Prehistoric bird returns to New Zealand after 100 years of extinction!

More than a hundred years have passed since the takahē, a large colorful flightless bird, had disappeared from the islands, with the researchers convinced that it was never extinct

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Prehistoric bird returns to New Zealand after 100 years of extinction!

Prehistoric bird returns to New Zealand after more than a hundred years, going from extinction to rebirth! In fact, more than a hundred years have passed since the takahē, a large colorful flightless bird, had disappeared from the islands, with the researchers convinced that it was never extinct.

Surprisingly, the bird has returned to repopulate some areas of New Zealand. It has reappeared along the Waimāori Lake Whakatipu valley. A historic fact for Ngāi Tahu, the tribe that lives in the area, which in recent years had faced a long battle for its return.

If their introduction into the Lake Whakatipu Waimāori Valley goes uncomplicated and if the released pairs adjust to their new home, the next step will be the release of seven birds in October and ten more early next year.

Formally declared extinct in 1898, their population was devastated by the arrival of stoats, cats, ferrets and rats, brought in by European settlers. For this reason, in 1948 environmentalists collected and artificially incubated the eggs, thus preventing them from being eaten by predators.

About the takahē

The near extinction of the takahē is due to a number of factors: reckless hunting, habitat destruction and the introduction of predators all played a role. Since the species is very long-lived, reproduces slowly, takes several years to reach maturity and had a vast range which drastically reduced within a few generations, a significant problem for these birds is also inbreeding depression.

Recovery efforts are hampered especially by the low fertility of the remaining birds; genetic analyzes have been directed towards the selection of a reproductive group in captivity in order to preserve the maximum genetic diversity.

The takahē is the largest living member of the Rallidae; its length can exceed 63 cm. It is a stocky bird, with short wings, sturdy legs and a massive bill. The adult takahē is generally blue-purple in color, with the back and inner face of the wings greenish.

It has a red frontal shield and a pink beak with a red base. The paws are pink. The sexes are similar, although the female is slightly smaller, but the juveniles have generally pale brown plumage. It is a noisy species that makes a loud clowp.