Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Eudyptes Chrysocome. — (Tufted Penguin.)

page break

Eudyptes Chrysocome.
(Tufted Penguin.)

  • Aptenodytes chrysocome, Forst. Comm. Soc. Reg. Sc. Gott. iii. p. 135, pl. 1 (1781).

  • Chrysocoma saltator, Steph. Gen. Zool. xiii. p. 58, pl. 8 (1826).

  • Catarractes chrysocome; Brandt, Bull. Ac. Pét. ii. p. 314 (1837).

  • Eudyptes chrysocome, Gould, B. of Austr. fol. vii. pl. 83 (1848).

  • Eudyptes nigrivestis, Gould, P. Z. S. 1860, p. 418*.

  • Eudyptes chrysocome, Scl. P. Z. S. 1860, p. 390.

  • Spheniscus chrysocome, Schl. Mus. Pays-Bas, Urinat. p. 6 (1866).

  • Eudyptes nigriventris, Gray, Hand-l. of B. iii. p. 98 (1871, err.).

  • Eudyptes saltator, Sharpe, Zool. Kerg., Phil. Trans. R. S. vol. 168. p. 158 (1879).

  • Eudyptes filholi, Hutton, Proc. Linn. Soc. N. S. W. vol. iii. p. 334 (1879).

Ad. suprà sordidè cinereus, pilei plumis rigidis, elongatis, cristam frontalem exhibentibus, verticis lateralis plumis quoque elongatis, cum fasciâ latâ superciliari cristam duplicem formantibus: facie laterali cum colli lateribus gulâque totâ brunnescenti-cinereis: corpore reliquo purè albo: pectore laterali, hypochondriis, imis et tibiis posticè cinereis: alâ suprà saturatè cinereâ, margine alari summâ. vix albidâ, secundariis etiam albo terminatis: caudâ rigidâ dorso concolore; alâ subtùs albâ, ad basin et juxta marginem alarum summarum cinereâ; remigibus primariis versus apicem cinereo-nigricantibus: rostro aurantiaco; pedibus albicantibus: iride coccineâ.

Adult. Similar in plumage to Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, but with a narrower bill and much more abundant crest; besides which the throat is dark slaty instead of black, and the flippers have a more conspicuous white outer margin; a streak of golden yellow commencing at the base of the upper mandible, in a line with the nostrils, passes over the eyes and spreads out in a tuft behind to the length of three inches or more, the plumes being narrow and of soft texture; the feathers on the sides of the head are also lengthened and mingle with the yellow plumes, forming together a fine erectile crest. Total length 26·5 inches; length of flipper 6·75; tail 3·75; bill, along the ridge 2, along the edge of lower mandible 2·3; tarsus ·75; middle toe and claw 2·75.

Young. Has the plumage generally duller, and the throat largely mottled with fulvous white; with little or no crest, and a very inconspicuous streak of yellow over the eyes.

Var. An example from Campbell Island, in the Otago Museum, presents the following appearances:— Head, throat, hind neck, and all the upper surface sooty brown, darkest on the crown and nape; fore neck, breast, and underparts yellowish white, the brown of the upper parts fading into this on the sides of the body. Bill black at the base, bright yellow in its outer portion; feet brown, with yellow claws.

Obs. In some examples the coronal feathers are also produced, but not to the same extent as the lateral crests.

Note. Professor Hutton, who described this form under the name of Eudyptes filholi, remarks :—“In colour and in length of crest, this species is intermediate between E. chrysocome and E. chrysolopha; but is easily distinguished from both by the superciliary yellow streaks commencing behind the termination of the culmen instead of between the termination of the culmen and the nostriis, and by the dark colour of the page 291 back advancing on the sides of the lower neck. From E. chrysocome it is also distinguished by the narrowness of the bill, and the different shape of the black mark on the under surface of the apex of the wing, in which E. filholi resembles E. chrysolopha. From the latter species it is also distinguished by its colour.” After examination of a large series of specimens I have come to the conclusion that the bird here described is not separable from the so-called Eudyptes saltator. I may add that this view is concurred in by Messrs. Salvin and Sharpe, both of whom have made the Penguins a special subject of study.

Professor Hutton’s bird, which came from Campbell Island, was placed in the Otago Museum. In an example received there afterwards from Macquarie Island the upper parts are of a brighter blue, and the crest is pale golden yellow, scanty in character but fully three inches in length; the dark plumage does not advance upon the neck in the manner described above; the bill is reddish brown in colour, and comparatively slender in form, measuring along the ridge 1·75 inch, and along the edge of lower mandible 2.

There are two specimens in the Canterbury Museum. One of these (obtained in Akaroa harbour) has a small, narrow, pale yellow crest, which commences at the base of the upper mandible and curls over behind the ear-coverts; the bill is very dark brown, paler towards the tip. The other (which was picked up on the Nine-mile Beach) presents only a narrow supraciliary line of yellow, with a very inconspicuous crest, and is presumably a younger bird.

After a careful comparison of the fine series of specimens in the British Museum, as well as those in the Natural-History Museum at the Jardin des Plantes, I have come to the conclusion that Prof. Hutton’s Eudyptes filholi (from Campbell Island) is the same as Mr. Sharpe’s E. saltator from Kerguelen Island, and that the latter again is identical with the true E. chrysocome of the Falkland Islands. The more common New-Zealand bird, which I described in my former edition under the name of Eudyptes chrysocomus, is undoubtedly distinct; and to this species I have accordingly restored Mr. G. R. Gray’s very appropriate name of E. pachyrhynchus.

In their account of the birds collected by the ‘Challenger’ Expedition, Messrs. Sclater and Salvin say:—“Why Mr. Sharpe should have referred Eudyptes chrysolophus (Sclater and Abbott) of the Falklands to Eudyptes saltator we cannot understand, nor can we appreciate the characters by which he separates his Eudyptes saltator and Eudyptes chrysocome. The type-specimen of Eudyptes diadematus, Gould, for which we have made every enquiry, is unfortunately no longer to be found. Mr. Gould has parted with it, he knows not whither. It was probably only an individual variety of this species.”

Sir Wyville Thomson, in the ‘Voyage of the Challenger’ (p. 167), gives the following interesting account of this Penguin as observed by him at Tristan d’Acunha:—“We were close under Inaccessible Island, the second in size of the little group. The ship was surrounded by multitudes of Penguins, and as few of us had had any previous personal acquaintance with this eccentric form of life, we followed their movements with great interest. The Penguin, as a rule, swims under water, rising now and then and resting on the surface, like one of the ordinary water-birds, but more frequently with its body entirely covered, and only lifting its head from time to time to breathe. One peculiarity surprised us greatly, for although we were tolerably familiar with the literature of the family, we had never seen it described. ‘Rock-hoppers’ (and I am inclined to think species of other genera besides Eudyptes), when in a number in the water, have a constant habit of closing together, the legs and tail straight out, laying the wings flat to the sides, arching forward the neck, and apparently by an action of the muscles of the back, springing forwards clear out of the water, showing a steel-grey back and a silvery belly like a grilse. They rise in this way in lines like a school of porpoises, seemingly in play, and when they are thus disporting themselves it is really very difficult to believe that one is not watching a shoal of fish pursued by enemies.

“In the water Penguins are usually silent, but now and then one raises its head and emits a curious prolonged croak, startlingly like one of the deeper tones of the human voice. One rarely page 292 observes it in the daylight, and in the midst of other noises; but at night it is weird enough, and the lonely officer of the middle watch, whose thoughts may have wandered for the moment from the imminent iceberg back to some more genial memory, is often pulled up with a start by that gruff ‘whaat’ alongside in the darkness, close below the bridge.”

And again (at p. 179):—“Beyond the garden the tussock grass of the Tristan group (Spartina arundinacea) forms a dense jungle. The root-clumps or ‘tussocks’ are two or three feet in width and about a foot high, and the spaces between them one or two feet wide. The tuft of thick grass-stems (seven or eight feet in height) rises strong and straight for a yard or so, and then the culms separate from one another and mingle with those of the neighbouring tussocks. This makes a bush very difficult to make one’s way through, for the heads of grass are closely entangled together on a level with the face and chest. In this scrub one of the Crested Penguins, probably Eudyptes chrysocome, called by the natives in common with other species of the genus Eudyptes ‘Rock Hoppers,’ has established a rookery. From a great distance, even so far as the hut, or the ship, one could hear an incessant noise like the barking of a myriad of dogs in all possible keys, and as we came near the place bands of Penguins were seen constantly going and returning between the rookery and the sea. All at once, out at sea, a hundred yards or so from the shore, the water in seen in motion, a dark red beak and sometimes a pair of eyes appearing now and then for a moment above the surface. The moving water approaches the shore in a wedge-shape, and with great rapidity a band of perhaps from three to four hundred Penguins scramble out upon the stones, again exchanging the vigorous and graceful movements and attitudes for which they are so remarkable while in the water, for helpless and ungainly ones, tumbling over the stones, and apparently with difficulty assuming their normal position, upright on their feet, which are set far back, and with their fin-like wings hanging in a useless kind of way at their sides. When they have got fairly out of the water, beyond the reach of the surf, they stand together for a few minutes, drying and dressing themselves and talking loudly, apparently congratulating themselves on their safe landing, and then they scramble in a body over the stony beach, many falling and pulling themselves up again with the help of their flippers on the way, and make straight for one particular gangway into the scrub, along which they waddle in regular order up to the rookery. In the meantime a group of about equal number appear from the rookery at the end of another of the paths. When they get out of the grass on to the beach they all stop and talk and look about them, sometimes for three or four minutes. They then with one consent scuttle down over the stones into the water and long lines of ripple, radiating rapidly from their place of departure, are the only indications that the birds are speeding out to sea. The tussock-brake, which in Inaccessible Island is perhaps four or five acres in extent, was alive with Penguins breeding. [This was in the latter part of October.] The nests are built of the stems and leaves of the Spartina in the spaces between the tussocks. They are two or three inches high, with a slight depression for the eggs, and about a foot in diameter. The gangways between the tussocks, along which Penguins are constantly passing, are wet and slushy, and the tangled grass, the strong ammoniacal smell, and the deafening noise, continually penetrated by loud separate sounds which have a startling resemblance to the human voice, make a walk through the rookery neither easy nor pleasant.

“The Penguin is thickly covered with the closest felting of down and feathers, except a longitudinal band, which in the female extends along the middle line of the lower part of the abdomen, and which, at all events in the breeding-season, is without feathers. The bird seats herself almost upright upon the eggs, supported by the feet and the stiff feathers of the tail, the feathers of the abdomen drawn apart, and the naked band directly applied to the eggs, doubtless with the object of bringing them into immediate contact with the source of warmth. The female and the male sit by turns; but the featherless space, if present, is not nearly so marked in the male. When they shift quarters they sidle-up close together, and the change is made so rapidly that the eggs are scarcely uncovered for a page 293 moment. The young, which are batched in about six weeks, are curious-looking little things covered with black down. There seems to be little doubt that Penguins properly belong to the sea, which they inhabit within moderate distance of the shore, and they only come to the land to breed and moult and for the young to develop sufficiently to become independent. But all this takes so long that the birds are practically the greater part of their time about the shore. We have seen no reason as yet to question the old notion that their presence is an indication that land is not far off.”

Mr. Howard Saunders writes:—“Two eggs ascribed to this species differ considerably in size, the larger measuring 2·7 inches by 2, the other 2·4 inches by 1·65. The colour is very pale blue, with a white calcareous coating irregularly disposed over the surface. In shape they are somewhat pointed at one end.” An egg of this Penguin from Campbell Island is very broadly ovoid, or inclining to spheroid, and measures 2·75 inches in length by 2·25 in breadth; white, with a greenish tinge (which is absent in some), and much smeared over with chalky matter. Another which I measured was a quarter of an inch shorter and proportionately less in size, with a creamy white shell having a roughened chalky surface.

Penguins at Home. (See p. 288.)

Penguins at Home. (See p. 288.)

* With regard to E. nigrivestis, I think I am right in stating that Mr. Gould, who distinguished the species, agreed with me that it could not stand.

Eudyptes pachyrhynchus of the present edition.