T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Fernbird (Megalurus punctatus)

Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum:  Chordata
Class:  Aves
Order:  Passeriformes
Family:  Locustellidae
Genus:  Megalurus
Species:  M. punctatus
Binomial name:  Megalurus punctatus
Synonyms:  Bowdleria punctata
Common name:  Fernbird, New Zealand Fernbird, Kōtātā, Mātātā, Swamp Sparrow.

Megalurus punctatus is an insectivorous cryptic bird endemic to New Zealand.. In the 19th century it was one of our most prevalent birds but is now rare due the widespread destruction of its wetland habitats following European settlement.
Taranaki’s Lake Rotokare and its extensive wetlands are totally enclosed within a predator-proof fence and this has allowed the fernbird a safe home amongst the raupō (Typha orientalis), flax/harakeke (Phormium spp) and purei (Carex dissita).
It is small brown bird reaching a length of 18 cm (measured from tip of beak to end of tail). It has a cream/brown breast, with the throat and breast spotted with brown and a distinctive long, thin, dark brown frayed, fanned tail which hangs down in flight.  
Fernbirds live in pairs prefer the shelter of dense, thick coastal scrub, such as coastal ribbonwood, rushes, flax and low areas of manuka. It is a ground-dwelling and is a reluctant flier, traveling mainly on foot or in occasional short flights of less than 15 metres. They are secretive, but inquisitive and will poke their heads out from for a moment and then disappear again. They are reluctant to leave cover and they can be located by a distinctive single click call, often described (and imitated) as the sound from striking two stones together. They also have a melodic three-note warble that is rarely heard. They feed mainly on small insects and both parents feed the chicks.
The birds nest in sedges or other vegetation close to the ground, making a deep woven cup of dried rushes lined with feathers. Breeding occurs from September to February, producing clutches of 2-3 pinkish-white eggs with brown or purple speckles.

The Māori revered the Fernbird as an "oracle" or "Wise bird" (Manu tohu). The calls of the bird were interpreted as heralding success or failure in daily activities such as fishing but on a more serious level could also portend prosperity and health or disaster and death.

There are six fully protected sub-species of Megalurus punctatus:
Megalurus punctatus vealeae (North Island Fernbird)
Megalurus punctatus punctatus (South Island Fernbird)
Megalurus punctatus. stewartianus (Stewart Island Fernbird)
Megalurus punctatus wilsoni (Codfish Island Fernbird)
Megalurus punctatus. caudatus (Snares Fernbird)
Megalurus rufescens (the Chatham Fernbird)which is believed to have become extinct circa 1900.

Megalurus punctatus vealeae (North Island Fernbird) singing.
This is a copyright photo courtesy of Jan Doak.


Megalurus punctatus vealeae (North Island Fernbird). This is a copyright photo courtesy of Jan Doak.
 

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information     https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/