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
"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."
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