Bonin Grosbeak (Chaunoproctus ferreorostris)

Bonin Grosbeak

The story

A large, spectacular grosbeak-like bird once lived on the Bonin Islands to the south of Japan. It is known from nothing more than two series of skins that were collected during the 1820’s, skins that are in themselves a little puzzling. Some are rather larger than others, giving rise to the supposition that individuals may have been collected from different islands and that each island may have supported its own population. All the known specimens derive from two expeditions. The first of these was the voyage of HMS Blossom, which vessel called at Peel Island (Chichi-jima), one of the Bonins, during June 1827.

The tameness of the birds led the leader of the expedition, Captain Beechey, to assume that there had been no permanent human presence on the island. When the Blossom sailed away several grosbeak specimens were aboard. Just months later F. H. von Kittlitz landed on Peel during the voyage of the Russian corvette Senjawin. Whether Kittlitz took birds from elsewhere is not known. His brief notes provide the only record of the bird in life. He noticed them on the forest floor, singly or in pairs, and described the call as a soft, pure and high piping. No naturalist ever saw the grosbeak again. By the 1850’s, when Peel Island was searched by members of an American naval expedition, there was no sign of it.

Authority and reference

Vigors, 1829 || Zool. J. 4: 354

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