Trivia answer

To: <>
Subject: Trivia answer
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 2009 09:22:32 +1000

This was the picture:


A trivia Q.jpg


Well, nobody actually got it.  To start you would have had to get the bird, not so hard for all those globe-trotting tickers out there.  Oh well, maybe just a bit off the beaten track.  The grass-skirted  figure was intended to direct attention to the South Seas.



The illustration is from a watercolour by George Edward Lodge, painted for Walter Rothschild’s  ‘Extinct Birds’ (1907).  It is said to be a White-winged Sandpiper Prosobonia leucoptera.  That bird is similar to, and may be the same as, P ellisi.  Wikipedia says:

“The two to four species of Polynesian sandpipers, the only members of the genus Prosobonia, are small wading birds confined to remote Pacific islands of French Polynesia. Only one species now exists, and it is rare and little known. This bird is sometimes separated in the genus Aechmorhynchus, restricting the genus to the extinct southern forms.

The Tuamotu Sandpiper, P. cancellata, is a unique short-billed all-brown wader previously found over a large area of the Pacific, but now confined to a few islands in the Tuamotu archipelago and still declining. Its decline appears to be due to human habitation encroachment and introduced mammals. It feeds on insects, but takes some vegetable material from its coastal haunts. It nests on the ground, and has a soft piping call.

The extinct Tahitian Sandpiper, P. leucoptera of Tahiti was similar in size and shape to P. cancellata. It had brown upperparts, reddish underparts, a white wingbar, and some white on the face and throat. It became extinct in the 19th century, and little is known of it.

There was a similar bird on Moorea which differed in some minor details from P. leucoptera, notably the larger extent of white in the wing, and has been described as White-winged Sandpiper (P. ellisi). However, although two species are generally listed, the question whether they actually did constitute separate species is probably unresolvable as only a single specimen of it exists today, apart from some contemporary paintings.”


According to ‘Whose Bird?’, Beolens & Watkins (2003) (a little volume that, as notified on this chatline, was available until recently at Academic Remainders, Fyshwick), Richard Bowdler Sharpe named the sandpiper in 1906, describing it from fossil material.  Ellis’ Sandpiper was named ellisi for William Webb Ellis (? -1786), a surgeon’s mate, artist and collector on Cook’s third voyage.  The entry continues:  “We assume him to be a relative (the grandfather perhaps) of the famous William Webb Ellis, who invented Rugby football  ...”.   My ancient edition of the Encycl Brit says in its ‘Football’ article, “It was a famous violation of this rule on carrying the ball by William Webb Ellis in 1823 which led to the basic feature dividing modern players into two parties, those who want to play with their feet alone and those who want to play with both hands and feet.” 



For the non-Canberran, I should mention that the Brumbies are a team of rugby players, indeed the only Australian team to have won the Super-whatever, against other provincial teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.   Depending on how you see the matter, but for the Ellis family the Brumbies either (a) would not exist or, if they did, (b) would be soccering around  a spherical ball, and, as a group, would be of slighter build, more agile and with thinner thighs and necks.  Under possibility (b), ironically, their game would lack significant participation by persons of Polynesian descent whose sturdiness gives them an advantage under the present Ellis-inspired ball-carrying regime.    

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