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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Original Prospectus

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Original Prospectus.

It has been remarked by a celebrated naturalist that “New Zealand is the most interesting ornithological province in the world;” and in a qualified sense this is no doubt true. The last remnant of a former continent, and, geologically considered, probably the oldest country on the face of our globe, it contains at the present day the only living representatives of an extinct race of wonderful Struthious birds.

Within recent historic times this circumscribed area, scarcely equal in extent to that of Great Britain, was tenanted, to the entire exclusion of Mammalia, by countless numbers of gigantic brevipennate or wingless birds, of various genera and species, the largest attaining to a stature nearly twice that of a full-grown Ostrich. These colossal ornithic types have disappeared; but their diminutive representatives (the different species of Apteryx) still exist, in diminished numbers, in various parts of the country; and these are objects of the highest interest to the natural-historian. But apart from this view of the subject the avifauna of New Zealand presents many special features of considerable interest. A large proportion of the genera are peculiar to the country; while some of the forms are perfectly anomalous, being entirely without a parallel in any other part of the world.

Under the changed physical conditions of the country, brought about by the operations of colonization, some of these remarkable forms have already become almost, if not quite, extinct, and others are fast expiring. It has been the author’s desire to collect and place on record a complete life-history of these birds before their final extirpation shall have rendered such a task impossible; and it will be his aim to produce a book at once acceptable to scientific men in general and useful to his fellow-colonists.

It may be mentioned that the author’s official position in New Zealand, during a period of more than twelve years, has enabled him to visit nearly every part of the country, while his frequent intercourse with the various native tribes has been highly favourable to such an object as the present undertaking.

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The work will comprise an introductory treatise on the ornithology of New Zealand, a concise diagnosis of each bird in Latin and English, synoptical lists of the nomenclature, and a popular history and description of all the known species—and will contain coloured illustrations, by Keulemans, of all the more interesting or characteristic forms. It will be published in five Parts, each containing not less than seven coloured lithographs, comprising altogether about seventy figures of New-Zealand birds.

London, January 1872.