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Lalage leucopyga leucopyga - Norfolk Long-tailed Triller (RMNH 110.019)
RMNH 110.019

Campephagidae (Cuckoo Shrikes)

Norfolk Long-tailed Triller Lalage leucopyga leucopyga (Gould, 1838)

  • RMNH 110.019: Norfolk Island (“Australia” on old label). Purchased from Verreaux, 1863.

Extinct due to deforestation and hunting
Norfolk Island is a small dot on the map of the South Pacific. The island, barely 35 km2 , is situated 800 km northwest of New Zealand. Surprisingly it already drew the attention of naturalists in the early 19th century. Much of our knowledge of its fauna originates from Ferdinand Lucas Bauer, who worked on Norfolk in 1804 and 1805. Although he was a botanist he also collected animals for the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Three species of birds endemic to Norfolk have become extinct. The Norfolk Island Pigeon Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae spadicea and Norfolk Island Kaka Nestor productus vanished in the 19th century. Besides colonization and deforestation, these birds had to cope with the local inhabitants, who hunted them for food. The Norfolk Long-tailed Triller apparently was not edible or at least too small to be worthwhile, and it survived well into the 20th century. It finally disappeared in 1962. Why, we do not know.

Long-tailed Trillers live on various islands in the south-west Pacific. When John Gould described the species for the first time, he was under the impression that it had been collected in New South Wales on mainland Australia. However, the specimen on which he based his description originated in fact from Norfolk. Very little is known about the life history of the Norfolk race. Presumably it was similar to that of the other races of the Long-tailed Triller in the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia or Vanuatu, where the birds live in parks or at the forest-edge, meticulously searching the trees for insects.

Museum specimens
The specimen in the Leiden Museum was purchased in 1863 from Maison Verreaux in Paris. We know of no preserved skins other than those in the museums of Vienna and Tring.

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