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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Tachypetes Minor. — (Small Frigate Bird.)

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Tachypetes Minor.
(Small Frigate Bird.)

  • Lesser Frigate Pelican, Lath. Gen. Syn. iii. pt. 2, p. 590 (1785).

  • Pelecanus minor, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 572 (1788).

  • Tachypetes minor, Vieill. N. Dict. d’Hist. Nat. xii. p. 144 (1817).

  • Atagen ariel, Gray, Gen. of B. iii. p. 669, pl. 104 (1845, ex Gould MSS.).

  • Fregata minor, Buller, Birds of New Zealand, 1st ed. p. 342 (1873).

Exempl. ex N. Z. Nigricans, plus minusve purpureo et viridi nitens: dorsi plumis elongatis lanceolatis et pectore laterali nitidè viridibus aut purpurascentibus: tectricibus alarum cum hypochondriis brunneo tinctis: remigibus caudâque nigris, scapis rectricum exteriorum albis: rostro nigricanti-cano: plagâ gulari lætè-rubrâ, flavo tinctâ: pedibus brunnescenti-rubris: iride nigrâ.

New-Zealand specimen. General plumage black with bluish metallic reflexions, more or less distinct; the long lanceolate feathers of the back and on the sides of the breast brilliant, and changing from purple to green, according to the light; upper wing-coverts and sides of the body tinged with brown; quills and tail-feathers black, the shafts of the outermost tail-feathers white. Irides black; bill blackish grey; a bare membrane, an inch wide, and extending five inches down the throat, bright red tinged more or less with yellow; feet brownish red. Total length 36 inches; wing, from flexure, 23; tail, to middle of fork 7·25, to end of lateral feathers 15; bill, along the ridge 4·25, along the edge of lower mandible 3·6; greatest width of bill at the base 1·1; middle toe and claw 2·75; hind toe and claw 1.

This smaller species of Frigate bird, which roams over the seas washing the shores of the more tropical parts of Australia, has occurred at least once as a straggler on the New-Zealand coast, and is therefore entitled to a place in our list. A fine adult male was taken on the Wakapuaka beach in the early part of 1861; and the skin, which was fortunately preserved, now forms part of the collection of birds in the Nelson Museum.

Mr. Gould states that this species of Frigate bird is very abundant in Torres Strait; and the late Commander Ince, R.N., who, during the voyage of H.M.S. ‘Fly,’ was for some time stationed on Raine’s Islet, superintending the erection of a beacon there, has given the following interesting particulars as the result of his own observations on this unfrequented rock:—” We found this bird breeding in colonies at its S.W. corner, the nest being composed of a few small sticks collected from the shrubs and herbaceous plants, which alone clothe the island, and placed either on the ground or on the plants a few inches above it. The eggs, which are generally one, but occasionally two in number, are of a pure white, not so chalky in appearance as those of the Gannet, and nearly of the same shape at both ends. Upon one occasion I killed the old birds from a nest that contained a young one; on visiting the spot I found the young bird removed to another nest, the proprietors of which were feeding it as if it had been their own; I am sure of this fact, because there was no other nest near it containing two young birds.”