure, of the plumage, especially of the feathers of the rump and neck”— are far more applicable to this bird than to the lighter and better-known form, which will still retain the name of Apteryx mantelli.