A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Platycercus Rowleyi. — (Rowley’s Parrakeet.)
Platycercus rowleyi, Buller, Trans. N.-Z. Instit. vol. vii. p. 220 (1874).
Ad. P. novœ-zealandiœ similis, sed conspicuè minor.
Adult male. Similar in plumage to P. novæ zealandiæ, but considerably smaller. Total length 10 inches; wing, from flexure, 4·75; tail 5; bill, along the ridge ·55; tarsus ·65; longer fore toe and claw 1; longer hind toe and claw ·9.
Female. Slightly smaller than the male, but differing in no other respect.
Young. A specimen from Dusky Sound has the frontal spot of crimson mixed with green, and a line of undeveloped feathers in silvery shields along the base of the upper mandible; the aural bar of crimson very small and indistinct; the abdomen pale yellowish green; the bill greyish white, tinged with blue on the sides of the upper and base of the under mandible. The culmen measured along the curve only ·45 of an inch.
Obs. There is an appreciable difference in size between this bird and the type of Bonaparte’s P. aucklandicus.
When I was in England superintending the publication of the first edition of this work, the late Mr. Dawson Rowley of Brighton sent me for examination the skin of a red-fronted Parrakeet received from the South Island, and remarkable on account of its small size. On comparing the specimen with the type of Bonaparte’s Platycercus aucklandicus in the British Museum, I came to the conclusion that although Mr. Rowley’s specimen was somewhat less in size, both were referable to P. novæ zealandiæ, being only exceptionally small examples of that species. On my return, however, to the colony, my attention was directed to a very large series of Parrakeet skins collected by the late Mr. F. R. Fuller in the provincial district of Canterbury; and, after making due allowance for the great individual variation which some members of this group exhibit, I found it impossible to resist the conclusion that there does exist another species, having similar plumage to P. novæ zealandiæ, but so much smaller in size as to be even less than ordinary examples of the Yellow-fronted Parrakeet (P. auriceps). Mr. Fuller, who had skinned some hundreds of Parrakeets for the Canterbury Museum, assured me that the bones of this smaller red-fronted bird could be readily distinguished from those of P. novæ zealandiæ, being weaker and more slender, and more like the bones of P. alpinus. He likewise informed me that all his specimens of this small form had come from Canterbury North; and it seemed to me a significant fact that although P. novæ zealandiæ is a very common species in the North Island, none of the very small examples have been recorded there.
We have thus a regular gradation in the following sequence: Platycercus novæ zealandiæ (red-fronted), P. auriceps (yellow-fronted), P. rowleyi (red-fronted), and P. alpinus (orange-fronted).
In selecting a specific name to distinguish this diminutive form, I thought I might appropriately dedicate it to Mr. Dawson Rowley, who first called my attention to its existence, and whose interest in New-Zealand ornithology found expression in a charming little museum of rarities, numbering among its treasures the unique specimen of the Moa’s egg from the Kaikoura sepulchre *.
Reischek met with this small form on the Hen, but on none of the other islands in the Hauraki Gulf, although P. novæ zealandiæ was abundant everywhere.
* There is an excellent figure of this species in Rowley’s ‘Ornithological Miscellany,’ vol. ii. facing p. 115.