A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Dendrocygna Eytoni. — (Whistling Duck.)
Leptotarsis eytoni, Gould in Eyton’s Monogr. Anat. p. 111 (1838).
Dendrocygna eytoni, Gray, Cat. Anseres Brit. Mus. p. 132 (1844).
Ad. suprà cinerascenti-brunneus, dorsi plumis paucis griseo lavatis, dorso postico vix pallidiore: supracaudalibus pallidè ochrascentibus saturatè brunneo latè terminatis: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus: remigibus brunneis, secundariis cinerascente lavatis: caudâ saturatè brunneâ, versus apicem pallidiore: pileo summo et collo postico sordidè ochrascentibus: facie laterali pallidiore, fulvescentiore: gutture albo: jugulo et pectore superiore ochrascentibus vix rufescente lavatis: pectore laterali clariùs, rufescente nigro trans-fasciato: plumis hypochondriacis elongatis, lanceolatis, flavicanti-albis, utrinque nigro angustè limbatis: abdomine medio et subcaudalibus albicantibus his purioribus: subalaribus pallidè rufescentibus hrunneo transnotatis: rostro pallidè brunneo, nigro marmorato: pedibus pallidè brunneis: iride saturatè brunneâ.
Adult. Head, neck, and fore part of breast yellowish brown, tinged with ochre-yellow on the crown and nape, and fading to greyish white on the throat; the whole of the back, rump, and upper surface of wings dark cinereous brown; the inferior scapulars and some of the interscapulars margined with greyish white; upper tail-coverts yellowish white, broadly tipped with blackish brown; upper sides of the body and lower part of the breast chestnut-brown, with numerous regular transverse bars of black, broad and conspicuous on the aides, but becoming narrower on the breast; the long acuminate feathers covering the flanks yellowish white, broadly and distinctly margined with black; abdomen and under tail-coverts pure white; quills and tail-feathers coppery brown. Irides dark brown; bill yellowish brown, largely blotched with black, the nail darker brown; legs and feet pale flesh-brown. Length 16 inches; wing, from flexure, 9·5; tail 3; bill, along the ridge 175, along the edge of lower mandible 1·75; taraus 2; middle toe and claw 2·4; hind toe and claw ·75.
There are two recorded instances of the recent occurrence of this species in New Zealand: the one at the Thames*, and the other at Kaitangata, in the provincial district of Otago †. It is therefore entitled to be admitted into our list of birds as a straggler from the Australian continent, on the north-west coast of which it is said to be extremely plentiful.
Captain Stokes has furnished the following account of its habits:—” When on the wing it makes a peculiar whistling sound that can be heard at a great distance, and which changes as it alights into a sort of chatter. It perches on trees in a very clumsy manner, swinging and pitching to and fro. On the north-west coast it is one of the commonest birds of the country. We subsequently often found it on the rivers of the north coast, but not within some miles of their mouths, or near their upper waters, from which it would appear that it inhabits certain marshes of the river, only we never found it in the swamps. The furthest south it was afterwards met with was on the Albert River, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in lat. 18° S., which gives it a range of six and a half degrees of latitude over the northern part of the continent. Its nest never came under our notice, consequently we are not acquainted either with the size or colour of the eggs, neither did we see any young birds during the period of our observations, ranging from July to November.”
Mr. White, of Adelaide, informed Mr. Gould that he once found the nest of this species in a hollow log, and, that according to the natives, the usual number of eggs is from eight to ten.
* Cat. Birds of N. Z. 1871, p. 77.
† Trans. N.-Z. Inat. 1871, vol. iv. p. 213.