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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Platycercus Alpinus. — (Orange-Fronted Parrakeet.)

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Platycercus Alpinus.
(Orange-Fronted Parrakeet.)

  • Platycercus alpinus, Buller, Ibis, 1869, p. 39; Birds of New Zealand, 1st ed. Intr. p. xvi (1873).

Ad. P. auricipiti similis, sed minor, et fronte aurantiacâ, vertice pallidè flavo distinguendus.

Adult. Plumage bears a general resemblance to that of Platycercus auriceps; but the frontal band is orange and the vertex pale yellow; and there is an absence of the yellow element in the general plumage, which is of a cold pure green, much paler on the underparts; the rump-spots, moreover, are smaller and less conspicuous, being orpiment-orange instead of crimson. Extreme length 9 inches; wing, from flexure, 4·2; tail 4·5; culmen ·5; tarsus ·5; longer fore toe and claw ·85; longer hind toe and claw ·75.

Note. In treating of the members of this section in my former edition, I had recourse to Dr. Otto Finsch’s elaborate Monograph on the Parrots (‘Die Papageien’), a work the care and labour of which may be estimated from the fact that, of the 350 species described therein, all but 18 were examined by the author personally. Accepting the decision of so able an authority, I agreed to sink my Platycercus alpinus as a species, and to consider it the young state of P. auriceps (vide Birds of N. Z. 1st ed. pp. 61 & 62). The validity of the species, however, was afterwards established beyond all doubt. More than twenty specimens were brought to this country before the completion of my work; and I accordingly took the opportunity, when writing the Introduction, to rehabilitate the species (at page xvi) under the head of Platycercidæ.

This species is probably the bird mentioned by Latham as the “Buff-crowned Parrot.”

This form differs from its near ally (Platycercus auriceps) both in size and in the tints of its plumage; so that we have, thus far, three species of Platycercus presenting a distinct gradation in size and colouring. In P. novæ zealandiæ the frontal spot, ear-coverts, and rump-spots are deep crimson, while the general plumage is dark green. In the smaller species (P. auriceps) the frontal band is crimson and the vertex golden, while the general plumage is a warm yellowish green. In P. alpinus, which is smaller, again, than the last-named species, the frontal band is orange, and the vertex pale yellow, while there is a further modification of the body-plumage as described above. On comparing the bills of the two species the difference is very manifest, that of P. alpinus being fully one third less than that of P. auriceps. A fourth species has yet to be mentioned, in which a size intermediate between P. auriceps and P. alpinus is combined with the well-defined plumage of Platycercus novæ zealandiæ.

The present bird was originally described by me, under the above name, from specimens obtained in the forests of the Southern Alps, at an elevation of from 2000 to 2500 feet. In its native haunts it may be found frequenting the alpine scrub, in pairs or in small parties, and is very tame and fearless. It is by no means uncommon in the wooded hills surrounding Nelson.

Mr. Reischek met with this little Parrakeet in the scrub on the summit of Mount Alexander (above Lake Brunner); and he met with the species again on the Hen, where he shot two, and on the Little Barrier, where he observed another pair on the highest peak and killed the male. It does not exist on the opposite mainland, nor indeed, so far as I am aware, in any part of the North Island.

At Nelson I saw many caged birds of this species, and one in particular was remarkable for the clear manner in which it articulated the words “pretty Dick,” repeating them all day long in the most untiring way.