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The Coues Gadwall Extinct

Alexander Wetmore
Publication Information
Journal: 
Condor
Volume: 
27
Issue: 
1 (January-February)
Section: 
From Field and Study
Year: 
1925
Pages: 
36

The Coues Gadwall Extinct

In the Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club for 1876. D. 46. Dr. T. H. Streets described a native duck from Washinaton Island. in the Fanning group, under the name Chaulelasmus couesi. The following year, in the American Naturalist for 1877, p. 68, Streets relates that when he visited Washington Island in 1874 “the lake and peat-bogs were tenanted by a diminutive species of duck of the genus Chaulelasmus.” These apparently are the only first-hand observations on this species that have been published, since Phillips, in his Natural History of the Ducks, vol. 2, 1923, p. 158, states that he has found no further record of the bird.

During work in the Pacific, in 1923, I had associated with me for a period of several weeks Mr. W. G. Anderson of Honolulu who was born about thirty years ago on Fanning Island, near the equator south of Hawaii, and who spent his boyhood and youth on that island and on Washington about eighty miles distant. He informs me that migrant ducks come to Fanning and Washington in considerable numbers from November to March each year, and that their hunting is a regular sport. Anderson is thoroughly familiar with the lake and peat bog on Washington Island, so that such a curiosity as a resident duck would certainly have come under observation. During all of his years of residence, however, he knew nothing of the native Gadwall, so that the species must have been extinct for many years.

The only specimens preserved are the two taken by Streets (now in the U. S. National Museum), and our only knowledge of its habits is the brief note by Streets in the American Naturalist. The species was probably exterminated by settlers who did not recognize it as distinct from other ducks encountered as migrants.

Alexander Wetmore

National Zoological Park, Washington, D. C., November 26, 1924.

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