Archiv des Autors: alang

Bruner’s Rail

Bruner’s Rail (Cacroenis inornatus Bruner) is a very enigmatic species of rail supposed to have been endemic to the Tuamotu Archipelago, whose name repeatedly appears in listings of extinct birds and other publications. [4]  


Yet, this species has never existed, but see for yourself.:  

The name first appears in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” from 1972, obviously the first book about the birds of French Polynesia, and full of errors, some of them bad, others worst. [3]  

The story begins right with the discovery of the Cocos Finch in 1843.: [1][2]  

This bird, which is in all probability a female, is from Bow Island, and is, I believe, the only insessorial form that has been brought from thence. Only a single example was procured, and its principal interest consists in its forming an additional species of a small group of birds inhabiting the Galapagos, to which islands they had hitherto appeared to be peculiar. … 
Bow Island has truly little to boast of in its ornithology, since the only birds seen by us during a residence of six weeks at this Atol coral island were doves, the above new species of Cactornis, plover, a few black and white tern which appear attached to these situations, and herons; and none of these were at all numerous. The Cactornis inornatus was usually noticed about the lowly bushes of Petesia carnea, the succulent fruit of which most probably constitutes its chief food.


Bow- or La Harpe Island, both are old names for the Hao atoll in the middle of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia, and the plant mentioned in the text, Petesia carnea, is now known as Psychotria carnea (G. Forst.) A. C. Sm., a species that is native to Fiji and Tonga, and that has never existed in the Tuamotu Archipelago.  


The bird is mentioned in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” [as Cacroenis inornatus] as being confusing and obscure but also as being small, speckled and generally brownish in appearance; it appears in a checklist at the end of the book [this time as Cactornis inornatus] as having been introduced to the Archipelago, which is complete bullsh**!  


The Cocos Finch is now named as Pinaroloxias inornata (Gould), however, how this finch-like tanager finally ended up as a extinct rail species is still not known to me.  


[1] John Gould: On nine new birds collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 11. 103-107. 1843 
[2] John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42. London: Smith, Elder 1843-1846 
[3] Phillip L. Bruner; O. G. Dykes: Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia. Bishop Museum Press 1972 
[4] Greg Sherley; Rod Hay: Review of avifauna conservation needs in Polynesia. Bird Conservation Priorities and a Draft Avifauna Conservation Strategy for the Pacific Islands Region 10-17. 1999  


Cocos Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata), female  

Depiction from: “John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42”  
(public domain)  


edited: 26.09.2018

The Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘

There exists an almost unknown contemporaneous account from the 18th century, made by James Morrison, boatswain’s mate aboard the famous or infamous ‚Bounty‘, who made mention of a mysterious bird [… and how I love mysterious birds …!].:

… 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.” [1]


So, usually called the Tahiti Goose, Tahitian Goose, or Tahitian Mountain Goose – what are we talking about here actually?

We very probably do not talk about a goose, but why?

First we have to take into account who made the report: 

A boatswain’s mate from the 18th century very likely was not a zoologist, but may in fact have known at least several European birds, especially poultry, so very likely knew chickens, doves, ducks, and geese, and very likely also quails, partridges and other so called game birds. 

As a seafarer he perhaps may have had some good knowledge about seabirds, and probably could very well tell several species of them apart from each other.

These are the birds that we can just sort out, but what may it have been then? 

Well, the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ apparently was a somewhat large, terrestrial bird, more or less the size of a feral goose, it was ‚good food‘ so it must have been easy to catch, it probably [actually very likely to almost certainly] was flightless, and it was unlike any bird known to ‚us‘, to the sailors of the ‚Bounty‘. 

In my opinion, and in that of many others, the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ almost certainly was a kind of rail, a large, flightless rail, maybe a species from the widespread genus Porphyrio, somewhat like a Tahitian version of the New Zealand Takahe (Porphyrio mantelli (Owen)).

However, there is of course the chance that the Tahitian Mountain ‚Goose‘ was something completey different, we probably will never know for sure.

… mysterious ….



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


edited: 22.09.2018

Irenidae – cryptic species

The excitingly beautiful Fairy-Bluebirds are officially a small family of only two species, the Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (Irena cyanogastra) and the Asian Fairy-Bluebird (Irena puella), both including a number of subspecies.  


Following a study from 2012 [1], however, there appear to exist eight species.:  

Andaman Fairy-Bluebird (Irena andamanica Abdulali) (formerly Irena puella ssp. andamanica Abdulali)  

Indonesian Fairy-Bluebird (Irena crinigera Sharpe) (formerly Irena puella ssp. crinigera Sharpe)  

Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (Irena cyanogstra Vigors) (formerly Irena cyanogastra ssp. cyanogastra Vigors)  

Ella’s Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (Irena ellae Steere) (formerly Irena cyanogastra ssp. ellae Steere)  

Hoogstral’s Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (Irena hoogstraali Rand) (formerly Irena cyanogastra ssp. hoogstraaliRand)  

Black-shouldered Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (Irena melanochlamys Sharpe) (formerly Irena cyanogastra ssp. melanochlamys Sharpe; but – was not included in this study!)  

Asian Fairy-Bluebird (Irena puella (Latham)), including three subspecies:  Irena puella ssp. malayensis F. Moore Irena puella ssp. puella (Latham) Irena puella ssp. turcosa Walden  

Palawan Fairy-Bluebird (Irena tweeddalei Sharpe) (formerly Irena puella ssp. tweeddalei Sharpe)  


It is very interesting that most of these ‘new’ species were originally described as distinct species.  


Palawan Fairy-Bluebird (Irena tweeddalei); above, and Black-shouldered Philippine fairy-Bluebird (Irena melanochlamys); below  

Depiction from: ‘R. Bowdler Sharpe: On the birds collected by Professor J. B. Steere in the Philippine Archipelago. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 2(6): 307-355. 1877’  
(public domain)  



The Palawan Fairy-Bluebirds is now officially considered a full species and is included as such in the HBW Checklist of 2016. [2]  



[1] Maria Moltesen; Martin Irestedt; Jon Fjeldså, Per G. P. Ericson, Knud A. Jønsson: Molecular phylogeny of Chloropsidae and Irenidae – Cryptic species and biogeography. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 65: 903-914. 2012 
[2] Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions; Ill edition Vol. 1 & 2. 2014/2017  


edited: 15.01.2016; 17.09.2018

Mysterious Polynesian parrots

I was writing about a hypothetical parrot species, that formerly may have inhabited the island of Bora Bora, Society Islands here.  


I will now write about some very interesting accounts that were left by Teuira Henry (1847-1915), a educator, ethnologist, folklorist, historian, linguist, and scholar from Tahiti, Society Islands in a manuscript that she reconstructed during her lifetime from the pieces of a lost manuscript which again was written by her grandfather in the years between 1817 and 1856. It included significant amounts of oral folklore, genealogy, histories, myths, and traditional knowledge such as astronomy and navigation. Her manuscript was posthumously published as ‘Ancient Tahiti’ by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in 1928. [1]  


In 2006, Philippe Raust wrote a little article [2] about the newly discovered and described parrot species found as subfossil remains in French Polynesia, he also mentioned the old Tahitian names of several such parrots, of which some still cannot be assigned to any known species.:  

… Peut être étaient-ce le vini-pa-tea perroquet de couleur pourpre à gorge blanche commun à toutes les îles de la Société et le vini-pa-uri de Pora Pora entièrement rouge décrit par T. Henry dans Tahiti au temps anciens? Il est connu que les plumes rouges étaient recherchées dans les sociétés polynésiennes préeuropéennes où elle symbolisaient le pouvoir des chefs; c’est peut être à cause de cela que ces espèces, trop chassées, ont disparu. T. Henry cite aussi le vini- rehu (perroquet sifleur gris), le tētē (perroquet noir de la Société), le ‘ura (perroquet rouge des montagnes) et le ‘a’a taevao (‘a’a sauvage des îles-sous-le-vent), le tavae (au plumage brillant et multicolore de Motu Iti, Tupai et Maupiha’a): cela fait au moins six espèces de perroquets, perruches et loris qui sont rapportés par la tradition.”  


… Perhaps it was the vini-pa-tea parrot of ​​purple color with white throat common to all Society Islands and the all-red vini-pa-uri from Pora Pora [Bora Bora] described by T. Henry in Tahiti in ‘Tahiti au temps anciens’? It is known that red feathers were sought after in pre-European Polynesian societies where they symbolized the power of chiefs; it is perhaps because of this that these species, overhunted, have disappeared. T. Henry also cites the vini-rehu (gray whistling parrot), the tētē (the society’s black parrot), the ‘ura (red mountain parrot) and the ‘a’a taevao (wild ‘a’a of the islands-under-the-wind), the tavae (with bright and multicolored plumage of Motu Iti, Tupai and Maupiha’a): this makes at least six [seven!] species of parrots, parakeets and loris which are brought back by the tradition.”  


So obviously we have seven species of parrots here, which of them is which?  

‘a’a taevao – Society Parakeet (Cyanoramphus ulietanus (Gmelin)) 
tavae – Kuhl’s Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii (Vigors) ssp. ‘Bora Bora’) ? 
tētē – Black-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus zealandicus (Latham)) 
‘ura – a more or less complete red parrot, since it was named for this color 
vini-pa-tea – Blue Lorikeet (Vini peruviana (Statius Müller)) 
vini-pa-uri – Kuhl’s Lorikeet (Vini kuhlii (Vigors) ssp. ‘Bora Bora’) ? 
vini-rehu – a gray parrot [?] which produced a whistling sound, anyway, rehu just means gray  


The Society Islands were home to five scientifically named parrot species that are known either from historical accounts and specimens or from subfossil remains, furthermore there was another species that now is restricted to a single island in the Austral Islands group but was much more widespread in ancient times.  

There are only two of them still existing today, and only one of them still inhabits at least some remnants of its former range – the amazingly beautiful Blue – or Sapphire Lorikeet (Vini peruviana).  



[1] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928 
[2] Philippe Raust: Les Psittacidés disparus de Polynésie Francaise. Te Manu: Bulletin de la Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie 56. Septembre 2006  


Blue Lorikeet (Vini peruviana)  

Depiction from: François Le Vaillant: Histoire naturelle des perroquets. Paris: Levrault, Schoell & Cie. An IX-XII. 1801–1805  
(public domain)  


edited: 17.09.2018

Psittacopes lepidus Mayr & Daniels


When this tiny creature was first described it was thought to represent some parent form of the parrot order, however, it later [1] was reinvestigated and is now placed near the Passeriformes … near them, not among or in between them!  

My reconstruction is life sized, the bird here is nearly 12 cm long, the feathers, however, are not known, so are completely speculative!  



[1] Gerald Mayr: A reassessment of Eocene parrotlike fossils indicates a previously undetected radiation of zygodactyl stem group representatives of passerines (Passeriformes). Zoologica Scripta 44(6): 587–602. 2015  


edited: 14.11.2017; 17.09.2018

Plastic pollution and birds

You probably have heard of plastic pollution before, and you may also have heard of the fact that some seabirds are highly threatened by it. But why is this so?

For millions of years seabirds like the albatrosses kept feeding from the ocean’s surface. It was an easy way to collect food, just flying along the ocean’s surface taking up all things floating about all they caught were little animals, and the worst things they could catch would have been little pieces of drifting wood or other plant material like algae.

And – that’s what these birds still do today.

Yet, the situation has changed dramatically. The surfaces of the oceans all over the world are covered with larger, as well as smaller to tiny bits of plastic debris, albatrosses just catch all of these little pieces and feed their chicks with them.

That is why perhaps all of them are containing plastic in their stomachs, and many of them, far to many of them, are dying from starvation despite having their stomachs full of „food“.


The movie „Albatross“ from 2017 [?] by Chris Jordan shows the fate of the Laysan Albatross colony on the Midway atoll in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands chain, it includes many graphic and heartbraking scenes of dead and dying albatross chicks, and it gives us an idea of the real situation of planet Earth’s oceans.

These are nightmarish scenes, yet there are still people [or rather the degenerated brain-less truth-deniers that we come along so many times these days] that state that all of this is fake!

The plastic pollution isn’t a fake, nor is it the devastating state of the populations of so many sea-dwelling animals including seabirds.


The following pictures show decayed albatross carcasses, all photographed on the northeastern Hawaiian Islands, and all containing plastic pieces inside.


All photos: Kim Starr & Forest Starr; by courtesy of Kim Starr & Forest Starr


edited: 24.07.2018

Say >Hello< to New Zealand’s newest bird species!

The Whenua Hou Diving Petrel was named after Whenua Hou [Codfish Island] a small island offshore the northwest coast of Stewart Island, New Zealand, where now the last remaining breeding population of this species, some 150 individuals at the most, remains.

The species did once breed on other New Zealand islands as well, including Dundas Island and Enderby Island (Auckland Islands), the Chatham Islands, South Island, and Stewart Island. It may also have bred on Macquarie Island.

The birds of that population are just now recognized as a distinct species, differing from the South Georgia Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus Murphy & Harper), with which they were until recently considered conspecific, and even consubspecific [if such a word exists] since this species was thought to be monotypic.

The Whenua Hou Diving Petrel can be distinguished from the South Georgia birds by several external features, especially by its more contrasting plumage.


Photo: TheyLookLikeUs

(under creative commons license (4.0))

Unfortunately all sea bird species are more or less threated with extinction right now, mainly because of the increasing plastic pollution of the world’s oceans.



[1] Johannes H. Fischer, Igor Debski, Colin M. Miskelly, Charles A. Bost, Aymeric Fromant, Alan J. D. Tennyson, Jake Tessler, Rosalind Cole, Johanna H. Hiscock, Graeme A. Taylor, Heiko U. Wittmer: Analyses of phenotypic differentiations among South Georgian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus) populations reveal an undescribed and highly endangered species from New Zealand. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0197766. 2018


edited: 28.06.2018

Not everyone in the Ice Age was a giant

Plovers Lake Cave [see photo below] in the Gauteng Province of South Africa is known for its tens of thousands of fossils from the Pleistocene era, the remains date from about 1 Ma. to 70000 years.


Photo: Profberger

(under creative commons license (3.0))

Among the many fossils is a so-called quadrate of a very small Agapornis sp., closely related to the Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis (Viellot)), yet very much smaller, reaching a size of only about 12 cm.


just a neat sketch of some Agapornids

It should be noted that another very small Agapornis sp. Is known from another South African site, but this has been dated tob e about 900000 years older, and furthermore these remains appear to have been lost.



[1] Thomas A. Stidham: A small Pleistocene lovebird (Psittacidae: Agapornis) from Plovers lake, South Africa. N. Jb. Geol. Paläont. Abh. 256/1: 123-128. 2010


edited: 23.05.2018

Parvigrus pohli Mayr

This not so crane-like little birdie once inhabited in the Early Oligocene, from about 32,5 to 29,5 Ma. years ago, what today is Belgium and France and certainly other parts of Europe as well.

The species reached the size of a smaller chicken, or let’s say of about 35 cm in length in my reconstruction.

The family it belongs to is thought to be most closely related to the limpkins (Aramidae), the cranes (Gruidae) and the trumpeters (Psophidae), and indeed, my reconstruction appears to show a bird that is something in between all of these three families.  




[1] Gerald Mayr: A chicken-sized precursoor from the early Oligocene of France. Naturwissenschaften 92:389-393. 2005
[2] Gerald Mayr: Parvigruidae (Aves, core Gruiformes) from the early Oligocene of Belgium. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 93(1): 77-89. 2012


edited: 20.05.2018

Hawaiianische Vögel und ihre Namen

Ich dachte mir es wäre doch eine ganz gute Idee einmal eine Liste zu erstellen (ich liebe es Listen zu erstellen), und zwar eine von allen bekannten drepanidinen Finken der Hawai’i-Inseln und ihnen alle bekannten hawaiianischen Trivialnamen zuzuordnen – und – denen, deren einheimischer Name nicht mehr existiert, einen neuen zu ‚basteln‘.

Ich habe hier nur ‚meine‘ Namen in fett geschrieben und übersetzt.   

Viel Spaß!


Aidemedia chascaxNuku pololei [Gerader Schnabel] 
Aidemedia lutetiaeNuku pololei [Gerader Schnabel] 
Aidemedia zanclopsNuku pahi kakiwi [Sichelschnabel]  

Chloridops konaManoa ma’oma’o, Ma’oma’o-‘ai-naio [Dick und Grün, Grün frisst Naio] 
Chloridops regiskongiNuku pa‘a [Starker Schnabel] 
Chloridops wahiNuku palupalu [Schwacher Schabel]  

Ciridops anna – ‘Ula’-ai-hawane, Waaihawane 
Ciridops tenax‘Ula-me-‘ele’ele [Rot und Schwarz]  

Drepanis coccinea – ‘I’iwi, ‘I’iwi polena, ‘I’iwi popolo 
Drepanis funerea – Hoa, Mamo, ‘O’o nuku-mu , ‘O’o-nuku-umu 
Drepanis pacifica – Hoha, Hoho, Mamo  

Dysmorodrepanis munroi‘O’u nuku hakahaka [Lückenschnabel-Ou]  

Hemignathus affinis – Nuku pu‘u 
Hemignathus ellisianus – ‘Akialoa, Kipi 
Hemignathus flavus – ‘Amakihi 
Hemignathus hanapepe – Nuku pu‘u 
Hemignathus kauaiensis – ‘A’alawi, ‘Alawi, ‘Amakihi, ‘Amakihi ‘awa’awa, Kihi, Kihikihi 
Hemignathus lanaiensis – ‘Akialoa 
Hemignathus lucidus – Nuku pu‘u 
Hemignathus munroi – ‘Akiapola’au 
Hemignathus obscurus – ‘Akialoa, ‘Akihi-a-loa, ‘Akihi-loa 
Hemignathus stejnegeri – ‘Akialoa 
Hemignathus upupirostris‘Akihi-‘ai-‘ili la’au [Akihi frisst an Baumrinde] 
Hemignathus virens ssp. virens – ‘Amakihi 
Hemignathus virens ssp. wilsoni – ‘Amakihi 
Hemignathus vorpalisNuku ihe [Speerschnabel]  

Himatione freethi‘Apapane mai Kauo [Apapane von Laysan] 
Himatione sanguinea – ‘Akakani, ‘Akapane, ‘Apapane  

Loxioides bailleui – Palila 
Loxioides kikuchi Palila loa [Großer Palila]  

Loxops caeruleirostris – ‘Akeke’e, ‘O’u-holowai 
Loxops coccineus – ‘Akakane, ‘Akepa, ‘Akepeuie 
Loxops ochraceus – ‘Akakane, ‘Akepa, ‘Akepeuie 
Loxops wolstenholmei – ‘Akakane, ‘Akepa, ‘Akepeuie  

Magumma parva – ‘Alawi, ‘Anauani’i, ‘Anianiau  

Manucerthia mana – ‘Alawi  

Melamprosops phaeosoma – Po’o-uli  

Oreomystis bairdi – ‘Akikeke, ‘Akikihi, ‘Akikiki  

Orthiospiza howarthiManu kuahiwi, Manu mauka [Hochlandvogel, Vogel aus den Bergen]  

Palmeria dolei – ‘Akohekohe  

Paroreomyza flammea – Kakawahie 
Paroreomyza maculata – ‘Alauahio, ‘Alauwahio 
Paroreomyza montana ssp. montana – ‘Alauahio, ‘Alauwahio 
Paroreomyza montana ssp. newtoni – ‘Alauahio, ‘Alauwahio  

Pseudonestor xanthophrys – Kiwikiu  

Psittirostra psittacea – ‘O‘u  

Rhodacanthis flavicepsPo’o lena [Gelber Kopf] 
Rhodacanthis forfex – ?
Rhodacanthis litotes – ?
Rhodacanthis palmeri – Hopue, Po’o ‘alani [Orangefarbener Kopf]  

Telespiza cantansLele-i-honua, Melemele-‘ai-hua, Palila mai Kauo [Hüpft am Boden, Gelb frisst Eier, Palila von Laysan] 
Telespiza persecutrixPalila kahakai [Strand-Palila] 
Telespiza ultimaPalila mai Moku Manu [Palila von Nihoa] 
Telespiza ypsilonPalila iki, Palila kahakai [Kleiner Palila, Strand-Palila]  

Vangulifer mirandusHopu mea kolo, Nuku kumumu [Fängt Insekten, Stumpfer Schnabel] 
Vangulifer neophasisHopu mea kolo, Nuku kumumu [Fängt Insekten, Stumpfer Schnabel]  

Viridonia sagittirostrisNuku pua [Pfeilschnabel]  

Xestospiza conicaNuku ‚opu‘u [Kegelschnabel] 
Xestospiza fastigialis – ?


bearbeitet: 17.04.2018


… mal wieder ein bisschen Zeit zum Zeichnen, mit Malen wird’s sicher wieder nix, nun ja ….



Darf ich vorstellen: Pfeilschnabel (Viridonia sagittirostris), auch, oder besser vormals, bekannt als Einsiedlerkleidervogel, Großer Amakihi oder Grünkleidervogel; ein Fink [jawohl, ein Fink] von der größten der Hawai’i-Inseln, Hawai’i selbst, und selbstverfreilich, wie es sich für einen ordentlichen hawaiianischen Vogel gehört, so richtig vollkommen sinnlos ausgerottet!

Mahalo nui loa, a hui hou kakou!

Morsoravis sedilis Bertelli, Lindow, Dyke & Chiappe

This bird was described in 2010, it was then thought to be somehow related to the Charadriiformes respectively to the Charadriiformes “orbit”, later it was assumed to belong in some kind of relationship with other likewise “well-known” birds like Eocuculus cherpinae (Chandler), or Pumiliornis tessellatus Mayr.

The reconstruction shows a tiny bird, some 12 cm long, with a sharp-pointed beak and a quite long neck, such a bird would have needed long tail feathers to stabilize its body – so I just gave it a long tail, cause the feathers are not preserved in the Fur Formation birds.


So here is how all begins, some cut-out bone drawings put together, lines made with a pencil etc..:

some puzzling

The final result is a quite life-like bird, maybe I got enough time to make a real painting, with colors and so on ….:

not charadriiform-alike at all



[1] Sara Bertelli; Bent K. Lindow; Gareth J. Dyke; Luis M. Chiappe: A well-preserved ‘charadriform-like’ fossil bird from the Early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Paleontology 53(3): 507-531. 2010
[2] Gerald Mayr: On the osteology and phylogenetic affinitis of Morsoravis sedilis (Aves) from the early Eocene Fur Formation of Denmark. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark 59: 23-35. 2011


edited: 22.01.2018

Galápagos Diary: A Complete Guide to the Archipelago’s Birdlife

Hermann Heinzel; Barnaby Hall: Galápagos Diary: A Complete Guide to the Archipelago’s Birdlife. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2000′


This book is probably the exact opposite to this one.:  

The two guys that have created this work simply love what they do.  

The book is full of photographs and sketches, as well as drawings, some of the photos include sketches, some are half photo half drawing, and so on ….  

The author has sometimes written some notices onto the photos, which gives the book a somewhat used touch, or let’s say, it appears as if the reader him/herself has made some notices directly into the book while being afield bird-watching.  

There is even a page dealing with several subspecies of at least one of the Darwin Finches, the Warbler Finch, several of the subspecies are depicted, described in few words – you see, it’s possible!

This book simply has to be recommended, Period!  


edited: 06.12.2017

‘Neanis’ kistneri (Feduccia)

‘Neanis’ kistneri, the genus name written in quotation marks, because the bird does not belong into the genus Neanis, which otherwise includes a single species, Neanis schucherti Shufeldt, is a probable member of order Piciformes, and may be somewhat related to the family Galbulidae.

The species is known so far from a single, nearly complete skeleton, and, like so many Eocene birds, it was a dwarf.

This, of course, is just a sketch.

A Guide to the Birds of the Galápagos Islands

Isabel Castro; Antonia Phillips: A Guide to the Birds of the Galápagos Islands. Princeton University Press 1996  


Well, this is a quite old or even obsolete book, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend it at all.  

The birds of the Galápagos Islands have not deserved such a disappointing and ugly concoction, well, actually no creature has!  

The illustrations are at the best „not so good“ (don’t let yourself be fooled by the cover picture), the descriptions are beyond good and evil, the sizes of the Darwin Finches are given in grams!!! In grams, that means the weight! What the heck … how is this supposed to be of any help in identifying birds in the wild, especially such small and consimilar birds like especially the Darwin Finches are?  


I personally think especially a book about the birds oft the Galápagos Islands should not just only mention the existence of subspecies (the book does in some cases, but not always), it should name them and show them with depictions, just to display the evolutionary processes that are going on, because:  

(Galápagos Islands = Evolutionary Laboratory … ever heard of that before?).  

Sorry, a given chance wasted!  


However, maybe someone else is willing to go to the trouble of doing a suitable book about this topic. The birds of the Galápagos Islands deserve it, and they are not so many, so it should be possible!   


edited: 13.11.2017

Eleven steps to draw a bird

Hi there!  

It’s coffee/tea time, whatever you prefer … and it’s dark outside, and thus it’s dark inside too.  


I have decided to make another >step by step<, or >how to do<, or whatever you may call it series, of how I draw a bird, this time it is another extinct one, yet only known from two of its bones, so the coloration is just imagined.  

1: a sketch is made    

2: the sketch is fixed with the pencil    

3: the sketch is finished, the surroundings are included    

4: the rubber color is put on the bird    

5: the rubber color has dried, the background is created with water color and a sponge    

6: the background has dried, the rubber color is rubbed away    

7: the actual coloring begins, I use my loved watercolor pencils    

8/9: the watercolor is blurred with a brush and with water      

10: the water has dried, the details are now worked out using the watercolor pencils again    

11: the most important step, probably; the last details are worked out with a pencil, and the white dot is placed inside the eye    


The end result is a drawing of a Cuban Tapaculo (Scytalopus sp.)  



[1] Storrs L. Olson; Evgeny N. Kurochkin: Fossil evidence of a tapaculo in the Quaternary of Cuba (Aves: Passeriformes: Scytalopodidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 100(2): 353-357. 1987


edited: 09.11.2017

Die verlorenen Welten des Zdeněk Burian

Judith Schalansky: Die verlorenen Welten des Zdeněk Burian. Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2013  


I so much love the art of Zdeněk Burian, which I first met with in my early childhood.  

The most interesting peculiarity of his art is, that it appears to become alive and starts moving when you look at it in dimmed light.  

So, I just had to buy this book!  


Well, I wish I didn’t!  

This is by far the worst book that I ever saw, it is full of errors, it was written by … well, there is no author mentioned, the person I mentioned above is apparently not the author but the editor or publisher, I don’t know. Anyways, someone is responsible for the texting, and that person has no clue of art, no clue of paleontology or zoology, and furthermore no clue of who Zdeněk Burian was.  

And I have no clue what purpose this book has.  

It is not a biography of Z. Burian, it’s obviously no retrospective of his artwork, and it has nothing to do with a paleontological work.  


The book does not cover the full amount of the artwork Z. Burian has left, it only covers various of his depictions of animals and landscapes from the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.  

There are only two exceptions.:  

pages 220/221:  

a single mammoth drawing  

page 225:  

a single one of the countless book illustrations the artist has done (in this case Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea)  


The next thing is the quality of some of the prints and the misjudgment regarding the importance of some of the depictions.:  

pages 64/65:  

a very small sketch of a scene including two Naosaurus (now known to be a Edaphosaurus reconstructed with a Dimetrodon head), the corresponding painting is on page 65.

The sketch is full of pencil lines, notes etc. and shows the process of creating a painting, it is a chance to give the reader an insight in Z. Burian’s work. Yet, because of its small size and the cutting of the picture in-between, this chance has been thrown away.  


The person who wrote the afterthought part, herself being an art historian, curator and author, has probably no clue of paleontology when she refers to Iguanodon as having been known as >>Kühe des Pleistozän<<, which means >>cows of the Pleistocene<<.  


Well, I still love the art of Zdeněk Burian and always will, but this book is no help in spreading the knowledge about this so much underrated artist!  


edited: 08.11.2017

A suboscine bird from France

I have talked about the European Oligocene epoch and its birds with brittly limbs before.  

Here’s another such brittle-limbed bird from the early Oligocene of Europe, this one has lost its wings, or at least one wing, literally … it is known from parts of the right wing.  

The most interesting fact in this case is, the bird belonged to a group of birds that are part of the Passeriformes but aren’t songbirds, these are called suboscine birds.  

The whole group of suboscine birds is now restricted to, well, it’s actually occurring worldwide, especially in South America, but it is not found in Europe today.  

The bird appears to have been of similar size to the Sunbird Asities (Neodrepanis spp.), which today inhabit the island of Madagascar (… these are suboscine birds as well, by the way).    


I made this little drawing of this nameless creature bearing a Neodrepanis sp. in mind, but without specialized features like an elongated beak for nectar-feeding etc..  



[1] Gerald Mayr; Albrecht Manegold: A Small Suboscine-like Passeriform Bird from the Early Oligocene of France / Una Pequeña Ave Paseriforme Tipo Suboscine del Oligoceno Temprano de Francia. The Condor 108(3): 717-720. 2006


edited: 19.07.2017

A small bird with a ‘large’ name: take 2

Rupelramphastoides knopfi Mayr  

Well, the head appears to have also been found, yet in another specimen, so here’s the reconstruction after measuring the skull.:


It does not really differ that much from the previous version.:    




[1] Gerald Mayr: A tiny barbet-like bird from the Lower Oligocene of Germany: the smallest species and earliest substantial fossil record of the Pici (woodpeckers and allies). The Auk 122(4): 1-9. 2005 
[2] Gerald Mayr: Avian Evolution: The Fossil Record of Birds and its Paleobiological Significance. Wiley-Blackwell 2016


edited: 18.07.2017

And yet another sketch …

… this time of Eoalulavis hoyasi Sanz, Chiappe, Perez-Moreno, Buscalioni, Moratalla, Ortega & Poyato-Ariza.


This probably somewhat semiaquatic bird was described in 1996 from Las Hoyas near the city of Cuenca, Spain.  The decomposing plant in the background is a cycad, Almargemia dentata (Heer) Florin, from roughly about the same place and time.


edited: 13.07.2017

Songzia spp.

This genus currently contains two species, which mainly differ by their size, Songzia acutunguis Wang et al. and the slightly smaller Songzia heidangkouensis Hou.

These two species have much in common with the recent species of the rail family, yet may not be related to them, but may be closer to the extinct Messel ‘Rails’, the Messelornithidae, which themselves may or may not be members of the Gruiformes.


The two Songzia ‘Rails’ are small, sparrow-sized birds, in life they probably inhabited the margins of lakes and other swampy areas.

The picture is just a sketch.


Feather impressions are not known to my knowledge, however, I thought it would be a good idea to give the bird somewhat elongated tail feathers, since the feather impressions in some messelornithid fossils show that these birds had very long tail feathers.



>Min Wang; Gerald Mayr; Jiangyong Zhang; Zhonghe Zhou: Two new skeletons of the enigmatic, rail-like avian taxon Songzia Hou, 1990 (Songziidae) from the early Eocene of China. Alcheringa: An Australian Journal of Palaeontology 36: 487-499. 2012

Kui-Schlüpfer – Kuiornis indicator Worthy et al.

Neuseeland während des unteren Miozäns (vor 19 bis 16 Millionen Jahren): ein kleiner Kui-Schlüpfer sitzt auf einem blühenden Fuchsienzweig.

Rekonstruktion; nur eine schnelle Skizze

Der Kui-Schlüpfer ist der älteste Vertreter der Acanthisittidae, einer Vogelfamilie, die man nur aus Neuseeland kennt. Er soll in seiner Größe in etwa dem Grenadier oder Grünschlüpfer (Acanthisitta chloris (Sparrmann)) entsprochen haben, einem von nur zwei überlebenden Arten der Familie, er war also ein winziges Vögelchen.

Die Blüten gehöhren zu Fuchsia antiqua D. E. Lee, Conran, Bannister, U. Kaulfuss & Mildenh., ihrerseits die älteste bekannte Fuchsienart. Ich habe sie hier als baumartige Art dargestellt, ähnlich der noch lebenden neuseeländischen Baumfuchsie (Fuchsia excorticata (J. R. Forst. & G. Forst.) L. f.).



[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Suzanne J. Hand; Jacqueline M. T. Nguyen; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Jennifer P. Worthy; R. Paul Scofield; Walter E. Boles; Michael Archer: Biogeographical and Phylogenetic Implications of an Early Miocene Wren (Aves: Passeriformes: Acanthisittidae) from New Zealand. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(2): 479-498. 2010 
[2] Daphne E. Lee; John G. Conran; Jennifer M. Bannister; Uwe Kaulfuss; Dallas C. Mildenhall: A fossil Fuchsia (Onagraceae) flower and an anther mass with in situ pollen from the early Miocene of New Zealand. American Journal of Botany 100(10): 2052-2065. 2013


bearbeitet: 08.01.2017


It seems that the Oligocene epoch in Europe produced a lot of birds with brittly legs, since this nameless thing (ISEA AF/JAM1 is the ‘name’ given to the bones) is the next bird known only from a single leg (the twig-like thing between the drawing and the pen).

It appears to have been related to the Apodiformes or the Upupiformes, and according to my reconstruction may have reached a length of only about 6 cm.

Gosh, I need to use colors again at last!!!



>Zbigniew M. Bochenski; Teresa Tomek; Ewa Swidnicka: A tiny short-legged bird from the early Oligocene of Poland. Geologica Carpathica 67(5): 463-469. 2016

Darwin’s Finches or Galápagos Finches

Here is an updated species list, following “Aves – A Taxonomy in Flux”.:

Beck’s Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. becki)
Santa Fe Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. bifasciata)
Espanola Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. cinerascens)
Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. fusca)
San Cristobal Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. luteola)
Genovesa Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. mentalis)
Ridgway’s Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. ridgwayi)

Green Warbler Finch (Certhidea olivacea)

Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch (Geospiza acutirostris)

Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris ssp. conirostris)
Darwin’s Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris ssp. darwini)

Sharpe’s Ground-Finch (Geospiza difficilis)

Medium Ground-Finch (Geospiza fortis)

Small Ground-Finch (Geospiza fuliginosa)

Mangrove Finch (Geospiza heliobates)

Large Ground-Finch (Geospiza magnirostris)

Woodpecker Finch (Geospiza pallidus ssp. pallidus)
Fernandina Woodpecker Finch (Geospiza pallidus ssp. productus)
San Cristobal Woodpecker Finch (Geospiza pallidus ssp. striatipectus)

Small Tree-Finch (Geospiza parvulus ssp. parvulus)
Salvin’s Small Tree-Finch (Geospiza parvulus ssp. salvini)

Genovesa Cactus-Finch (Geospiza propinqua)

Fernandina Large Tree-Finch (Geospiza psittacula ssp. affinis)
Pinta Large Tree-Finch (Geospiza psittacula ssp. habeli)
Large Tree-Finch (Geospiza psittacula ssp. psittacula)

Medium Tree-Finch (Geospiza pauper)

Vampire Finch (Geospiza septentrionalis)

Pinta Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. abingdoni)
Common Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. intermedia)
Rothschild’s Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. rothschildi)
San Salvador Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. scandens)

Vegetarian Finch (Platyspiza crassirostris)


As before, I decided to arrange the names simply in alphabetical order, and to exclude the species’ authors (and the Cocos Island Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata (Gould)), which is one of the Darwin’s Finches but does not inhabit the Galápagos Islands).



[1] Heather L. Farrington; Lucinda P. Lawson; Courtney M. Clark; Kenneth Petren: The evolutionary history of Darwin’s finches: Speciation, gene flow, and introgression in a fragmented landscape. Evolution 68(10): 2932-2944. 2014
[2] Sangeet Lamichhaney; Jonas Berglund; Markus Sällman Almén; Khurram Maqbool; Manfred Grabherr; Alvaro Martinez-Barrio; Marta Promerová; Carl-Johan Rubin; Chao Wang; Neda Zamani; B. Rosemary Grant; Peter R. Grant; Matthew T. Webster; Leif Andersson: Evolution of Darwin’s finches and their beaks revealed by genome sequencing. Nature 518: 371-375. 2015


edited: 03.12.2016

Darwin’s Finches or Galápagos Finches

… having criticized the “A Guide to the Birds of the Galápagos Islands” for not naming the numerous subspecies of the finches, I will now add here a list of all these subspecies, I have named them, to the best of my knowledge, with common names as well.:

Mangrove Finch (Camarhynchus heliobates)

Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus ssp. pallidus)
Fernandina Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus ssp. productus)
San Cristobal Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus ssp. striatipectus)

Small Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus parvulus ssp. parvulus)
Salvin’s Small Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus parvulus ssp. salvini)

Fernandina Large Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus psittacula ssp. affinis)
Pinta Large Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus psittacula ssp. habeli)
Large Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus psittacula ssp. psittacula)

Medium Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus pauper)

Beck’s Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. becki)
Santa Fe Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. bifasciata)
Espanola Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. cinerascens)
Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. fusca)
San Cristobal Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. luteola)
Genovesa Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. mentalis)
Ridgway’s Gray Warbler Finch (Certhidea fusca ssp. ridgwayi)

Green Warbler Finch (Certhidea olivacea)

Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris ssp. conirostris)
Darwin’s Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris ssp. darwini)
Genovesa Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris ssp. propinqua)

Fernandina Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch (Geospiza difficilis ssp. debilirostris)
Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch (Geospiza difficilis ssp. difficilis)
Vampire Ground-Finch (Geospiza difficilis ssp. septentrionalis)

Medium Ground-Finch (Geospiza fortis)

Small Ground-Finch (Geospiza fuliginosa)

Large Ground-Finch (Geospiza magnirostris)

Pinta Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. abingdoni)
Common Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. intermedia)
Rothschild’s Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. rothschildi)
San Salvador Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens ssp. scandens)

Vegetarian Finch (Platyspiza crassirostris)


Some of these subspecies may now warrant species status (for example the Vampire Finch or Vampire Ground-Finch), however, I’m not yet fully into that matter … did I mention before that it appears to be quite difficult to get good information about these birds?


… hm, maybe I was a bit too excessive with the tags ….   😛


edited: 02.12.2016