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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Charadrius Fulvus. — (Eastern Golden Plover.)

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Charadrius Fulvus.
(Eastern Golden Plover.)

  • Fulvous Plover, Lath. Gen. Syn. iii. p. 211 (1785).

  • Charadrius fulvus, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 687 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Charadrius pluvialis, Horsf. Tr. Linn. Soc. xiii. p. 187 (1822).

  • Charadrius ôanthocheilus, Wagl. Syst. Av. Charadrius, sp. 36 (1827, ex Lath.).

  • Charadrius taitensis, Less. Man. d’Orn, ii. p. 321 (1828).

  • Charadrius virginianus, Jard. & Selby, Ill. Orn. ii. pl. lxxxv. (c. 1830).

  • Charadrius glaucopis, Forster, Descr. Anim. p. 176 (1844).

  • Charadrius virginicus, Blyth, Cat. B. Mus. A. S. B. p. 262 (1849, nec Borkh.).

  • Pluvialis longipes, Temm.,” Bonap. C. R. xliii. p. 417 (1856).

  • Pluvialis xanthocheilus, id. tom. cit. p. 417 (1856).

  • Pluvialis taitensis, id. tom. cit. p. 417 (1856).

  • Pluvialis fulvus, id. torn. cit. p. 417 (1856).

  • Charadrius auratus, Schrenk, Reis. Amurl. Vög. p. 410 (1860).

Ad. hiem. suprà brunneus, plumis ochrascenti-fulvo ubique marginatis: collo postico cinèrascente: tectricibus alarum cinerascenti-brunneis, albido et pallidè ochraceo maculatis, majoribus magis conspicuè albo terminatis: remigibus brunneis, versùs apicem nigricantibus, secundariis elongatis extùs ochrascenti-fulvo maculatis, remigibus minoribus angustè albo terminatis: rectricibus cinerascenti-brunneis, albo terminatis, exterioribus saturatè brunneo variis; loris albicantibus: facie laterali et supercilio indistincto ochrascenti-albis, brunneo notatis, regione paroticâ saturatiùs brunneâ: subtùs albescens, pectore superiore et laterali fumoso, ochrasceuti-fulvo lavato: subalaribus et axillaribus pallidè fumosis: rostro nigro: pedibus plumbeis: iride fuscâ.

Ad. æstiv. pectore nigro distinguendus: supercilio lato cum collo et pectore lateralibus albis, his nigro notatis.

Adult in winter. Crown of the head, hind part of neck, and all the upper surface brownish black, each feather marked on both webs with rounded spots of pale golden yellow; on the nape these yellow markings are confluent, and on the scapulars they are paler, these feathers having likewise a terminal margin of yellowish white; lower part of forehead, sides of face, and throat fulvous white; ear-coverts dark brown; fore neck tawny white, largely mottled and spotted with brown; the rest of the underparts fulvous white, clouded with brown; lining of wings and axillary plumes pale smoky grey; quills blackish brown, with white shafts; the long inner secondaries with a series of triangular yellow spote along the outer edge of both webs; wing-coverts greyish brown, margined with yellowish white; tail-feathers blackish brown, toothed on both webs, and terminally margined with yellowish white. Irides dark brown; bill black; legs and feet plumbeous. Length 10 inches; wing, from flexure, 6·75; tail 2·5; bill, along the ridge ·9, along the edge of lower mandible 1; bare tibia 1; tarsus 1·6; middle toe and claw 1·25.

Adult in summer. Upper parts darker, and with the golden spots larger and more conspicuous; a band across the forehead, and continued over the eyes down the sides of the neck, fulvous white; throat, cheeks, fore neck, breast, and abdomen black, with a few white feathers intermixed; sides of the body white, varied with black; inner lining of wings and axillary plumes smoky grey; under tail-coverts white, with irregular transverse bars of black.

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The following is the description of a specimen shot near Christchurch in the summer of 1885:—Crown of the head, hind neck, mantle, back, rump, and long inner secondaries brownish black, marked all over with spots of golden yellow, which diminish in size but become narrower on the head and neck, presenting on these parts a mottled appearance; on the upper wing-coverts the yellow markings are absent, the feathers being variegated with greyish white; a broad band of white crosses the forehead and, passing over the eyes, extends down the sides of the neck and expands on the sides of the breast. Sides of the head, fore neck, and centre of breast slaty black, which becomes mixed with white towards the throat (in which respect alone it differs from a specimen in summer dress from Sweden, with which I compared it); the whole of the abdomen slaty black, variegated with white; sides of the body white, irregularly barred and marked with black, the feathers near the insertion of the wings narrowly margined with yellow; the entire inner lining of wings delicate ash-grey; wing-feathers brownish black with white shafts; the tail-feathers blackish brown obscurely barred with greyish white. Bill black; tarsi and toes greyish black. Total length 11 inches; wing, from flexure, 6·75; tail 2·5; bill, along the ridge 1, along the edge of lower mandible 1·25; bare tibia ·75; tarsus 1·76; middle toe and claw 1·25.

Obs. The sexes are alike, except that in the adult female the golden spots are less conspicuous than in the male, the neck-markings are less distinct, and there is a faint wash of yellow on the breast.

Note. The above description of the winter plumage is taken from a New-Zealand example presented to the British Museum by Miss R. Stone.

In the Colonial Museum there is a fine specimen obtained at Worser Bay, near Wellington, and first recorded by Mr. T. W. Kirk*, In this bird there is a slight wash of yellow over the throat, sides of the head, and fore neck; the yellow spots on the mantle and long inner secondaries are very distinct, and the dark mottling on the fore neck and breast is very pretty.

In the Auckland Museum there are two specimens (♂ and ♀) shot together at Manukau harbour early in December 1880. Both of these are in winter plumage, although they show signs of being about to assume the summer dress. Mr. Cheeseman states that ten or twelve were observed at the time these were killed.

I have before me two birds (both marked ♀) obtained by Mr. Robson on Portland Island in September and November respectively. The larger of the two gives the following measurements:—Total length 10 inches; wing, from flexure, 7·25; tail 2·75; bill, along the ridge ·95, along the edge of lower mandible 1; bare tibia ·75; tarsus 1·6; middle toe and claw 1·25. One of these is in unmistakable summer plumage, the black of the upper surface being pronounced and the yellow spots round and bright; the fore neck, breast, abdomen, and flanks irregularly marked with blotches of black, intermixed or softly blended with the greyish ground-colour and slightly suffused on the breast with yellow; lining of wings and axillary plumes smoky grey; upper surface of wings blackish brown, vandyked and varied with white, but without any yellow markings, except on the long inner secondaries; wing-feathers and tail blackish brown, the latter handsomely barred and their coverts vandyked with greyish white. Bill black; legs greyish brown (probably tinged with green in the fresh bird). The other has much less yellow on the upper surface, the spots being small and indistinct; there is an absence of dark markings on the underparts; the fore neck and breast are pale fulvous brown varied with grey; and the abdomen is yellowish white.

In Sharpe and Dresser’s ‘Birds of Europe,’ where the above synonymy has already appeared, there is an admirably exhaustive account of this species, which appears to have a very wide range in the eastern part of the Old. World, but only rarely makes its appearance in Europe. The above-named authors have enumerated the localities in which it has occurred within the limits of the Western Palæarctic region; and they express their belief that this is the bird mentioned by Pallas, under the name of C. pluvialis, as being exceedingly common in Siberia, whence it migrates in the autumn in flocks, along with other species, to more southern latitudes. Steller observed it in Kamtschatka in

* Trans. N.-Z. Inat. vol. xvii. p. 59.

Cf. also Cheeseman, Trans. N.-Z. Inst. vol. xiv. p. 264.

page 8 autumn, and states that it breeds within the polar circle. Mr. Swinhoe gives its range as extending throughout China. He procured it between Takoo and Peking, and says that it is a common bird near Canton, where it passes the summer, while at Formosa it is plentiful all the year round, breeding in great abundance on the south-west marshy plains. In the ‘Muséum des Pays-Bas,’ Prof. Schlegel has recorded a list of specimens, more than sixty in number, contained in the Leyden Museum, from which it would appear that examples have been collected in nearly every island of the Malay archipelago. Dr. Jerdon writes:—“The Golden Plover occurs throughput India in open plains, grassy downs, ploughed fields, and on the edges of rivers, lakes, &c., associating in flocks of various magnitude and feeding on beetles and other land-insects, worms, &c.;” and Mr. Holdsworth reports that it is very common in winter in the northern portion of Ceylon, sometimes extending as far south as Colombo. Mr. Gould records that it is generally dispersed over all the colonies from Tasmania to the extreme north of the continent of Australia, and adds that “its habits, manners, and general economy so closely resemble those of the Golden Plover of Europe, that a description of one is equally characteristic of the other.” Drs. Finsch and Hartlaub have given a full account of the distribution of the species among the islands of the South Pacific; and Dr. E. Gräffe, writing from Tongatabu, says that it is found on that island all the year round, but is most numerous from October to March and during the season of migration. It occurs occasionally on the New-Zealand coast, but apparently only as a straggler, and almost always in winter plumage.

Several examples have been obtained in the Manukau harbour, and two of these (♂ and ♀) are in the Auckland Museum, but it has not yet been found breeding there. Several others have been taken on the Wellington coast, two of which are in the Colonial Museum; while in the South Island small flights have been observed on the shores of Lake Ellesmere, and one or two specimens obtained on the south-east coast of Otago.

From Portland Island I received, through the courtesy of Mr. Robson, two specimens, one of which is in winter plumage, whilst the other has partially assumed the summer dress. The same correspondent was fortunate enough to discover its breeding-place, and he sent me some interesting notes, which I communicated at the time to the Wellington Philosophical Society *. He says:— “On the 9th of January last a Golden Plover was found sitting on three eggs at the northern end of Portland Island. The nest is a very simple affair, composed of a little grass laid in a slight hollow amongst the driftwood a few yards above high-water mark; the egg is large for the bird, being about the size of a pullet’s, ovoid, a good deal pointed, in colour of a light greenish yellow with irregular blotches of dark rufous brown, almost black in the larger spots, and varying in size from a pin’s head to a shilling, the largest being at the more obtuse end of the egg. When disturbed the bird rose with a harsh rattling cry, but did not seem frightened, and returned to the nest after a few minutes. On the 10th the nest was not visited, it being thought best not to disturb the bird again so soon; and on the 11th, on going to it for a specimen egg, the nest was found deserted and the eggs gone, not a particle of shell remaining.”

Mr. Swinhoe represents this bird as breeding plentifully on Formosa, and he has given the following account of its nidification:—“Its eggs, four in number, are laid in a loose nest of dried grasses and fibres placed in a hollow. They are of a greenish-grey ground-colour, blotched and spotted with deep-blackish sepia, and have occasional obsolete purplish-grey spots. They do not vary much in size, are narrowed near the end, and measure 1·5 inch by 1·1.”

Referring to this, Mr. Seebohm says:—” I can imagine that barren birds in imperfect breeding-plumage may not unfrequently be found during summer in their winter-quarters; but I scarcely think it possible that C. fulvus breeds south of the Arctic circle, at least three thousand miles further north than Formosa.”

* Trans. N.-Z. Inst. vol. xvi. p. 308.