Category Archives: hypothetical forms

Anas gracilis ssp. ‘New Caledonia’

New Caledonian Grey Teal (Anas gracilis ssp.)

This form is known only from subfossil remains that had been found on the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia.

This was probably an endemic form of the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis Buller), a species that is otherwise known from Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand, however, this species is sometimes found on New Caledonia as a vagrant, thus it is also possible that the subfossil remains descent from such vagrant birds. [1]

The form is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

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References:

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

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edited: 10.11.2021

Turdus lherminieri ssp. ‘Martinique’

Martinique Forest Thrush (Turdus lherminieri ssp.)

The Forest Thrush (Turdus lherminieri (Lafresnaye)) inhabits, respectively inhabited some of the islands of the Lesser Antilles, where it is known from Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat as well as from Saint Lucia.

The species is, however, not known from Martinique, which is located between Dominica and Saint Lucia, but almost for sure did once occur there as well and probably did so with an endemic subspecies; yet currently there is no proof so far for that assumption, thus I will only briefly mention this assumption here.

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edited: 02.05.2022

Todiramphus sp. ‚Rapa‘

Rapa Kingfisher (Todiramphus sp.)

The Rapa Kingfisher is yet a hypothetical species that I like to erect based on an account from the 1920s. [1]

This account speaks about the color symbolism of Rapan feather cloaks and says that royal cloaks incorporated dark blue feathers from a bird named “kotokoto”, which was supposed to have been a kingfisher, apparently most likely the Tuamotu Kingfisher (Todiramphus gertrudae Murphy) [but named Halcyon gambieri in the paper [1]].

I personally think that this is rather unlikely, if the feathers came from any kind of imported kingfisher species, as the paper [1] suggests, then probably not from birds from Mangareva (which were already almost extinct at that time) but even more unlikely from birds from the Niau atoll, which is located far, far away from the island of Rapa. They may, however, have come from the far more closely situated Cook Islands, which harbors more than one endemic kingfisher forms. But there may very well once have been an endemic kingfisher species on the island of Rapa as well, because why not?!

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References:

[1] J. D. Tennyson; Atholl Anderson: Bird, reptile and mammal remains from archaeological sites on Rapa Island. In: Atholl Anderson; Douglas J. Kennett: Taking the High Ground; The archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia. In: Terra Australis 37. 105-114. Canberra, ANU E Press 2012

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edited: 08.02.2020

Corvus sp. ‘Bermudas’

Bermudas Islands Crow (Corvus sp.)

Birds.         

Neither hath the aire for her part been wanting with due supplies of many sorts of Fowles, as the gray and white Hearne, the gray and greene Plover, some wilde Ducks and Malards, Coots and Red-shankes, Sea-wigions, Gray-bitterns, Cormorants, numbers of small Birds like Sparrowes and Robins, which have lately beene destroyed by the wilde Cats, Wood-pickars, very many Crowes, which since this Plantation are kild, the rest fled or seldome seene except in the most uninhabited places, from whence they are observed to take their flight about sun set, directing their course towards the North-west, which makes many coniecture there are some more Ilands not far off that way.
” [1]

This is a part of an account from 1623 that reports some of the bird life inhabiting the Bermudas Islands at that time.

Given the remote location of the islands, the crows mentioned here very likely were of an endemic form, may it have been a species or a subspecies; the text even tells us how these crow population went extinct, they were killed by the British settlers because they were considered a pest for their crops.

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References:

[1] John Smith: The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their first beginning, An: 1584. to this present 1624. With the Procedings of Those Severall Colonies and the Accidents that befell them in all their Journyes and Discoveries. Also the Maps and Descriptions of all those Countryes, their Commodities, people, Government, Customes, and Religion yet knowne. Divided into Sixe Bookes. By Captaine Iohn Smith, sometymes Governour in those Countryes & Admirall of New England. London: printed by I. D. and I. H. for Michael Sparkes 1624

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edited: 05.11.2020

Crax sp. ‘Mituporanga’

Mituporanga (Crax sp.)

The Mituporanga is known only from a very old painting (see below), drawn by Eckhout Hoflössnitz sometimes between 1653 and 1659, which in fact might just depict a Bare-faced Curassow (Crax fasciolata Spix) or indeed a completely distinct species that is now lost. This painting is included in a book that depicts some birds from the former Dutch colony of Dutch Brazil, an area that today is covered mainly by the federative units of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. [1]

Ornithologists have not recorded a species of Crax in the Northern Mata Atlântica. Thus, the plate and other paintings from the same time, and oral testimonies from old hunters are unambiguous evidence for either the historic disappearance of a disjunct population of the similar-looking bare- faced curassow (Crax fasciolata) or an undescribed species.” [2]

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References:

[1] Dante Martins Teixeira: Os quadros de aves tropicais do Castelo de Hoflössnitz na Saxônia e Albert Eckhout (ca. 1610–1666), artista do Brasil Holandês. Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros 49: 67-90. 2009
[2] Alexander C. Lees; Stuart L. Pimm: Species, extinct before we knew them? Current Biology 25(5): 177-180. 2015

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Depiction by Eckhout Hoflössnitz, between 1653 and 1659

(public domain)

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edited: 25.04.2021

Banza sp. ‘Hawai’i’

Giant Hawaiian Katydid (cf. Banza sp.)

Hawaiian tradition tells us of a large cricket-like insect, called ‘uhini pa’awela, that lived in the Ka’u District of the island of Hawai’i, and which was a favorite food among the natives until the late 1800s – a few of these animals roasted on a skewer provided a full meal.

There are no surviving specimens of that species, and it is speculated that it was a large cricket, perhaps a Banza or Thaumatogryllus sp.. [1]

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References:

[1] F. G. Howarth; W. P. Mull: Hawaiian Insects and their kin. University of Hawaii Press 1992

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edited: 15.01.2019

Prosopeia sp. ‘Tanna’

Tanna Parrot (Prosopeia sp.

There is a little account, or rather a kind of side note, that tells us of a parrot that once appers to have existed on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. This little account from August 16, 1774 was made by Georg Forster on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu during James Cook’s second voyage around the world.:

The next morning we came ashore again, and immediately walked into the woods on the plain. We saw a great number of large and beautiful parroquets, of black, red, and yellow plumage; but they kept on the tops of the highest fig-trees, where they were wholly out of the reach of small shot, guarded by the thick foliage.” [1]

***

Julian P. Hume thinks that this account most likely refers to a species of the genus Prosopeia, which otherwise is only known from the Fijian Islands. [2]

I personally, reading about the colors given in the account, do rather think that this account might rather be attributed to some kind of lorikeet, most likely from the genus Chalcopsitta or maybe Lorius, I will nevertheless maintain the name Prosopeia sp. given by Mr. Hume to avoid any confusions.

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References:

[1] George Forster: A voyage round the world, in his Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution, commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the years 1772, 3, 4, and 5. London: printed for B. White, Fleet-Street; J. Robson, Bond-Street; P. Elmsly, Strand; and G. Robinson, Pater-noster-Row. Vol. II. 1778
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: 2nd edition 2017

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edited: 11.02.2020

Amazona vittata ssp. ‘Vieques’

Vieques Amazon (Amazona vittata ssp.)

The Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata (Boddaert)) is a very rare parrot species that is now restricted to the island of Puerto Rico in the Lesser Antilles, at least one subspecies formerly occurred on the offshore island of Culebra.

The same form, or perhaps another endemic one occurred on the nearby island of Vieques, this form, however, is only known by reliable accounts like the following one.:

Parrots are found during the rainy season in the months of June, July and August in the heavy forest of the southern side of the island. It is believed that they cross at that season from Porto Rico. Señor José Bartôn was well acquainted with them and told me that they were considered a game bird, making a highly desirable dish for the table. There were none here during the period of my visit.” [1]

The Vieques Amazon, if it indeed was a distinct form, disappeared sometimes after this account, the reasons are clearly mentioned in the account.

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References:

[1] Alexander Wetmore: The birds of Vieques Island, Porto Rico. The Auk 33: 403-419. 1916

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edited: 16.02.2020

Charmosyna sp. ‘Samoa’

Samoan Lorikeet (Charmosyna sp.)  

The Samoan Lorikeet is a hypothetical species that might in fact once have existed, it is, however, not fully understood if it was a native form of the Samoan Islands, or if it may have also occurred on the Tongan Islands as well, or if it might have originted from somewhere else and was just traded among these island groups. [2]

All we know about this very enigmatic form comes from a single account, made by Otto von Kotzebue, a Russian officer and navigator in the Imperial Russian Navy, in the early 19th century; his reports, however, are otherwise incredibly contemptuous, inhumane and racist and speak of the local Polynesian people as cannibals and wild, blood-thirsty almost-animals etc..:

Noch eines Handelsartikels auf unserem Markte muß ich erwähnen. Es waren gezähmte Tauben und Papageyen. Erstere weichen von den europäischen sowohl in der Form, als in der Farbenpracht sehr ab. Auch waren ihre Klauen, mit denen sie sich, wie Spechte, an die Taue haften, anders gestaltet. Die Papagayen waren nur von der Größe eines Sperlings, mit dem lebhaftesten Roth und Grün gezeichnet, und der rothe Schweif übertraf an Länge den Körper wohl um vier Mal.” [1]

translation:

One more item on our market I have to mention. These were tamed pigeons and parrots. The former differ markedly from the European ones in their form and in their colorfulness. Their claws, with which they, like woodpeckers, cling to the ropes, were also designed differently. The parrots were only the size of a sparrow, painted with the most vivid red and green, and the red tail was perhaps four times longer than the body.

***

The specific account apparently was made on or offshore an island named Olajava, according to the description given by Kotzebue I personally think that the island in question is the one today known as Ofu in American Samoa. 

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Referenzen:  

[1] Otto von Kotzebue: Reise um die Welt in den Jahren 1823, 24, 25 und 26. Weimar: W. Hoffman 1830
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: Bloomsbury Natural History; 2nd edition 2017

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edited: 12.02.2020

Santalum sp. ‘Rapa Nui’

Rapa Nui Sandalwood (Santalum sp.)  

The Rapa Nui Sandalwood is actually a hypothetical species, it is apparently known only from oral tradition.  

The plant was known to the Polynesian inhabitants as “naunau” or “nau opata“.  

The fruits are said to have been eaten, the emty nutshells were used by children as toys, the scent of the stem was described as very strong and perfuming.  

The species is considered extinct on the island since 1895. [1]  

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References:  

[1] Anthony Dubois; Pierre Lenne; Elsa Nahoe; Marcos Rauch: Plantas de Rapa Nui. Guía Ilustrada de la Flora de Interés Ecológico y Patrimonial. Umanga mo te Natura, CONAF, ONF International, Santiago 2013  

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edited: 04.09.2019

Ptilinopus sp. ‘Gambier Islands’

Gambier Islands Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus sp.)

The Atoll Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus coralensis Peale) is distributed all over the Tuamotu Archipelago and was formerly also believed to have occurred on the Gambier Islands, however, no such specimen appears to have ever been collected and thus the former occurence of fruit-doves on these islands is actually known only from accounts. [1][2][3]

There are, however, at least three subfssil bones found on the island of Taravai, the second largest of the Gambier Islands, that can be assigned to the genus Ptilinopus, but apparently not to the Atoll Fruit-Dove. [2]

***

The Atoll Fruit-Dove is actually a species that appears to be very well adapted to the low coral atolls it is inhabiting, thus the form that once occurred on the Gambier Islands most likely was a distinct one; its native name is given as having been kuku. [2]

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References:

[1] David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes, John Cox: Pigeons and Doves, A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Pica Press, Sussex 2001
[2] Jean-Claude Thibault; Alice Cibois: From early Polynesian settlement to the present: bird extinctions in the Gambier Islands. Pacific Science 66(3): 271-281. 2012
[3] 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: 17.03.2020

Psittacara sp. ‘Barbados’

Barbados Conure (Psittacara sp.)

This form is known from early travelers’ accounts.

Griffith Hughes, a Welsh naturalist and author wrote “The natural history of Barbados” in 1750 in which he briefly mentioned the native birds of the island, including this enigmatic species of parakeet. [1][2]

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References:

[1] Griffith Hughes: The Natural History of Barbados. in ten books. London: printed for the author 1750
[2] P. A. Buckley; Edward B. Massiah; Maurice B. Hutt; Francine G. Buckley; Hazel F. Hutt: The birds of Barbados: An annotated checklist. British Ornithologists’ Union 2009

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edited: 11.02.2020

Amazona martinica (Clark)

Martinique Amazon (Amazona martinica)

The Martinique Amazon is known from several eyewitness accounts and at least a single, yet brief description.

The species was very closely related to the still existing Red-necked Amazon (Amazona arausiaca (Statius Müller)) from Dominica and the Saint Lucia Amazon (Amazona versicolor (Statius Müller)) from Saint Lucia and formed a superspecies together with them. 

***

The Martinique Amazon appears to have been incredible common, and the early European settlers saw it only as a pest, so did mention it but did never give any description of it, for example: 

Jean-Baptiste Labat, a French glergyman, who was the appointed procurator-general of all the Dominican convents in the Antilles, is the only one who gave at least a brief description of this species in which he mentioned that it was very much identical to the Red-necked Amazon yet differed from it in that its head feathers were rather slate than blue and in that it had less red feathers in its plumage.

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References:

[1] Jean-Baptiste Labat: Nouveau voyage aux isles de l’Amerique: contenant l’histoire naturelle de ces pays, l’origine, les moeurs, la religion & le gouvernement des habitans anciens & modernes: Les guerres & les evenemens singuliers qui y sont arrivez pendant le séjour que l’auteur y a fait. A Paris, au palais: Chez Theodore le Gras 1742
[2] Charles A. Woods; Florence E. Sergile: Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, Second Edition. CRC Press; Auflage: Subsequent 2001

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Depiction from: ‘Lionel Walter Rothschild: Extinct birds: an attempt to unite in one volume a short account of those birds which have become extinct in historical times: that is, within the last six or seven hundred years: to which are added a few which still exist, but are on the verge of extinction. London: Hutchinson & Co. 1907’

(public domain)

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edited: 13.02.2020

Chelonoidis sp. ‘Santa Fé’

Santa Fe Tortoise (Chelonoidis sp.)  

The Isla Santa Fé, also known as Barrington Island, is a small, only about 24 km² large island, but may very well have once harbored its own endemic population of tortoises.  

There are three reasons to assume the former existence of a local population.:  

Firstly: Contemporaneous accounts by settlers and whalers, the latest of which dating from 1890, which also mention tortoise hunts on the island.  

Secondly: Subfossil and recent tortoise bones are well known from the island, yet no part of a carapace is known, thus the exact status of these remains cannot be ascertained.  

However, tortoises were transported in the 19th century from one island to another, without any kind of registering, thus these two abovementioned reasons may in fact also apply to a imported tortoise population.  But there is still the third and best reason ….  

Thirdly: By far the best evidence for the former existence of a endemic tortoise population comes from the island’s flora – the Barrington Island Tree Opuntia (Opuntia echios var. barringtonensis E. Y. Dawson) is an endemic variety of the typical tree-like opuntias that have evolved only on islands with tortoises, while the opuntia forms on tortoise-free islands are always growing as low creeping bushes, because, in the absence of large herbivorous tortoises they just did not need to develop a trunk.  

Thus there simply must have been a local race or species of tortoise on the Isla Santa Fé!  

***

In spite of everything, the Santa Fe Tortoise is still officially regarded as a hypothetical form.  

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References:  [1] Dennis M. Hansen; C. Josh Donlan; Christine J. Griffiths; Karl J. Campbell: Ecological history and latent conservation potential: large and giant tortoises as a model for taxon substitutions. Ecography Vol. 33(2) 272–284. 2010

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edited: 26.07.2013

Columba sp. ‘Azores’

Azores Mountain Pigeon (Columba sp.)

Today the Azores Islands harbor a single native (actually even endemic) (sub)species of pigeon, the Azores Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus ssp. azorica (Tschusi)), however, there was once at least one more species.

This now lost pigeon taxon, however, is known only from a single account in a manuscript from the late 16th century, namely from “Saudades da Terra” written between 1586 and 1590 by a father Gaspar Frutuoso.:

Posto que muitas aves vieram aqui de fora a esta terra, nela se acharam algumas maneirasde pombos, como naturais dela, uns pretos que chamavam pombos da serra, que matavam àstrochadas com paus e aguilhadas e com lanças, nos paus e nas árvores, tão tolos eram, pelapouca comunicação da gente, que tudo esperavam; estes eram da terra. Outros houvecinzentos, que chamavam torcazes, que eu cuido serem naturais, mas alguns dizem quevieram depois aqui de fora, porque dantes os não havia, e multiplicaram tanto que agora há aímuitos, nas Furnas e na serra sobre a Povoação Velha. E há tão grande número deles naAchada e Fenais da Maia, que cobrem as terras como entra Março, e às vezes fazem perdanas novidades de trigo e linho, derribando as paveias no campo. Estes sempre foram maisrecatados e dificultosos de caçar e tomar; mas os pretos, indo-os a caçar, atirando-lhe do pé daárvore com a besta a um, derribando aquele, os outros que na árvore estavam, olhando abaixopara aquele que caía, se deixavam estar quedos e tornando a atirar a outros e a derribá-losmortos, os que ficavam em cima da árvore faziam o mesmo, deixando-se estar tolamente, atéque o besteiro matava deles quantos queria.

[My humble] Translation:

Although many birds came to this land from the outside, some kinds of pigeons were found as natives, some black ones that they called pigeons of the mountains, that they killed with sticks and with spears, on the poles and in the trees, so foolish they were, because they had little knowledge of men, that they wait for everything; these ones were from this land. Others ashy-grey, they called them wood pigeons, which I think to be natural, but some say they came later here from outside, because before there were no, and multiplied so much that now there are fine, at Furnas and the mountains above Povoação Velha [the village Povoação?]. And there are so many of them at Achada and Fenais da Maia, they cover the land like a windy weather, and sometimes they make losses of wheat and flax, breaking down the sheafs in the field. These have always been less reckless and difficult to hunt and to take; but the blacks were easy to hunt, shooting them from the foot of the tree with the crossbow, and knocking down one, the others stayed in the tree, looking down at the one who fell, kept still and going on shooting others those who stood on the tree did the same, remaining there foolishly, till the crossbowman would slay of them as many as he wanted.

***

An interesting study from 2011 showed that the Azores Wood Pigeon is not a monophyletic species but in fact is a hybrid population of the nominate race of the European Wood Pigeon and another species, the extinct Azores Mountain Pigeon. The author of the study, however, not knowing this 16th century account, thinks that this may have been the Dark-tailed Laurel Pigeon (Columba bollii Godman) from the Canary Islands or the Madeiran Laurel Pigeon (Columba trocaz Heineken). [1]

Apparently Wood Pigeons only begun to settle the Azores sometimes during the 16th century, they soon multiplied and took over the islands, crossing with the last remaining endemic pigeons and finally hybridize them into extinction. But at least some of the genes of the extinct endemic pigeon species still live on in the Azores Wood Pigeons of today.

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References:

[1] Ana Catarina Gonçalves Dourado: Phylogeny and phylogeography of Atlantic Islands’ Columba species. Dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa 2011

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edited: 12.01.2019

Megapodius sp. ‘Andaman Islands’

Andaman Islands Megapode (Megapodius sp.)

The Andaman Islands are the northern part of a chain of islands in the Golf of Bengal, the southern part is made by the Nicobar Islands.

The Nicobar Islands are inhabited by an endemic megapode species, the Nicobar Megapode (Megapodius nicobariensis Blyth) (see photo below), which occurs there with two subspecies which are separated by the rather narrow Saint Georges Channel.

There are some accounts which mention megapodes from the Andaman Islands.:

Although we only obtained this species in the Nicobars we saw what were apparently mounds made by this species on Table Island off the [island of] Great Cocos, and the Lighthouse-keeper described to me brown hen like birds with large feet that he had shot on the island on several occasions, and which can scarcely have been anything but this species.” [1]

This account most likely did not refer to the Nicobar Megapode but to another, now extinct form.

***

The British Museum of Natural History in London, Great Britain, keeps a six days old chick specimen that apparently was collected on Preparis Island even more northerly in the Andaman Island chain, which obviously clearly differs from the chicks of the Nicobar species by its more pronounced sooty grey and rufous bars on the upper wings, tertials, lower mantle, and back, and by broad pale cinnamon fringes and black submarinal marks on its secondaries. [2]

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References:

[1] A. Hume: The islands of the Bay of Bengal. Stray Feathers 2: 29-324. 1874
[2] Darryl N. Jones; René W. R. J. Dekker; Cees S. Roselaar: The Megapodes. Oxford University Press 1995

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Nicobar Megapode (Megapodius nicobariensis Blyth)

Photo from: ‘C. Boden Kloss: In the Andamans and Nicobars; the narrative of a cruise in the schooner “Terrapin”, with notices of the islands, their fauna, ethnology, etc. London: J. Murray 1903’

(not in copyright)

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edited: 06.03.2020

Nesospiza sp. ‘Tristan da Cunha’

Tristan da Cunha Finch (Nesospiza sp.)

The Tristan da Cunha archipelago, which lies nearly exactly in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean, harbors one of the most interesting radiations known in the bird world – the Atlantic Island Finches (Nesospiza spp.).

These are at least three species, the Inaccessible Island Finch (Nesospiza acunhae Cabanis), the Nightingale Island Finch (Nesospiza questi Lowe), and Wilkin’s Finch (Nesospiza wilkinsi Lowe), which inhabit Inaccessible Island as well as Nightingale island but are absent from the island of Tristan da Cunha itself.

This, however, wasn’t always the case, since these birds were actually originally found on –  and described from that island, this population, however, disappeared sometimes around 1873, of course due to the usual reasons – habitat destruction, hunting and predation by introduced mammals. [1]

***

The birds from Tristan da Cunha were not described as a distinct subspecies or whatsoever but are considered to be conspecific with the nominate form that is otherwise restricted to Inaccessible Island (see photo below). They may, however, indeed constitute a distinct form, endemic to this one island; this form is now known only from a single specimen that was collected on the island in 1817, when the species was said to be plentiful. [2]

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References:

[1] M. W. Fraser; D. J. Briggs: New information on the Nesospiza buntings at Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha, and notes on their conservation. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 112(3): 191-205. 1992 
[2] Peter G. Ryan: Taxonomic and conservation implications of ecological speciation in Nesospiza buntings on Tristan da Cunha. Bird Conservation International 18: 20-29. 2008

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Inaccessible Island Finch (Nesospiza acunhae ssp. acunhae); nominate form

Photo: Brian Gratwicke

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

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edited: 30.05.2021

Pampusana ferruginea (Forster)

Tanna Ground Dove (Pampusana ferruginea)

The Tanna Ground-Dove was originally known from two specimens, a male and a female collected on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu, which, however, both are now lost.

The species is often thought to have been most closely related to the Santa Cruz Ground Dove (Pampusana sanctaecrucis (Mayr)) from the Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands north of Vanuatu, however, I personally have some doubts and prefer, for geographical reasons, to think that it may have been more closely related to the Friendly Ground Dove from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

All of these Pacific groud dove species are now highly threatened with extinction.

***

The only ‘remain’ that proves the former existence of the tanna ground Dove is a drawing of the female specimens made by G. Forster in the 18th century.

The local name of this species was recorded as having been mahk.

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Depiction: Georg Forster, 1774

(public domain)

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edited: 09.03.2020

Psittacara sp. ‘Martinique’

Martinique Conure (Psittacara sp.)

It’s a fact that parakeets of the genus Psittacara (formerly included in the genus Aratinga) inhabit the islands of the Greater Antilles, where several species still occur on the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico; at least one additional subfossil form is known from the island of Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles, which makes it likely that others were once distributed on the islands inbetween. 

Again, some other forms are known from accounts only, and some of these accounts are rather scanty and unfortunately sometimes not very trustworthy.

***

The Martinique Conure, however, is known from the description given by M.-J. Brisson in 1760, which again, apparently refers to a description and depiction by George Edwards from 1751 (see below).

G. Edwards in his description just writes:

… My Friend for whom I made the Draught, told me, the Bird was brought from the West-Indies. …” [1]

And then, M.-J. Brisson states:

Habitat in Martinique & variis Americae regionibus

translation:

Lives in Martinique and various American regions

***

The bird depicted here is a Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax (L.)), which occurs naturally with about 14 subspecies in northern South America as well as on many of the small islands off the northern coast of Venezuela, but cannot be assigned to any of the known subspecies without any doubt whatsoever.

There is now the possibility that this species was once much more widespread and might indeed have inhabited some of the islands of the Lesser Antilles, but I personally think that the parakeet depicted here was just caught somewhere on the South American mainland and was then brought to the West Indies from where again it was purchased by the person in whose possession it was when G. Edwards described and drew it.

If the island of Martinique ever harbored an endemic species of parakeet it probably was more closely realted to the more or less plain green (with a little red) species from the genus Psittacara known from subfossil remains from Barbuda, and found still being alive in the Greater Antilles. 

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References:

[1] George Edwards: A natural history of uncommon birds: and of some other rare and undescribed animals, quadrupedes, fishes, reptiles, insects, &, exhibited in two hundred and ten copper-plates, from designs copied immediately from nature, and curiously coloured after life, with a full and accurate description of each figure, to which is added A brief and general idea of drawing and painting in water-colours; with instructions for etching on copper with aqua fortis; likewise some thoughts on the passage of birds; and additions to many subjects described in this work. London: printed for the author, at the College of Physicians in Warwick-Lane 1743-1751
[2] Mathurin-Jaques 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. Parisiis: Ad Ripam Augustinorum, apud Cl. Joannem-Baptistam Bauche, bibliopolam, ad Insigne S. Genovesae, & S. Joannis in Deserto 1760

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Depiction from: ‘George Edwards: A natural history of uncommon birds: and of some other rare and undescribed animals, quadrupedes, fishes, reptiles, insects, &, exhibited in two hundred and ten copper-plates, from designs copied immediately from nature, and curiously coloured after life, with a full and accurate description of each figure, to which is added A brief and general idea of drawing and painting in water-colours; with instructions for etching on copper with aqua fortis; likewise some thoughts on the passage of birds; and additions to many subjects described in this work. London: printed for the author, at the College of Physicians in Warwick-Lane 1743-1751’

(public domain)

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edited: 20.09.2019

Porphyrio sp. ‘Tahiti’

Tahiti ‘Goose’ (Porphyrio sp.)

There is a nearly unknown contemporaneous account from the 18th century by James Morrison, boatswain’s mate on board on the infamous ‘Bounty’ who mentiones a enigmatic bird.:

… the mountains produce birds of different kinds unknown to us, among which are a large bird nearly the size of a goose, which is good food;  they are never observed near the sea nor in the low lands.

This mysterious, nearly goose-sized bird very likely was a rail, perhaps from the genus Porphyrio, which is known to have produced a radiation of numerous species all over Oceania. 

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Referenzen:  

[1] J. M. Derscheid: An unknown species – the Tahitian Goose. Ibis 81: 756-760. 1939

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edited: 18.05.2019

Amazona sp. ‘Grenada’

Grenada Amazon (Amazona sp.)

The Grenada Amazon, to my knowledge, is known exclusively only by a poorly description given by Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre from 1667. [1][2]

The species, if indeed it was one, was apparently extirpated shortly after. 

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References:

[1] Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre: Histoire generale des Antilles habitées par les François.: Divisée en deux tomes, et enrichie de cartes & de figures. A Paris: Chez Thomas Iolly, au palais, en la salle des merciers, à la palme, & aux armes d’Hollande. 1667-1671
[2] Charles A. Woods; Florence E. Sergile: Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, Second Edition. CRC Press; Auflage: Subsequent 2001

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edited: 23.04.2019