Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Glaucopis Cinerea. — (Orange-Wattled Crow.)

page break

Glaucopis Cinerea.
(Orange-Wattled Crow.)

  • Cinereous Wattle-bird, Lath. Gen. Syn. i. p. 364, piv. xiv. (1781).

  • Glaucopis callœas, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 363 (1788).

  • Cryptorhina, callœas, Wagl. Syst. Av. Cryptorhina, sp. 5 (1827, ex Forster, MSS.).

  • Callœas cinerea, Forster, Descr. Anim. p. 74 (1844).

Native name.—Kokako.

Ad. Similis G. wilsoni, vix saturatior, paullò minor: carunculis aurantiacis ad basin tantùm cyaneis distinguendus.

Adult. Similar in plumage to G. wilsoni, but with less of the brown tinge on the lower parts, and the tail-feathers blackish towards the tips. It is readily distinguished, however, by the colour of the wattles, which are of a rich orange, changing sometimes to vermilion, and blue at the base. Irides blackish brown; bill and feet black. Total length 16 inches; wing, from flexure, 6·25; tail 7; bill, along the ridge 1·25, along the edge of lower mandible 1; tarsus 2·5; middle toe and claw 2·15; hind toe and claw 1·5.

Partial albino. There is an interesting specimen in the Colonial Museum, which was obtained by Mr. Henry Travers at the foot of Mount Franklin, in the Spencer ranges, in January 1869. The general plumage as in ordinary specimens; hind head, sides and fore part of neck, and the whole of the back largely marked with pure white: one or two of the quills in each wing are either wholly or partially white, and there are a few scattered white feathers on the sides, abdomen, and thighs.

This species is the South-Island representative of Glaucopis wilsoni, to which it bears a general resemblance, except in the colour of its wattles and its rather smaller size. Like the North-Island species also, its distribution is very irregular: thus, in Otago, Dr. Hector found it very plentiful on Mount Cargill and in a strip of bush near Catlin river, but never in the intervening woods; while in the Nelson provincial district, as I a am informed by Mr. Travers, its range is exclusively restricted to certain well-defined localities, although the berries on which it is accustomed to feed abound everywhere. It is said to be very abundant on some of the wooded ranges of Westland, and Sir J. von Haast has obtained numerous specimens from the Oxford ranges in the provincial district of Canterbury.

I ought to add that, in the summer of 1867, one of these birds was seen by Major Mair at Te Mu, near Lake Tarawera, in the North Island. He followed it for some distance, in the low scrub, and got near enough to obtain a good view and to observe its bright orange wattles.

The habits of this bird differ in no essential respect from those of the preceding species. Mr. Buchanan, of the Geological Survey, has mentioned to me a very curious circumstance frequently observed by himself at Otago: he has seen these birds travelling through the bush on foot, Indian fashion, sometimes as many as twenty of them in single file, passing rapidly over the ground by a succession of hops, and following their leader like a flock of sheep; for, if the first bird should have occasion to leap over a stone or fallen tree in the line of march, every bird in the procession follows suit accordingly!

I saw a pair of caged ones at Hokitika, in the possession of Mr. MNee, who told me that he had snared them in the woods with perfect ease. They were apparently quite reconciled to confinement, hopping from perch to perch in a very lively manner, and occasionally meeting to utter a low chuckling page 6 note, as if in confidential intercourse. I observed that they usually carried the wattles firmly compressed under the rami of the lower jaw.

One of the many interesting discoveries, since the publication of my first edition, has been the finding of the nest and eggs of the Orange-wattled Crow. The Canterbury Museum contains two nests of this bird, both of which were obtained at Milford Sound.

One is a massive nest, with a depth of eight inches, composed of rough materials, but with a carefully finished cup. The foundation consists of broken twigs, some of them a quarter of an inch in diameter, and placed together at all angles, so as to form a compact support; over this a layer of coarse moss and fern-hair, to the thickness of two inches or more; then a capacious well-rounded cup, lined with dry bents, intermixed with fern-hair. The general form of the nest is rounded, but at one end of it the twig foundation is raised and produced backwards, for what purpose can only be conjectured*. The other is of similar construction, composed of numerous broken twigs, intermixed with dry moss, and the projection is as conspicuous as in the former, extending some eight inches beyond the nest proper, which is about a foot in diameter. The cup-shaped depression is shallower than in the other, but has the same thick lining of dry grass. This nest was, I am informed, found among the branches of a totara overhanging a stream of water, in the month of January, and contained at that time young birds. The other nest also was discovered in the vicinity of water.

Two eggs of this species, collected by Docherty on the west coast, were presented by Mr. Potts to the Canterbury Museum, where I had an opportunity of examining them. They are of a regular ovoido-conical form, one of them being slightly narrower than the other, measuring, respectively, 1·60 by 1·15, and 1·66 by 1·10 inches. They are of a dark purplish grey, irregularly spotted and blotched with dull sepia-brown. These spots and markings are thicker and more prominent at the larger end, and of various shades, the lighter ones fading almost to purple and presenting a washed-out appearance.

Mr. W. D. Campbell has published an account of two nests which he found, in the month of February, in the low bush which covers the river-flats of Westland. One of these nests contained an egg, and the other two nearly-fledged birds. The nests, which were built in the branches of the Coprosma scrub, about 9 feet above the ground, measured 15 inches externally, were somewhat loosely constructed of twigs and roots, and had a well-formed cup-shaped interior, lined with pineroots and twigs. He kept the two young birds for some weeks in a cage for the purpose of studying their habits. During life their wattles were of a light rose tint, changing into a violet colour towards the base; but after death, when their skins were dried, the wattles assumed a dull orange tint.

* In connection with the above I may mention that in the Canterbury Museum there is a much larger nest, from Australia, exhibiting the same form of construction in a more pronounced degree. It was presented by the Baron A. von Hügel, who obtained it at Dandenong, Mount Victoria, and who assigns the structure to the Lyre-bird (Menura superba). It is composed chiefly of twigs and small sticks, some of them half an inch in diameter, laid together in a compact mass. The cavity is deep, rounded, and lined with soft fern-fronds, some of which are also interlaced with the framework of the nest. Its width on the outside is only 15 inches; but, owing to its extension backwards, its length is 2 feet 6 inches. The cup is situated at the proximal end, where the nest is more compact and somewhat raised, but without any appearance of a dome.

The author of ‘Out in the Open’ describes, at p. 195, the finding of five nests, at heights varying from ten to seventeen feet from the ground, in the bush that fringes Milford Sound. This was in the month of January, and one of the nests contained two young birds, apparently just hatched. “They were partially clothed with slate-coloured down, which on the cranium stood up like a broad crest, or rather crown; the neck and underparts were quite bare; beaks flesh-colour, with a greenish tinge about the point of the upper mandible; rictal membrane pale greenish, changing to blue; wattles rosy pink, like an infant’s hand; legs and feet slatish anteriorly, dull flesh colour behind; claws dull white. The old bird suffered a close inspection of its home and its inmates without uttering any alarm-cry or showing any signs of defending its young.”

Trans. New-Zealand Instit. 1879, vol. xii. pp. 249, 250.