Posts categorized as Biodiversity

A Bird in the Hand: How to catch a Westland Petrel

A Bird in the Hand: A Westland Petrel is gently held by Te Papa scientist Jean-Claude Stahl after being weighed.
Photo: Kate Whitley, 2015 © Te Papa

The last vestiges of light are fading over Paparoa National Park, Westland in the South Island of New Zealand. As the skies darken, a magnificent silhouette can be seen soaring above a small group of scientists. Soon one silhouette becomes many and within fifteen minutes of the first sighting, birds begin to plummet down into… 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 »

It’s a Bug’s Life Education Project – Update from Raumati South Kindergarten

Raumati8

In 2015, Te Papa is creating a science teacher resource to support you to ‘do science’ with young children in your own backyard environments – with a focus on the invertebrates who make these places home. One of the three ECE centres working with us on this project is Raumati South Kindergarten. After an initial visit from… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – magpie-lark

  • Further images of the magpie-lark at Gorge Rover. Images courtesy of Robert Long
  • An adult male magpie-lark in flight – one of the most familiar and easy to recognise of all Australian birds. Image: Craig Greer, NZ Birds Online
  • An adult female magpie-lark photographed in Melbourne. Image: Sonja Ross, NZ Birds Online
  • The adult male magpie-lark perched on the roof of the Department of Conservation hut at Gorge River, 29 April 2008. Image: Robert Long

New bird species are added to the New Zealand list on average once every two years. Many of these are vagrants that have been blown (or flown) across the Tasman Sea, with recent examples including Australian reed warbler (2004), straw-necked ibis (2009), Pacific gull (2010) and dusky woodswallow (2014). However, few new arrivals have a… Read more »