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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Miro Traversi. — (Chatham-Island Robin.)

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Miro Traversi.
(Chatham-Island Robin.)

  • Miro traversi, Buller, Birds of New Zealand, 1st ed. p. 123 (part ii.), June 1872.

  • Petroica traversi, Hutton, Ibis, July 1872, p. 245.

Ad. omninò niger, remigibus et rectricibus paullò brunnescentioribus: rostro nigro: pedibus nigris, plantis flavis: iride saturatè brunneâ.

Adult male. The whole of the plumage black, the base of the feathers dark plumbeous; wing-feathers and their coverts tinged with brown, the former greyish on their inner surface; tail-feathers black, very slightly tinged with brown. Irides dark brown; bill black; tarsi and toes blackish brown, the soles of the feet dull yellow. Total length 6 inches; wing, from flexure, 3·4; tail 2·6; bill, along the ridge ·5, along the edge of lower mandible ·7; tarsus 1·1; middle toe and claw 1; hind toe and claw ·8.

Female. Slightly smaller than the male, and without the brown tinge on the wings and tail.

This species was discovered by Mr. Henry Travers during an exploratory visit to the Chatham Islands in 1871. Through the courtesy of His Excellency Sir George Bowen (who forwarded them in his despatch-box to the Colonial Office), I received specimens of the male and female in time to include this bird, in its systematic order, in my former edition. In dedicating the species to the enterprising naturalist who had discovered it, I thus unavoidably anticipated Professor Hutton, who had proposed the same name for it, but did not publish his description till after mine had appeared.

Mr. Travers supplies the following note respecting it:—“I only found this bird at Mangare, where it is not uncommon. It is very fearless, possessing in other respects the habits of Petroica albifrons and P. longipes. Its ordinary note is also the same, but I did not hear it sing. It appears to be specially obnoxious to Anthornis melanocephala, which always attacks it most savagely when they meet.”

This form appears to be the small degenerate representative of the New-Zealand Robin, which, strangely enough, does not occur in the Chatham Islands; but it is even more remarkable still that, so far as our information goes, the present bird is not found either on the main island or on its satellite, Pitt Island, being confined exclusively to Mangare, which is described as a mere rocky slet covered with low rigid scrub.

The antipathy, mentioned by Mr. Travers, on the part of Anthornis melanocephala towards this species is quite unaccountable, because the ordinary habits of the two birds do not conflict in any way, whilst between Anthornis melanura and the Robin in New Zealand the most perfect amity exists. Possibly the pugnacious habit has been developed by the insular nature of its environment, and the more severe conditions of life in the struggle for existence.

It may be here stated that the Chatham Islands, to which frequent reference will be made in the course of this work, are situated about 450 miles eastward of New Zealand, in lat. 42° S. The group consists of Wharekauri, about seventy miles in extent, shaped like an isosceles triangle, and presenting a low diversified surface of bush, lake, and open land, with much fertile soil; Pitt Island, about ten miles in circumference, separated from the main island by a deep channel, and now occupied by a sheep-farmer; Mangare, the home of Miro traversi, as mentioned above; South-east Island and other small rocky satellites, which are uninhabited.