[Read before the Auckland Institute, 11th December, 1912.]
In these Transactions the birds of the Kermadec Islands have been previously catalogued, and it is in this place that almost all the notes regarding this avifauna have appeared.
Almost three years ago I drew up a list of the birds met with on the Kermadec Islands during the year 1908, but fortunately it was not published at that time, owing to my discovery that the nomenclature needed revision. I therein followed the nomination used in the “Supplement to the Birds of New Zealand,” by Sir Walter Buller, just previously published. That nomenclature was at fault, inasmuch as the rules adopted by the International Congresses of Zoology were not adhered to, and consequently it was imperative that revision should be attempted.
In the Emu, April, 1910, will be found a paper wherein the habits of the birds as observed by myself are recorded, and it is not necessary to rewrite these here, as most of the information there given has already appeared in these Transactions.
I now simply give the name of the bird as determined under the above rules, and note the occurrence of the bird as verified by myself with the help of the other members of the party—Messrs. W. R. B. Oliver, S. R. Oliver, W. L. Wallace, and C. E. Warden—and especially of the island settlers, Messrs. Roy and King Bell.
The latest complete list of the Kermadec avifauna previous to our visit was that of Mr. T. F. Cheeseman, published in these Transactions, vol. 23, p. 216 et seq., 1891. In that paper no fewer than forty species were totalled, but I was not so fortunate as to collate such a number.
I had instituted comparisons of this avifauna with those of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, but deferred making use of my data until such time as further study reinforced my conclusions.
I find that my friend Mr. W. R. B. Oliver had undertaken a résumé of these avifaunas, and from a study of literature arrived at conclusions quite compatible with those of my own, but somewhat different from those he had propounded from his botanical studies alone. I propose here to touch upon these results, as with access to specimens and advice not available to my friend I am able to indicate some improvements and alterations, though in the main I confirm his conclusions.
Firstly, I would reject all the doubtful records which he not only includes but amplifies. Thus, in his paper on “The Geographic Relationships of the Birds of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and the Kermadec Islands” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 44, p. 215, 1912) Oliver adds six names of birds not hitherto recorded from the group—three from skins received by Mr. Cheeseman from Mr. Roy Bell, the fourth a record by himself (which, however, had been already noted six years previously by Ogilvie Grant, Ibis, 1905, p. 554), and two others on Mr. Roy Bell's authority.
Oliver has fairly well gauged the affinities of the Lord Howe avifauna, and I would add the following information.
Nesolimnas sylvestris Sclater has been shown by Mathews (“Birds of Australia,” vol. 1, p. 191, 1911) to be no relation of the Neozelanic Nesolimnas nor Gallirallus (= Ocydromus), but congeneric with the New Caledonian Tricholimnas lafresnayanus Verr. & Des Murs., a semi-flightless descendant of the north Australian Eulabeornis.
In the same place Mathews (p. 247 et seq.) has gone into the history and examined the supposed specimens of Notornis alba, and has conclusively proven that the reference of the unique specimen of Fulica alba White to the genus Notornis was incorrect, and that the bird was apparently a fixed albinistic species of Porphyrio closely allied to P. melanotus Temminck, and that there can be no good reason for considering it to have any more relationship with New Zealand than with Australia or New Caledonia. I prefer the latter source.
With regard to Cyanoramphus subflavescens Salv., it has more relationship with C. cooki Gray of Norfolk Island and C. saisseti Verreaux, the New Caledonian form, than with the Neozelanic forms. I would consider the whole of the red-fronted parrakeets as representing one species, but that the above three are closer to each other than to the Neozelanic forms, which would include the Kermadec race. I might note here that I have examined all the birds mentioned in this paper in connection with the forms compared, and that herein my conclusions are given to the best of my ability.
Where other workers are mentioned these must be regarded as confirmatory evidence of my own views.
As regards the “two” species of Gerygone, there is only one (Mathews, Novit. Zool., vol. 18, p. 448, 1912) which is more closely allied to New Caledonian forms than to Neozelanic species, whilst the Zosterops has very little affinity to the New Zealand Z. lateralis, which, moreover, can only be considered a recent immigrant to New Zealand, and consequently should not enter into comparisons regarding ancient land connections. Ninox albaria I have not yet seen, and its affinities are not yet well known.
The Rhipidura belongs to the Austro - New Zealand species R. flabellifera. Examination of long series of Australian Rhipidura point to the fact that the New Zealand form is a comparatively recent settler from Australia, as north Australian races differ more from south Australian than the latter do from the Neozelanic race. It would seem that this would also be a dubious factor to use in basal comparisons. The Pachycephala, which Oliver writes is “probably related to Australian forms,” is only subspecifically distinct from the common Australian P. gutturalis, and was only separated as recently as 1898.
Oliver concluded: “Numerically the Australian, New Zealand, and New Caledonian elements in the endemic birds of Lord Howe Island are about equal, or overwhelmingly in favour of a New Caledonia - New Zealand migration as against an Australian immigration. The two flightless rails turn the balance in favour of New Zealand…. The existence of two brevipinnate rails belonging to genera found elsewhere only in New Zealand is sufficient proof of a former land connection with that country.” As the rails are little related to Neozelanic forms, as shown above, I hope that the natural conclusion will be accepted, and that the sentence “Lord Howe Island would therefore properly belong to the New Zealand biological region” will be altered to “Lord Howe Island cannot be accepted as part of the New Zealand biological region.” I have written critically, so that it will be clearly understood that there is, practically speaking, no endemic Neozelanic element in the avifauna of Lord Howe Island. The supposed Neozelanic basal element is purely New Caledonian, and the true relationships of the Lord Howe bird-life will be fully developed in a paper, now in manuscript, by Mr. G. M. Mathews and myself.
In the Norfolk Island avifauna there is undoubtedly present a Neozelanic basis, and this constitutes a most intricate factor in the disposition of this faunula. However, the New Caledonian influence is so predominant that there can be little hesitation in preferring that fauna as being the closest and the most natural to which it might be attached. The only endemic Neozelanic genus worth consideration is Nestor, and against this must be placed Turdus, Diaphoropterus, and Aplonis, genera which occur in New Caledonia but not in New Zealand or Australia. Hemiphaga is very closely related to Carpophaga, and these pigeons are birds of quite a considerable power of flight. The Zosterops are quite a peculiar little group, notable for their very large size. It might be noted that the two species of Turdus on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands are not what are generally understood as representative forms — i.e., subspecies — but have had a different origin, as have also the species of Gerygone and Zosterops on the two islands. Further evidence will be put forward in the paper noted above, but the conclusions arrived at by Oliver must be revised, and the attachment of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands to the New Zealand biological
region must be negatived unless also New Caledonia be included in the New Zealand biological region.
It has been constantly overlooked by most New Zealand writers that the fauna and flora of New Caledonia are closely related to those of New Zealand, and this factor has been entirely neglected when the disposition of these island faunulas has been under discussion. Hedley (Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W., 1899, p. 402) clearly indicated this, and noted it was simply lack of material that obscured its recognition by New Zealand scientists. Oliver's conclusion that “the natural arrangement is to keep the Kermadec Islands separate from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands” I fully endorse, and the incorporation of the former in the New Zealand biological region I advocate also, but only on consideration that the Kermadec Group be always carefully noted as constituting a distinct province, which I would call the “Kermadec province.”
This province is well characterized by its strong Polynesian facies with its Neozelanic basis. This has been fully shown by other writers in every other branch that has been studied. Oliver's explanation of this combination (p. 218) seems to me to be the most suitable.
For Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands I would accept Hull's name of “Phillipian,” but would consider it as only of the rank of a province, and note its attachment to the Australian region as an outlier of the New Caledonian province. In this manner all the facts from every side will be fully accounted for, and the anomalies present in every other disposition that has yet been put forward dispensed with in a thoroughly scientific manner.*
The nomenclature used in the following list differs considerably from that of previous writers, and therefore I am introducing the original reference in each case; in addition, giving a quotation to Cheeseman's list, and also the name used in Buller's Supplement.
As regards the Procellariformes and Lariformes, I have taken full advantage of the revision of these groups now appearing in Mathews's “Birds of Australia,” and also given explanatory notes for the changes thus made.
[Footnote] * Since the preceding notes were drawn up I have come across a quotation from a paper by W. L. Tower, entitled “An Investigation of Evolution in Chrysomelid Beetles of the Genus Leptinotarsa,” wherein the following extraordinary statement occurs: “The geographical distribution of animals, or animal-geography, is usually considered from one of two viewpoints, the static or the dynamic. Considered from the static standpoint, the facts of distribution are taken and arranged according to some empirically chosen standard, and zones, subzones, or other unnatural areas of distribution are established. The study of animal-distribution from this standpoint is a dead and profitless pursuit.” Inasmuch as it is accepted that the geological record is manifestly imperfect, it is most necessary to consider means independent of geological data whereby actual facts can be arranged. All “static” workers are aware of the great advantage of “dynamic” methods, but are also painfully aware of the impossibility, through lack of evidence, of correctly applying such. And “dynamic” methods improperly used will lead to grievous errors, whereas “static” calculations easily lend themselves to correction when the necessary “dynamic” data are forthcoming. I have here noted this as both Oliver's paper and my notes preceding this are based on static data; yet I do not consider them valueless, though, as Oliver has noted, they would be vastly improved were “dynamic” facts possible. At the present stage it would be quite “a dead and profitless pursuit” to endeavour to apply “dynamic” methods to such problems as are represented in the faunas of these islands, though by means of “static” data we can make calculations such as Oliver has presented, and, moreover, such tabular statements are fully worthy of record.