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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Diomedea Culminata. — (Grey-Headed Albatros.)

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Diomedea Culminata.
(Grey-Headed Albatros.)

  • Diomedea chlororhynchos, Aud. Orn. Biogr. v. p. 326 (1839, nec Gm.).

  • Diomedea culminata, Gould, Ann. N. Hist. xiii. p. 361 (1844).

Ad. similis D. chlororhynchæ, sed pileo colloque totis pulchrè cinereo lavatis: culmine et gonyde sordidè flavis: pedibus flavicanti-albis.

Juv. similis adulto, sed pileo colloque saturatiùs cinereis: rostro nigro, culmine medialiter flavicante et gonyde obscurè corneâ.

Adult. Plumage similar to that of D. chlororhyncha, but having the whole of the head and neck washed with delicate slaty grey, and the feathers of the back and mantle more or less margined with brown. Bill black, with the ridge of the upper mandible, and the lower edges of the under mandible, to the junction of the crura, dull yellow; legs and feet yellowish white. Total length 31·5 inches; wing, from flexure, 20; tail 7·5; bill, along the ridge 5, from the gape to the extremity of lower mandible 4·75; tarsus 3·25; middle toe and claw 4·75.

Young. Has the head and neck dark grey; the space between the upper mandible and the eyes, as well as a mark above the latter, of a deeper shade; beneath the posterior side of the lower eyelid a light grey mark; the cheeks whitish; bill black, with indications of yellow in the middle portion of its ridge, and with the outer edges of the lower mandible horn-coloured towards the base; legs and feet yellowish white.

Obs. A specimen from Blueskin Bay, in the Otago Museum (sex ♂), is an exceptionally handsome bird, the delicate shading of French grey on the head and neck being really exquisite. There is another specimen in the Otago Museum in which the head and entire neck are dark grey, changing to white on the cheeks, and deepening into sooty brown on the shoulders and mantle; upper surface of wings sooty black; tail sooty grey with white shafts; breast and sides more or less marked and washed with grey; rump and abdomen pure white.

In the Canterbury Museum there is a young bird of this species, which was picked up on the ocean-beach somewhere between the mouths of the Avon and Waimakariri rivers, and another, in adult plumage, more recently presented by Mr. Hugh O’Neill. My description of the youthful state is taken from the first-named specimen, and that of the adult from a very fine example in the British Museum. Mr. Gould writes:—“I frequently observed it between Sydney and the northern extremity of New Zealand; and it also occurred in the same latitude of the Indian Ocean as abundantly as any of its congeners. It is a powerful bird, and directly intermediate in size between Diomedea cauta and D. chlororhyncha. The specific differences of the three species are so apparent that I had no difficulty whatever in distinguishing them while on the wing. In D. chlororhyncha the bill is more compressed laterally, the culmen is round, and the yellow colouring terminates in an obtuse point midway between the nostrils and the base; while in D. culminata the culmen is broad and flat, and has its greyish yellow colouring continued of the same breadth to the base; the feet of the latter are also fully a third larger than those of the former. The habits, mode of life, and the kind of food partaken of by the D. culminata are so precisely similar to those of its congeners that a separate description would be a mere repetition of what has already been said respecting the preceding species.”