Schlagwort-Archive: Raiatea

A swamphen from Ra’iatea?

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

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

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

The Tahitian Mountain Goose

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

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

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

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

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

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And that’s it.

I could not find out anything else.

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

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

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Here is a little update for this enigmatic bird.:

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

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

translation:

Porphyrio porphyrio (L.), Purple Swamphen.  

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

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

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edited: 10.03.2020

Psittacus pacificus – what if …?

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

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28.* Cyanoramphus erythronotus.

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

and

30.* Cyanoramphus ulietanus.

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

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

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

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

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

Can you still follow me?

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

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

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

But this is another story for another day.   🙂

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References:  

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

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edited: 24.10.2018