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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Charadkius Bicinctus. — (Banded Dottrel.)

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Charadkius Bicinctus.
(Banded Dottrel.)

  • Chestnut-breasted Plover, Lath. Gen. Hist. ix. p. 324 (1824).

  • Charadrius bicinctus, Jard. & Selby, Ill. of Orn. i. pl. 28 (1825).

  • Ægialitis bicinctus, Gould, Syn. B. Austr. pt. ii. (1887).

  • Hiaticula bicincta, Gould, B. of Austr. vi. pl. 16 (1848).

  • Ochthodromus bicinctus, Gray, Hand-1. of B. iii. p. 16 (1871).

Native names.—Tuturiwhati, Tuturiwhatu, and Pohowera.

Ad. æstiv. suprè obscurè cinereus, supracaudalibus exterioribus albo terminatis: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus, majoribus angustè albo terminatis: remigibus brunneis, extùs et versùs apicem saturatioribus, scapis medialiter albis, primariis internis ad apicem albis, remigibus minoribus albo conspicuè terminatis, secundariis dorsalibus dorso concoloribus: caudâ saturatè brunneâ, rectricibus exterioribus cinerascentibus et albo terminatis, rectrice extimâ albicante: fasciâ frontali latâ suprà oculos angustiùs ductâ albâ, fasciâ alterâ nigrâ frontali utrinque marginatâ: plumis infraocularibus pallidè cinerascentibus: regione paroticà cinerascente, dorso concolore: fasciâ mystacali nigrâ cum lineâ anteriore frontali conjunctâ: subtùs albus, torque jugulari latâ nigrâ, alterâ pectorali castaneâ: subalaribus albis, imis cinerascentibus: rostro nigro; pedibus flavicanti-cinereis: iride nigrâ.

Ad. hiem. similis ptilosi æestivæ, sed obscurior: torquibus pectoralibus minoribus vel interdum obsoletè indicatis.

Adult male. Forehead white, margined above and below with black; crown of the head, nape, and all the upper surface greyish brown; from the base of the upper mandible a black streak, which crosses the eyes and blends into the grey on the sides of the neck; throat and fore neck pure white; across the breast a narrow zone of black, and (a short space below it) a broad band of chestnut, which covers the upper part of the abdomen; the rest of the underparts pure white; quills brown with white shafts; the middle tail-feathers dark brown, with greenish reflections in their apical portion, the lateral feathers paler, with white shafts, and the outermost one on each side pure white. Irides blackish brown; bill black; legs yellowish grey. Length 8·5 inches; extent of wings 16; wing, from flexure, 5·25; tail 2·75; bill, along the ridge ·75, along the edge of the lower mandible 75; bare tibia ·5; tarsus 1·25; middle toe and claw 1.

Female. Similar to the male, but with the margins of the frontal spot less defined, and the pectoral bands some-what duller.

Obs. There is a seasonal change of plumage, the chestnut band becoming considerably reduced in winter, although it is never entirely absent in the fully adult bird.

Young. Upper parts suffused with rust-red, each feather having a narrow margin of that colour; forehead, throat, and underparts white with a slight tinge of rufous, the frontal spot being inconspicuous; a narrow zone of dark mottled grey encircles the fore neck, spreading and darkening to greyish brown on the sides of the breast; but there is no indication of the pectoral band of chestnut.

Fledgling (Taupo, Dec. 24). Feathers of the upper parts brown largely margined with fulvous; underparts white, with fulvous markings on the bareast; the sides of the head and lower part of back and rump covered with down of a dull sandy yellow spotted with black, and with fluffy down still adhering to other parts of the body. Bill dark brown; legs brownish grey.

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Chick. Covered with soft down of a bright sandy yellow on the upper surface, changing to yellowish white on the underparts; the crown of the head and the back prettily mottled and varied with dark brown, of which there is also a broad streak on the wings and thighs.

This pretty little Dottrel is very common on our shores, and is frequently met with also at a considerable distance inland. It associates in flocks, and is always to be found on the ocean-beach, or on the dry sands and grassy plains in the vicinity of the coast; but I have also observed it on the Onetapu desert, in the interior of the North Island, and it is very commonly met with on the pastures several miles from the sea. It has been recorded from Lord Howe’s Island; and Mr. Ronald Gunn states that it is plentifully dispersed along the northern shores of Tasmania; but Mr. Gould saw it only once in Australia, when, as he informs us, considerable numbers visited a common in the neighbour-hood of George Town, and appeared to be acting under some migratory impulse; for, after remaining a day or two, they suddenly disappeared. This occurred about the 15th of May, the middle of the Australian winter; and the flights consisted of birds of various ages and in different states of plumage.

It is more active in its habits than the preceding species, running swiftly over the sands, and stopping at short intervals to bob its head and utter a rather plaintive note. It rises in the air with a very rapid movement of its wings, and usually adopts a circular course, the whole flock wheeling simultaneously and descending to the ground in an oblique direction.

It is hard to kill, often flying a considerable distance after being mortally hit with pigeon-shot. On taking a wounded bird into my hand I felt almost a sense of remorse at taking its life, the lustrous brown eyes of my little victim having a peculiarly soft and tender expression.

In the high sandy flats near the sea-shore where the bright pingao grass mixes with the wild sage, this bird may always be met with in the breeding-season, which commences as early as August; and so perfect an adept is it in the art of deception that I have been decoyed away from its nest and young when, as afterwards discovered, they were at my very feet. In the location of the nest itself there is very little attempt at concealment, the bird apparently trusting more for protection to the assimilative colouring; but after the young are hatched out, the old birds (and particularly the female) manifest considerable solicitude for the safety of their offspring, and feign lameness or a damaged wing for alluring intruders away, a device which very often succeeds. The young bird runs the moment it quits the shell, and is not slow to second its parent in the art of self-preservation. Its sandy colouring makes it almost indistinguishable when squatting on the ground, and it has the instinct to remain perfectly motionless the moment it hears the note of alarm, even allowing itself to be handled without betraying a sign of vitality.

The eggs are generally three in number, broadly oval in form, measuring 1·3 inch in length by 1 in breadth, and are of a dark grey colour, much speckled and mottled with brown. The numerous examples in the Canterbury Museum exhibit some variety in their colouring; they are of different shades of brownish grey, inclining in some to greenish grey, spotted and pencilled or marked all over, but especially at the larger end, with brownish black. The specimens vary not only in the tone of the ground-colour, but also in the form and extent of the markings, some being very handsomely pencilled and spotted, whilst others have a dark or blotched appearance, particularly at the larger end.

I once discovered a nest of this species in a grass paddock at Manawatu, several miles from the sea-shore; and on my taking up one of the chicks, the old birds flew round me in circles and gave vent to their anxiety in a rapid clicking note, in which both of them joined. This was on the 22nd of December, and the young birds appeared to have only just emerged from the shell.

I sketched this nestling, although I did not preserve the specimen, and my drawing is reproduced in the woodcut on p. 15.