Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another native New Zealander

Another amazing bird from New Zealand, courtesy of Gay Schroer:

Natural History

Gallirallus australis

Description flightless member of the rail family; endemic to New Zealand; about the size of a chicken; rich brown mottled with black and grey; sturdy legs with long unwebbed toes; short pointed tail is constantly being flicked;

Sex: male larger then female


Length: approx. 20 inches

Wingspan: short stubby wings; flightless

Weight: male 2.25 lbs.; female 1.5 lbs

Habitat: forests, sub-alpine grassland, sand dunes, rocky shores and modified semi-urban areas

Status: vulnerable; conservation efforts have been problematic for this species; they thrive where conditions are favorable; however, have been very susceptible to predation by introduced mammals, habitat destruction, and poisons baits meant to control introduced species of pests

Range: four subspecies inhabit both the North and South Islands of New Zealand

Behavior: breeding season varies; when conditions are favorable can raise up to four broods in a year; nests on ground under thick vegetation; nests are built by forming grass or similar material into a bowl; female lays three creamy to pinkish eggs blotched with brown and mauve; both birds incubate; chicks hatch after a month; fed by both parents until fully grown between six to twelve weeks

Diet: omnivorous; 30% animal foods such as earthworms, larvae, beetles, ants, frogs, spiders, rats, mice, small birds; 70% plant foods include leaves, grass, berries and seeds

Vocalization: shrill far carrying double note “coo-eet”; normally heard in early evening

√ Folklore abounds with tales of Weka stealing shiny items and bags of sugar
√ Used by the Maori as food, perfume, oil to treat inflammations, and feathers used for clothing

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