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
5. NORTH ISLAND TAKAHE

NORTH ISLAND TAKAHE

The very colourful green, turquoise and blue South Island takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri is a member of the Rallidae family of rails, crakes and coots, of the Gruiformes order.

The takahe is endemic to New Zealand, and has the distinction of being the world's largest living member of the Rallidae family.

The remaining species are the remnant of the South Island population resulting from speciation. The North Island species Porphyrio mantelli which was taller and thinner boned is extinct. It is only known from skeleton remains.

An adult takahe is stocky, weighing up to 3 kg (6.5 lbs), standing up to 50 cm (20 inches) tall, and reaching 63 cm in length, about the size of a chicken. Females are slightly smaller than the male. As typical of most of the flightless birds, it has short stout but strong, red legs.

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