Monday, October 12, 2015

Swan River specimen

The city of Perth is built on the Swan River, Western Australia. The settlement was founded in 1829 as the Swan River Colony and it seems that there were ground parrots in the area at least until the 1840s when John Gilbert visited twice while collecting for John Gould. One strand of evidence for the presence of ground parrots in Perth is the native name for them, recorded by John Gilbert. Four different native names were recorded for different areas in southern Western Australia. The Perth name was Djar-doon-gur-ree.

The specimen below was part of a collection presented to the Natural History Museum (branch of the British Museum), by the then director, Richard Bowdler Sharpe. It is not recorded how he came by the collection or who actually collected the specimens, when they were collected, or exactly where. It is unlikely that ground parrots were present in the Swan River area by the beginning of the 1900s.

When John Gilbert first arrived in 1839, he mentioned in a letter that there were several collectors of bird specimens when he arrived, all hoping to make as much  money as possible. (Whittell, H.C. 'A review of the work of John Gilbert in Western Australia', in Emu 1941 pp. 112-129).

This bird specimen along with 18 others, was registered as part of the Natural History Museum collection on 18 June 1888. (Specimen number: 1888.6.18.17). It appears to be an adult female, by the shape of the upper mandible (curved for more than half its length indicates a female) and the colour of the throat feathers - there would be more streaking if it were a young bird.

The three photos below are all COPYRIGHT Natural History Museum.

Below is the original registration notation of the 19 specimens from the Swan River. The Western Ground Parrot, pictured above, is no. 17. The scientific names applied to these specimens, including that for the Western Ground Parrot, have in many instances changed. The name for the ground parrot in this list, and possibly for some of the other specimens, is miss-spelt. it should read Pezoporus formosus.