A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Œstrelata Incerta. — (Doubtful Petrel.)
Procellaria incerta, Schl. Mus. Pays-Bas, Procell. p. 9 (1863).
Æstrelata incerta, Coues, Proc. Phil. Acad. 1866, p. 147.
Ad. suprà saturatè fuliginoso-brunneus, alis obscurioribus: pileo colloque dorso concoloribus: subtùs albus: subcaudalibus apicaliter nigricanti-brunneis: rostro nigro: pedibus aurantiacis, digitis et membranis apicaliter nigricantibus: unguibus nigris.
Adult. Head, neck all round, and all the upper surface dark sooty brown, deepening to brownish black on the wings and tail; the feathers of the back and the small wing-coverts narrowly margined with pale brown; in front of the eyes an obscure mark of black; breast and abdomen pure white; sides of the body stained with slaty grey; inner lining of wings uniform blackish brown; under tail-coverts, especially the longer ones, blackish brown in their apical portion. Bill black; legs and feet orange-yellow, the outer toe and the interdigital webs, beyond the second joint, brownish black. Total length 19 inches; wing, from flexure, 12·75; tail 5·5; bill, along the ridge 1·9, along the edge of lower mandible 2; tarsus 1·75; middle toe and claw 2·5.
This is a species that may with certainty be regarded as inhabiting the New-Zealand seas, although it may not be more plentiful than its near ally, Æ. lessoni.
Dr. Schlegel describes its range thus—“Southern Oceans: New Zealand, Australia, and New Caledonia”; and there is a specimen in the Leyden Museum labelled as having come from New Zealand.
Dr. Coues thinks it likely that this bird will prove to be the young of Æstrelata lessoni; but Mr. Salvin accepts it as a valid species, and the specimen in the British Museum from which I have taken my description appears to be a perfectly adult bird.
This species has not often been recorded, but this is hardly surprising when one considers the nature of its habitat. After a voyage by sailing-vessel from New Zealand to London, Sir James Hector wrote to me:—“I have been rather surprised at the small number of birds we have seen. For some days out from New Zealand we had Diomedea melanophrys and another small species with a white head and mottled body. These were very common near the Bounty Islands, but were not seen afterwards. The Mollymawks we had till we reached the South Tropic. It was not till we rounded the Horn that we saw any D. exulans or D. fuliginosa. The latter species I am positive we never saw in the Pacific, as it is so easily recognized by the blue streak on the mandibles. It is very abundant between the Falkland Islands and latitude 30° S. Thalassidroma nereis followed us almost to the Horn; but after entering the Atlantic T. melanogastra took its place, at first in large flocks, but since latitude 50° S. only a few stragglers have been seen. In the Pacific I saw one Lestris, and large flocks of ‘Whale-birds,’ as the sailors call them, which were the Blue Billy (Prion turtur); but in the South Atlantic we met flocks of another but larger-sized grey bird, which they also called ‘Whale-birds.’ These were evidently Procellaria glacialoides. We never saw a Cape-Pigeon during the voyage. Where can they be at this season—February to March? Only two Tropic-birds, one Frigate-bird, and a few Noddies were seen near St. Paul’s Rocks, and these complete the list of birds.”