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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Thinornis Novæ Zealandiæ — (New-Zealand Shore-Plover.)

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Thinornis Novæ Zealandiæ
(New-Zealand Shore-Plover.)

  • New-Zealand Plover, Lath. Gen. Syn. iii. pt. 1, p. 206, pl. lxxxiii. (1785).

  • Charadrius novæ seelandiæ, Gm. Syst. Av. i. p. 684 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Charadrius novæ zealandiæ, Lath. Ind. Orn. ii. p. 745 (1790).

  • Charadrius dudoroa, Wagler, Syst. Av. Charadrius, sp. 14 (1827).

  • Hiaticula novæ seelandiæ, Gray, in Dieff. Trav. ii., App. p. 195 (1843).

  • Thinornis novæ seelandiæ, Gray, Voy. Ereb. & Terror, Birds, p. 12, pl. 11 (1844).

  • Thinornis rossii, id. op. cit. p. 12, pl. 11a (1844).

  • Charadrius torquatula, Forst. Descr. Anim. p. 108 (1844).

  • Thinornis novæ zelandiæ, Buller, Essay Orn. N. Z. p. 17 (1865).

  • Thinornis novæ zealandiæ, Finsch, J. f. O. 1870, p. 341.

Native names.—Kohutapu and Tuturuatu.

Ad. suprà grisescenti-cinereus: fronte, facie laterali et in collo undique posticè ductâ torquem collarem formante, et gutture toto nigris: lineâ albâ ab oculo ductâ pileum circumeunte: tectricibus alarum dorso concoloribus, majoribus albo terminatis: remigibus brunneis, primariis basin versùs albis, minoribus albo terminatis, secundariis exterioribus latè albo marginatis, intimis dorso concoloribua: caudâ purpurascenti-brunneâ, rectricibus exterioribus albo terminatis et basin versùs gradatim albis, pennâ extimâ omninò albâ: corpore reliquo subtùs et subalaribus albis: rostro aurantiaco versùs apicem nigro: pedibus aurantiacis: iride nigrâ.

Juv. saturatiùs brunneus: facie laterali et gutture brunnescentibus, vix nigricantibus: hypochondriis brunneo notatis.

Adult. Forehead, sides of the head, throat, fore part of neck, and a broad nuchal collar brownish black; crown and hind part of the head brownish grey, being separated from the darker plumage by an ill-defined streak of white, which passes immediately over the eyes and widens on the forehead; back, shoulders, sides of the breast, and upper surface of wings brownish grey; the whole of the underparts pure white; primaries dark brown, with a streak of white along the shaft near the apical extremity; tail-feathers dark brown, the lateral ones tipped with white, which increases outwardly, the outermost feather on each side being pure white, and the adjoining one with merely a central spot of brown on its inner web. Irides black, with red eyelid; bill orange for rather more than half its length, then black to the tip; tarsi and toes orange; claws black. Length 7·5 inches; wing, from flexure, 4·75; tail 2·75; bill, along the ridge 1, along the edge of lower mandible ·9; bare tibia ·5; tarsus ·9; middle toe and claw ·75.

Obs. The sexes are alike, except that the female is slightly smaller than the male, has all the colours of the plumage duller, and less orange in the bill and feet. There is a specimen of the latter in Mr. James Brogden’s collection at Porthcawl.

Young. Differs from the adult in having the whole of the upper surface darker, and the white streak on the forehead and sides of the head less conspicuous; the whole of the fore neck and upper part of the breast is dark brown; and this colour is continued on the sides of the body and flanks.

Note. In the ‘Voyage of the Erebus and Terror,’ where both Thinornis novæ zealandiæ and the so-called Th. rosii page 12 are figured, the latter is represented with the basal interdigital web, and the former without it, an error for which the artist is doubtless responsible.

Till of late years this handsome Wader appears to have been of very rare occurrence. Forster’s original specimen was obtained at Queen Charlotte’s Sound, where, as he states, it was called Tuturuatu by the natives. Mr. Percy Earl (about the year 1844) found a pair on the ocean-beach near Port Chalmers, and records it “as a very rare species” in that locality.

Owing, however, to the increased activity of ornithological research in the colony, it has been discovered to be comparatively plentiful on various parts of our coast, both north and south. The mouth of the Piako river, in the Hauraki Gulf, the broad flats of Manukau harbour, and the sand-spits off Tauranga are some of the localities where flocks have been met with in the spring and autumn. In the South Island, some of the favourite resorts are Queen Charlotte’s Sound and the various inlets on the eastern and south-eastern coasts. It is also recorded from the Chatham Islands, where it has been found breeding*.

There are two specimens in the Canterbury Museum from the last-mentioned locality; one of these is marked ♂, and the sex of the other is undetermined: but both examples are in very indifferent plumage.

It hunts about for its food among the sand and dry ooze in a very diligent manner, and associates freely with the flocks of Godwit, both on their common feeding-ground and when the latter crowd upon the high banks, during the alternation of the tides, in the manner so familiar to those who have studied their habits. Individually its movements are very graceful and it is undoubtedly the most beautiful of our Plovers.

This bird has the same peculiar alarm-cry of ‘click-click’ which denotes the presence on the sands of the Banded Dottrel. This cry is also uttered on the wing, being repeated several times in rapid succession.

There can be no doubt, I think, that the so-called Thinornis rossii, of which there is a single specimen in the British Museum, brought by the Antarctic Expedition from Auckland Island, is the young of the present species; and I have described it in that character.

* In the ‘New-Zealand Journal of Science,’ vol. ii. pp. 508–9, there is the following interesting account of its breeding-habits:— “It is content with collecting a few leaves of grass, which are bent and twisted into a circular form just about large enough to contain the eggs, which are protected by this flimsy structure as it keeps them together. I have the eggs from the southern part of this island as well as a series from the Chatham group; one of the nesting-places in the last-named habitat offers such interesting features that it is worth being recorded and described. To the north-by-west of the main Chatham island lies a small group of rocky islets known as ‘The Sisters,’ or Rangitutahi. One of these wave-beat islets, rising to some 150 feet above the sea, having an area of about five acres only, affords a nesting-place to the Shore-Plover. This very exposed and unsheltered site apparently is shared only by the huge Albatros and the giant Petrel, which there rest awhile from almost cease-less wanderings over the surrounding ocean. Exposed to gales that sweep over a vast unbroken expanse of sea and break against this little speck of rock, the only screen that may shelter the home of the Shore-Plover is the tussock of wiry-grass or saw-edged carex, for no tree is there found to lend a friendly shelter. The eggs, three in number, are ovoido-conical, ovoid, with the smaller end blunt or somewhat pyriform; smooth, sub-shining, pale or warm stone-colour, freely sprinkled with blackish-brown or almost black irregular marks, angular lines and dots; pale greenish-white, very much scribbled over with fine irregularly shaped marks and minute dots, these becoming more conspicuous towards the larger end, around which they form an unevenly defined zone; stone-colour, more or less covered with irregularly shaped marks of umber-brown; pale stone-colour with a faint greenish tint, sparingly sprinkled below the bilge with very small blackish-brown freckles, some of which seem sunk into the surface, the upper portion splashed with bolder marks of umber and deep chestnut-brown; rich warm stone-colour, abundantly covered with blotches of chestnut and umber-brown interspersed with minute dots, freckles, or fine linear scribbling marks of dark brown.”—Potts.