A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Garrodia Nereis. — (Grey-Backed Storm-Petrel.)
Thalassidroma nereis, Gould, P. Z. S. 1840, p. 178.
Procellaria nereis, Bonap. C. R. xlii, p. 769 (1856).
Thalassidroma nereis, Buller, Birds of New Zealand, 1st ed. p. 322 (1873).
Garrodia nereis, Forbes, P. Z. S. 1881, p. 736.
Ad. pileo colloque toto, cum interscapulio et tectricibus alarum minimis, et medianis exterioribus fuliginoso-nigris: dorso postico, uropygio et supracaudalibus, scapularibus et tectricibus alarum majoribus canescentibus: remigibus brunnescenti-nigris, secundariis vix canescente lavatis: caudâ sordidè canescente, ad apicem nigricante: gutture pallidiùs fuliginoso: corpore reliquo subtùs albo, subalaribus exterioribus brunneis: rostro nigro, versus basin mandibulæ albicante: pedibus saturatè brunneis: iride nigrâ.
Adult. Head, neck, and all the upper surface dark ash-grey; rump and upper tail-coverts paler, or silvery grey; under surface pure white, the grey plumage presenting a distinct margin across the upper part of the breast. Irides and bill black, the latter whitish towards the base of lower mandible; legs and feet dark brown. Length 6·5 inches; extent of wings 13; wing, from flexure, 5·5; tail 2·75; bill, along the ridge ·5, along the edge of lower mandible ·55; bare tibia ·6; tarsus 1·3; middle toe and claw 1.
Obs. The sexes are alike, both as to size and plumage.
This pretty little Storm-Petrel was originally discovered and described by Mr. Gould, who obtained four specimens during a calm on his passage from Hobart Town to Sydney in May 1839, and who met with it again a month earlier in the following year between New South Wales and the northernmost point of New Zealand. I have received specimens from Otago and from Cape Campbell. Under stress of weather it is sometimes driven inland, and I remember an instance of a foot-passenger on the Wanganui bridge catching one with his hands as it fluttered past him.
The species is readily distinguishable from the other Storm-Petrels by its diminutive size and the absence of white on the rump.
Mr. Reischek found it breeding on Guano Island in the beginning of November. He discovered five or six nests, each containing a single egg.
Mr. Percy Seymour sends me the following note:—“I found a number of nests of this Petrel on Tomahawk Island, Otago Peninsula, on the 18th January. The birds had been previously disturbed and their eggs taken, and they were therefore probably unusually late in breeding, for I have, on another occasion, obtained fresh eggs as early as November 23. The nests were situated in burrows, about 18 inches deep, and resembling rat-holes. Five of the nests contained one young bird each, and the other five one egg each, on which the female bird was sitting in every case. I was able to preserve only two of the eggs, as in the others the young birds inside broke the shell before I reached home. The specimen in my cabinet measures 1·46 inch by 1·05, and is white, faintly stained with yellowish brown, and marked all over with faint blotches of purplish red, with numerous tiny dots of a darker shade. The marks are most numerous at one end, but both ends are equally rounded.”
An egg of this species in my son’s collection is ovoido-elliptical, has a fine granulate surface, and measures 1·25 inch in length by ·9 in breadth; originally white, it has now a soiled appearance, with a zone of minute specks at the larger end.