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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Gerygone Sylvestis. — (Bush-Warbler.)

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Gerygone Sylvestis.

  • Gerygone sylvestris, Potts, Trans. N.-Z. Inst. 1872, vol. v. p. 177.

Ad. ♂ similis G. flaviventri, sed supra saturatior: tectricibus alarum nigris, extùs, flavido lavatis: remigibus brunneis, extùs flavido lavatis: subalaribus albidis: caudä, brunneä, nigro conspicuë transfasciatä, rectricibus duabus mediis nigris brunneo terminatis, duabus externis albidis conspicuë transfasciatis et brunneo terminatis: supracaudalibus schistaceo-nigris, flavido terminatis: rostro nigro, versus apicem flavicante: pedibus nigris, plantis flavicantibus: iride cruentatâ.

Adult male. “Upper surface dark olivaceous; wings smoky black, except first two feathers, outer webs fringed with yellow; cheek dark grey, darkest in a line from the gape through the eye; chin grey; neck and breast pale grey; abdomen white; under wing-coverts white; upper wing-coverts brown, margined with yellow; upper tail-coverts slaty black, tipped with yellow; tail brown, with a broad band of black, two centre feathers black, tipped with brown, four feathers on each side tipped with white on inner webs, pale brown on outer web, two outer feathers broadly barred with white, tipped with brown. Bill black; both mandibles horn-colour at the point; legs and feet black; inside of feet yellowish flesh; irides bright bloodred. Bill, from gape, 6 lines; wing from flexure 2 inches; tail 2 inches 2 lines; tarsus 9 lines; middle toe and claw 5 lines; total length 4 inches 5 lines. Male bird killed in full song, Dec. 20.” (Potts.)

The above Warbler, of which unfortunately no specimen exists in any collection, by which to test its value as a species, was first made known by Mr. T. H. Potts, who described it as above in a communication he made to ‘The Ibis’ in 1872 (p. 325), but without then proposing any name for it. He afterwards characterized it, under the name of Gerygone flaviventris, in the ‘Transactions of the New-Zealand Institute’; and, never having seen the bird, I have quoted his description of it.

The following is the account he gives:—“Whilst journeying in the dense bush which clothes the western slopes of the Middle Island, making acquaintance with the Kiwi and Kakapo, the note of a bird was heard that was new to us; it was evidently that of a Gerygone, but differed much from that of our familiar gully-haunting Warbler. The habitat was unusual, in the thick bush, between the bluff of Okarito and Lake Mapourika; whereas our little Riroriro delights in trilling from the shrubs on the creek-side or more open country, or in flitting about the bushy vegetation of the gullies that fringe or form the outskirts of a forest. Neither my son, who accompanied me, nor myself had ever heard a similar note. For the next few days, whilst rambling in that locality, we heard the same note repeatedly, and saw the birds, but we never observed one of them on the outside of the bush.”

Possibly to this species belongs the alpine bird mentioned by Mr. Reischek in a letter to myself, as having been met with by him during his trip to the west-coast sounds in search of Notornis:—“At Dusky Sound (on the 2nd July, 1884) I ascended one of the heavily wooded ridges, and on arriving at the top I heard a new bird. It was out of sight in the foliage of a tree, and got away before I could get a glimpse of it. Its call consists of three notes, like di-di-di, repeated several times. I went in search of it again but without success. I have been exploring in the New-Zealand forests for the last eight years and am familiar with all the birds’ notes; but this one was quite new to me, and was evidently produced by some small bird which I have not yet seen.”