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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 14:57 EDT

Takahē

The Takahē or South Island Takahē (Porphyrio hochstetteri) is a species of flightless bird native to New Zealand. It was thought to be extinct after the last four known specimens were taken in 1898. However, the bird was rediscovered by Geoffrey Orbell near Lake Te Anau in the Murchison Mountains, South Island, on November 20, 1948. The species is still present there today and small populations have been successfully relocated to four predator-free offshore islands (Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti, Maud and Mana). There are also birds in captivity at Te Anau and Mt Bruce wildlife centers, and in June 2006 a pair of Takahē were relocated to the Maungatautari Restoration Project. The wild habitat of this species is alpine grasslands. A related species, the North Island Takahē (P. mantelli) or mōho is extinct.

This bird is the largest living member of the rail family. It grows to about 24.8 inches and weighs an average of 6 pounds, but ranges from 4 to 9 pounds. It is a stocky bird with short wings, strong legs and a massive bill. The adult is mainly purple-blue in color, with a greenish back and inner wings. The bill is reddish-pink and there is a red frontal shield. Its legs are pink. Sexes are similar, but the female is slightly smaller than the male. The young have pale brown plumage. The call is a loud clowp call.

The diet of the Takahē consists of a wide range of plants. It can often be seen plucking a snow grass stalk, taking it into one claw and eating the soft lower parts of the plant which is a favorite food. The rest is discarded. The nest is bulky and built under bushes and scrub. The females lays two beige colored eggs. It is a territorial bird.

This species has seen near-extinction due to many factors. Over-hunting, loss of habitat and introduced predators have a played a huge part in its decline. Other factors include slow reproduction and slow maturity growth. Inbreeding depression is another problem. Some measures have been taken to try to preserve this species and stop its population decline, including captive breeding programs.

The specific scientific name commemorates the Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter.

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