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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Fam. PARIDÆ — Certhiparus Novæ Zealandiæ. — (New-Zealand Creeper.)

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Certhiparus Novæ Zealandiæ.
(New-Zealand Creeper.)

  • New-Zealand Titmouse, Lath. Gen. Syn. ii. pt. 2, p. 558.(1783).

  • Parus novæ seelandiæ, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 1013 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Parus novæ zealandiæ, Lath. Ind. Orn. ii. p. 571 (1790).

  • Parus zelandicus, Quoy & Gaim. Voy. de l’Astrol. i. p. 210, pl. xi. fig. 3 * (1830).

  • Certhiparus novæ zelandiæ, Lafr. Rev. Zool. 1842, p. 69.

  • Certhiparus novæ seelandiæ, Gray, in Dieff. Trav. ii., App. p. 189 (1843).

  • Certhiparus maculicaudus, Gray, op. cit. ii. p. 189 (1843).

  • Parus urostigma, Forst. Descr. Anim. p. 90 (1844).

  • Certhiparus novæ zealandiæ, Finsch, J. f. O. 1870, p. 254.

Native names.—Pipipi and Toitoi.

♂ suprà chocolatino-brunneus, pileo paullulum obscuriore: facie laterali nuchâque cinerascentibus: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus: remigibus brunneis, primariis extùs angustè fulvescente limbatis, secundariis latiùs dorsi colore lavatis: caudâ rufescenti-chocolatinâ, rectricibus (duabus mediis exceptis) fasciâ nigrâ transnotatis: subtùs rufescenti-albus, corporis lateribus et tectricibus subcaudalibus chocolatino lavatis: rostro et pedibus pallidè brunneis, unguibus fulvescenti-brunneis: iride saturatè brunneâ.

♀ mari omninò smilis.

Juv. vix ab adultis distinguendus, sed magis vinaceo tinctus.

Adult. Fore part of head, crown, back, rump, and upper surface of wings bright cinereous brown, inclining to rufous; quills light brown, the outer webs tinged towards their base with rufous; tail-feathers pale rufous, and, with the exception of the two middle ones, crossed on their inner web, about half an inch from the tip, with a broad band of black; sides of head and nape cinereous grey; throat, breast, and abdomen rufous-white. Irides grey; bill, tarsi, and toes pale brown; claws lighter brown. Total length 5·25 inches; extent of wings 6·75; wing, from flexure, 2·5; tail 2·6; tarsus ·75; bill, along the ridge ·5, along the edge of lower mandible ·6; middle toe and claw ·6; hind toe and claw ·6.

Young. Plumage as in the adult, but suffused with vinous brown.

Obs. The sexes are alike, both as to size and colouring.

Remarks. I carefully examined, with the late Mr. G.R. Gray, the examples in the British Museum on which he had founded his distinction between Certhiparus novæ zealandiæ and C. maculicaudus. The individual differences were trivial, and I felt perfectly satisfied that the new species could not be maintained—a conclusion in which Mr. Gray concurred.

* In the ‘Voyage de l′Astrolabe’ there is a flgure intended to represent this bird, under the title of “Mésange de la Nouvelle Zélande;” but without the descriptive text it would be quite impossible to identify the species, the drawing being very defective and the colouring incorrect.

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This lively little species is confined to the wooded parts of the South Island*. I met with it in Nelson and in Otago, but more abundantly in the Canterbury provincial district. On Banks Peninsula I found it particularly numerous, but I was never able to discover its nest.

Like the other members of the group to which it belongs, it is a gregarious species, associating together in small flocks, and hunting diligently for its insect food among the branches and dense foliage of the forest undergrowth. On being disturbed or alarmed they quickly assemble and chirp round the intruder for a few minutes; and on being reassured they disperse again in search of food.

One of their ordinary notes is not unlike the cry of Creadion carunculatus, although, of course, much feebler.

I have seen them consorting with the Yellow-head in the low underwood, owing doubtless to a community of interest, their habits of feeding being very much the same. They seem to prefer the outskirts of the bush, where insect-life is more abundant; but they are also to be met with in the thick forest.

During severe seasons it has been known to leave the shelter of the bush and to frequent the sheep-stations, flitting about the meat gallows and picking off morsels of fat from the bones and skins of the butchered animals, exactly after the manner of Zosterops under similar circumstances.

In the stomachs of those I examined I found the scale-insect, with minute coleoptera, diptera, and their larvæ, all testifying to the strictly insectivorous character of the bird. The ovary of one which I opened on November 3 contained a small cluster of eggs, the largest being of the size of buck-shot, indicating a late nesting-season.

A nest of this species in the Canterbury Museum is of a rounded form, with a slightly tapering apex, and not unlike a large pear in shape. The structure is composed of dry vegetable fibres, fragments of wool, moss, spiders’ nests, and other soft materials closely felted together. The entrance is placed on the side, about one third distant from the top, and is perfectly round, with smoothened edges. The interior cavity is deeply lined with soft, white, pigeon feathers. It will be seen, therefore, that the nest of this species shows its affinity to Gerygone rather than to Clitonyx, with which it is associated in the British Museum Catalogue (vol. viii.). I have grouped the birds together on one Plate merely for the sake of artistic convenience.

This bird breeds late in the year, for the nest just mentioned was found far above the Rangitata gorge, in the month of December, and contained three nestlings. Mr. Potts reports that it was “placed in a black-birch between the trunk and a spur, from whence sprouted out a thick tuft of dwarfed sprays, about seven feet from the ground.” He says that it usually lays three eggs and that he has a note of finding the young in the nest as late as December 25th.

There are two eggs of this bird in the Otago Museum. They are broadly ovoido-conical, measuring ·7 of an inch in length by ·6 in breadth, and white with small purplish and brown spots, which run together and form a zone round the larger end.

* Captain Hutton, writing from Auckland, in the North Island, stated, in a letter to ‘The Ibis’ (1867, p. 379), that Certhiparus novœ zealandiæ is “one of the commonest birds in the bush about here;” but he was evidently confounding this bird with some other species, probably Clitonyœ albicapilla, at that time common enough. He repeated, in his ‘Catalogue of the Birds of New Zealand’ (published in 1871) that Certhiparus novæ zealandiæ inhabits “both islands;” but this is undoubtedly an error. I have never heard of the occurrence of this bird, even as a straggler, in any part of the North Island.

Of. Trans. N.-Z. Instit. 1872, vol. v. pl. 37.