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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Contents of Vol. 1

Contents of Vol. 1.

Before concluding this Introduction it may be well to offer one or two general observations on the Families and Genera treated of in the present volume, which closes with the New-Zealand Wood-Pigeon (Carpophaga novæ zealandi æ).

The number of species described is fifty-five, and these have been referred to twenty-three Families and thirty-five Genera. Of the former four, and of the latter seventeen, are strictly endemic or peculiar to the New-Zealand Avifauna.

Of the fifty-five species all but eight are endemic, being found only in New Zealand and the adjacent islands. Of the exceptions one is Zosterops coerulescens, whose erratic history has already been noticed, two are migratory birds (Eudynamis taitensis and Chrysococcyx lucidus), which only spend the summer with us, and five are occasional stragglers from the continent of Australia, not one of which has ever been known to breed with us. Indeed, in estimating the character of the Avifauna it is hardly fair to take count of these accidental visitants—such birds, for example, as the Australian Swift, which has been recorded only once in the history of the Colony and may never reappear, or the Australian Honey-eater, which has been recorded twice; so that, adopting this view, the number is reduced to one. It will thus be seen at a glance that the so-called “land-birds” are, almost without exception, characteristic of the country. Even in the case of Zosterops, which I have treated as identical with the Australian bird, there is some ground for regarding the New-Zealand form as a distinct local race. The late Mr. Gould and myself had no difficulty in picking out two of our birds from a whole case of Australian specimens, so manifest was the difference in the tone of coloration. While accepting therefore the identity of the species, I would point out that the difference I have mentioned can only be accounted for on the supposition that the birds have been separated for a considerable length of time. This tends to support my location of the species in the south-west region of the South Island, before it came northwards, and is therefore opposed to Professor Hutton’s theory* that it arrived quite recently from Australia.

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  • Coloured Illustrations are given of the following species:—

  • The Blue-wattled Crow (Glaucopis wilsoni).

  • The Orange-wattled Crow (Glaucopis cinerea).

  • The Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris), male and female.

  • The Saddle-back (Creadion carunculatus).

  • The Jack-bird (Creadion cinereus).

  • The North-Island Thrush (Turnagra hectori).

  • The South-Island Thrush (Turnagra crassirostris).

  • The North-Island Tomtit (Myiomoira toiloi).

  • The South-Island Tomtit (Myiomoira macrocephala).

  • The North-Island Robin (Miro australis).

  • The South-Island Robin (Miro albifrons).

  • The Grey Warbler (Gerygone flaviventris). Figured on same Plate as the Long-tailed Cuckoo.

  • The White-head (Clitonyx albicapilla).

  • The Yellow-head (Clitonyx ochrocephala).

  • The New-Zealand Creeper (Certhiparus novæ zealandiæ).

  • The Fern-bird (Sphenœacus punctatus).

  • The New-Zealand Pipit (Anthus novæ zealandiæ).

  • The Pied Fantail (Rhipidura flabellifera).

  • The Black Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa).

  • The Silver-eye (Zosterops cœrulescens).

  • The Bell-bird (Anthornis melanura), male and female.

  • The Tui or Parson bird (Prosthemadera novæ zealandiæ), adult and young.

  • The Stitch-bird (Pogonornis cincta), male and female.

  • The Bush-Wren (Xenicus longipes).

  • The Rock-Wren (Xenicus gilventris).

  • The Rifleman (Acanthidositta chloris), male and female.

  • The New-Zealand Kingfisher (Halcyon vagans), adult and young.

  • The Long-tailed Cuckoo (Eudynamis taitensis), adult and young.

  • The Shining Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus), with young in Warbler’s nest.

  • The Yellow-fronted Parrakeet (Platycercus auriceps).

  • The Red-fronted Parrakeet (Platycercus novas zealandiae).

  • The Orange-fronted Parrakeet (Platycercus alpinus).

  • The Kaka Parrot (Nestor meridionalis), with variety “Kaka-Kura.”

  • The Kea Parrot (Nestor notabilis).

  • The Kakapo or Owl Parrot (Stringops habroptilus), with Alpine variety.

  • The Morepork (Spiloglaux novæ zealandiæ).

  • The Laughing-Owl (Sceloglaux albifacies).

  • The New-Zealand Harrier (Circus gouldi), adult and young.

  • The Quail-Hawk (Harpa novæ zealandiæ), adult and young.

  • The New-Zealand Quail (Coturnix novæ zealandiæ).

  • The New-Zealand Pigeon (Carpophaga novæ zealandiæ).

I have endeavoured to make the technical part of the work as exhaustive and exact as possible. After the diagnostic characters of each species (rendered, according to the usual custom, in Latin), I have given full descriptions of both sexes, with their seasonal changes of plumage (if any), followed by an account of the young, commencing with the nestling, or fledgling, and noting the various adolescent states of plumage in the progress of the bird towards maturity. Under the head of ‘Varieties,’ I have been careful to record every appreciable departure from the normal character that has come under my notice during an acquaintance with this peculiar Ornis extending over the best part of my life.

The measurements of each bird described are given in inches and decimals. In taking the extreme length my rule has always been to measure from the tip of the bill, following its curvature (if any) to the end of the tail. The advantage of this plan is that by deducting the measurements of the culmen and the tail, which are given separately, the exact length of the body may be ascertained. The same rule has been followed in regard to the claws wherever measurements are given.

In order to make the descriptions intelligible to the ordinary reader, some knowledge is essential of the names usually applied to the various parts of a bird and to the feathers which cover them. To supply an index to the descriptive terms commonly employed throughout the present work, it may be useful to reproduce here, on a slightly reduced scale, the diagram given in my ‘Manual of the Birds of New Zealand,’ the outline selected for the purpose being that of one of our commonest species.

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References.—1, forehead; 2, crown or vertex; 3, hind head; 4, nape; 5, lore or loral space; 6, eye (shaded margin iris); 7, ear-coverts; 8, hind neck; 9, side of neck; 10, back or dorsal region; 11, rump or uropygium; 12, upper tail-coverts; 13, tail-feathers or rectrices; 14, primaries or quills; 15, secondaries; 16, larger wing-coverts; 17, lesser wing-coverta (including “median”); 18, carpal flexure, or bend of wing; 19, scapulars; 20, chin; 21, throat; 22, fore neck; 23, breast; 24, abdomen; 25, vent; 26, under tail-coverts; 27, tibial plumes; 28, cere; 29, ridge of upper mandible or culmen; 30, lower mandible; 31, tarsus; 32, middle toe and claw; 33, hind too and claw, or hallux.

Outline of New-Zealand Harrier (Circus gouldi).

Outline of New-Zealand Harrier (Circus gouldi).

* New-Zealand Magazine,’ January 1876, p. 96.