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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Phalacrocorax Glaucus. — (Brown Shag.)

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Phalacrocorax Glaucus.
(Brown Shag.)

  • Phalacrocorax glaucus, Homb. & Jacq. Voy. Pôle Sud, Zool. iii. p. 127 (1853)*.

Ad. omninò brunneus, suprà saturatior: remigibus et rectricibus nigris: rostro grisescenti-brunneo: pedibus flavis.

Adult male. General plumage deep vinous brown, darker on the upper surface; the shoulders and the mantle glossed with green, and each feather having a scarcely perceptible darker margin; the lower part of back, rump, and thighs glossy dark olive; quills and tail-feathers blackish brown, the shafts of the latter white in their basal portion. Lores feathered. Bare space encircling the eyes orange; bill greyish brown; legs and feet dull orange-yellow. Total length 31 inches; wing, from flexure, 12–25; tail 7; bill, along the ridge 2·25, along the edge of lower mandible 3; tarsus 2; longest toe and claw 4.

Young. Has no gloss on the upper surface; the feathers composing the mantle are pale yellowish brown; the back, rump, and thighs dull blackish brown; and the plumage of the under surface much suffused with chocolate-brown.

Obs. The immature condition of the bird described above is shown by the acuminate tips of the scapulars; while some of the pale brown feathers have been replaced by the glossy dark brown of the adult, indicating a transitional state of plumage. A specimen in the Otago Museum (which is marked ♀) is darker in plumage than the larger of my two examples and it has brown legs; there are also the faintest indications of white filaments on the fore neck. This was obtained near Dunedin, in February 1877.

Of this rare species I have two fine specimens (adult and young) in my collection, both of which were obtained on the Otago coast by the well-known local taxidermist Mr. W. Smythe, and very carefully prepared by him.

Dr. Finsch states (Trans. N.-Z. Inst. vol. vii. p. 203) that a specimen in the Leyden Museum labelled Graculus glaucus, and (probably erroneously) ‘Terre Magellanique,’ is referable to Phalacrocorax chalconotus, Gray. He consequently disallows this species, regarding it as the immature state of the last-named form. Even the original describer had doubts on this point:— “Je regarde cette espèce comme dècrite d’après un jeune, et un jeune de l’espèce dont M. G. R. Gray a donnè, plus tard, la diagnose, sous le nom de Graucalus chalconotus. Si cette assimilation eat exacte, cette dernieèe dènomination devra constituer un synonyme.” That cannot be the case, however, for one of my birds is perfectly adult; and whether this was the Shag described under the name of glauous or not, it is to all appearance a good species. I admit that it is not unlike the young of Phalacrocorax chalconotus, but it differs in the following respects: it is somewhat smaller in size, there is far less gloss on the plumage, which is altogether browner in colour, the lores are naked instead of being thinly feathered, and the superciliary line of minute caruncles is entirely absent. A specimen which I examined in the Natural-History Museum at the Jardin des Plantes is in exactly similar plumage to that described above, but with blackish-brown feet.

As already mentioned, there is an example in the Otago Museum exhibiting signs of white filaments on the fore neck, thus affording a presumption that the bird was in nuptial plumage.

* “Atlas, Pl. 31. fig. 1 (juin 1845). L’individu figuré est originaire de la Nouvelle Zelande (Otago). Il est d’un bronzé un peu cuivrè sur le milieu de la région dorsale supéieure, d’un vert bouteille plus saisissable sur la partie inféieure de cette même région.”