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FAMILY 82—NESTORIDAE, (; 2 Genera, 6 Species)


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The present family is formed to receive the genus Nestor (5 sp.), confined to New Zealand and Norfolk Island. Its affinities are doubtful, but it appears to have relations with the American Conuridae and the Australian Trichoglossidae. With it is placed the rare and remarkable Dasyptilus (1 sp.), of New Guinea, of which however very little is known.

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This family contains only the curious owl-like nocturmal Parrot of New Zealand, Stringops habroptilus (Plate XIII. Vol.I. p. 455). An allied species is said to inhabit the Chatham Islands, if not now extinct.

General Remarks on the Distribution of the Psittaci.

Although the Parrots are now generally divided into several distinct families, yet they form so well marked and natural a group, and are so widely separated from all other birds, that we may best discuss their peculiarities of geographical distribution by treating them as a whole. By the preceding enumeration we find that there are about 386 species of known parrots, which are divided into 52 genera. They are preeminently a tropical group, for although a few species extend a considerable distance into the temperate zone, these are

marked exceptions to the rule which limits the parrot tribe to the tropical and sub-tropical regions, roughly defined as extending about 30° on each side of the equator. In America a species of Conurus reaches the straits of Magellan on the south, while another inhabits the United States, and once extended to the great lakes, although now confined to the south-eastern districts. In Africa parrots do not reach the northern tropic, owing to the desert nature of the country; and in the south they barely reach the Orange River. In India they extend to about 35° N. in the western Himalayas; and in the Australian region, not only to New Zealand but to Macquarie Islands in 54° S., the farthest point from the equator reached by the group. But although found in all the tropical regions they are most unequally distributed. Africa is poorest, possessing only 6 genera and 25 species; the Oriental region is also very poor, having but 6 genera and 29 species; the Neotropical region is much richer, having 14 genera and 141 species; while the Smallest in area and the least tropical in climate—the Australian region, possesses 31 genera and 176 species, and it also possesses exclusively 5 of the families, Trichoglossidae, Platycercidae, Cacatuidae, Nestoridae, and Stringopidae. The portion of the earth's surface that contains the largest number of parrots in proportion to its area is, undoubtedly, the Austro-Malayan sub-region, including the islands from Celebes to the Solomon Islands. The area of these islands is probably not one-fifteenth of that of the four tropical regions, yet they contain from one-fifth to one-fourth of all the known parrots. In this area too are found many of the most remarkable forms, all the crimson lories, the great black Cockatoos, the pigmy Nasiterna, the raquet-tailed Prioniturus, and the bareheaded Dasyptilus. The almost universal distribution of Parrots wherever the climate is sufficiently mild or uniform to furnish them with a perennial supply of food, no less than their varied details of organization, combined with a great uniformity of general type, —tell us, in unmistakable language, of a very remote antiquity. The only early record of extinct parrots is, however, in the Miocene of France, where remains apparently allied to the West African Psittaeus, have been found. But the origin of so widespread, isolated, and varied a group, must be far earlier than this, and not improbably dates back beyond the dawn of the Tertiary period. Some primeval forms may have entered the Australian region with the Marsupials, or not long after them; while perhaps at a somewhat later epoch they were introduced into South America. In these two regions they have greatly flourished, while in the two other tropical regions only a few types have been found, capable of maintaining themselves, among the higher forms of mammalia, and in competition with a more varied series of birds. This seems much more probable than the supposition that so highly organized a group should have originated in the Australian region, and subsequently become so widely spread over the globe.

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The Columbidae, or Pigeons and Doves, are almost universally distributed, but very unequally in the different regions. Being best adapted to live in warm or temperate climates, they diminish rapidly northwards, reaching about 62° N. Latitude in North America, but considerably farther in Europe. Both the Nearctic and Palaearctic regions are very poor in genera and species of pigeons, those of the former region being mostly allied to Neotropical, and those of the latter to Oriental and Ethiopian types. The Ethiopian region is, however, itself very poor, and several of its peculiar forms are confined to the Madagascar subregion. The Neotropical region is very rich in peculiar genera, though but moderately so in number of species. The Oriental region closely approaches it in both respects; but the Australian region is by far the richest, possessing nearly double the genera and species of any other region, and abounding in remarkable forms quite unlike those of any other part of the globe. The following table gives the number of genera and Species in each region, and enables us readily to determine the comparative richness and isolation of each, as regards this extensive family —

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With the exception of Columba and Turtur, which have a wide range, Treron, common to the Oriental and Ethiopian regions, and Carpophaga, to the Oriental and Australian, most of the genera of pigeons are either restricted to or very characteristic of a single region.

The distribution of the genera here admitted is as follows:—

Treron (37 sp.), the whole Oriental region, and eastward to Celebes, Amboyna and Flores, also the whole Ethiopian region to Madagascar; Ptilopus (52 sp.), the Australian region (excluding New Zealand) and the Indo-Malay sub-region; Alectronas (4 sp.), Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands: Carpophaga. (50 sp.), the whole Australian and Oriental regions, but much the most abundant in the former; (*) Ianthaenas (11 sp.), Japan, Andaman, Nicobar, and Philippine Islands, Timor and Gilolo to Samoa Islands; (*) Leucomelaena (1 sp.), Australia; Lopholaimus (1 sp.), Australia; (***) Alsaecomus (2 sp.), Himalayas to Ceylon and Tenasserim ; Columba (46 sp.), generally distributed over all the regions except the Australian, one species however in the Fiji Islands; Ectopistes (1 sp.), east of North America with British Columbia; Zenaidura (2 sp.), Veragua to Canada and British Columbia ; OEna (1 sp.), Tropical and South Africa; Geopelia (6 sp.), Philippine Islands and Java to Australia; Macropygia (14 sp.), Nepal, Hainan, Nicobar, Java, and Philippines to Australia and New Ireland; Turacaena (3 sp.), Celebes, Timor, and Solomon Islands; Reinwardtonas (1 sp.), Celebes to New Guinea; Turtur (24 sp.), Palaearctic, Ethiopian and Oriental regions with Austro-Malaya; Chaemepelia (7 sp.), Brazil and Bolivia to Jamaica, California, and South-east United States; Columbula (2 sp.), Brazil and La Plata to Chili; Scardafella (2 sp.), Brazil and Guatemala; Zenaida (10 sp.), Chili and La Plata to Columbia and the Antilles, Fernando Noronha; Melopelia (2 sp.), Chili to Mexico and California; Peristera (4 sp.), Brazil to Mexico; Metriopelia (2 sp.), West America from Ecuador to Chili; Gymnopelia (1 sp.), West Peru and Bolivia; Leptoptila (11 sp.), Paraguay to Mexico and the Antilles; (****) Geotrygon (14 sp.), Paraguay to Mexico and the Antilles; Aplopelia (5 sp.), Tropical and South Africa, St. Thomas and Princes Island; Chalocopelia (4 sp.), Tropical and South Africa; Starnaenas (1 sp.), Cuba; Ocyphaps (1 sp.), Australia (Plate XII. Vol. I. p. 441); Petrophassa (1 sp.), North-west Australia; Chalocophaps (8 sp.), the Oriental, region to New Guinea and Australia; Trugom (1 sp.), New Guinea; Henicophaps (1 sp.), Waigiou and New Guinea; Phaps (3 sp.), Australia and Tasmania; Leucosarcia (1 sp.), East Australia; hapitreron (2 sp.), Philippine Islands; Geophaps (2 sp.), North and East Australia; Lophophaps (3 sp.), Australia; Calaenas (1 sp.), scattered on the smaller islands from the Nicobars and Philippines to New Guinea; Otidiphaps (1 sp.), New Guinea ; Phloganas (7 sp.), Philippine Islands and Celebes to the Marquesas Islands; Goura (2 sp.), New Guinea and the islands on the north-east (Plate X. Vol. I. p 414).

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