Schlagwort-Archive: Mangareva

Komako – The Mangareva Reed Warbler

The Mangareva Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus astrolabii Holyoak & Thibault), only described in 1978, is one of the many mysterious birds whose cases were solved only quite recently.

The species was restricted to the Gambier Islands, where it was at least found on the biggest of the islands, Mangareva.

The species disappeared sometimes during the early or middle 19th century, but the natives still recalled the former presence of it and were also still using its name.:

She [the daughter of the Chief of the island of Taravai] has not seen the “Komaku” herself, but her father, the Chief, has. He gave us the name and says he saw them about thirty or forty years ago.” [1]

***

The species apparently died out sometimes around the middle 19th century; it is, however, possible that it survived into the middle of the 20th century …:

Signalons aussi qu’une fauvette fut observée sur l’îlot Tepapuri en 1971 (Thibault, 1973b). Ce dernier oiseau, blanchâtre dessus et brun dessous, devait être un erratique de la forme habitant, les atolls au nord des Gambier, A. caffer ravus.“ [1]

translation:

Note also that a warbler was observed on Tepapuri islet in 1971 (Thibault, 1973b). This last bird, whitish above and brown below [I’m quite sure that it should be exactly reversed], must have been an erratic of the form inhabiting the atolls north of the Gambier, A. caffer ravus,”

I somewhat doubt that assumption, and this account may indeed be the very last sighting of a Mangareva Reed Warbler that took place on one of the northernmost motu of the Gambier Island’s fringing reef.

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References:

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History: Voyage of the ‘France’ from Timoe Atoll to the Mangareva Islands; Voyage to Marutea. April 25 – May 14, 1922. Extracts from the Journal of Ernest H. Quayle; Assistant Field Naturalist. Book XXV through Book XXVIII. April 1 – June 24, 1922
[2] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[3] Alice Cibois; Jean-Claude Thibault; Eric Pasquet: Molecular and morphological analysis of Pacific reed warbler specimens of dubious origin, including Acrocephalus luscinius astrolabii. Bulletin on the British Ornitologists‘ Club 131(1): 32-40. 2011

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Depiction from: ‘Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History: Voyage of the ‘France’ from Timoe Atoll to the Mangareva Islands; Voyage to Marutea. April 25 – May 14, 1922. Extracts from the Journal of Ernest H. Quayle; Assistant Field Naturalist. Book XXV through Book XXVIII. April 1 – June 24, 1922’

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

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edited: 08.08.2021

Mangareva Kingfisher

The Mangareva Kingfisher still is one of the most enigmatic birds I am aware of so far.

The species inhabited the Gambier Islands, and another species occurring 1000s of km to the northwest of it, the Niau Kingfisher (Todiramphus gertrudae Murphy), is still officially assigned to this bird as a subspecies.

I have desperately tried to find the original description of this species, and here it is.:

Il existe, en effet, depuis longtemps dans les galeries du Muséum un Martin- pêcheur qui a été rapporté en 1841 de Mangarewa (archipel Gambier) par l’Astrolabe (Voyage au Pôle Sud) et qui répond exactement à la description et à la figure de l’Halcyon Reichenbachi. Cet oiseau a le sommet de la tête d’un roux qui va en s’éclaircissant et tire au blanc jaunâtre du côté, du front, mais qui est assez intense sur le vertex où se détachent quelques plumes vertes. Sur les oreilles il existe aussi, de chaque côté une tache verte, passant au noirâtre en arrière et tendant à rejoindre une bande noire qui fait le tour de l’occiput. Cette bande foncée limite en dessus un large collier blanc, un peu sali par quelques taches noires, qui se fond sur les côtés dans la teinte blanche qui couvre toutes les parties inférieures du corps, les flancs seuls offrant un peu de roux et encore sur des points cachés entièrement par les ailes. Celles-ci sont d’un vert légèrement bleuâtre, avec des lisérés roux très fins au bord des couvertures alaires. La queue est également d’un vert bleuâtre au milieu, d’un vert mélangé de grisâtre sous lespennes externes, qui sont d’ailleurs incomplètes. Enfin le bec est noir et la mandibule, inférieure blanche ou plutôt jaunâtre dans toute sa portion basilaire. Les pattes sont d’un m brun foncé. La longueur totale de l’oiseau est de 0,170; l’aile mesure 0,090, la queue 0,880, le bec 0,018; le tarse 0,014. Dès 1889, en faisant une revision des Alcédinidés du Muséum en vue de leur instal- lation dans les nouvelles galeries, j’avais désigné ce Martin-pêcheur de Mangarewa sous le nom d“ Halcyon Gambieri; mais je n’en avais pas publié la description jusqu’à ce jour.“ [1]

translation:

For a long time, there has been a kingfisher in the galleries of the Museum who was brought back in 1841 from Mangarewa (Gambier Archipelago) by the Astrolabe (Journey to the South Pole) and who exactly corresponds to the description and the figure of Halcyon Reichenbachi. This bird has the top of the head red that brightens to yellowish white on the side of the forehead but is quite intense on the vertex where some green feathers stand out. On the ears there is also, on each side a green patch, passing blackish back and tending to join a black band that goes around the occiput. This dark band has a large white necklace on top, a little dirty with a few black spots, which is melting on the sides into the white hue that covers all the lower parts of the body, only the flanks offering a little russet and are, on some points, hidden entirely by the wings. These are a slightly bluish green, with very fine red rims at the edge of the wing coverts. The tail is also bluish green in the middle, of a green mixed with greyish under the outer feathers, which are also incomplete. Lastly, the beak is black, and the mandible underneath is white or rather yellowish throughout its base portion. The legs are of a dark brown. The total length of the bird is 0,170; the wing measures 0,090, the tail 0,880, the beak 0,018; Tarsus 0,014. As early as 1889, by making a revision of the Alcedinidae of the Museum with a view to their installation in the new galleries, I had designated this kingfisher of Mangarewa under the name of Halcyon Gambieri; but I had not published the description so far.

***

What I am wondering about most is the fact that the Mangareva – and the Niau Kingfishers still are regarded to as a single species; on the other hand, both forms are rather similar to each other.

Which of the many other Polynesian islands might once have harbored their own kingfisher forms not known to us today?

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[1] M. E. Oustalet: Les Mammifères et les oiseaux des iles Mariannes. Nouvelles archives du Muséum d’histoire naturelle 3(7): 141-228. 1895
[2] D. T. Holyoak; J. C. Thibault: Halcyon gambieri gambieri Oustalet, an extinct Kingfisher from Mangareva, South Pacific Ocean. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists‘ Club 97(1): 21-23. 1977

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… just a sketch, but with colors

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edited: 08.08.2021

Lanius gambieranus – what is that?

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

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

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

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

translation:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my translation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

But why?

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

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

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References:

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

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edited: 29.07.2020

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.

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References:

[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

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edited: 07.12.2018