New Zealand birds evolved in isolation over millions of years. Unlike elsewhere, there were no land mammals such as bears, badgers, lions or goats. Free from attack and competition from mammals, many birds became ground-dwellers. They were therefore natural prey for humans and the predators they brought, and vulnerable to land clearance. In New Zealand, European settlers noticed the evidence for the extinction of the megafauna – moa and other large birds – from around the late 1830s

EXTINCT BIRDS OF NEW ZEALAND
3. THE WREN

THE WREN

Three of New Zealand's extinct wrens were the only flightless songbirds, and the smallest flightless birds in the world. Of the seven wren species, only the rifleman and the rare rock wren of Fiordland remain.

The New Zealand wrens are not true wrens, but are part of the ancient eccentric Acanthisittidae family, that look and behave similarly to the common wren. The tiny New Zealand species do not have a close structural resemblance to any other group of birds.

Wren arrived in New Zealand 40 million years ago during the Cenozoic period, as windblown migrants from the Australia-Antarctic segment of Gondwana, at about the same time as the wattlebirds and the New Zealand thrush.

The remains of species including large extinct geese, adzebills, and the giant Haast’s eagle, were discovered before the end of the 19th century. Just how many smaller birds had become extinct was not realised until after 1990, when the food remains of the extinct laughing owl were discovered and analysed. Beneath the owl’s former roosts in sheltered caves were layers of bones of their prey, piled up over centuries. These bones were evidence of the former abundance of birds such as saddlebacks, now killed off on the mainland, and surviving only on predator-free islands.

TRAVEL TO NEW ZEALAND - HOME OF LORD OF THE RINGS