Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/796

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fully compact group with apparently no very close allies, unless it be the raptores,[1] as has been suggested by some of their describers. They furnish us, however, with at least one very curious bird, and that is the kakapo of New Zealand (Stringops habroptilus), also known as the "owl parrot" or "ground parrot." This survivor of the primitive parrot stock is but another important type that appears to be doomed to early extermination, and that, too, unfortunately, before a thorough monograph upon its morphology and life history have been furnished by science. Most large museums are amply supplied with skins of the kakapo, and a dozen or more specimens have been transported to England alive and studied. But all this is but a very small part of what yet remains to be known of the species. Stringops is nocturnal in habits, almost entirely so, and feeds only toward dark, when it will issue forth from its hiding place under rock or root of tree to seek for the seeds and fruits upon which it lives. It also eats leaves, twigs, bits of roots, and even grass, moss, or other plants. Some of the flight' muscles and the keel of the sternum are aborted in this parrot, so its powers of flight about amount to nil. It spends most of its time upon the ground, and goes up into trees only by climbing. Many of the introduced predaceous animals of the country are its enemies, and to them must be added the greatest destroyer of animal life of them all—man. This is one of the largest of the parrots, and it derives some protection from its plumage, which is of an earthy green, freckled and finely zigzagged over with snuff brown, with longitudinal dashes here and there of straw yellow. It has a powerful beak like a macaw, which it most efficiently uses. About the face the feathers are long and stringy, and so arranged as to remind one at once of a strigine physiognomy. It is an intelligent as well as an affectionate bird in captivity, but lacks the characteristic longevity of the group to which it belongs.[2] The owls,[3] which are more or less remotely allied to the goatsuckers[4] rather than to the true raptorial birds,[5] are in some strange way connected through that peculiar strigine nightjar—the guacharo or oilbird of northern South America and the island of Trinidad.[6] This great goatsucker is a little larger than our barn owl, with a mottled plumage after the order of the whip-poor-will, only with more brown in it, and is in habit quite as nocturnal as either one of them. In immense numbers it resorts to caverns, coming out in noisy array only at dark to seek the nuts and fruits which constitute its food. Steatornis breeds by the hundreds in the vast

  1. Accipitres.
  2. No doubt it should occupy a family by itself, as the Stringopsidæ.
  3. Striges.
  4. Caprimulgi.
  5. Accipitres.
  6. Steatornis caripensis.