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New Zealand Birds


New Zealand Birds

New Zealand Birds

In a country that is totally cut-off from everywhere else, that ahs only bats for land mammals, New Zealand’s large number of species of birds is quite an impressive collection.


For more than 65 million years, New Zealand was isolated from any other country and became a nation for birds.

When in the 1770s Captain James Cook arrived on the island, he mentioned that the song of the birds was quite loud to the point of deafening. The large dwindling of the number of birds on the island is largely blamed on the arrival of the Maori and the subsequent settlement of the Europeans. In other words, Man is responsible for this catastrophe.


Before the arrival of the first human settlers in New Zealand, there was an extraordinary diverse number of specialized birds on the island. Insects, reptiles, and birds had the ecological role of what normally would have been that of certain mammals such as kangaroos, rodents, and moles in New Zealand. Only two of the three species of bats the nation can boast of in terms of land mammals can be seen today.

The harpagornis and moa were hunted to extinction when humans came to New Zealand approximately 700 years ago.

The island’s unusual and unique ecology was jeopardized by the arrival of humans.

Destruction to natural habitat and the introduction of other animals caused the most damage on the island, particularly that of different species of rats. The kiore or Polynesian rat was brought in by the Maori while the black rat and brown rat was later brought in by European settlers.


There were also cats, dogs, mice, weasels, stoats, pigs, deer, goats, Australian possums, and hedgehogs. The most to suffer from this invasion were the flightless birds.


The most obvious consequence of this is that a great number species of birds are now extinct, and many others remain alarmingly endangered. Many different species of birds are now allowed only on offshore islands, or are fenced within "ecological islands" which are free from predators. Today, New Zealand is the world’s leading expert in the methods needed to save those species on the brink of disappearing completely.

Birds in New Zealand

In the early period of settlement by Europeans, many species of birds were brought in for the purpose of sport and to create an illusion of being “back home” for the settlers.


The former reason is because New Zealand was unlike any of the countries the earlier settlers had originated from.

Because of habitat loss, the historical use of some bird species as a food source by the Maori and the predation of some other species of New Zealand birds by introduced species of some larger and more aggressive birds has also threatened the indigenous birds’ extinction.


Today, the kakapo, takahe, mohua, kiwi, and kokako are the subject of huge efforts of conservation.

The salvation of the Chatham Islands’ black robin, largely due to Don Merton’s tireless efforts, is a well documented success story of conservation success story.



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