Posts written by Colin Miskelly

Laughing owl – long gone but not forgotten

  • new mount
  • egg
  • b&w
  • Huia

A couple of months ago I received an unlikely phone call from a gentleman asking whether Te Papa was interested in purchasing a laughing owl specimen. He then mentioned in passing that he had an egg also. The museum receives freshly dead or frozen bird specimens most weeks, but it is a rare event to… Read more »

Sir James Hector, Hector’s dolphin and Taniwhasaurus

  • The new species of Asplenium fern. Photograph by Leon Perrie, Te Papa
  • Dr James Hector, circa 1868, Wellington, by James Wrigglesworth. Purchased 1916. Te Papa (O.013163)
  • YCMW title 640px
  • Hector's dolphin. Image: Steve Dawson, New Zealand Dolphin Trust

Te Papa will turn 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You Called Me What?! 150 years of scientific discovery at Te Papa’ will be open on Level 3 from late November 2015 until the end of 2016. The exhibition,… Read more »

New Zealand Birds Online – 1 million hits

  • Google Analytics screen shot of NZ Birds Online visitation data, 09:08 am, 26 November 2016
  • Tui – the most viewed species on New Zealand Birds Online. Image: Tony Whitehead, NZ Birds Online
  • Magpie-lark - the most recent vagrant bird species to be added to the New Zealand list. Image: Sonja Ross, NZ Birds Online
  • Daily visits to NZ Birds Online - growing steadily and approaching 2,000 per day.

The website New Zealand Birds Online is a collaborative project between Te Papa, Birds New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. It was launched in June 2013, and use of the site has continued to grow since, with just over 1,900 visits to the site per day at present. The milestone of 1,000,000 visits to… Read more »

Speargrass weevils thriving on Mana Island

  • A Wellington speargrass weevil browses on an Aciphylla squarrosa leaf, Mana Island. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Speargrass (Aciphylla squarrosa) in flower, Mana Island, November 2015. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Feeding sign left by a Wellington speargrass weevil after browsing on an Aciphylla squarrosa flowerstalk, Mana Island, November 2015. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Aerial view of the west coast of Mana Island, January 2015. Speargrass weevils were released at the left-centre of the image, between the track and the cliff-top. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Weevils get a lot of bad press. A few species are serious crop pests or despoilers of cereal products, and they give the rest of the family a bad name. In New Zealand, a dozen or so weevil species and populations are recognised as being threatened with extinction, and Wellington speargrass weevils (Lyperobius huttoni) are… Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 2 – Songbirds

  • Skull and mandible of Chatham Island raven (Corvus moriorum). Te Papa Collections Online S.028679
  • Skull and mandible of South Island stout-legged wren (Pachyplichas yaldwyni). Te Papa Collections Online S.023578
  • Lyall’s wren (Traversia lyalli). Te Papa Collections Online OR.005098
  • Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris). Te Papa Collections Online OR.001328

Songbirds are perhaps our most familiar birds, including most of the species that visit our gardens. They also include our best-known extinct bird – the huia, which has been extinct for about a century. Many people blame hunting by humans (for specimens to sell to collectors, or for the much-prized tail feathers) for the huia’s… Read more »

Life through a burrowscope lens (Part 6) – subterranean Paparoa National Park

  • Foraging track of a male Westland petrel during 9 days while his mate was caring for their egg. Data courtesy of Susan Waugh, Te Papa. Base map from Google Earth
  • An adult Westland petrel on the colony surface at night. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • The burrowscope tube and screen, showing a Westland petrel egg inside a burrow. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Te Papa staff member Jean-Claude using the burrowscope to check the identity of a Westland petrel in a study burrow. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Te Papa vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly recently spent 10 days at Punakaiki (on the West Coast of the South Island) as part of a Te Papa seabird research team. This blog reports on what the team found underground within a specially protected area of Paparoa National Park. As described in previous blogs in this… Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 1 – A diverse menagerie, sadly departed

  • Skull ofNew Zealand owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles novaezealandiae). Te Papa Collections Online S.022454
  • Skull of the enigmatic Forbes’ snipe (Coenocorypha chathamica); Te Papa Collections Online S.025428. How did two snipe species co-exist on the Chatham Islands?
  • Skull of Eyles’ harrier (Circus teauteensis). Te Papa Collections Online S.033635
  • This South Island snipe (Coenocorypha iredalei) was photographed in 1964 during a failed rescue attempt after rats invaded its last island refuge. Image: Don Merton, New Zealand Birds Online

Few New Zealanders are aware how many bird species have been lost since people first reached New Zealand less than 800 years ago. The number of named extinct species continues to increase, largely due to careful examination of bones from Chatham Island dunes and caves, but is currently 53 species – an appalling indictment of… Read more »