The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.
2. Demiegretta sacra. — Reef Heron
2. Demiegretta sacra.
Ardea sacra, Gmel. Syst. Nat., Vol. ii. p. 640 (1788); Finsch, Ibis, 1880. pp. 432, 433 (Gilbert Islands).
Herodias jugularis, G. R. Gray, List Spec. Bds. Brit. Mus., p. 80 (1844); Gould, Bds. Austr. Vol. vi. pi. 60 (1848).
Herodias greyi, G. R. Gray, List Spec. Bds. Brit. Mus., p. 80 (1844); Gould, Bds. Austr. Vol. vi. pi. 61 (1848).page 82
One adult specimen obtained on the reefs near the village. Throat whitish, remainder of the plumage dark slate-colour. Fairly common on the reefs and beaches, specimens being seen in all stages of plumage, white, dark slate colour, and particoloured birds. Dr. Finsch, who met with this species in the Gilberts, writes as follows in his interesting "Letters from the Pacific"*:—
" Ardea sacra was more plentiful than in the Marshalls, and on some places not at all shy, coming close to the huts of the natives and perching on the neighbouring trees. That white and slate-coloured specimens belong to one and the same species is a well known fact, which I confirmed formerly by the investigation of full materials received from the Pacific, and which I can now verify from my own experience. In Butari-tari I saw uniformly white birds going always in pairs; I also saw pairs, undoubtedly male and female, of which the one was white the other slate-coloured, or both of the latter colour or mixed with white. There seems to be no regularity of sex or age, for even birds in the dirty pale slate garb, which I always took for the first plumage, proved to be old.
When on Tarowa, 12th December, a gentleman of the vessel went out shooting, and brought home six specimens ? there were two males slate-coloured, one female white, spotted with slate, one female uniformly white, All the females, even one which I thought to be a young bird, had very small ovaries, but a large patch destitute of feathers (a so-called breeding patch) covering the whole belly. The gentleman told me that he had met a whole colony of this Heron in some shrubs, and that he felt sure they would have nests there. We intended to visit the spot again, but were disappointed, for the vessel was not going in pursuit of eggs and birds but natives, and to make a harvest the brig had to leave, so we could not remain behind."
This species has been found breeding on the small islets lying off the north-east coast of Australia, also on the islands of Bass Strait. The nests are built of small sticks and are placed in low trees, or are constructed of coarse grasses and hidden under the shelter of an overhanging ledge of rock. The eggs are of a pale greenish-white, and vary in shape from a true ellipse to swollen oval, an average specimen measures 1·95 × 1·4 in. Nests found by Mr. Macgillivray on the islands off" the north-east coast of Australia and Torres Strait contained two eggs for a sitting, those found by Mr. J. A Boyd in Fiji had three eggs, while nests found by Dr. Holden on the islands adjacent to the north-west coast of Tasmania, contained from two to four eggs for a sitting. Three, however, is the usual number laid in the latter locality.
* Ibis, 1880, p. 432.