Meet the extinct birds of New Zealand
Like many places around the world, New Zealand has sadly said goodbye to a number of bird species. From predators to deforestation and other reasons, a number of birds have dwindled in numbers until there were no more.
Here are a handful of New Zealand’s now-extinct birds, and a little about each one.
Arguably the most famous of all New Zealand’s extinct birds, the moa was truly something spectacular. There were a range of moa in existence, and it’s believed that the last of them went extinct approximately 500 years ago. The largest of them – the giant moa – stood up to 2 metres in height, but their meat, feathers and bones were easy pickings for skilled Maori hunters. Some of the very smallest moa species were as little as the size of a turkey.
If the Haast’s Eagle were still alive today, it would be amongst the largest on the planet. One of these massive birds could weigh as much as 17.8 kilograms and have a wing span of up to 3 metres (to put that in perspective, the USA’s bald eagle has a wingspan of up to 2.3 metres). Its feet and claws were as big as a tiger’s, and it preyed on moa and was known to attack small children. It went extinct around the same time as the moa and is believed to have died out from overhunting.
From two of the biggest to one of the smallest, the bush wren is the last known bird species to have gone extinct in New Zealand in or around 1972. These cute little ground nesters quickly declined after the introduction of predators such as cats and rats, as they barely flew and nested close to the ground, so had very few natural defences against such threats.
The huia is also known as the New Zealand woodpecker, and it cast quite the striking image. Recognisable for its sleek black feathers with a flash of white at the tip of its long tail, the females of the species had long slender bills of up to 10cm, while the males had shorter bills of up to 6cm. The huia was an incredible songbird that was once reasonably common throughout the North Island, but is also believed to have become extinct due to predation from introduced species.
The morepork is New Zealand’s last surviving owl, but up until roughly the 19030s, the laughing owl was another of our endemic owl species. It was even twice the size of the morepork, and was named after its call, which is said to have sounded like the laughter of a mad man. Their feathers were a dark brown colour as adults, but the chicks were covered in a yellowy-white fluffy down. Sadly, the laughing owl is yet another species that disappeared due to predation from species such as ferrets, weasels and stoats.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist