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
4. SOUTH ISLAND KOKAKO

SOUTH ISLAND KOKAKO
The kokako is the most endangered of New Zealand's two remaining endemic wattlebirds, and one of the country's most endeared birds. The kokako's loud, melodious song that carries through the forest with stereophonic clarity is one of the marvels of nature. Each pair sing their own distinctive duet for half an hour at dawn, with other birds joining in the choir.

Both subspecies of kokako were once common on all ranges of mature podocarp-hardwood forests throughout New Zealand. In the early 1900s, South Island kokako were widespread throughout the South Island and Stewart Island. It has not been sighted for 33 years and is considered extinct. An extensive final search in 2000, in eight remote areas accessable only by boat and helicopter, from Nelson Lakes to Stewart Island was unsuccessful.

The two subspecies are almost identical in appearance. The South Island kokako has brightly coloured yellow or orange "wattles" on both sides of its gape that meet below the neck.

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