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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Turnagra Crassirostris, — (South-Island Thrush.)

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Turnagra Crassirostris,
(South-Island Thrush.)

  • Thick-billed Thrush, Lath. Gen. Syn. ii. pt. 1, p. 34, pl. xxxvii. (1783).

  • Tanagra capensis, Sparrm. Mus. Carls. pl. 45 (1787).

  • Turdus crassirostris, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 815 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Lanius crassirostris, Cu, v. Regn. Anim. p. 338 (1817).

  • Campephaga ferruginea, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. d’Hist. Nat. x. p. 48 (1817).

  • Tanagra macularia, Quoy et Gaim. Voy. de 1′Astr. i. p. 186, pl. vii. fig. 1 (1830).

  • Keropia crassirostris, Gray, List of Gen. of B. p. 28 (1840).

  • Turnagra crassirostris, id. op. cit. p. 38 (1841).

  • Loxia turdus, Forst. Descr. Anim. p. 85 (1844).

  • Otagon turdus, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. i. p. 374 (1850).

  • Ceropia crassirostris, Sundev. Krit. Framst. Mus. Carls. p. 9 (1857).

  • Turnaqra turdus, Gray, Hand-1. of B. i. p. 284 (1869).

Ad. supra olivaceo-brunneus, pileo vix cinerascente irregulariter fulvo striato: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus, rufo terminatis, fasciam duplicem alarem exhibentibus: remigibus brunneis, extus dorsi colore marginatis, primariis ad basin rufo lavatis: supracaudalibus rufo tinctis, imis omnino rufs: cauda læte rufa, rectricibus duabus mediis et reliquarum apicibus olivaceo-brunneis: loris cum regione oculari genisque brunneis pallide rufo maculatis: regione parotica pileo concolore, anguste fulvo striata: subtus olivascens, gutture toto rufescente lavato, plumis medialiter fulvescentibus: pectoris plumis medialiter albidis, utrinque olivaceo marginatis, quasi striatis: pectore superiore vix rufescente lavato: hypochondriis magis olivascentibus; abdomine imo et subcaudalibus flavo lavatis: subalaribus rufis: rostro pedibusque saturate brunneis: iride flava.

Adult. General plumage olive-brown, darker on the upper parts; forehead, lores, throat, and sides of neck largely marked with rufous; breast, abdomen, and under tail-coverts covered with broad longitudinal spots of yellowish white, narrower towards the sides of the body; on the abdomen and under tail-coverts less of the olive-brown, with a strong tinge of yellow; wing-feathers dark olive-brown, dusky on their inner webs; the superior and lesser wing-coverts largely tipped with rufous, forming two broad transverse bars; lining of wings pale rufous; tail, for the most part, with the upper coverts bright rufous, the two middle feathers and the apical margins of the rest olive-brown, only slightly tinged with rufous. Irides yellow; bill and feet dark brown. Total length 11 inches; wing, from flexure, 5; tail 5; bill, along the ridge ·7, along the edge of lower mandible ·8; tarsus 1·25; middle toe and claw 1·15; hind toe and claw 1.

Young. May be distinguished from the adult by the larger amount of rufous colouring on the forehead, sides of the head, throat, and upper wing-coverts.

Obs. In some specimens the bend of the wing and the exterior edges of the outer primaries are also marked with rufous. The colour of the bill likewise varies, in different examples, from a light brown to dusky black.

This fine species is confined to the South Island. Formerly it was excessively abundant in all the elevated wooded country; but of late years it has become comparatively scarce, while in some districts page 32 it has disappeared altogether. This result is attributable, in a great measure, to the ravages of cats and dogs, to which this species, from its ground-feeding habits, falls an easy prey.

Sir James Hector informs me that, during his exploration of the West Coast in the years 1862-63, he found it very abundant, and on one occasion counted no less than forty in the immediate vicinity of his camp. They were very tame, sometimes hopping up to the very door of his tent to pick up crumbs; and he noticed that the camp-dogs were making sad havoc among them. He is of opinion that in a few years this species also will be numbered among the extinct ones.

Mr. Buchanan, of the Geological Survey, assures me that in the woods in the neighbourhood of Dunedin, where it was formerly very common, it has been quite exterminated by the wild cats. It may be here observed that there is no indigenous cat in our country; but ill-fed or ill-used members of the race, in the struggle for existence, frequently quit the settlers’ houses and betake themselves to the woods, where they, in course of time, produce a purely wild breed. To this cause is partly owing the almost entire extermination of the Quail and other ground species.

It is worthy of remark that Mr. Burton obtained a specimen on Stephens Island on the south side of Cook’s Strait.

The habits of this bird differ in no respect, so far as I am aware, from those of its congener in the North Island. The following incident is illustrative of its predaceous nature:—My brother, Mr. Fletcher Buller, while residing in Canterbury, obtained a live one from the woods, and placed it in a cage with a pair of tame Parrakeets (Platycercus novoe-zealandioe). On the following morning he found, to his dismay, that the newly introduced bird had slain both of his fellow prisoners, and was actually engaged in eating off the head of one of them|

There is a nest of this bird in the Canterbury Museum, obtained from the River Waio, County of Westland. It is a round nest, somewhat loosely constructed, composed of small, dry twigs, shreds of bark, fragments of moss, &c., with a rather large cup-shaped cavity, lined with dry grasses and other fibres. To all appearance it is carelessly, but nevertheless firmly, fixed in the forked twigs of a small upright branch. In the same collection there is another nest from Lake Mapourika, which is formed of soft green moss on a tapering foundation of small twigs, completely filling the crutch of a manuka fork and being fully a foot in depth. Another, formed externally of dry twigs, is of more irregular shape, but is likewise built in a forked branch as a means of support. The circular cup is neatly lined with dry bents. Mr. Potts, who studied this bird pretty closely in Westland, states that the nest is generally found among the thick foliage of the tutu (Coriaria ruscifolia), but sometimes in karamu or manuka, that it is sometimes finished off with soft tree-fern down as a lining, and that it usually contains two eggs; and he is of opinion that the bird breeds twice in the season. The Museum collection contains four specimens of the egg, which exhibit considerable difference in form. Two of them—probably from one nest—are very ovoido-conical; one of these measures 1·3 inch by 1·05 inch, and is pure white, marked at irregular distances over the entire surface with specks and roundish spots of blackish brown. The other is slightly narrower in form, the white is not so pure, and the markings are less diffuse, being collected into reddish-brown blotches towards the larger end. The other two eggs (apparently also from one nest) are of a long ovoido-elliptical form, and of equal size; the one I tested measuring 1·6 inch in length by ·95 of an inch in its widest part. The shell is pure white, with widely-scattered irregular spots of blackish brown, less numerous and of smaller size in one than in the other. Both eggs have a rather glossy surface.