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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Recurvirostra Novæ Hollandiæ. — (Red-Necked Avocet.)

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Recurvirostra Novæ Hollandiæ.
(Red-Necked Avocet.)

  • Recurvirostra novæ, hollandiæ, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. d’Hist. Nat. iii. p. 103 (1818).

  • Recurvirostra rubricollis, Temm. Man. d’Orn. ii. p. 592 (1820).

  • Avocetta novæ, zealandiæ, Ellman, Zool. 1861, p. 7470.

Id. pulchrè niveus, scapularibus imis nigricantibus: capite cum collo postico et laterali guttureque toto saturatè ferrugineis: pileo antico et vertice cinerascentibus, gulâ etiam albido variâ: tectricibus alarum minimis albis, medianis nigris, majoribus albis: remigibus nigricanti-brunneis, pennis minoribus et secundariis exterioribus albis: candâ albâ, pennis centralibus pallidè cinereis: subtùs niveus: rostro nigro: pedibus plumbescenti-nigris: iride rubrâ.

Adult. Head and about two thirds of the neck dark rufous, paler on the crown, and inclining to greyish brown towards the base of the bill; the inner scapulars, the first six primaries, and the longer secondaries, with their coverts, black, the latter tinged with brown; the effect produced in the closed wing being that of a black surface, with a narrow longitudinal bar of white; tail pale ash-grey; the rest of the plumage pure white. Irides red; bill black; legs and feet bluish black. Length 17·25 inches; wing, from flexure, 9; tail 4; bill, along the ridge, following the curvature, 3·75; bare tibia 1·5; tarsus 3·5; middle toe and claw 1·75; hind toe and claw 1·4.

Young. The young of the first year has the black of the upper surface deeply tinged with brown; across the shoulders, when the wings are closed, there is a horse-shoe mark of blackish grey; head and neck pale ashy brown, darker on the throat, and inclining to rufous on the nape and sides of the neck.

Obs. The sexes are exactly alike in plumage.

This beautiful Australian Avocet, to which I have restored Vieillot’s original name of Recurvirostra novæ hollandiæ, is an occasional visitant to our shores. In the summer of 1859–60 I saw a small flock of them far up the course of the Ashburton river, and again in a small lagoon near the township of Timaru, but, not having a gun with me, I was unable to secure any. In the same season a specimen was shot by Mr. French on the tidal flats near the mouth of the Kaiapoi river; and this, unfortunately, was allowed to perish. Three years later I met with a flock numbering five or six on the south-west coast of the Wellington Province. They were very shy, rising high in the air on my attempting to approach them, and taking their course for the opposite side of Cook’s Strait. Two specimens have been shot on the ocean-beach near Dunedin; and Dr. Richardson received another from the Whakatipu Lake, in the interior of the Otago Province. A solitary one was shot on the mud-flats near Whangarei some years ago; and the skin was preserved by Mr. George Burnett, who forwarded it to Europe. The specimen from which my description of the adult is taken was killed on the mud-flats near Christchurch in 1864.

From the same locality Mr. Sparkes afterwards obtained the young bird described above (which is now in the Canterbury Museum); also two more adults, in full plumage, one of which is now in my possession, and the other in Mr. Silver’s collection at Letcomb Manor.