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.“ 


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.



[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.



[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)



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


edited: 26.02.2020

How many tapaculos of the genus Scytalopus are there?

Well, many – according to a new study (which apparently took about 40 years in the making!!!).

The tapaculos of the genus Scytalopus are troughout small, mostly greyish colored, inconspicuous birds with poor flight abilities that inhabit the dense undergrowth of the Andean forests of southwestern South America (some species occur more northerly).

The Magellanic Tapaculo (Scytalopus magellanicus (J. F. Gmelin)) (see depiction below) is one of them, and is a part of a complex that shares its name, the Scytalopus [magellanicus] complex, which again includes several species, some of which have been discovered and described only recently.

Magellanic Tapaculo (Scytalopus magellanicus)

Depiction from: ‚Richard Crawshay: The birds of Tierra del Fuego. London: B. Quaritch 1907‘

(public domain)

Yet, this complex has gotten even richer in species, with the description of three completely new ones, split from others: the Jalca Tapaculo (Scytalopus frankeae), the White-winged Tapaculo (Scytalopus krabbei), and the Ampay Tapaculo (Scytalopus whitneyi), as well as one subspecies (itself only described in 2010) being elevated to species rank, the Eastern Paramo Tapaculo (Scytalopus androstictus). [1]



[1] Niels K. Krabbe; Thomas S. Schulenberg; Peter A. Hosner; Kenneth V. Rosenberg; Tristan J. Davis; Gary H. Rosenberg; Daniel F. Lane; Michael J. Andersen; Mark B. Robbins; Carlos Daniel Cadena; Thomas Valqui; Jessie F. Salter; Andrew J. Spencer; Fernando Angulo; Jon Fjeldså: Untangling cryptic diversity in the High Andes: Revision of the Scytalopus [magellanicus] complex (Rhinocryptidae) in Peru reveals three new species. The Auk 137: 1-26. 2020


edited: 26.02.2020

Eine Pleistozäne Lerche

Ein gut erhaltener, mumifizierter Vogelleichnam, der im sibirischen Permafrostboden gefunden wurde, wurde als Ohrenlerche (Eremophila alpestris (L.)) identifiziert, der Körper wurde nun weiter untersucht, und die Ergebnisse sind erstaunlich. 

Foto aus: ‚Nicolas Dussex; David W. G. Stanton; Hanna Sigeman; Per G. P. Ericson; Jacquelyn Gill; Daniel C. Fisher; Albert V. Protopopov; Victoria L. Herridge; Valery Plotnikov; Bengt Hansson; Love Dalén: Article Open Access Published: 21 February 2020 Biomolecular analyses reveal the age, sex and species identity of a near-intact Pleistocene bird carcass. Communications Biology 3: 1-6. 2020‘

(under creative commons license (4.0))

Die Radiokarbondatierung des gefrorenen Körpers ergab ein Alter von 43600 bis 41600 Jahren, das bedeutet, er stammt aus der letzten Eiszeit innerhalb des Oberpleistozäns (als Wollhaarmammuts überall auf der Nordhalbkugel häufig und weitverbreitet waren).

Die DNA des Vogels wurde ebenfalls überprüft und es wurde festgestellt, dass es sich um eine Ohrenlerche handelt, allerdings konnte das gefrorene Exemplar keiner der bekannten Unterarten zugeordnet werden. Es scheint hingegen der direkte Vorfahr zweier noch existierenden Formen zu sein, nämlich der Steppenlerche (Eremophila alpestris ssp. brandti (Dresser)) und der Uferlerche (Eremophila alpestris ssp. flava (J. F. Gmelin)) (siehe Foto), die sich aufgrund der Veränderungen der Umweltbedingungen während des Übergangs vom Pleistozän zum Holozän zu eigenständigen Unterarten aufspalteten. [1]

Uferlerche (Eremophila alpestris ssp. flava (J. F. Gmelin)); Männchen

Foto: MPF

(under creative commons license (3.0))



[1] Nicolas Dussex; David W. G. Stanton; Hanna Sigeman; Per G. P. Ericson; Jacquelyn Gill; Daniel C. Fisher; Albert V. Protopopov; Victoria L. Herridge; Valery Plotnikov; Bengt Hansson; Love Dalén: Article Open Access Published: 21 February 2020 Biomolecular analyses reveal the age, sex and species identity of a near-intact Pleistocene bird carcass. Communications Biology 3: 1-6. 2020


bearbeitet: 21.02.2020

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



[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

A finchy sketch

This is actually a undetermined cardinal, a member of the family Cardinalidae and thus not a real finch in the general sense … I need a picture of such a ‚thing‘ for something I plan to write about, but I don’t want to say anything further now.

well, the feet are shit not so good, we’ll see where this leads us to …


edited: 20.02.2020

Another little photo safari

Today we have been in the Botanical Garden of Jena, some kilometers from home, I wanted to try to ‚catch‘ some birds with my camera.

I was able to get a little Robin.:

Robin (Erithacus rubecula ssp. rubecula)

I also got two Blackbirds, a female and a male.

Blackbird (Turdus merula ssp. merula); female
Blackbird (Turdus merula ssp. merula); male

It is astonishingly warm these days – thanks to global warming.


edited: 01.02.2020

Blog moving – and, to celebrate the day … a Common Kingfisher

The blog has moved, again, I hope this time it will be for good ….

I wanted to take a break from the strenuous work of logging on, uploading, and, and, and with two small trips outside to freak out relax and freshen up when suddenly this little colorful thing flew in front of my cell phone lens.

The cell phone photo of course was completely useless, so I decided to go back home, catch my camera and to try my luck … maybe the little bird might come back?

It did indeed. 😛

The bird, apparently a female, as can be seen by its red colored lower mandible, was sitting amongst the willow shrubs along the local flood ditch.

The place where I photographed the kingfisher is quite busy, and of course various passers-by had to check what I was probably doing there … hm, of course none of them could see what I saw.


The bird is surprisingly well camouflaged due to its small size alone, in addition, most people are completely nature-blind anyway, thus miss al the little treasures surrounding us.


edited: 29.01.2020

Fossil record of the Struthioniformes

Palaeotididae (?)

Galligeranoides boriensis Bourdon, Mourer-Chauvire & Laurent [1]

Palaeotis weigelti Lambrecht


Pachystruthio dmanisensis (Вurchak-Abramovich & Vekua)

Struthio anderssoni Lowe
Struthio asiaticus Milne-Edwards
Struthio bradydactylus Burchak-Abramovich
Struthio chersonensis Brant
Struthio coppensi Mourer-Chauviré et al.
Struthio karatheodoris Forsyth Major
Struthio mongolicus Lowe
Struthio novorossicus Alexejev
Struthio orlovi Kurochkin & Lungu
Struthio wimani Lowe



[1] Gerald Mayr: Hindlimb morphology of Palaeotis suggests palaeognathous affinities of the Geranoididae and other „crane-like“ birds from the Eocene of the Northern Hemisphere. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 64(4): 669-678. 2019


edited: 05.01.2020

Visit to the ‚Vogelmuseum‘ Halberstadt (Museum Heineanum)

There are over 10000 bird species worldwide, unfortunately this museum only shows a microscopic section of this overwhelming diversity in two rooms, which again are distributed on two levels.

Here a view inside the ‚birds of the world‘ showcase.:

birds from all over the world, most of them well over hundred years old and accordingly faded

I was particularly impressed by the really beautiful reconstruction of a life-sized ‚Urvogel‘.:

Urvogel (Archaeopteryx lithographica), the feathers appear to come from a night heron, I did not ask, however

Besides the old and – sorry! – ugly preparations, the museum still houses an incredible number of bellows, which are of course kept from the public, as well as some newer preparations that are often used to show the interesting behavior of some bird species.

These newer specimens are beautiful throughout.:

Great Reed-warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) feeds a young Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) … with small pieces of wire, which apparently are supposed to represent caterpillars
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) at a so-called ‚Drosselschmiede‘, apparently called ‚thrush anvill‘ in English (?)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) inside his/her brood cavern
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) searching for food inside an anthill

On the lower floor, native birds are exhibited, which are housed in small dioramas that are modeled on their respective habitat.:

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) in front of a house wall  
Eurasian Linnet (Linaria cannabina) among heath shrubs  
Twites (Linaria flavirostris) in a barren mountain landscape 

Inside of a tiny, strangely yellowish illuminated showcase are some ancient and really ugly hummingbird specimens as well as three kingfishers, of which one, the one in the middle, aroused my interest. 

The label says „Halcyon tuta (Gesellschaftsinseln)“, a second label again says „Tonga“, so, which species is this then?   

Tongan Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris ssp. sacer) or Chattering Kingfisher (Todiramphus tutus)?


edited: 04.01.2020

The Inner Bird: Anatomy and Evolution

Gary W. Kaiser: The Inner Bird: Anatomy and Evolution. UBC Press 2007


Ich muss gestehen, dass dieses Buch so überhaupt nicht das ist was ich eigentlich erwartet hatte, ich hatte mir nämlich so eine Art „Welcher-Knochen-am-Skelett-heißt-wie-Buch“ vorgestellt.

In diesem Buch geht es aber viel mehr darum wie Vögel funktionieren, und zwar im wahrsten Sinne des Titels – im Inneren, und hierbei sind vor allem die Knochen von Interesse.

Sehr viel mehr kann ich momentan noch nicht sagen/schreiben, weil ich mich noch nicht komplett durch gelesen habe.


bearbeitet: 27.12.2019

Fossil record of the Odontopterygiformes


Caspiodontornis kobystanicus Aslanova & Burchak-Abramovich

Cyphornis magnus Cope

Dasornis emuinus (Bowerbank)

Gigantornis eaglesomei Andrews

Macrodontopteryx oweni Harrison & C. A. Walker

Odontopteryx toliapica Owen

Osteodontornis orri Howard

Palaeochenoides mioceanus Shufeldt

Pelagornis miocaenus Lartet
Pelagornis mauretanicus Mourer-Chauviré & Geraads
Pelagornis chilensis Mayr & Rubilar
Pelagornis sandersi Ksepka

Protodontopteryx ruthae Mayr et. al.

Pseudodontornis longidentata Harrison & C. A. Walker
Pseudodontornis longirostris (Spulski)
Pseudodontornis stirtoni Howard & Warter
Pseudodontornis tenuirostris Harrison
Pseudodontornis tshulensis (Averianov, Panteleev, Potapova & Nesov)

Tympanonesiotes wetmorei Hopson


edited: 25.12.2019


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

Paläozän – das ‚verfluchte‘ Zeitalter

Das Paläozän, das ist die Zeitperiode die unmittelbar der Kreidezeit folgt, deren Ende durch das berühmteste Massenaussterben der Erdgeschichte gekennzeichnet ist, jenes Massenaussterben dem auch sämtliche non-avialen Dinosaurier zum Opfer fielen.


Nun, was wissen wir über die Vogelwelt dieser Zeitperiode? NICHTS! Nun ja, zumindest recht wenig.
Ich nenne das Paläozän ‚das verfluchte Zeitalter‘ da, wenngleich sehr wohl einige Überreste von Vögeln bekannt sind, so sind diese nahezu immer sehr fragmentarisch, sehr schlecht erhalten und oft genug nicht wirklich aussagekräftig … und, obendrein scheint es nahezu unmöglich zu sein irgendwelche Informationen über diese wenigen Reste zu finden.

Die meisten Vögel, die wir aus dieser Zeitperiode kennen waren wasserbewohnende Arten, as liegt vor allem daran, dass Überreste von Wasservögeln bessere Voraussetzungen zur Fossilisierung haben als Landvögel.


So, welche Arten kennen wir denn nun überhaupt? 

Hier eine kleine Aufzählung aller mir bekannten Formen, der Einfachheit halber habe ich sie in alphabetischer Reihenfolge angeordnet.:

Anseriformes (Gänsevögel)

Conflicto antarcticus
 Tambussi et al. 
Naranbulagornis khun Zelenkov
Presbyornis isoni Olson

Cariamaformes (Seriemaartige)

Gradiornis walbeckensis Mayr
Itaboravis elaphrocnemoides Mayr et al.
Paleopsilopterus itaboraiensis Alvarenga
cf. Cariamaformes gen. & sp. ‚Templeuve, Frankreich‘

eine rätselhafte form aus China, Qianshanornis rapax Mayr et al., gehört wohl auch hier her

cf. Charadriformes (Regenpfeiferartige)

drei sehr rätselhafte Formen, die entlang der K/T-Grenze gelebt haben:

Graculavus augustus
Palaeotringa littoralis Marsh
Palaeotringa vagans Marsh

Coliiformes (Mausvögel)

Tsidiiyazhi abini Ksepka et al. 

eine bislang nicht beschriebene Form, MNT-11-7952 ‚Menat, Frankreich‘, erscheint mir persönlich ebenfalls sehr mausvogelartig

Gaviiformes (Seetaucher) 

cf. Colymbiculus sp. ‚Templeuve, Frankreich‘

Gastornithiformes (ausgestorbene Familie)

Gastornis russelli Martin
Gastornis sp. ‚Louvois, Frankreich‘, [2016]
Gastornis sp. ‚Maret, Belgien‘

Gruiformes (Kranichvögel) 

Walbeckornis creber Mayr
Wanshuina lii Hou 
cf. Ralloidea gen. & sp. ‚Maret, Belgien‘
cf. Songziidae gen. & sp. ‚Menat, Frankreich‘

Leptosomatiformes (Kurole)

cf. Leptosomatiformes gen. & sp. ‚Templeuve, Frankreich‘

Lithornithiformes (ausgestorbene Familie):

Fissuravis weigelti Mayr
Lithornis celetius Houde 
Lithornithidae gen. & sp. ‚Maret, Belgien‘
Lithornithidae gen. & sp. ‚Templeuve, Frankreich‘

Odontopterygiformes (ausgestorbene Familie)

Pelagornithidae gen. & sp. ‚Templeuve, Frankreich‘

Phaethornithiformes (Tropikvögel)

Lithoptila abdounensis Bourdon, E. et al.
Novacaesareala hungerfordi Parris & Hope 

sowie mindestens eine bislang noch unbeschriebe Form aus Neuseeland

Phoenicopteriformes (Flamingos)

Scaniornis lundgreni Dames 

Piciformes (Spechtvögel)

Eutreptodactylus itaboraiensis Baird & Vickers-Rich (?)

Procellariiformes (Röhrennasen)

Tytthostonyx glauconiticus Olson & Parris (?)

Psittaciformes (Papageienvögel)

Calcardea junnei Gingerich 
Halcyornithidae/Messelasturidae gen. & sp. ‚Menat, Frankreich‘

cf. Rheiformes (Nandus) 

Diogenornis fragilis Alvarenga

Sphenisciformes (Pinguine)

Crossvallia unienwillia Tambussi et al.
Kumimanu biceae Mayr
Kupoupou stilwelli Blokland, Reid, Worthy, Tennyson, Clarke & Scofield
Muriwaimanu tuatahi Ando, Jones & Fordyce
Sequiwaimanu rosieae Mayr et al.
Waimanu manneringi Slack, Jones, Ando, Harrison, Fordyce, Arnason & Penny

Strigiformes (Eulenvögel)

Berruornis orbisantiqui Mourer-Chauviré
Ogygoptynx wetmorei Rich & Bohaska

cf. Struthioniformes (Strauße)

Remiornis heberti Lemoine

Vegaviiformes (ausgestorbene Familie)

Australornis lovei Mayr & Scofield


Zum Schluß folgt noch der seltsamste Vogel in dieser Liste, und einer der am wenigsten bekannten.: 

Qinornis paleocenica Xue aus China scheint ein Überbleibsel der kreidezeitlichen non-Neornithes zu sein und würde damit außerhalb aller noch existierenden Vogelarten stehen, da diese durchweg zu den Neornithes gehören.


Nach einigen Recherchen habe ich herausgefunden das der angebliche Flamingoverwandte Scaniornis lundgreni nur anhand von drei Knochenteilen bekannt ist, die nicht wirklich irgendeiner Vogelgruppe zugeordnet werden können und daher mittlerweile als nomen dubium gelten. 



[1] Cécile Mourer-Chauviré; Estelle Bourdon: The Gastornis (Aves, Gastornithidae) from the Late Paleocene of Louvois (Marne, France). Swiss Journal of Palaeontology 135(2): 327-341. 2016
[2] Jacob C. Blokland; Catherine M. Reid; Trevor H. Worthy; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Julia A. Clarke & R. Paul Scofield: Chatham Island Paleocene fossils provide insight into the palaeobiology, evolution, and diversity of early penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes). Palaeontologia Electronica 22.3.78: 1-92. 2019
[3] Gerald Mayr; Thierry Smith: New Paleocene bird from the North Sea Basin in Belgium and france. Geologica Belgica 22(1-2): 35-46. 2019
[4] 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 156(03): 1-13. 2019


bearbeitet: 23.12.2019


Vögel besitzen eine erstaunliche Vielfalt an verschiedensten Fußformen, von denen ich hier die sechs häufigsten vorstellen möchte.

Der Hallux (1. Zeh) besitzt zwei Phalangen, von denen die hintere jedoch meist reduziert und oft mit dem eigentlichen Fußknochen verschmolzen ist. Die restlichen Zehen besitzen jeweils eine ihrer Anordnung am Fuß entsprechende Anzahl an Phalangen, d.h. der 2. Zeh besitzt zwei, der 3. Zeh drei und der 4. Zeh vier Phalangen. 


Die folgenden Skizzen zeigen jeweils einen rechten Fuß von oben betrachtet.

Anisodactylie – die weitaus häufigste Zehenstellung, mit einem rückwärts gerichteten Hallux und vorwärts gerichtetem ersten, zweiten und dritten Zeh
Tridactylie – Hallux zurückgebildet; z.B. bei den Casuariiformes (Emus/Kasuare) und einigen Arten der Ordnung Charadriiformes (Regenpfeiferartige)
Didactylie – Hallux und zweiter Zeh zurückgebildet; findet sich heutzutage ausschließlich bei den Struthioniformes (Strauße)
Zygodactylie – Hallux und vierter Zeh rückwärts gerichtet; z.B. bei den Piciformes (Spechtvögel) Psittaciformes (Papageien)
Heterodactylie – Hallux und zweiter Zeh rückwärts gerichtet; findet sich (soweit bisher bekannt) nur bei den Trogoniformes (Trogone)
Pamprodactylie – alle Zehen mehr oder weniger vorwärts gerichtet; findet sich bei heutigen Vögeln nur bei den Apodidae/Apodiformes (Segler) und Coliiformes (Mausvögel) und bei diesen beiden Gruppen auch nur fakultativ

Es gibt noch weitere Fußformen, bei diesen handelt es sich aber Varianten der oben abgebildeten Formen (Tridactylie bei gleichzeitiger Zygodactylie bei einigen Spechtarten), so dass ich dieses Thema hier (zumindest momentan) erst einmal nicht weiter vertiefen werde.


bearbeitet: 22.12.2019

Fossil record of the Pelecaniformes


Ardea aurelianensis Milne-Edwards
Ardea brunhuberi von Ammon
Ardea effosa von Meyer
Ardea formosa Milne-Edwards
Ardea latipes von Meyer
Ardea lignitum Gibel
Ardea paloccidentalis Shufeldt
Ardea perplexa Milne-Edwards
Ardea piveteaui Brunet
Ardea polkensis Brodkorb

Ardeagradis arborea Autor ?

Egretta subfluvia Becker

Gnotornis aramiellus Wetmore

Matuku otagoense Scofield et al.

Nycticorax fidens Brodkorb 
Nycticorax sp. ‚Fayyum, Ägypten‘

Palaeophoyx columbiana McCoy

Pikaihao bartlei Worthy et al.

„Proardea“ deschutteri Mayr, De Pietri, Scofield & Smith

Proardeola walkeri Harrison

Zeltornis ginsburgi Balouet


Pelecanus cadimurka Rich & Van Tets
Pelecanus cautleyi Davies
Pelecanus fraasi Lyddeker
Pelecanus gracilis Milne-Edwards
Pelecanus grandiceps Des Vis
Pelecanus halieus Wetmore
Pelecanus intermedius Fraas
Pelecanus odessanus Widhalm
Pelecanus proavus De Vis
Pelecanus schreiberi Olson
Pelecanus sivalensis Davies
Pelecanus tirarensis Miller


Actiornis anglicus Lydekker

Ajaja chione Emslie

Eudocimus leiseyi Emslie
Eudocimus peruvianus Campbell

Gerandibis pagana (Milne-Edwards)

Geronticus cf. calvus (Boddaert) ‚Gauteng, Südafrika‘

Ibidopodia palustris Milne-Edwards

Milnea gracilis Lydekker

Minggangia changgouensis Hou

Protibis cnemialis Ameghino

Rhynchaeites messelensis Wittich
Rhynchaeites sp. ‚Fur Formation, Dänemark‘
Rhynchaeites tanta (Waterhouse et al.)

Sanshuiornis zhangi Wang, Mayr, Zhang & Zhou

Vadaravis brownae Smith, Grande & Clarke


edited: 19.12.2019

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.  



[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]



[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

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]



[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


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!!!   😉



A little update here: 

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



[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


edited: 07.12.2019

Fossil record of the Eoenantiornithiformes

Family incertae sedis 

Cruralispennia multidonta Wang, O’Connor, Pan & Zhou

Eocathyornis walkeri Zhou

Eoenantiornis buhleri Hou, Zhou & Feduccia

Fortunguavis xiaotaizicus Wang, O’Connor & Zhou


Bohaiornis guoi Hu, Li, Hou & Xu 

Parabohaiornis martini Wang, Zhou, O’Connor & Zelenkov

Longusunguis kurochkini Wang, Zhou, O’Connor & Zelenkov

Shenqiornis mengi Wang, O’Connor, Zhao, Chiappe, Gao & Cheng

Sulcavis geeorum O’Connor, Zhang, Chiappe, Meng, Quanguo & Di

Zhouornis hani Zhang, Chiappe, Han & Chinsamy


Cathayornis yandica Zhou, Jin & Zhang

Houornis caudatus (Hou)

Noguerornis gonzalezi Lasaca-Ruiz

Sinornis santensis Sereno & Rao (?)

Vascornis hebeiensis Zhang, Ericson & Zhou


Bolouchia zhengi Zhou 

Longipteryx chaoyangensis Zhang, Zhou, Hou & Gu 

Longirostravis hani Hou, Chiappe, Zhang, Chuong

Rapaxavis pani Morschhauser, Varricchio, Gao, Liu, Wang, Cheng & Meng

Shanweiniao cooperorum O’Connor, Gao & Chiappe 

Shengjingornis yangi  Li, Wang, Zhang & Hou


edited: 07.12.2019

Elal’s Mountain Swan – Kookne yeutensis

This new bird has recently been reported from Argentinia, and its name apparently is taken from the Aonikenk language, which is or was spoken by the Mapuche of southern Argentinia and its translation is given in the title.


The new genus and species is known so far from a single bone, an incomplete right coracoid, whose „combination of characters strongly suggests anseriform affinities“. [1]

That means that this species obvioulsy was an anseriform, some duck- or goose-like bird, more or less similar to other Late Cretaceous or Early Paleocene species.

Let’s see if there will be more remains to be discovered in the future.



[1] Fernando. E. Novas; Federico. L. Agnolin; Sebastián Rozadilla; Alexis M. Aranciaga-Rolando; Federico Brisson-Egli; Matias J. Motta; Mauricio Cerroni; Martín D. Ezcurra; Agustín G. Martinelli; Julia S. d ́Angelo; Gerardo Alvarez-Herrera; Adriel R. Gentil; Sergio Bogan; Nicolás R. Chimento; Jordi A. García-Marasà; Gastón Lo Coco; Sergio E. Miquel; Fátima F. Brito; Ezequiel I. Vera; Valeria S. Perez Loinaze; Mariela S. Fernández & Leonardo Salgado: Paleontological discoveries in the Chorrillo Formation (upper Campanian-lower Maastrichtian, Upper Cretaceous), Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, n. s. 21(2): 217-293. 2019


edited: 07.12.2019

Fossil record of the Avisauriformes (?)


Avisaurus archibaldi Brett-Surman & Paul

Bauxitornis mindszentyae Dyke & Ősi

Concornis lacustris Sanz & Buscalioni

Enantiophoenix electrophyla Cau & Arduini

Gettya gloriae (Varrichio and Chiappe)

Halimornis thompsoni Chiappe, Lamb & Ericson

Intiornis inexpectatus Novas et al.

Mirarce eatoni Atterholt et al.

Neuquenornis volans Chiappe & Calvo

Soroavisaurus australis Chiappe


edited: 06.12.2019


Note that this order may not be valid.

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.


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.



[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


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.



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


Photo: Ghedoghedo

(under creative commons license (3.0))


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



[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


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. 


Darstellung: George Tobin, Leutnant an Bord der HMS Providence

(public domain)


Darstellung: William Bligh, Kapitän der HMS Providence

(public domain)


bearbeitet: 27.10.2019

Die verlorenen Arten

Christopher Kemp: Die verlorenen Arten: Große Expeditionen in die Sammlungen naturkundlicher Museen. Verlag Antje Kunstmann GmbH 2019

Well, what a book …! 

I found this little treasure in an actual bookstore, a rare event these days ….

The author has done a lot of very, very good work, he visited several museums all over the world, and almost like a journalist (but a good one), he also interviewed several scientists to gain information about their respective „obsessions“, some of them are interested in – and specialzed to a special genus of frogs only etc..

The museums all over the world still keep giant collections, some more than 100 years old,  that no one has ever seen, let alone catalogized or researched, and, due to job cuts and neglected financing, some of these hidden treasures are now literally crumbling to dust. There are some few scientists who take the challenge to research the sheer ammount of items while revising a special genus of insects or of any other animal or plant etc., and while doing so they almost always discover new species, many of which are already extinct in the localities where they were collected hundreds of years ago. 

The book shows us that many museums are a treasure troves full of undiscovered biodiversity that need far more attention by the public, and tells the stories of their discoveries, from the first collection to the latest state of things. 

I can only recommend this book!


This book is also available in English: „The Lost Species: Great Expeditions in the Collections of Natural History Museums“.


edited: 27.10.2019

Some Micronesian beauties

A while ago I found this Japanese book about the birds of Micronesia online while searching for I don’t no what, it originally probably included more than these three plates, however, these are the only ones that I could find and I want to share them here because they are so exceedingly beautiful.:

Tokutaro Momiyama: Horyo Nanyo Shoto-san chorui. Tokyo: Nihon Chogakkai: Taisho 11. 1922
(public domain)


I will name the birds with their current names in the order in which they are depicted.


White-throated Ground Dove (Alopecoenas xanthonurus ), female and male 
Caroline Ground Dove (Alopecoenas kubaryi)
White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinereus)
Pohnpei Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubiginosus)
Purple-capped Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus ponapensis)
Micronesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula oceanica ssp. monacha)
Kosrae Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus hernsheimi), juvenile
Truk Monarch (Monarcha rugensis), young male, adult male, and female
Yap Olive White-eye (Zosterops oleagineus)
Truk White-eye (Rukia ruki)


edited: 20.10.2019

A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs

Matthew P. Martyniuk: A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs. Pan Aves 2012


Ich habe dieses Buch schon ein paar Monate, und ich muss gestehen, ich weiß nicht recht wie ich es einordnen soll.

Die Idee des Autors war es, sein Buch wie einen herkömmlichen Field Guide, ein Bestimmungsbuch für unterwegs, aufzubauen und genau das ist ihm auch gelungen. Das Buch umasst hierbei alles was im Mesozoikum gelebt hat und (sowohl wahrscheinlich wie auch tatsächlich) Federn besessen hat (nicht alles davon würde heutzutage als Vogel durchgehen). 

In der Einleitung erfährt man, was genau ein Vogel ist, oder, anders ausgedrückt, wie weit man diesen Begriff dehnen kann (… alles was Federn hat ….). Es folgen einige Informationen über den Ursprung der Vögel, den Ursprung der Federn und, vor allem, ein kleiner Überblick über die Vielfalt, die innerhalb dieser Tiergruppe bereits im Mesozoikum geherrscht hat.  

Fast jede der vorgestellten Arten ist mit einer Abbildung versehen, die jeweils auf aktuellen wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen beruht, weshalb man sich nicht wundern darf, dass die allermeisten Abbildungen eher weniger farbenfroh ausfallen (“Carotinoids be damned” schreibt der Autor hierzu schon als Vorwort).

Ich kann dieses Buch nur empfehlen! 😛


bearbeitet: 20.10.2019

Rufous Antpitta x six

The Rufous Antpitta is a more or less completely plain rufous-colored typical Antpitta that inhabits the dense forests of the Andes and their foothills from northern Bolivia to parts of southern Venezuela.

The bird reaches sizes from about 14,5 to 15 cm.

The species is split into six subspecies all of which are now about to be upgraded to species status, they will then probably be named as:

Bolivian Antpitta (Grallaria cochabambae J. Bond & Meyer de Schauensee)
Cajamarca Antpitta (Grallaria cajamarcae (Chapman))
North Peruvian Antpitta (Grallaria obscura Berlepsch & Stolzmann)
Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria rufula Lafresnaye)
Sierra Nevada Antpitta (Grallaria spatiator Bangs)
South Peruvian Antpitta (Grallaria occabambae (Chapman))

These future-former subspecies differ slightly in the the hue of their rufous-colored plumage, but very likely more so in their DNA.


Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria (rufula ssp.) rufula … most likely)

Photo: Nigel Voaden

(under creative commons license (2.0))


bearbeitet: 14.08.2019

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.



[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!


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 ….


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


edited: 07.08.2019

Fossil record of the Cariamiformes

Family incertae sedis

Elaphrocnemus brodkorbi Milne-Edwards
Elaphrocnemus crex
Elaphrocnemus phasianus Milne-Edwards

Gradiornis walbeckensis Mayr

Itaboravis elaphrocnemoides Mayr et al.

Lavocatavis africana Mourer-Chauviré et al.


Ameghinornis minor Gaillard

Ameghinornithidae gen. & sp. ‘Jebel Qatrani Formation, Egypt’
Ameghinornithidae gen. & sp. ‘Nei Mongol, China’

Strigogyps dubius Gaillard
Strigogyps robustus (Lambrecht)
Strigogyps sapea (Peters)
Strigogyps sp. ‘Eckfelder Maar, Germany’


Bathornis celeripes Wetmore
Bathornis cursor Wetmore
Bathornis fricki Ostrom
Bathornis geographicus Wetmore
Bathornis grallator Olson
Bathornis veredus Wetmore

Eutreptornis uintae (Cracraft)

Paracrax antiqua Shufeldt
Paracrax gigantea Cracraft
Paracrax wetmorei Cracraft


Cariama santacrucensis Noriega et al.

Cariamidae gen. & sp. ‘Alto Río Bandurrias, Chile’

Chunga incertis (Tonni)

Noriegavis santacrucensis (Noriega et al.)

Riacama caliginea Ameghino


Gypsornis cuvieri Milne-Edwards

Idiornis gaillardi Cracraft

Oblitavis insolitus Mourer-Chauviré

Occitaniavis elatus (Milne-Edwards)

Propelargus cayluxensis Lydekker
Propelargus edwardsi Lydekker
Propelargus olseni Brodkorb


Andalgalornis steulleti (Kraglievich)

Andrewsornis abbotti Patterson

Devincenzia pozzii (Kraglievich)

Eleutherornis cotei Gaillard

Hermosiornis australis Moreno

Kelenken guillermoi Bertelli, Chiappe & Tambussi

Llallawavis scagliai Degrange et al.

Mesembriornis incertus Rovereto
Mesembriornis milneedwardsi Moreno

Paleopsilopterus itaboraiensis Alvarenga

Paraphysornis brasiliensis (Alvarenga)

Patagornis marshi Moreno & Mercerat

Phorusrhacos longissimus Ameghino

Physornis fortis Ameghino

Procariama simplex Rovereto

Psilopterus bachmanni (Moreno & Mercerat)
Psilopterus lemoinei (Moreno & Mercerat)
Psilopterus affinis (Ameghino)
Psilopterus colzecus Tonni & Tambussi

Titanis walleri Brodkorb


Salmila robusta Mayr
Salmilidae gen. & sp. `Green River Formation, USA`


edited: 05.08.2019

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).   


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


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.




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.



edited: 28.07.2019

The fossil record of birds from the James Ross Basin, West Antarctica

You may know that I’m a bit obsessed with the birds of the Paleocene era, partly because we know so much of a nothing about them, especially about those from the Early Paleocene, the beginning of the „T-time“, the time immediately after the K/T extinction event.

Now, there’s now a new paper out that is somewhat a review of the birds that existed at around exactly this time, the K/T boundary … on the continent of Antarctica to be more precicely, but also beyond that time up to the Oligocene. [1]


I have not yet read it completely, but since nearly all bird fossils from that area are limited to single bones or sometimes partial skeletons, it does not shed so much new light on the previous records.



[1] Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche; Piotr Jadwiszczak; Julia A. Clarke; Marcos Cenizo: The fossil record of birds from the James Ross Basin, West Antarctica. Advances in Polar science 30(3): 250-272. 2019


edited: 25.07.2019


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. 🙂


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!



[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


edited: 24.07.2019

Fossil record of the Leptosomiformes


Plesiocathartes europaeus Gaillard
Plesiocathartes geiselensis Mayr
Plesiocathartes kelleri Mayr
Plesiocathartes major Weidig
Plesiocathartes (?) sp. ‘Egem, Belgium’
Plesiocathartes (?) sp. ‘India’
Plesiocathartes (?) sp. ‘Rivecourt-Petit Pâtis, France’
Plesiocathartes wyomingensis Weidig


edited: 24.07.2019

New Paleocene birds

There is a new paper out in which several new bird remains are described, however, unfortunately without describing any species because these remains are just too fragmentary. The remains themselves descent from the Middle Paleocene of Belgium and from the Late Paleocene of France.

There’s a very small Gastornis sp., a lithornithid, a ralloid, and a unassignable „higher landbird“ all from Belgium, and there are another lithornithid, an pelagornithid, a possible leptosomatiform and a probable cariamaform all from France.

Well, and that’s almost all.



[1] Gerald Mayr; Thierry Smith: New Paleocene bird fossils from the North Sea Basin in Belgium and France. Geologica Belgica 22(1-2): 35-46. 2019


edited: 21.07.2019

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.


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.



[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


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.


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 ….



[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


edited: 12.07.2019

Fossil record of the Podicipediformes


Aechmophorus elasson Murray

Miobaptus huzhiricus Zelenkov
Miobaptus walteri Švec

Miodytes serbicus Dimitreijevich, Gál & Kessler

Pliolymbus baryosteus Murray
Pliolymbus lanquisti Brodkorb

Podicepidae gen. & sp. ‘Truckee A’
Podicepidae gen. & sp. ‘Truckee B’

Podiceps oligocaenus (Shufeldt)
Podiceps arndti Chandler
Podiceps caspicus (Habizl)
Podiceps csarnotatus Kessler
Podiceps discors Murray
Podiceps dixi Brodkorp
Podiceps miocenicus Kessler
Podiceps oligocaenus (Shufeldt)
Podiceps parvus (Shufeldt)
Podiceps sociata (Navás) 
Podiceps solidus Kuročkin
Podiceps subparvus (Miller & Bowman)

Podilymbus mujusculus Murray
Podylimbus wetmorei Storer


edited: 01.07.2019

Skizzen – Rarotonga-Star (Aplonis cinerascens)

Heute habe ich ein paar Vögelchen skizziert, Rarotonga-Stare.:

abgezeichnet und leicht verändert

Persönlich gefallen mir diese freihändigen Skizzen besser, zumindest der Vogel rechts, da er lebendiger und nicht so statisch wirkt.:

freihändig skizziert


bearbeitet: 12.06.2019

Oooh – sketching in the zoo!

We were in the little zoo in Gotha today where we go almost once a year, and for the first time I took my sketchbook with me, which, however, wasn’t a great idea since there were way too many people and I could not really take the time to sketch something beside that one.:


… it’s a Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)


edited: 10.06.2019

Fossil record of the Otidiformes


Chlamydotis khosatzkii Bocheński & Kurochkin – new
Chlamydotis mesetaria
 Sánchez Marco

Gryzaja odessana Zubareva

Ioriotis gabunii Burchak-Abramovich & Vekua

Miootis compactus Umanskaya

Otis affinis Lydekker
Otis bessarabicus Kessler & Gál
Otis hellenica Boev, Lazaridis & Tsoukala
Otis khozatzki ssp. beremendensis Jánossy

Pleotis liui Hou


edited: 05.06.2019

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]


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]


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.



[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

Micronesia – the state of our knowledge of its native birds

Have you ever heard of Lamotrek, Ngulu, or Woleai? 


Neither did I ….

These are the names of some of the atolls that form a squadron-like swarm around the Yap Islands – you have also never heard of the Yap Islands?

Well, let me help you out here, the Yap Islands are a part of the Federated States of Micronesia, which again are a part of Micronesia which is a name for the region of small islands that lie east of the Philippines, north of New Guinea, the Solomons and Vanuatu, and west of Polynesia.


I asked for the name Woleai especially because I only recently found out that the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus (Pennant)) ‚recently‘ expanded its area of distribution from Southeast Asia to exactly this part of Micronesia. [1]

The photo below shows that species, the name of the photographer is just a coincidence, I swear.   🙂

I wrote ‚recently‘ in quotation marks because this bird apparently appeared here already in the 1970s, but no one took any notice of that until 2009, when some westerners cought one bird on the Woleai atoll.

This event is a very good exemplary for the whole state of the ornithological research in that region – we just do not know anything.



[1] Donald W. Buden; Stanley Retogral: Range expansion of the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) into Micronesia. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 122(4): 784-788. 2010


Photo: Lip Kee Yap

(under creative commons license (2.0))


edited: 01.06.2019

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.:


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.



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


edited: 30.05.2019

Fossil record of the Hesperornithiformes

Family incertae sedis

Chupkaornis keraorum Tanaka et al.

Judinornis nogotsavensis Nessov & Borkin

Pasquiaornis hardiei Todaryk, Cumbaa & Storer
Pasquiaornis tankei Todaryk, Cumbaa & Storer

Potamornis skutchi Elzanowski, Paul & Stidham


Baptornis advenus Marsh


Brodavis americanus Martin et al.
Brodavis baileyi Martin et al.
Brodavis mongoliensis Martin et al.
Brodavis varneri (Martin & Cordes-Person)


Enaliornis barretti Seeley
Enaliornis sedgwicki Seeley
Enaliornis seeleyi Galton & Martin


Asiahesperornis bazhanovi Nesov & Prizemlin

Canadaga arctica Hou

Fumicollis hoffmani Bell & Chiappe

Hesperornis altus (Marsh)
Hesperornis bairdi Martin & Lim
Hesperornis chowi Martin & Lim
Hesperornis crassipes (Marsh)
Hesperornis gracilis Marsh
Hesperornis lumgairi Aotsuka & Sato
Hesperornis macdonaldi Martin & Lim
Hesperornis mengeli Martin & Lim
Hesperornis montana Schufeldt
Hesperornis regalis Marsh
Hesperornis rossicus Nesov & Yarkov

Parahesperornis bazhanovi Nessov & Prizemlin


edited: 30.06.2019

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]


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.


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]


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.


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]


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.


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))

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

Neu beschrieben – Alcmona-‚Vogel‘

Alcmona-‚Vogel‘ (Alcmonavis poeschli Rauhut, Tischlinger & Foth)

Diese Art, die gerade erst beschrieben wurde, ist nur anhand von Teilen der Flügel, bzw. eines Flügels, bekannt (siehe Foto).


Der ’neue Vogel‘ lebte in was vor 150 Millionen Jahren der so genannte Solnhofen-Archipel war, Seite an Seite mit den berühmten Archaeopterygidae, war aber offenbar nicht sehr nah mit diesen verwandt. 

Die wenigen Knochen sind, zumindest für meine Augen, äußerlich denen von Archaeopteryx albersdoerferiKundrát et al. und Wellnhoferia grandis Elżanowski oder vielleicht sogar Jeholornis prima Zhou & Zhang aus China ziemlich ähnlich; sie zeigen aber immerhin, dass dieses Tier besser ans Fliegen angepasst war als die zeitgleich existierenden ‚Urvögel‘, darüber hinaus wird er aber, zumindest äußerlich, recht ähnlich ausgesehen haben. 


Foto: Oliver Rauhut

(under creative commons license (4.0))

Bis jetzt wurden nur die Überreste eines einzigen Arms, bzw. Flügels gefunden – ich hoffe es werden weitere Funde folgen.



[1] Oliver W. M. Rauhut; Helmut Tischlinger; Christian Foth: A non-archaeopterygid avialan theropod from the Late Jurassic of southern Germany eLife DOI: 10.7554/eLife.43789.001. 2019 


bearbeitet: 15.05.2019

The rail that (not) existed two times

During the last few days the online newspapers were trying to outdo each other with silly headlines, headlines like … :   

The bird that came back from the dead” or: “Extinct species of bird came back from the dead, scientists find” or, the worst of them all: “Scientists discover bird that came back from the dead – A species which became extinct 136,000 years ago in a rare flood on an Indian Ocean atoll has now re-emerged in the same place“  


What is wrong with that?  

Well, a lot, but let’s just start with the statement that their isn’t any species that really goes extinct and then comes back, also not a rail species!  

We actually deal with two distinct species here, or let’s rather say, with two distinct taxa, since they may not be species but subspecies.  


May I introduce the White-throated Rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri (Pucheran)), a very beautiful rail species that is endemic to the island of Madagascar and that apparently has also colonized the island of Mayotte northeast of Madagascar.    

Photo: Bernard Dupont  

(under creative commons license (2.0))

This species obviously is the source of several other flightless species and subspecies that are known to have existed on many of the islands around Madagascar, such forms are known from the islands of Mauritius and Réunion west of Madagascar and others from some of the atolls that belong to the Seychelles north of Madagascar, including the Aldabra atoll.  

And the Aldabra atoll in fact is the only place where such a flightless form (subspecies or species if you want) still survives until today, this is the Aldabra Rail (Dryolimnas (cuvieri ssp.aldabranus (Günther)).  


Long time ago, some White-throated Rails for which reason ever, took a flight to the atoll to find it uninhabited (by rails) and decided to stay there … over time the rails that were born on this predator-free island stopped using their wings and their descendants again finally became completely flightless.  

But then the Aldabra atoll just disappeared due to total inundation in the middle Pleistocene, about 340000 years before present, leading to the extinction of all endemic animals and plants, including this ‘First’ Aldabra Rails.  


Then again, around 100000 years before present, the sea-level begun to sink and the Aldabra atoll reemerged.  

Again, some White-throated Rails left their home island of Madagascar and took a flight to the north to find a new home on the now rail-free Aldabra atoll, and the story took the same direction as thousands of years before, and the final result are the recent endemic, flightless Aldabra Rails that one can see when visiting the atoll.  


So, the Aldabra atoll was inhabited by two distinct lineages of flightless rails at two different times in history, respectively prehistory, that, despite both descenting from one and the same ancestor species, still represent two completely distinct forms, whether they are referred to as subspecies or as species.  



[1] Julian P. Hume; David Martill: Repeated evolution of flightlessness in dryolimnas rails (Aves: Rallidae) after extinction and recolonization on Aldabra. Zoolocigal Journal of the linnean Society 20: 1-7. 2019  


edited: 10.05.2019

… 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

Fossil record of the Phoenicopteriformes


Agnopterus hantoniensis Lydekker
Agnopterus laurillardi Milne-Edwards
Agnopterus turgaiensis Turgarinov


Adelalopus hoogbutseliensis Mayr & Smith

Megapaloelodus connectens Miller
Megapaloelodus goliath Milne-Edwards
Megapaloelodus opsigonus Brodkorb
Megapaloelodus peiranoi Agnolin

Palaelodus ambiguus Milne-Edwards
Palaelodus aotearoa Worthy et al.
Palaelodus crassipes Milne-Edwards
Palaelodus germanicus (Lambrecht)
Palaelodus gracilipes Milne-Edwards
Palaelodus kurochkini Zelenkov
Palaelodus minutus Milne-Edwards
Palaelodus pledgei Baird & Vickers-Rich
Palaelodus steinheimensis Fraas
Palaelodus wilsoni Baird & Vickers-Rich


Elornis anglicus Aymard
Elornis grandis Milne-Edwards
Elornis littoralis Milne-Edwards

Harrisonavis croizeti (Gervais)

Juncitarsus gracillimus Olson & Feduccia
Juncitarsus merkeli Peters

Leakeyornis aethiopicus (Harrison & Walker)

Phoeniconaias gracilis Miller

Phoeniconotius eyrensis Miller

Phoenicopterus copei Shufeldt
Phoenicopterus floridanus Brodkorb
Phoenicopterus minutus Howard
Phoenicopterus novaehollandiae Miller
Phoenicopterus siamensis Cheneval
Phoenicopterus stocki (Miller)


edited: 01.04.2019

Messel – Ein fossiles Tropenökosystem

Stephan F. K. Schaal; Krister T. Smith; Jörg Habersetzer: Messel – Ein fossiles Tropenökosystem. E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung 2018


This is the latest summary of the current knowledge of the fossil fauna and flora of the Middle Eocene of Messel, Germany. You can actually get it in two versions, a German one and a English one.

The book indeed covers all of the mammal-, bird-, reptile-, amphibian-, and fish species, as well as probably only some of the insect species known at the date of publication, yet, and that is very annoying, contains only a very small ammount of plant species, which probably is because their fossils are not yet fully examined, who knows.

There are photos of all species covered, reconstructions of some of the mammals, but actually none of the birds, however, the book contains three murals (at least I think they are murals), which again show several of the Messel birds (however, without naming them), among them the famous Messel ‘rail’, unfortunately with a way too short tail and a fleshy comb on its head (I will get back to that some time ….).

All in all, the book can be recommended to all who are interested in Eocene biodiversity!   🙂


edited: 20.03.2019

… some colorless colorful birds

I have some free days right now, actually I have five days holiday right now!

So I decided to draw a bit … which, of course, hasn’t been that much successful so far … however, here are two pieces that I have at least already sketched, two members of one of the most colorful bird families at all, the tanagers (Thraupidae).

Indigo Flowerpiercer (Diglossa indigotica)
Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)


edited: 20.03.2019

Neu beschrieben – Cremeaugenbülbül

Cremeaugenbülbül (Pycnonotus pseudosimplex Shakya et al.)

Diese Art wurde gerade erst beschrieben, es handelt sich um eine der vielen kryptischen Arten, die bis dahin übersehen wurden.

Die Art ist offenbar näher mit dem Graustirnbülbül (Pycnonotus cinereifrons (Tweeddale)) von der Insel Palawan, Philippinen verwandt als mit dem Weißaugenbülbül (Pycnonotus simplex Lesson), mit dem er seinen Lebensraum auf der indonesischen Insel Borneo teilt und dem er stark ähnelt. [1]




[1] Subir B. Shakya, Haw Chuan Lim, Robert G. Moyle, Mustafa Abdul Rahman, Maklarin Lakim, Frederick H. Sheldon: A cryptic new species of bulbul from Borneo. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 139(1): 46-55. 2019


bearbeitet: 18.03.2019

Fossil record of the Lithornithiformes


Calciavis grandei Nesbitt

Fissuravis weigelti Mayr

Lithornis celetius Houde
Lithornis hookeri (Harrison)
Lithornis nasi (Harrison)
Lithornis plebius Houde
Lithornis promiscuous Houde
Lithornis vulturinus Owen

Paracathartes howardae Harrison

Pseudocrypturus cercanaxius Houde


edited: 18.03.2019

Fossil record of the Rheiformes


Diogenornis fragilis de Alvarenga (?)

Opisthodactylus horacioperezi Agnolin & Chafrat
Opisthodactylus kirchneri Noriega et al.
Opisthodactylus patagonicus Ameghino


Heterorhea dabbeni Rovereto

Hinasuri nehuensis Tambussi

Rhea anchorenense (Ameghino & Rusconi)
Rhea fossilis Moreno & Mercerat
Rhea mesopotamica (Agnolín & Noriega)
Rhea subpampeana Moreno & Mercerat


edited: 16.03.2019

Fossil record of the Ciconiiformes


Ciconia gaudryi Lambrecht
Ciconia kahli Haarhoff
Ciconia louisebolesae Boles
Ciconia lucida Kurochkin
Ciconia maltha Miller
Ciconia minor Harrison
Ciconia nana (De Vis)
Ciconia sarmatica Grigorescu & Kessler
Ciconia sp. ‘Las Breas de San Felipe, Cuba’
Ciconia sp. 1 ‘Lee Creek Mine, USA’
Ciconia sp. 2 ‘Lee Creek Mine, USA’
Ciconia stehlini Jánossy

Eociconia sangequanensis Hou (?)

Leptoptilus arvernensis Milne-Edwards
Leptoptilos falconeri Milne-Edwards
Leptoptilos indicus (Harrison)
Leptoptilos lüi Zhang et al.
Leptoptilos patagonicus Noriega & Cladera
Leptoptilos pliocenicus Zubareva
Leptoptilos richae Harrison
Leptoptilos robustus Meijer & Awe Due
Leptoptilos siwalicensis Harrison
Leptoptilos sp. ‘Baringo District, Kenya’
Leptoptilos titan Wetmore

Mycteria milleri (Short)
Mycteria wetmorei Howard

Palaeoephippiorhynchus dietrichi Lambrecht

Palaeopelargus nobilis De Vis

Pelargodes magna Milne-Edwards
Pelargopsis stehlini Gaillard
Pelargopsis trouessarti Gaillard

Pseudotantalus milneedwardsii Shufeldt

Tantalus breselensis Marmora

Xenorhynchopsis minor De Vis
Xenorhynchopsis tibialis De Vis

Xenerodiopidae (?)

Xenerodiops mycter Rasmussen


edited: 14.03.2019

Fossil records of the Cuculiformes

Family incertae sedis

Eocuculus cherpinae Chandler


Centropus antiquus Gervais
Centropus colossus Baird

Chambicuculus pusillus Mourer-Chauvire, Tabuce, Essid, Marivaux, Khayati, Vianey-Liaud & Ben Haj Ali

Cuculus csarnotanus Jánossy
Cuculus pannonicus Kessler

Cursoricoccyx geraldinae Martin & Megel

Eocuculus cherpinae (Chandler) (?)

Geococcyx californianus ssp. conklingi Howard [1]

Neococcyx mccorquodalei Weigel

Thomasococcyx philohippus Steadman



[1] David W. Steadman; Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales; Eileen Johnson; A. Fabiola Guzman: New information on the Late Pleistocene San Josecito Cave, Nuevo León, Mexico. The condor 96: 577-589. 1994


edited: 10.03.2019

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

Fossil record of the Coliiformes

Family incertae sedis

Botauroides parvus Shufeldt

Eocolius walkeri Dyke & Waterhouse

Palaeospiza bella Allen


Chascacocolius cacicirostris Mayr
Chascacocolius oscitans Houde & Olson


Selmes absurdipes Peters


Anneavis anneae Houde & Olson

Eobucco brodkorbi Feduccia & Martin

Eoglaucidium pallas Fischer
Eoglaucidium sp. ‘Messel, Germany’

Sandcoleidae gen. & sp. ‘Messel, Germany’

Sandcoleus copiosus Houde & Olson

Tsidiiyazhi abini Ksepka et al.

Uintornis lucaris Brodkorb
Uintornis marionae Feduccia & Martin


Celericolius acriala Ksepka & Clarke

Coliidae gen. & sp. ‘Hoogbutsel, Belgium’
Coliidae gen. & sp. ‘Moncucco Torinese, Italy’
Coliidae gen. & sp. ‘Grillental, Namibia’

Colius hendeyi Vickers-Rich & Haarhoff
Colius palustris (Milne-Edwards)

Limnatornis archiaci Milne-Edwards
Limnatornis consobrinus Milne-Edwards
Limnatornis paludicola Milne-Edwards

Masillacolius brevidactylus Mayr & Peters

Oligocolius brevitarsus Mayr
Oligocolius psittacocephalon Mayr

Primocolius minor Mourer-Chauviré
Primocolius sigei Mourer-Chauviré


edited: 05.03.2019

Fossil record of the Trogoniformes

Family incertae sedis (?)

Foshanornis songi Zhao, Mayr, Wang & Wang


Masillatrogon pumilio Mayr

Paratrogon gallicus Milne-Edwards

Primotrogon (?) sp. ‘Steendorp, Belgien’
Primotrogon wintersteini Mayr

Septentrogon madseni Kristoffersen

Trogonidae gen. & sp. ‘Matt, Schweiz’


edited: 02.03.2019

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.  



[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

Fossil record of the Columbiformes


Arenicolumba prattae (Becker & Brodkorb)

Columba melitensis Lydekker (?)
Columba omnisanctorum Ballmann
Columba sp. ‘Varshets, Bulgaria’

Deliaphaps zealandiensis De Pietri, Scofield, Tennyson, Hand & Worthy

Dysmoropelia dekarchiskos Olson

Gerandia calcaria (Milne-Edwards)

Lithophaps ulnaris De Vis

Patagioenas micula Stirton

Primophaps schoddei Worthy

Rupephaps taketake Worthy et al.


edited: 24.02.2019

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.   😉



[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

The Lost Birds of Paradise

Errol Fuller: The Lost Birds of Paradise. Airlife 1996


Dieses etwas in die Jahre gekommene Buch hat sicher nichtsdestotrotz nichts von seiner Aktualität verloren, auch wenn sein Titel etwas irreführend ist, etwas.

Es geht um Hybriden innerhalb der Familie der Paradiesvögel (Paradisaeidae), welche, zumindest in einigen Fällen, aber eventuell gar keine Hybriden sondern tatsächlich verlorene Arten darstellen mögen – ‚verloren‘ weil die meisten davon nur von wirklich sehr wenigen Exemplaren bekannt sind, die im vergangenen Jahrhundert für die Modeindustrie gesammelt wurden und die eventuell heute ausgestorbene Formen darstellen könnten. 

Man erfährt viel über die Geschichte der ornithologischen Sammlungen einiger der bekanntesten Museen der Welt, über die Arbeit der Ornithologen vergangener Jahrhunderte und, wahrscheinlich am wichtigsten,  über die sich scheinbar nie ändernde gehorsame Angewohnheit, Aussagen sogenannter Experten niemals in Frage zu stellen, weil angenommen wird, dass sie einfach nicht falsch sein können (alle seltenen Formen wurden vor fast 100 Jahren zu Hybriden erklärt – und dies wurde offensichtlich erst in heutiger Zeit in Frage gestellt, obwohl einige Fälle tatsächlich fraglich sind). 

Jede einzelne ‚verlorene‘ Form wird mit mindestens einer zeitgenössischen oder modernen Darstellung abgebildet, hier und da findet sich sogar ein Foto eines Museumsexemplars.

Ein Buch, das durchaus empfohlen werden kann.   🙂


bearbeitet: 02.02.2019

Hummingbirds are …

… terrible to draw, especially if you indeed consider drawing them in life-size minus 1 cm as I always do.  

This is supposed to be a Escudo Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl ssp. handleyi Wetmore), which is endemic to the Isla Escudo de Veraguas off north western Panama, and which is identical to its nominate subspecies except for being very much larger.    

The picture is not finished yet, but mayyybeee tomorrow we will have a bit sunlight and a bit time, and a bit muse … we’ll see.


edited: 02.02.2019

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



[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


edited: 27.01.2019

Capturing the Essence: Techniques for Bird Artists

William T. Cooper: Capturing the Essence: Techniques for Bird Artists. Yale University Press 2011

William T. Cooper, der leider 2015 verstorben ist, war einer von wenigen wirklich überdurchschnittlich begabten Künstlern. Er hat hauptsächlich australische Vögel gemalt und hat auch sehr viele Bücher illustriert. Seine Bilder zeigen die Vögel sehr, sehr lebensecht, mit kräftigen Farben und meist umgeben von echten Pflanzen usw. mit tatsächlich existierenden Landschaften im Hintergrund.

Ich habe dieses Buch als Geburtstags-/Weihnachtsgeschenk bekommen.   🙂

In diesem Buch gibt der Künstler einen Einblick in sein Werk, seine Art zu malen aber auch einige Hinweise in Bezug auf anatomische Besonderheiten bestimmter Vogelgruppen; ich denke, es ist immer sehr informativ zu sehen, wie jemand anderes etwas tut was ich liebe – malen. 
Ich kann dieses Buch nur empfehlen, auch wenn es gern etwas dicker ausfallen hätte können.   😉 


bearbeitet: 05.01.2019

Drawn From Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise

David Attenborough; Errol Fuller: Drawn From Paradise: The Discovery, Art and Natural History of the Birds of Paradise. HarperCollins Publishers 2012

Dies ist ein weiteres Buch, das ich als Geburtstags-/Weihnachtsgeschenk bekommen habe – und ich weiß gar nicht wo ich anfangen soll ….

Es ist wohl eines der fantastischsten Bücher, das ich je gelesen habe, es geht um die Familie der Paradiesvögel (Paradisaeidae) aber auch um die Geschichte der Ornithologie und nicht zuletzt, die Geschichte der Ornithologischen Kunst – all dies zusammen.

Wer sich für so genannte antike Vogeldarstellungen oder -drucke interessiert, kennt definitiv die Werke so bekannter Künstler wie Jaques Barraband, John Gerrard Keulemans usw. Viele von ihnen malten auch Paradiesvögel, ohne jedoch tatsächlich jemals einen lebend gesehen zu haben … geschweige denn in vollem Balzgefieder! Diese Künstler nutzten ihre reiche Vorstellungskraft, um diese oft äußerst spektakulären Vögel mit all ihren seltsamen und übergroßen Federn in den fantastischsten und futuristischsten Posen garzustellen – und doch nur um von der Realität bei weitem überboten zu werden. 

Ich kann dieses Buch allen, die sich für Ornithologische Kunst, für Paradiesvögel oder einfach auch nur für schöne Bilder begeistern, nur wärmstens empfehlen, es lohnt sich! 


bearbeitet: 05.01.2019

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. 🙂    



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


edited: 10.12.2018

Belonging on an Island

Daniel Lewis: Belonging on an Island. Yale University Press 2018


It took me about six months to finish reading this book, its content is just too frustrating sometimes.

The book is divided into four chapters, each is build around a special species of bird, the first around a bird that was extirpated in (pre)historic or rather pre-European times, the second around a bird extinct in recent times, the third around a bird that is nearly extinct, and the fourth around a bird that was recently introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.

When you have read about endemic Hawaiian birds before you came along a lot of names of persons involved with them that you will find again here in this book, and the four chapters are more or less about these people: those who discovered subfossil bones, those who collected and described Hawaiian birds, those who are or were involved in their protection and so on.

It’s just almost unbearable to read about the ‘Hui Manu’ Society and other such ‘clubs’ of bored housewives of rich businessmen of American and European origin that were convinced that the Hawaiian Islands would need more colorful and songful birds, because the native ones had just disappeared or were about to do so.

… on the other hand, the endemic Hawaiian Crow was seen as a pest, it was just not colorful enough and its song not pleasant enough.

It’s quite interesting to read all of that, all the different points of view by all the different people that now call these islands their home, but it is also sad, for example to read about the discovery of the ‘O’o’a’a and it’s extinction, it’s rediscovery, it’s next extinction, it’s re-rediscovery, and it’s final extinction … or may it be re-re-rediscovered some day? No,definitely not.

I can recommend this book, it is not about the birds themselves but about everything else surrounding them.


edited: 08.12.2018

Rapa Nui – some sketches

Well, I have a lot of pictures in my head, but when I try to get them onto paper … well.

Rapa Nui about 2000 BCE.:  

A first effort, the perspectives and size ratios, of course, are completely wrong, the mountain in the background is the Rano Raraku, by the way. 
Another effort, this time without a background, note that in both pictures I already included three of the former endemic islanders.


edited: 09.12.2018

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.



[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

Prehistoric Gambier Islands

A new paper, that was just published [1], deals with the subfossil remains that had been excavated on the Gambier Islands, far, far in the almost easternmost corner of Polynesia, more easterly are only the Pitcairn Islands and the well known island of Rapa Nui.

The Gambier Islands, for those who don’t know them, are basically a more or less sunken atoll, a so called ‚almost atoll‘ like the better known Aitutaki atoll in the Cook Islands. This ‚almost atoll‘ consists of a larger but still relatively small main island, Mangareva, and several other smaller islets surounding it, all of them of volcanic origin and merely the meager remains of a former large volcano. The whole group of islands is encircled by a fringe of coral islands, which again are formed by lifted coral reefs. There are some other real atolls (only coral islands without remains of former volcanoes) that belong to the Gambier group, these are Maria (East), Marutea (South), Matureivavao, Morane, Temoe, Tenararo, Tenarunga, and Vahanga.


The authors describe one new species, a pigeon, and mention several others, mostly pigeons and of course seabirds, we are on a island group here after all.   😛


The first surprise is Bountyphaps, very likely the same Bountyphaps obsoleta Worthy & Wragg that was originally described from Henderson Island, Pitcairn Islands. Its remains were found on Kamaka Island, one of the numerous small or very small islands within the group. The remains are interpreted as probably having been transported from the Pitcairn Islands to the Gambiers by Polynesian settlers, which indeed are known to have captured and tamed parrots and pigeons, at least in olden times when there still were parrots and pigeons.

The next bird is a newly described pigeon species, Ducula tihonireasini Rigal, Kirch & Worthy, its remains were found on Taravai Island, the second largest of the islands in the group, and it probably was endemic to the Gambier Islands.

Then there are a Ptilinopus sp. which may be identical to the Atoll Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus coralensis Peale), and a Columbidae gen. & sp., probably Macropygia sp., which would extend the distributional area of that genus far to the east and to the south.

There are of course remains of the Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra ssp. sacra (Gmelin)), the most common land bird in whole Polynesia today.

And off we go to the seabirds, here we have the remains of Red- and White-tailed Tropicbirds, a rather small Pseudobulweria sp., apparently also a new species, three unspecified Pterodroma spp., three Puffinus spp., the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, the Polynesian Storm-Petrel, the Great- and the Lesser Frigatebird, the White Tern, and finally another tern, probably the Blue Noddy.


Most of these birds are known to have occurred on the Gambier Islands at least since 2005 when their first remains were found (except for Bountyphaps obsoleta, whose remains were wrongly assigned to another pigeon species, Alopecoenas nui (Steadman)). But only now their subfossil bones were scientifically investigated.



[1] Stanislas Rigal; Patrick V. Kirch; Trevor H. Worthy: New prehistoric avifaunas from the Gambier Group, French Polynesia. Palaeontologia Electronica 21.3.4A 1-35. 2018


edited: 07.12.2018

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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

(not in copyright)


edited: 11.11.2018