Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Aptenodytes Longirostris. — (King Penguin.)

page break

Aptenodytes Longirostris.
(King Penguin.)

  • Patagonian Penguin, Penn. Phil. Trans. lviii. p. 91, pl. 9 (1768).

  • Le Manchot de la Nouvelle Guinée, Sonn. Voy. N. Guin. p. 180, pl. 113 (1776).

  • Apterodita longirostris, Scop. Del. Faun. et Flor. Insubr. ii. p. 91, no. 69 (1786).

  • Aptenodytes patachonica, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 556 (1788).

  • Pinguinaria patachonica, Shaw, Nat. Misc. xi. pl. 409 (1800).

  • Aptenodytes pennantii, Gray, Ann. N. H. 1844, p. 315.

  • Spheniscus pennantii, Schl. Mus. P.-B. Urinatores, p. 3 (1867).

  • Aptenodytes longirostris, Coues, Pr. Phil. Acad. 1872, p. 193 *.

Ad. pileo gulâque et facie laterali nigris: collo postico tergoque pallidè cyanescentibus, dorso et uropygio saturatioribus: plagâ latâ aurantiacâ a regione paroticâ posticâ per latera colli angustante, et gulam nigram marginante: colli lateribus cyanescentibus, antice latè nigro marginatis: jugulo medio aurantiaco: corpore reliquo subtùs omninò sericeo-albus, pectoris lateribus dorso concoloribus: alis cinereis, remigibus seriatim cinereo terminatis, margine alari summo nigricante: caudâ nigrâ: rostro nigro, mandibulis rubescenti-flavis, versus apicem nigricantibus: pedibus nigris.

Adult male. Crown, sides of the head, and throat jet-black; spatulate spot on each side of hind head, line down the sides, and the upper part of fore neck deep golden yellow, fading gradually away on the lower part of fore neck; hind neck and general upper surface pale blue, deepening on the back and rump, each feather with a dark centre; underparts yellowish white. From the crown a narrow fringe of black separates the yellow already described from the blue of the nape, and, continuing downwards as far as the wings, spreads outwards till it is an inch in extent. Irides brown; bill black, the flattened sides of the lower mandible (up to within an inch and a half of its extremity) reddish yellow; feet and claws black. Total length 36 inches; length of flipper 11; tail 3·5; bill, along the ridge 3·5, along the edge of lower mandible 4; tarsus 2; middle toe and claw 4.

Nestling. Covered with very dense fine down of a uniform yellowish-brown or dark buff colour in some, while in others it is many shades darker, or dull blackish brown. There is no difference in the appearance of the sexes at this stage.

Obs. There is a specimen (from Macquarie Island) in the Otago Museum in which the colour on the fore neck is a vivid canary-yellow, fading off downwards towards the breast; the head and throat glossy black, so also is the line along the sides dividing the two colours; the plumage of the back is a pale silvery blue; bill black, sides of lower mandible bright yellowish brown; feet black; irides represented as bright yellow.

The specimen of this noble Penguin in my collection from which my description is taken was obtained on Stewart’s Island, where this bird is extremely rare.

page 307

Professor Moseley gives the following account (Voy. Chall., Zool. vol. ii. p. 123) of the breeding-habits of this Penguin at Marion Island in December 1883:—

“Most interesting, however, by far amongst all rookeries of Penguins which I have seen was one of the King Penguins, which I met with a little further along the shore. The rookery was in a space of perfectly flat ground of about an acre in extent. It was divided into two irregular portions, a larger and smaller, by some grassy mounds. The flat space itself had a filthy black slimy surface, but the soil was trodden hard and flat. About two thirds of the space of one of the portions of the rookery, the larger one, was occupied by King Penguins, standing bolt upright, with their beaks upturned, side by side, as thick as they could pack, and jostling one another as one disturbed them… . . Penguins were to be seen coming from and going to the sea from the rookery, but singly, and not in companies like the Crested Penguins. The King Penguins when disturbed made a loud sound like ‘urr-urr-urr.’ They run with their bodies held perfectly upright, getting over the ground pretty fast, and do not stop at all. A good many were in bad plumage, moulting, but there were plenty also in the finest plumage. On the small area of the rookery, which consisted of a flat space sheltered all round by grass slopes, and which formed a sort of bay amongst these, communicating with the larger area by two comparatively narrow passages, was the breeding-establishment.

“These birds are said by some observers to set apart regular separate spaces in their rookeries for moulting, for birds in clean plumage not breeding, and again for breeding-birds. Here the breeding-ground was quite separate, and the young and breeding-pairs were confined to this smaller sheltered area. This was the only King-Penguin rookery which I saw in full action.”

The Rev. Mr. Eaton writes (Zool. Kerg. Isl. p. 153):—“In December and January small parties of these Penguins come into sheltered inlets to moult… . There are so few land animals on Kerguelen Island that the unwonted sight of people walking never failed to attract the notice of the King Penguins. Standing at their ease in their sheltered hollows they uttered as it were derisive cries from time to time while the strangers laboured through the Azorella. Seldom did they take the trouble to stir when anyone approached them, but remaining in a group, some standing still, others lying down, they quietly awaited the progress of events. Their unconsciousness of danger was singularly shown by the following incident. One day while grappling for Algæ in Swain’s Bay, I came with one of the men upon six ‘Kings’ in a group. Seeing that some of them had finished moulting and were well coloured, we walked up to them, seized the two finest by their necks, and sat down upon their backs. The others stayed beside us unconcerned at the fate of their companions, though they were beating the ground beneath us with their wings and gasping for breath within a yard or so of them. ‘What shall be will be’; so they made themselves comfortable, and they were not molested.”

The egg of this Penguin is of a remarkable shape, being perfectly pyriform. I have before me now two specimens from Macquarie Island. Both are alike in this respect, although one appears to have the apex a little more produced than the other. The more regular pear-shaped one measures exactly four inches in length by three inches in breadth, and is of a pale greenish white; the shell is of close texture, with a roughened surface, the whole of it being covered with prominent papillæ, which are larger and more thickly spread around the central circumference. The other egg gives a measurement only one eighth of an inch shorter by one sixteenth narrower; consequently the more produced appearance is due rather to shape than size. It likewise has a rough surface, but it wants the papillæ, and the entire shell is stained and smudged to an unequal yellowish-brown colour. These eggs were collected on Macquarie Island on the 19th November, which fixes the breeding-time of this Penguin.

* “Dr. Coues, in his ‘Monograph’ of the Spheniscidæ, revives Scopoli’s name for this species; and in this I think he is justified, for, laying aside Gmelin’s title of patachonica, which confuses two species, the Apteryodita of Scopoli (i. e.) seems to be the next in order of priority. It is founded on ‘Le Manchot de la Nouvelle Guinée’ of Sonnerat (Voy. N. G. p. 180, pl. 113), and although the figure in this plate is very bad, representing the black on the throat as extending far down to the centre of the breast, the description quite agrees.” (Sharpe, App. Voy. Ereb. and Terr. Birds, p. 38.)

Cf, also Sclater, Ibis, 1888, p. 326.