Rare NZ birds in 1927

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Rare NZ birds in 1927
From: Chris <>
Date: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 15:41:19 -0800 (PST)
I recently bought a copy of "The Australian Museum Magazine" from first 
quarter, 1927. In it is an article titled "Rare New Zealand Birds" by Mrs 
Perrine Moncrieff. I thought I'd mention it in case anyone was keen for a 
scanned copy. Below I'll quote some sections of interest.

One caveat; as I am not familiar with bird species names, before drawing 
conclusions about the nomenclature in 1927 being different than today, perhaps 
check with me first that I haven't simply mistyped the words..

"Rare New Zealand Birds" by Mrs Perrine Moncrieff.

"... There are signs of a serious desire on the part of the public to give the 
birds adequate protection, and it is pleasing to note that there has been a 
slight increase amongst most of our rare birds during the past five years...

"... In my opinion the South Island birds, with a few possible exceptions, have 
a good chance of survival, but in the North Island depletion has probably gone 
too far. A glance at the small acreage of virgin bush left is sufficient to 
explain the disappearance of any bird which cannot adapt itself to modern 

"...Those that are gone.

"The Moa heads this list. These birds have not been extinct so long as 
ornithologists supposed, for recent investigation proved that the Maori had 
considerable knowledge of the birds and their habits, so that we are justified 
in assuming that at least a few existed until comparatively recent times. 

"Besides the Moas this list contains one of the smalles species, namely the 
Native Quali (Coturnix novae-zealandiae). This bird is sometimes reported as 
being still extant, but invariably the supposed Native Quali turns out to be an 
introduced bird.

"Those reported to be extinct.

"Some surprise may be felt that the Notornis is included here rather than in 
the preceeding section. The last recorded Giant Rail was killed by a dog in the 
civinity of the Milford Sound track, and was said to have contained eggs. One 
was reported from near Lake Te Anau in 1913. I have several times received 
information from surveyors and others of a huge Pukeko or Swamp Hen (Porphyrio 
melanotus) seen by them during the last few years in the densely timbered 
tracts of Nelson Province. Allowing that one of these reports may be correct, I 
would like to suggest the possibility that the Notornis still roams in areas of 
unexplored bush in the South Westland, being occasionally driven north in 
exceptionally severe winters, when it is seen by fortunate individuals. One is 
said to have been observed near a main road, just where the great chain of 
mountains running from south to north comes to an end.

"... North Island Thrush (Turnagra tanagra) ... South Island form ... Whether, 
then, these birds were allied to the Australian Catbirds, as has been 
suggested, or were trye thrushes, is not now likely to be ascertained. They 
appear to have been ground birds, frequenting river beds where they hopped 
about in search of food... Both were beautiful vocalists, the northern species 
being credited with a song of five distinct bars of music...

"On the verge.

"Although the Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris) is generally placed on the list 
of extinct birds, it is by no means certain that they do not still linger... A 
government expedition sent out in 1913 did not find the Huia but came across 
bore holes made in timber which might be ascribed to the bird. That they were 
there in 1920 is probable... An observer who saw a pair as late as 1906, in 
bush now milled, described their flight as similar to that of the flycatcher, 
for they darted up into the air like a fantail, returning to the tree from 
whence they had flown only to dart upwards again in pursuit of insects...

"[a photo of a pair of taxidermied Huias is included, by G. C. Clutton "From a 
group in the Australian Museum"]

"... The South Island Crow (Callaeas cinerea)...

"Birds that appear to be stationary.

"The Blue Duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchus)... the Kakapo or Owl Parrot 
(Stringops habroptilus) ... It is very owl-like and also resembles the owls in 
being nocturnal... [a photo of a pair of kakapo taxidermies is included by G. 
C. Clutton "From a group in the Australian Museum"] ... 

"... There is no obvious reason for the scarcity of the Laughing Owl 
(Sceloglaux albifacies) in the South Island, a recent article having disproved 
the pypothesis that its disappearance was due to the scarcity of its natural 
food the native rat, for the writer pointed out that the bird existed in New 
Zealand long before the advent of the Maori, who introduced the rat...

"... Though in all probability the Brown kiwi (Apteryz australis) will shortly 
cease to exist except in Bird Sanctuaries, the more fortunate Great Grey Kiwi 
(Apteryx haasti) is still plentiful in certain localities... A peculiarity of 
these birds is the manner in which they can shed their feathers without their 
appearance being in any way affected. In releasing a kiwi from captivity I 
placed it in a kerosene tin to prevent it doing itself damage. On being 
liberated the bird walked calmly away, not in the least bit ruffled, yet the 
kerosene tin was more than half full of feathers...

"The Native Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is still numerous wherever the 
bush is plentiful...

Saddlebacks (Creadion carunculatus) and Stitch Birds (Notiomystis cincta) have 
practically disappeared from the mainland...

"...Birds on the increase...

"... North Island Crow (Callaeas wilsoni), or Blue Wattled Crow ... 
Yellow-fronted Parakeet (Cyanorhamphus auriceps)... an allied species, the 
Red-fronted Parakeet (Cyanorhamphus novae-zeelandiae), which was also close to 
extinction, has not recovered with equal ease and is still very scarce in the 
Nelson Province, where the Yellow-fronted species is quite common in certain 

"... The Kaka (Nestor meridionalis) is also on the increase in parts of the 
South Island. [a photo of a pair of Kaka taxidermies by G. C. Clutton "From a 
group in the Australian Museum" is included].

"... The Native Robin (Miro longipes) of the North Island is scarce, but on the 
South Island Miro australis is again becoming quite plentiful in its old 
haunts, and it seems as if it has returned to stay.

"To state that the Woodhen is increasing in numbers would be a bold assertion, 
yet in the Nelson Province there has been either a natural increase or a 
migration from elsewhere. Five years ago one could travel down the coast and be 
told that Woodhens had quite disappeared. This year the traveller will meet 
with tales of Woodhens all along the same route. It has been suggested that 
these birds follow plagues of mice, which is true in this particular case.

"There is no doubt that the Bellbird (Anthornis melanura) is on the increase, 
having falsified the gloomy prognostications of its early extinction. With the 
Tui it is one of the commonest birds on the West Coast of the South Island. 
This bird, which has a gorgeous blue cap when the fuchsia is in flower, 
sometimes puzzles newcomers who know it only from books, which often omit to 
mention that the Make-mako becomes thus decorated from dipping its head into 
the fuchsia blossoms."

Win 1 of 4 Sony home entertainment packs thanks to Yahoo!7.
Enter now:

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Rare NZ birds in 1927, Chris <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU