New Zealand Quail (Coturnix novaezelandiae)

New Zealand Quail

The story

It is difficult to account for the disappearance of the New Zealand Quail. A closely related, possibly conspecific, Australian species, the Stubble Quail (Coturnix pectoralis), flourishes in its homeland, yet the New Zealand birds failed to survive the coming of Europeans. The species seems to have been common on the grass-covered downs of New Zealand’s South Island until the mid-nineteenth century, but then, suddenly, its numbers plunged and within two decades it was all but gone.

The factors responsible for this decline are unknown. Introduced mammalian predators, overhunting (presumably the birds provided the kind of “sport” that colonists were used to in their old homes), the burning off of land, or an unknown – and introduced – avian disease are all reasons that have been speculatively put forward. The latest specimens were taken during the late 1860’s and individuals were, apparently, seen up to the mid-1870’s. After this they vanished.

Authority and reference

Voy. ‘Astrolabe’, Zool. 1: 242. || Quoy and Gaimard, 1830

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