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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Preface to First Edition

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Preface to First Edition.

The study of Ornithology has always been a source of intense enjoyment to me; and to write a history of the Birds of my native country was one of the day-dreams of my early boyhood. In maturer years my intervals of leisure, during an active official life in the colony, have been chiefly devoted to the collection of materials for such an undertaking; and the result is now presented to the public in a form which will, I trust, be acceptable to both the scientific and the general reader.

With what amount of success I have executed my self-imposed task it is not for me to decide. I am conscious, however, of having bestowed much honest labour upon it; and the highly favourable manner in which it has been reviewed, as well as the numerous letters of commendation and approval which I have received from persons in every way competent to form a judgment, give me reason to believe that my efforts have not been misdirected.

As a proof that I have spared myself no trouble to make the work complete I may mention that, without a single exception, the descriptions of the species have been taken from specimens actually before me, and that every measurement given throughout the book has been made or verified by myself. The life-histories are, for the most part, records of my own observations during a number of years; and I have endeavoured to make them as truthful as possible. It will be seen, however, that I have not failed to avail myself of the notes of other local naturalists, whose contributions are, in every instance, duly acknowledged.

I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Colonial Government for having granted me a prolonged leave of absence, on the most liberal terms, for the purpose of visiting England to superintend the publication of my work. To the authorities of the British Museum my thanks are due for the facilities which have been afforded me of studying the contents of perhaps the finest collection of Birds in the world, and to the gentlemen having charge of that department for their unvarying courtesy and attention—even my application to be allowed to remove the rare Notornis from its hermetically closed case, for the purpose of examination, having been readily complied with.

In working out the historical synonymy of the species I have found the Library of the page viii Zoological Society of great service; and in consulting authorities I have received valuable assistance from Mr. R. B. Sharpe, the late librarian, whose long connexion with the Society has made him familiar with the bibliography of the subject. The excellent lists already published by Mr. G. R. Gray and Dr. Otto Finsch had rendered this part of my task a comparatively light one; but all the references have been carefully verified, and the chronology given for the first time; while numerous synonyms have been added, and the whole of the nomenclature critically examined and revised.

To my brethren of the British Ornithologists’ Union I hereby tender my acknowledgments for the readiness with which they have at all times given me the benefit of their opinions and judgment on doubtful points, or lent me specimens for comparison.

In conclusion I have only to state that, in consideration of the generous assistance accorded to me by the New-Zealand Government, I have presented the whole of my collection of Birds, on which the descriptive letterpress is chiefly founded, to the Colonial Museum at Wellington, where it will in future be accessible for purposes of reference.


London, March 1873.