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NATURE NOTES

OUR VANISHING BIRDS

NEW ZEALAND CROWS

' (By E. H. D. Stidolph; K.A.O.U:)

IVw people not intimately associated with the bird life of Now Zealand are awar i that this country possesses two species of crow : not found elsewhere, one occurring in the North Island, and one in the South Island. The New Zealand crows, however, bear little^resemblance to representatives of .t he family in other parts of the world, and the black character which the exotic species "have earned for themselves cannot under any pretence be applied to the native species. Our crows are,birds of the bush, and occur so sparingly that not many people are acquainted . with, them. Both the North Island and South Island crows were very irregular in their distribution, being found within certain circumscribed areas and not occurring at all. in' adjacent districts, | although food supplies appeared : t6 be ! plentiful. In many of .these localities the bird is no longer to be found, and in: sonic districts it appears to • have'entirely passed away with the clearing of the forest. In the early days, for instance, the North Island erjo\v was numerous around Wellington. Although.. the two crow's are still found in a few districts'—the North. Island bird scents to be in a better position : than-tho: South Island .one—they are'not represented on any of the island sanctuaries beyond Stewart Island, which can hardly be regarded as a safe refuge in view of the people living on the island and visits of so-called sportsmen and opossum trappers. It is imperative that specimens of the two birds should be placed on Little Barrier and Kapiti Island bird sanctuaries/as these are the only two which can be termed sanctuaries in the real sense of the word." : •■: ■"."•.■

■; Tlie crow is known to the Maori as the kokako. The two species resemble each other in the colour of. the-plum-age,, which is dark; bluish grey, with the lower part of the, back and abdomen tinged with rufous brown;, tail, is olivaceous black;, there, is: Va black line from the nostrils ;to the eye, and the chin is black. In the South Island bird the tail is enly blackish at the tip. The wattle of the northern species varies in colour from , blue to purple, whije that of. the southern bird is blue at the'base,'the-re-mainder being rod or'orangel. :In-siz& : the crow is slightly ..larger .'than the tui. The late Sir Walter Buller kept a live bird from, the South Island in a large wire cage-in his. library ;foiv ■many months. He described it as a very lively companion, being perpetually on the move and very musical. • It was an adult male iri« .perfect plumage. "Its., habitual note," he wrote, "emitted f re-' ; quently,' but chiefly in the early morn- • ing and forenoon, was a long, plaintive double note, pitched in ' a■; minor kej-j • very pleasant to hear, but to-my mind possessing less ..richness than ..the -organ note of the North-Island bird. "Jt-.was : accustomed to : use' its..feet;"int,e.ating . leaves or berries>'. presented.-tO;.i};jl just ; as a parrot would. (Off...offering .this bird a large blue bottle-flylie held jit to < his perch in the manner described, and deliberately tore off one wing, then, toe ; other, tasted its flavpur,* and, immediately dropped it. , As a rule he would not touch insects, but /showed great fondness for succulent leaves of any . kind and all sorts of berries, particularly those of coprosma lucida, \vhetber ripe or green. ... ,' jThe wattles were always carried tightly compressed under the chin, and meeting at their edges. As X became better acquainted.with,tha._ bird I found that it :possess.ed several notesl besides those described. . . . In the early morning, or. before rain, it had a mellifluous whistle, and-every now and then a liquid note, twice re- '■ peated, quite indistinguishable from the evening bell toll of; the ft'uis. To this is no doubt due the circumstance that this is the bell-bird of many-of the country settlers.. Occasionally, but not ' often, it sounded that rich organ note--—short, but of surpassing sweetness—• inland at other times a soft note in'repetition like the :low. whimper of "the.huia. | The., mention' of yet another note, not unlike a short, hollow^cough; will 'prove that this bird was not wanting in ■■vocal .accomplishments," .':'.:'.'.'h-\ *"■." ';:'- :;:.'--'r ■

• The blue wattled crow- of the. North" Island was one of the species.met witJLby the late Mr. J. C. M'Lean in the Gisborno district, some years .ago. ..He.... observed the bird in parties of-fi-oiii' four to seven during.April and May, but in midwinter little was seen or heard of the bird, which, owing no doubt'to its dislike of the noise of falling timber, retired further up the sheltered-valleys;,, of, ■ tawhero and mixed :■_ bush.;; Mr.'1' M'Lean considered that thejpaEtigs'sJeW?' in autumn were composed of.fadults and;: their full-grown ...young;:..'. In spring he never saw more than"two b_irds: together,;and sometimes a single bird would'be"-: riq.ticed feeding by itself about, the... scrubs or on the; ground." Mn.Jl'Leair ■ stated that the crow :could, hardlyJbe called inquisitive. Although'Tdisplaying some caution or shyness oh .first acquaintance, it will eventually allow a near approach to be made, and may* ■ then.be observed at close quarters; but it was noticeable that the bird's first ■; care, on hearing steps in the bush, was ,to place between itself and the sound a <, mass of leaves through which to spy. Sometimes the movements of the 'crow cause some rustling of the- leayesy.but, ' speaking generally, it is not a. noisy bird, and its notes are rarely; heard when feeding; so that, unless one keeps a good look out, it may be easily passed by. Mr. M'Lean was.muchstruck with the careful manner in which the crow Jakes its food. It seemed to. toy with it. There was no picking and pecking at the berries, which it deliberately drew- from the branches. There was no tearing of moss and bark for insects, . and leaves were nibbled rather than plucked. ; The nest :is a large, rough structure, .the base being composed - of t small twigs, much mixed with strips of bark,' rootlets, moss, and leaves. The ends of the twigs and pieces of. bark ■ project somewhat outside, the moss and leaves, givingl .the nest a very irregular.: shape. The' cavity is :f airly-well -lined,fS principally with strips : of bark- worked..': in with moss, leaves, aiid'TootlefsV' The ■ 'eggs arc described as being.pale'.Stb'.ne grey in colour, spotted, wiih purplish g re y. . ■, ....: ,■;.-,,-,-•.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19300524.2.154

Bibliographic details

Evening Post, Evening Post, Volume CIX, Issue 121, 24 May 1930

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1,053

NATURE NOTES Evening Post, Volume CIX, Issue 121, 24 May 1930

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