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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Zosterops Cærulescens. — (The Silver-Eye.)

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Zosterops Cærulescens.
(The Silver-Eye.)

  • Coerulean Warbler, Lath. Gen. Syn. Suppl. ii. p. 169 (1801).

  • Zosterops coerulescens, Lath. Ind. Orn. Suppl. p. xxxviii (1801).

  • Sylvia lateralis, Lath. Ind. Orn. Suppl. p. lv (1801, nec Sund.).

  • Zosterops dorsalis, Vig. & Horsf. Trans. Linn. Soc. xv. p. 235 (1826).

  • Zosterops lateralis, Reich. Handb. Meropinae, p. 94, t. cccclxiii. (1852).

  • Zosterops coerulescens, Gould, Handb. B. of Austr. i. p. 587 (1865).

  • Zosterops lateralis, Buller, Birds of New Zealand, 1st ed. p. 80 (1873).

Native names.

Tau-hou, Whiorangi, Hiraka, Motingitingi, Kanohi-mowhiti, Karu-patene, Karu-ringi, Karu-hiriwha, Poporohe, and Iringatau.

Ad. pileo et facie laterali, dorso postico et uropygio, cum tectricibus alarum laetè flavicanti-olivaceis: interscapulio scapularibusque sordidè cinereis: remigibus et rectricibus brunneis, extùs dorsi colore limbatis: regione orbitali anticâ nigricante, annulo ophthalmico albo: gulâ albidâ vix flavicante tinctâ: gutture imo cinereo: abdomine medio et subcaudalibus albidis, his flavicante lavatis: corporis lateribus conspicuè badiis: rostro saturatè brunneo, mandibulâ ad basin albicante: pedibus et iride pallidè brunneis.

Adult. Crown, sides of the head, nape, upper surface of wings, rump, and upper tail-coverts bright yellowish olive; back and scapularies cinereous tinged with green; eyes surrounded by a narrow circlet of silvery-white feathers, with a line of black in front and below; quills and tail-feathers dusky brown, margined with yellowish olive; throat, fore neck, and breast greyish white, tinged more or less with yellow towards the angle of the lower mandible; abdomen and under tail-coverts fulvous white; sides pale chocolate-brown; lining of wings white, the edges tinged with yellow. Bill dark brown; under mandible whitish at the base; irides clear reddish brown; tarsi and toes light brown. Total length 5 inches; extent of wings 7·5; wing, from flexure, 2·5; tail 2; tarsus ·6; middle toe and claw ·6; hind toe and claw ·5; bill, along the ridge ·4, along the edge of lower mandible ·5.

Fledgling. Colours paler than in the adult; the throat and breast pale cinereous grey; the sides of the body fulvous brown; the white eye-circle absent, the orbits being still destitute of feathers; irides hazel-brown; tarsi and toes light flesh-colour; bill pale brown; rictal membrane yellow.

Obs. The sexes are precisely alike, the plumage of the female being in no way inferior to that of the male. Although I have examined a great number, I have only detected very slight variation in the adult birds. But. Archdeacon Stock, of Wellington, who is a good practical ornithologist, has favoured me with the following note on this subject:—“I saw on Friday last, November 11, at Wilkinson’s ‘tea-gardens’ (Wellington), what appeared to be a new variety of the Blight-bird. The white circle around the eye was not so distinct; and the head and throat were orange-coloured.”

The story of the irregular appearance of this little bird in New Zealand has for many years past been a fruitful topic of discussion among those who take an interest in our local natural history. Whether it came over to us originally from Australia, or whether it is only a species from the extreme south of New Zealand, which has of late years perceptibly increased, and has migrated northwards, is still page 78 a matter of conjecture*. The evidence which, with Sir James Hector’s assistance, I have been able to collect on this subject is somewhat conflicting; but I have myself arrived at the conclusion that the Silver-eye, although identical with the Australian bird, is in reality an indigenous species. The history of the bird, however, from a North-Island point of view is very interesting and suggestive. It appeared on the north side of Cook’s Strait, for the first time within the memory of the oldest native inhabitants, in the winter of 1856. In the early part of June of that year I first heard of its occurrence at Waikanae, a native settlement on the west coast, about forty miles from Wellington. The native mailman brought in word that a new bird had been seen, and that it was a visitor from some other land. A week later he brought intelligence that large flocks had appeared, and that the “tau-hou” (stranger) swarmed in the brushwood near the coast; reporting further that they seemed weary after their journey, and that the natives had caught many of them alive. Simultaneously with this intelligence, I observed a pair of them in a garden hedge, in Wellington, and a fortnight later they appeared in large numbers, frequenting the gardens and shrubberies both in and around the town. They were to be seen daily in considerable flocks, hurrying forwards from tree to tree, and from one garden to another, with a continuous, noisy twitter. In the early morning, a flock of them might be seen clustering together on the topmost twigs of a leafless willow, uttering short plaintive notes, and if disturbed, suddenly rising in the air and wheeling off with a confused and rapid twittering. When the flock had dispersed in the shrubbery, I always observed that two or more birds remained as sentinels or call-birds, stationed on the highest twigs, and that on the slightest alarm, the sharp signal-note of these watchers would instantly bring the whole fraternity together. The number of individuals in a flock, at that time, never exceeded forty or fifty; but of late years the number has sensibly increased, it being a common thing now to see a hundred or more consorting together at one time. They appeared to be uneasy during, or immediately preceding, a shower of rain, becoming more noisy and more restless in their movements. They proclaimed themselves a blessing by preying on and arresting the progress of that noxious aphis known as “American blight” (Schizoneura lanigera). They remained with us for three months, and then departed as suddenly as they had come. They left before the orchard-fruits, of which they are also fond, had ripened; and having proved themselves real benefactors they earned the gratitude of the settlers, while all the local newspapers sounded their well-deserved praises.

During the two years that followed, the Zosterops was never heard of again in any part of the North Island; but in the winter of 1858 it again crossed the strait, and appeared in Wellington and its environs in greater numbers than before. During the four succeeding years it regularly wintered with us, recrossing the strait on the approach of spring. Since the year 1862, when it commenced to breed with us, it has been a permanent resident in the North Island, and from that time it continued to advance northwards. Mr. Colenso, of Napier, reports that it was first seen at Ahuriri in 1862. On his journey to Te Wairoa, in that year, he saw it at Aropauanui, and found its nest containing four fledglings. The natives of that place told him that it was a new bird to them, they having first observed it there in the preceding year, 1861. The Hon. Major Atkinson, on the occasion of a visit, as Defence Minister, to the native tribes of the Upper Wanganui, in April 1864,

* The substance of the above article on Zosterops was read by the author before a meeting of the Wellington Philosophical Society on November 12th, 1870, and led to a discussion, in the course of which Dr. Hector made the following remarks:—“He said that on the south-west coast of Otago the bird was numerous, and there was very good evidence to show that this region was its native habitat. While exploring there, some years ago, he had remarked that the whole country was covered with forest, which extended down to the sea, and that the whole of the vegetation, both trees and shrubs, especially those near the sea-shore, seemed to have a coating of scaly insects, the entire bush being, in fact, covered with blight. He therefore thought it probable that as these birds increased from the superabundance of their particular food, they in course of time sent out migratory flocks, which worked their way up the coast, and at length spread over the country.”—Trans. N.-Z. Inst. 1870, vol. iii. p. 79.

page 79 made inquiries on the subject, and was informed by the natives that the Zosterops had appeared in their district for the first time in 1863.

As far as I can ascertain, they penetrated to Waikato in the following year, and pushed their way as far as Auckland in 1865. Major Mair, R.M., writing to me from Taupo in 1866, said:—“It is now to be seen, in flocks of from 10 to 30, all over the Taupo and Rotoiti districts; and all the natives agree that it is a recent arrival in these parts.” Professor Hutton reports that in the winter of 1867 they had spread all over the province, as far north as the Bay of Islands, and in 1868 he writes:—“They are now in the most northerly parts of this island.” That they have continued to move on still further northward would appear to be the case from the following suggestive notes by Mr. G. B. Owen:—“On my passage from Tahiti to Auckland, per brig ‘Rita,’ about 300 miles north of the North Cape of New Zealand, I saw one morning several little birds flying about the ship. From their twittering and manner of flying I concluded that they were land-birds, and they were easily caught. They were of a brownish-grey and yellowish colour, with a little white mark round the eye. I saw several pass over the ship during the day, travelling northwards. I arrived in Auckland a few days afterwards, on the 20th of May, when the so-called Blight-birds appeared here in such numbers, and I at once recognized them as the same.” Mr. Seed, the Inspector of Customs, has furnished me with the following interesting particulars bearing on the same point. When on an official visit to the lighthouse on Dog Island, situated about seven miles eastward of the Bluff, he was informed by the keeper that on one occasion a great number of these birds had killed themselves by striking against the lighthouse, either during the night or before the lights were put out in the morning, as he found them in scores lying dead in the gallery*. Mr. Seed could not ascertain positively the direction whence they came, but he understood that it was from the southward; and other inquiries at the time led him to conclude that they had come from Stewart’s Island, the extreme southern limit of New Zealand.

This tendency of migration northwards appears to me quite inconsistent with the idea of the species having come to us from Australia.

Now let us ascertain something of its recorded history in the South Island. Mr. Potts, says, in a letter to me:—“I first observed it (in Canterbury) after some rough weather, July 28, 1856. I saw about half a dozen specimens on some isolated black birch trees in the Rockwood valley in the Malvern Hills.” In the Auckland Museum there is a specimen of this bird, sent from Nelson by Mr. St. John (an industrious bird-collector) in 1856. The skin was labelled “Stranger,” and in the letter accompanying it Mr. St. John states that these birds had made their first appearance in Nelson that winter (the same in which they crossed to the North Island), and that “no one, not even the natives, had ever seen them before.”

On a visit to Nelson in the winter of 1860, I saw numerous flights of them in the gardens and shrubberies. The result of very careful inquiries on the spot satisfied me that since their first appearance there, in 1856, they had continued to visit Nelson every year, arriving at the commencement of winter, and vanishing on the approach of warmer days as suddenly as they had come. On every hand the settlers bore testimony to their good services in destroying the cabbage-blight and other insect pests.

About the middle of June 1861, I met with small flocks of this bird on the Canterbury Plains, evidently on their passage northward. I first observed them in the low scrub on the broad shinglebeds

* The fact that they continue their flight at night is very curious. I may mention that on a dark evening in August, about 8 p.m., I observed what seemed to be a large moth fluttering against the glass of a lamp-post on Wellington Terrace. Apparently stunned, or wearied out, it fell to the ground, and on picking it up I found it to be a Zosterops, which had evidently been attracted by the gas-light. Its poor condition indicated that it was a migrant, doubtless a straggler from one of the flocks, large numbers of these birds having about that time made their appearance on the northern side of Cook’s Strait.

page 80 of the Rakaia, advancing in a very hurried manner, not high in the air, as migrations are usually performed, but close to the ground, and occasionally resting. But that this bird is capable of protracted flight is evidenced by the form of its wings, which are of the lengthened, acuminate character common to most birds of passage.

During a visit to Dunedin, in the summer of 1860, the Rev. Mr. Stack observed numerous flocks in the gardens and thickets in the environs of the town. At this season they had disappeared from the Province of Canterbury and all the country further north. In the following summer (1861) I met with numerous stragglers in the northern parts of the Canterbury Province, and I understand from Mr. Potts that since that time it has been a permanent resident there, increasing in numbers every year. Mr. Buchanan, late artist to the Geological Survey Department, informs me that he observed the Zosterops at Otago, on his first arrival there in 1851, five years previous to its appearance in the North Island; and the following letters from correspondents go still further to prove that the species is an indigenous one there, and is only new to the country lying further north.

Mr. Newton Watt, R.M., of Campbell Town (Southland), writes as follows:—“Paitu, a chief here, and I believe the oldest man in the tribe, says it was always here. Howell says that he first noticed them on the west coast, about Milford Sound, in the year 1832, in flocks of thirty or forty, but never noticed them here (Riverton) till about 1863, when he saw them inland and in smaller flocks. On my way back from Riverton, I was mentioning it at the Club at Invercargill, and a gentleman present told me he had first noticed them, about eighty miles inland, about the year 1861, and that his attention was first called to them from the circumstance that they were gregarious,—a habit not common with New-Zealand birds. At Campbell Town it appeared to be more scarce, being seen only in small flocks, varying in number from six to twelve. In 1866 my sons noticed numbers of them among my cabbages, and observed that the cats caught many of them; and, further, that whilst my cabbages in the three preceding years were infested with blight, in that year there was little or no blight upon them till very late in the season. They appear to migrate from this locality in the winter, or at any rate to be scarce.”

Mr. James P. Maitland, R.M., of Molyneux, writes:—“From what I hear from old settlers of seventeen or eighteen years’ standing (whom I can trust as men of observation), I am convinced we have had the birds here for that time at any rate, although all agree that they have become much more numerous everywhere during the last seven years; and this year (1867) in particular I observe them in larger flocks than ever. I confess I do not recollect noticing the bird until about six years ago; but the smallness of their number at that time, and the smallness of the bird itself, may easily account for its being unnoticed in the bush. The gardéns seem to be the great attraction here, and they are the best hands I know at picking a cherry- or plum-stone clean!”

All my own personal inquiries at Otago, during my first visit there in February 1865, led me to the same conclusion.

Referring again to the migration of Zosterops from the South Island in 1856, it may, I think, be assumed that the large flights which came across Cook’s Strait made the island of Kapiti in their passage, and tarried there for a time before they reached the North Island. It will be remembered that the flocks which afterwards spread over the province appeared first at Waikanae and Paeka-kariki, on the lee shore from that island. I found Zosterops excessively abundant at Kapiti during a visit there in April 1875. Every bush swarmed with them, and sometimes fifty or more would crowd together in the leafy top of a stunted karaka, warbling and piping in chorus, producing sylvan music of a very sweet description. They appeared to be feeding on a species of Coccus that afflicts that tree.

The large numbers of these birds that appeared in flocks at Waikanae and Otaki in the early page 81 part of June of the same year would seem to indicate another incursion from the South Island at that date*.

The bird whose history has been so fully recorded in these pages being once fairly established among us, it has continued to increase and multiply, and now it disputes possession of our gardens and hedgerows with the introduced Sparrows and Finches, and indeed swarms all over the country. On my last visit to the Hot Lakes I found it extremely abundant everywhere; even amid the noxious fumes at Sulphur Point I met with small flocks flitting about in the stunted manuka scrub, and apparently quite at home in sulphuretted hydrogen! In the Bay of Plenty district it is particularly plentiful, so much so as to form an article of food to the natives. They are in season in the months of March and April, and are then collected in large numbers, singed on a bush fire to take the feathers off, and forthwith converted into huahua and potted in calabashes. The catching is effected in a very primitive way. The birds have their favourite trees upon which they are accustomed to congregate. Selecting one of these, the bird-catcher clears an open space in the boughs and puts up several straight horizontal perches, under which he sits with a long supple wand in his hand. He emits a low twittering note in imitation of the birds’, and, responding to the call, they cluster on the perches, filling them from end to end. The wand is switched along the perch, bringing dozens down together, and a boy on the ground below picks up the stunned birds as they fall. Captain Mair, when visiting Ruatahuna on one occasion, had brought to him, by two Urewera lads, a basket containing some five or six hundred of these little birds which had been killed in the manner described.

In front of the Rev. Mr. Spencer’s house at Tarawera, in a hedge of Laurustinus, scarcely six yards from the door, upwards of twenty nests of Zosterops were found at one time, each containing from three to five eggs (generally the former) of a lovely blue colour. Usually, however, these birds do not breed in communities, but scatter themselves in the nesting-season.

My son discovered a nest, containing three eggs, attached to a fern-stalk at the very edge of a boiling and steaming fumarole, near the White Terrace of Rotomahana, and suspended as it were in the midst of a perpetual vapour-bath.

In the selection of its breeding-home, this bird has manifested with us somewhat erratic tendencies: thus, for the first three or four years after its permanent location in the North Island, it wintered in the low lands and the districts bordering on the sea-coast, and retired in summer to the higher forest-lands of the interior to breed and rear its young. In the summer of 1865 a few stragglers were observed to remain behind all through the season, and in the following year they sojourned in flocks and freely built their nests in our shrubberies and thickets, and even among the stunted fern and tea-tree (Leptospermum) near the sea-shore. From that time to the present it has ranked as one of our commonest birds all the year round; and, what is even more remarkable, it has very perceptibly increased in numbers, whilst most of our other insectivorous birds are rapidly declining, and threaten ere long to be extinct.

To the philosophical naturalist the history of the Zosterops in New Zealand is pregnant with interest, and I feel that no apology is needed for my having thus minutely recorded it.

The natives distinguish the bird as Tau-hou (which means a stranger), or Kanohi-mowhiti (which may be interpreted spectacle-eye or ring-eye). It is also called Poporohe and Iringatau, names suggested by its accidental or periodical occurrence.

* Six years later, about the month of July, there was another irruption of the kind, the gardens and shrubberies in and around Wellington swarming with them, many hundreds often consorting together in one flock. On this occasion, they freely visited the poultry enclosures and back-yards in their search for food, and I have counted as many as thirty at one time exploring a drain-trap or clustering together on a discarded bone at the dog-kennel, and eagerly tearing off the particles of meat adhering to it. As a rule, they seemed to be unusually tame, as if weary after their long flight; and some of them, emboldened by hunger, entered the houses and outbuildings, whilst numbers fell victims to the remorseless cat.

page 82

By the settlers it has been variously designated as Ring-eye, Wax-eye, White-eye, or Silver-eye, in allusion to the beautiful circlet of satiny-white feathers which surrounds the eyes; and quite as commonly the “Blight-bird,” or “Winter-migrant.”

I have frequently watched the habits of this little bird, and with much interest. As already stated, it is gregarious, flying and consorting in flocks, except in the breeding-season, when they are to be observed singly or in pairs. As soon as a flock of them alights on a tree, or clump of brushwood, they immediately disperse in quest of food; and, on a cautious approach, may be seen prosecuting a very diligent search among the leaves and flowers, and in the crevices of the bark, for the small insects and aphides on which they principally subsist. I have opened many specimens, at all seasons, and I have invariably found their stomachs crammed with minute insects and their larvæ. In some I have found the large pulpy scale-insect (Coccus, sp.), of a dull green colour, which is commonly found adhering to the leaves of the ramarama (Myrtus bullata); also small caterpillars, grasshoppers, and coleoptera, and occasionally the small fruity seeds of Rubus australis and other native plants. In our orchards and gardens it regales itself freely on plums, cherries, figs, gooseberries, and other soft fruits; but it far more than compensates for this petty pilfering by the wholesale war it carries on against the various species of insects that affect our fruit-trees and vegetables. It feeds on that disgusting little aphis known as American blight, which so rapidly covers with a fatal cloak of white the stems and branches of our best apple-trees; it clears our early cabbages of a pestilent little insect that, left unchecked, would utterly destroy the crop; it visits our gardens and devours another swarming parasite that covers our roses and other flowering plants, to say nothing of its general services as an insectivorous bird. Surely, in return for these important benefits, to both orchard and garden, the flocks of Zosterops may justly be held entitled to an occasional feed, of cherries, or to a small tithe of the ripe fruits which they have done so much to defend and cherish!

It is very pretty to see a pair of them feeding together on a single berry of the poroporo (Solanum nigrum) or diligently scooping out the centre of a ripe fig, their ever-changing positions being very artistic.

A favourite resort of this bird in the early part of November is the kohia creeper (Passiflora tetandra), which covers much of the low scrub on the outskirts of the forest, and is at this time a mass of white bloom. The little bell-shaped flowers, which diffuse so much fragrance through the woods, being full of nectar, attract the little golden butterfly (Chrysophanus enysi) and swarms of gaily-coloured diptera. Here the Zosterops, in addition to the sip of honey, finds an abundance of its favourite insect food. When thus engaged, it emits a soft plaintive cry, repeated at short intervals; but on the wing, and especially when consorting in a flock, it utters a rapid twittering note. During the breeding-season the male indulges in a low musical strain of exquisite sweetness, but very subdued, as if singing to himself or performing for the exclusive benefit of his partner. This song is something like the subdued strain of the Korimako (Anthornis melanura), but much softer.

I have already mentioned the circumstance of a flock of these birds being generally attended by two or more sentinels or call-birds, who take their station on the topmost twigs, as a post of observation, and whose sharp signal-note instantly brings the whole fraternity together. On one occasion, while out pheasant-shooting at Wangaehu, the sound of my companion’s whistle, although more than 200 yards away, attracted the notice of a flock of Zosterops consorting together in the top of a lofty kahikatea tree. The call-birds gave the alarm, and the whole flock, amidst much clamour, ascended high in the air and disappeared behind a neighbouring hill. The sentinels appear to be always on the alert; and I have seen the same effect produced on a flock of these birds by the cry of a hawk, or any other suspicious sound, although there was no appearance of immediate danger.

If shot at and wounded it generally manages to escape capture by scrambling nimbly off into page 83 the thicket, hiding itself and remaining perfectly silent till the danger has passed. Frequent attempts have been made to keep it caged; but although it will readily feed, it seldom survives confinement many weeks. Only one instance of complete success has come to my knowledge. Mrs. Fereday, residing near Christchurch, kept several of them caged for upwards of two years; and I am indebted to that lady for the following amusing account of these captives:—They were adult birds when taken, but soon became reconciled to the restraints of a canary-cage, and partook readily of bread soaked in milk. They were interesting objects on account of their extreme display of mutual affection, as they were always caressing one another and preening each other’s feathers. This demonstration of affection, however, was at length carried too far, as one of them contracted a habit of pulling out his neighbour’s feathers, in order to suck the oily matter from the roots of the quills. The practice was commenced during the seasonal moult, when the pen-feathers were present, but was continued afterwards, till it became necessary to turn out the offender and introduce a wild bird in its place. But the practice soon became general, each bird plucking and submitting to be plucked in the most business-like manner. The operation was usually commenced on the neck, and it was very droll, said my informant, to see the bird holding its head up, as a man would sit to be shaved, while the feathers were plucked out one by one. The birds were then separated, but they manifested the utmost distress, crying plaintively and refusing their food. On the first opportunity they resumed their old habit, and at length one of them was plucked completely bare! Finding the case hopeless, Mrs. Fereday then liberated the birds in the garden, where they seemed to suffer from the colder temperature of the open air, and shortly disappeared altogether, probably falling victims to some predatory cat.

At the period when they were most plentiful at Wellington, an unaccountable mortality manifested itself; and in one particular locality, near Te Aro, sometimes as many as twenty dead ones were found in the morning under the Eucalyptus tree in which the flock had roosted for the night.

Mr. Colenso observes that “when they retire to roost they sleep in pairs, cuddling quite close together, like love-parrots; and before they fold their heads under their wings they bill and preen each other’s head and neck most lovingly, uttering at the same time a gentle twittering note.”

Mr. Potts informs me that, in Canterbury, this species begins nesting early in October. In one instance, within his own observation, the birds commenced incubation on October 16, the young were hatched on October 25, and left the nest on November 4. In the North Island the breeding-season is somewhat later. As late as the 24th of December I met with a nest in the Taupo-Patea country, containing two perfectly fresh eggs. The nest is a slight cup-shaped structure, with a rather large cavity for the size of the bird, and is generally found suspended by side-fastenings to hanging vines, or to the slender twigs of Leptospermum, Olearia, and other shrubs, and sometimes to the common fern (Pteris aquilina). The eggs are generally three in number (sometimes four), ovoido-conical in form, measuring ·7 of an inch in length by ·5 in breadth, and of a beautiful, uniform pale blue colour.

Nests of this species exhibit some variety, both as to structure and the materials of which they are composed. Of three specimens now before me, one is of slight construction and shallow in its cavity, composed externally of green-coloured lichen, spiders’ nests, the downy seed-vessels of the pikiarero (or flowering clematis), and a few dry leaves, lined internally with long horse-hair disposed in a circular form; another is of smaller size, more compact, composed externally of crisp dry moss, and internally of grass-bents with a few long hairs interlaced; while the third has the exterior walls constructed entirely of spiders’ nests and stiff fibrous mosses, the former predominating, and the interior lining composed wholly of long horse-hair.

At Akitio (in the North Island), where wild pigs are very plentiful, the Blight-birds habitually page 84 line their nests with pigs’ bristles, as a substitute for horse-hair, which is generally used by them in other parts of the country. In a multitude of cases I have found the cavity of the nest lined with long horse-hair intermixed with dry bents, all carefully twined together. An example in the Canterbury Museum has the cavity lined entirely with long horse-hair, and two other specimens in the same collection have a lining composed exclusively of fine grass-stems, carefully bent.

A specimen which I found suspended in a clump of creeping kohia was composed externally of the pale green and rust-coloured lichen so abundant on the branches of dead timber, intermixed with spiders’ webs, and lined inside with dry fibrous grasses, the whole being laced together with hair, the long straggling ends of which projected from every part of the nest; and another, which was obtained from the low brushwood bordering on the sea-shore, was built of sheep’s wool, spiders’ nests, pellets of cow-hair, and fine seaweed firmly bound together with long thread-like fibres, apparently the rootlets of some aquatic plant, and lined internally with fine grass-bents and soft feathers. Sometimes the nest is constructed wholly of bents and dry grass.

I have lately had an opportunity of examining a beautiful series of the nests of this species, and I remarked that through all the varieties of individual form and structure they presented these two essential features—the large cup-like cavity with thin walls, and the admixture of long hairs in the lining material. In one of the nests forming this series the proximity to civilization was proclaimed by a lining consisting of the flaxen hair from a child’s doll!

Zosterops is not, strictly speaking, a suctorial bird; but it is closely allied to the Tubilingues. The tongue has no brush, but ends in two short filaments; and, as shown by Dr. Gadow, in his ‘Account of the Suctorial Apparatus of the Tenuirostres,’ is far from being the complicated and elaborate organ generally exhibited in the tubular tongues of the Nectariniidæ and Meliphagidæ.

The genus has an extensive range, for, according to the British Museum Catalogue, its members are spread all over South Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, the entire Indian Peninsula and Ceylon, Burmese countries, the whole of China (extending into Amoor Land), Japan, Formosa, Hainan, Malay Peninsula, all the Indo-Malayan islands, Moluccas, New Guinea and the adjacent Papuan group, and (with few exceptions) throughout the islands of the great Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Gould states that Zosterops cœrulescens “is stationary in all parts of Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia, where it is not only to be met with in the forests and thickets, but also in nearly every garden.”

At the Chatham Islands, where it is now very abundant, it is said to have made its first appearance shortly after the great fire in Australia known as Black Thursday.