RECORD: S73. Wallace, A. R. 1863. Note on Corvus senex, Garn.& Less., and Corvus fuscicapillus, G.R.Gray. Ibis 5 (17): 100-102.

REVISION HISTORY: Body text helpfully provided by Charles H. Smith from his Alfred Russel Wallace Page http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S073.htm


[page] 100

Note on Corvus senex, Garn.& Less., and Corvus fuscicapillus, G.R.Gray.

On looking over Schlegel's 'Notice sur le genre Corvus,' and comparing his figures and descriptions with my specimens from the Malay Archipelago, I was surprised to find that his Corvus senex was not Lesson's species, but a quite different bird, obtained by me at the Aru Islands, which Mr. G. R. Gray inserted in his list (Proc. Zool. Soc. 1858) as C. orru, but afterwards (on receiving the true C. orru from Dorey) named C. fuscicapillus. Schlegel's specimen appears to have been an immature female. It agrees exactly with mine in the high-arched bill, which is very much compressed, and in all the principal dimensions; but the adult birds have the plumage in both sexes purple-black, glossy above, except the head and neck, which are of a deep sooty brown. The face is thickly plumed; but in a young specimen which I

[page] 101

possess, the feathers are, as Schlegel describes it, "très-clair semées." The bill, in the male, is entirely black; in the female and young birds, reddish white, with a black tip. The feet, in both sexes, are black.

The true Corvus senex is a very different bird. The bill and feet are yellowish white in both sexes, and a large space round the eye quite bare and of a white colour. The bill resembles in form that of C. ossifragus, figured by Schlegel, but is more elongated, and the upper mandible extends a quarter of an inch beyond the lower one; the base of the lower mandible is wider than in the much longer bill of C. fuscicapillus. The hairy plumes which cover the nostrils spread upwards, so as to rise and almost meet above the culmen at more than half an inch from its base, whereas in most other species of Corvus (and in C. fuscicapillus in particular) they are depressed over the nostrils only, leaving the culmen, except at its base, perfectly free. But the most characteristic feature of C. senex is its long graduated tail, which differs from that of every other Crow: Lesson gives it as from nine to ten inches in length, which exactly agrees with my specimens. In the colour of C. senex there is much individual variation, and though most frequently the head is of a dull dirty white, and the rest of the body dusky, yet I have one specimen in which the wings and tail show purple glosses, and I should not be surprised if others had the full corvine hues.

In the following comparative dimensions of the two birds, it will be seen that those of Schlegel's specimens, allowing for the French inches (1/12th more than English), exactly agree with my own.

 Bill, from
Total   base of Height
length.   Wings. Tail.    culmen. of do.
  C. senex, Less.   23 in.   13 in. 9-10 in. 2 ½ in.    1 in.
  C. fuscicapillus 21-23 13-13 ½ 7 2  9/10    1 1/8
(C. senex, Schlegel)      20    12  7/12    6 ½    2  2/3   1


The synonyms and references to C. fuscicapillus will therefore stand thus:—
Corvus fuscicapillus.
Corvus orru, G. R. Gray, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1858, p. 180.

[page] 102

Corvus senex, Schlegel, 'Notice sur le genre Corvus,' 1860, p. 10 (female juv.).
Corvus fuscicapillus, G. R. Gray, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1861, in Table of New Guinea Birds.
Hab. Aru Islands and Waigiou.
British Museum, Coll. Wallace, and Mus. Leyden.


This document has been accessed 2643 times

Return to homepage

Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2012-. Wallace Online. (http://wallace-online.org/)

File last updated 26 September, 2012