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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Phalacrocorax Huttoni. — (Hutton’s Shag.)

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Phalacrocorax Huttoni.
(Hutton’s Shag.)

Exempl. ex N. Z. Similis P. vario, sed paullò major: suprà brunnescens, tectricibus alarum pallidiore brunneo marginatis et terminatis: maculâ aurantiacâ anteoculari absente: pedibus sordidè flavis.

New-Zealand specimen. Head and hind neck dark vinous brown, touched on the margins with lighter brown; this colour deepens to blackish brown, with darker velvety edges, on the mantle, gets lighter in the inter-scapular region, and changes to glossy greenish black on the lower back, rump, and thighs; the throat, fore neck, and all the underparts pure white. The wing-feathers are blackish brown with a greenish gloss, and the whole of the wing-coverts, as well as the outer feathers of the mantle, are rich vinous brown, with paler brown margins and tips, producing a very pretty effect; the inner secondaries are similarly tipped; and some of the outer scapulars have whitish margins; the tail-feathers are blackish brown with paler edges, becoming brownish white on the two middle ones, and with dark shafts changing to greyish white at the base. The lores are sparsely covered with very short vinous-brown feathers, and the membrane behind the eyes is partially studded in a similar way but with still smaller feathers. The bill is dark greyish horn-colour, and the legs and feet appear to have been originally orange, the colour having faded out in the dried skin. Total length 36 inches; wing, from flexure, 12·5; tail 6; bill, along, the ridge 2·75, along the edge of lower mandible 3·75; tarsus 2·25; longest toe and claw 4·5.

Obs. In the specimen described above the tail-feathers are much worn and abraded at the tips, the bird being a fully adult one and in changing plumage. The bill is more attenuated, or with a narrower gonys, than in any of our other species.

The specimen from which the above description is taken forms part of the fine collection of New-Zealand birds in the Otago Museum, and I understand that it was shot by Mr. Bourne on the ocean-beach near Dunedin, in January 1876.

It is marked, in Prof. Hutton’s handwriting, Phalacrocorax varius; but its somewhat superior size, the difference in the plumage of the upper surface, the slightly feathered lores, the absence of the facial spot of orange, and, more than all, the colour of its legs (which are yellow instead of being jet-black) to my mind render such an identification impossible. Indeed, the curator of the Museum informed me that Professor Hutton had himself expressed doubts on the subject.

There is an almost exactly similar specimen (from the Straits of Magellan) in the British Museum which has been referred to Phalacrocorax albiventris. I am not satisfied with this identification, because that species is described as “having a recurved crest and the caruncles on the front largely developed,” besides having a white alar bar, all of which characters are wanting in the British-Museum example.

I feel very uncertain as to whether this bird belongs to a species already described; but as I have been quite unable to identify it, I think I cannot do better, for the present at least, than connect with it the name of Professor F. W. Hutton, who has done so much towards elucidating the synonymy of this group, to say nothing of his numerous other contributions to New-Zealand ornithology.