Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Descriptions of Three New Species of Pitta
From the Moluccas (S69: 1862)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A paper read at the Zoological Society of London meeting of 24 June 1862, and printed in their Proceedings series for that year. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S069.htm


    [[p. 187]] These birds are brought before the Society, detached from the collections of which they form a part, because a Monograph of the Pittidæ, by Mr. Elliot, is now in course of publication, and it is desirable that they should be described in England before appearing in a foreign work.

    They are interesting as showing the permanent modifications in form of these semiterrestrial birds, in islands within sight of each other. I may mention as a curious fact, that the great island of Ceram appears to contain no Pitta, although one or two species occur in almost all the other islands of the Moluccan group. I have myself collected for several months in various parts of Ceram and Amboyna, without seeing or hearing of the genus; and the natives were positive no such bird was to be found in their country. The naturalists collecting for the Leyden Museum were not more successful; and recently a German ornithologist, Mr. Rosenberg, has resided some years in the island, and up to the time of my departure had seen no Pitta. This is the more remarkable, as in the little island of Banda, within sight of Ceram, a species exists which, with two others, I now proceed to describe.

Pitta rubrinucha.
    Head reddish brown, darker behind, where there is a subquadrangular spot of bright red, and above it an obscure blue vertical stripe; back dull olive-green, shading into slaty blue on the wings and tail; quills blackish, with a white spot on the third and fourth; a small white spot on the shoulder; underside with the slaty-blue breast and crimson belly, exactly as in P. celebensis, but the black line separating the two colours is narrower. Bill blackish horn-colour; feet light dull blue; iris pale olive-brown.
    Total length 7 inches; wing 3 3/4 inches; bill, from the gape, 1 inch.
    Hab. Island of Bouru (Moluccas).
    Remark.--This species is at once distinguished from its near ally, P. celebensis, by the red nuchal spot, and by having much less blue on the wing- and tail-coverts. It is also considerably smaller.

[[p. 188]] Pitta vigorsi.
    Pitta vigorsi, Gould, Birds of Australia, vol. iv. pl. 2.
    I had proposed a name for this species, supposing it to be new, and misled by Bonaparte's 'Conspectus,' which gives "gula nigra" as a character of vigorsi. Having since, at Mr. Gould's suggestion, compared my bird with the type in the Museum of the Linnean Society, I find it to be the same. My specimen is a fine adult male, and differs from Gould's figure and description in having the bill entirely black, and in the red of the under parts being much mixed with black on the breast.
    Total length 7 inches; wing 4 3/8 inches; bill, from gape, 1 1/8 inch.
    Hab. Banda Island (Moluccas).
    Remark.--The habitat "Australia" is probably a mistake, as the birds of this genus are very local, and no well-authenticated specimen has ever been received from that country.

Pitta crassirostris.
    Similar in colour to P. vigorsi; but the superciliary stripes are altogether pale rufous, the colour beneath is lighter (agreeing with P. concinna), and the chin is black, which colour extends in a triangle on to the throat, without being produced into a stripe, as in P. concinna. Bill black, with the base of the lower mandible horny; feet very pale flesh-colour; iris black.
    Total length 7 1/4 inches; wings 4 5/8 inches; bill, from gape, 1 1/8 inch.
    Hab. Sula Island (Xulla of the English maps), E. of Celebes.
    Remark.--This species differs from its nearest allies by its very strong bill, as well as by the peculiarities of colouring above described. It is very like Temminck's figure of P. irena from Timor; but that species appears to have much more blue on the back, and the bill entirely black, and not so strong. It is also highly improbable that the same bird should be found in such distant localities, when so many of the neighbouring islands have each their peculiar species.


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