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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Œstrelata Mollis. — (Soft-Plumaged Petrel.)

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Œstrelata Mollis.
(Soft-Plumaged Petrel.)

  • Procellaria mollis, Gould, Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. vol. xiii. p. 363 (1844).

  • Cookilaria mollis, Bonap. Consp. Av. 1855, ii. p. 190.

  • Rhantistes mollis, Bonap. Compt. Rend. xlii. 1856, p. 768.

  • Æstrelata mollis, Coues, Proc. Phil. Acad. 1866, p. 630.

  • Œstrelata mollis, Salvin, Proc. Z. S. 1878, p. 738.

Ad. suprà griseus, pileo paullò saturatiore: alis brunnescenti-nigris: caudâ griseâ: plumis frontalibus albido marginatis: regione oculari nigrâ, fasciam longitudinalem supra-auricularem formante: genis et faciei lateribus albis, griseo fasciatis, gulâ et corpore reliquo subtùs albis: gutture imo et præpectore cinereis vel griseo fimbriatis: subalaribus schistaceo-fuliginosis: rostro nigro: pedibus flavis, digitis dimidio apicali nigricantibus.

Adult. Crown of the head and general upper surface dark slaty grey, the feathers of the shoulders and back margined with paler grey; forehead and fore part of face speckled with white; in front of and below the eyes a conspicuous mark of black; throat and fore neck white; the grey of the upper surface spreads down the sides of the neck and breast, meeting in front, and forming a band with freckled edges; underparts of the body pure white, the flanks sometimes stained and freckled with grey; entire upper surface of wings brownish black, the primaries dusky on their inner webs; tail-feathers slaty grey, the three outer ones on each side more or less freckled with white, particularly on their inner webs; inner lining of wings dark slaty grey, more or less varied with white; some of the axillaries uniform slaty grey, others are freckled and clouded with paler grey. Irides and bill black; tarsi and basal portion of two inner toes yellow, the rest of the feet black. Total length 14 inches; wing, from flexure, 10·25; tail 4·5; bill, along the ridge 1·35, along the edge of lower mandible 1·5; tarsus 1·25; middle toe and claw 2.

Young. Gould states that the young differs in having all the under surface dark grey and the throat freckled with grey.

Obs. In some of the British-Museum specimens there is evidence of dimorphic coloration, the entire underparts being pale slaty brown.

Dr. Finsch states that the ‘Novara’ Expedition collected specimens of this bird in lat. 35° S., long. 175° 5′ E. It is therefore clearly entitled to a place in our avifauna.

Of this bird Mr. Gould writes:—“It is a species that will ever live in my memory, from its being the first large Petrel I saw after crossing the line, and from a somewhat curious incident that then occurred. The weather being too boisterous to admit of a boat being lowered, I endeavoured to capture the bird with a hook and line; and the ordinary sea-hooks being too large for the purpose, I was in the act of selecting one from my stock of salmon-flies, when a sudden gust of wind blew my hooks and a piece of parchment ten inches long by six inches wide, between which they were placed, overboard into the sea, and I was obliged to give up the attempt for that day; on the next I succeeded in capturing the bird with a hook I had still left, and the reader may judge of my surprise when on opening the stomach I there found the piece of parchment, softened by the action of the salt water and the animal juices to which it had been subjected, but so completely uninjured that it was dried and again restored to its original use when a further supply of flies could be procured.”