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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Puffinus Obscurus. — (Dusky Shearwater.)

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Puffinus Obscurus.
(Dusky Shearwater.)

  • Dusky Petrel, Lath. Gen. Syn. vi. p. 416 (1785).

  • Procellaria obscura, Gmel. Syst. Nat. i. p. 559 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Nectris obscura, Kuhl, Beitr. Zool. 1820, p. 147, pl. xi. fig. 11.

  • Puffinus obscurus, Bonap. Synop. 1828, p. 371.

  • Oymotomus obscurus, Macg. Man. Orn. 1844, ii. p. 13.

  • Puffinus obscurus, Salvin, Ibia, 1888, p. 357.

Ad. suprà brunnescenti-niger: facie laterali inferiore et corpore subtùs albis: subalaribus exterioribus et subcaudalibus externis cinerascenti-nigro variis: rostro nigro: pedibus flavicanti-brunneis: iride nigrâ.

Adult. Crown and sides of the head, hind neck, and entire upper surface brownish black; chin, fore neck, and entire under surface pure white; feathers covering inner edges of wings and the lateral under tail-coverts largely varied with slaty black; on the sides of the neck the dark plumage blends with the white of the under surface without any line of demarcation; wing-feathers uniform dark brown; tail-feathers black. Irides black; bill jet-black and slightly polished; legs and feet yellowish brown, shading into brownish black on the outer side of the tarsi and on the outer toes; claws black. Total length 13 inches; wing, from flexure, 8·2; tail 3·5; bill, along the ridge 1·3, along the edge of lower mandible 1·6; tarsus 1·4; middle toe and claw 1·8.

Obs. There is no observable difference in the sexes, except that the dark plumage in the female is duller.

Of this species Mr. Salvin writes (l.e.):—“A skin, said to have come from New Zealand, in our collection, belongs to the larger form of this species. It agrees with one from Manua, Samoa Islands, except that the crissum is white in the middle to its extremity, the sides alone being dusky. In the Samoa bird the central feathers of the crissum are dusky tipped with white. These differences can hardly be considered specific, seeing that considerable variation prevails in this respect when a large series of birds is examined. The smallest birds with the darkest crissum that I have seen are from the Pelew Islands.”

Like most of the Petrels, it has a peculiar cry. Of another species, described further on, the Rev. Mr. Eaton in his account of the habits of the birds in Kerguelen Island (Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 1879, p. 131) says:—“Occasionally late in the evening and during the night a piercingly shrill piping note, repeated singly at intervals of four or five seconds, used to be heard on the hills about Observatory Bay. Generally the sound changed its direction, showing that the bird which uttered it was flying. This call might be imitated on a piccolo-fife in the key of G or F. In its complete form it consists of a series of single notes separated by pauses of four seconds or more, followed by a jerky succession of notes in the same tone. One night the sound was traced to a crevice in a cliff beneath an immovable rock. The place was marked by a pile of stones, and visited the next morning. While efforts were being made to move the rock the bird within the recess became alarmed, and uttered a cry somewhat like that of a Kestrel-hawk in its tone, but not nearly so loud. On another night the sound was followed up to a hill. Every now and then the bird ceased piping, but it recommenced whenever the call was imitated with the lips. Its nook was therefore easily discovered; it was in a terrace on the hillside under a piece of rock. The stone was pulled away, the nesting-place laid open, and two birds in it disclosed, one of which escaped. The female was caught, and she proved to be a P. melanogaster.