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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Fam. MELIPHAGIDÆ — Acanthochæra Carunculata. — (Australian Honey-Eater.)


Acanthochæra Carunculata.
(Australian Honey-Eater.)

  • Merops carunculatus, Lath. Ind. Orn. i. p. 276 (1790).

  • Pie à pendeloques, Daud. Orn. ii. p. 246, pl. 16 (1800).

  • Corvus paradoxus, Lath. Ind. Orn. Suppl. p. 26 (1801).

  • Wattled Crow, Lath. Gen. Syn. Suppl. ii. p. 119 (1801).

  • Wattled Bee-eater, Lath. ibid. p. 150 (1801).

  • Corvus carunculatus, Shaw, Gen. Zool. vii. p. 378 (1809).

  • Creadion carunculatus, Bonn, et Vieill. Encycl. Méth. ii. p. 874 (1823); Vieill. Gal. Ois. i. pl. 94 (1826); Lesson, Traité d’Orn. i. p. 359 (1831).

  • Anthochœra lewini, Vig. & Horsf. Trans. Linn. Soc. xv. p. 322 (1827), note.

  • Anthochœra carunculata, Gould, Birds of Australia, iv. pi. 55 (1848).

  • Anthochœra bulleri, Finsch, Journ. f. Orn. 1867, p. 342.

  • Anthochœra carunculata, Buller, Trans. N.-Z. Instit. vol. xvi. p. 313 (1884).

  • Acanthochœra carunculata, Gadow, Cat. Birds Brit. Mua. vol. ix. p. 263 (1884).

Descr. exempt, ex N. Z. Brunnea, plumis omnibus longitudinaliter albo striatis: supracaudalibus brunneis latè albo marginatis: tectricibus alarum magis nigricantibus, albo marginatis, minimis et medianis albo medialiter lineatis: remigibus et rectricibus nigricantibus cinerascenti-brunneo marginatis et albo angustiùs fimbriatis, primariis et rectricibus laté albo terminatis: pileo nigricaute, vix albido lineato: collo postico dorso concolore et in eodem modo lineato: loris quoque nigricantibus: fasciâ latâ suboculari argentescenti-albâ: regione parotica auriculari nigricante, albo minuté lineatâ plagâ pone regionem paroticam fulvescente: genis nigricanti-brimneis, vix albo minuté striatis: gutture et præpectore brunneia albo lineatis: pectore albido, brunneo striato, plumis lateraliter brunneo marginatis: pectore imo et abdomine flavis: corporis lateribus albidis, brunneis marginatis, vix flavo lavatis: tibiis brunneis albo striatis: subcaudalibus albidis, medialiter brunneis: subalaribus et axillaribus nigricanti-brunneis, albo latè marginatis: remigibus infrà nigricantibus, intùs versus basin rufescentibus: rostro nigricante: pedibus pallidè brunneis.

New-Zealand example. Crown and hind-head glossy brownish black, the feathers of the nape with narrow shaftlines of white; upper surface generally blackish brown, the feathers of the hind neck and shoulders with a broad central streak of greyish white; quills and tail-feathers darker brown; the primaries and all the rectrices, except the two middle ones, largely tipped with white; the secondaries and the two middle tail-feathers largely margined with grey, and the latter minutely tipped with white; all the wing-coverts and the upper tail-corerts broadly margined with fulvous white; all the primaries except the first largely margined on their inner vanes with pale rufous. From the angle of the mouth a widening patch of short silvery-white feathers, speckled with brown, extends below the eye and is bounded by a small bare space, below which is a minute caruncle (now dried and colourless); on the sides of the neck, behind the ear-coverts, a broad rounded patch of pale fulvous; sides of the head, behind the eyes, conspicuously speckled with silvery white; fore neck and upper part of the breast dark fulvous brown with a more or less distinct streak of white down the shafts; lower part of breast greyish brown, each feather largely centred and also margined with fulvous white; the whole of the abdomen canary-yellow, with a silky sheen, the underpart of the plumage plumbeous; sides of the body faintly washed with yellow; vent yellowish white; under tailcoverts fulvous white, the centre of each feather, except the shaft, dull brown; thighs darker brown with light shaft-lines. Bill brownish black; legs pale reddish brown. Total length 15 inches; wing, from page 107 flexure, 6·5; tail 6·75; bill, along the ridge ·9, along the edge of lower mandible 1·25; tarsus 1; middle toe and claw 1·6; hind toe and claw 1·2.

Obs. Mr. Gould, describing the freshly killed bird in Australia, states that the oblong naked spot on the sides of the head is flesh-coloured, the pendulous wattle is of a pinky blood-red colour, the irides hazel-red, and the inside of the mouth yellow.

In my ‘Essay on the Ornithology of New Zealand,’ 1865, I included the above species among our birds, on the authority of a specimen in the Auckland Museum, preserved by Mr. St. John, and said to have been obtained at Matakana, to the north of Auckland. The bird was retained in our lists for many years, but no fresh examples having been heard of, and St. John’s specimen being of doubtful authenticity, its name was ultimately expunged*.

After a lapse of nearly twenty years I had again the pleasure of recording it (l. c.) as a New-Zealand bird.

During a visit to Marton, I was invited by Mr. Avery, the local bird-stuffer, to examine his novelties. Among these was a bird which he had himself obtained when serving with the volunteers in Mr. Bryce’s expedition against Parihaka; he met with it in some high scrub at the rear of the camp at Rahotu, when on fatigue-duty, and was fortunate enough to shoot it. The bird was new to him and he therefore skinned it, performing the operation very successfully. The skin was in a fresh condition when it came into my hands, and proved on examination to be a well-plumaged example of Acanthochœra carunculata.

This specimen, which Mr. Avery was generous enough to give me, is now in my collection; and the claim of this species to a place in the New-Zealand avifauna is undoubted. Its occurrence in our country, as a straggler from Australia, may only happen at long intervals; but the rule in such cases is to admit every species of which even a single individual has been met with in a wild state, unless there is a suspicion of its having been introduced by man.

Its habits are thus described in Gould’s ‘Birds of Australia’:—

“It is a showy, active bird, constantly engaged in flying from tree to tree and searching among the flowers for its food, which consists of honey, insects, and occasionally berries. In disposition it is generally shy and wary, but at times is confident and bold. It is usually seen in pairs, and the males are very pugnacious.

“It breeds in September and October. The nests’ observed by myself in the Upper Hunter district were placed on the horizontal branches of the Angophorœ, and were of a large rounded form, composed of small sticks, and lined with fine grasses; those found by Gilbert in Western Australia were formed of dried sticks, without any kind of lining, and were placed in the open bushes. The eggs are two or three in number, one inch and three lines long by ten lines and a half broad; their ground-colour is reddish buff, very thickly dotted with distinct markings of deep chestnut, umber, and reddish brown, interspersed with a number of indistinct marks of blackish grey, which appear as if beneath the surface of the shell. Eggs taken in New South Wales are somewhat larger than those from Western Australia, and have markings of a blotched rather than of a dotted form, and principally at the larger end.”

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* Dr. Otto Finsch (l. c.) proposed to distinguish the example described by me, as a new species, under the name of Anthochœra bulleri; but it is well known that this bird is subject to a considerable amount of variation, and I do not consider the differences relied upon as having any specific value. The same remarks apply to the form described by Messrs. Vigors and Horsfield (l. c.) under the distinctive name of A. lewini.

Curiously enough, when hunting up the synonymy and bibliography of this species, I found that it had been described by M. Daudin (l. c.) as far back as 1800, as a New-Zealand bird. His words are:—“Get oiseau de la nouvelle Zélande, est dans la galerie du Muséum de Paris.