Eclectus infectus


 
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Polynesian Eclectus Parrot
(Eclectus infectus)

 
syn. -

 
distribution:

Fiji (?)
Tonga: 'Eua, Lifuka, 'Uiha, 'Uta Vava'u
Vanuatu: Malakula

 
local name:

'a'a (?) - (Tongan) 'Eua

 
size: ca. 35 cm (length)

extinction date: after 1794

 
This species was described at the basis of subfossil bones found on the Tongan island of 'Eua. Such bone findings are now known from other islands in the Tongan archipelago as well, and remains from Vanuatu can also be referred to this species.

In the meantime Storrs L. Olson called attention to manuscripts from the 18-th century which contain drawings and descriptions of several birds from the Tongan islands. These accounting records come from the so called Malaspina expedition, which under the leadership of Alessandro Malaspina di Mulazzo explored the Pacific region between the years of 1789 to 1794.

The pictures were drawn on the island of 'Uta Vava'u and depict, among extant bird species, a flightless rail species known up to now only from this one drawing as well as a parrot, which certainly can be identified as an Eclectus Parrot.

The description of the drawing is the following.:

Loro de Babau, Todo verde

translation:

parrot of Vava'u, all green

The somewhat dishevelled look of the wing- and tail feathers of the bird on the drawing may be ascribed to the fact that the depicted specimen may have been a captured bird that was kept in a cage for some time.

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The still extant Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) is characterized by an extreme sexual dimorphism, whereby males indeed have an almost completely green plumage, while females are bright red feathered and show variable amounts of dark blue feathers which can also be lacking, depending on which subspecies the bird belongs to.

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Especially the brightly coloured red feathers of the females may have been fancied by the Polynesians of those days, as their preference for red feathers, deemed as very valuable at that time, is well known.

Furthermore the former trade relations between the Fijian Islands, Samoa and the Tongan archipelago are also known, whereby not only feathers were traded but also living birds, what again is a good explanation for the presence of an actual Fijian parrot species, the Maroon Shining Parrot (Prosopeia tabuensis), on the Tongan islands.

 
left:

Polynesian Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus infectus)


Drawing made during the Malaspina expedition between 1789 & 1794

 
References:

- David W. Steadman: A New Species of Extinct Parrot (Psittacidae: Eclectus) from Tonga and Vanuatu, South Pacific. Pacific Science - Volume 60, Number 1, January 2006, pp. 137-145
- Storrs L. Olson: Birds, including extinct species, encountered by the Malaspina Expedition on Vava'u, Tonga, in 1793. Archives of Natural History, 33(1): 42-52. 2006
- David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University Of Chicago Press 2006