Kokako (South Island) Callaeas cinerea
Species: Callaeas cinerea
Common name: South Island kokako, Orange-wattled crow, kōkā, koka, Cinereous wattle-bird
The South Island kōkako (Callaeas cinereus) is a perhaps-extinct forest bird endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. Unlike its close relative the North Island kõkako it had largely orange wattles, with only a small patch of blue at the base The last accepted sighting in 2007 was the first considered genuine since 1967, although there have several other unauthenticated reports.
At the time of European settlement, South Island kōkako were found on the West Coast from northwest Nelson to Fiordland, as well as Stewart Island, Banks Peninsula, and the Catlins. Sub fossil bones suggest they were formerly found throughout the South Island, but forest burning by Polynesians eliminated them from dry eastern lowland forest. The clearance of forests by settlers reduced their numbers further and by 1900 the bird was uncommon in the South Island and Stewart Island, and had almost disappeared by 1960. The historical decline was due to large-scale habitat destruction, fragmentation and the introduction of predators and competitors. Predation of eggs and chicks by black rats Rattus rattus and brush-tailed possums Trichosurus vulpecula is the main cause of nest failure, whereas deaths to nesting adult females were caused by stoats Mustela erminea (Flux et al. 2006). Its vulnerability compared to the North Island species was perhaps due to its foraging and nesting close to the ground.
Evidence for the continued existence of the South Island kokako (Callaeas cinerea) drawn from reports collected between January 1990 and June 2012
North Island kōkako (front) and South Island kōkako (rear) Painting by in W.L. Buller's A History of the Birds of New Zealand. 2nd edition. Published 1888.
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