Botanist Joseph Banks travelled with Captain James Cook on his first expedition to New Zealand in 1769–70. This journal entry describes the dawn chorus he heard on 17 January 1770, while the Endeavour was anchored in Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough Sounds:
‘This morn I was awakd by the singing of the birds ashore from whence we are distant not a quarter of a mile, the numbers of them were certainly very great who seemd to strain their throats with emulation perhaps; their voices were certainly the most melodious wild musick I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells but with the most tuneable silver sound imaginable to which maybe the distance was no small addition. On enquiring of our people I was told that they have had observd them ever since we have been here, and that they begin to sing at about 1 or 2 in the morn and continue till sunrise, after which they are silent all day like our nightingales.’
These forests are mostly silent now, as predators such as rats and stoats have exterminated many bird species.
This dawn chorus, recorded at a bird sanctuary, may begin to approach what Banks heard.
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State Library of New South Wales
Reference: Joseph Banks, Endeavour journal, August 1768-July 1771. 17 January 1770, p. 125
Sound file from Birds of New Zealand. Compact disc. © Viking Sevenseas NZ, 1980. All rights reserved.
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