• Colour aberrations in extinct and endangered birds

      Hume, JP; van Grouw, Hein (British Ornithologists' Club, 2014-09-01)
      Several groups of birds have suffered high extinction rates, especially rails, pigeons, parrots and passerines. Some island species that disappeared in the early 19th century, e.g. Lord Howe Gallinule Porphyrio albus, Rodrigues Parakeet Psittacula exsul and Mascarene Parrot Mascarinus mascarinus, are known from only a few skins and illustrations, whereas the Huia Heteralocha acutirostris of New Zealand is known from hundreds of specimens. Furthermore, two North American species—Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius and Carolina Parakeet Conuropsis carolinensis—which became extinct in the early 20th century, are also represented by hundreds of specimens. Other supposedly extinct bird species are enigmatic. Confusion exists concerning the unique specimens of Sharpe’s Rail Gallirallus sharpei and Townsend’s Bunting Spiza townsendi, paintings of a parrot from the West Indies and an aberrant white Huia, as well as aberrant specimens of the Critically Endangered Kakapo Strigops habroptilus. Much has been written concerning these birds and why they became extinct, or have become extremely rare, but few data are available concerning colour aberrations in certain specimens; the literature is also riddled with incorrect terminology. This paper addresses this shortfall and describes the various colour aberrations in these extinct and endangered birds and why they have occurred.
    • The conundrum of an overlooked skeleton referable to Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis in the collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring

      Prys-Jones, Robert; Manegold, Albrecht; White, Judith (British Ornithologists' Club, 2021-03-09)
      The discovery of an overlooked skeleton of Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring (NHMUK) is documented, one of very few known to exist worldwide of this almost certainly extinct species. We present evidence that, on balance of probabilities, it is one of two collected by Alphonse Forrer in 1882 near the settlement of La Ciudad in the Sierra Madre Occidental, Durango, western Mexico; the whereabouts of the other, which did not come to NHMUK, appears currently unknown. During research into the NHMUK specimen, we demonstrated that the supposed Imperial Woodpecker skull held in the collection of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, must in fact be that of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker C. principalis.
    • The eggs of the extinct Egyptian population of White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.

      Maurer, G; RUSSELL, DGD; Woog, F; Cassey, P (British Ornithologists' Club, 2010)
      Little is known concerning the biology of the now extinct Egyptian population of White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, and few specimens remain in museums to assess its alleged subspecific status. Here we describe three eggs collected near Lake Manzala and review the collection data and anecdotal reports about this species, to provide a better understanding of the biology of White-tailed Eagles in this southernmost part of their former breeding range.
    • The Spotted green pigeon Caloenas maculata: as dead as a Dodo, but what else do we know about it?

      van Grouw, Hein (British Ornithologists' Club, 2014-12-01)
      Described in 1783 and since then re-examined by many notable ornithologists, the single specimen known as the ‘Spotted Green Pigeon’ Caloenas maculata in the collections of the World Museum, Liverpool, has always been a mystery. No-one has ever doubted that it is a pigeon, and many researchers were convinced it was a distinct species. Although its taxonomic status remained unclear, it was officially declared extinct by BirdLife International in early 2008. Recent DNA analysis has now revealed that Spotted Green Pigeon can indeed be considered a distinct species within the extended Dodo Raphus cucullatus clade of morphologically very diverse pigeon species. Most members of this clade exhibit terrestrial or semi-terrestrial habits. Further morphological research into this unique specimen, initiated by the World Museum, demonstrates that Spotted Green Pigeon, in contrast to its fellow clade members, may have possessed strongly arboreal habits.
    • Temminck's Gallus giganteus; a gigantic obstacle to Darwin's theory of domesticated fowl origin?

      van Grouw, Hein; Dekkers, Wim (British Ornithologists' Club, 2020-09-21)
      In 1813, based on the single foot of a large chicken, Temminck named a ‘new' species of junglefowl, Gallus giganteus. He considered this ‘species’ the ancestor of several large domesticated chicken breeds and believed it was one of six wild ancestral species of domestic fowl. Temminck's hypothesis was rejected by Blyth who thought Red Junglefowl G. gallus was the sole ancestor. The arrival into Britain of several very large Asian chicken breeds in the mid-19th century led to speculation that Temminck's G. giganteus may have been their wild ancestor. Darwin, who had initially agreed with Blyth, noted several peculiarities in the Cochin, a large Asian breed, which he concluded might not have been achieved by selective breeding, and questioned whether G. giganteus was involved in their ancestry. Temminck's giant junglefowl appeared to be a significant hurdle for Darwin in his effort to prove a single ancestral origin for domestic chickens.
    • Various Gallus varius hybrids: variation in junglefowl hybrids and Darwin's interest in them

      van Grouw, Hein; Dekkers, W (British Ornithologists' Club, 2019-12-16)
      Hybrids between Green Junglefowl Gallus varius and domestic fowl G. gallus domesticus confused several 19th-century ornithologists. The plumage of these hybrids is so unlike the colours and patterns of either of the parent species that they were considered to be distinct species: G. aeneusTemminck, 1825; G. temminckiiGray, 1849; and G. violaceusKelsall, 1891. Darwin wanted to understand if G. aeneus and G. temminckii were hybrids or species, as part of his research on the origin of the domestic chicken. His view was that all domesticated fowl have a single wild ancestor, Red Junglefowl G. gallus (formerly G. bankiva). A hybrid specimen now present in the bird collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring played an important role in Darwin's reasoning and, although the conclusions he drew from this specimen were incorrect, his single-ancestor origin theory for domesticated fowl stands. ‘These hybrids were at one time thought to be specifically distinct, and were named G. aeneus. Mr. Blyth and others believe that the G. Temminckii is a similar hybrid' (Darwin 1868a: 234–235).