Archiv der Kategorie: Vögel

ZPALWr. A/4003

Ich habe hier ja schon mehrfach über oligozäne Vögel mit offenbar brüchigen Gliedmaßen gesprochen ….

Dieser hier ist ein winziges Fossil, bestehend aus einer Platte und deren Gegenplatte (Positivplatte und Negativplatte?), und besteht aus einem einzelnen Fuß, einem ca. 3,6 cm langen, rechten Fuß, an dem obendrein auch nur der erste und der zweite Zeh erhalten geblieben sind.

Dieser Teilfuß wurde mit diversen anderen Vogelformen verglichen und weist die größten Übereinstimmungen mit den Taubenvögeln (Columbiformes) auf, so dass es sich hierbei eventuell tatsächlich um den Fuß einer fossilen Taube handeln könnte – es wäre dies dann die älteste bislang bekannte Taubenform. Die ältesten bis dahin bekannten Taubenfossilien stammen aus dem Miozän bzw. der Grenze zwischen dem Oberoligozän und dem Untermiozän, sie erinnern durchweg an moderne Formen und lassen sich oft auch heutigen Linien innerhalb der Columbiformes zuordnen.

Wie dem auch sei, ZPALWr. A/4003 ist nur in Teilen erhalten, so dass eine genauere Bestimmung erst wirklich möglich ist wenn weitere Funde auftauchen sollten. [1] 

Zeichnung nach: ‚Zbigniew M. Bocheński; Teresa Tomek; Ewa Świdnicka: A columbid-like avian foot from the Oligocene of Poland. Acta Ornithologica 45(2): 233-236. 2010‘

Sollte es sich hierbei tatsächlich um eine echte Taubenform handeln, so lässt sich deren Größe auf etwa 25 cm schätzen.

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Quelle:

[1] Zbigniew M. Bocheński; Teresa Tomek; Ewa Świdnicka: A columbid-like avian foot from the Oligocene of Poland. Acta Ornithologica 45(2): 233-236. 2010

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bearbeitet: 26.12.2020

NT-LBR-014

Die Art wird von den Autoren der Gruppe der Tyrannida zugeordnet, einer Gruppe von suboscinen Passeriformes, die heute ausschließlich in Süd- und mit einigen wenigen Arten auch in Nordamerika verbreitet ist und weist hier die größten Gemeinsamkeiten mit den Schnurrvögeln (Pipridae) auf. [2]

Die Tyrannida haben sich jedoch, so wird vermutet, auf den amerikanischen Kontinenten entwickelt, und zwar so ziemlich ungestört seit wohl bereits ca. 64 Millionen Jahren, also zu Beginn des Paläozän. Demnach wäre die Zuordnung dieses oligozänen Vogels aus Europa zu den Tyrannida doch etwas fraglich. [1]

Vielleicht handelt es sich hierbei um eine komplett ausgestorbene Linie von Pipra-ähnlichen suboscinen Vögeln, die später in Europa durch oscine Arten verdrängt wurden.

Skizze; den Flügel muss ich noch etwas ausbessern, und was das Federhäubchen angeht, das man im Originalfossil sehen kann, hierbei mag es sich einfach um Federn handeln, die zufällig an dieser Stelle abgelagert wurden

Es ist sehr ungewöhnlich, dass NT-LBR-014, trotz seiner äußerst guten Erhaltung, von den Autoren keinen Namen erhalten hat.

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Quelle: 

[1] John Reilly: The Ascent of Birds: how modern science is revealing their story. PELAGIC PUB LTD 2018
[2] Ségolène Riamon; Nicolas Tourment; Antoine Louchart: The earliest Tyrannida (Aves, Passeriformes), from the Oligocene of France. Scientific Reports 10(9776): 1-14. 2020

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bearbeitet: 25.12.2020

Atlantisia – eine Gattung, die es nie gab

Die Gattung Atlantisia wurde ursprünglich für drei Arten von flugunfähigen Arten verwendet, die auf einigen Inseln im Atlantischen Ozean endemisch verbreitet sind bzw. waren; eine davon ist der kleinste noch lebende flugunfähige Vogel, während die beiden anderen Arten leider ausgerottet wurden.

1. Atlantisia podarces (Wetmore), das ausgestorbene Saint Helena-Sumpfhuhn, ist offenbar tatsächlich am nächsten mit der Gattung Porphyrio verwandt und sollte daher besser seinen originalen Namen tragen – Aphanocrex podarces Wetmore.

2. Atlantisia rogersi Lowe, die Atlantisralle (siehe Foto), die auf dem winzigen Inaccessible Island in der Inselgruppe Tristan da Cunha lebt, ist, wie man anhand von DNA-Untersuchungen weiß, ein Mitglied der Gattung Laterallus und heißt nun Laterallus rogersi (Lowe).  

3. Atlantisia elpenor Olson, die ausgestorbene Ascencion-Ralle vom entlegenen Ascencion Island, stammt wohl vom selben Vorfahren ab wie die Atlantisralle und sollte daher nun Laterallus elpenor (Olson) heißen. [1]

***

Auch wenn der Gattungsname Atlantisia nun obsolet ist, ändert das nichts an der Tatsache, dass die ehemaligen Vertreter dieser Gattung zu den interessantesten und mysteriösesten Vogelarten der Welt gehören, über die bis heute fast nichts bekannt ist. 

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Quelle:

[1] Marn Stervander; Peter G. Ryan; Marm Melo; Bengt Hansson: The origin of the world’s smallest flightless bird, the Inaccessible Island Rail Atlantisia rogersi (Aves: Rallidae)

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Atlantisralle (Laterallus rogersi (Lowe))

Foto: Brian Gratwicke

(under creative commons license (2.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

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bearbeitet: 22.11.2020

Moa-Feder

Dieses Federchen stammt von einem Elefantenfußmoa (Pachyornis elephantopus (Owen)), der auf der Südinsel Neuseelands vorkam und vor etwa 600 bis 500 Jahren durch Bejagung und Lebensraumzerstörung ausgerottet wurde.

Rekonstruktion einer ca. 500 Jahre alten, subfossilen Feder

Die Feder ist ca. 3,5 cm lang und nicht vollständig, die Originalfarben sind jedoch bis heute erhalten. [1]

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Quelle:

[1] Nicolas J. Rawlence; Jamie R. Wood; Kyle N. Armstrong; Alan Cooper: DNA content and distribution in ancient feathers and potential to reconstruct the plumage of extinct avian taxa. Proceedings of the Royal Society 276: 3395-3402. 2009

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bearbeitet: 21.11.2020

Urvogel-Feder

Diese (nicht mehr ganz so) älteste bekannte Feder stammt mit ziemlich großer Wahrscheinlichkeit von dem weltberühmten Urvogel (Archaeopteryx lithographica von Meyer), der tatsächlich aber gar kein wirklicher Vogel im eigentlichen Sinn des Wortes war – aber dies genauer zu erklären überlasse ich Berufs-Paläoornithologen.

Rekonstruktion einer ca. 150 Millionen Jahre alten Feder

Die Feder, bislang erstaunlicherweise einzigartig geblieben, ist etwa 6 cm lang, sie war ziemlich wahrscheinlich sehr dunkel grau bis schwarz gefärbt und stammte wohl aus der Region der Flügeldecken. [1]

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Quelle:

[1] Ryan M. Carney; Helmut Tischlinger; Matthew D. Shawkey: Evidence corrobates identity of isolated fossil feather as a wing covert of Archaeopteryx. Scientific Reports 10: 15593. 2020

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bearbeitet: 15.11.2020

Nahmavis grandei Musser & Clarke

Endlich, endlich beschrieben!

Das dazugehörige Fossil ist schon seit etlichen Jahren bekannt und wurde ursprünglich als Angehöriger der ausgestorbenen Familie Salmilidae aus der Ordnung der Seriemaartigen (Cariamaformes) betrachtet.

Des Weiteren konnte man oft lesen, dass es sich um einen flugunfähigen Vogel mit winzigen Stummelflügeln gehandelt haben muss, schließlich kann man diese Flügelchen ja im Foto ganz gut erkennen … nun, nein, kann man eben nicht, was man hier sieht sind einfach nur etwas ‚unglücklich‘ gewachsene Federn; schaut man genau hin findet sich aber nicht die Spur irgendeines Flügelknochens!

Tatsächlich sind die Vordergliedmaßen des Tieres nach dem Tod bzw. während der Verwesung vollständig abhanden gekommen; sämtliche noch vorhandenen restlichen Teile weisen auf einen normal flugfähigen Vogel hin, er wird also zu Lebzeiten ganz normal ausgebildete Flügel besessen haben..

***

Nahmavis grandei, so heißt der Vogel nun, ist ein sehr ursprünglicher Vertreter der Regenpfeiferfamilie (Charadriiformes).

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Referenzen:

[1] Lance Grande: The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time. University of Chicago Press 2013  
[2] Grace Musser; Julia A. Clarke: An exceptionally preserved specimen from the Green River Formation elucidates complex phenotypic evolution in Gruiformes and Charadriiformes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 8:559929. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2020.559929. 2020

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Foto aus: ‚Grace Musser; Julia A. Clarke: An exceptionally preserved specimen from the Green River Formation elucidates complex phenotypic evolution in Gruiformes and Charadriiformes. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 8:559929. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2020.559929. 2020‘

(under creative commmons license (4.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

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bearbeitet: 26.10.2020

Todiramphus ‚divinus‘ – der ‚Göttliche‘ Liest

Two species of Kingfishers were common on Bora-Bora (Halcyon veneratus and Todiramphus tutus), ….

und

HALCYON VENERATUS. (Ruru.)
This species is fairly common, especially on the island of Bora-Bora.

TODIRAMPHUS TUTUS.
Common throughout the Tahiti group.
“ [2]

***

Diese beiden eher flüchtigen Randnotizen aus dem Jahr 1907 sind ein Hinweis auf die ehemalige Existenz einer Vogelart, die heute nicht mehr existiert und von der heute (fast) keine Spur mehr zu finden ist.

***

Die Gesellschaftsinseln sind einer der ganz wenigen Orte, an denen zwei Eisvogelarten gemeinsam vorkommen, zumindest auf den Inseln Mo’orea und Tahiti im Ostteil der Inselgruppe; hier finden sich der weit verbreitete Borabora-Liest (Todiramphus tutus (Gmelin)), der in der gesamten Inselgruppe vorkommt sowie der Tahiti-Liest (Todiramphus veneratus (Gmelin)) und der Moorea-Liest (Todiramphus youngi Sharpe), die auf jeweils eine Insel beschränkt sind.

Die beiden Verweise auf die Insel Bora Bora deuten aber an, dass dies offenbar auch auf weiteren der Inseln der Fall war.

Tatsächlich ist der geheimnisvolle Liest aber nicht nur durch kleine Randnotizen sondern anhand von mindestens zwei Exemplaren bekannt, die zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts gesammelt wurden, und von denen eines offenbar noch existiert. Dieses einzige noch erhaltene Exemplar wurde 2008 untersucht und mit dem Tahiti- und dem Moorea-Liest verglichen. 

Die Autoren kamen zu dem Schluss, dass es sich hierbei um einen nicht voll ausgefärbten Jungvogel der tahitianischen Art handelt, erwähnen jedoch auch einige Unterschiede, einschließlich eines viel kürzeren Schnabels und einiger Unterschiede im Gefiedermuster, und folgern, dass es sich möglicherweise auch um eine ausgestorbene Unterart handeln könnte. [3]

Die Art wurde auch mindestens einmal bildlich dargestellt (siehe unten). [1]

***

Zwischen Bora Bora im nordwestlichen Teil der Inselgruppe und Mo’orea und Tahiti im Ostteil befinden sich noch vier weitere Inseln, nämlich Huahine, Mai’ao, Ra’iatea und Taha’a, die, zumindest heute, jeweils nur vom Borabora-Liest bewohnt werden.

Sollte die Insel Bora Bora tatsächlich einst zwei Eisvogelarten beherbergt haben, dann muss es sich bei diesem Vogel nicht um eine Unterart des Tahiti-Liest, sondern um eine eigenständige Art gehandelt haben; und, die anderen Inseln zwischen Bora Bora und Mo’orea und Tahiti müssen höchstwahrscheinlich ebenfalls heute ausgestorbene und unbekannte eigenständige Arten beherbergt haben.

***

Meiner bescheidenen Meinung nach handelt es sich bei der Ortsangabe Bora Bora aber schlicht um einen Fehler, und die beiden dort gesammelten Vögel stammen wohl eher von der Insel Tahiti.

… doch wer weiß ….

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Referenzen:

[1] M. L. I. Duperrey: Voyage autour du monde: Exécuté par Ordre du Roi, Sur la Corvette de Sa Majesté, La Coquille, pendant les années 1822, 1823, 1824, et 1825, par M. L. I. Duperrey; Zoologie, par Mm. Lesson et Garnot. Paris: Arthus Bertrand 1828 
[2] S. B. Wilson: Notes on birds of Tahiti and the Society group. Ibis Ser. 9(1): 373-379. 1907
[3] Claire Voisin; Jean-François Voisin: List of type specimens of birds in the collections of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris, France). 18. Coraciiformes. Journal of the National Museum (Prague), Natural History Series 177(1): 1-25. 2008

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‚Göttlicher‘ Liest (Todiramphus ‚divinus‘)

Darstellung aus: ‘M. Lesson: Description du genre Todiramphe et de deux espèces d’oiseaux; qui le compossent. Mémoires de la Société d’Histoire naturelle de Paris 2(3): 419-422. 1827’

(public domain)

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bearbeitet: 24.10.2020

Qinornis paleocenica Xue

Mit dem Ende der Kreidezeit starben sämtliche so genannten Nichtvogeldinosaurier (was für ein Wortungetüm) aus, also alles was man landläufig als Dinosaurier bezeichnet aber eben auch sämtliche Vögel, die nicht der einzigen heute noch existierenden Gruppe der Vögel, den Neornithes, zugeordnet werden können.

… oder doch nicht?

***

Qinornis paleocenica ist anhand einiger Reste aus dem unteren oder mittleren Paläozän (vor etwa 61 Millionen Jahren) bekannt, die von einem einzelnen Individuum stammen: ein nahezu vollständiger linker Tibiotarsus, Teile des rechten Tibiotarsus sowie ein nahezu vollständiger rechter Tarsometatarsus mit fast allen Zehenknochen. [1]

Diese fossilen Knochen weisen einige Merkmale auf, die man bei heutigen Vögeln so nicht mehr findet, wohl aber bei einigen aus der Kreidezeit; vor allem ist der Tarsometatarsus nicht vollständig verschmolzen, er weist noch einige Riefen auf, wie man sie heutzutage nur noch bei juvenilen, nicht ausgewachsenen Vögeln findet, nicht aber mehr bei erwachsenen.

Laut einiger Experten für fossile Vögel handelt es sich bei dem Fossil aber durchaus um einen ausgewachsenen Vogel, und Qinornis paleocenica mag einer der allerletzten Vertreter einer der vielen kreidezeitlichen Vogelformen sein, die man zwar der Klade Ornithurae zuordnen kann, zu der auch die Neornithes gehören, die aber trotzdem außerhalb der Neornithes stehen. [2]

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Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob die Art wirklich nur drei Zehen hatte, das Fossil bzw. dessen Beschreibung umfasst jedenfalls nur drei.

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Referenzen:

[1] X. Xue: Qinornis paleocenica – a Paleocene bird discovered in China. Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg 181: 89-93. 1995
[2] Gerald Mayr: The birds from the Paleocene fissure filling of Walbeck (Germany). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 27(2): 394-408. 2007

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bearbeitet: 01.09.2020

Saca, Sasa and Yasaca

P. H. Bahr in the year 1912 quotes a Dr. B. Glanvill Corney, at that time Chief Medical Officer in the Fiji Islands.:  

There is, or was until eight or ten years ago, a bird in the interior and northern coast of Vitilevu called the ‘Sasa’; described as having speckled plumage and running along the ground among reeds, cane-brakes, and undergrowth. … The Sasa did not fly, and seems to have been a mound-builder. I once met with some dogs in a remote mountain village that the natives had specially trained to hunt the Sasa, which they described as Koli dankata sasa, i. e. Sasa-catching dogs; but I never succeeded in seeing a Sasa, nor did my friend Mr. Frank R. S. Baxendale, who, as Assistant Resident Commissioner in the hill districts, lived for more than a year in the Sasa country. His successor, Mr. Georgius Wright, however, had several living specimens in his possession for some time, and told me that he considered they were Megapodes of the same or of an allied species to those met with in the island of Ninafou [Niuafo’ou] (Boscawen Island) and in Samoa. Some natives linkened them to Guinea-fowl, but said they were not so large as the latter, and that they laid a single egg. Between the years 1876 and 1905 they were still comparatively common and well known in the locality mentioned (where there are only a very few Europeans).” [1]

***

What follows is an account by Rollo H. Beck, an American ornithologist, who quotes some notes that he received by a Mr. G. T. Barker on June 5, 1925, during a stay on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji.: 

Saca Megapode

On the Tova Estate (Viti Levu Bay) one day, as I was riding toward the Wainibaka River, I heard a zooming noise on the rocks at my right. I dismounted to ascertain, if possible, what it was, as the place which had no trees, ws such an unusual one for a pigeon. The note, too, was different, having a more vibrant tone.
Grawling twenty feet along a runway but keeping myself hidden I came upon an abandoned clearing covered with short grass. The bird was about tne yards away. It ws slightly smaller than an English game rooster, had an aggressive head with yellow beak, and a stumpy tail. The coloring which was the same on the head as on the body was a mixed yellow, approaching red, and dingy black.
The bird continued its calling for a few minutes, and was answered from the far end of the clearing. Suddenly it took alarm, and as it flew out of the clearing I saw that under the rudimentary wings there were no yellow feathers. The wings had no long feathers made a whirring sound when the birds flew. I also noticed that its legs were stout, of yellow color, and that the foot had three toes. On questioning the natives, I was told that about sixty years ago there was a great area of grass country in that part, owing probably to a denser population, and also to the fact that the people were more industrious. At that time they used to hunt the bird with dogs and would secure up to fifty in a day. Even up to the coming of the mongoose, hese birds were still hunted, but owing to the spreading of the reeds over the country the catch became small.
The birds nested, generally, under the shelter of the dead leaves of the tree fern, never out in the open, and the birds used to take turns sitting on the nest. The natives described the eggs as being white, quite round, generally one, but on rare occasions, two in a nest. They used to hunt for the eggs, and when all hands were out, as many as a hundred a day would be secured. The eggs were hatched under hens in the village, but the saca always went back to the grass and would not remain in the town.
About two years after I had seen the bird, a dependable native who had hunted the birds in his youth, told me that he had seen a pair about two miles away from The place where I had observed them. Twenty was the largest number that had been observed in one flock.
The natives said that the flesh of the saca was dark, and always lean. Its wings seem to have been of some use for the bird is called in that part „the bird that lands on eight hillocks before being cought.“
The annual rainfall in that region averages ninety inches.
“ [2]

In my humble opinion this whole description, except for the nesting behaviour, sounds a lot like the description of a species of megapode (Megapodius sp.). 

Yasaca

This bird I have never seen, but from all accounts it differs from the saca. First it was called „Nasataudrau“, literally, „in hundreds“, meaning that a flock would be of about one hundred. It was said of them hat they buried their eggs for the sun to hatch out.
“ [2]

The rest seems to come directly from Mr. Beck.: 

Personally, I am doubtful if this bird ever existed in Fiji. I remember of asking a Sabeto Chief in the year 1890 if he had ever seen one – Sabeto, to the Segatoka River, being the region where the ordinary „saca“ was most plentiful. This chief was then a man over sixty years old; now add on the thirty-five years since that time – ninety five years ago, and he had never seen yasaca. He had only heard the trdition in his youth.
I am inclined to believe that the natives of this region brought the tale whith them from the Solomon Islands, where megapodes still are found. See, „A Naturalist Amongst the Head Hunters“ by Woodward. Mr. A. Barker has a copy of this book. There is a remarkable similarity of language between that part of the Solomons and Fiji, hence the tradition.
“ [2]

***

It is now well known that the Fiji Islands indeed were inhabited by at least two species of megapode, the Consumed Scrubfowl (Megapodius alimentum Steadman) and the Viti Levu Megapodius (Megapodius amissus Worthy). [3]

It is not really known when exactly these species disappeared; the abovementioned accounts, however, show that at least one of the species survived well into quite modern times.

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References:

[1] P. H. Bahr: On a Journey to the Fiji Islands, with Notes on the present Status of their Avifauna, made during a Year’s Stay in the Group, 1910-1911. The Ibis 9(6): 282-313. 1912
[2] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925
[3] T. H. Worthy: The fossil megapodes (Aves: Megapodiidae) of Fiji with descriptions of a new genus and two new species. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30(4): 337-364. 2000

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edited: 30.07.2020

Ground Doves in the Gilbert Islands?

The Polynesian Ground-Dove (Pampusanna erythroptera (Gmelin)) and the Friendly Ground-Dove (Pampusanna stairi (Gray)) are mentioned in several enumerations of birds that are thought to inhabit the Gilbert Islands in the Micronesian part of Kiribati.

So, I did a little search to find out something more ….:

The first thing I found was that D. H. R. Spennemann and H. Benjamin name these two species as inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, which apparently is an error since they use A. B. Amerson’s account as their source, in which they are clearly named as inhabiting the Gilbert – but not the Marshall Islands. [2][4].

This is the abovementioned account by A. B. Amerson Jr..:

Gallicolumba erythroptera* Ground Dove

Status — Introduced breeder in the Gilbert Islands.

Marshall-Gilbert Distribution Records — Breeding: Gilberts – Abemama, Nonouti.

Pacific Distribution — Native to the Society and Tuamotu Islands (Baker, 1951).

*Remarks — I am using the species designation given by Child (1960), who says this species was reported to have been introduced into the Gilberts from Nauru about 1940. Pearson (1962) did not find any doves at Nauru in 1961.
“ [2]

The Gilbertese name of this bird is given here as bitin, more about that later.

Gallicolumba stairi* Friendly Ground Dove

Status — Introduced, possible breeder in the Gilbert Islands.

Marshall-Gilbert Distribution Records — Gilberts – Abemama.

Pacific Distribution — Present only at Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa Islands (Peters, 1934)

*Remarks — I am using the species designation given by Child (1960) who says this species was probably introduced from Fiji.
“ [2]

Here the author states „Child (1960)“ as his source, so let’s see where that leads me to.

I could trace all accounts back to the following one, which appears to be the first that mentiones these two dove species, it is from a Peter Child who worked for about one year as an radio operator in the Coastwatching Organisation during WWII and who visited nearly all the islands in the ‚colony‘ within a time of three years from 1953 to 1956.

He was an amateur bird-watcher, as he called himself, but his accounts are in fact reliable, in my opinion.

Here they are.:

24. Gallicolumba erythroptera: Ground Dove.

Lupe palangi. Bitin (Taobe)

While Ducula is a native in the Ellice, being referred to in many old songs and legends, the ground doves are undoubtedly recent introductions of the present century, probably mainly from Fiji. At Abemama they are reported to have been introduced from Nauru about 20 years ago [ca. 1936 because this account was originally puplished in 1956], and have multiplied considerably so that there is now a fair number in a wild state. A few pairs have also been taken from Abemama to some other Gilbert Islands as pets, but in most of the Colony they are unknown. A pair taken to Nanouti had four offspring, and in June two females had nests about ten feet of the ground in an old deserted house; the nests were of grass and stra and built inside old boxes; each contained two eggs, oval in shape and creamy-white in colour. At Abemama they are said to nest in coconut crowns, often high above the ground. They feed mainly on the ground; when disturbed they fly up into the palms and their call, a soft „coo“, may then be heard.

The colouring is typically darkish greys and white; the head, neck, back and upper breats are grey with a purplish and greenish sheen or irridescence; the secondary wing feathers are mainly dark grey and the primaries and tail feathers mainly white; the abdomen is white, often speckled with grey, and he under tail-coverts white. The short bill is dark grey with a small whitish operculum at the base; the legs and feet are coral red, or purplish red. Some birds have less white than others, and hardly any two are exactly alike.
“ [1]

The name Bitin apparently is the local variation of the English word pigeon, while the name Taobeundoubtedly is the local variation of the German word Taube which means nothing but dove/pigeon; both these names suggest that the birds were imported from somewhere else.

The name Lupe palangi is the Tuvaluan name given to this bird, it can be translated as foreign pigeon (!).

It also appears to me that he did see this species with his own eyes.

He goes on with the second dove species.:

25. Gallicolumba stairii. Friendly Ground Dove.

There are few individuals in a semi-wild state at Abemama, probably of this species, and probably introduced from Fiji where it is common. The habits are similar to those of G. erythroptera, and there is no distinction in vernacular names of the two species.

The colouring is mainly brown with a little white on the wings and lower breast; the upperparts have a greenish sheen in some lights. The bill is dark and the feet deep red or purplish red.

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Abemama atoll

STS-61A mission crew
https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov 

(public domain)

All in all it appears to me that both, the Polynesian- as well as the Friendly Ground Doves, indeed had been introduced sometimes during the middle 1930s, during WWII to at least the Abemama atoll, it appears not to be known by whom, and it also appears not to be known if they still exist there.  

Interesting is the statement that at least one of them had been brought from Nauru, where no groud dove species is known to have existed – and if one has existed it might rather have been a distinct, endemic one, but not the Polynesian Ground Dove.

Maybe someone with an interest in birds will be able to make a visit to the Abemama atoll some day and clarify these questions.

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References:

[1] P. Child: Birds of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. Atoll Research Bulletin 74:1-38. 1960
[2] A. B. Amerson Jr.: Ornithology of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 127: 1-348. 1969
[3] Robert P. Owen: A checklist of the birds of Micronesia. Micronesica 13(1): 65-81. 1977
[4] Dirk H. R. Spennemann; Hemley Benjamin: Notes on the Avifauna of Ebon Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Historic Preservation Office 1992

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edited: 30.07.2020

Lanius gambieranus – what is that?

When you’re dealing with extirpated/extinct birds, you will sooner or later come across species that raise more questions than others.

Such a species is the Mangareva-yes-what-actually?:

Lanius gambieranus Lesson, 1844, Écho du Monde Savant, p. 232 (cf. Ménegaux, p. 180). IlesGambier. Type perdu depuis longtemps.

Connue seulement par la description du spécimen qui était autrefois dans la collection du Docteur Abeillé de Bordeaux. Lesson précise qu’une peinture fut préparée par M. Charles Thélot de Rochefort, mais nous n’avons pas retrouvé cette peinture, ni d’ailleurs le spécimen. 
[RÉPARTITION ET STATUT]. – Selon Lesson, le spécimen décrit provenait des îles Gambier. Ces îles furent visitées par plusieurs expéditions maritimes françaises avant 1840, et le spécimen fut probablement rapporté par le frère de Lesson, le Docteur Adolphe Lesson, qui voyagea durant quatre années dans les mers du Sud comme «Chirurgien» à bord d’un bateau. Le spécimen était autrefois dans la collection Lesson à Rochefort. 
Les seules autres mentions de passereaux aux îles Gambier sont données par Garrett qui trouva des fauvettes durant la seconde moitié du xix* siècle (Wiglesworth, 1891b) et par Buck (1938) qui note KOMAKO – «Reed Warbler». Signalons aussi qu’une fauvette fut observée sur l’îlot Tepapuri en 1971 (Thibault, 1973b). Ce dernier oiseau, blanchâtre dessus et brun dessous, devait être un erratique de la forme habitant les atolls au nord des Gambier, A. caffer ravus. Deux spécimens M.N.H.N ont été considerés comme des oiseaux pouvant provenir des îles Gambier (Lacan et Mougin, 1974b), mais il s’agit vraisemblabIement d’une forme éteinte d’ A. luscinia provenant de Micronésie (Holyoak et Thibault, 1978b). L’expédition Whitney ne trouva pas de fauvette en visitant les îles Gambier, en dépit de nombreuses recherches en 1922 (Beck et Quayle, ms). 
[DISCUSSION], – L’oiseau décrit par Lesson ne correspond à aucune forme de spécimens connus. Il est douteux qu’il s’agisse d’une pie-grièche (Laniidae), comme l’avait pensé Lesson. Il est également peu probable que se soit un siffleur (Pachycephala), comme certains auteurs l’ont suggéré (Lacan et Mougin, 1974b; Thibault, 1973b).
La taille, la forme et la coloration font plutôt penser à une fauvette, voisine des formes habitant les îles Cook. Cette hypothèse serait d’autant plus vraisemblable qu’il serait étonnant que des îles volcaniques de la taille des Gambier n’aient pas eu de fauvettes. Sans doute, Lesson avait déjà décrit en 1820 la Fauvette de Tahiti comme appartenant au genre Tatare, mais il n’est pas étonnant qu’il n’ait pas établi de relation entre cette fauvette et l’oiseau des Gambier, en raison de leurs différences morphologiques importantes.
De nombreuses interrogations subsistent au sujet de cet oiseau et il n’est pas évident qu’il ait été véritablement collecté aux Gambier, bien que les autres descriptions de Lesson ne présentent pas d erreurs de localité.
 „

translation:

Lanius gambieranus Lesson, 1844, Écho du Monde Savant, p. 232 (cf. Ménegaux, p. 180). Gambier Islands. Type long lost.

Known only by the description of the specimen that was once in the collection of Doctor Abeillé de Bordeaux. Lesson specifies that a painting was prepared by Mr. Charles Thélot de Rochefort, but we have not found this painting, nor indeed the specimen.
[DIVISION AND STATUS]. – According to Lesson, the described specimen came from the Gambier Islands. These islands were visited by several French maritime expeditions before 1840, and the specimen was probably brought back by Lesson’s brother, Doctor Adolphe Lesson, who traveled for four years in the South Seas as a „surgeon“ aboard a boat. The specimen was formerly in the Lesson collection in Rochefort.
The only other records of passerines in the Gambier Islands are given by Garrett who found warblers in the second half of the nineteenth century (Wiglesworth, 1891b) and by Buck (1938) who noted KOMAKO – „Reed Warbler“. It should also be noted that a warbler was observed on Tepapuri islet in 1971 (Thibault, 1973b). This last bird, whitish above and brown below
 [shouldn’t it be vice versa?], must have been an erratic of the form inhabiting the atolls north of the Gambiers, A. caffer ravus. Two M.N.H.N specimens have been considered as birds that may have originated from the Gambier Islands (Lacan and Mougin, 1974b), but they are probably an extinct form of A. luscinia from Micronesia (Holyoak and Thibault, 1978b). [they are now known to indeed be specimens of a species formerly inhabiting the island of Mangareva] The Whitney expedition did not find a warbler when visiting the Gambier Islands, despite extensive research in 1922 (Beck and Quayle, ms).
[DISCUSSION], – The bird described by Lesson does not correspond to any form of known specimens. It is doubtful that it is a shrike (Laniidae), as Lesson had thought. It is also unlikely to be a whistler (Pachycephala), as some authors have suggested (Lacan and Mougin, 1974b; Thibault, 1973b). 
The size, shape and coloring are more like a warbler, similar to the forms found in the Cook Islands. This assumption would be all the more likely since it would be astonishing if volcanic islands the size of Gambier did not have warblers. No doubt Lesson had already described the Tahitian Warbler in 1820 as belonging to the genus Tatare, but it is not surprising that he did not establish a relationship between this warbler and the Gambier bird, because of their significant morphological differences. 
Many questions remain about this bird and it is not obvious that it was really collected in Gambier, although the other descriptions of Lesson do not present errors of locality.
“  [3]

Today, most ornithologists think that the description fits best with the extinct Mangarevan Reed-Warbler, a bird that is known to have indeed existed. Yet, there are in fact two surviving specimens of this species, Acrocephalus astrolabii Holyoak & Thibault, which, however, are still often referred to as having been collected somewhere in Micronesia, an assumption that is now obsoleted. [4]

However, the reed-warbler was much larger than 14 cm, and it lacks the yellow underside that our enigmatic bird is said to have had; but let’s just take a look on the original description, it is in French and reads as follows:

Cette pie-grièche est fort voisine du Lanius tabuensis de Latham. Comme elle, on la trouve dans le mer du Sud, et c’est aux îles Gambier qu’elle vit.
Cette espèce a les formes courtes et trapues. Elle mesure 14 centimètres. Ses ailes sont presque aussi longues que laqueue; son bec est peu crochu, bien que denté; il est noiràtre ainsi que les tarses; tout le plumage en dessus, les ailes et la queue sont d’un brun olivàtre uniforme; le devant du cou, à partir du menton jusqu’au haut de la poitrine, est olivàtre foncé; tout le dessous du corps, depuis le haut du thorax jusqu’aux couvertures inférieures, est du jaune le plus vif et le plus égal; les plumes tibiales sont brunes, mais cerclées d’une sorte de jarretiere jaune à d’articulation le dedans des ailes est varié de jaune et de blanc, ce qui forme un rebord étroit, blanc dessous du fouet de l’aile; la queue est légèrement échancrée, et le sommet des rectrices présente un point jaune.” [1]

Here is my translation:

This shrike is very close to Lanius tabuensis [Aplonis tabuensis (Gmelin)] of Latham. Like this, it is found in the South Sea, and it lives in the Gambier Islands.
This species has a short, squat form. It measures 14 centimeters. Its wings are almost as long as the tail; the beak is slightly hooked, but dentate; it is black as well as the tarsi; all the plumage above, the wings and the tail are uniformly olive brown; the front of the neck, from the chin to the top of the breast, is dark olive; the whole lower part of the body, from the top of the thorax to the lower coverts, is the liveliest and most even yellow; the tibial feathers are brown, but circled in a sort of yellow, hinged garter, the underside of the wings is varied with yellow and white, forming a narrow, white rim beneath the whip of the wing; the tail is slightly forked, and the top of the rectrices are dotted yellow.

You see, the species was described as a shrike (Laniidae) and as being very closely related to Lanius tabuensis.

Well, shrikes, of course, do not exist in Oceania at all, and Lanius tabuensis is called Aplonis tabuensis today and is a starling (Sturnidae), the South Sea Starling. You must know that in the 19th century still no one really had any idea of ​​biogeography, and the same applies to the relationships between the different bird species.

Not a shrike, but what about a starling – Aplonis gambieranus?

Hm, according to the description rather not, the size (14 cm) seems a bit too small (my gut feeling), and the colors do not fit to any other Polynesian starling.

Not a starling, but what about a robin – Eopsaltria gambierana?

EOPSALTRIA GAMBIERANA.
Lanius gambieranus, Less. Echo de M. S. 1844, p. 232.
Eopsaltria gambierana, Hartl. Wiegm. Arch. für Naturg. 1852, p. 133.
Low or Paumotu Islands (Gambier’s Islands or Mangarewa).
“ [2]

This genus does not occur in Polynesia, but the closely related genus Petroica does indeed (both genera belong to the family Petroicidae), however, both genera, in my eyes, can be excluded for biogeographic reasons.

Not a robin, but what about a whistler – Pachycephala gambierana?

The bird was for some time also thought to may have been a whistler and the genus Pachycephala indeed is occuring in Polynesia, yet only in the western part, namely in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga but not further east, so, no.

Not a whistler, but what about a monarch – Monarcha gambierana?

Personally, I think that the mysterious bird from the island of Mangareva most likely was a monarch species (Monarchidae), namely one of the genus Monarcha (formerly Pomarea). The size indication fits very well, as well as the specified colors, these fit quite well with the young birds of the surviving species of this genus. Apart from that, this genus also fits very well for biogeographical reasons, the distance between the Society Islands and the Gambier Archipelago is only slightly larger than that between the Society Islands and the Marquesas (where the genus still occurs today).

***

Lastly, I would like to mention that this species is officially no longer regarded as having existed at all, not just as dead/extinct, but as ‘having never existed’!

But why?

Because the type does not exist anymore? – this applies also to other species!
Because there was a picture that is now lost as well? – who actually is screwing up something like that, and … this too applies also to other species!
Because no one can say what kind of bird it actually could have been? 

In my humble opinion this enigmatic bird, which might very well have existed, most likely was either an somewhat aberrant starling or a member of the monarch family.

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References:

[1] R.-P. Lesson: Catalogue descriptif des oiseaux nouveaux, rares ou peu connus, de la collection Abeillé. L’Écho du monde savant et l’Hermès: journal analytique des nouvelles et des cours scientifiques. 1844 pt. 2: 232
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859
[3] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[4] Alice Cibois; Jon S. Beadell; Gary R. Graves; Eric Pasquet; Beth Slikas; Sarah A. Sonsthagen; Jean-Claude Thibault; Robert C. Fleischer: Charting the course of reed-warblers across the Pacific islands. Journal of Biogeography 38(10): 1963-1975. 2011

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edited: 29.07.2020

A Fijian quail?

Was there formerly a quail species living on the Fijian Islands?

Well, here is an account by Rollo H. Beck, an American ornithologist, who quotes some notes that he received by a Mr. G. T. Barker on June 5, 1925, during a stay on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji.: 

Moa (Quail)

It is commonly said, by whites, that quail are the offspring of imported birds, but this cannot be so for I have tales that run back for hundreds of years mentioning this bird. A Mr. Coster who was one of the first white settlers on the Island of Koro said that quail were present in great numbers when he arrived there and this was many years back.
“ [1]

Indeed, there was a quail species living on the Fijian Islands, and it still does, because this account clearly refers to the Brown Quail (Synoicus ypsilophorus ssp. australis (Latham)) (see photo), an Australian species that was introduced to the Fijian Islands sometimes in the early 1900s.

The species is commonly called moa on the islands, it was introduced at least to the islands of Makogai, Vanua Levu, and Viti Levu; it is, however, now apparently restricted to the (artificial) grasslands of Vanua- and Viti Levu. [2]

*********************

Photo: Christopher Watson

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

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References:

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925
[2] Edward Narayan: Troublesome birds of Fiji Islands. Lulu, Inc. 2014

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edited: 29.07.2020

The ‚Blue Parrotfinch‘ of Micronesia

The ‚Blue Parrotfinch‘ of Micronesia is actually not really a mysterious bird, it is just the Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa (Kittlitz)).

This species inhabits northern Australia, New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, parts of Melanesia and, not least, the Micronesian islands, where it is found today on Chuuk, Kosrae, Palau, and Pohnpei; it very likely was once more widespread and did also inhabit the atolls surrounding these islands, especially those between Chuuk and Pohnpei, which share the same subspecies (ssp. clara Taka-Tsukasa & Yamashina). 

The following sentence was taken from an account by J. D. E. Schmeltz and R. Krause from 1881 and apparently refers to the Satawan atoll (unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on the original).:

Ein verschlagenes Exemplar der Erythrura trichroa schoss K. [Kubary] einmal hier.“ [1][2]

translation:

„K. shoot a stray specimen of the Erythrura trichroa here once.“

***

This species is now mainly found in the higher parts of the abovementioned islands, but very likely was more widespread once, and it is absloutely possible, I guess, that it also inhabited at least some of the atolls between the islands, like so many other Micronesian land birds do.

***

The name ‚Blue Parrotfinch‘ refers to a specimen that was collected on Pohnpei and was kept in spirit for some years, thus it lost its green color and its plumage turned into a plain blue; this specimen was later described in 1876 as a distinct species, Erythrura glauca Finsch (see photo).

*********************

References: 

[1] J. D. E. Schmeltz; R. Krause: Ein Beitrag zur Kunde der Südsee-Völker. Die Ethnographisch- Anthropologische Abtheilung des Museum Godeffroy in Hamburg. L. Friederichsen & Co., Hamburg 1881
[2] Donald W. Buden: The birds of Satawan Atoll and the Mortlock Islands, Chuuk, including the first record of Tree Martin Hirundo nigricans in Micronesia. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists‘ Club 126(2): 137-152. 2006

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Pohnpei Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa ssp. clara) from Pohnpei 

Photo: Naturalis Biodiversity Center

(no copyright)

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edited: 29.07.2020

Kischinskinia scandens Volkova & Zelkov

This species was described in 2018 based on a distal tarsometatarsal fragment and a distal fragment of a right tibiotarsus from the uppermost Early Miocene sediments of the Tagay locality on the island of Olkhon in Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

The single known fragment is most similar to the corresponding bone of the recent Wallcreeper (Tichodromia muraria (L.)), yet still differs sufficiently enough to justify its placement into a distinct, new genus.

The bird reached the size of a recent Wallcreeper and, like that species, had the ability to climb vertical surfaces. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] N. V. Volkova; N. V. Zelenkov: A scansorial passerine bird (Passeriformes, Certhioidea) from the uppermost Lower Miocene of eastern Siberia. Paleontological Journal 52(1): 53-60. 2018

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edited: 25.02.2019

Miller’s Rail

Miller’s Rail is one of the more commonly known so-called mysterious birds.

This species is actually known exclusively from a single drawing made by Georg Forster sometimes between 1772 and 75 during the second voyage of James Cook [and a copy of it made by John Frederick Miller, who described the bird as a new species in 1784]. The annotation just states that it is a Rallus minutus, [a small rail], [called] Maho, [and coming from] Taheitee, [Tahiti]. 

The drawing is rather a crude one, not „fieldguide-suitable“ and shows a small bird, clearly identifiable as a crake, with rather dark, almost black feathers, sitting on its red legs.

The bird could very well just be a Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis (Gmelin)), which today is still [patchily these days] distributed all over Polynesia, and of course was even more so 250 years ago!

***

There is yet another quite detailed description supposed to be of this species, made by John Latham in 1785 from the actual type, that is now lost.:

Otaheite R[ail].

LENGTH six inches. Bill three quarters of an inch, black: the head, neck, and all the under parts of the body, dark ash-colour: palest on the chin: the upper parts, and wing coverts, deep red brown: quills dusky, edged with white: edge of the wing, and the first quill feather, white: tail an inch and a half long, rounded in shape, and black: legs dusky yellow. Claws black.
Inhabits Otaheite, and the Friendly Isles. Sir Joseph Banks.
“ [2]

***

The same book contains the description of a variety of the Tabuan rail [now Spottless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis)] from the island of Tanna in the Solomon Islands chain which is often regarded to as being the description of the actual type specimen of Miller’s Rail, however, the description differs quite significantly from G. Forster’s depiction.:

This varies in having the plumage more inclined to brown: the vent white, transversely barred with black lines: legs red.
Inhabits the island of Tanna. Sir Joseph Banks.
” [1]

The island of Tanna, mentioned here as place of origin of this bird, was just one of several islands that were visited by Cook and his entourage in the middle of the 18th century, and the place names given by J. Latham are very often completely wrong, however, the descriptions on the other hand are rather complete and trustworthy.

It has to be taken into account that such old books most often lack any kind of register and that they mostly just use common names but lack scientific ones, searching inside them is a long-term venture.

***

It is now quite well known that in former times probably all of the islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean were inhabited by endemic rails, with several islands being known to have been inhabited by more than one species, and in many cases these were congeneric species, meaning species from one and the same genus – something that today is extremely rare, which, however, is a relict situation, left behind by human-induced extinctions. [5]

***

In ancient Tahiti, the meho too was thought to represent a deity, namely Tu (in his manifestation of moonlit sky), the meho’s cry is given as having been a „ho“, which is also thought to be the characteristic sound made by Tu himself. [3][4]

This little sentence is yet another prove for the former existence of another rail species on Tahiti beside the Red-billed Rail (Gallirallus pacificus (Gmelin)), which is also mentioned in this short enumeration of birds representincg gods in ancient Tahiti.

*********************

References:

[1] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 235. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[2] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 236. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[3] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928
[4] Douglas L. Oliver: Ancient Tahitian Society. The University Press of Hawai’i, Honolulu 1974
[5] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

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Depiction by Georg Forster, 1772-75

(public domain)

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edited: 28.07.2020

Mo’ora-‚ura and toroa – a red duck and a surf duck from Tahiti?

In ancient times, Tahitians believed that several of their Gods and other celestial beings would show themselves to the human eye in form of an animal, a so-called ata and Teuira Henry [see also here] lists some of them, among them also three kinds of duck.:

Red-feathered duck (mo‘ora-‘ura), ata of ‘Orovehi‘ura (‘Oro in his manifestation of Red-feather-covered). 
Wild duck (mo‘ora-ōviri), ata of “sylvan elves.” 
Surf duck (toroa), ata of Hau, god of peace.
“ [1][2]

The ‚Wild duck‘, mentioned here, is the Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa J. F. Gmelin) which is the only duck species known from French Polynesia at all, so what are the other two ‚ducks‘?

The most showy headdress worn officially by the king and princes and high chiefs was the taumi, a superb helmet made of clusters of crimson feathers of the moora ‘ura (red-feathered duck), set upon a light framework and covering the head like a bird, with a glossy terminal behind of outspreading red, black, and white feathers tastily mixed together.“ [1][2]

taumi, however, actually is a gorget decorated with feathers, a feathered helmet was called fau.:

Henry gives a description of a headdress which has some characteristics of a fau, but which seems to be a mixture of remembered types, further confused by the use of the name taumi, which we know was a gorget:“ [3]

The fau was also decorated with several of the elongated tail feathers of tropicbirds (as you can see in the depiction, in which they are from the White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus ssp. dorotheae Daudin)).

This depiction shows three men wearing a taumi, one of them, a tahu’a, a high priest, also wearing a fau, decorated with a ray of white tail streamers of the pete’a (Phaethon lepturus ssp. dorotheae).

Depiction from: ‚William Hodges: The fleet of Otaheite assembled at Oparee, 1777‘

(public domain)

*********************

References:

[1] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928 
[2] Douglas L. Oliver: Ancient Tahitian Society. The University Press of Hawai’i, Honolulu 1974
[3] Karen Stevenson; Steven Hooper: Tahitian fau – unveiling an enigma. Journal of the Polynesian Society 116(2): 181-212. 2007

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edited: 27.07.2020

Der Harlequinkolibri – eine Art die nie existiert hat … oder doch?

Diese heute wohl kaum mehr bekannte ‚Art‘ wurde im Jahr 1788 anhand eines einzelnen Exemplars sowie einer Beschreibung von John Latham [1] als Trochilus multicolor Gmelin beschrieben.

Der Harlequinkolibri erreichte laut Beschreibung eine Größe von insgesamt 12,7 cm, hatte einen relativ langen Schnabel und war recht auffällig gefärbt.

Es sind einige Abbildungen dieser ‚Art‘ überliefert, im Ganzen existieren allerdings eigentlich nur zwei verschiedene Darstellungen, die wieder und wieder von verschiedenen Künstlern kopiert wurden. [2]

Wunderschön, aber ursprünglich wohl trotzdem eine aus verschiedenen Vögeln zusammengebaute Fälschung

Das einzige bekannte Harlequinkolibri-Exemplar wurde 1819 (?) als Fälschung erkannt und letzlich weggeworfen, so dass es nicht mehr für weitere Untersuchungen zur Verfügung steht. [2]

*********************

Referenzen:

[1] John Latham: Supplement to the General synopsis of birds. London: printed for Leigh & Sotheby 1787
[2] Robert Prŷs-Jones; Rick Wright: Rise and fall of the Harlequin Hummingird ‚Trochilus multicolor‘: a species that never was. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists‘ Club 139(3): 215-227. 2019

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bearbeitet: 17.05.2020

SMNS 59466/19

Hinter diesem Arbeitsnamen verbirgt sich ein winziges Knochenfragment, das distale Ende eines linken Humerus, gerade einmal 0,27 cm hoch und 0,26 cm breit, es stammt aus einer etwa 26 Millionen Jahre alten Fundstätte bei Herrlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland.

Auch wenn es sich hierbei um das wohl kleinste Fragment handelt, das in Herrlingen gefunden wurde, lässt sich dieses, im Gegensatz zu nahezu allen anderen, zumindest grob einer Gruppe zuordnen, nämlich zu den Euoscines oder Eupasseres, zu denen heute nur noch die Dickichtvögel (Atrichornithidae) und Leierschwänze (Menuridae) Australiens gehören.

Der Vogel wird zu Lebzeiten eine Größe von etwa ca. 9 bis 12,5 cm erreicht haben, je nachdem an welchem Referenzmaterial man sich orientiert.

*********************

References:

[1] Albrecht Manegold: Passerine diversity in the late Oligocene of Germany: earliest evidence for the sympatric coexistence of Suboscines and Oscines.

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edited: 07.05.2020

Winnicavis gorskii Bocheński, Tomek, Wertz, Happ, Bujoczek & Świdnicka

This is the “newest” of the European Oligocene birds with “brittly limbs”, this time only the wingbones are preserved. These are unlike the wingbones of any other passerine bird known so far, extant or extinct.

The bird was small, about the size of a Great Tit (Parus major L.), I will see if I am able to make some kind of reconstruction, whatsoever. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Zbigniew M. Bocheński, Teresa Tomek, Krzysztof Wertz, Johannes Happ, Małgorzata Bujoczek & Ewa Świdnicka: Articulated avian remains from the early Oligocene of Poland adds to our understanding of Passerine evolution. Palaeontologia Electronica 21(2). 2018

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Let’s have a little update here.

I’ve made a little sketch, based on a Great Tit, however, knowing that this bird was not related to any of the modern Passeriformes, I thought of a little songbird-like creature resembling some of the Australian/Papuan “primitive” songbirds.

*********************

my reconstruction, the bird reached a size of about 15 cm or in other words was indeed about the size of a Great Tit; remember, only the wing bones and some impressions of several wing feathers are known

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edited: 06.04.2020

Levaillant’s Pie-Grièche Rouge A Plastron Blanc

Levaillant’s Pie-Grièche Rouge A Plastron Blanc, the White Shrike with the Red Breastplate, is one of several enigmatic species of birds that were described in the early 1800s based on stuffed specimens that were actually just fakes composed by some business-minded taxidermist from the parts of several other birds, a practise that was quite common in former times.

The more unusual such a specimen the higher probably was its price ….

Depiction from: ‘François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. Paris, chez J. J. Fuchs, libraire, Rue des Mathurins, Hôtel de Cluny: de l’imprimerie de Perroneau, Rue des Grands Augustins 1799’

(not in copyright)

Here is a part of the description, which mentions the supposed origin of this ’species‘ as having been the islands of the South Seas, which actually could be anywhere …:

Cette belle espèce appartient, à ce qu’on m’a assuré, aux îles de la mer du Sud. De quatre individus que j’ai vus, deux avoient la barre de l’aîle blanche au lieu d’être rouge; celles-ci seroient- elles des femelles? C’est ce que j’ignore, n‘ ayant euà leur égard aucun renseignement quelconque, et n’ayant vu que les peaux rembourrées de ces oiseaux.

translation:

This beautiful species belongs, as I have been assured, to the islands of the South Sea. Of the four individuals I saw, two had the bar of the wing white instead of being red; would these be females? This is what I do not know, having had no information whatsoever about them, and having only seen the padded skins of these birds.

***

However, the fake was uncovered 60 years later.:

Note. – The Lanius mystaceus, Lath. Ind. Orn. Suppl. p. xix; Levaill. Ois. d’Afr. t. 65 (Laniarius mystaceus, G. R. Gray, Gen. of B. i. p. 299), has been stated by Levaillant to be from an isle in the South Seas. It is, however, a made-up bird, being composed of a portion of the Lanius ferrugineus, Gm., with the feathers on the belly and tail from a species of red Psittacus, while the breast and vent are those from a species of Malaconotus.“ [2]

The Lanius ferrugineus, Gm., mentioned here, is the Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus (J. F. Gmelin)) a bird without red feathers, so I personally think that the original body was ‚borrowed‘ from another species, possibly from the Crimson-breasted Gonolek (Laniarius atrococcineus (Burchell)), which then got decorated with the red tail feathers of another bird, which might well have been some species of parrot. 

*********************

References:

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. Paris, chez J. J. Fuchs, libraire, Rue des Mathurins, Hôtel de Cluny: de l’imprimerie de Perroneau, Rue des Grands Augustins 1799
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859

*********************

edited: 21.03.2020

The less popular case of Columba R. forsteri

A pigeon collected during one of J. Cook’s journeys in the middle of the 18th century on the island of Tahiti, Society Islands, was described and named Columba R. forsteri in 1829 by J. G. Wagler, this is the original description.:

C. R. Forsteri. Habitus et magnitudo C. globicerae; capite et cervice prorsus nigris; dorso, uropygio, remigibus et rectricibus coeruleo et viridi nitentibus; gula, jugulo, pectore, abdomine femoribusque fuliginosis; crisso ferrugineo; capistro albo; cera prorsus non globosa.

Columba globicera var.? Reinh. Forster in Manuscr.

Rostrum nigrum; pedes rubri. Habitat in insula Otaheite, ab incolis Aroobu appeliate.
“ [1]

(my humble) translation:

C. R. Forsteri. Shape and size of C. globicera; head and neck completely black; on the back, from the rump, and the rectrices shining blue and green; throat, neck, breast, belly (hips?) sooty; undertail coverts ferruginous; lores white; cere absolutely not globose.  

Columba globicera var.? Reinh. Forster in Manuscr.  

Beak black; feet red. Inhabits the island of Otaheite, named by the islanders Aroobu.

***

According to S. L. Olson and D. W. Steadman this description fits very well with the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata (Bonaparte)), which is now restricted to the island of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, but which indeed is known to have been much more widespread in former times. [2]

However, this species is much larger than the Polynesian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aurora Peale) from Tahiti, named Columba globicera in the description, and not of the same size, and its head and neck are slate-colored and not black as the description says; anyway, neither the adult nor the juvenile Polynesian Imperial Pigeon have ferruginous undertail coverts while the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon again has.

Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata); unfortunately the ferruginous undertail coverts are not visible in this photo

Photo: Samuel Etienne

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

So, after all, this little description may indeed be the only historical record of the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon outside the island of Nuku Hiva, it disappeared sometimes during the 18th century. Subfossils assigned to this large bird are now known from Mangaia, Cook Islands; Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Ua Huka, Marquesas; as well as from Huahine, Society Islands. [3] 

However, I personally still have some doubts about the identity of these large imperial pigeon forms outside of the Marquesas, in my humble opinion they should rather be considered distinct forms.

*********************

References:  

[1] J. G. Wagler: Beiträge und Bemerkungen zu dem ersten Bande seines Sytsema Avium. (Fortsetzung III.) Isis von Oken 7: 735-762. 1829 
[2] S. L. Olson; D. W. Steadman: Comments on the proposed suppression of Rallus nigra Miller, 1784 and Columba R. Forsteri Wagler, 1829 (Aves) .Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 44, 126-127. 1987 
[3] David W. Steadman; Dominique S. Pahlavan: Extinction and biogeography of birds on Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Geoarchaeology 7(5): 449-483. 1992

*********************  

edited: 18.03.2020

A ground dove from Karoraina?

The genus Pampusana, formerly Gallicolumba and then Alopecoenas, apparently did once occur also as far northeast as to the Line Islands of Kiribati, as can be taken from an account from 1840 by Frederick Debell Bennett about a stay on Caroline Island, now named Karoraina.:

At night, on the 22nd of April, many shoal-birds came about the ship, greeting us with their hoarse cries, so prophetic of the vicinity of land; and at daybreak on the following morning, Caroline Island was seen from the mast-head, bearing N.W., distant 10 miles.

 The inland thickets contained a great number of small pigeons, with white head and neck, and the rest of their plumage of a rich brown colour.
“ [1]

This account might refer to a population of the Polynesian Ground Dove (Pampusana erythroptera (Gmelin)) as suggested by David W. Steadman & Dominique S. Pahlavan or, given the extreme distance between the northernmost Tuamotuan atolls and the island of Karoraina, may perhaps rather refer to a distinct, now extinct species. [2]

*********************

References:  

[1] F. D. Bennett: Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round the Globe, from the year 1833 to 1836. London: Richard Bentley 1840
[2] David W. Steadman; Dominique S. Pahlavan: Extinction and biogeography of birds on Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Geoarchaeology 7(5): 449-483. 1992

*********************  

edited: 17.03.2020

A reed-warbler from Rurutu?

I found another interesting account that I had overlooked previously in ‚Te Manu: Bulletin de la Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie. Nr 25. December 1998‘.:

De notre correspondant Yves GENTILLOMME à Rurutu 
Lors du passage de Jean-Yves Meyer sur l’île de Rurutu, Yves Gentillomme lui a signalé avoir entendu le chant facilement reconnaissable d’une fauvette (Acrocephalus sp.). Il n’y a pas de description de fauvettes à Rurutu dans la littérature mais on en trouve une sur l’île voisine de Rimatara: Acrocephalus rimitarae (autrefois considérée comme une sous espèce de Acrocephalus vaughani de Pitcairn) – cf TE MANU n°23. Il s’agit peut être d’un oiseaux en provenance de cette île. Il existe une autre observation de fauvette aux Australes sur l’île de Raivavae. Cette observation ancienne n’a jamais été renouvelée.
“ [1]

translation:

From our correspondent Yves GENTILLOMME in Rurutu 
During Jean-Yves Meyer’s visit to Rurutu Island, Yves Gentillomme told him that he heard the easily recognizable song of a warbler (Acrocephalus sp.). There is no description of warblers in Rurutu in the literature but there is one on the neighboring island of Rimatara: Acrocephalus rimitarae (formerly considered as a subspecies of Acrocephalus vaughani from Pitcairn) – see TE MANU n°23. It may be a bird from this island. There is another sighting of a warbler in the Austral Islands on Raivavae Island. This ancient observation has never been repeated.

***

Today the island of Rurutu does not harbor an endemic reed-warbler species but it may well have done so in former times; the neighboring island of Rimatara, however, still is home to an endemic form of reed-warbler, the Rimatara Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus rimitarae (Murphy and Mathews)), and the bird heard singing on Rurutu in the late 1990s might indeed have been such a bird.

The Rimatara Reed-Warbler may be in the state of expanding its distributional area, or there may just be some stray birds appearing on neigboring islands from time to time. 

There is, however, a very little possibility that there is an endemic Rurutu Reed-Warbler that has survived into the late 1990s.

*********************

References:

[1] Te Manu: Bulletin de la Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie. Nr 25. December 1998

*********************

edited: 17.03.2020

Ein Strandläufer vom Manua’e-Atoll, Gesellschaftsinseln?

The quail spoken of by an early writer as occuring on Christmas [Kiritimati] and possibly other islands was probably the native sandpiper, as it resembles a quail when running on the ground and a merchant here told me the other day of quail on Scilly Islands [Manua’e] which he is putting into coconuts.“ [1]

Übersetzung:;

Die Wachtel von einem früheren Schreiber als auf Christmas und möglicherweise anderen Inseln vorkommend erwähnt war wohl der einheimische Standläufer, da er einer Wachtel ähnelt wenn er am Boden rennt und ein Händler hier erzählte mir neulich von Wachteln auf den Scilly-Inseln die er in Kokosnüsse steckt.

Diese eher beiläufige Randnotiz ist der einzige Hinweis auf die frühere Existenz einer Strandläuferart (Prosobonia sp.) auf den ‚Inseln hinter dem Wind‘ in der Gruppe der Gesellschaftsinseln, einer Art derselben Gattung, von der bekannt ist, dass sie in der Vergangenheit auf den Inseln Mo’orea und Tahiti im Südosten des selben Archipels vorkam.

Die einzige der Inseln dieser Gruppe auf der man bisher eine Fossillagerstätte entdeckt hat ist Huahine, von dort liegen, zumindest bisher, noch keine Funde dieser Gattung vor.   

Die Form vom Manua’e-Atoll, wenn sie wirklich existiert hat – und ich denke, sie könnte durchaus existiert haben, könnte mit jener identisch gewesen sein, die aus subfossilen Überresten bekannt ist, die auf der Insel Mangaia im Cook-Archipel gefunden wurde [2], oder es mag sich um eine eigenständige Form gehandelt haben; aber sie war sicher nicht identisch mit den Vögeln der Inseln Mo’orea und Tahiti, und sie war auch ganz sicher nicht identisch mit dem Tuamotu-Strandläufer (Prosobonia parvirostris (Peale)), da das Manua’e-Atoll viel näher beim Cook-Archipel liegt als am Tuamotu-Archipel. 

Interessant ist die Tatsache, dass der oben zitierte Bericht offenbar aus dem frühen 20. Jahrhundert stammt, was darauf hinweist, dass diverse polynesische Vogelformen viel länger überlebt haben als oft angenommen.

*********************

Referenzen:

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 1, Sept 1920 – June 1923
[2] D. W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

*********************

bearbeitet: 15.03.2020

A Fijian hummingbird?

Rollo H. Beck, an American ornithologist, quotes some notes that he recieved by a Mr. G. T. Barker on June 5, 1925, during a stay on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji: ‚Notes by Mr. G. T. Barker, Suva, Fiji. June 5, 1925‘.

One of these notes is about an alleged Fijian hummingbird.:

Humming bird

One evening as I was sitting on the steps, I saw what I took to be a night moth settle on a hibiscus flower. …
The supposed moth kept its wings in rapid motion, while poised before the flower sucking the honey with its long slender bill.
I struck the „moth“ with a fly switch which I had in my hand, and on picking it up, found that I had killed a small bird. I had seen only the pictures of humming birds but I concluded that this was one. Its slightly curved bill was black, as was the slender, pointed tail; the fine feathers on the breast were a bright red; the shoulders and patch under the tail were of darker tone.
Herewith is a sketch drawn to scale, which I made the next morning, after I found that the rats had eaten the bird from the wall where I pinned it. 
1921

Depiction by G. T. Barker; from: ‚ Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925‘

(public domain)

Feathers, fine as the fur of flying fox
Wings, very small
Body, red
Head and back, darker than breast
Bill and legs, black
“ [1]

Of course, hummingbirds are not found outside of the Americas, and this anecdote is 
supposed to have taken place on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. 

But what kind of bird is involved in this story then? 

I have to confess that I have no real idea, the most likely candidate is the orange-breasted Myzomela (Myzomela jugularis Peale), however, this species hasn’t a red body.

***

I personally think that this account is a very bad eyewithness records, made by someone not really interested in the natural world.

*********************

References:

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925

*********************

edited: 14.03.2020

Was there once a Giant Kingfisher living on the Fiji Islands?

The Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris (Boddaert)) has a extremely wide distribution and occurs from parts of Arabia well into western Polynesia; it is the only kingfisher living on the Fiji Islands (with three endemic subspecies) – yet, may there once have been another kingfisher species?

Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris ssp. vitiensis)

Photo: Tom Tarrant

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Rollo H. Beck, an American ornithologist, quotes some notes that he received by a Mr. G. T. Barker on June 5, 1925, during a stay on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji: ‚Notes by Mr. G. T. Barker, Suva, Fiji. June 5, 1925‘.:

Giant Kingfisher

I saw this bird, or a single bird at least, on two occasions and it rose, both times, from nearly the same place. On the last occasion, I was on the lookout for it and it passed within twenty feet in front of me so that I had a good opportunity to see it clearly. I was riding down from the village of Navuniwi, Viti Levu Bay, toward the beach and it was from a patch of swampy ground on my left that the bird arose.
The kingfisher was fully eleven inches long, with the same colored plumage as the small kind only more dingy. The blue was not so bright, and the white feathers on the wings were discolored. The back was nearly black. Its flight was heavy-much slower than that of the small species, and as it flew in a straight line toward the mangrove swamp on my right, I noticed that it held its head in a line with the shoulders.
Natives told me that these giant kingfishers were plentiful in the early days, but as the bird nested in the low mangrove, it has practically disappeared since the advent of the mongoose which is a vertitable beach comber, haunting the swamps and beaches. About twenty-five years previously I had seen one of them back of Ovalau, but was told that it was only stray in that part.
On the second occasion of my seeing the giant flycatcher
 [indeed, he writes flycatcher here instead of kingfisher], I dismounted from my horse and went into the swampy patch, finding that the bird had been eating the native sila (Job’s tears) [Coix lacryma-jobi (L.) Lam.].

Ordinary Flycatcher
 [?]

It is generally supposed that this bird is an insect eater, and does not eat fish, but this is not invariably so. As I was coming out of the Wainidoi River, ten miles below Suva, I saw a belo
 [Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra (Gmelin))] fishing in shallow water, and getting close up, noticed that it had a kingfisher in company. Three times I saw the kingfisher dive into the shallow water after shrimps, then fly onto a rock to eat them.“ [1]

So, what’s this somewhat strange account about?

There is indeed a possibility that the large Fijian Islands once harbored more than one kingfisher species, however, this particular account here pretty sure refers to the Collared Kingfisher, with the small species mentioned being the European Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis (L.)).

The whole account is expressed a bit unhappily, and this Mr. G. T. Barker very likely wasn’t a naturalist at all, that becomes very clear when he later also descibes a hummingbird that he had killed on the Fijian Island, and which in fact has been a honeyeater (Myzomela jugularis Peale) (his description, however, does not fully match that species, but that is another story ….).   

*********************

References:

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 2, Dec. 1923 – Aug. 1925

*********************

edited: 13.03.2020

Birds of Paradise hybrids – Astrapian Sicklebill

The exceedingly beautiful Astrapian Sicklebill is known from exactly one single specimen.

The form, also known as Green-breasted Riflebird, was described as a good species in 1897, it is however, a hybrid form with the Arfak Astrapia (Astrapia nigra (J. F. Gmelin)) and the Black Sicklebill (Epimachus fastuosus (Hermann)) being the parent species.

It is somewhat strange that the same species are thought to be the parents of a very distinct form, Elliot’s Bird of Paradise (Epimachus elliotti Ward).

Depiction from: ‚Ernst Hartert: Notes on the Paradiseidae figured on plates VII. and VIII. Novitates Zoologicae 18: 604. 1911‘

(public domain)

********************

References:

[1] Clifford B. Frith; Bruce M. Beehler: The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford University Press 1998

********************

edited: 11.03.2020

Ari-manou – an extinct parrot from Bora Bora?

While checking old papers regarding the enigmatic Divine Kingfisher from the island of Bora Bora, I found that the same paper mentions the existence of a lorikeet on the same island, well actually even two species of lorikeets, one being the Blue Lorikeet (Vini peruviana (Statius Müller)) and the other one being Kuhl’s Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii (Vigors)).  

Or was it something else? 

***

Well here are the original text passages.:  

On nous donna á Borabora une espèce vivante de perruche très-voisine du phigy de Levaillant …, peut-être encore plus voisine de la perruche fringillaire …, et que M. Vigors a décrite récemment … sous le nom de psittacula Kuhlii. 
Cet oiseau, sur lequel nous fournirons de nouveaux détails dans la partie descriptive des espèces, a la langue terminée par un petit cercle de papilles nerveuses; ses habitudes sont vives et colériques, et son naturel sauvage.
”  

translated:  

We were given on Borabora a living species of parrot very close to the phigy of Levaillant …, perhaps even closer to the parakeet that Mr. Vigors has recently described … under the name of psittacula Kuhlii. 
This bird, on which we will furnish new details in the descriptive part of the species, has the tongue terminated by a small circle of nerve papillae; his habits are lively and angry, and his temper is wild.
”  

and the second part:  

Cet oiseau a les narines en scissure et la langue terminée par un cercle de papilles longues, qu’on retrouve chez l’ Ari-manou. Il se nourrit de bananes, et son caractère est extrêmement colérique. Nous nous le sommes procuré dans l’île de Borabora. 
Cette petite perruche à queue pointue a de longueur totale six pouces. Son bec et ses tarses sont orangés; le front est vert; les plumes de la tête et de l’occiput sont longues, étroites, d’un bleu céleste au sentre et frangées de noir sur les bords; les joues, le devant de la gorge et du cou, jusqu’au haut du ventre, sont d’un rouge vermillon mat: le milieu du ventre est aussi de ce même rouge, mais la région anale et les plumes des cuisses sont dún bleu pourpré. Le plumage est en entier d’un vert lustré clair, plus foncé et teint roussatre sur le manteau; la queue est jaune en-dessous et verte et jaune en-dessus. Les rémiges sont noires et vertes.
”  

translated:  

This bird has cracked nostrils and the tongue ends with a circle of long taste buds, found in the Ari-manou [?]. It feeds on bananas, and its character is extremely choleric. We obtained it on the island of Borabora. 
This small-tailed parrot has a total length of six inches
[ca. 15,3 cm]. Its beak and tarsi are orange; the forehead is green; the feathers of the head and of the occiput are long, narrow, of a heavenly blue in the center, and fringed with black on the edges; the cheeks, the front of the throat and the neck, up to the upper part of the belly, are of a matt vermilion red: the middle of the belly is also of this same red, but the anal region and the feathers of the thighs are of a blue purple. The plumage is entirely lighter green, darker and reddish on the mantle; the tail is yellow below and green and yellow above. The flight feathers are black and green.”  

***

Well, the description mostly fits with Kuhl’s Lorikeet, except for the color of the mantle (said to be darker and reddish; but is yellowish green in V. kuhlii), and the tail (said to be yellow below and green and yellow above; but is yellowish green and red in V. kuhlii).  

So what do we have here?  

Kuhl’s Lorikeet was once more widely distributed, this is a fact that is known, the bird inhabited mostly all of the Austral- and the Cook Islands, but what about the Society Islands?  

Kuhl’s Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii); photographed at the Museum Heineanum, Halberstadt

There are also some old oral traditions from the Society Island published in 1928, mentioning at least seven different kinds of parrots, some can be identified as well-known species, others can’t.  

***

My guess is, the likeliest possibility is that this parrot from Bora Bora may represent a now extinct subspecies of Kuhl’s Lorikeet from the Society Islands.  

***

There’s a little update here as well:

The following small account is found in G. R. Gray’s ‚ Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum‘.:

CORIPHILUS KUHLII

‚Ari-manou‘ of the natives of the Society Islands.
Society Islands (Borabora); Sandwich Islands.
“ [2]

I thus changed the name of the supposed bird in the headline.

*********************  

References:

[1] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928 [2] M. L. I. Duperrey: Voyage autour du monde: Exécuté par Ordre du Roi, Sur la Corvette de Sa Majesté, La Coquille, pendant les années 1822, 1823, 1824, et 1825, par M. L. I. Duperrey; Zoologie, par Mm. Lesson et Garnot. Paris: Arthus Bertrand 1828
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859

*********************  

edited: 10.03.2020

A swamphen from Ra’iatea?

Swamphens (genus Porphyrio) are distributed worldwide (except of course Antarctica), five species are currently officially recognized. In my opinion there are actually more species, 11 to be exact, namely if the Purple Swamphen (species complex) is split into the distinct species which it actually consists of.

And then there are the extinct members including five described species and seven not-yet-described ones.

***

And … then there are the hypothetical ones … two so far, one of which I have already written about here:

The Tahitian Mountain Goose

The other one is way less mysterious and on the other hand much more mysterious, it is a swamphen from Ra’iatea, Society Islands.

The island of Ra’iatea lies 50 km east of Huahine, the home island of McNab’s Swamphen (Porphyrio mcnabiKirchman & Steadman), one of 12 the extinct swamphen forms known on the basis of subfossil bones only.

***

What do we actually known about the mysterious bird of today’s post?

Not much. There is a little note among a big listing of Polynesian (including Melanesian and Micronesian) birds, which says the following.:

319.* Porphyrio sp.
Porphyrio sp. (Schmeltz), Cat. Mus. Godef. 1874 V, p. XVI; Garrett, 1. C. note.
Island of Raiatea, Society Is. (Garrett).
This species is known from two young specimens only.
“ [1]

***

And that’s it.

I could not find out anything else.

But … the Australian Swamphen is known to be a trampy species and has colonized new Zealand only quite recently, maybe only after the colonization of the islands by the first Polynesians. The same species has also colonized parts of Oceania, where the ssp. pelewensis Hartlaub & Finsch has evolved in Palau and the ssp. samoensis Peale (including. ssp. vitiensis Peale) in western Polynesia.

So, the two Ra’iatean birds may in fact not have been collected on Ra’iatea at all but on another island, or they may have been taken there but may have originated from another place, maybe from Samoa, the closest place where swamphens still exist today.
… or the Ra’iatean birds were indeed a distinct subspecies or perhaps rather species that survived into the 19th century.

***

Here is a little update for this enigmatic bird.:

Porphyrio porphyrio (L.), Talève poule-sultane. 

La seule citation de l’espèce en Polynésie orientale est due à Wiglesworth (1891b) qui mentionne «Porphyrio species» à Raiatea d’apres deux spécimens immatures collectés par Andrew Garrett. Il semble que les spécimens aient disparu. Il est douteux qu’il s’agisse d’une erreur d’étiquetage car Garrett ne visita certainement pas les Samoa, ni d’autres îles de ‚ouest du Pacifique. Ces oiseaux étaient donc, soit des visiteurs de Samoa, soit les représentants d’une population vivant autrefois à Raiatea et éteinte depuis longtemps.
“ [2]

translation:

Porphyrio porphyrio (L.), Purple Swamphen.  

The only quotation of the species in Eastern Polynesia is due to Wiglesworth (1891b) which mentions «Porphyrio species» in Raiatea according to two immature specimens collected by Andrew Garrett. The specimens appear to have disappeared. It is doubtful that this was a labeling error because Garrett certainly did not visit Samoa or other islands in the western Pacific. These birds were therefore either visitors from Samoa or representatives of a population formerly living in Raiatea and extinct for a long time.

*********************

[1] Lionel K. Wiglesworth: Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands). Berlin: R. Friedlaender & Sohn 1891 In: Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königl. Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Etnographischen Museums zu Dresden Bd. 3: 1-84. 1890/91. herausgegeben von Hofrath Dr. A. B. Meyer, Director des Museums
[2] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984

*********************

edited: 10.03.2020

What is the Colombe Oricou?

Just recently, that means today, I did hear about this pigeon for the first time.

What is known about this bird?

Colombe Oricou (Columba auricularia Temminck & Knip)

Depiction from: Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843

(public domain)

Well, let us read (a part of) the description.:

Nous avons vu une variété entièrement blanche qui n’avoit du noir que sur la queue; d autres avoient le plumage plus ou moins marqué de taches grises et noires : ces derniers nous ont paru être de jeunes oiseaux. Les pieds sont constamment d’un beau rouge, et le bec est noir.
Nous présumons que l’Oricou habite les îles de la mer Pacifique, c’est du moins par des vaisseaux venant de ces parages que quelques individus ont été rapportés en Angleterre. Le Pigeon qui a servi de modèle à notre planche coloriée est déposé dans le cabinet de M. Raye de Breukelerwaert à Amsterdam. Cet amateur possède aussi la variété de cette espèce, dont les ailes sont entièrement blanches.“ [1]

translation:

We saw an entirely white variety that only had black on the tail; others had more or less marked plumage of gray and black spots: these appeared to us to be young birds. The feet are constantly beautiful red, and the bill is black.
We assume that the Oricou lives in the islands of the Pacific Sea, it is less by vessels from these areas than a few individuals have been reported in England. The Pigeon which served as a model for our colored board is deposited in the cabinet of Mr. Raye de Breukelerwaert in Amsterdam. This amateur also has the variety of this species, whose wings are entirely white.

The description clearly based on a stuffed specimen, and the first and last sentences are especially interesting … for reasons …. 

***

The bird is also mentioned in another work.:

Note. – The Columba auricularis, Temm. Pig. t. 20,

is said to inhabit some of the islands of the Pacific Ocean; and others have more particularly given the Friendly Islands 
[Tonga] as the abode of this bird; but it is only an artificial production of some ingenious bird-preserver.“ [2]

Ah, there it is: the Colombe Oricou apparently was one of the many made-up stuffed animals stored in museum- and private collections all over the world, made by extremely talented taxidermists and sold as exceedingly rare specimens for the highest prices – a practice that was quite common in former times.

***

The only question that remains is, which birds are involved here?

The body might have been that of a common feral pigeon, and the naked parts may indeed just have been plucked and painted subsequently.

That’s just all.

*********************

References:

[1] Pauline Knip: Les pigeons, par Madame Knip, née Pauline de Courcelles, le texte par C. J. Themminck. Paris: chez Mme. Knip 1838-1843
[2] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859

*********************

edited: 10.03.2020

A reed-warbler from Raivavae?

Hi there!

While reading some stuff in my ‚reed warbler book‘ [3] last night, I suddenly remembered that there was a sighting or rather a ‚hearing‘ of a reed-warbler on an island where no such reed-warbler was known to exist, and I was quite sure that this was one of the Cook Islands but could not find any mention of it.

But then i found it and it was one of the Austral Islands, namely Raivavae, where a reed warbler was recorded in 1968, and it was apparently indeed not seen but heard only, but it was at least identified as being a reed-warbler.

The island of Raivavae has no surviving endemic land bird species today, but of course did have some of them in the past, among them very, very, veeery likely also a reed-warbler species, and in my humble opinion this appears to have survived until the mid 20th century at least.

***

So, I’ve checked my ‚usual suspects‘ and found some furter informations, but not really that much, unfortunately.

Te Manu: Bulletin de la Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie. Nr 24. September 1998:

Une espèce non identifiée d’Acrocephalus a été notée à Raivavae en 1968 mais n’a pas été retrouvé en 1990 (Seitre et Seitre 1991) et pouvait donc être un oiseau erratique.

translation:

An unidentified species of Acrocephalus was recorded at Raivavae in 1968 but was not found in 1990 (Seitre and Seitre 1991) and could therefore be an erratic bird.

This record obviously is mentioned by D. T. Holyoak and J.-C. Thibault in 1984 [1] but I was not able to read it myself, however, I’m rather convinced that the ‚erratic bird‘ more likely is meant to be what in German is called a „Irrgast“, a migratory bird that appeared on the island inadvertently while flying from one point to another.

But are there migratory reed warblers flying over the Austral Islands? No, because if they fly from north to south or back, they just do not cross the middle of the Pacific Ocean since the migratory reed-warbler species only inhabit the continents of the ‚Old World‘ and those inhabiting the Polynesian islands do not migrate, as far as I know.

***

In chapter 7 of David W. Steadman’s ‚Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific birds‘ from 2006 [2] it is mentioned as Acrocephalus vaughani and as a ‚M, modern record‘ from Raivavae. How could I actually miss that until today?

****

I personally are rather sure that this single record from the island of Raivavae is indeed the last record of a former existing population of native, probably endemic, Raivavae Reed-Warblers which now join the ever-growing list of extinct taxa. 

***

Here is a little update, in the meantime I was able to finde the original work by D. T. Holyoak and J.-C. Thibault from 1984.:

A. v. sous-espèce ? 

Raevavae: des fauvettes furent entendues par Lacan (J.-L. Mougin, comm. pers.) en mai 1968.
“ [1]

translation:

A. v. subspecies? 

Raevavae: warblers were heard by Lacan (J.-L. Mougin, pers. comm.) in May 1968.

*********************

References:

[1] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[2] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006
[3] David Pearson; Peter Kennerly: Reed and Bush Warblers. Christopher Helm 2009

*********************

edited: 10.03.2020

Ospreys on the Tongan Islands – when did they disappear?

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus (L.)) is a highly specialized bird of prey that is distributed almost around the whole world except for Antarctica, and it was once even more widespread and occurred as far east as western Polynesia.:

The Osprey still ocurs on New Caledonia, but not further east, however, it formerly did and it is known to have occurred on the Tongan Islands on the basis of subfossil bones of adult and juvenile birds that were found in several archaeological sites on the islands of Ha’ano and ‚Uiha in the Ha’apai Islands group in the middle of the Tongan Islands chain. [2]

***

PANDION HALIAETUS (?).
Falco haliaetus, Forst. Descr.* &c. p. 257.
Isle of Pines (Island of Spruce Trees); Tonga Islands (Tongatabu or Tonga Island).
“ [1]

Is it possible that this Tongan form has survived into the early 19th century?

*********************

References:

[1] George Robert Gray: Catalogue of the birds of the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees 1859
[2] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

*********************

edited: 10.03.2020

Pā-Tangaroa – ein ausgestorbener Star von der Insel Mangaia?

Heutzutage gibt es nur noch eine einzige Starenart in Zentral-Polynesien, den Rarotonga-Star (Aplonis cinereacsens Hartlaub & Finsch), der ausschließlich auf der Insel Rarotonga, der größten der Cook-Inseln vorkommt; eine weitere Form, der Schlichtstar (Aplonis mavornata Buller), seinerseits selbst ein Mysterium für über ein Jahrhundert, stammte von einer anderen der Cook-Inseln, nämlich Ma’uke.

Es ist also ziemlich sicher, dass weitere Formen einst auch auf anderen Inseln dieser Inselgruppe vorkamen, richtig?

Ich habe gerade einen Hinweis in diese Richtung gefunden, als ich die Namen aus einer Aufzählung von Vögeln aufgeschrieben habe, die im frühen 20. Jahrhundert von jemandem namens F. W. Christian zusammengestellt wurde; diese Liste ist Teil einer Art Wörterbuch des mangaianischen Dialekts, des Dialekts, der auf der Insel Mangaia, der südlichsten und zweitgrößten der Cookinseln, gesprochen wird.

Hier die Liste der Vogelnamen.:

Pā-Tangaroa. – A speckled bird; somewhat larger than the Kere-a-rako. Frequents coconut palm blossoms. 
Tangaa-‚eo. – The native Wood-pecker; blue above, yellow and white below. 
Kere-a-rako. – A small yellow and green song-bird much resembling a canary. 
Titi. – A bird living in the rocks and crags. Much relished for food. Cf. Maori Titi, the Mutton-bird. Sanskrit and Hindustani, Titti: Tittiri, the Partridge. 
Mokora’a. – The Wild Duck, or rather, a small species of teal, found in abundance round Lake Tiriara. 
Kauā. – A sea-bird. 
Rakoa. – A sea-bird. 
Torea. – A sea-bird. 
Kotuku. – The Blue Heron. 
Kakaia. – A beautiful small white tern or sea-gull. 
Kotaa. – The Frigate or Boatswain Bird. Cf. Samoa, A ta fu,; id. Fijian, Kandavu; id. Uleai (W. Carolines) Kataf; id. Sonserol (S. W. Caralises) Gatyava; id. Cf. Sanskrit Gandharva, a celestial messenger: angel. 
Tavake. – The Tropic Bird (Phaethon). Called in the Marquesas Tavae-ma-te-ve’o, from its two long red tail-feathers. Used in Polynesian head-ornaments. Cf. Ponape Chaok: Chik; id. Cf. Sanskrit Stabaka, Stavaka a peacock’s feather: tuft: plume. 
Kara’ura’u. – A sea-bird. 
Kururi: Kuriri. – The Sand-Piper.
Karavi’a. – The Long-tailed Cuckoo. 
Kura-mō. – A small Parrakeet (on Atiu).
“ [1]

Die entsprechenden wissenschaftlichen Namen der aufgezählten Vögel.:

Pā-Tangaroa – ?
Tangaa-‚eo – Todiramphus ruficollaris
Kere-a-rako – Acrocephalus k. kerearako
Titi – Pterodroma nigripennis
Mokora’a – Anas superciliosa
Kauā – Numenius tahitiensis
Rakoa – Puffinus lherminieri
Torea – Pluvialis fulva
Kotuku – Egretta sacra
Kakaia – Gygis alba
Kotaa – Fregata spp.
Tavake – Phaethon rubricauda
Kara’ura’u – Procelsterna cerulea
KururiKuriri – Tringa incana
Karavi’a – Eudynamis taitensis
Kura-mō – Vini kuhlii

***

Alle Namen lassen sich tatsächlich existierenden Vogelarten zuordnen, mit der Ausnahme des ersten Namens. 

Welche Art verbirgt sich also hinter dem Namen Pā-Tangaroa?

Dies ist tatsächlich ein eher ungewöhnlicher Name für einen polynesischen Vogel, und der Verweis auf Tangaroa, einen der wichtigsten polynesischen Götter, ist sehr interessant. Vielleicht wurde ein Vogel mit einem solchen Namen auch als gottähnlich oder heilig oder zumindest als tapu angesehen. 

Die Beschreibung dieses Vogels: gesprenkelt und etwas größer als der Kerearako (d.h. größer als 16 cm), häufig an Kokosnussblüten zu finden, passt recht gut zu einem Star der Gattung Aplonis, tatsächlich passt er mehr zu dieser als zu jeder anderen in Frage kommenden Gattung.

Es gab also mit ziemlicher Sicherheit einmal einen Star der Gattung Aplonis, der auf der Insel Mangaia lebte, und seine subfossilen Knochen könnten früher oder später entdeckt werden; die Frage ist, hat die Art lange genug überlebt, dass sich Einheimische zumindest daran erinnern konnten, dass er Pā-Tangaroa genannt wurde? Angesichts der Tatsache, dass die Erforschung der Fauna und Flora der Cook-Inseln erst zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts begann … ist dies durchaus möglich!

***

Ich sollte noch erwähnen, dass diese Auflistung, die aus dem Jahr 1920 stammt, bereits den Cookinsel-Rohrsänger (Acrocephalus kerearako Holyoak) erwähnt, der offiziell erst 1973 entdeckt (und ein Jahr später beschrieben) wurde. [2] 

*********************

Referenzen:

[1] F. W. Christian: List of Mangaia birds. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 29(114): 87. 1920
[2] D. T. Holyoak: Undescribed land birds from the Cook Islands, Pacific Ocean. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists‘ Club 94(4): 145-150. 1974

*********************

bearbeitet: 10.03.2020

The enigmatic Washington Island Gadwall

The most mysterious of all the Pacific waterfowl is Coues‘ Gadwall, Anas strepera couesi, only two specimens of which have ever been found, on Washington Island, more than six hundred miles south of Hawaii. The two specimens, the male type and a female, collected in 1874, are now in the U.S. National Museum in Washington. In appearance these birds are simply Gadwalls reduced to about two-thirds normal size. The plumage too is rather dull and somewhat unfinished-looking. Washington Island is a marshy place only a few miles long, with a small brackich lake near the centre and a fringe of palms. Since he original pair of birds were discovered, several expeditions have stopped at the island, but no one has ever seen Coues‘ Gadwall again. Speculation is perhaps unprofitable, but sometimes it is irresistible. I often like to wonder how these birds ever came to Washington Island. It is my guess, for what it is worth, that these two specimens represent the last of a very small inbred breeding population of true Gadwalls which by an accident of migration had become established on the island. I suspect that their size and coloration are due to environment and inbreeding rather than to any genetic change.“ [4]

This account summarizes quite well what’s known about this bird.

Gadwall and Washington Island Gadwall (the smaller bird on the right side)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’

(public domain)

***

Then there are some strange accounts, or rather misinterpretations of accounts, let’s start with one that is rather less known, and speaks of the occurence of a form of gadwall on the Society Islands.:

Forster met with a species of Gadwall on the Society Islands and identified it with A. strepera Linn. It is much more likely that is was C. couesi, for the range of that species doubtless extends beyond Washington Island, the only locality as yet known for it.“ [2]

I read this original account by J. R. Forster, which is completely in Latin, and which merely is a enumeration of species, the duck is mentioned here just as „Anatem streperam„, that’s all, and this account almost for sure refers to the Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa Gmelin), which occurs on the Society Islands, and which is not separately mentioned here … and in fact, Forster mentiones „Anas strepera“ again in an enumeration of birds he describes from New Zealand, this also clearly refers to the Pacific Black Duck! [1]

***

Then there’s another account in a German book, which again is refering to an account in James C. Greenway’S „Extinct and vanishing birds of the world“ from the 1960s.:

Interessant ist eine weitere Bemerkung desselben Autors, wonach nach Angaben von Ripley ein auf den Tuamotu-Inseln gefundenes Entenkücken sich bei Erreichen der Geschlechtsreife als Schnatterente herausstellte.“ 

translation:

Interesting is another comment of the same author [J. C. Greenway], based on which according to Ripley a duckling found on the Tuamotu islands, when reaching maturity, turned out to be a gadwall.“ [6]

***

Okay … after purchasing J. C. Greenway’s book, which took me ages again, I can now proudly present you this abovementioned account by the ominous Ripley.:

But, on the other hand, Dr. S. Dillon Ripley tells me that a duckling taken on the Tuamotu Islands was raised by Charles Nordhoff at Tahiti. When it reached maturity it turned out to be a gadwall.“ [5]

That’s all, we actually deal with hearsay, an account of an account of someone who claimes to have caught a duckling on one of the Tuamotu Islands (these are actually the largest island group in the world consisting of no less than 76 atolls, just by the way ….) without naming the island in question.

However, given the geographic position of Washington Island/Teraina, a former occurence of this bird on the Tuamotu Archipelago makes much more sense than on the Society Islands.

***

But now let’s take a look on what these two persons, Dr. S. Dillon Ripley and Charles Nordhoff, have to tell; we start with Mr. Ripley …:

It sometimes happens that migrating Ducks plummet down on to isolated islands in the Pacific. Mr. Charles Nordhoff told me once that a schooner captain inbound to Tahiti from Flint island, an isolated rock pinnacle three hundred miles or more north towards Hawaii from the Society Islands, brought him a duckling which he had picked up on the island. Mr. Nordhoff was able to raise the bird, and found that it was a Pintail, presumably from wild parents. If Pintails can fly so far south of Hawaii where they are in the habit of wintering, there seems no reason why Gadwalls should not be able to do the same thing.“ [4]

… and go on with Mr. Nordhoff.:

In his article in the Waterfowl number of the AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE, Dillon Ripley mentions a duckling I received some years ago from Flint Island, which when reared proved to be a fine male Pintail. I believe that a good many stray Ducks from the Northern Hemisphere land on the Pacific Islands, and occasionally, as Ripley suggests in the case of Coues‘ Gadwall, give rise to a sedentary and eventually inbred race. I have reliable information that Shovelers in winter plumage have vistited both the Marquesas and the Tuamotu on several occasions, and that Pintail have been seen on Atiu in the Cook Group, south-west of Tahiti.“ [3]

Well, well, so the Tuamotu Islands suddenly has changed into Flint Island, which in fact is not a part of the Tuamotu Archipelago but of Kiribati – and – the duckling that was supposed to turn out being a Gadwall was in fact a Pintail (Anas acuta L.), a completely different species of duck! 

After all, we are left with probably more questions than answers.

*********************

References:

[1] Johann Reinhold Forster; Hinrich Lichtenstein: Descriptiones animalium quae in itinere ad Maris Australis terras per annos 1772, 1773 et 1774 suscepto. Berolini: Ex Officina Academica 1844
[2] Lionel K. Wiglesworth: Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands). Berlin: R. Friedlaender & Sohn 1891 In: Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königl. Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Etnographischen Museums zu Dresden Bd. 3: 1-84. 1890/91. herausgegeben von Hofrath Dr. A. B. Meyer, Director des Museums
[3] Charles Nordhoff: Notes on the birds of Tahiti. The Avicultural Magazine ser. 5. 8(5): 119-120. 1943
[4] Dillon Ripley: Pacific Waterfowl. The Avicultural Magazine ser. 5. 8(3): 67-70. 1943
[5] James C. Greenway, Jr: Extinct and vanishing birds of the world. Dover Publications, 2nd Edition 1967
[6] Dieter Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986

*********************

edited: 28.02.2020

A Tahitian Swamphen?

While researching some accounts reffering to the Washington Island Gadwall (Mareca strepera ssp. couesi Streets), I stumbled accros a footnote that made me wonder … a bit at least.:

The native birds of Tahiti are in a sad state; the Porphyrio is extinct, as is the small grey, Thrush-like Omaomao [Tahiti Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus caffer (Sparrman))], famous for its beautiful song, and the magnificent large Fruit Pigeon [Polynesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aurorae (Peale))], of which a few existed as late as 1920.“ [1]

Well, aside the fact that the name „Omaomao“ is rather applied to the Garrett’s Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus musae ssp. garretti (Holyoak & Thibault)), the Tahiti Reed-Warbler is still alive.

What amazes me is that the author mentiones the term „Porphyrio“ in a absolutely casual way, and this certain author, Charles Nordhoff, knew what a Porphyrio is, he kept six New Zealand Swamphens (Porphyrio melanotus (Temminck)) in the garden of his house while living on the island of Tahiti.

***

There is furthermore a painting by Paul Gaugin, made in 1897 during a stay on Tahiti, it is called „Vairumati“ (see below) and shows a female islander sitting on a chair and to her left a strange-looking white bird that very much reminds on a swamphen. 

I personally do not think that Gaugin painted a real bird here because the same bird appears in several of his paintings, always in the same pose, differing only in the coloration.

Paul Gaugin „Vairumati“ 1897

(public domain)

***

It nevertheless is almost certain that a swamphen species once inhabited the island of Tahiti, and that additional species inhabited all of the other Society islands, however, the only true evidence for that assumption are the subfossil remains of McNab’s Swamphen (Porphyrio mcnabi Kirchman & Steadman) found on the island of Huahine.

I only somehow doubt that this Tahiti Swamphen disappeared only around the 1940s … but, who knows.

*********************

References:

[1] Charles Nordhoff: Notes on the birds of Tahiti. The Avicultural Magazine ser. 5. 8(5): 119-120. 1943

*********************

edited: 27.02.2020

Birds of Paradise hybrides – Duivenbode’s Six-wired Bird of Paradise

At first sight this bird looks quite like a typical parotia, bearing a glossy breast shield and elongated, thread-like occipital plumes, however, it only had two of them instead of the usual six, so its vernacular name Duivenbode’s Six-wired Bird of Paradise should actually rather be Duivenbode’s Two-wired Bird of Paradise.

The form is known from two male specimens and is now known to be a hybrid of the Superb Bird of Paradise (Lophorina superba (J. R. Forster)) and the Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata (Pennant)).

Depiction from: ‚Walter Rothschild: On recently described Paradiseidae, with notes on some other new species. Ibis 9(5): 350-367. 1911‘

(not in copyright)

*********************

References:

[1] Clifford B. Frith; Bruce M. Beehler: The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford University Press 1998

*********************

edited: 26.02.2020

Birds of Paradise hybrids – Le Nébuleux

This might be the first part of a little series ….

Le Nébuleux, or the Nebulous, is known only from two paintings by Jacques Barraband in François Le Vaillant’s ‚Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis et des rolliers‘ from 1806, which very likely show a single specimen in two different positions. Jacques Barraband is known to have been absolutely accurate, thus the bird he depicted must have existed and must have looked like in his depictions. [1]

The specimen is very clearly a Twelfe-wired Bird of Paradise (Seleucides melanoleuca (Daudin)) but with only nine (or then?) instead of twelfe ‚wires‘ and with the underparts being black instead of yellow; its female-like brown colored wings indicate that it was a subadult bird. [2]

The Nebulous may have been the same as Bruijn’s Riflebird (Craspedophora bruyni Büttikofer) aka Mantou’s Riflebird (Craspedophora mantoui Oustalet), which both are hybrids of the Magnificent Riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus Vieillot) and the actual Twelfe-wired Bird of Paradise. [2]

Le Nébuleux, dans l’état du repos / The Nebulous, in the state of rest
Le Nébuleux, étalant ses parures / The Nebulous, spreading out his ornaments

*********************

References:

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de paradis et des rolliers: suivie de celle des toucans et des barbus. Paris: Chez Denné le jeune, Libraire, rue Vivienne, n°. 10. & Perlet, Libraire, rue de Tournon 1806
[2] Clifford B. Frith; Bruce M. Beehler: The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaeidae. Oxford University Press 1998

*********************

edited: 21.02.2020

Remiornis

Remiornis heberti Lemoine, an enigmatic ratite from the upper Paleocene, which might or might not have been related to the recent ostriches.

reconstruction; or rather a sketch of a reconstruction

The bird very likely resembled a stout tinamou and was flightless.

*********************

edited: 25.12.2019

Seltsame Kreidezeit-Füße – Teil 2: DIP-V-15105a/b

DIP-V-15105a und DIP-V-15105b sind zwei Bernsteinfossilien, einmal ein fast vollständig erhaltener Fuß und zum anderen Teile eines Flügels, bzw. dessen Federn, beide gehören ziemlich wahrscheinlich zueinander.

DIP-V-15105a/b erreichte die Größe eines Kolibris, genauer gesagt eines winzigen Kolibris.

Der Fuß (es ist der rechte Fuß) ist interessanterweise bis fast zu den Zehen befiedert, wobei sich hier sogar zwei verschiedene Federformen finden, etwas längere, offenbar bräunlich gefärbte, dicht stehende Federn auf der Fußoberseite sowie vereinzelte, winzige borstenartige Federchen auf den eigentlichen Zehen selbst. 

Dem Fußbau nach zu urteilen war dieser Vogel einem heutigen Baumläufer oder Kleiber vergleichbar, lebte also in den Wipfeln der Bäume und hielt sich bevorzugt an den größeren Ästen und den Stämmen auf wo er auf der Suche nach Insektenbeute schließlich mit dem Fuß in ausgetretenem Baumharz kleben blieb und so einen grausigen Tod fand.  

*********************  

Referenzen:

[1] Lida Xing; Ryan C. McKellar; Jingmai K. O’Connor; Ming Bai; Kuowei Tseng; Luis M. Chiappe: A fully feathered enantiornithine foot and wing fragment preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Scientific Reports 9(129): 1-9. 2019

Rekonstruktion des Fußes; ich habe die Federn in der vermutlichen Originalfarbe wiedergegeben
Rekonstruktion des gesamten Vogels; hier wohlgemerkt in etwa in Lebensgröße – Gummibärchen zum Größenvergleich
meine letzte Rekonstruktion; wenn die Proportionen stimmen erreichte dieses ‚Ding‘ die gigantische Größe von 4 cm, VIER ZENTIMETER!!!

leider habe ich gerade kein Gummibärchen zur Hand …. 

*********************  

bearbeitet: 15.12.2019

Seltsame Kreidezeit-Füße – Teil 4: YLSNHM01001

YLSNHM01001 ist ein winziges Bernsteinfossil (ca. 2,5 x 1,8 cm), das Teile eines Vogelfußes bzw. Reste der Haut die diesen Fuß einst umgab, inklusive einer der Fußkrallen sowie Teile der Schwanzfedern umfasst.

Trotz der schlechten Erhaltung steht fest, dass es sich hierbei um einen enantiornithiden Vogel handelt sowie ebenfalls um eine bislang unbekannte Art.

Der Fuß (inklusive der Krallen) hat eine Länge von ca. 1,5 cm. Der vierte Zeh des Fußes ist in seinem Umfang etwa doppelt so groß wie die übrigen Zehen, so weit diese zu erkennen sind. Er erscheint auffällig geschwollen, und eventuell litt dieser Vogel an einer Infektion dieses Zehs. Es ist aber auch möglich, dass es sich hierbei um Verwesungsspuren handelt, worauf auch zahlreiche warzenartig aussehende Blasen hindeuten, die sich entlang der erhaltenen Hautpartien erkennen lassen.

Der Gesamtbau des Fußes lässt darauf schließen, dass YLSNHM01001 ein kleiner insektenfangender Miniaturraubvogel gewesen sein dürfte. [1]

*********************

Referenzen: 

[1] Lida Xing; Ryan C. McKellar; Jingmai K. O’Connor; Kecheng Niu: A mid-Cretaceous enantiornithine foot and tail feather preserved in amber. Scientific Reports 9 (1): 1–8. 2019

YLSNHM01001
Rekonstruktion des Fußes; links: linker Fuß von der linken Körperseite betrachtet, rechts: rechter Fuß von oben betrachtet
Rekonstruktion des gesamten Vogels; er erreicht hier eine Gesamtlänge von ca 22 cm, ist also gar nicht so winzig wie ich ursprünglich gedacht hatte

an den Füßen und den Schwanzfedern muss ich noch mal arbeiten …

*********************

bearbeitet: 13.12.2019

SDSM 64281

SDSM 64281, also known as „Ornithurine C“ is mentioned in a study from 2011 that deals with the extinction of several bird clades at the end of the Cretaceous. [1]

This form is apparently known from at least one fragmented coracoid and comes from a bird that in life must have had a weight of about 3 kg. Unfortunatley the study fails to inform if this form is known from only the aforementioned single coracoid, and if not, if its remains were recovered only from the earliest Paleocene layers or if they were also recovered from the lates Cretaceous layers as it is the case with all other bird remains in the study.:

One of these species, Ornithurine C, is [also or only?] known from the Paleocene and therefore represents the only Maastrichtian bird known to cross the K–Pg boundary.“ 

***

Apparently, this species is known from at least four coracoids or remains of such, and they are named as  „SDSM 64281A“, „SDSM 64281B“, „UCMP 175251“, and  „MOR 2918“ and most are indeed of Late Cretaceous age, but just not all of them.

According to the authors this species might be identical with a species that was named as Graculavus augustus Hope, a bird that apparently belongs to the Charadriiformes but was very much unlike any of the charadriiform birds living today, in life it may have appeared like some kind of giant stone-curlew aka. thick-knee. [2]

*********************

References:

[1] Nicholas R. Longrich; Tim Tokaryk; Daniel J. Field: Mass extinction of birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. PNAS 108 (37) 15253-15257. 2011 
[2] Nicholas R. Longrich; Tim Tokaryk; Daniel J. Field: Mass extinction of birds at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary. PNAS 108 (37) 15253-15257. 2011. Supplementary Information

*********************

edited: 09.12.2019

FMNH PA789

This is a small bird from the Eocene of Wyoming, USA, it was only about 10 cm long and is so far known from a complete skeleton with most of the feathers preserved as well.

The bird is not yet described but is apparently currently under study, it may turn out to be related to Morsoravis sedilis Bertelli, Lindow, Dyke & Chiappe, and to belong into a new family, probably named the Morsorornithidae or alike, which then again are perhaps somehow related to the mousebird/parrot/songbird ‘orbit’.

The reconstruction shows it while somewhat stretching its left wing, it was ‘fun’ to draw all this wing feathers, and I probably will do that NEVER EVER AGAIN!!!   😉

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*********************

A little update here: 

This bird is now apparently included into the genus Morsoravis. [2]

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References:

[1] Lance Grande: The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time. University of Chicago Press 2013
[2] Daniel T. Ksepka; Lance Grande; Gerald Mayr: Oldest finch-beaked birds reveal parallel ecological radiations in the earliest evolution of passerines. Current Evolution 29(4): 657-663. 2019

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edited: 07.12.2019

A very snappy bird with strange trousers – Cruralispennia multidonta Wang et al.

This tiny thing could be called the „Cretaceous Nicobar Pigeon“, it had somewhat elongated neck feathers, the typical short tail, or rather a not-a-tail-at-all tail so typical for many of those strange Cretaceous enantiornithine birds that we now already know.

The strange-feathered creature comes from China, where it lived some 130 Million years ago in the late Early Cretaceous.

The genus name refers to its crural feathers (bird trousers) which are actually found in many birds, but here they are shaped like nothing ever seen before, maybe like a thin sheet of ceratin with a chewed end, or brush-like end, not at all like a feather. The species name again refers to its multi-toothed beak.

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a sketch of which I hope that I can produce a painting from some day ….

The bird reached a size of about 10 to maybe 11 or 12 cm when fully grown. The body feathers appear to have been more hair- than feather-like, and they may have been dark, while those on its neck were somewhat elongated and apparently were even glossy [1] … why not. 

***

Unfortunatly I could not find any plant species from the same place and time.

*********************

References:

[1] Min Wang; Jingmai K. O’Connor; Yanhong Pan; Zhonghe Zhou: A bizarre Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird with unique crural feathers and an ornithuromorph plough-shaped pygostyle. Nature Communications 8: 1-12. 2017

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edited: 19.11.2019

A kingfisher-like bird from Messel – Quasisyndactylus longibrachis Mayr

This tiny bird is thought to be the ancestor of the kingfishers or of the todies, or of both.

Quasisyndactylus longibrachis was very small, only about 10 cm long, its legs were quite long, very much like in today’s todies (Todidae) and its feet were syndactyl (that means two of the toes, toes 3 and 4, are fused together), like those of all known Coraciiformes showing that it was a member of that order.

The species is known from several specimens, some of which also still harbor their feathering, showing that this species had rather roundish wings and a rather long tail.

*********************

References:

[1] G. Mayr: „Coraciiforme“ und „piciforme“ Kleinvögel aus dem Mittel-Eozän der Grube Messel (Hessen, Deutschland). Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Band 205. 1998

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Photo: Ghedoghedo

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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my reconstruction, following a specimen with well preserved feathers; it’s only a sketch so far

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edited: 05.11.2019; 06.11.2019

Adanson’s – and Latreille’s Bee-eaters

Here I want to write a bit about two enigmatic birds that allegedly both were collected in Africa at the beginning of the 19th century; these are Adanson’s Bee-eater and Latreille’s Bee-eater.

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Adanson’s Bee-eater (Merops adansonii)

Depictions from: „François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des promerops, et des guêpiers: faisant suite à celle des oiseaux de paradis par la même. A Paris, chez denné le jeune, Libraire, Rue Vivienne, N° 10. 1807“ 

(public domain)

Adanson’s Bee-eater is an enigmatic bird known only from a single specimen which is commonly thought to have been an artificially specimen, assembled from several bird parts, a practice that was rather common in these olden days when collectors were keen to have in their collections the most rare exhibition pieces.

The following French texts are all from François Le Vaillant, they describe this ’species‘ and give us some additional information about its wehereabouts. [1]

Ce guêpier à queue en flèche ayant été méconnu par Buffon qui l’a, donné comme une simple variété de climat de son guêpier marron et bleu, ou de l’Isle-de-France, espèce que nous avons décrite dans notre précédent n°, sous la dénomination de guêpier Latreille, nous avons dû encore lui donner un nom distinctif, et nous ne pouvions à cet égard mieux faire, je pense, que de choisir celui du célebre voyageur qui l’ayant rapporté du Sénégal, l’a le premier fait connoître en Europe. Il suffira, je pense, de comparer les figures exactes que nous avons publiées de ces deux oiseaux, pour être d’abord et du premier coup-d’œil convaincu de la méprise de Buffon à leur égard, et être persuadé enfin qu’ils forment deux espèces très distinctes, bien loin de n’être l’un qu’une variété de l’autre; on ne conçoit même pas, en voyant les figures qui représentent dans les planches enluminées de Buffon ces deux oiseaux, l’un sous le nom de guêpier de l’Isle-de-France, n° 252, et l’autre, n° 314, sous celui de guêpier à longue queue du Sénégal, comment il a été possible de commettre cette erreur, et encore moins qu’elle ait été perpétuée par tous les ornithologistes qui ont écrit sur les oiseaux depuis Buffon. On conçoit en effet d’autant moins cette méprise, que ces deux figures, d’ailleurs très mauvaises , different bien plus l’une de l’autre encore, que ne différent réellement ces deux oiseaux eux-mêmes entre eux, mais assez cependant pour être bien sûr qu’ils ne peuvent être confondus ensemble comme appartenant à une seule et même espèce.

translation:

This spiny-tailed bee-eater was ignored by Buffon who gave it as a simple climate variety of its brown and blue bee-eater, or Isle-de-France [bee-eater], a species that we described in our previous issue. Under the denomination of Latreille, we have had to give it a distinctive name, and we could not, in this respect, have done better, I suppose, than the guide of the traveler who brought it back from Senegal, the first to make it known in Europe. It will suffice, I think, to compare the exact figures which we have published of these two birds, to be first and for the first glance convinced of Buffon’s mistake with regard to them, and to be finally persuaded that they form two very distinct species, far from being one variety of the other; it is not even conceivable, seeing the figures which represent, in the bright plates of Buffon, these two birds, one under the name of the Isle-de-France bee-eater, No. 252, and the other, No. 314, under that of long-tailed bee-eater from Senegal, how it was possible to make this mistake, let alone that it has been perpetuated by all the ornithologists who have written about birds since Buffon. This misunderstanding is all the less so conceived, that these two figures, which are, moreover, very bad, differ much more from one another than the two birds themselves really differ from one another, but enough, however, to be sure that they can not be confused as belonging to one and the same species.

So, in short, these two birds were originally thought to be specifically identical, what they of course are not.

***

Le guêpier Adanson est d’un tiers au moins plus fort que le guêpier Latreille, ainsi qu’on peut le voir d’ailleurs, en comparant les portraits de grandeur naturelle que nous en avons donné: il a le front ceint d’un large bandeau bleu qui, se prolongeant au-dessus des yeux, couvre les joues, les côtés et tout le devant du cou, la poitrine, et enfin tout le dessous du corps, en y comprenant les couvertures siqjéricures et inférieures de la queue, et le croupion; mais ce bleu s’affoiblit toujours davantage à mesure qu’il approche du bas-ventre; le dessus de la tête, à partir du bleu du front, ainsi que le derrière du cou, le manteau, les scapulaires, toutes les couvertures des ailes, et même les pennes de ces dernières, ainsi que toutes celles de la queue, sont couleur marron; seulement la partie excédante des deux pennes prolongées de la queue, ainsi que le bout des premières pennes des ailes, sont noirâtres; et les dernières plumes des ailes, proche le dos, sont en partie du même bleu que celui du dessous du corps; le bec est noir; les pieds sont bruns rougeàtres. Nous ignorons la couleur des yeux, n’ayant vu que la dépouille de cet oiseau, que je n’ai rencontré dans aucune des parties de l’Afrique dans laquelle j’ai pénétré; je n’ai même vu de cette espèce que le seul individu qu’en avoit rapporté Adanson du Sénégal, où il l’avoit recueilli durant ses voyages.

translation:

The Adanson bee-eater is at least a third stronger than the Latreille bee-eater, as can be seen elsewhere, by comparing the life-size portraits we have given: it has at its forehead a blue band which, extending above the eyes, covers the cheeks, the sides and all the front of the neck, the chest, and finally the whole underbody, including the undertail coverts of the tail, and the rump; but this blue becomes more and more feeble as it approaches the lower abdomen; the top of the head, from the blue of the forehead, as well as the back of the neck, the mantle, the scapulars, all the coverts of the wings, and even the feathers of these, as well as those of the tail, are colored brown; only the exceeding part of the two elongated feathers of the tail, as well as the end of the first primaries of the wings, are blackish; and the last feathers of the wings, near the back, are partly of the same blue as that of the underbody; the bill is black; the feet are reddish brown. We are ignorant of the color of the eyes, having seen only the remains of this bird, which I have not met in any part of Africa into which I have penetrated; I have not even seen of this species the only individual who had been brought back from Adanson of Senegal, where he had collected it during his travels.

The author clearly states here that he did only see remains of this bird, but also that he did not see it at all, that is somewhat irritating to me.

But what was Adanson’s Bee-eater actually?

Well, the bird’s upper side looks almost exactly like that of the Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides Des Mus & Pucheran) or the Northern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus Gmelin), the underside and forepart of the hea, however, come from another bird that, since the original specimen is now lost, will forever be unidentifiable.

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Latreille’s Bee-eater (Merops latreillei)

Depictions from: „François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des promerops, et des guêpiers: faisant suite à celle des oiseaux de paradis par la même. A Paris, chez denné le jeune, Libraire, Rue Vivienne, N° 10. 1807“ 

(public domain)

Latreille’s Bee-eater, of which I won’t give any text because it isn’t really necessary, is said in its description to come from the Isle-de-France, known today as Mauritius but being far more widespread all over Africa. This ’species‘ might actually have been a Rufous-crowned Bee-eater (Merops americanus Statius Müller) or a Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis L.), both exclusively from Asia by the way. Again, the colors won’t fit completely, so again some parts of other birds might have been added to the depicted specimen. That was apparently a quite common practice in former times, the more rare and unique a specimen was the higher was its price …. 

My personal conclusion is that both these ’species‘ never have existed.

*********************

References:

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des promerops, et des guêpiers: faisant suite à celle des oiseaux de paradis par la même. A Paris, chez denné le jeune, Libraire, Rue Vivienne, N° 10. 1807

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edited: 05.11.2019

Schwarzstirnsittich – weniger bekannte Darstellungen

Dieser tahitianische Papagei ist einer meiner Lieblingsvögel, leider existiert er aber nicht mehr da er durch eingeschleppte Säugetiere (Hunde, Katzen, Ratten) ausgerottet wurde.

Hier möchte ich zwei Darstellungen zeigen, die ich noch nicht kannte; beide stammen aus dem Jahr 1792 und wurden von Mitgliedern der Besatzung der HMS Providence angefertigt, die mit der Mission nach Tahiti gekommen war, Brotfruchtbäume und anderes botanisches Material vom Pazifik zu den Westindischen Inseln zu transportieren. 

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Darstellung: George Tobin, Leutnant an Bord der HMS Providence

(public domain)

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Darstellung: William Bligh, Kapitän der HMS Providence

(public domain)

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bearbeitet: 27.10.2019

Heracles inexpectatus Worthy, Hand, Archer, Scofield & De Pietri

Heracles inexpectatus, the unexpected Hercules, is a fossil parrot from the St. Bathans fossil site in New Zealand, that just has been described. [1]

The species is known from only two remains, or rather remains of remains to be more precicely, these are a partial left tibiotarsus and a partial right tibiotarsus, that’s just all. The species can be reconstructed as having reached a size of around 1 m, making it the largest known parrot species, dead or alive.

***

Unfortunately, one of the authors of this remarkable species apparently seem to think that the new find isn’t appetizing enough for the press, so added a „fierce beak“ to the description and is even speculating that this species, because of it’s size, must have been a predatory bird, which, of course, is complete bullshit. 

According to the paper, the species apparently was a member of the Nestoridae, a family of parrots endemic to New Zealand, and within this family its closest relative appears to be the Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus Grey), a strict herbivor. So, I personally have no idea why one of the authors does such silly speculations. 

Whatsoever … there was once a giant parrot rumbling the forests of new Zealand around 19 Million years ago, and that is remarkable enough, at least for me.

*********************

References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Suzanne J. Hand; Michael Archer; R. Paul Scofield; Vanessa L. De Pietri

*********************  

I need to write some kind of update here since the British- but also the German press apparently need to call this new species a “Cannibal” and a “Horror-Papagei”, and even claim that some scientist allegedly has suggested that this parrot was eating its smaller conspecific mates.  

What a big load of shit, let’s say it together: “SHIT!!!” Which fucking scientist, as they claim, has ever said such a bullshit???  

This was, and I bet my left hand for that, a large kakapo, nothing but a harmless, flightless, vegetarian creature, and the press apparently degenerates more and more to a shitpot full of idiots and arseholes.  

Many Thanks!

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edited: 08.08.2019

Perplexicervix microcephalon Mayr

This species was described in 2010, it is known from five or six specimens found in the Messel shale, five of which include cervical vertebrae which again all bear strange small tubercles unknown in any other bird dead or alive.

The bird may or may not be related to the so-called screamers (Anhimidae), it had a quite small head compared to its body and had very large and strong wing bones, thus apparently was good at flying, its feet have short toes which appear to have been somewhat flattened – and my gut feeling tells me that they may have had been webbed ….

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a humble reconstruction, note that I forgot to draw the halluces (big toes) onto the feet

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edited: 07.08.2019

Vanolimicola longihallucis Mayr

This species was described in 2017, it is one of the many birds from the Messel shale, that are somehow related to living ones but on the other hand again … are completely different.  

This one is thought to be related to the Charadriiformes, and it may indeed have been a member of the jacana family (Jacanidae).   

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my reconstruction sketch, which turns out very much jacana-unlike

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BTW: I only recently learned that the age of the Messel shale spans from the upper Early – to the lower Middle Eocene.  

So not every bird from there is from the Middle Eocene.

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edited:

04.08.2019

Eutreptodactylus itaboraiensis Baird & Vickers-Rich

This enigmatic bird from the Late Paleocene of Brazil is known only from a single, broken tarsometatarsus, which, however, apparently can be assigned to the cuckoos.

I cannot say that much about this bird, it appears to have been quite large for a Paleocene bird species, and it may indeed have been a real cuckoo or it may have been something completely different.

***

A little (long overdue) update … since this species is now thought to be closely related to – or even included within the family Gracilitarsidae.

The bird in my reconstruction still is about 15 cm long, about one third larger than Gracilitarsus mirabilis Mayr, the sole known species of its genus.

reconstruction

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edited: 28.07.2019

MNT-11-7952

MNT-11-7952 is a remarkable fossil of an enigmatic bird with an exceptional preservation; imprints of the tail feathers preserved showing a bluish gray hue, the legs and feet still showing traces of their soft tissue.

This, however, is all that’s known so far, the two slabs contain nothing but the arse, sorry, the rump, the legs and the tail feathers.

The feathers are very long and narrow, reminding on the tail feathers of recent mousebirds (Coliiformes), yet the feet appear to be anisodactyl, unlike in any known mousebird, extinct or extant.

sketch of the whole fossil (I missed some of the feathers around the knee of the left leg)
sketch of the left leg

The fossil dates to the Middle Paleocene, thus has an age of 60 to 61 Millions of years, and in my opinion, my indeed be a Coliiform bird.

I’ll try to reconstruct this as much as possible. 🙂

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how this bird may have looked like, almost like a modern mousebird, yet with proportionally somewhat shorter tail feathers

Here is now a little sketchy try to reconstruct that bird, including its nearly 20 cm long tail feathers, it may have reached a total length of about 34 cm, which is very well within the size range of modern mousebirds!

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr; Sophie Hervet; Eric Buffetaut: On the diverse and widely ignored Paleocene avifauna of Menat (Puy-de-Dôme, France): new taxonomic records and unusual soft tissue preservation. Geological Magazine: 1-13. 2018

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edited: 24.07.2019

Strange feet from the Cretaceous – Part 3

Enantiophoenix electrophyla Cau & Arduini from the Late Cretaceous of Lebanon, roughly the size of a recent European Starling.

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somewhat more than just a sketch, this piece took me some hours

This species is known from parts of a foot and some very few further remains.

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References:

[1] Andrea Cau & Paolo Arduini: Enantiophoenix electrophyla gen. et sp. nov. (Aves, Enantiornithes) from the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of Lebanon and its phylogenetic relationships. ATTI della Società Italiana di Scienze Naturali e del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano 149(2): 293-324. 2008

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edited: 14.07.2019

Strange feet from the Cretaceous – Part 1

Elektorornis chenguangi Xing, O’Connor, Chiappe, McKellar, Carroll, Hu, Bai & Lei, a bird from the Cretaceous era described just now.

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just a quick life-sized (!) sketch, gummy bear for size comparison

This bird is known only by a single leg with an unusually elongated middle toe and parts of the wing.

I will come back to that bird somewhat later ….

*********************

References:

[1] Lida Xing; Jingmai K. O’Connor; Luis M. Chiappe; Ryan C. McKellar; Nathan Carroll; Han Hu; Ming Bai; Fuming Lei: A new enantiornithine bird with unusual pedal proportions found in amber. Current Biology 29: 1-6. 2019

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edited: 12.07.2019

Micronesia – (not so) hypothetical species mentioned in accounts

Oh well, I did some research, and actually still do … here are the results I got so far.:

The first account dates from November 30th, 1895 and is given by a Dr. Georg Irmer, who was the Imperial German Government District Administrator in the Marshall Islands, which were a German overseas colony back then.

In his account he gives a bit information of some birds he saw when he inspected the Taongi Atoll (now Bokok) to collect guano samples for analysis and to reaffirm the German claim to the island, he mentiones seabirds and a large ground-dwelling bird which he named a ‘Trappe‘, the German term for a bustard. He gives no further description or whatsoever, but it is thought that he might not have seen any of the birds commonly known from the Marshall Islands because neither he nor his Marshallese crew were able to identify that bird.

Given his name for the bird, ‘Trappe‘, it is quite likely that he indeed saw a rail of the genus Gallirallus, very much like the one that once inhabited the Wake Atoll to the north of the Marshall Islands. [4]

***

The second account comes from the natives of the Marshall Islands and was forwarded by them to the German ‘anthropologists’ who explored these islands at the beginning of the 20th century.

It is a bird named as the anang-, annan-, or annang. This is said to have been a very small bird (the size of a butterfly (!)), and to have possessed a pleasant smell, it is said to have lived among the rocks around the shores of the northern Marshall Islands. The bird is known from oral traditions at least from the Jaluit-, and the Wotho Atoll, and it is always said to have been a ground-dwelling singing bird.

This may in fact be a description of a Turnstone (Arenaria interpres (L.)), a species that winters in Micronesia and that was very much appreciated, for example by the inhabitants of Nauru, who cought them not to eat them but to tame them and keep them as pets.

Or it is the description of a small crake or a reed-warbler, mixed with some phantastic components. [4]

***

The third account comes from Paul Hambruch, a German ethnologist that researched the life of the natives of the island of Nauru, his accounts are merely stories that were told him by a native named Auuiyeda, and which he translated into German.

Let’s read them.:

Es gibt auch Vögel auf Nauru, wie Fregattvogel, schwarze Seeschwalbe, weiße Seeschwalbe, Regenpfeifer, Brachvogel, Möve, Schnepfe, Uferläufer, Ralle, Lachmöve und Rohrdrossel.” [1]

translation:

There are also birds on Nauru, as frigate bird, black tern, white tern, plover, curlew, gull, snipe, sandpiper, rail, black-headed gull and reed thrush.

And he goes on.:

Die Vogelwelt ist nach Zahl und Art reicher. Der Fregattvogel (Tachypetes aquila), itsi, die schwarze Seeschwalbe (Anous), doror, die weiße Seeschwalbe (Gygis), dagiagia, werden als Haustiere gehalten; der erste galt früher als heiliger Vogel, mit den beiden anderen werden Kampfspiele veranstaltet. Am Strande trifft man den Steinwälzer (Strepsilas interpres), dagiduba, den Regenpfeifer (Numenius), den Uferläufer (Tringoides), ibibito, die Schnepfe, ikirer, den Brachvogel ikiuoi, den Strandreiter iuji, die Ralle, earero bauo und zwei Möwenarten (Sterna), igogora und ederakui.
Im Busche beobachtet man an den Blüten der Kokospalme den kleinen Honigsauger raigide, die Rohrdrossel (Calamoherpe syrinx), itirir und den Fliegenschnäpper (Rhipidura), temarubi.
” [1]

translation:

The bird world is richer by number and species, The frigate bird (Tachypetes aquila), itsi, the black tern (Anous), doror, the white tern (Gygis), dagiagia, are kept as pets; the first one was formerly considered a holy bird, with the two others are used for fighting games. At the beach one mets with the turnstone (Strepsilas interpres), dagiduba, the plover (Numenius), the sandpiper (Tringoides), ibibito, the snipe, ikirer, the curlew, ikiuoi, the beach rider [?] iuji, the rail, earero bauo and two gull species (Sterna), igogora and ederakui.
In the bush one observes on the flowers of the coconut palm the small honeyeater raigide, the reed thrush (Calamoherpe syrinx), itirir and the flycatcher (Rhipidura), temarubi.


The author is usually thought to have misinterpreted the things he was told by Auuiyeda, but I personally doubt that somehow, all the mentioned landbirds make in fact sence for georaphical reasons, so, why not?

Nauru is now almost deserted, the whole island looks like a building site – and it actually is one! There are some sad rests of the forest that once covered the whole island, and indeed some landbirds still manage to survive in small numbers, one of them, the Nauru Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus rehsei (Finsch)) is even an endemic species, there’s no reason not to accept the former presense of a fantail, a honeyeater, and especially a rail, no reason at all!

These birds, especially the rail, may already have been extirpated by the beginning of the 20th century, leaving only memories and storys told by the islanders. 

***

And last but not least, here the fourth account of birds from the Namoluk Atoll, Chuuk, that were enumerated by Max Girschner, another German who had lived in Micronesia at the beginning of the 20th century, he was a colonial offical, a doctor, and a ethnologist.

I have no access to his accounts, but I can give you quotations of them by Mac Marshall from 1971, here they are.:

Ponape Lory (no Namoluk name)

Trichoglossus rubiginosus

Extinct breeder.

According to Girschner (1912:126), this species was blown to Namoluk in a typhoon in 1905, and apparently it still occurred on the atoll at the time of his visit. there are no lories at present on Namoluk nor can anyone alive on the atoll in 1971 remember seeing them.
” [2]

According to Donald W. Buden this whole information is unlikely, and if these parrots have ever occurred on the Namoluk Atoll at all, they must have been brought there by people. [3]

I personally think … why not, typhoons may indeed blow parrots from one island to another, or how did the loris themselves came to end up on the island of Pohnpei in the first place?

But wait, there’s more.:

A second bird mentioned by Girschner that no longer is found on Namoluk is “a small black and white bird” for which he gives the name lipukepuk.” [2]

The author states that this can only be the description of a New Hanover Mannikin (Lonchura (hunsteini ssp.) nigerrima (Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert)), which does not occur anywhere in Micronesia and which is not black and white by the way. The bird he is actually referring to is Hunstein’s Mannikin (Lonchura hunsteini ssp. minor (Yamashina)), which again is very well occuring in Micronesia, at least on the island of Pohnpei (yes, again), and which is at least blackish and greyish …. 

To me the whole account sounds very much like a nice description of the Truk Monarch (Monarcha rugensis (Hombron & Jacquinot)), and given the fact that most island-dwelling birds in Micronesia also occur on nearby atolls it is quite possible that there once was a native population of this bird here as well.

But we will probably never know for sure.

***

The most interesting things that I found out so far are.: 

1: Micronesian bird names are odd (to my ears and eyes), I mean the Palau Ground Dove (Alopecoenas canifrons (Hartlaub & Finsch)) for example is named omekrengukl, I do not even know how to pronounce that.   🙂

2: Micronesia harbors only 148 native breeding bird species (including the extinct ones!).

3: The Micronesian landbirds do not only occur on the higher islands but also on the atolls, even on those atolls that are quite far away from the next high islands, a situation that is completely different from Polynesia, where the high islands almost entirely harbor a different avifauna than the atolls. 

There may have been more species once, especially when we fill some of the illogical gaps between the islands and island groups.

*********************

References:

[1] Paul Hambruch: Nauru. Ergebnisse der Südsee-Expedition 1908-1910. II. Ethnographie: B. Mikronesien, band 1.1 Halbband. Hamburg, Friedrichsen 1914
[2] Mac Marshall: The natural history of namoluk Atoll, eastern Caroline Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 189: 1-53. 1975
[3] Donald W. Buden: The birds of Satawan Atoll and the Mortlock Islands, Chuuk, including the first record of Tree Martin Hirundo nigricans in Micronesia. Bulletin on the British Ornithologists’ Club 126(2): 137-152. 2006
[4] Dirk H. R. Spennemann: Extinctions and extirpations in Marshall Islands avifauna since European contact – a review of historic evidence. Micronesia 38(2): 253-266. 2006

*********************

edited: 04.06.2019

Pareudiastes – some thoughts about the Puna’e and its mysterious congeners

The genus Pareudiastes consists of two species that are known from historical times, meaning ‘having been seen’ by western scientists, we can probably add at least two undescribed extinct forms that are known exclusively from scanty subfossil remains, one from Fiji and one from the Solomon Islands.

The two species of which at least skins remain are very little known, the Puna’e (Pareudiastes pacificus Hartlaub & Finsch) from Samoa in fact is the best known of them.:

Puna’e

Depiction from: G. Hartlaub; O. Finsch: On a collection of birds from Savai and Rarotonga Islands in the Pacific. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871: 21-32

(public domain)

The Puna’e, whose name roughly means ‘springs up’, is known to have inhabited the rainforests of Savai’i, Samoa, it is said by the natives to have lived in burrows which were longer than a man’s arm and which ended in a sort of chamber in which the bird slept during the day.

The large eyes of the species indeed point to somewhat nocturnal habits.

When the bird was disturbed it jumped up from its burrow with fluttering wings, but being flightless it landed shortly after and run away quickly.

It is furthermore known that it was not a vegetarian species, since it died when it was fed with plant material but was ‘happy’ when fed with insects.

***

There is at least one reliable account that indicates that this species also inhabited the neighboring island of ‘Upolu.:

The Samoans always speak of the Pareudiastes as the ‘bird which burrows like a rat.’ Again and again when I have put the question to a native, ‘Do you know the Puna’ e?’ the reply has been, ‘No, I have never seen it; but that is the bird of which the old people speak that it used to be very plentiful long ago, and that it burrows like a rat and lives underground.’ It is very rarely that I have met with any one who has seen the bird; but I have met with two persons who have actually taken it in its burrow. The first is a man well  known to me, and in whose veracity I have faith. He says that about four years ago [ca. 1870] he was one of a large party hunting feral pigs in the mountains of Upolu, when they came upon a burrow which one of the party pronounced to be the hole of a Puna’e. My informant says that he put his arm into the hole, and at its extremity (which he could barely reach) he found the bird. He drew it out, and, taking it home, tried to tame and feed it; but it would not eat, and soon died.” [1]

Yet, how is this possible? The islands of Savai’i and ‘Upolu are separated by the 13 km wide Apolima strait.:

Apolima strait; Savai’i (above) and ‘Upolu and Manono (below), in the middle the small island of Apolima 

Photo: Teineisavaii; Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.”

(public domain)

During the Pleistocene the sea level was lower and Manono very likely was connected with ‘Upolu, but Apolima was not, and Savai’i and ‘Upolu also weren’t connected.

So, how did a flightless bird manage to get from one island to the other?

Well, the answer might be that the Puna’e wasn’t flightless at the time when the sea level was lower, or that the birds from ‘Upolu represented a distinct (sub)species.

***

What do we know about the second historical known species, the Makira Woodhen (Pareudiastes silvestris (Mayr))?

Well, not that much.:

This species is known from a single specimen that was taken in 1929 on the island of Makira, Solomon Islands in montane forest at an elevation of about 600 m, only its skin was preserved, the bones not, and it apparently was flightless or at least nearly so.

The natives called it Kia and hunted it with dogs.

That’s all.

The species was apparently still ‘well-known’ by the natives in 1953, and they also said that it was not rare, nevertheless not a single one was ever seen since.

The Makira Woodhen, or Kia, however, is the sole member of this genus that may in fact still survive, and I personally hope that it might be rediscovered some day.

***

The other two additional forms, as i said before, are known only from some scanty subfossil remains found on the island of Buka in the northernmost part of the Solomon Islands as well as on Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian Islands respectively. 

There’s not much that can be said about these two, so let’s hope that some day more remains are found to shed some light on that matter.

*********************

References:

[1] Letter from Rev. S. J. Whitmee. In: Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1874: 183-186

*********************

edited: 30.05.2019

Levaillant’s Sicrin de l’Imprimerie de Langlois

Levaillant’s Sicrin de l’Imprimerie de Langlois, apparently meaning ‘Sicrin from the print of Langlois’ (?) is a strange bird drawn by Johann Friedrich Leberecht Reinhold that I discovered while flicking through the volumes of François Le Vaillant’s ‘Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique’ from 1799.

Here it is.:

Sicrin from the print of Langlois

Depiction from: ‘François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. A Paris: Chez J. J. Fuchs, Libraire, Rue des Mathurins, Hótel de Cluny. Vol. 2. 1799’ 

(not in copyright)

I must confess, first I had absolutely no idea what this astonishing bird is supposed to have been, it looks like some corvid bird, or a starling, possibly one of the strange starling species from the Philippine Islands, but what about the six porcupine spines in its face?

The bird is said to have been found at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, what I very much doubt it has, Monsieur Le Vaillant furthermore places it amongst the Jackdaws.

But let’s now just see what else Monsieur Le Vaillant has to tell us about this bird.:

Le Sicrin est une espèce absolument nouvelle, et dont aucun naturaliste n’a fait mention encore; je fai placé parmi les choucas, parce que ce sont les oiseaux desquels je trouve qu’il se rapproche le plus, pour les formes de son bec, de ses pieds et de son corps. Au reste, si par la suite quelque voyageur nous apprend ses moeurs, que nous ignorons totalement, on lui donnera une autre place, si on juge qu’elle lui convienne mieux. Quant à moi, je le crois un vrai choucas, et cela pour l’avoir comparé attentivement avec tous les oiseaux de ce genre; je trouve même qu’il ressemble tellement au choquart ou choucas des Alpes, que si on lui retranchoit les six crins et la huppe qui le caractérisent si bien, on en feroit absolument le même oiseau; il est aussi de la même taille, mais il m’a paru un peu plus gros de la poitrine: il est vrai que, n’ayant vu cet oiseau qu’empaillé, il pourroit se faire qu’il ne dut sa rotondité quà une plus grande extension de la peau; cependant elle ne ma pas paru excessivement bourrée, puisque la peau n’étoit pas très-tendue. Le bec est absolument semblable aussi à celui du choquart, sinon qu’il est un peu plus pointu et plus épais à sa base. La queue est de même carrément coupée par le bout c’est-à-dire, que toutes ses pennes sont aussi longues les unes que les autres. Les aîles pliées s’étendent aux deux tiers de la longueur de la queue, qui a dix pennes.“ [2]

translation:

The Sicrin is an absolutely new species, and of which no naturalist has yet reported; I did place them among the jackdaws, because they are the birds to which I find it comes closest, for the shapes of its beak, feet and body. For the rest, if afterwards some traveler informs us of more, which we are totally unaware of, we will give it another place, if we judge that it suits it better. As for me, I believe it to be a real jackdaw [M. Le Vaillant apparently was not that good in taxonomy ….], and that for having compared it attentively with all the birds of this kind; I even think that it resembles so much the cough or jackdaw of the Alps, that if we cut off the six horsehair [… actually real horse hair stucked into the bird?] and the crest that characterize it so well, we would make absolutely the same bird; it is also of the same size, but it seemed to me a little bigger of the breast: it is true that, having seen this bird only tempered [?], it could be done that it had its rotundity only to a greater extension of the skin; however it did not seem to me excessively drunk, since the skin was not very tense. The bill is absolutely similar to that of the cough, except that it is a little more pointed and thicker at its base. The tail is likewise cut off by the end, that is to say, that all its feathers are of equal length. The folded wings extend to two-thirds of the length of the tail, which has ten feathers.

and

Cet oiseau est remarquable par les crins ou longues plumes sans barbes qui ornent les côtés de sa tête, (à peu près comme dans l’espèce d’oiseaux de paradis que Buffon a nommée le sifilet), et par une belle huppe flottante qui, se couchant en arrière, ombragela tête. Les pieds sont conformés comme ceux du choquart; le bec est d’un jaune de citron, et prend une teinte d’orange sur son arête supérieure et vers les narines; celles-ci sont couvertes de poils ou plumes déliées, qui se dirigent en avant comme chez tous les oiseaux du genre des corbeaux. Les pieds et les ongles sont noirs.“ [2]

translation:

This bird is remarkable for the hair or long feathers without barbs, which decorate the sides of its head (almost as in the species of bird of paradise that Buffon named the Sifilet [Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata (J. R. Forster))], and by a beautiful floating crest which, lying backward, shades its head. The feet are shaped like those of the cough; the beak is lemon yellow, and has an orange hue on its upper ridge and towards the nostrils; these are covered with loose hairs and feathers, which go forward as in all the birds of the crow kind. The feet and nails are black.

and

Il est plus que probable que ces oiseaux ont la faculté de redresser ces filets, et par conséquent de les resserrer contre le corps dans l’action du vol, dont ils gêneroient les mouvemens s’ils balotoient au gré des vents: je présume du moins cette faculté, d’après la longueur du tuyau qui s’implantoit dans la peau, et qui étoit trop grand pour ne pas faire soupçonner qu’il devoit pénétrer dans un muscle extenseur, propre à le faire mouvoir au gré de l’oiseau: ce qui me le donnoit encore à penser, c’est que dans la partie de la joue où ils entroient, toute la peau étoit plus épaisse et plus dure que par-tout ailleurs, et qu’on y remarquent très-distinctement une cavité profonde oùse logeoit le tuyau du filet que j’avois arraché, comme on le voit sur la métacarpe et le croupion de tous les oiseaux, quand on leur détache une penne soit de l’aîle ou de la queue. Je ne hasarderai point de désigner l’usage dont ces barbes peuvent être à cet oiseau, ni quel but s’est proposé la nature dans cette singulière production, que je regarde, au reste, comme un simple ornement. Combien de fois nos philosophes ne se sontils pas trompés et n’ont-ils pas égaré les autres hommes, lorsqu’ils ont voulu donner raison des causes que la nature avoit sans doute destinées à rester cachées aux foibles humains, d’un côté trop au-dessous de sa puissance pour les concevoir, et d’un autre trop audacieux peut-être pour être initiés, sans danger, dans ses mystères! O nature! il y a longtems, hélas! que les aveugles mortels auroient détruit ton ouvrage, et troublé cette belle harmonie de l’univers s’ils avoient pu te suivre dans ta marche et te deviner un seul instant!“ [2]

translation:

It is more than probable hat these birds have the faculty of straightening these filaments, and consequently of tightening them against the body in the action of the flight, of which they disturb the movements if they struggle with the winds: I presume at least this faculty, according to the length of the pipe which was implanted in the skin, and which was too large not to make us suspect it had to penetrade into an extensor muscle, capable of causing it to move at the whim of the bird: what gave me still to think is, that in the part of the cheek they entered, the whole skin was thicker and more lasting than anywhere else, and we remark very distingly a deep cavitiy where the tube of the net which I had thorn off, as one sees on the metacarpus and the rump of all the birds, when one detaches a quill either of the ellbow or the tail. I will not venture to designate the use of which these beards can to be to this bird, nor what goal has nature proposed itself in this singular production, which I regard, moreover, as a simple ornament. How many times have our philosophers become unaccustomed to themselves, and have they not treated other men when they wished to give reason to the causes which nature had doubtless intended to remain hidden from the eak human beings, on the one hand too much below its power to to conceive them, and another too audacious perhaps to be initiated, without danger, into his mysteries! O nature! Long ago alas! That the blind mortals would have destroyed your work, and disturbed this beautiful harmony of the universe if they could have followed you in your march and guess you one moment!“ [what the ***, was he drunk here?]

By the way I could not find out what ‚Sicrin‘ is supposed to mean.

For about one day I was quite sure that this bird is nothing but a made-up piece, probably a Parotia species, for example the Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata (J. R. Forster)), with the glossy breast-shield feathers and the spatulate vanes of the six ornamental feathers below the eyes having been removed – even before translating and reading all the stuff above.

Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata(J. R. Forster))

Depiction from: ‘Daniel Giraud Elliot: A monograph of the Paradiseidae or birds of paradise. London: printed for the subscibers, by the author 1873’

(public domain)

Well, well, but reading the original ‚description‘ including another, much older depiction, I am quite convinced that this mysterious bird is something completely different …. 

Choucas du Cap de Bonne Espérance; the upper of the two birds

Depiction from: ‘Mathurin-Jacques Brisson: Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés: a laquelle on a joint une description exacte de chaque espece, avec les citations des auteurs qui en ont traité, les noms quils leur ont donnés, ceux que leur ont donnés les différentes nations, & les noms vulgaires. Vol 2. Parisiis: Ad Ripam Augustinorum, Apud Cl. Joannem-Baptistam Bauche, Bibliopolam, ad Insigne S. Genovesae, & S. Joannis in Deserto 1760’

(public domain)

a section of the original ‘description’:

Il est à peu près de la grosseur du précédent. Sa longueur depuis le bout du bec jusqu’à celui de la queue est d’onze pouces quatre lignes, & jusqu’à celui des ongles de huit pouces dix lignes. Son bec depuis sa pointe jusqu’aux coins de la bouche a un pouce six lignes de long; sa queue cinq pouces; son pied douze lignes; & celui du milieu des trois doigts antérieurs, joint avec l’ongle, douze lignes & demie: les latéraux sont un peu plus courts; & celui de derriere est presque aussi long que celui du milieu de ceux de devant. Il a un pied sept pouces trois lignes de vol, & ses aíles, lorsqu’elles sont pliées, s’étendent jusqu’à la moitié de la longueur de la queue. La tête, la gorge & le col sont couverts de plumes d’un noir-verd très – brillant, celles de la partie supérieure du col font très – étroites & beaucoup plus longues que les autres. Elles glissent sur le dos sélon les différens mouvemens de la tête & du col. Les plumes qui retombent sur les narines sont d’un noir de velour. Audessus de ces plumes partent de l’origine du demi-bec supérieur quelques poils noirs, longs de trois pouces & très-fléxibles: & au-dessous tout le long de la bâse du bec, jusque vers les coins de la bouche, sont d’autres poils noirs, beaucoup plus courts & roides comme des soyes. Le dos, le croupion, la poitrine, le ventre, les côtés, les jambes & les couvertures du dessus & du dessous de la queue sont d’un noir de velours changeant en verd brillant. Celles du dessus & du dessous des aîles sont d’un noir-verd éclatant & changeant en violet. Les plumes des aíles sont de la même couleur endessus du côté extérieur feulement, & noires du côté intérieur; & en-dessous elles sont noirâtres. La première des plumes de l’aíle est plus courte de deux pouces sept lignes que la quatrième & la cinquième, qui sont les plus longues de toutes. Les plumes de la queue, qui sont toutes d’égale longueur, sont d’un noir-verd en-dessus & tout-à-fait noirâtres en-dessous. Le bec, les pieds & les ongles sont noirs. On le trouve au Cap de Bonne Esperance, d’où il a été apporté à M. l’Abbé Aubry, qui le conserve dans son cabinet.

translation:

He is about the size of the preceding. Its length from the tip of the beak to that of the tail is eleven inches four lines, & up to that of the nails eight inches ten lines. Its beak from its point to the corners of the mouth is one inch six lines long; his tail five inches; his foot twelve lines; & that of the middle of the three anterior toes, joined with the nail, twelve lines & a half: the lateral ones are a little shorter; & the one behind is almost as long as the one in the middle of the front ones. He has one foot seven inches three flight lines, & his wings, when folded, extend to half the length of the tail. The head, the throat, & the neck are covered with feathers of very brilliant black-green, those of the upper part of the neck are very narrow & much longer than the others. They slide on their backs, according to the different motions of the head & the collar. The feathers that fall on the nostrils are of a black velvet.Above these feathers, from the origin of the upper half-beak, are a few black hairs, three inches long & very flexible; & below all the length of the bill-body, as far as the corners of the mouth, are other black hairs, much shorter & stiff like sores. The back, rump, chest, belly, sides, legs & covers of the top & bottom of the tail are velvet black, shiny green. Those on the top and bottom of the elbows are of a shiny black-green & changing into violet. The feathers of the birds are of the same color, on the outer side, & black on the inner side; & below, they are blackish. The first of the feathers of the ale is shorter by two inches seven lines than the fourth & the fifth, which are the longest of all. The feathers of the tail, which are all of equal length, are of a black-green above & quite blackish below. The beak, the feet & the nails are black. It is found at the Cape of Good Hope from where it was brought to the Abbé Aubry, who keeps it in his cabinet.” [1]

… a Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus ssp. hottentottus (L.)) originally described in 1766, also as being from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, by the way.

Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus ssp. hottentottus)

Photo: Stanzinnamgail

(under creative commons license (4.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0

This bird actually comes from Southeast Asia, where it has a quite wide distribution, doesn’t it fit well with the description? 🙂

*********************

[1] Mathurin-Jacques Brisson: Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés: a laquelle on a joint une description exacte de chaque espece, avec les citations des auteurs qui en ont traité, les noms quils leur ont donnés, ceux que leur ont donnés les différentes nations, & les noms vulgaires. Vol 2. Parisiis: Ad Ripam Augustinorum, Apud Cl. Joannem-Baptistam Bauche, Bibliopolam, ad Insigne S. Genovesae, & S. Joannis in Deserto 1760
[2] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. A Paris: Chez J. J. Fuchs, Libraire, Rue des Mathurins, Hótel de Cluny. Vol. 2. 1799

*********************

edited: 15.05.2019

… small sketch

Cratoavis cearensis, an enantiornithiform bird from the lower Cretaceous of the extremely interesting Crato Formation in Brazil.

This bird is known from a single specimen that apparently was not fully grown, it was altogether only about 12 cm long (including the tail streamers)!

Yet, I have no idea how large it may have got when fully adult, who knows.

***

The Crato Formation is otherwise known for its numerous plant fossils, many of them angiosperms, so I cannot really decide yet which plant species may fit with this bird, but time will show ….

*********************

edited: 02.04.2019

Finch-like non-finches

Here we have the two species of finch-like passeriform birds that had been described at the beginning of this year, Eofringillirostrum boudreauxi and Eofringillirostrum parvulum, both from the Eocene, the first from North America, the second, smaller species from Europe.

***

Eofringillirostrum boudreauxi Mayr, Ksepka & Grande

This is the larger of the two known species, reaching about 10 cm in length, it also is the older one, having lived in the Early Eocene about 52 Million years ago in what today is Wyoming, USA.

This is what I call a pre-sketch, or a working sketch, it’s just the very first step in reconstructing a fossil bird, in which this particular species is drawn in a simple side-view, usually smaller than life-size.

Eofringillirostrum parvulum Mayr, Ksepka & Grande

This bird may have reached a length of only about 9 cm, it lived in the Middle Eocene of what today is the State of Hesse in Germany.

I sketched it together with a reconstructed infructescence of Volkeria messelensis Smith, Collinson et al., a plant from the family Cyperaceae that was growing around the Messel lake, and whose seeds may indeed have been eaten by this presumably seed-eating bird.

*********************

edited: 05-03.2019

Certhiops rummeli Manegold

Diese Art wurde 2008 beschrieben, so weit ich weiß anhand eines einzigen Knochens, eines vollständig erhaltenen rechten Tarsometatarsus, der immerhin der Überfamilie Certhioidea zugeordnet werden kann, nicht aber einer der rezenten Formen dieser Gruppe (Baumläufer, Mückenfänger, Zaunkönige) 

Meiner Meinung nach ähnelt der einzige bekannte Knochen jedoch am ehesten dem entsrechenden Knochen eines Kleibers.

Der Vogel wird eine Gesamtgröße von etwa 15 cm erreicht haben, war also größer als die meisten Baumläufer und kleiner als ein durchschnittlicher Kleiber.

Es handelt sich hierbei tatsächlich um den (bis jetzt) ältesten bekannten echten Singvogel der in Europa gefunden wurde.  

*********************  

Referenzen:  

[1] Albrecht Manegold: Earliest fossil record of the Certhioidea (treecreepers and allies) from the Early Miocene of Germany. Journal of Ornithology 149(2): 223-228. 2008  

Rekonstruktion; die Art erinnerte wohl am ehesten an einen Baumläufer/Kleiber-Mix

*********************  

bearbeitet: 25.02.2019

Pumiliornis tessellatus Mayr

Pumiliornis means as much as “dwarf bird”, and with that, all has been said.

***

No, not so fast ….

The genus/species was described in 1999 and is, to my knowledge, so far known from three skeletal finds, of which one even contains the remains of its last meal, namely pollen.

All in all, Pumiliornis tessellatus resembled today’s sunbirds (Nectariniidae) or the sunbird-asitys (Eurylaimidae) in being very small and having an elongated beak. Its beak, however, was quite unlike those of the members of the beforementioned two families, it resembled the beak of a plover (Charadriidae), especially its narial opening (nose hole), which was rather slit-like and not round.

Pumiliornis was apparently a flower-visitor that fed on nectar and pollen (as is known from the content of the gut of one specimen), however, it may not have been specialized to that diet and may also have taken insects and other small invertebrates.

The bird was small, very small, in my reconstruction it reaches a length of only 7,5 cm, this size, however, is of course depending on the length of its tail feathers, which unfortunately are not preserved in any of the known specimens. I’ve reconstructed the bird with a rather short tail, which may some day turn out to be completely wrong, who knows.

The feet corresponded to the typical scheme of recent passerine birds, i.e. they have three toes pointed forward and one towards the back. However, the feet appear to have been facultative or semi-zygodactyl, which in turn means, in simple terms, the first toe usually pointed forwards, but could be held backward when needed.

***

The genus/species cannot be assigned to any living bird family, not even an order, but is now known to belong to the extended Passeriformes-orbit, which in addition to the passerine birds also includes the falcons (Falconiformes) and the parrots (Psittaciformes). In fact it is now known to have been a member of the extinct family Psittacopedidae, that apparently also contains other unusual genera like MorsoravisPsittacopes and the recently described, very interesting Eofringillirostrum and probably others too.

***

Finally, it should be mentioned that this bird was not a dwarf spoonbill, as claimed by a certain person.   😉

*********************

References:

[1] Gerald Mayr: Pumiliornis tessellatus n. gen. n. sp., a new enigmatic bird from the Middle Eocene of Grube Messel (Hessen, Germany). Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg. 216: 75-83. 1999
[2] Daniel T. Ksepka; Lance Grande; Gerald Mayr: Oldest finch-beaked birds reveal parallel ecological radiations in the earliest evolution of Passerines. Current Biology 29: 1-7. 2019

*********************

edited: 08.02.2019

Hezheng-Fasan – Panraogallus hezhengensis Li et. al.

Der Hezheng-Fasan wurde im Jahr 2018 beschrieben, er war sehr nah mit den heutigen Fasanen verwandt.

Das einzige bisher bekannte Fossil ist bemerkenswert da bei ihm die Trochlea erhalten geblieben ist, was darauf hindeutet, dass der Vogel zu Lebzeiten recht stimmgewaltig gewesen sein muss (ganz wie heutige Fasanenarten)

Rekonstruktion; ich habe allerdings die Sporen vergessen, die beim Fossil sehr gut zu erkennen sind

*********************

Referenzen:

[1] Zhiheng Li; Julia A. Clarke; Chad M. Eliason; Thomas A. Stidham; Tao Deng & Zhonghe Zhou: Vocal specialization through tracheal elongation in an extinct Miocene pheasant from China. Scientific Reports 8(1): 1-12. 2018

*********************

bearbeiten: 02.02.2019

Avian Musings – blog post from January 23, 2019

In his great blog (that I actually – and that’s no lie – look into at least once a week), Paul Cianfaglione writes about many bird-related things, including fine book reviews, very interesting insights into bird anatomy and everything else.

But his latest post is just unbeatable: he did make an extremely close inspection of a bird fossil from Messel that he owns.:

Messel Bird Fossil offers unique feather preservation, and more” from January 23, 2019

***

I personally have never seen close-ups of a bird fossil that are so razor-sharp and detailed!

And his bird shows features not known in any living bird – at least not all of them together in one bird.:

The beak is very big and hooked like the beak of a bird of prey or a owl, and it appears to have had sensory pits, the body feathers appear somewhat hair-like, the wing coverts are fluffy, also probably somewhat like the feather edges of recent owls, and the primaries have extremely strange appendages not known in that way from any other bird, living or extinct, but somewhat reminding on the wings of a waxwing.

What kind of a bird was that?

Well, I could try to do a reconstruction, should I?

take 1: that is just a doodle, maybe I have more time tomorrow to make a complete drawing

Gosh, this is so exciting!   🙂
take 2
take 3

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edited: 27.01.2019

Rapa Nui – the parrots or the parrot?

Well, it seems that I finish this whole Rapa Nui project already in December 2018 ….  

***  

Anyway, let’s just begin with the first one (or two?) of the endemic landbird species that once inhabited Easter Island.  

There were two parrots once …:  

Parrots are represented by a partial quadrate of a very large species (larger than in Nestor, Prosopeia, Eclectus, or any lorikeet; dissimilar from that in neotropical parrots) and digit I, phalanx 2 of the wing (larger than in Vini or Cyanoramphus, smaller than in Nestor or Eclectus; ca. the size in Prosopeia).” [1]  

***  

So far so fine, bat my gut feeling almost screams: “ONE!!!” What if this was a very large species, something like a Rapa Nui equivalent of the New Zealand Kakapo (Strigops habroptila Gray), a big, small-winged and flightless ground-dwelling parrot that inhabited the dense forests of the island, now long gone, searching for fallen fruits of the likewise extinct Rapa Nui Palm (Paschalococos disperta (J. Dransf.)).  

The Rapa Nui Parrot may still have been able to climb smaller trees with the help of its typical parrot beak and its feet, and it certainly was a curious and tame bird and was easily killed off by the first Polynesian discoverers of the island.  

This is my reconstruction, well it’s just a sketch so far, and the bird is still probably too small. 🙂    

*********************  

References:  

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006  

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edited: 10.12.2018

Rapa Nui – was there an endemic goose?

When James Richard Hill MacFarlane [unfortunately I could not find out who that actually was] stayed on Easter Island in February 1884, he made the following statement, which, however, appears to be very reliable after all.:

The only birds I saw in the crater [Rano Kao] were three ruddy-coloured Geese, but I was unable to get anywhere near them.“ [1]

There were at least three geese on the island, straying around in the crater of the extinct Rano Kao volcano, but what can we make of this observation?

***

Well, given the date of this observation, 1884, these geese certainly were not an endemic species now lost, but given the recorded color they may also not have been feral geese, which are always either gray or white or mottled gray and white.

The authors of the most recent listing of native and introduced birds found on Rapa Nui, Manuel Marin and Pablo Caceres, think that what Mr. McFarlane saw may have been female Upland Geese (Chloephaga picta (Gmelin)), a species that inhabits southern South America and that either may have stranded on the island after they lost their route during a flight or, probably more likely, were imported to the island by humans. [2]

***

I will possibly post more interesting [I hope it is] stuff about this very, very isolated island in 2019.

*********************

References:

[1] J. R. H. MacFarlane: Notes on birds in the western Pacific, made in H. M. S. ‚Constance‘, 1883-5. Ibis 5(5): 201-215. 1887
[2] Manuel Marin; Pablo Caceres: Sobre las aves de Isla de Pascua. Boletín del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Chile 59: 75-95. 2010

*********************

edited: 08.12.2018

Bevere’s Rail

This is my blog and so I will now talk about myself right now!

Attention: I made a discovery, yesterday evening I found a drawing of a bird that I did not know.

Because it was supposed to be a rail I could just say that this is a species that does not exist (either any longer or at all), because I simply know every rail species (they are amongst my closest favorite birds, so I indeed know all of them quite well), may it be extant or extinct.

I had also never ever heard of the artist before, so probably haven’t you, who ever is reading this article right now.   🙂

Enough about me ….

***

Pieter Cornelius de Bevere (1721-1781) is an almost unknown artist who lived on the island of Sri Lanka and who produced many drawings of birds (and other stuff), several of them in a distinct way of being dead and lying belly-up on a tree trunk.

The artist created the drawings for the likewise almost unknwon “Loten collection of coloured drawings of birds, mammals, insects & plants” from the years 1754 to 1757. This work apparently contains almost exclusively drawings of species from Sri Lanka

There is a single drawing that shows a bird that appears to be completely unknown, a rail, apparently from the island of Sri Lanka as all the other species in the work.

The bird appears to have a rather fluffy plumage, typical of rails, the typical rail-like long and strong legs and feet, a typical beak and so on, it has no visible wings, so may even have been flightless – it is clearly a rail, yet, which one?

Even if we take all the known rail species worldwide into account there is none that looks like this one.

Now one could easily think that Pieter Cornelius de Bevere was just a bad artist, who drew unrecognizable things, but this is just not the case here – he was a rather well-skilled artist, and all his bird drawings can very easily be recognized and assigned to certain species.

With this one exception! And that leads me to the conclution that he painted some rail species that obviously once inhabited the island of Sri Lanka, at least until the middle of the 18th century.

The bird was identified as Eastern Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus ssp. indicus Blyth), now recognized as a full species, however bears absolutely no similarities with that species, and the bird depicted does definitely not belong in that genus at all. [1]

Bevere’s Rail is now either extinct or just has never been recognized as being something somewhat distinct (actually very distinct) from all known rail species, and thus may even be still alive and hiding somewhere on Sri Lanka, awaiting its discovery and description.

*********************

[1] Alexander J. P. Raat: The Life of Governor Joan Gideon Loten (1710-1789): A personal history of a Dutch virtuoso. Hilversum Verloren 2010

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Depiction from the ‚Loten collection of coloured drawings of birds, mammals, insects & plants‘

(public domain)

*********************

A little update here.:

It appears that this enigmatic bird isn’t that enigmatic after all, it may in fact turn out to be an immature White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus Pennant), and look what I just found, a depiction of an adult one that looks very familiar, doesn’t it?

*********************

Depiction from: ‚Johann Reinhold Forster: Indische Zoologie oder systematische Beschreibungen seltener und unbekannter Thiere aus Indien: mit 15 illuminirten Kupfertafeln erläutert; Nebst einer kurzen vorläufigen Abhandlung über den Umfang von Indien und die Beschaffenheit des Klima, des Bodens und des Meeres daselbst, und einem Anhange, darin ein kurzes Verzeichniß der Thiere in Indien mitgetheilt wird. Halle, bey Johann Jacob Gebauer 1781‘

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 24.11.2018

Levaillant’s Black Coucal

This is another of the enigmatic birds that were described and depicted by François Le Vaillant at the very beginning of the 19th century.

The bird is supposed to originate from South Africa, and it appears to be known from at least five actual specimens, three males and two females, that were collected (hunted and killed) by François Le Vaillant himself.

Cjet oiseau qu’on reconnoîtra facilement à tous ses caractères pour appartenir au genre coucal, habite le pays des Caffres et ne fréquente que les grandes forêts. Il se perche sur les branches basses des arbres, d’où le mâle fait entendre d’une voix plaintive les deux syllabes côoo-ro répétées jusqu’à dix fois de suite, et toujours sur le même ton. On le trouve presque toujours avec sa femelle. Celle-ci, comme toutes les femelles d’oiseaux chanteurs, ne chante pas non plus; mais elle a un cri précipité cri-cri-cri-cri’, qui a beaucoup de rapport avec celui que fait notre émérillon lorsqu’il plane dans les airs , et qui paroît être le cri d’appel, car le mâle le faisoit aussi lorsqu’il vouloit avoir sa femelle auprès de lui, comme lorsqu’il paroissoit craindre de se trouver dans quelque danger: toutes les fois du moins qu’il s’appercevoit que j’essayois de l’ap- procher, il se tenoit sur ses gardes, et il répétoit ce même cri jusqu’à ce que j’eusse disparu à ses yeux, et que sa fe- melle l’eût rejoint. C’est aussi dans un creux d’arbre que le Coucal nègre fait sa nichée. La femelle pond quatre œufs d’un blanc de craie, et que le mâle et elle couvent tour-à-tour.

Translation:

This bird, which is easily recognized by all its characters to belong to the coucal genus [Centropus], inhabits the country of the Caffres and frequents only the great forests. It perches on the lower branches of the trees, whence the male utters in a plaintive voice the two syllables of the same color, repeated ten times afterwards, and always on the head. One finds himself almost always with his female. The latter, like all the females of birds of prey, do not excite more; but that is a precipitate cree-cree-cree-cree, which has much to do with that which our merlin [Falco columbarius] does when it hovers in the air, and which appears to be the cry of appeal, for the male also did it when he wished to have his female near him, as when he appeared to be afraid of finding himself in some danger: whenever he perceived that I was trying to approach him, he was on his guard, and he repeated the same cry until I had disappeared from his eyes, and his wife had rejoined him. It is also in a hollow of tree that the Negro Coucal makes its brood. The female lays four eggs in a chalk white, and the male and she hatch in turn.

***

The description tells us that this bird was completely black.:

Le Coucal nègre a le corps de la grosseur de celui de notre grive draine. Sa queue légèrement étagée, est de la longueur de tout son corps, y compris la tête et le cou. Le bec, les pieds et tout le plumage de cet oiseau sont d’un noir mat, sans teinte d’aucune autre couleur absolument. Les yeux sont marron foncé. La femelle est un peu plus petite que le mâle, et son noir brunit un peu sur le ventre.

Translation:

The Negro Coucal has the body of the size of that of our mistle thrush [Turdus viscivorus]. His slightly stepped tail, is the length of his whole body, including the head and neck. The beak, the feet and all the plumage of this bird are of a matt black, without shade of any other color absolutely. The eyes are dark brown. The female is a little smaller than the male, and her black browns a little on the belly.

There are indeed some all-black or more or less completely black coucal species known to exist, these are the Black-billed Coucal (Centropus bernsteini), the Biak Coucal (Centropus chalybeus), the Green-billed Coucal (Centropus chlororhynchus), the Ivory-billed Coucal (Centropus menbecki), the Kei Coucal (Centropus spilopterus), the Black-hooded Coucal (Centropus steerii), the Violaceous Coucal (Centropus violaceus), and a subspecies of the Philippine Coucal (Centropus viridis ssp. mindorensis), yet none of them inhabits Africa.

***

The last part oft he original text tells us a bit about the habits and the food oft hat birds.:

Je n’ai tué que cinq individus de l’espèce, trois mâles et deux femelles: je n’en ai pas vu les jeunes, les petits n’étant pas encore éclos lorsque je quittai le canton où j’ai trouvé l’espèce. A la dissection, je n’ai trouvé que des débris d’insectes dans le corps de ces oiseaux.

Translation:

I killed only five individuals of the species, three males and two females: I did not see the young, the young ones not having hatched yet when I left the canton where I found the species. At the dissection, I found only debris of insects in the bodies of these birds.

So, obviously the author found the birds by himself in the named place, at least five specimens were taken (where are they today?), so this Black Coucal very likely actually existed, but what is/was it? A now extinct species, a subspecies of another species, a color morph?

We may never find out.

*********************

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. Paris, Delachaussée, Rue du temple, N°. 40. Vol. 5. 1806

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Depiction from: ‚François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des oiseaux d’Afrique. Paris, Delachaussée, Rue du temple, N°. 40. Vol. 5. 1806‘

(not in copyright)

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edited: 11.11.2018

Psittacus pacificus – what if …?

… some thoughts about my favorite parrot genus – Cyanoramphus, I think about them very often ….   😉

***

28.* Cyanoramphus erythronotus.

Society Is.: Tahiti and Raiatea (Forster)
“ [1]

and

30.* Cyanoramphus ulietanus.

?Ulietea or Raiatea, Society Islands (Lath.). – ?Tanna, New Hebrides (Bullock Coll. Brit. Mus.).
If the Parrot, P. ulieteanns Gm., really came from Ulietea as stated by Latham, it may prove to be the young of P. pacificus Forst. = erythronotus Kuhl.
“ [1]

***

Number 28., the Black-fronted- or Tahiti-Parakeet is now named as Cyanoramphus zealandicus (Latham), what if the two species, the black-fronted and the Society Islands Parakeet, where indeed only one species?

The Black-fronted Parakeet appears to be very much like the remainder of the Cyanoramphus species, more or less completely green, with bluish wing feathers, and some red feathers behind the eye, but the other species, the Society Islands Parakeet, has a completely different coloration, being brownish olive-colored with a completely blackish head, it is completely unlike any of ist congeners.

The dull form may indeed have been the juvenile of the green one, yet all other species in the genus lack a special juvenile plumage, the young birds look exactly like the adult ones, and the only two known specimens of the Society Islands Parakeet appear to be adult birds – so no, this theory is invalid.

***

The origin of the two species is another question, it is not that much for certain, that in historical times one was found only on the island of Tahiti and the other one only on Ra’iatea, let alone the prehistorical times …! The only thing absolutely for sure is that the Black-fronted Parakeet indeed inhabited Tahiti.

Can you still follow me?

The genus is very rich in species in New Zealand and occurs there almost everywhere with at least two sympatrical species, and even as much as three on the large South Island (Yellow-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus auriceps), Orange-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi), Red-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezealandiae)).

So why should the island of Tahiti not have harbored two species as well? And why should these two species not have occurred on other islands within the Society archipelago as well? We will probably never know that for sure.

***

There are still so many mysteries surrounding this genus, one is the very disjunct distribution, with giant gaps of which one was only recently filled with the discovery of subfossil remains on the island of Rapa, Austral archipelago.

But this is another story for another day.   🙂

*********************

References:  

[1] Lionel K. Wiglesworth: Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands). Berlin: R. Friedlaender & Sohn 1891 In: Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königl. Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Etnographischen Museums zu Dresden Bd. 3: 1-84. 1890/91. herausgegeben von Hofrath Dr. A. B. Meyer, Director des Museums

*********************

edited: 24.10.2018

Amsterdam Island Rail – gone with the wind

When C. Jouanin and P. Paulian surveyed beds of subfossil bones on Île Amsterdam in the subantarctic Indian Ocean in 1960, they found almost only bones of seabirds, but also some bones of what later was described as the Amsterdam Island Duck (Anas marecula Olson & Jouventin) – and – the mummified body of a middle-sized rail.  

The two just wrote some kind of short note [1], that later, in 1977, was translated by Storrs L. Olson.:  

A mummy of a small rail was discovered in a tunnel in a lava flow, under a block that had no doubt protected it from moisture. A sketch was made in situ, as well as taking measurements of the beak (22 mm), the tarsus (40) and the middle toe without claw (34), but the mummy fell to dust when an attempt was made to pick it up. In this case one cannot infer the former existence of a rail peculiar to New Amsterdam, although it would be perfectly likely (endemic species of this order exist on most isolated islands), for the measurements cited coincide with those of a skin of a Corncrake (Crex crex Linnaeus) in the British Museum collected 100 miles to the south of Madagascar. Still, this identification is not wholly satisfactory: the mummy did not have the bulk nor the heavy bill of a Corncrake, and it is most regrettable not to have been able to remove it.“ [2]  

The Amsterdam Island Rail very, very, very likely, if not absolutely definitely, was an endemic species, that indeed may have descended from the trampy Corncrake, a species that inhabits parts of western Asia and Europe, but on its migrations, pops up almost everywhere on Earth!  

***  

Imagine how many such endmic rails may have existed before mankind spread all over the planet, it must have been thousands …!  

*********************  

References:  

[1] C. Jouanin; P. Paulian: Recherche das ossements d’oiseaux provenant de l’île Nouvelle-Amsterdam (Océan Indien). Proceedings of the XIIth International Ornithological Congress, Helsinki: 368-372. 1960 
[2] Storrs L. Olson: A synopsis of the fossil Rallidae. In: Sidney Dillon Ripley: Rails of the World – A Monograph of the family Rallidae. Codline. Boston 1977  

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edited: 15.10.2018

Hat der Cook Islands-Strandläufer bis ins 19. Jahrhundert überlebt?

Ich habe gerade eine interessante kleine Randnotiz in ‚Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands)‘ aus dem 19. Jahrhundert gefunden, in dem der Südseestrandläufer (Prosobonia cancellata Peale / parvirostris J. F. Gmelin) unter dem Namen Phegornis cancellatus (Peale) aufgeführt wird und zwar für eine Insel namens Hervey Island (heute das Manuae-Atoll im Norden der Cook-Inseln). [1]

Ist das einfach nur ein Fehler oder bezieht sich diese kleine Randnotiz auf eine letzte überlebende Population der nur durch subfossile Überreste bekannten, unbenannten Prosobonia-Art, deren Reste man auf der Insel Mangaia im Süden der Cook-Inseln gefunden hat?

***

Ich wünschte ich hätte mehr Zeit für all diese Recherchen, aber ich muss leider arbeiten um zu leben (… momentan tatsächlich mehr Arbeit als Leben ….). 

*********************

Referenzen:

[1] Lionel K. Wiglesworth: Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands). Berlin: R. Friedlaender & Sohn 1891 In: Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königl. Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Etnographischen Museums zu Dresden Bd. 3: 1-84. 1890/91. herausgegeben von Hofrath Dr. A. B. Meyer, Director des Museums

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bearbeitet: 10.10.2018

Saint Paul Duck … an ‚extinct‘ species that never was?

Saint Paul Duck  (Anas sp. ‚Île Saint-Paul‘)

While describing a new extinct bird, the Amsterdam Island Wigeon (Anas marecula) in 1996, the two authors Storrs L. Olson and Pierre Jouventin mentioned an account from the middle of the 18th century, and quoted another author, W. R. P. Bourne.:

Of far greater interest, however, is the report of the explorer John Barrow, who was on St. Paul Island on 2 February 1793, where he mentioned the presence of „a small brown duck, not much larger than a thrush“ that was „the favorite food of the five sealers living on the island“ (quotes brom Bourne et al. 1983).“ [2][3]

To me, it seems, the two authors did not actually check the original source, John Barrow, here.

Well, but I did …!   😉

***

By the way; another well-known author of bird/extinction-related books, Julian P. Hume (in Extinct Birds; in the 2012 – or in the 2017 edition), even gives a completely wrong source.:

„John Barrow: Some Account of the Public Life, and a Selection from the Unpublished Writings, of the Earl of Macartney. Amsterdam London: T. Cadell and W. Davies. 1806“

I checked that source too!   😉

***

But back to the actual source, what does it really say?

Page 140:

On the 1st of February we discovered the two islands of St. Paul and Amsterdam, and on the evening of the same day anchored on the eastern side of the latter, at the distance of about a mile from the shore. …“ [1]

The latter one is Amsterdam Island, right?

What follows are several descriptions of the island, of its geology, and some quite interesting philosophical reflections about the fact that some parts of the planet appear to be older/younger than others, and that islands apparently can just appear out of nothing or disappear into nothing, obviously without aid of an unearthly higher being (remember; Darwin’s ‚On the Origin of Species‘ first appeared 66 years after).

… oh, and a list of birds of course.:

Page 147/148:

The number of birds was likewise astonishing, and the two causeways were strewed with teir eggs. During our short stay on shore we obtained the following birds:

Anas, A small brown Duck, not much larger than a thrush, and apparently not described by naturalists.
“ [1]

The author still speaks about Amsterdam Island here, so this is the Amsterdam Island Duck (Anas marecula Olson & Jouventin)!

Its this little passage – „A small brown Duck, not much larger than a thrush“ – that apparently was copied again and again by several authors without checking the original source.

***

On page 155 resp. 156, the author reports about five seal hunters, that „all lived in a small miserable hut, as dirty and offensive as that of an Hottentot; and it was surrounded on every side by the dead carcasses of seals and sea-lions.“ [1]

Page 155:

If the smoke and the fires of Amsterdam Island had excited our curiosity, the discovery of two or three human being running along the shore, as our ships approached it, on so miserable a spot, and so distant from any other land except the little neighboring island of St. Paul, caused a still greater degree of astonishment. …“ [1]

This passage clearly still refers to Amsterdam Island! 

***

Page 156:

The birds, they observed, had a strong fishy taste, to which, however, long habit had reconciled them: those that were the least so were the blue petrel and the little brown duck.“ [1]

There again, the small duck from Amsterdam Island! 

***

The Amsterdam Island Wigeon clearly survived into the 18th century, since it is clearly that bird that is mentioned in the so often (incorrectly) cited quotes. There may a duck have existed on the Île Saint-Paul, however, up to now there is no proof for that assumption!

*********************

References: 

[1] John Barrow: A voyage to Cochinchina, in the years 1792 and 1793. To which is annexed an account of a journey made in the years 1801 and 1802, to the residence of the chief of the Booshuana nation. London: printed for T. Cadell and W. Davies 1806
[2] W. R. P. Bourne; A. C. F. David; C. Jouanin: Probable Garganey on St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands, Indian Ocean. Wildfowl 34: 127-129. 1983
[3] Storrs L. Olson; Pierre Jouventin: A new species of small flightless duck from Amsterdam Island, southern Indian Ocean (Anatidae: Anas). The Condor 98(1): 1-9. 1996

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edited: 08.10.2018

Leybold’s Firecrown

Leybold’s Firecrown was described in 1870 as a full species, but was later downgraded to subspecific level under the Juan Fernández Firecrown and is now known as Alejandro Selkirk Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis ssp. leyboldi (Gould)).

***

Let’s just start with something completely different to make all of this even more complicated!

The Juan Fernández Archipelago consists of three islands, which were originally named in 1574 as Más a Fuera, Más a Tierra, and Santa Clara.

The archipelago is primarily known for having been the home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk in the very early 18th century, which again was the template for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The islands are now named Isla Alejandro Selkirk, Isla Robinson Crusoe, and, well, Santa Clara respectively. Robinson Crusoe Island is the largest of the three, while Santa Clara, about 1 km southwest is merely a snipped crumb of it. Alejandro Selkirk, however, is located 180 km further west.

The islands contain many endemic animals and plants, and, among the birds are home for at least two species of hummingbirds, the endemic Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis (King)) and the Green-backed Firecrown (Sephanoides sephaniodes (Lesson, RP & Garnot)), which inhabits Argentina and Chile and comes to the Juan Fernández archipelago only during the warmer parts of the year (… perhaps only to annoy the endemic species!).

Green-backed Firecrown (Sephanoides sephaniodes)
Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis), males, described as Eustephanus fernandensis

Depictions from: ‚John Gould: A Monography of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. London: Printed by Taylor and Francis 1861‘

(public domain)

***

Let’s now move the Juan Fernández Firecrown itself, which for some time was also somewhat a mysterious bird.

The species was described in 1831, yet both sexes are so dissimilar that they immediately were described as two distinct species, the male as Trochilus fernandensis and the female as Trochilus stokesii (both by Capt. Philip P. King in „Proceedings of the Committee of Science and Correspondence of the Zoological Society of London 1: 30. 1831“).

John Gould in his hummingbird monograph [1] followed that by naming them es Eustephanos fernandensis and Eustephanos stokesii respectively, and, somewhat funny, wondered if he would ever get to see a female E. stokesii.

Some of them are more richely coloured than others, but all have the metallic green crown; the question then arises, has the female this character as well as the male, or did Mr. Bridges procure males only?“ [1]

Well, no, they all were females!

Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis), females, described as Eustephanus stokesii

Depictions from: ‚John Gould: A Monography of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. London: Printed by Taylor and Francis 1861‘

(public domain)

***

He corrected himself later in the supplement of his monograph [2], and by the way also introduced the second (sub)species.:

… such a case is the present, in which, from lack of the requisite knowledge, I figured the two sexes of the Cinnamon Firecrown as distinct species, under the names of E. fernandensis and E. stokesii; and now that I am giving for the first time a Plate of the more recently discovered E. leyboldi, I have seized the opportunity to refigure the two sexes of E. fernandensis.“ [2]

Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis ssp. fernandensis)

Depictions from: ‚John Gould: A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. Supplement. London: Henry Sothern & Co. 1887‘

(public domain)

***

Let‘s talk about the differences between the two forms.:

S. f. ssp. leyboldi:

male: the glowing golden feathers on the crown stretch onto the neck
female: the back is more yellowish green instead of bluish green to green; the tail feathers with a far less amount of white.

The nominate race is endemic to Más a Tierra (Robinson Crusoe), while the ssp. leyboldi is supposed to have been endemic to Más a Fuera (Alejandro Selkirk).

Leybold’s Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis ssp. leyboldi)

Depictions from: ‚John Gould: A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. Supplement. London: Henry Sothern & Co. 1887‘

(public domain)

***

Let’s now take a look at the archipelago’s wonderful flora …! [5][6]

These are the plant species that are native (mostly endemic) to Isla Robinson Crusoe and that are known to be utilised by the Juan Fernández Firecrown.:

Centaurodendron dracaenoides Johow
Cuminia fernandeziana Colla
Dendroseris litoralis Skottsb.
Dendroseris macrantha (Bertero ex Decne.) Skottsb.
Eryngium bupleuroides Hook. & Arn.
Escallonia callcottiae Hook. & Arn.
Nicotiana cordifolia Phil.
Notanthera heterophyllus G. Don.
Ochagavia elegans Phil.
Raphithamnus venustus (Phil.) Rob.
Sophora fernandeziana (Phil.) Skottsb.

The most important endemic plant for the hummingbirds is Raphithamnus venustus (Phil.) Rob., a beautiful shrub with violet flowers, because it is the only native plant that flowers during the winter, thus is extremely important for the survival of the Juan Fernández Firecrown. The males often build their territory around such a shrub, and vigorously chase away other birds, including females except in the breeding season.

And these are the native plant species that occur (native or endemic) on Isla Alejandro Selkirk..:

Dendroseris regia Skottsb.
Eryngium sarcophyllum Hook. & Arn.
Nicotiana cordifolia Phil.
Raphithamnus venustus (Phil.) Rob.
Sophora masafuerana (Phil.) Skottsb.

They are not always conspecific, but at least congeneric, and Raphithamnus venustus does occur on this island as well, so …?

By the way, the first real inventure of Masafuera’s flora was made by Carl Skottsberg at the beginning of the 20th century [5], the island was already nearly completely denuded at that time by introduced goats, and there were only traces left of the former forests. It is thus no wonder that no hummingbird has survived there.

***

What do others think?:

Federico Johow, either Friedrich Richard Adalbert Johow, the German-Chilean botanist and biologist born 1959 and now (in 2018) 159 years old, or, more likely, someone with just the same name, has done some research on the same matter in 2007, and has found only four persons who have claimed to have seen hummingbirds on Isla Alejandro Selkirk.:

Augustín Guajardo, a botanist that has worked in the archipelago in 1869, Friedrich Johow (named as Federico Johow), the one mentioned above, Carl Skottsberg, and finally R. A. Philippi Bañados, a zoologist that has worked on the islands in 1928.

I could only find two of the abovementioned accounts, and I will generously share them with you here.   😉

Friedrich Johow:

Eustephanus galeritus Mol. – Masatierra. En chile solamente durante el invierno. – Nombre vulgar en Juan Fernandez: Picaflor chico.
Eustephaus fernandensis King. – Endémico en Masatierra. – Nombre vulgar: Picaflor grande.
Eustephanus leyboldi Gould. – Endémico en Masafuera (*)

(*) Opinamos que esta especie, fundada en ejemplares mal conservados, es idéntica con el E. fernandensis de Masatierra. A lo ménos, no nos fué posible descubrir diferencia alguna entre los ejemplares que cazamos en una i en otra isla.

Translation:

Eustephanus galeritus Mol. – Masatierra. In Chile only during the winter. – Common name in Juan Fernandez: Picaflor chico.
Eustephaus fernandensis King. – Endemic in Masatierra. – Common name: Picaflor grande.
Eustephanus leyboldi Gould. – Endemic in Masafuera (*)
… 
(*) We believe that this species, founded on poorly preserved specimens, is identical with E. fernandensis of Masatierra. At least, it was not possible for us to discover any difference between the specimens we hunted on one island and another island.“[3]

Carl Skottsberg:

Die Kolibris gehören auf Masatierra zu den bedeutungsvollen Bestäuber[n]. Früher kam E. fernandensis – denn E. Leyboldii ist höchstwahrscheinlich mit ihm identisch – ebenfalls auf Masafuera vor, wo ich im August 1908 mehrere beobachtete. Im [Jahr] 1917 bekamen wir keinen einzigen zu sehen; er scheint hier ausgestorben, was übrigens keinen, der das Schicksal Masafueras kennt, überraschen wird.

Translation:

The hummingbirds belong on Masatierra to the significant pollinators. Formerly, E. fernandensis – because E. Leyboldii is most likely identical with it – also occurred on Masafuera, where I observed several in August 1908. In 1917 we did not get to see a single one; it seems to be extinct here, which by the way, will not surprise anyone who knows the fate of Masafuera.”[4]

***

The Juan Fernández Firecrown is said to be quite variable, especially the females, I personally have no access to any specimens nor do I know of any scientific assay that deals with that matter; and of course, the specimens used for the description of Leybold’s Firecrown are lost now, so my last words in this case are: Leybold’s Firecrown very likely should not be treated as a full species but indeed as a subspecies, it has in fact existed, and it is now extinct.

… uff, that was quite an amount of letters ….  😛

*********************

source:

[1] John Gould: A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. London: Printed by Taylor and Francis 1861
[2] John Gould: A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. Supplement. London: Henry Sothern & Co. 1887
[3] Friedrich Johow: Estudios sobre la flora de las islas de Juan Fernandez. Santiago de Chile, Imprenta Cervantes 1896
[4] Carl Skottsberg: Pollinationsbiologie und Samenverbreitung auf den Juan Fernandez-Inseln. 503-547. 1928. In: The Natural history of Juan Fernandez and Easter Island, edited by Carl Skottsberg. Vol. 2., Botany. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1920-1953
[5] C. Skottsberg: Derivation of the Flora and Fauna of Juan Fernandez and Easter Island, Part 1. The Juan Fernandez Islands. 193-438.In: The Natural history of Juan Fernandez and Easter Island, edited by Carl Skottsberg. Vol.1., Geography, Geology, Origin of island life. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri, 1920-1956
[6] Michael S. Roy, Juan Carlos Torres-Mura, Fritz Hertel, Marina Lemus and Renate Sponer: Conservation of the Juan Fernandez firecrown and its island habitat. Oryx 33(3): 223-232. 1999
[7] Federico Johow: El picaflor de la Isla de Masafuera: ¿Subespecie extinta, nunca existió o Mistery Bird?. Boletín Chileno de Ornitología 13: 28-41. 2007

*********************

edited: 02.10.2018

Levaillant’s Blue-tailed Lory

Levaillant’s Blue-tailed Lory is another mysterious lory ‚described‘ at the very beginning of the 19th century by François Le Vaillant on the basis of a single specimen (alive or dead?).

The bird is very similar in many aspects to the Red Lory (Eos bornea (L.)), a species that does not occur on the island of Borneo, Indonesia, but on several small islands within the Maluku island group, Indonesia, namely Ambon, Buru, Saparua, Seram, Haruku, and the Kai Islands.

The mysterious lory differs from the Red Lory actually only in its name-giving blue tail.

The bird was never scientifically described, and since F. Le Vaillant wasn’t a fan of C. von Linné‘s binominal nomenclature system, it was only ever named as ‚Le Perroquet Lori a queue bleue‘, as ‚The Lori Parrot with a blue tail‘.

Here is the important part of Levaillant’s ‚description‘.:


Le plumage général, c‘est-à-dire, celui de la tête, du cou, du dos, du croupion; les plumes des jambes du Lori à queue bleue, sont d’un rouge foncé, tirant au cramoisi. Toutes les couvertures des ailes sont du rouge cramoisi du corps, à l’exception de trois ou quatre de celles du millieu, qui sont bleu-foncé; queles autres de celles du millieu et les plus grandes sont lisérées de bleu. Les scapulaires, les deux dernières plumes des ailes près du dos, le bas-ventre et la queue entière, sont aussi bleus. Les grandes pennes alaires sont d’un noir brun. Le bec est d’un jaune d’ocre, et les pieds sont noirs.
L’espèce du Lori à queue bleue se trouve plus communément à l’île Bornéo. L’individu que nous en avons figuré de grandeur naturelle, fait partie de la belle collection de M. Raye de Breukelervaert, à Amsterdam.

Translation:


The general plumage, that is to say, that of the head, neck, back, rump; the feathers of the blue-tailed Lori’s legs are dark red, scarlet-crimson. All the wing coverts are crimson red, with the exception of three or four of the middle ones, which are dark blue; the others from the middle and the larger ones are marked with blue. The scapulars, the last two feathers of the wings near the back, the lower abdomen and the whole tail, are also blue. The large wing tips are black-brown. The beak is ochre yellow, and the feet are black.
The Blue-tailed Lori is more commonly found on Borneo Island. The individual that we have figured in natural size, is part of the beautiful collection of Mr. Raye de Breukelervaert, from Amsterdam.“ [1]

***

What or who is this Blue-tailed Lori?

Well, if F. Le Vaillant did only see a dead, a stuffed bird, this may in fact just have been a Red Lory lacking its actual tail, which had been replaced by the blue tail of any other parrot species – this method was actually quite common in these days, either to complete a incomplete specimen or even to make a complete new species, a fake species if you want, something unique that could earn high prizes other collectors in search for something unique for their collection were often willing to pay.

There existed many such collections in the 18th and early 19th century, containing real natural treasures but also things like unicorn horns, dried mermaids, and, of course fake bird species, especially birds of paradise and parrots.

It is also interesting that the island of Borneo is given as the place of origin. The bird may very well have been bought on a bird market on that island to end up as a corpse in a collection in the Netherlands, but, being definetely a member of the genus Eos, it clearly was not native to that island.

My last words here: Levaillant’s Blue-tailed Lory very likely is just a Red Lory with a fake tail.

*********************

source:

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets, Paris Levrault, Schoell & Cie, An IX-XII. 1801–1805

*********************

Depiction from: „François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets, Paris Levrault, Schoell & Cie, An IX-XII. 1801–1805“

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 02.10.2018

Unicolored Lory

The Unicolored Lory (Eos unicolor (Shaw)) is a bright red colored parrot, that is known from a single drawing and the annotated description in François Le Vaillant‘s ‚Histoire naturelle des perroquets‘ from the very early 19th century.

There were two individuals known at that time, kept in captivity in the Netherlands, from which one was depicted.:

L’uniformité de la coleur du plumage de ce Lori nous a déterminé à lui donner le surnom d’unicolore; et cette coleur est d’un rouge pâle sur la tête, le cou, la poitrine, l’estomac, le ventre et les couvertures du dessous de la queue. Le manteau et le croupion, les couvertures des ailes et celles de la queue, lla queue elle-même, sont aussi rouges, mais d‘un noir brun vers leur pointe. Le bec est rouge, et les pieds sont d‘un brun terreux.
L’espèce de ce Lori se trouve aux Moluques. M. Temminck, d’Amsterdam, qui avoit deux de ces oiseaux dans sa belle collection, eut la bonté de m’en donner un. Ces deux individus sont les seuls de l’espéce que j’aie jamais vus.

translation:

The uniformity of the color of the plumage of this Lori has determined us to give him the moniker nickname; and this color is pale red on the head, neck, chest, stomach, belly, and undertail coverts. The mantle and the rump, the coverts of the wings and those of the tail, the tail itself, are also red, but of a dark brown towards their point. The beak is red, and the feet are of an earthy brown.
The species of this Lori is found in Maluku. M. Temminck from Amsterdam, who had two of these birds in his fine collection, was kind enough to give me one. These two individuals are the only ones of the species I have ever seen.“ [1]

***

The Maluku Islands were a Dutch colony (at least in parts), so it’s no wonder that birds cought there were transported to Amsterdam.

***

Since the Unicolored Lory is now known exclusively from the single drawing in ‚Histoire naturelle des perroquets‘, some zoologists think that this depiction may in fact simply show a Cardinal Lory (Chalcopsitta cardinalis (G. R. Gray)) from the Solomon Islands. This species, however, is not that unicolored but has a bright red underside and a rather dull cherry-red upper side, a longer tail, as well as a patch of bare skin around its beak.

The drawings made by Jacques Barraband are not just only very good, they are in fact scientifically correct, even for modern standards, so the Unicolored Lory can indeed be identified as a member of the genus Eos. This genus contains at least six species, that all are confined to the islands in the Banda Sea (the Maluku Islands and some islands off western New Guinea), Indonesia. All of these species are mainly bright red colored, with more or less amounts of bright blue areas.

There is a slight possibility that the two birds kept in captivity, were of hybrid origin, but this leads to the question for the parent species, since all other known congeneric species bear at least some blue in their plumage, while the Unicolored Lory was completely red.

The Maluku Islands, especially the smaller islands, are heavily deforested and the original forest has been replaced by plantations, this has probably already begun in the 14th century, when the islands were discovered by Arab merchants. Most of the endemic lory species are now heavily threatened with extinction, and at least two taxa (the Red-and-blue Lory (Eos histrio ssp. histrio (Statius Müller)), and the Talaud Red-and-blue Lory (Eos histrio ssp. talautensis Meyer & Wiglesworth)) are already completely extinct.

The Unicolored Lory may have been restricted to a single, small island within the region, and its population may already have been very low due to deforestation and hunting, when the two individuals were caught and brought to the netherlands

There is no obvious reason why the Unicolored Lory should not have existed!

*********************

References:

[1] François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets, Paris Levrault, Schoell & Cie, An IX-XII 1801–1805

*********************

Depiction from: “François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets, Paris Levrault, Schoell & Cie, An IX-XII. 1801–1805”

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 30.09.2018

Hurra!

The family Aepyornithidae has finally been revised properly!   🙂

***

Up to 15 species were accepted for some time, after the last revision about 50 years [!] ago, there were only seven species left.:

Aepyornis gracilis Monnier
Aepyornis hildebrandti Burckhardt
Aepyornis maximus Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Aepyornis medius Milne-Edwards & Grandidier

Mullerornis agilis Milne-Edwards & Grandidier
Mullerornis betsilei Milne-Edwards & Grandidier
Mullerornis rudis Milne-Edwards & Grandidier

***

And now, after the latest revision [1] only four species are left, and one of them is transferred into a new genus.:

Aepyornis hildebrandti Burckhardt
Aepyornis maximus Geoffroy Saint Hilaire

Mullerornis modestus (Milne-Edwards & Grandidier)

Vorombe titan (Andrews)

*********************

References:

[1] James P. Hansford; Samuel T. Turvey: Unexpected diversity within the extinct elephant birds (Aves: Aepyornithidae) and a new identity fort he world’s largest birds. Royal Society Open Science, 2018; 5(9): 181295 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181295

*********************

edited: 27.09.2018

Bruner’s Rail

Bruner’s Rail (Cacroenis inornatus Bruner) is a very enigmatic species of rail supposed to have been endemic to the Tuamotu Archipelago, whose name repeatedly appears in listings of extinct birds and other publications. [4]  

***  

Yet, this species has never existed, but see for yourself.:  

The name first appears in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” from 1972, obviously the first book about the birds of French Polynesia, and full of errors, some of them bad, others worst. [3]  

The story begins right with the discovery of the Cocos Finch in 1843.: [1][2]  

This bird, which is in all probability a female, is from Bow Island, and is, I believe, the only insessorial form that has been brought from thence. Only a single example was procured, and its principal interest consists in its forming an additional species of a small group of birds inhabiting the Galapagos, to which islands they had hitherto appeared to be peculiar. … 
Bow Island has truly little to boast of in its ornithology, since the only birds seen by us during a residence of six weeks at this Atol coral island were doves, the above new species of Cactornis, plover, a few black and white tern which appear attached to these situations, and herons; and none of these were at all numerous. The Cactornis inornatus was usually noticed about the lowly bushes of Petesia carnea, the succulent fruit of which most probably constitutes its chief food.
”  

***  

Bow- or La Harpe Island, both are old names for the Hao atoll in the middle of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia, and the plant mentioned in the text, Petesia carnea, is now known as Psychotria carnea (G. Forst.) A. C. Sm., a species that is native to Fiji and Tonga, and that has never existed in the Tuamotu Archipelago.  

***  

The bird is mentioned in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” [as Cacroenis inornatus] as being confusing and obscure but also as being small, speckled and generally brownish in appearance; it appears in a checklist at the end of the book [this time as Cactornis inornatus] as having been introduced to the Archipelago, which is complete bullsh**!  

***  

The Cocos Finch is now named as Pinaroloxias inornata (Gould), however, how this finch-like tanager finally ended up as a extinct rail species is still not known to me.  

*******************  

[1] John Gould: On nine new birds collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 11. 103-107. 1843 
[2] John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42. London: Smith, Elder 1843-1846 
[3] Phillip L. Bruner; O. G. Dykes: Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia. Bishop Museum Press 1972 
[4] Greg Sherley; Rod Hay: Review of avifauna conservation needs in Polynesia. Bird Conservation Priorities and a Draft Avifauna Conservation Strategy for the Pacific Islands Region 10-17. 1999  

********************

Cocos Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata), female  

Depiction from: ‚John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42

(public domain) 

*******************  

edited: 26.09.2018

The Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘

There exists an almost unknown contemporaneous account from the 18th century, made by James Morrison, boatswain’s mate aboard the famous or infamous ‚Bounty‘, who made mention of a mysterious bird [… and how I love mysterious birds …!].:

… the mountains produce birds of different kinds unknown to us, among which are a large bird nearly the size of a goose, which is good food; they are never observed near the sea nor in the low lands.” [1]

***

So, usually called the Tahiti Goose, Tahitian Goose, or Tahitian Mountain Goose – what are we talking about here actually?

We very probably do not talk about a goose, but why?

First we have to take into account who made the report: 

A boatswain’s mate from the 18th century very likely was not a zoologist, but may in fact have known at least several European birds, especially poultry, so very likely knew chickens, doves, ducks, and geese, and very likely also quails, partridges and other so called game birds. 

As a seafarer he perhaps may have had some good knowledge about seabirds, and probably could very well tell several species of them apart from each other.

These are the birds that we can just sort out, but what may it have been then? 

Well, the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ apparently was a somewhat large, terrestrial bird, more or less the size of a feral goose, it was ‚good food‘ so it must have been easy to catch, it probably [actually very likely to almost certainly] was flightless, and it was unlike any bird known to ‚us‘, to the sailors of the ‚Bounty‘. 

In my opinion, and in that of many others, the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ almost certainly was a kind of rail, a large, flightless rail, maybe a species from the widespread genus Porphyrio, somewhat like a Tahitian version of the New Zealand Takahe (Porphyrio mantelli (Owen)).

However, there is of course the chance that the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ was something completey different, we probably will never know for sure.

… mysterious ….

*********************

References:

[1] J. M. Derscheid: An unknown species – the Tahitian Goose. Ibis 81: 756-760. 1939

*********************

edited: 22.09.2018

Psittacopes lepidus Mayr & Daniels

When this tiny creature was first described it was thought to represent some parent form of the parrot order, however, it later [1] was reinvestigated and is now placed near the Passeriformes … near them, not among or in between them!  

My reconstruction is life sized, the bird here is nearly 12 cm long, the feathers, however, are not known, so are completely speculative!  

*********************  

References:

[1] Gerald Mayr: A reassessment of Eocene parrotlike fossils indicates a previously undetected radiation of zygodactyl stem group representatives of passerines (Passeriformes). Zoologica Scripta 44(6): 587–602. 2015  

*********************  

edited: 17.09.2018

Mysteriöse Papageien aus Polynesien

Ich hatte hier bereits über eine hypothetische Papageienart geschrieben, die einst auf der Insel Bora Bora im Gesellschaftsarchipel vorgekommen sein mag.

***  

Ich möchte nun über ein paar sehr interessante Überlieferungen schreiben, die von Teuira Henry (1847-1915), einer tahitianischen Pädagogin, Ethnologin, Folkloristin, Historikerin, Linguistin und Gelehrten, in einem Manuskript hinterlassen wurden, das sie zu Lebzeiten aus den Stücken eines verlorenen Manuskripts rekonstruierte, das in den Jahren zwischen 1817 und 1856 ursprünglich von ihrem Großvater verfasst wurde. Es enthielt bedeutende Beiträge an mündlicher Folklore, Genealogie, Geschichte, Mythen und traditionellem Wissen wie Astronomie und Navigation. Ihr Manuskript wurde 1928 posthum vom Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum als „Ancient Tahiti“ veröffentlicht. [1]

***  

Im Jahr 2006 schrieb Philippe Raust einen kleinen Artikel [2] über neu entdeckte und beschriebene Papageienarten, deren subfossile Überreste in Französisch Polynesien gefunden worden waren, er erwähnte hierbei auch die alten tahitianischen Namen einiger dieser Papageien, von denen einige jedoch immer noch keiner bekannten Art zugeordnet werden können.:  

… Peut être étaient-ce le vini-pa-tea perroquet de couleur pourpre à gorge blanche commun à toutes les îles de la Société et le vini-pa-uri de Pora Pora entièrement rouge décrit par T. Henry dans Tahiti au temps anciens? Il est connu que les plumes rouges étaient recherchées dans les sociétés polynésiennes préeuropéennes où elle symbolisaient le pouvoir des chefs; c’est peut être à cause de cela que ces espèces, trop chassées, ont disparu. T. Henry cite aussi le vini- rehu (perroquet sifleur gris), le tētē (perroquet noir de la Société), le ‘ura (perroquet rouge des montagnes) et le ‘a’a taevao (‘a’a sauvage des îles-sous-le-vent), le tavae (au plumage brillant et multicolore de Motu Iti, Tupai et Maupiha’a): cela fait au moins six espèces de perroquets, perruches et loris qui sont rapportés par la tradition.”  

Übersetzung:  

… Vielleicht waren es der vini-pa-tea Papagei von purpurner Farbe mit weißem Hals, der allen Inseln der Gesellschaft gemein war, und der völlig rote vini-pa-uri von Pora Pora [Bora Bora], die von T. Henry in ‚Ancient Tahiti’ beschrieben wurden? Es ist bekannt, dass rote Federn in voreuropäischen polynesischen Gesellschaften begehrt waren, da sie die Macht der Häuptlinge symbolisierten; dies könnte der Grund sein, warum diese überjagten Arten verschwunden sind. T. Henry benennt auch den vini-rehu (grauer pfeifender Papagei), den tētē (schwarzer Papagei der Gesellschaftsinseln), den ‚ura (roter Bergpapagei) und den ‚a’a taevao (wilder ‚a’a der Inseln unter dem Winde), der tavae (mit strahlendem und buntem Gefieder von Motu Iti, Tupai und Maupiha’a): dies macht mindestens sechs [sieben!] Arten von Papageien, Sittichen und Loris, über die Überlieferungen existieren.

***  

Nun haben wir hier also offenbar sieben Papageienarten, aber welche davon ist welche?

‘a’a taevao – Raiatea-Sittich (Cyanoramphus ulietanus (Gmelin)) 
tavae – Rubinlori (Vini kuhlii (Vigors) ssp. ‘Bora Bora’) ? 
tētē – Schwarzstirnsittich (Cyanoramphus zealandicus (Latham)) 
‘ura – ein mehr oder weniger komplett rot gefärbter Papagei, der offenbar nach seiner Farbe benannt wurde 
vini-pa-tea – Saphirlori (Vini peruviana (Statius Müller)) 
vini-pa-uri – Rubinlori (Vini kuhlii (Vigors) ssp. ‘Bora Bora’) ? 
vini-rehu – ein grauer Papagei [?] der pfeifende Geräusche macht, wie dem auch sei, rehu bedeutet jedenfalls nur grau; eventuell ein juveniler Saphirlori?

***  

Die Gesellschaftsinseln waren die Heimat von mindestens fünf wissenschaftlich beschriebenen Papageienarten, die entweder anhand alter Überlieferungen bekannt sind oder anhand von subfossilen Überresten, außerdem gab es eine weitere Art, die heute auf eine einzige Population auf nur einer Insel im Australarchipel reduziert ist, früher aber viel weiter verbreitet war.

Nur ganze zwei davon existieren auch heute noch und nur eine davon bewohnt zumindest noch winzige Reste ihrer einstigen Heimat – der unfassbar schöne Saphir- oder Tahiti-Lori (Vini peruviana).  

Saphirlori (Vini peruviana)  

Darstellung aus: ‚François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets. Paris: Levrault, Schoell & Cie. An IX-XII. 1801–1805‘  

(public domain)   

*********************  

Quellen:

[1] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928 
[2] Philippe Raust: Les Psittacidés disparus de Polynésie Francaise. Te Manu: Bulletin de la Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie 56. Septembre 2006  

*********************  

bearbeitet: 17.09.2018

Geheimnisvolle Vögel: Teil 1.: Die Familie Sylphornithidae

Hier möchte ich einmal eine Art Fortsetzungs“roman“ beginnen, der sich mit geheimnisvollen, kaum bekannten, rätselhaften Vogelformen beschäftigen soll.

***

Die Familie Sylphornithidae wurde im Jahr 1988 für die Art Sylphornis bretouensis Mourer-Chauviré erstellt, die aus dem oberen Eozän Frankreichs stammt. Weitere Gattungen/Arten wurden später hinzugefügt. [1][2][3][4]

Die Familie umfasst sehr kleine, singvogelähnliche Vögelchen, gehört allerdings zur Ordnung der Spechtvögel (Piciformes) und ist innerhalb dieser Ordnung wahrscheinlich am nächsten mit den rezenten Glanzvögeln (Galbulidae) verwandt. Die Sylphornithidae sind hier nur eine von wahrscheinlich mehreren Familien innerhalb dieser Ordnung, die im Paläogen [Paläozän, Eozän, Oligozän] die Nischen besetzten, die heute von Singvögeln eingenommen werden. [4]

***

Die bislang bekannten Vertreter der Sylphornithidae weisen einen semi-zygodactylen Fussbau auf, das bedeutet, die äußere Zehe konnte je nach Bedarf nach vorn oder nach hinten gedreht werden.

***

Die folgenden Gattungen/Arten werden [von einigen Autoren] zur Familie Sylphornithidae gestellt.:

Palaegithalus cuvieri (Gervais): 1852 als Singvogel beschrieben, Oberes Eozän, Frankreich

Sylphornis bretouensis Mourer-Chauviré: 1988, Oberes Eozän, Frankreich [1]

Eutreptodactylus itaboraiensis Baird & Vickers-Rich: 1997, Oberes Paleozän, Brasilien; diese Art wurde ursprünglich der Familie der Kuckucke (Cuculidae) zugeordnet [2]

Oligosylphe mourerchauvireae Mayr & Smith: 2002, Unteres Oligozän, Belgien [3]

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Palaegithalus cuvieri; Typusexemplar, zu unvollständig um genauer untersucht werden zu können

Georges Cuvier: Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupèdes : où l’on rétablit les caractères de plusieurs espèces d’animaux que les révolutions du globe paroissent avoir détruites. Paris: Deterville 1812

(public domain)
Palaegithalus cuvieri, diese beiden Exemplare scheinen heute nicht mehr zu existieren

Darstellungen aus: Alphonse Milne-Edwards: Recherches anatomiques et paléontologiques pour servir à l’histoire des oiseaux fossiles de la France. Paris: Victor Masson 1867-1871

(public domain)

***

Es bleibt noch zu erwähnen, dass die Welt im Paläogen einerseits recht ähnlich ausgesehen haben mag wie heutzutage, dass aber viele bekannte Rollen von anderen „Darstellern“ eingenommen wurden, nicht nur bei den Säugern sondern auch bei den Vögeln. Echte Singvögel gab es zu dieser Zeit auf der heutigen Nordhalbkugel noch nicht oder zumindest noch kaum, ihre Nischen wurden von vollkommen anderen Vögeln eingenommen, darunter Verwandte der Hopfe, der Mausvögel, der Papageien oder der Spechtvögel.

Echte Singvögel, die nachweißlich in Australien entstanden, wanderten erst im Laufe des Paläogens ein und konnten sich schließlich zum Ende dieses Zeitalters wirklich etablieren und zu der unfassbaren Anzahl an Arten weiterentwickeln, die wir heute kennen.

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Referenzen:

[1] C. Mourer-Chauviré: Le gisement du Bretou (Phosphorites du Quercy, Tarn-et-Garonne, France) et sa faune des vertebres de l’Eocene superieur; 2. Oiseaux. [Le Bretou locality (Quercy Phosphorites, Tarn-et-Garonne, France) and its late Eocene vertebrate fauna; 2. Birds.]. Palaeontographica Abteilung A 205(1-6): 29-50. 1988
[2] Robert F. Baird; Patricia Vickers-Rich: Eutreptodactylus itaboraiensis gen. et sp. nov., an early cuckoo (Aves: Cuculidae) from the Late Paleocene of Brazil. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology 21(2): 123-127. 1997
[3] G. Mayr; Richard Smith: Avian remains from the lowermost Oligocene of Hoogbutsel (Belgium). Bulletin de l’Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belqique, Sciences de la Terre 72: 139-150. 2004
[4] Gerald Mayr: The phylogenetic relationships of the Tertiary Primoscenidae and Sylphornithidae and the sister taxon of crown group piciform birds. Journal of Ornithology 145(3): 188-198. 2004

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geändert: 26.05.2018

Not everyone in the Ice Age was a giant

Plovers Lake Cave [see photo below] in the Gauteng Province of South Africa is known for its tens of thousands of fossils from the Pleistocene era, the remains date from about 1 Ma. to 70000 years.

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Photo: Profberger

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Among the many fossils is a so-called quadrate of a very small Agapornis sp., closely related to the Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis (Viellot)), yet very much smaller, reaching a size of only about 12 cm.

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just a neat sketch of some Agapornids

It should be noted that another very small Agapornis sp. Is known from another South African site, but this has been dated tob e about 900000 years older, and furthermore these remains appear to have been lost.

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References: 

[1] Thomas A. Stidham: A small Pleistocene lovebird (Psittacidae: Agapornis) from Plovers lake, South Africa. N. Jb. Geol. Paläont. Abh. 256/1: 123-128. 2010

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edited: 23.05.2018

Palaeotodus emryi Olson

This is just a doodle, or sketch of a Palaeotodus emryi, a rather large tody ancestor from the Early Oligocene of Wyoming, USA.    

This fossil tody was nearly 50% larger, and probably had a somewhat shorter bill and larger wings than the recent species.  

Today, todies are restricted to the Caribbean, where five species, which all more or less look the same, are found on Cuba, on Hispaniola as well as on Jamaica and Puerto Rico.  

It is very strange to see how little these birds have changed during the last 30 Ma. years of their known existence!

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edited: 22.05.2018

Parvigrus pohli Mayr

This not so crane-like little birdie once inhabited in the Early Oligocene, from about 32,5 to 29,5 Ma. years ago, what today is Belgium and France and certainly other parts of Europe as well.

The species reached the size of a smaller chicken, or let’s say of about 35 cm in length in my reconstruction.

The family it belongs to is thought to be most closely related to the limpkins (Aramidae), the cranes (Gruidae) and the trumpeters (Psophidae), and indeed, my reconstruction appears to show a bird that is something in between all of these three families.  

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr: A chicken-sized precursoor from the early Oligocene of France. Naturwissenschaften 92:389-393. 2005
[2] Gerald Mayr: Parvigruidae (Aves, core Gruiformes) from the early Oligocene of Belgium. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 93(1): 77-89. 2012

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edited: 20.05.2018

04.05.2018

Kauai-Elepaio (Chasiempis sclateri)

***

Die Elepaios, bis vor kurzem als eine Art mit fünf Unterarten betrachtet, sind auf den Hawai’i-Inseln endemisch verbreitet, wo sie aber auf die Inseln Hawai’i, Kaua’i und O’ahu beschränkt sind.

Die Vögel erreichen eine Größe von etwa 14 cm.

Die Elepaios kommen nicht auf den Inseln vor die vormals Maui Nui formten, Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, Maui und Moloka’i, ein Verbreitungsmuster, das im biogeografischen Sinn recht unlogisch ist.

Es gibt jedoch mindestens einen zeitgenössischen Bericht, der darauf hindeutet, dass dies nicht immer so gewesen ist.:

It seems worth while recording that an old native who accompanied me on my Moanui trip said that he had heard from his father “that a long time ago there was on Molokai a small brown bird that ran on the ground but could not fly,” but that they had all been dead for a long time. He gave its name as Moho (Pennula). He also said that his father had told him of the Elepaio (Chasiempis) being on Molokai in the olden time. Mr. Theodore Meyer substantiated this report by saying that when he was a boy it was generally known to the old natives that both the Moho and Elepaio had been plentiful, but that they had long ago died out.

Übersetzung:

Es scheint lohnend zu erwähnen, dass ein alter Einheimischer, der mich auf meinem Moanui-Trip begleitete sagte, dass er von seinem Vater hörte, “dass vor langer Zeit auf Molokai ein kleiner brauner Vogel lebte, der am Boden rannte aber nicht fliegen konnte”, aber dass sie alle längst tot seien. Er nannte ihn Moho (Pennula). Er sagte auch, dass sein Vater ihm erzählte, dass es den Elepaio (Chasiempis) in alten Zeiten auf Molokai gab. Mr. Theodore Meyer bestätigte diesen Bericht indem er sagte, als er ein Junge war, wussten die alten Einheimischen sehr wohl vom Moho und vom Elepaio, dass sie aber vor langer Zeit ausgestorben sind.

[W. A. Bryan: Some Birds of Molokai. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 4(2): 43-86. 1908

***

Das Vorkommen lokaler Elepaio-Formen auf diesen Inseln muss trotz oben aufgeführtem zeitgenössischen Bericht immer noch als hypothetisch gelten, da die archäologischen Fundstätten auf diesen Inseln, trotz der vielen dort gefundenen Knochen kleiner passeriner Vögel nie Reste von Elepaios hervorbrachten.

***

Die heutigen Elepaios werden als drei Arten betrachtet, eine auf der Insel Hawai’i, eine auf Kaua’i, eine auf O’ahu.

Kona-Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis [f. sandwichensis]) [oberer Vogel]; zusammen mit Oahu-Elepaio (Chasiempis ibidis)

***

Die Art der Insel Hawai’i wiederum umfasst drei geografisch voneinander getrennte und verschieden gefärbte Formen, die vormals als eigenständige Unterarten betrachtet wurden, heute aber als Farbmorphen gelten, die in ihrer Färbung an ihren jeweiligen Lebensraum angepasst sind (… dunkler in feuchteren Regionen, heller in trockeneren …). Eine dieser drei Formen jedoch unterscheidet sich genetisch bereits so weit von den beiden anderen, dass man von einer sich entwickelnden neuen Unterart sprechen könnte.

Mauna Kea-Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis [f. bryani])

alle Darstellungen aus: ‘Walter Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’

(in public domain)

***

Die Elepaios gehören zu den Monarchschnäppern (Monarchidae), im Gegensatz zu nahezu sämtlichen anderen endemischen Vogelformen der Hawai’i-Inseln stammt der Urahn der Elepaios also nicht aus Nordamerika sondern aus Australasien.

Außerdem haben es die Elepaios geschafft, sich den veränderten Umweltbedingungen anzupassen, die die Inbesitznahme der Inseln durch den Menschen mit sich brachten, vor allem scheinen die Vögel gegen eingeschleppte Vogelkrankheiten immun geworden zu sein.

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geändert 04.05.2018

Morsoravis sedilis Bertelli, Lindow, Dyke & Chiappe

This bird was described in 2010, it was then thought to be somehow related to the Charadriiformes respectively to the Charadriiformes “orbit”, later it was assumed to belong in some kind of relationship with other likewise “well-known” birds like Eocuculus cherpinae (Chandler), or Pumiliornis tessellatus Mayr.

The reconstruction shows a tiny bird, some 12 cm long, with a sharp-pointed beak and a quite long neck, such a bird would have needed long tail feathers to stabilize its body – so I just gave it a long tail, cause the feathers are not preserved in the Fur Formation birds.

***

So here is how all begins, some cut-out bone drawings put together, lines made with a pencil etc..:

some puzzling

The final result is a quite life-like bird, maybe I got enough time to make a real painting, with colors and so on ….:

not charadriform-alike at all

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References:

[1] Sara Bertelli; Bent K. Lindow; Gareth J. Dyke; Luis M. Chiappe: A well-preserved ‘charadriform-like’ fossil bird from the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Paleontology 53(3): 507-531. 2010
[2] Gerald Mayr: On the osteology and phylogenetic affinitis of Morsoravis sedilis (Aves) from the early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark 59: 23-35. 2011

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edited: 22.01.2018

‘Neanis’ kistneri (Feduccia)

‘Neanis’ kistneri, the genus name written in quotation marks, because the bird does not belong into the genus Neanis, which otherwise includes a single species, Neanis schucherti Shufeldt, is a probable member of order Piciformes, and may be somewhat related to the family Galbulidae.

The species is known so far from a single, nearly complete skeleton, and, like so many Eocene birds, it was a dwarf.

This, of course, is just a sketch.

A suboscine bird from France

I have talked about the European Oligocene epoch and its birds with brittly limbs before.  

Here’s another such brittle-limbed bird from the early Oligocene of Europe, this one has lost its wings, or at least one wing, literally … it is known from parts of the right wing.  

The most interesting fact in this case is, the bird belonged to a group of birds that are part of the Passeriformes but aren’t songbirds, these are called suboscine birds.  

The whole group of suboscine birds is now restricted to, well, it’s actually occurring worldwide, especially in South America, but it is not found in Europe today.  

The bird appears to have been of similar size to the Sunbird Asities (Neodrepanis spp.), which today inhabit the island of Madagascar (… these are suboscine birds as well, by the way).    

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I made this little drawing of this nameless creature bearing a Neodrepanis sp. in mind, but without specialized features like an elongated beak for nectar-feeding etc..  

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr; Albrecht Manegold: A Small Suboscine-like Passeriform Bird from the Early Oligocene of France / Una Pequeña Ave Paseriforme Tipo Suboscine del Oligoceno Temprano de Francia. The Condor 108(3): 717-720. 2006

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edited: 19.07.2017

A small bird with a ‘large’ name: take 2

Rupelramphastoides knopfi Mayr  

Well, the head appears to have also been found, yet in another specimen, so here’s the reconstruction after measuring the skull.:

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It does not really differ that much from the previous version.: 

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr: A tiny barbet-like bird from the Lower Oligocene of Germany: the smallest species and earliest substantial fossil record of the Pici (woodpeckers and allies). The Auk 122(4): 1-9. 2005 
[2] Gerald Mayr: Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance. Wiley-Blackwell 2016

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edited: 18.07.2017

And yet another sketch …

… this time of Eoalulavis hoyasi Sanz, Chiappe, Perez-Moreno, Buscalioni, Moratalla, Ortega & Poyato-Ariza.

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This probably somewhat semiaquatic bird was described in 1996 from Las Hoyas near the city of Cuenca, Spain.  

The decomposing plant in the background is a cycad, Almargemia dentata (Heer) Florin, from roughly about the same place and time.

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edited: 13.07.2017

Songzia spp.

This genus currently contains two species, which mainly differ by their size, Songzia acutunguis Wang et al. and the slightly smaller Songzia heidangkouensis Hou.

These two species have much in common with the recent species of the rail family, yet may not be related to them, but may be closer to the extinct Messel ‘Rails’, the Messelornithidae, which themselves may or may not be members of the Gruiformes.

~~~

The two Songzia ‘Rails’ are small, sparrow-sized birds, in life they probably inhabited the margins of lakes and other swampy areas.

The picture is just a sketch.

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Feather impressions are not known to my knowledge, however, I thought it would be a good idea to give the bird somewhat elongated tail feathers, since the feather impressions in some messelornithid fossils show that these birds had very long tail feathers.

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Resources:

[1] Min Wang; Gerald Mayr; Jiangyong Zhang; Zhonghe Zhou: Two new skeletons of the enigmatic, rail-like avian taxon Songzia Hou, 1990 (Songziidae) from the early Eocene of China. Alcheringa: An Australian Journal of Palaeontology 36: 487-499. 2012

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edited: 08.01.2017

Kui-Schlüpfer – Kuiornis indicator Worthy et al.

Neuseeland während des unteren Miozän (etwa vor 19 bis 16 Millionen Jahren): ein winziger Kui-Schlüpfer sitzt auf einem blühenden Fuchsienzweig.

Der Kui-Schlüpfer ist der älteste bekannte Vertreter der Neuseelandschlüpfer (Acanthisittidae), einer Vogelfamilie die nur aus Neuseeland bekannt ist. Der Vogel hatte etwa die selben Maße wie der heute lebende Grünstummelschwanz (Acanthisitta chloris (Sparrmann)), einer der einzigen beiden überlebenden Arten dieser Familie; es war also tatsächlich ein winziges Vögelchen.

Die Blüten gehören zu einer miozänen Fuchsienart (Fuchsia antiqua D. E. Lee, Conran, Bannister, U. Kaulfuss & Mildenh.), ihrerseits die älteste bekannte Art ihrer Gattung. Ich wollte sie als baumartige Spezies rekonstruieren, ein bißchen wie die heute in Neuseeland lebende Baumfuchsie (Fuchsia excorticata (J. R. Forst. & G. Forst.) L. f.).

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Quellen:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Suzanne J. Hand; Jacqueline M. T. Nguyen; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Jennifer P. Worthy; R. Paul Scofield; Walter E. Boles; Michael Archer: Biogeographical and Phylogenetic Implications of an Early Miocene Wren (Aves: Passeriformes: Acanthisittidae) from New Zealand. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(2): 479-498. 2010 
[2] Daphne E. Lee; John G. Conran; Jennifer M. Bannister; Uwe Kaulfuss; Dallas C. Mildenhall: A fossil Fuchsia (Onagraceae) flower and an anther mass with in situ pollen from the early Miocene of New Zealand. American Journal of Botany 100(10): 2052-2065. 2013

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bearbeitet: 08.01.2017

ISEA AF/JAM1

It seems that the Oligocene epoch in Europe produced a lot of birds with brittly legs, since this nameless thing (ISEA AF/JAM1 is the ‘name’ given to the bones) is the next bird known only from a single leg (the twig-like thing between the drawing and the pen).

It appears to have been related to the Apodiformes or the Upupiformes, and according to my reconstruction may have reached a length of only about 6 cm.

Gosh, I need to use colors again at last!!!

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source:

>Zbigniew M. Bochenski; Teresa Tomek; Ewa Swidnicka: A tiny short-legged bird from the early Oligocene of Poland. Geologica Carpathica 67(5): 463-469. 2016

A small bird with a ‘large’ name

If my reconstruction sketch is reliable, this bird must have reached a length of some 10 to 11 cm, this is in fact quite small.  

The head, however, is not known so far.

This time I decided to made a photo of my drawing rather than a scan since my scanner is a dumbass that makes me angry.

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References:

[1] Gerald Mayr: A tiny barbet-like bird from the Lower Oligocene of Germany: the smallest species and earliest substantial fossil record of the Pici (woodpeckers and allies). The Auk 122(4): 1-9. 2005

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edited: 16.06.2016

Antarktischer Moa?

Die Ratiten (Laufvögel wie Emu, Kasuar, Kiwi, Nandu, Strauß) sind heutzutage aus verschiedenen Teilen der Welt bekannt, aber es ist nur schwer vorstellbar, dass sie einst auch in der Antarktis vorgekommen sein sollen.

Und doch ist dem so.

Die erste Spur, die auf die ehemalige Existenz solcher Vögel hindeutete waren Fußspuren, die ursprünglich der Familie der Terrorvögel (Phorusrhacidae) zugeordnet wurden; die nächste Spur tauchte im Jahr 1994 in Form eines Fragments eines Tarsometatarsus auf, und schließlich im Jahr 2012 kam noch ein Fragment eines Oberkiefer-/-schnabelknochens hinzu, der ziemlich sicher tatiten Ursprungs gewesen sein dürfte.

Basierend aus diesem Oberkieferfragment habe ich den Kopf (und Hals) dieses antarktischen Ratiten rekonstruiert.:

… sieht sehr Moa-ähnlich aus.   🙂  

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Referenzen:

[1] Claudia P. Tambussi; Jorge I. Noriega; Andrzej Gaździcki; Andrzej Tatur; Marcelo A. Reguero; Sergio F. Vizcaino: Ratite bird from the Paleogene La Meseta Formation, Seymour Island, Antarctica. Polish Polar Research 15(1-2): 15-20. 1994
[2] Marcos Cenizo: Review of the putative Phorusrhacidae from the Cretaceous and Paleogene of Antarctica: new records of ratites and pelagornithid birds. Polish Polar Research 33(3): 239-258. 2012

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bearbeitet: 13.06.2016

An Early Oligocene hoopoe-relative

This species obviously was described as Bystreornis brevimetatarsis, however, I have no idea in which paper (not the one mentioned below), and by whom.

Anyway, the bird is so far known from a single leg only, which whose structure indicates that it the bird belonged to the hoopoe family, and which otherwise proves it to have been an exceptional small creature.

This is just a sketch, and I depicted the bird twice the actual size, it may in fact have reached only some 6 cm!

… maybe I got the tarsometatarsus too long?

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References:

[1] Martin Kundrát; Ján Soták; Per E. Ahlberg: A putative upupiform bird from the Early Oligocene of the Central Western Carpathians and a review of fossil birds unearthed in Slovakia. Acta Zoologica 96(4): 45-59. 2015

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edited: 09.06.2016