Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

New Zealand birds

As a land without terrestrial mammals of any kind, New Zealand was, until the arrival of the first humans, inhabited by an extraordinarily diverse range of specialised birds. The ecological niches occupied by mammals as different as cows and rodents, kangaroos and moless, were filled by reptiles, insects, or birds.

When humans arrived in New Zealand sometime between 800 and 1300, this unique and unusual ecology was endangered. Several species were hunted to extinction, most notably the moa and harpagornis. The most damage however was caused by the other animals that humans brought with them, particularly rats (both the Polynesian rat or kiore imported by Maori and the Norwegian rat subsequently introduced by the Europeans), but also dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, and most deadly of all, the Australian possum. The flightless birds were in particular danger. Consequently several birds species have become extinct and others remain critically endangered. Several species are now confined only to offshore islands, or to fenced "mainland islands" from which predators have been eliminated. Consequently New Zealand is today a world leader in the techniques required to bring severely endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

The birds below are listed by their Maori name (where known) with English alternatives in brackets. In some cases (tui, kaka, weka, pukeko, moa, kiwi, kea, kokako, takahe) the Maori name is the common name. In other cases (fantail, albatross, black-backed gull, bellbird, morepork, dotterel, wax-eye, oystercatcher) the english name is most commonly used.

The 49 species marked extinct would all have been present in New Zealand at the time of the Roman Empire, and became extinct subsequent to man's arrival in New Zealand. Of these, 34 extinctions occurred after the arrival of Maori but before the arrival of Pakeha with 15 further extinctions since.

For a comprehensive listing, see Australasian birds, which includes the birds of New Zealand, Australia, and the Southern Ocean.

External Links: