A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Fam. PLATALEIDÆ — Platalea Melanorhyncha. — (Royal Spoonbill.)
Platalea melanorhynchos, Reich. Av. Syst. Nat. pl. lxxxiv. Grall. (ex A. B. Reich. 1834).
Platalea regia, Gould, Proc. Zool. Soc. part v. p. 106 (1837).
Platalea latirostrum, Ellman, Zoologist, 1861, p. 7469.
Platalea regia, Buller, Trans. N.-Z. Inst. vol. ix. p. 337 (1877).
Ad. omninò albus: occipite et nuchâ cristatis, plumis pendentibus ornatis: fronte, facie anteriore et gulæ plumis anticè nudis: maculâ supraoculari et alterâ frontali aurantiacis: pectore flavo lavato: iride rubrâ: rostro et pedibus nigris.
Juv. similis adulto, pectore excepto, sed minimè cristatus.
Adult. The whole of the plumage pure white, with a wash of yellow on the breast. Irides red; on the bare crown and over each eye a crescentic mark of orange; bill, bare membrane on the face, legs, and feet black. Total length 37 inches; extent of wings 50·5; wing, from flexure, 15·5; tail 5; bill, along the ridge 8, along the edge of lower mandible 7·5, width at base 1·3, widest part 2·2, narrowest part ·7; bare tibia 4; tarsus 5·5; longest toe and claw 4·25.
Obs. Some adult examples have no tinge of yellow on the breast. In the nuptial season both sexes are adorned with a full occipital crest of gracefully drooping plumes five inches in length. The young are entirely crestless.
Mr. Ellman, in 1861, reported that a Spoonbill was known to the Maoris residing at Castle Point under the above native name, signifying the “White Heron with a flat bill,” and he proposed, but without sufficient authority, to give it a distinctive title as Platalea latirostrum.
The Royal Spoonbill is tolerably common on the eastern and northern coasts of Australia, and (according to Gould), although a very rare visitant, it has also been killed within the colony of New South Wales. The first authentic record of the occurrence of this fine bird in New Zealand was furnished by myself at a meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society on the 29th July, 1876, when I exhibited a fresh-skinned specimen and made some remarks upon it (l, c.).
This bird, which I afterwards presented to the Colonial Museum, was obtained at Manawatu, and kindly forwarded to me by Mr. Charles Hulke, of Foxton, accompanied by the following interesting notes:—“This Spoonbill was shot in April last, near the mouth of the Manawatu river, by Mr. Blake. It was sitting on the sand in company with three Paradise Ducks (Casarca variegata)… . . This bird had been seen for some five or six months about the lagoons in the vicinity of Mr. Robinson’s homestead. By his sons it had been taken for a White Shag. Only one had been seen by them, but I have been informed by a person who is in the habit of crossing the country between Foxton and Rangitikei, that he is confident he has seen another specimen near the Rangitikei river. No other specimen was, however, seen in company with that sent herewith.”