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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Sphenœacus Fulvus. — (Fulvous Fern-Bird.)

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Sphenœacus Fulvus.
(Fulvous Fern-Bird.)

  • Sphenœacus fulvus, Gray, Ibis, 1862, p. 221.

  • Megalurus fulvus, Gray, Hand-l. of B. i. p. 206 (1869).

Ad. similis S. punctato, sed paullò major: ubique laetiùs fulvescens, plumis vix ita distinctè medialiter lineatis: pectore etiam minùs distinctè maculato: caudâ minùs acuminatà scapis plumarum haud nudis, sed ad apicem ipsum plumiferis.

Adult. Upper parts dark fulvous, each feather centred with black; forehead and crown slightly stained with rufous; line over the eyes, throat, fore neck, breast, and upper part of abdomen fulvous-white, obscurely spotted on the breast with brown; sides of the body, flanks, thighs, and lower part of abdomen bright fulvous; primaries and secondaries blackish brown, margined on their outer webs, and the three innermost secondaries broadly margined all round, with bright fulvous; tail-feathers fulvous, with a dark shaft-line, and lighter on the edges. Total length 7·5 inches; wing, from flexure, 2·5; tail 4; bill, along the ridge ·4, along the edge of lower mandible ·6; tarsus ·75; middle toe and claw ·7; hind toe and claw ·6;

Young. An example in the Canterbury Museum, so immature that the tail-feathers are only two inches long, has more fulvous in the plumage and no indication whatever of a superciliary streak.

Obs. Mr. Sharpe says of the type in the British Museum:—“Similar to S. punctatus, but rather larger, and very much lighter and more ochraceous in colour. Both on the upper and under surface the black centres to the feathers are not so broad, and thus the plumage appears more distinctly streaked” (Cat. Birds B. M. vii. p. 98).

This species, as distinguished by Mr. G. R. Gray, bears a general resemblance to Sphenœacus punctatus; but, on comparing them, the following differences are manifest:—The present bird is larger and has the whole of the plumage lighter; the upper parts have the central marks much narrower, and on the hind neck and rump they are entirely absent; the white superciliary streak is less distinctly defined, the spots on the under surface are less conspicuous, and the tail-feathers, which are much paler than in S. punctatus, differ likewise in their structure, the webs being closely set, instead of having loose disunited barbs.

Several specimens have passed through my hands, all of which have been obtained in the South Island.

Mr. Potts distinguishes the eggs of this bird from those of S. punctatus as being “slightly larger and white, marked with reddish-purple freckles.”

Whilst, however, keeping the form distinct for the present, I am far from being satisfied that it can be separated from S. punctatus. I am more inclined to regard it as a somewhat larger local race, with a corresponding modification of plumage. But for the fact that the latter species is as common in the South Island as in the North, this might be treated as the representative form.