Among the live, feathered cargo carried on the ss Wimmera were chickens, ducks, pheasants, pigeons, galahs and kiwis. A cockatoo was also a resident aboard.


Live poultry was occasionally included in press reports of the Wimmera’s cargo. Among these were stock for New Zealand breeders, eg:

On her last trip from Sydney, the Wimmera brought ten coops of fowls for the following breeders :–J. Stevens (Invercargill), one White Leghorn cockerel and three pullets; Cameron (Westport), one White Leghorn cockerel; F. Solar (Wanganui), six Indian Runner ducks; E. Yates (Masterton), trio of Sivler [sic] Wyandottes; H. Beyers (Brow Poultry Farm, Hawke’s Bay), trio of White Leghorns; A. Thomas (Wellington), pair of White Wyandottes; C. Petersen, trio of Silver Wyandottes (pullets very big); H. H. Day (Oamaru), trio of Silver Wyandottes and trio of White Leghorns; G. Kidd (Invercargill), trio of Silver Wyandottes.

Star, Issue 8398, 18 August 1905, Page 1

Homing Pigeons

Homing pigeons were carried aboard or released from the Wimmera on three occasions.

Thirty five to forty homing pigeons belonging to members of the Tasmanian Flying Club were delivered aboard the Wimmera prior to its departure from Hobart on Thursday 19 October 1905. The ship sailed for Melbourne with its feathered passengers which were intended to take part in the longest pigeon race then held in Tasmania.



About three weeks ago the Tasmanian Flying Club arranged to hold a race from Goose Island to Hobart, a distance of nearly three hundred miles. Forty entries were received, and the birds were sent by the s.s. Wimmera. The trip from Hobart to Goose Island occupied 18 hours. The birds were released by the chief officer at 6.15 on Friday morning, October 13. Not one of the birds, turned up until Saturday morning, November 4, when a red chequered cock, belonging to Mr. Geo. Hazlewood, made its appearance on the loft at 8.30 a.m.  The bird was at once trapped and taken to the secretary, Mr. McLaren, who identified it as that sent to compete in the race. Goose Island is situated in Bass Strait, to the West of Flinders and Barren Islands.

The Mercury, Wednesday 8 November 1905, page 8

The Department of Ports and Harbors, Melbourne has been informed that during the rough weather last week a homing pigeon came ashore at Cape Everard (Vic.) It had on the right leg a ring with the letters I.C.S. and the figures 862-1904, and on the left leg an indiarubber racing ring. The above-mentioned bird was one liberated in the Tasmanian Flying Club’s race from Goose Island (but flew 290 miles in the opposite direction) last October, and was owned by Mr G. Hazelwood. One of Mr Dollery’s birds, liberated in the same race, returned last Thursday week.

The Clipper, Saturday 25 November 1905, page 8

A little over a year later, on the morning of Saturday 24 November 1906, whilst en route Wellington from Southern Ports the Wimmera’s chief officer, Mr Burkitt, released pigeons on behalf of the Dunedin Homing Pigeon Club. At 4.20am, eight miles east of Cape Campbell the birds were liberated to cover a distance of over 345 miles home.


The Dunedin Homing Pigeon Club flew off a race from Cape Campbell last Saturday, an air-line distance of 345 1/2 miles. The birds were liberated by Mr Birkett, chief officer of the steamer ‘Wimmera. Mr Birkett wired from Wellington: ” Released pigeons 4.20 a.m., eight miles east Cape Campbell; light northerly wind.” The weather was dull at Christchurch, and from there to Dunedin the birds had a south-west wind, rain, and fog to contend against, which accounts for only 17 birds out of 81 reaching home, and only five members were able to register arrivals. Mr Finnegan had nine pigeons, Mr Esquilant four, Mr Reeves two, Messrs Holmes and Gibson one each home on Saturday. Sixteen lofts competed. A large number of birds arrived on Sunday morning and throughout the day. The winner, Mr B. J. Finnegan, receives a trophy presented by Mr Geo. M’lntosh Scott. The race resulted as under:

B. J. Finnegan’s Apres Moi (time 10hr 36min, velocity 955yds 1ft 3in), 1;
W. Esquilant’s Hailstorm (time 10hr 5Omin, velocity 937yds 0ft 4in), 2;
E. J. Reeves’s Mars (time 11hr lmin, velocity 925yds 2ft 8in), 3;
M. Holmes’s Bellbird (time 12hr 4min, velocity 840yds 1ft 5in), 4;
F. D. Gibson’s Sleepy (time 12hr 29min, velocity 808yds 1ft 5in), 5.

The club desires to thank Mr Birkett for attending and liberating the pigeons from the steamer.


The Wimmera arrived in Auckland from Dunedin, via East Coast ports at 4 a.m. Monday 23 March 1908. Aboard, as cargo, were five cases of live pheasants. Several days later the following item, presumed referring to the same shipment of birds, was published:


The Hobson Acclimatisation Society, by last Tuesday night’s steamer from Helensvllle, received a shipment of pheasants from the Wellington Society. The crates contained some thirty-eight birds—seven of which it was discovered had died on the voyage up. They were liberated on Thursday on Mr. E. Harding’s estate up the river ; that gentleman has informed the Society that, in order to give the birds a chance of thriving, he will allow no shooting whatever on his property during the coming season.

Auckland Star, Volume XXXIX, Issue 75, 27 March 1908, Page 2


One of the more exotic species of feathered passengers were the New Zealand native bird, the kiwi. Four of these birds were reported as having been returned from Sydney to Auckland aboard the Wimmera in May 1912.

Empire Day
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Among other newspapers the following story, published in the Marlborough Express of 4 May, revealed the reason for the New Zealand birds’ passage on the Wimmera:

Tourist loses a prize

An English visitor returning Home from New Zealand met with a surprise on arrival at Sydney by the Moana last week. Somehow he had obtained possession of four kiwis, the wingless bird peculiar to New Zealand and jealously protected by law, but when he attempted to remove them from the steamer the New Zealand Government Agent, acting on cabled instructions, made a seizure, much to the indignation of the owner. Protests were unavailing and the birds were shipped back by the Wimmera to Auckland, says the Sydney Herald.

Among the most interesting and curious of living feathered creatures, the kiwi is becoming exceedingly rare. Not only is it wingless and tailless, not only is it the oddest-looking of all birds, but there are several other remarkable features about the kiwi. For example, it lays an enormous egg, out of all proportion to the size of its body, the males are considerably smaller than the females, and only the males sit on the eggs. In these, and in other respects, it constitutes a curiosity in bird-life such as is not anywhere else to be obtained. The birds, which are nocturnal in their habits, live in the darkest and densest of forests, and at one time were plentiful in all the wooded portions of New Zealand. In order to save the kiwi from extinction, the Government has conveyed a number to the Little Barrier Island and other bird sanctuaries, and imposed heavy penalties against hunting the birds, while those taking them out of the Dominion render themselves liable to a fine of £50.

Frequent surreptitious attempts to take birds away are made, over £200 a-piece having been offered in England for live specimens, and thus the four secured by the visitor would have been worth about £1000 in England. He states, however, that he was not taking them Home for sale, but to liberate them on his estate, in order to make a study of their habits, and to see whether the birds would thrive and multiply under the changed conditions.

The Moana had arrived in Sydney from Wellington on Tuesday 23 April 1912. Aboard were four kiwis. The birds were seized by Mr E.H. Montgomery, the New Zealand Government Agent, on cabled instructions from the New Zealand Government and taken to the New Zealand Agency in George Street. They were not allowed to remain long in Australia and were delivered aboard the Wimmera which departed Sydney for Auckland the following day, Wednesday 24 April.
The English visitor was scheduled to depart Sydney for London aboard the Orama that same day, but without his prizes.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021


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