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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Phalacrocorax Melanoleucus. — (Frilled Shag.)

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Phalacrocorax Melanoleucus.
(Frilled Shag.)

  • Phalacrocorax melanoleucus, Vieill. N. Dict. viii. p. 88 (1817).

  • Phalacrocorax flavirhynchus, Gould, P. Z. S. 1837, p. 157.

  • Graucalus flavirostris, Gray, in Dieff. Trav. ii., App. p. 201 (1843).

  • Gracalus melanoleucus Gray, Voy. Ereb. and Terr., Birds, p. 20 (1844)*.

  • Graculus melanoleucus, Gray, Ibis, 1862, p. 251.

  • Halieus melanoleucus, Bonap. C. R. xliii. p. 577 (1856).

  • Microcarlo melanoleucus, Bonap. Consp. Av. ii. p. 177 (1857).

Ad. pileo colloque postico et corpore suprà nigris, scapularibus et tectricibus alarum viridi nitentibus, velutinonigro marginatis: pileo et collo lateralibus cum corpore subtùs toto albis: corporis lateribus, subalaribus et axillaribus nigris: rostro flavicauti-brunneo, culmine saturatiore: pedibus nigris: iride saturatè brunneâ: regione ophthalmicâ flavâ.

Adult. Crown of the head, hind part of neck, and general upper surface, as well as the sides of the body, flanks, axillary plumes, and inner lining of wings glossy black; whig-coverts and scapulars greenish black, with ebony-black edges; face, throat, fore part and sides of neck, and all the under surface pure white; wing-feathers and tail black. Irides dark brown; space round the eyes yellow; bill yellowish brown, deepening to black on the ridge; tarsi and feet black. The feathers of the forehead are narrow and elongated, forming a slight vertical crest; the white plumage of the face and the feathers of the hind head are likewise produced, forming tolerably distinct lateral and occipital crests. Length 24·5 inches; wing, from flexure, 9·5; tail 6·25; bill, along the ridge 1·25, along the edge of lower mandible 2·1; tarsus 1·25; longest toe and claw 2·6.

Young. Differs only in having the feathers of the upper surface margined more or less with pale brown, and the plumage of the underparts of a less pure white, obscurely mottled with brown.

The Frilled Shag, although dispersed over every part of Australia, is a comparatively rare species in New Zealand, if indeed it does occur at all; for I am inclined to think that the supposed examples of Phalacrocorax melanoleucus, recorded from time to time, are nothing but P. brevirostris in the occasional pied plumage already described.

There is, however, a locally-killed specimen in the Auckland Museum which seems inseparable from the Australian bird. It has a distinct frontal crest and a well-developed frill, the white feathers of the upper fore neck being lengthened, almost sufficiently to meet at the back.

This species resorts to the rocky shores of bays and estuaries, as well as to inland rivers and lagoons; and it is said to breed in trees, several pairs being generally associated together.

* Afterwards named Phalacrocorax finschi by Mr. Sharpe, who thus distinguished it:—“P., similis P. melanoleuco sed tectricibus alarum medianis exterioribus albis, speculum vel fasciam alarem formantibus: axillaribus tantum nigris, nec corporis lateribus ut in P. melanoleuco nigris, distinguendus.” But Mr. Sharpe’s type is undoubtedly an albinoid variety of P. brevirostris (see page 168).