In the far away island of New Caledonia there is a remarkable bird known by the natives as the Kagu (Rhinochetus jubatus), the systematic position of which has given rise to almost as much discussion as that of the Cariamas. It was first made known in 1860, shortly after the French occupation of the island, its original describers first regarding it as a Heron and later as a Crane. It was soon after determined, both from external appearance and a study of its anatomy, to be probably nearest related to the Sun-Bitterns. It is a moderately long-legged bird, with a body about the size of a common fowl, a moderately long bill, and a full crest, five or six inches in length, pendent from the hack of the head. The plumage is of a light ashy gray color above, paler below, obscurely barred on the outer wing-coverts and tail with darker, the primaries and secondaries being also freckled with dusky brown, this latter feature only showing when the wings are spread. The drooping plumes are ashy gray, while the bill, legs, and feet are reddish orange. The Kagu runs quickly and has the habit of stopping suddenly and standing motionless, but when excited it stands straight, with erected crest, semi-expanded wings, and drooping tail, and when in a playful mood it throws small sticks and stones about with the bill. The birds call to each other, usually about daybreak, in loud, piercing, yelping notes, continued for some time, which can be heard a mile away. It is said to be nocturnal in its habits, feeding on worms, insects, and small mollusks. Thus far, it appears, the nest and eggs of this curious bird have not been found in a wild state, although it has laid in confinement in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London, and more recently Mr. A. J. North has described several eggs laid in confinement in Australia. Two birds, presumed to be a male and female, were observed to form a nest of dried twigs and leaves at the bottom of a box in their aviary, in which a single egg was deposited. This was sat on for three weeks, one bird occasionally relieving the other, but as there was no sign of a chick in the egg it was removed. Two other eggs were subsequently laid and both proved infertile. These eggs are described as being very similar in color and character of markings to those of a Gull or Tern, being about 2.40 by 1.85 inches, and close-grained, smooth, and slightly lustrous. In color they are pale brown, much dotted, blotched, and streaked with reddish umber. Of the habits of these birds in confinement their owner writes as follows: “From personal observations of the two birds I have had in confinement for over three years, the Kagu is fond of seclusion, but withal the one I regard as the male shows fight at the slightest provocation. Holding itself quite erect, with spread wings, panting breast, raised crest, and tail brought almost between its legs, the aspect of the bird appears very stately when prepared to give battle. A peculiarity shown when fighting is that it only attacks its opponent low down, so that when one holds a hand to the height of its body, it misses aim, but if held near the ground it administers a severe nip. When quarreling over a delicacy, the two birds pick at each other’s legs.”
More recently a correspondent of Mr. A. J. Campbell’s residing in Sydney, Australia, has had a chick hatched in confinement, the period of incubation being thirty-six days. It is described as a fluffy ball with a big and heavy head, the color being dark brown with light fawn markings.