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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Hydrochelidon Leucoptera. — (White-Winged Black Tern.)

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Hydrochelidon Leucoptera.
(White-Winged Black Tern.)

  • Sterna fissipes, Pallas, Zoogr. Rosso-Asiat. ii. p. 338 (1811).

  • Sterna leucoptera, Meisner u. Schinz, Vög. d. Schweiz, p. 264 (1815).

  • Hydrochelidon leucoptera, Boie, Isis, 1822, p. 563.

  • Viralva leucoptera, Steph. Gen. Zool. xiii. p. 170 (1825).

  • Hydrochelidon nigra, Gray, Gen. of B. iii. p. 660 (1846).

Ad. ptil. æstiv. suprà niger, niger, dorso et scapularibus paullò fumoso lavatis: dorso postico et uropygio albis: caudâ albâ: tectricibus alarum minimis albis, medianis et majoribus pulchrè cinereis: remigibus nigris, primariis interioribus canis, secundariis nigris dorso concoloribus: facie laterali et corpore subtùs toto nitidè nigris: crisso et subcaudalibus albis: subalaribus nigris, extùs albo notatis: rostro nigro: pedibus pallidè rubris: iride nigrâ.

Ad. ptil. hiem. suprâ dilutè cinereus, collo postico nigricante notato: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus, quibusdam minoribus versùs basin brunnescentibus: remigibus nigricantibus, scapis ochraceis, primariorum pogonii interni dimidio albo, secundariis cinereo lavatis: rectricibus suprà cinereis, externis albicantibus angustè albido limbatis: facie et collo lateralibus torquem interruptum collarem formantibus: subtùs omninò albus: rostro nigro, versùs basin rubescente: pedibus flavidis.

Adult in summer. Head, neck, and all the under surface shining black; the whole of the scapulars, and the back, smoky black; upper wing-coverts dark grey, becoming white towards the edge of the wing; first two primaries greyish black, with white shafts, and broadly marked with white on their inner webs; the rest of the primaries dark silvery grey, smoky on their inner webs; secondaries sooty grey, the inner ones darker; rump and tail, with upper and lower coverts, pure white. Irides and bill black; legs dull red. Total length 8·5 inches; extent of wings 21; wing, from flexure, 8; tail 2·75; bill, along the ridge ·9, along the edge of lower mandible 1·25; bare tibia ·25; tarsus ·75; middle toe and claw 1; hind toe and claw ·2.

Adult in winter. Forehead, sides of the head, and all the under surface pure white; occiput, ear-coverts, nape, and hind neck greyish black; upper surface of back, wings, and tail dark grey; the small wing-coverts shaded with brown; the primaries sooty black, with white shafts; the secondaries with dark shafts, and tinged more or less with grey.

I know of only one instance of the occurrence of this beautiful Tern in New Zealand. On the 12th of December, 1868, Mr. D. Monro shot a pair of them on the Waihopai river-bed in the provincial district of Nelson; and one of these is now in the Colonial Museum. They were in full summer plumage, and were associating with a large breeding-colony of Sterna frontalis; but whether they were actually nesting themselves, Mr. Monro was not able to ascertain. He mentions, however, that there was only a single pair of this species in the flock, and that they uttered at intervals a harsh croaking note.

This Tern has likewise been discovered in Australia since the publication of Mr. Gould’s ‘Handbook’; and, as it is unquestionably the same form as that inhabiting the Palæarctic Region, the species enjoys a wide geographical range.