Category Archives: 6.Aves

Erythrura sp. ‘Rota’

Mariana Parrot Finch (Erythrura sp.)

The Mariana Parrot Finch is known only from a subfossil humerus that was recovered from deposits on the island of Rota in the Mariana Islands; this single bone can be referred to that genus based on several characters but is larger than that of any congeneric species.

The species may have reached a length of about 15 cm, making it one of the largest members of its whole family; it was very likely most closely related to the Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa (Kittlitz)) (see depiction), a species that still occurs in parts of Micronesia today. [1]

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinct and extirpated birds from Rota, Mariana Islands. Micronesia 25(1): 71-84. 1992

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Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa)

Depiction from: ‘F. H. von Kittlitz: Über einige noch unbeschriebene Vögel von der Insel Luzon, den Carolinen und den Marianen. Mémoires présentés à l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St. Petersbourg par divers Savants et lus dans ses Assemblées 2: 1-10. 1835’

(public domain)

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edited: 09.11.2021

Nesoenas rodericanus (Milne-Edwards)

Rodrigues Turtle Dove (Nesoenas rodericanus)

The Rodrigues Turtle Dove was described in 1874, when it was already extinct; it is known from subfossil remains and from contemporaneous accounts.

The species disappeared sometimes between 1726 and 1761.

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References:

[1] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: Bloomsbury Natural History; 2nd edition 2017

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edited: 07.05.2022

Myzomela sp. ‘Nauru’

Nauru Honeyeater (Myzomela sp.)

Die Vogelwelt ist nach Zahl und Art reicher. Der Fregattvogel (Tachypetes aquila), itsi, die schwarze Seeschwalbe (Anous), doror, die weiße Seeschwalbe (Gygis), dagiagia, werden als Haustiere gehalten; der erste galt früher als heiliger Vogel, mit den beiden anderen werden Kampfspiele veranstaltet. Am Strande trifft man den Steinwälzer (Strepsilas interpres), dagiduba, den Regenpfeifer (Numenius), den Uferläufer (Tringoides), ibibito, die Schnepfe, ikirer, den Brachvogel ikiuoi, den Strandreiter iuji, die Ralle, earero bauo und zwei Möwenarten (Sterna), igogora und ederakui. Im Busche beobachtet man an den Blüten der Kokospalme den kleinen Honigsauger raigide, die Rohrdrossel (Calamoherpe syrinx), itirir und den Fliegenschnäpper (Rhipidura), temarubi.” [1]

translation:

The bird world is richer by number and species, The frigate bird (Tachypetes aquila), itsi, the black tern (Anous), doror, the white tern (Gygis), dagiagia, are kept as pets; the first one was formerly considered a holy bird, with the two others are used for fighting games. At the beach one mets with the turnstone (Strepsilas interpres), dagiduba, the plover (Numenius), the sandpiper (Tringoides), ibibito, the snipe, ikirer, the curlew, ikiuoi, the beach rider [?] iuji, the rail, earero bauo and two gull species (Sterna), igogora and ederakui. In the bush one observes on the flowers of the coconut palm the small honeyeater raigide, the reed thrush (Calamoherpe syrinx), itirir and the flycatcher (Rhipidura), temarubi.

The Micronesian Honeyeater (Myzomela rubrata (Lesson)) is split into four subspecies which still are widely distributed over a big part of Micronesia.

The above-mentioned account from the early 20th century shows that this species, or perhaps a closely related form once also inhabited the island of Nauru.

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References:

[1] Paul Hambruch: Nauru. Ergebnisse der Südsee-Expedition 1908-1910. II. Ethnographie: B. Mikronesien, Band 1.1 Halbband. Hamburg, Friedrichsen 1914

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edited: 26.04.2022

Rhipidura cervina Ramsay

Lord Howe Fantail (Rhipidura cervina)

The Lord Howe Fantail, also known as Fawn-breasted Fantail, was endemic to Lord Howe Island; it is sometimes als treated as a subspecies of the New Zealand fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa (Sparrman)).

Nearly all of the endemic or native birds that formerly inhabited Lord Howe Island disappeared shortly after 1918, when the steamship ‘SS Makambo’ ran aground on Ned’s Beach in the northern part of the island and Black Rats (Rattus rattus (L.)) from the wreck came ashore.

The species was apparently last seen in 1924.

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Depiction from: ‘Gregory M. Mathews: The birds of Norfolk & Lord Howe Islands and the Australasian South Polar quadrant: with additions to “birds of Australia”. London: H. F. & G. Witherby 1928’

(public domain)

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edited: 30.10.2020

Upupa antaios Olson

Saint Helena Hoopoe (Upupa antaios)

As its name implies, this species was endemic to the island of Saint Helena in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean.

The Saint Helena Hoopoe was larger than the remaining two or three hoopoe species, it had somewhat reduced wings but certainly was not flightless as is often stated. [1]

***

It is quite intriguing that none of the old contemporaneous accounts, given by the early settlers on Saint Helena, mentions this – or any of the other extinct bird species that we know only from subfossil bones.

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References:

[1] Storrs L. Olson: Paleornithology of St. Helena Island, south Atlantic Ocean, Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 23. 1975

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edited: 30.05.2021

Rhodacanthis forfex James & Olson

Scissor-billed Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis forfex)

The Scissor-billed Koa Finch is known only by subfossil remains, found on the islands of Kaua’i and Maui, the species clearly also occurred on the islands in between.

The species disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first human settlers on the Hawaiian Islands.

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References:

[1] Helen F. James; Storrs L. Olson: The diversity and biogeography of koa-finches (Drepanidini: Rhodacanthis), with descriptions of two new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144: 527-541. 2005

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edited: 07.10.2020

Rallus sp. ‘Terceira’

Terceira Rail (Rallus sp.)

This form is known from not less than 13 associated skeletons which were recovered from cave deposits on the island of Terceira, one of the Azores Islands, Portugal, most of which, however, with fragmentary bones only.

The Terceira Rail was a member of the genus Rallus but has not yet being described. [1]

***

There is a very exceptional specimen that can be assigned to this species that was found in Algar do Carvão, a chimney of a former volcano in the center of Terceina. This specimen is of an individual that was mummified by natural processes and is now preserved as a three-dimensional body still bearing soft body parts, skin and feathers “wrapped” in a silicified crust. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Nesoenas picturata ssp. aldabrana (Sclater)

Amirante Islands Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata ssp. aldabrana)

The Amirante Islands are a group of small coral islands in the so-called outher Seychelles southwest of the Seychelles main islands.

These islands were once inhabted by an endemic subspecies of the Madagascar Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata (Temminck)), which actually might even warrant species status.

The Amirante Islands Turtle Dove was apparently extirpated by direct hunting, because the birds were seen as a pest; the last individuals were seen in the 1950s.

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Depiction from: ‘P. L. Sclater: Description of a new species of dove from the coralreef of Alabra. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871: 692-693′

(public domain)

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edited: 07.05.2022

Cyanoramphus sp. ‚Rapa‘

Rapa Parakeet (Cyanoramphus sp.)


This species is known from subfossil remains that were found during excavations on the island of Rapa, Austral Islands.

These remains somewhat fill the giant gap in the distribution area of the genus, which is found on the one hand with many species in the western Pacific region (New Caledonia and New Zealand faunal regions) and on the other hand with two species on the Society Islands in central Polynesia.

There are hundreds of suitable island groups and islands between these two areas where not a single member of the genus was ever found. [1]

***

The Rapa Parakeet very likely was a ground-dwelling species, like most members of its genus, and was also very likely very tame and thus was probably among the first birds to be eradicated by the first human occupants of the island. [1]

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References:

[1] J. D. Tennyson; Atholl Anderson: Bird, reptile and mammal remains from archaeological sites on Rapa Island. In: Atholl Anderson; Douglas J. Kennett: Taking the High Ground; The archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia. In: Terra Australis 37. 105-114. Canberra, ANU E Press 2012

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edited: 08.02.2020

Anas gracilis ssp. ‘New Caledonia’

New Caledonian Grey Teal (Anas gracilis ssp.)

This form is known only from subfossil remains that had been found on the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia.

This was probably an endemic form of the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis Buller), a species that is otherwise known from Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand, however, this species is sometimes found on New Caledonia as a vagrant, thus it is also possible that the subfossil remains descent from such vagrant birds. [1]

The form is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinction and biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

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edited: 10.11.2021

Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild

Greater Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis palmeri)

The Greater Koa Finch, named hopue by the native Hawaiians, was already nearly extinct when it was discovered by European ornithologists.

The species originally inhabited dry lowland forests that were dominated by the endemic koa acacias (Acacia koa A. Gray) whose seed pods and seeds apparently were its main food source, it furthermore fed on the seeds of the native ‘a’ali’i (Dodonaea viscosa Jacq.) and caterpillars. Most of the lowland forests had already been destroyed by the Hawaiian natives long before the first European settlers arrived, and the finches were restricted to the small remains in the northern Kona District in the western part of Hawai’i.

***

When alive, Greater Koa Finch was by far the largest of the Hawaiian endemic drepanidine finches; it reached a size of 23 cm; the males had bright scarlet-orange heads and breasts, while the females were more or less completely plain green colored.

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References:

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’

(public domain)

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edited: 07.10.2020

Anatidae gen. & sp. ‘Mariana Islands’

Rota Duck (Anatidae gen. & sp.)

The Rota Duck is known so far only from subfossil bones that were recovered from deposits on the island of Rota in the Mariana Islands.

The species was small and probably flightless, not much else is known about it so far. [1]

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References:

[1] David W. Steadman: Extinct and extirpated birds from Rota, Mariana Islands. Micronesia 25(1): 71-84. 1992

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edited: 10.11.2021

Turdus lherminieri ssp. ‘Martinique’

Martinique Forest Thrush (Turdus lherminieri ssp.)

The Forest Thrush (Turdus lherminieri (Lafresnaye)) inhabits, respectively inhabited some of the islands of the Lesser Antilles, where it is known from Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat as well as from Saint Lucia.

The species is, however, not known from Martinique, which is located between Dominica and Saint Lucia, but almost for sure did once occur there as well and probably did so with an endemic subspecies; yet currently there is no proof so far for that assumption, thus I will only briefly mention this assumption here.

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edited: 02.05.2022

Rallus montivagorum Alcover, Pieper, Pereira & Rando

Pico Rail (Rallus montivagorum)

The Pico Rail was described in 2015, it is known from subfossil material that had been collected in 2013 at a place named Furna das Torres on the island of Pico, Azores, Portugal.

The species derived from the European mainland Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus L.) and differed from that species by its slighly smaller size and a reduced sternum which indicates that it probably was completely flightless.

Some of the remains could be dated to an age of about 1405 to 1450, that is around the same time when Portugese begun to colonize the Azores. [1]

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References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Vorombe titan (Andrews)

Giant Elephant Bird (Vorombe titan)

The Giant Elephant Bird was originally described in 1894, however, the whole elephant bird family was in urgent need of a proper revision, which indeed took place in 2018 and which lead to a reduction of the number of species and the description of a completely new genus for the largest of the species. [1]

The species must have reached a size of 3 m and must have weighted up to 730 kg, making it the heaviest known bird, dead or alive.

The Giant Elephant Bird died out shortly after the arrival of humans on the island of Madagascar, most likely due to habitat destruction and overhunting.

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References:

[1] James P. Hansford; Samuel T. Turvey: Unexpected diversity within the extinct elephant birds (Aves: Aepyornithidae) and a new identity for the world’s largest bird. Royal Society Open Science 5(9): 1-28. 2018

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edited: 22.01.2022

Amazona vittata ssp. ‘Antigua’

Antigua Amazon (Amazona vittata ssp.)

This form is known from at least two subfossil bones recovered from archaeological sites on the island of Antigua, which were identified as being identical to the Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata (Boddaert)).

It is of course possible that the species was brought to the island by early human settlers, which apparently have always hunted parrots for food but have also kept them as pets and transported them from one place to another. The neighboring island of Barbuda, however, is known to once have harbored a native population of this species or maybe a very closely related one, so it is likely that the same form, or rather a subspecies of it inhabited Antigua as well. [1]

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References:

[1] Charles A. Woods; Florence E. Sergile: Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, Second Edition. CRC Press; Auflage: Subsequent 2001

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edited: 13.02.2020

Megapodius pritchardii ssp. ‘Samoa’

Samoan Megapode (Megapodius pritchardii ssp.)

This taxon is known exclusively on the basis of subfossil bones, found on the small island of Ofu, part of ‘American’ Samoa.

The remains were tentatively identified as possibly belonging to the Tongan Megapode (Megapodius cf. pritchardii), if so, they may have been a local subspecies. [2]

***

This form may be the bird that was described (as Megapodius stairi Gray) based on a single egg found on the island of Savai’i.:

Nach Bennett (Proc. 1862. p. 247) erhielt Dawson auch die lebenden Vögel auf Sava- oder Russel-Island, die indess leider auf der Ueberfahrt nach Sydney starben. Die Eingeborenen kennen diese Hühner sehr gut und sammeln die Eier fleissig, mit welchen sie Handel treiben. Ein Weibchen legt täglich 2-4 Eier.” 

translation:

According to Bennett (Proc. 1862. p. 247) Dawson obtained also the life birds on Sava- or Russel Island [Savai’i], which, however, unfortunately died during the crossing to Sydney. The natives know these chickens very well and diligently collect the eggs, with which they trade. A female lays 2-4 eggs on the daily [I personally doubt that number!].” [1]

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References:

[1] O. Finsch; G. Hartlaub: Beitrag zur Fauna Centralpolynesiens. Ornthologie der Viti-, Samoa- und Tonga-Inseln. Halle, H. W. Schmidt 1867
[2] David W. Steadman: Extinction and biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006

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Todiramphus sp. ‚Rapa‘

Rapa Kingfisher (Todiramphus sp.)

The Rapa Kingfisher is yet a hypothetical species that I like to erect based on an account from the 1920s. [1]

This account speaks about the color symbolism of Rapan feather cloaks and says that royal cloaks incorporated dark blue feathers from a bird named “kotokoto”, which was supposed to have been a kingfisher, apparently most likely the Tuamotu Kingfisher (Todiramphus gertrudae Murphy) [but named Halcyon gambieri in the paper [1]].

I personally think that this is rather unlikely, if the feathers came from any kind of imported kingfisher species, as the paper [1] suggests, then probably not from birds from Mangareva (which were already almost extinct at that time) but even more unlikely from birds from the Niau atoll, which is located far, far away from the island of Rapa. They may, however, have come from the far more closely situated Cook Islands, which harbors more than one endemic kingfisher forms. But there may very well once have been an endemic kingfisher species on the island of Rapa as well, because why not?!

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References:

[1] J. D. Tennyson; Atholl Anderson: Bird, reptile and mammal remains from archaeological sites on Rapa Island. In: Atholl Anderson; Douglas J. Kennett: Taking the High Ground; The archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia. In: Terra Australis 37. 105-114. Canberra, ANU E Press 2012

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edited: 08.02.2020

Tachornis uranoceles Olson

Puerto Rico Palm Swift (Tachornis uranoceles)

The Puerto Rico Palm Swift was described in 1982, it is known only from fossil remains that were recovered from Blackbone Cave on the island of Puerto Rico and that were dated to a Late Pleistocene age.

The species very likely had similar habits as the three still existing congeneric species, it inhabited palm grooves in open savannas, a habitat that mostly disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene, leading to the extinction of this and several other species. [1]

The Puerto Rico Palm Swift may, however, have survived into the early Holocene.

***

Today, another congeneric species is occurring in the Caribbean including Puert Rico, the Antillean Palm Swift (Tachornis phoenicobia Gosse) (see photo below).

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References:

[1] Storrs L. Olson: A new species of palm swift (Tachornis: Apodidae) from the Pleistocene of Puerto Rico. The Auk 99(2): 230-235. 1982

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Antillean Palm Swift (Tachornis phoenicobia Gosse)

Photo: ZankaM

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

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edited: 05.11.2020

Neochen pugil (Winge)

Minas Gerais Goose (Neochen pugil)

This species was described in 1888 based on fossil bones that were found in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The remains were dated to Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene; thus, the species is briefly mentioned here. [1]

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References:

[1] O. Winge: Fugle fra Knoglehuler i Brasilien. E Museo Lundii 1(2): 1-54. 1888

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edited: 17.02.2020

Corvus sp. ‘Bermudas’

Bermudas Islands Crow (Corvus sp.)

Birds.         

Neither hath the aire for her part been wanting with due supplies of many sorts of Fowles, as the gray and white Hearne, the gray and greene Plover, some wilde Ducks and Malards, Coots and Red-shankes, Sea-wigions, Gray-bitterns, Cormorants, numbers of small Birds like Sparrowes and Robins, which have lately beene destroyed by the wilde Cats, Wood-pickars, very many Crowes, which since this Plantation are kild, the rest fled or seldome seene except in the most uninhabited places, from whence they are observed to take their flight about sun set, directing their course towards the North-west, which makes many coniecture there are some more Ilands not far off that way.
” [1]

This is a part of an account from 1623 that reports some of the bird life inhabiting the Bermudas Islands at that time.

Given the remote location of the islands, the crows mentioned here very likely were of an endemic form, may it have been a species or a subspecies; the text even tells us how these crow population went extinct, they were killed by the British settlers because they were considered a pest for their crops.

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References:

[1] John Smith: The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their first beginning, An: 1584. to this present 1624. With the Procedings of Those Severall Colonies and the Accidents that befell them in all their Journyes and Discoveries. Also the Maps and Descriptions of all those Countryes, their Commodities, people, Government, Customes, and Religion yet knowne. Divided into Sixe Bookes. By Captaine Iohn Smith, sometymes Governour in those Countryes & Admirall of New England. London: printed by I. D. and I. H. for Michael Sparkes 1624

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edited: 05.11.2020

Ceyx pusillus ssp. aolae Ogilvie-Grant

Guadalcanal Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus ssp. aolae)

The Guadalcanal Little Kingfisher is one of the nine subspecies of the Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillaTemminck), a species that occurs from Australia to parts of melanesia; it is known only from the type specimen that was collected on the island of Guadalcanal, eastern Solomon Islands.

The single known specimen is very similar to Richard’s Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus ssp. richardsi Tristram) (see depiction) from the central Solomon Islands, it differs from that subspecies by its incomplete pectoral band and by its white, blue-tipped undertail coverts. [1]

The Guadalcanal Little Kingfisher is often thought to be extinct, this, however, is not entirely certain.

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References:

[1] C. Hilary Fry; Kathie Fry: Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, & Rollers. Helm 1992

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Richard’s Little Kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus ssp. richardsi Tristram)

Depiction from: ‘H. B. Tristram: Notes on a collection of birds from the Solomon Islands, with descriptions of new species. The Ibis 133-146. 1882’

(not in copyright)

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edited: 01.11.2020

Crax sp. ‘Mituporanga’

Mituporanga (Crax sp.)

The Mituporanga is known only from a very old painting (see below), drawn by Eckhout Hoflössnitz sometimes between 1653 and 1659, which in fact might just depict a Bare-faced Curassow (Crax fasciolata Spix) or indeed a completely distinct species that is now lost. This painting is included in a book that depicts some birds from the former Dutch colony of Dutch Brazil, an area that today is covered mainly by the federative units of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. [1]

Ornithologists have not recorded a species of Crax in the Northern Mata Atlântica. Thus, the plate and other paintings from the same time, and oral testimonies from old hunters are unambiguous evidence for either the historic disappearance of a disjunct population of the similar-looking bare- faced curassow (Crax fasciolata) or an undescribed species.” [2]

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References:

[1] Dante Martins Teixeira: Os quadros de aves tropicais do Castelo de Hoflössnitz na Saxônia e Albert Eckhout (ca. 1610–1666), artista do Brasil Holandês. Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros 49: 67-90. 2009
[2] Alexander C. Lees; Stuart L. Pimm: Species, extinct before we knew them? Current Biology 25(5): 177-180. 2015

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Depiction by Eckhout Hoflössnitz, between 1653 and 1659

(public domain)

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edited: 25.04.2021

Hemignathus affinis ssp. ‘Moloka’i’

Molokai Nukupuu (Hemignathus affinis ssp.)

The Maui Nukupuu (Hemignathus affinis Rothschild) was historically known only from the island of Maui, yet, this species or at least a very closely related one also once inhabited the neighboring island of Moloka’i – and very likely also Lana’i.:

A fossil almost certainly of this species [Hemignathus lucidus Lichtenstein] was also recovered from sand dune deposits on Molokai.” [1]

***

Given the fact that the Amakihi (Hemignathus virens (Gmelin)) is known to have inhabited the island of Hawai’i (with the nominate form) as well as the islands of Lana’i, Maui, and Moloka’i (with another subspecies), it is quite certain that the Molokai Nukupuu was identical with the Maui species, perhaps even on subspecific level.

***

All species formerly known as Nukupuu are now extinct.

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References:

[1] Storrs Olson & Helen F. James: Nomenclature of the Hawaiian Akialoas and Nukupuus (Aves: Drepanidini). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 108(3): 373-387. 1995

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edited: 09.10.2020

Pampusana sp. ‘Efate’

Efate Ground Dove (Pampusana sp.)

This form is known on the basis of subfossil remains that indicate a bird of similar size to the Friendly Ground Dove (Pampusana stairi (Gray)), a species that inhabits the islnds of western Polynesia.

The Efate Ground Dove was sympatric with the still existing smaller Santa Cruz Ground Dove (Pampusana sanctaecrucis (Mayr)). [1]

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References:  

[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Start Hawkins; Stuart Bedford; Matthew Spriggs: Avifauna from the Teouma Lapita site, Efate Island, Vanuatu, including a new genus and species of megapode. Pacific Science 69(2): 205-254. 2015

Otus frutuosoi Rando, Alcover, Olson & Pieper

Sao Miguel Scops Owl (Otus frutuosoi)

The Sao Miguel Scops Owl was described in 2013 based on subfossil remains that had been recovered from Quatrnary deposits on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.

The species had relatively longer legs and shorter wings than the Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops (L.)); it was generally a ground-dwelling bird that apparently was on the way of becoming flightless. [1]

***

It is very likely that additional species of scops owls inhabited the others of the Azores Islands.

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References:

[1] Juan Carlos Rando; Josep Antoni Alcover; Storrs L. Olson; & Harald Pieper: A new species of extinct scops owl (Aves: Strigiformes: Strigidae: Otus) from São Miguel Island (Azores Archipelago), North Atlantic Ocean. Zootaxa. 3647 (2): 343–357. 2013

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edited: 02.05.2022

Caracara seymouri Suárez & Olson

Seymour’s Caracara (Caracara seymouri)  

This species was described in 2014 based on fossil remains that were recovered from the Talara Tar Seeps in northwestern Peru. These remains have been dated to Late Pleistocene/Earliest Holocene in age.

The species is also known from Late Pleistocene remains found in Ecuador. [1]

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References:  

[1] William Suárez; Storrs L. Olson: A new fossil species of small crested caracara (Aves: Falconidae: Caracara) from the Pacific lowlands of western South America. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 127(2) :299–310. 2014

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edited: 21.09.2020

Rhodacanthis flaviceps Rothschild

Lesser Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis flaviceps)

The Lesser Koa Finch was already almost extinct when it was discovered by European ornithologists in 1892; it was only found only once, in its type locality, a place called Pu’u Lehua in the lowlands of the northern Kona District almost in the middle of the western coast of Hawai’i.

It was found in mixed flocks with Greater Koa-Finches (Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild) feeding on the seeds of koa acacias (Acacia koa A. Gray), eight specimens were taken back than by bird collectors, which did not recognize that they were dealing with two distinct species at that time. [1]

***

The species reached a size of about 19 cm; males had bright yellow heads and bellies, while females were nearly completely green colored. [1]

***

The Lesser Koa-Finch was never found again since so was probably extinct already shortly after. [1]

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References:

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’ 

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 07.10.2020

Acrocephalus musae ssp. musae (J. R. Forster)

Raiatea Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus musae ssp. musae)

The Raiatea Reed Warbler was first collected in 1773 during James Cook’s second expedition into the South Sea, it was described in 1844.

The bird was depicted by Georg Forster (see below).

The species was collected again in the 1870s but apparently disappeared sometimes later because it was not found by the famous WSSE (Whitney South Sea Expedition) in 1922. Today only a single specimen remains in the collection of the ‘Übersee-Museum’ in Bremen, Germany

*********************

References:

[1] Alice Cibois; Jean-Claude Thibault; Eric Pasquet: Systematics of the extinct reed warblers Acrocephalus of the Society Islands of eastern Polynesia. Ibis 150: 365–376. 2008

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Depiction: Georg Forster; between 1772 and 1775

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 21.01.2019

Chlorostilbon elegans (Gould)

Gould’s Emerald (Chlorostilbon elegans)

Gould’s Emerald, also known as the Caribbean Emerald, was described in 1860 based on a single specimen of unknown origin; however, it is somehow believed to have originated from the northern Bahamas or from Jamaica.

Thes species was thought to be a hybrid until 1999, when its status as a distinct species could be proven. [1]

Since no additional individual could ever be traced, Gould’s Emerald is clearly extinct now.

*********************

References:

[1] André-Alexander Weller: On types of trochilids in The Natural History Museum, Tring II. Re-evaluation of Erythronota (?) elegans Gould 1860: a presumed extinct species in the genus Chlorostilbon. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 119(3): 197–202. 1999

*********************

Depiction from: ‘John Gould: A monograph of the Trochilidae, or family of humming-birds. London: printed by Taylor and Francis 1849-1861’

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 30.10.2020

Fringillidae gen. & sp. ‘Kaua’i’

Additional Kauai Finch (Fringillidae gen. & sp.)

This is a form of drepanidine finch that is still only insufficiently known, its very fragmenary remains were recovered from the deposits of the the Makawehi Dunes on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

These remains consist only of the caudal part of a mandibular ramus, differing from all other Hawaiian finch species, alive or extinct.

The form is currently known only as ‘Additional Kauai Finch’, it might have been a Psittirostra sp.. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

*********************

edited: 06.11.2020

Turnix sp. ‘Timor’

Timor Buttonquail (Turnix sp.)

This bird is known from several subfossil bones that were found during excavations on the island of Timor, Indonesia; it occurred on that island sympatrically with another buttonquail species, the Red-backed Buttonquail (Turnix maculosus (Temminck)) which is native to parts of Asia as well as Australia.

The remains were dated to an age of about 1372 to 1300 BP. 

The Timor Buttonquail was larger than the other species and probably was endemic to the island or at least to the region, it is now clearly extinct. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Hanneke J. M. Meijer; Julien Louys; Sue O’Connor: First record of avian extinctions from the Late Pleistocene and Holocene of Timor Leste. Quaternary Science Reviews 203: 170-184. 2019

*********************

edited: 03.10.2020

Geospiza magnirostris ssp. magnirostris Gould

Large Ground Finch (Geospiza magnirostris ssp. magnirostris)

The Large Ground Finch was described in 1837 based on material that was collected by Charles Darwin on the Galápagos Islands.

The species reaches a size of about 16 cm; the males are mostly blackish brown while the females are speckled dark – and light brown.

Today this species can be found on all the main islands within the archipelago, except for Darwin, Española, and San Cristóbal, where it is thought to have become extinct. 

***

When Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835, he collected several specimens on several of the islands; his specimens, however, don’t always bear reliable labels, and in some cases, he seems to have forgotten on which island he had collected which specimen.

Indeed, Darwin’s typespecimens have provided a considerable nightmare of taxonomic problems for subsequent ornithologists, based largely on their controversial localities. Darwin claimed, for example, that specimens of a peculiar large-beaked form of Geospiza magnirostris came from Chatham [Isla Floreana] and Charles islands [Isla San Cristóbal]. But after more than a century of subsequent collecting without finding any such large-billed specimens, ornithologists found themselves faced with a puzzle. Either this form had become extinct on Chatham and Charles islands, where no magnirostris specimens (large or small) had ever been found by other expeditions; or else Darwin’s specimens must have come from islands other than those indicated.” [1]

***

This very large-billed Large Ground Finch is often treated as some kind of nominate form of the species but may in fact be nothing but a just large-billed population that is now gone for whatever reasons.

*********************  

References:  

[1] Frank J. Sulloway: The Beagle collections of Darwin’s finches (Geospizinae).- Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Zoology) 43: 49-94. 1982

*********************

Depiction from: ‘John Gould: The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, during the years 1832-1836. Part III, Birds. London, Smith, Elder & Co. 1838’  

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 31.05.2021

Tongoenas burleyi Steadman & Takano

Giant Tongan Pigeon (Tongoenas burleyi)

This very large but still fully volant species is known for quite some time; it is known only on the basis of subfossil bones that were recovered from several sites on some of the Tongan islands, including ‘Eua, Foa, Lifuka, and Tongatapu. The species was finally named in 2020. [1]

In life, this species must have reached a length of more than 50 cm, making it one of the largest pigeons at all, only exceeded in size by the New Guinean crowned pigeons (Goura spp.).

The giant Tongan Pigeon died out shortly after the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers at around 2800 years BP.. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] David W. Steadman; Oona M. Takano: A new genus and species of pigeon (Aves, Columbidae) from the Kingdom of Tonga, with an evaluation of hindlimb osteology of columbids from Oceania. Zootaxa 4810(3): 401-420. 2020

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edited: 22.08.2022

Eclectus infectus ssp. ‘Vanuatu’

Vanuatu Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus infectus ssp.)

This taxon is known from only two bones, a tibiotarsus and an ulna, that were recovered from a Late Holocene archaeological site on the island of Malakula, Vanuatu.

I personally would like to give that form a distinct subspecific placement, since other Eclectus Parrot taxa (Eclectus cornelia Bonaparte, Eclectus polychloros (Scopoli), Eclectus riedeli Meyer, Eclectus roratus (Müller)) are also usually restricted to single islands or island groups.

*********************

References:

[1] David W. Steadman: A new species of extinct parrot (Psittacidae: Eclectus) from Tonga and Vanuatu, South Pacific. Pacific Science 60(1): 137-145. 2006

*********************

edited: 19.05.2022

Stephanoaetus mahery Goodman

Malagasy Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus mahery)

The Malagasy Crowned Eagle was described in 1994 based on subfossil remains found on the island of Madagascar.

The species was quite similar to the African Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus (L.)), one of the largest eagles in the world, but was probably even slightly larger.

The eagle inhabited the forested areas of Madagascar until around 1500 AD. And was wiped out by humans.

***

Like its African cousin this species was able to hunt for the middle-sized to large primate species, the lemures, and apparently was one of the apex predators on the island; in fact the recent lemures still show a distinct raptor avoidance behavior that dates back to the time when their biggest enemy was still alive.

*********************


Photo: Bernard Dupont

(under creative commons license (2.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

*********************

edited: 25.05.2021

Accipiter quartus Balouet & Olson

Gracile Goshawk (Accipiter quartus)

This species was described in 1989; it is known only by subfossil remains that were recovered from cave deposits on the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] J. C. Balouet; Storrs L. Olson: Fossil birds from Late Quaternary deposits in New Caledonia. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 469: 23-27. 1989

*********************

edited: 23.02.2022

Turnix sylvatica ssp. suluensis Mearns

Sulu Small Buttonquail (Turnix sylvatica ssp. suluensis)

The Small Buttonquil (Turnix sylvatica (Desfontaines)) occurs with nine subspecies from parts of Africa and southern Europe to Southeast Asia; about four subspecies occur in the Philippine Islands alone.

The subspecies that once occurred on the island of Jolo in the Sulu Islands was last seen in the 1950s and is now considered most likely extinct.

***

The nominate form was known to inhabit the island of Sicily, Italy, where the species apparently was last recorded during the 1920s, as well as Andalusia, Spain where it was last recorded in 1981. This form survives today only in a small area in Morocco, where only an extremely small population of about a hand full of individuals exist. [1][2]

*********************

References:

[1] Carlo G. Violani; Bruno Massa: Extinction of the Andalusian Hemipode Turnix s. sylvatica (Desf.) in the Mediterranean region. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 113(4): 225-229. 1993
[2] Daniel Lingenhöhl: Erste europäische Vogelart seit Riesenalk ausgestorben. Spektrum.de. 16. November 2018

*********************

edited: 03.10.2020

Lathrotriccus euleri ssp. flaviventris (Lawrence)

Grenadan Euler’s Flycatcher (Lathrotriccus euleri ssp. flaviventris)

The Grenadan Euler’s Flycatcher was a subspecies of Euler’s Flycatcher (Lathrotriccus euleri (Cabanis)), an rather inconspicuous  bird species that is distributed over large parts of northern South America.

The Grenadan subspecies was restricted to the island of Grenada northwest of Trinidad and Tobago; it differed from the nominate form (see photo below) by its slightly more yellow colored underside.

*********************

(Lathrotriccus euleri); nominate form

Photo:  Francesco Veronesi

(under creative commons license (2.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

*********************

edited: 05.05.2022

Accipitridae gen. & sp. ‘Hispaniola’

Hispaniolan Eagle (Accipitridae gen. & sp.)

The Hispaniolan Eagle is an undescribed bird of prey that inhabited the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean; it was first recognized as a new taxon in 2019.

The species reached the same dimensions as the largest living eagle species, the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus (L.)) and the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyia (L.)), which both are known to feed on middle-sized mammals.

The Hispaniolan Eagle certainly preyed upon arboreal sloths, primates and caviomorph rodents, which all disappeared during the mid-Holocene after the arrival of humans. It is thus very likely that this eagle also died out after its prey animals vanished. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] David W. Steadman; Juan N. Almonte Milan; Alexis M. Mychajliw: An extinct eagle (Aves: Accipitridae) from the Quaternary of Hispaniola. JJournal of Raptor Research 53(3): 319-333. 2019

*********************

edited: 14.11.2021

Ciconia maltha Miller

La Brea Stork (Ciconia maltha)

The La Brea Stork was described in 1910, originally based on fossil bones that were recovered from the rich La Brea Tar Pits in California, USA; however, the species was for more widespread and is now known to also have occurred in other parts of what today is the USA.

The species already appears in Late Pliocene deposits and disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene, but the population that inhabited the island of Cuba apparently survived well into the Holocene era and may even have been eradicated by the first human settlers.

*********************

edited: 19.8.2022

Rallus sp. ‘Santa Maria’

Santa Maria Rail (Rallus sp.)

This form is known from ten subfossil bones, most of them fragmentary only, collected on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores group, Portugal.

The Santa Maria Rail most likely was a distinct species. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

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edited: 10.09.2019

Otus grucheti (Mourer-Chauviré, Bour, Moutou & Ribes)

Reunion Scops Owl (Otus grucheti)

The Reunion Scops Owl was restricted to the island of Réunion in the Mascarene Islands; it was described in 1994 and is known exclusively from subfossil remains.

The species has not been mentioned in any of the many contemporary reports; thus it is believed that it died out very shortly after the arrival of the first human settlers on the island.

*********************

edited: 02.05.2022

Pterodroma rupinarum (Olson)

Saint Helena Petrel (Pterodroma rupinarum)

The Saint Helena Petrel was described in 1975, it is known only from subfossil remains.

The species disappeared shortly after the first human settlers set their feet onto the island probably due to direct hunting but also due to predation by introduced mammalian predators.

*********************

edited: 29.05.2021

Amazona vittata ssp. ‘Barbuda’

Barbuda Amazon (Amazona vittata ssp.)

This form is known from a nearly complete rostrum found in 1962 in the deposits of a precultural cave site on the island of Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda.

The specimen agrees with the the rostrum of a modern Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata (Boddaert)), which formerly might have been far more widespead than it was in historical times, let alone today. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Charles A. Woods; Florence E. Sergile: Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, Second Edition. CRC Press; Auflage: Subsequent 2001

*********************

edited: 13.02.2020

Otus siaoensis (Schlegel)

Siau Scops Owl (Otus siaoensis)

The Siau Scops Owl is a highly threatened, very likely already extinct owl species that was endemic to the island of Siau north of Sulawesi, Indonesia; it is known only from the type specimen that had been collected in 1866.

The species reached a size of 17 cm.

The Siau Scops Owl is closely related to the Sulawesi Scops Owl (Otus manadensis (Quoy & Gaimard)) (see photo below) and was for some time considered a subspecies of it but is now regarded as a distinct species.

*********************

Sulawesi Scops Owl (Otus manadensis)

Photo: A. S. Kono

(under creative commons license (3.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

*********************

edited: 02.05.2022

Aplonis diluvialis Steadman

Huahine Starling (Aplonis diluvialis)

The Huahine Starling was described in 1989, it is known only from subfossil remains, which were excavated from archaeological deposits on the island of Huahine in the Society Islands. [1]

The species was quite large, it might have reached a size of up to 29 cm.

*********************

References:

[1] David W. Steadman: A new species of starling (Sturnidae, Aplonis) from an archaeological site on Huahine, Society Islands. Notornis 36: 161–169. 1989

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edited: 30.04.2021

Monarcha mendozae ssp. mendozae (Hartlaub)

Hiva Oa Monarch (Monarcha mendozae ssp. mendozae)

The Hiva Oa Monarch is the nominate form of a species that not only occurred on the islands of Hiva Oa and Tahuata but also on the neighboring island of Mohotani, where a distinct, endemic subspecies, the Mohotani Monarch (Monarcha medozae ssp. motanensis Murphy & Mathews), survives until today.

The species was locally known as kamokao atua respectively koma’o atu’a; the birds reached a length of 17 cm; the males of the nominate form were completely velvety black, while the females had a black head, the body was white with a pinkish tinge on the underside, the wings were black and white, the tail was white and had black subterminal spots.

The Hiva Oa Monarch disappeared from Tahuata shortly after 1922, when some specimens were collected by the Whitney South Sea Expedition; the very last record, however, was of a single bird that was seen in 1975 in a small valley of the O’otua Plateau on Hiva Oa. [1][2][3]

*********************

References:

[1] Robert Cushman Murphy; Gregory M. Mathews: Birds collected during the Whitney South Sea Expedition. V. American Museum Novitates 337: 1-18. 1928
[2] D. T. Holyoak; Jean-Claude Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[3] Jean-Claude Thibault; Jean-Yves Meyer: Contemporary extinctions and population declines of the monarchs (Pomarea spp.) in French Polynesia, South Pacific. Oryx 35(1): 73-80. 2001

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edited: 08.05.2022

Ninox sp. ‘New Caledonia’

New Caledonian Boobook (Ninox sp.)

This taxon is known only from subfossil remains that were found in the deposits of at least two caves on the western coast of the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia.

This form is believed to be extinct, however, there’s a slight chance that it may still survive, since the nocturnal avifauna of the New Caledonian islands still is very much underexplored.

*********************

edited: 05.11.2021

Ptilinopus rarotongensis ssp. ‘Mangaia’

Mangaia Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus rarotongensis ssp.)

This form is known based on a single subfossil femur that was found in the Te Rua Rere Cave on the island of Mangaia, Cook Islands.

The species still occurs (with two subspecies which may in fact be candidates for splitting) on the islands of ‘Atiu and Rarotonga, both likewise in the Cook archipelago, and may have constituted another distinct, now extinct subspecies. [2]

***

There is yet (of course) an interesting account, which is given by  D. T. Holyoak and J. C. Thibault in 1984.:

P. r. sous-espèce?

… 
Mangaia: un habitant de cette île déclara, en 1973, qu’il connaissaitle «Kukupa» et que cet oiseau habitait seulement les bois de la région corallienne. Il sut imiter l’appel et décrivit le nid. Toutefois, Ducula pacifica, qui est également inconnue dans cette île, pourrait être l’oiseau décrit.
” [1]

translation:

P. r. subspecies?


Mangaia: a resident of this island declared, in 1973, that he knew «Kukupa» and that this bird lived only in the woods of the coral region. He knew how to imitate the call and described the nest. However, Ducula pacifica, which is also unknown on this island, could be the described bird.

Kukupa is the local name for the Lilac-crowned Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus rarotongensis Hartlaub & Finsch), and (most if not all) Polynesians make a clear distinction between the smaller green fruit-doves (Ptilinopus spp.) and the larger imperial pigeons (Ducula spp.), which on the Cook Islands are called rupe.

*********************

References:

[1] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[2] David W. Steadman: Fossil birds from Mangaia, southern Cook Islands. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 105(2): 58-66. 1985

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edited: 09.03.2020

Bountyphaps obsoleta Worthy & Wragg

Henderson Island Archaic Pigeon (Bountyphaps obsoleta)

This large columbiform was described in 2008 based on subfossil bone material that had been collected from cave deposits on Henderson Island in the Pitcairn Islands.

The species was hunted by the Polynesian settlers and birds were also brought (dead or alive?) to the Gambier Islands, where their subfossil remains were found in archaeological sites. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Stanislas Rigal; Patrick V. Kirch; Trevor H. Worthy: New prehistoric avifaunas from the Gambier Group, French Polynesia. Palaeontologia Electronica 21.3.4A 1-35. 2018

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edited: 25.04.2022

Rhipidura rufifrons ssp. uraniae Oustalet

Guam Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons ssp. uraniae)

The Guam Rufous Fantail is one of the victims of the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis (Merrem in Bechstein)), a snake species that was introduced to Guam probably sometimes during the 1940s resulting in the devastating loss of nearly all native bird species.

Like so many other bird species from guam, this one was last seen during the 1985s, it is now extinct.

***

The Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons (Latham)), if treated as a single species, occurs from eastern Australia to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and parts of Micronesia; however, this species is a candidate for splitting, which would lead to the Guam Rufous Fantail being treated as a distinct, monotypic species, while the other two remaining subspecies found in the Mariana Islands today (the one from Saipan Island is depicted below) would be regarded to as another, closely related one.

***

The name that the Chamorro, the native inhabitans of the Mariana Islands, gave this bird is Chichirika, this name is now apparently used for the Eurasian Tree Sparow (Passer montanus (L.)), a species that was imported to the Mariana Islands.

*********************

Saipan Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons ssp. saipanensis Hartert)

Photo: Peter

(under creative commons license (2.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

*********************

edited: 30.10.2020

Toxostoma guttatum (Ridgway)

Cozumel Thrasher (Toxostoma guttatum)

The Cozumel Thrasher is, or rather was, endemic to Cozumel Island offshore the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

The species reaches a length of about 21 to 24 cm.

The Cozumel Thrasher’s population was declining due to habitat destruction, when several hurricanes hit the island, leading to a further decreasing in numbers; the species was thought to have gone extinct when in 2004 it was rediscovered, only to apparently getting completely wiped out by subsequent hurricanes. It is now most likely extinct.

*********************

Photo: Naturalis Biodiversity Center

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 22.08.2022

Bermuteo avivorus Olson

Bermuda Hawk (Bermuteo avivorus)

As its name implies, this species was endemic to the Bermuda Islands; it is known from subfossil remains and apparently from a contemporaneous account made by captain Diego Ramírez who spend some time ashore for repairing his ship(s) in 1603 and which mentions handsome sparrowhawks that are so stupid that they could easily be clubbed to death. [1]

The species must have disappeared very shortly after that date, since no other traveler subsequently mentions any hawks from the Bermuda Islands.

*********************

References:

[1] Storrs L. Olson: A New Genus and Species of Buteonine Hawk from Quaternary Deposits in Bermuda (Aves: Accipitridae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 121(1): 130–141. 2008

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edited: 16.05.2022

Orthiospiza howarthi James & Olson

Maui Upland Finch (Orthiospiza howarthi)

The Maui Highland Finch aka. Maui Upland Finch was described in 1991 based on subfossil remains that had been collected from cave deposits on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

When alive, the species appears to have been restricted to higher elevations, its remains were never found in lowland deposits. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

*********************

edited: 29.04.2022

Rhodacanthis litotes James & Olson

Primitive Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis litotes)

The Primitive Koa Finch was described in 2005 based on subfossil remains that were found on the islands of Maui and O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands, the species clearly also occurred on the islands in between.

At least on Maui the species occurred in sympatry with another closely related species, the Scissor-billed Koa Finch (Rhodacanthis forfex James & Olson), a constellation which is known also from the island of Hawai’i, where two other congeneric species, the Lesser- (Rhodacanthis flaviceps Rothschild) and the greater Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild) formed mixed flocks feeding together.

The primitive Koa-Finch aka. Oahu Koa-Finch disappeared before the first Europeans arrived on the Hawaiian Islands. 

*********************

References:

[1] Helen F. James; Storrs L. Olson: The diversity and biogeography of koa-finches (Drepanidini: Rhodacanthis), with descriptions of two new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144: 527-541. 2005

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edited: 07.10.2020

Anas sp. ‘Macquarie Islands’

Macquarie Island Duck (Anas sp.)

 

The Macquarie Island Duck is known only from subfossil bones that were recovered from deposits on the island of Macquarie in the subantarctic Pacific Ocean. [1]

This was a flightless duck, very much alike the likewise flightless Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray) which inhabits the Auckland Islands in the subantarctic part of New Zealand or the Campbell Island teal (Anas nesiotis J. H. Fleming), which again is restricted to the subantarctic Campbell Islands, and which once was also almost extinct.

The Macquarie Island Duck certainly fell victim to the cats that had been imported to its island home by sailors and whalers that used Macquarie Island as a base camp.

*********************

References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002
[2] Alan J. D. Tennyson; R. Paul Scofiled: Holocene fossil bird remains from subantarctic Macquarie Island. Paleornithological Research. Proceed. 8th Internat. Meeting Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution 2013

*********************

Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray) (the two birds on the right) together with New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 10.11.2021

Prosopeia sp. ‘Tanna’

Tanna Parrot (Prosopeia sp.

There is a little account, or rather a kind of side note, that tells us of a parrot that once appers to have existed on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. This little account from August 16, 1774 was made by Georg Forster on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu during James Cook’s second voyage around the world.:

The next morning we came ashore again, and immediately walked into the woods on the plain. We saw a great number of large and beautiful parroquets, of black, red, and yellow plumage; but they kept on the tops of the highest fig-trees, where they were wholly out of the reach of small shot, guarded by the thick foliage.” [1]

***

Julian P. Hume thinks that this account most likely refers to a species of the genus Prosopeia, which otherwise is only known from the Fijian Islands. [2]

I personally, reading about the colors given in the account, do rather think that this account might rather be attributed to some kind of lorikeet, most likely from the genus Chalcopsitta or maybe Lorius, I will nevertheless maintain the name Prosopeia sp. given by Mr. Hume to avoid any confusions.

*********************

References:

[1] George Forster: A voyage round the world, in his Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution, commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the years 1772, 3, 4, and 5. London: printed for B. White, Fleet-Street; J. Robson, Bond-Street; P. Elmsly, Strand; and G. Robinson, Pater-noster-Row. Vol. II. 1778
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: 2nd edition 2017

*********************

edited: 11.02.2020

Ammodramus savannarum ssp. ‘Barbuda’

Barbudan Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum ssp.)

The Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum (J. F. Gmelin)) is distributed over most of northern America as well as parts of the Caribbean, the species was in fact first described from Jamaica.

The species is known from Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda, in the Lesser Antilles based on a single complete humerus. [1]

The Caribbean populations of the Grasshopper Sparrow are treated as distinct island-endemic subspecies, thus the remains found on Barbuda most likely represent another, now extinct population that once was restricted to Antigua and Barbuda.

*********************

References:

[1] Gregory K. Pregill; David W. Steadman; David R. Watters: Late Quaternary vertebrate faunas of the Lesser Antilles: historical components of Caribbean biogeography. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 30: 1-51. 1994

*********************

edited: 17.02.2020

Thalurania belli Verrill

Bell’s Woodnymph (Thalurania belli)

Bell’s Woodnymph is a hypothetical, yet very likely real species of hummingbird that apparently was endemic to the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles, where it seems to have been restricted to the rainforests of the highest mountains.

The species might have been on the brink of extinction when it was discovered and described by Alpheus Hyatt Verrill, an American zoologist, in 1905 (?).:

Upperparts rich iridescent metallic green, becoming deep peacock blue or verditer-green on ferhead and crown; coppery on shoulders and deep bluish or emerald green on rump: scapulars, upperwing-coverts and uppertail-coverts, deep peacock or bluish green. Wings metallic purple or steel blue, the outer web of outer primary narrowly edged with white or pale ash grey. Basal portion of tail dull copper green, the outer half deep steel blue with violet reflections. The three outer feathers on each side broadly tipped with white and the outermost feather white at base also. Lower parts uniform snow white or less washed with greyish on flanks and sides. Flanks and sides beneath wings spotted with isolated bright green feathers. Ear-coverts and loral region deep velvety black in marked contrast to green of occiput. Bill dusky black with lower mandible slightly lighter near base.” [1][2]

No one else did ever see this species and it apparently was extinct shortly after the abovementioned account. 

***

The description appears to be very extensive and correct, and I personally have no reason to doubt the former existence of such a species.

*********************

References:

[1] A. Hyatt Verrill: Additions to the avifauna of Dominica. Notes on species hitherto unrecorded with descriptions of three new species and a list of all birds now known to occur on the island. 1905?
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: 2nd edition 2017

*********************

edited: 11.02.2020

Aplonis fusca (Gould)

Norfolk Starling (Aplonis fusca)

The Norfolk Starling, aka. Tasman Starling, was restricted to Norfolk Island.

The species reached a size of 20 cm; it was greyish brown colored, with the males having some metallic glossy green feathers on the head.

The Norfolk Starling disappeared due to a combination of several factors, including competition from introduced European Starlings and thrushes, overhunting and destruction of their habitats through agricultural clearings.

The species was apparently last seen in 1923.

*********************

Depiction from: ‘Gregory M. Mathews: The birds of Norfolk & Lord Howe Islands and the Australasian South Polar quadrant: with additions to “birds of Australia”. London: H. F. & G. Witherby 1928’

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 30.04.2021

Psittrichas sp. Admirality Islands

Admirylity Islands Parrot (Psittrichas sp.)

This species, if it indeed was one, is known exclusively from one account dating to about the middle of the 19th century.: 

I saw on the main island a scarlet and black Parrot or Cockatoo of some kind, which flew out of some high trees on the seashore, screaming loudly, like a Cockatoo. The bird was wary, and I could not get a shot at it. It reminded me at the time of the rare Dasyptilus pequetti [Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus (Lesson))] of New Guinea; it was of about that size.” [1][2]

This account may refer to a species endemic to the Admirality Islands, or it may refer to the actual Pesquet’s Parrot (see depiction below), which inhabites New Guinea itself and may once have had a wider distribution or may have traveld over sea from the larger island to the smaller offshore island groups.

If it indeed refers to a endemic form, this one is now extinct, since no such bird is known to occur on the Admirality Islands today.

*********************

References:

[1] H. N. Moseley: Notes by a naturalist on the “Challenger”, being an account of various observations made during the voyage of H.M.S. “Challenger” around the world, in the years 1872-1876, under the commands of Capt. Sir G. S. Nares and Capt. F. T. Thomson. London, Macmillan and Co. 1879
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: 2nd edition 2017

*********************

Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus)

Depiction from: R. P. Lesson: Illustrations de Zoologie, ou recueil de figures d’animaux, peintes d’après nature. Paris: Arthus Bertrand 1831-1835

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 11.02.2020

Turnagra capensis ssp. minor Fleming

Stephens Island Piopio (Turnagra capensis ssp. minor)

Stephens Island, or Takapourewa in Maori, is best known for having been the last stronghold for another extinct species of bird, the Stephens Island Wren (Traversia lyallii (Rothschild)) whose last population is widely believed to have been wiped out by a single cat.

Yet, this island was also the home of another rather unknown bird, the Stephens Island Piopio, which was a small subspecies of the South Island Piopio (Turnagra capensis (Sparrman)).
The Stephens Island Piopio was formerly so numerous on the island that “there was scarcely a bush in which at least one could be seen.” [1] However, today only 12 museum specimens are all that remains of that bird. [2]

***

The Stephens Island Piopio was for some time considered to be synonymous with the nominate form, yet it differs from that race by its much smaller size and by its rather more rufescent color. [2]

***

The small piopio disappeared for the same reason as its more famous neighbor, the Stephens Island Wren: nearly complete habitat destruction and hunting pressure by introduced feral cats.

*********************

[1] E. Lukins: Stephen Island. The French Pass and vicinity. Colonist 27 & 30 October 1894 
[2] David G. Medway: Taxonomic status of the Stephens island Piopio (Turnagra capensis). Notornis 51: 231-232. 2004

*********************

edited: 03.10.2020

Ptilinopus rarotongensis ssp. ‘Ma’uke’

Mauke Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus rarotongensis ssp.)

There is an interesting account, which is given by D. T. Holyoak and J. C. Thibault in 1984.:

P. r. sous-espèce?

Mauke: il semble qu’un ptilope ait habité l’île. L’Exp. de la «Blonde» rapportait que deux sortes de pigeons, dont un pigeon frugivore vert, habitaient Mauiki en 1825. Savage (1962) donne une information obtenue avant 1940; d’après la population locale le «Kukupa… se rencontre en abondance dans les îles de Mauke et Atiu». En 1973, il ne fut pas trouvé au cours d’une brève visite; les habitants interrogés à ce sujet donnèrent des informations contradictoires.
….
” [1]

translation:

P. r. subspecies?

Mauke: it seems that a Ptilinopus inhabited the island. The Exp. de la “Blonde” reported that two kinds of pigeons, including a green frugivorous pigeon, inhabited Mauiki in 1825. Savage (1962) gives information obtained before 1940; local people say “Kukupa … occurs in abundance on the islands of Mauke and Atiu”. In 1973 it was not found during a brief visit; the inhabitants questioned on this subject gave contradictory information.
….

*********************

References:

[1] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984

*********************

edited: 09.03.2020

Ninox novaeseelandiae ssp. undulata (Latham)

Norfolk Island Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae ssp. undulata)

The Norfolk Island Boobook was described in 1801; it was endemic to Norfolk Island, where it inhabited the subtropical rainforests.

The taxon disappeared after the European settlers begun to clear the forests.

The population was reduced to a last surviving bird in 1986, a female bird named Miamiti, which died in 1996.

***

This female mated with a male boobook of the nominate race that had been introduced to Norfolk Island and produced some offspring, which again has given rise to the small population of hybrid boobooks that now inhabit this island.

*********************

Depiction from: ‘Gregory M. Mathews: The Birds of Norfolk & Lord Howe Islands and the Australian south polar quadrant with additions to “The Birds of Australia”. London: H. F. & G. Witherby 1928’

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 05.11.2021

Rallus sp. ‘Graciosa’

Graciosa Rail (Rallus sp.)

This up to now unnamed form is known from 21 subfossil bones, 12 of them only fragments, collected in 2014 on the island of Graciosa in the Azores, Portugal.

The form has not yet being described but can be assigned to the genus Rallus and most likely was a distinct species. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

*********************

edited: 10.09.2019

Caracara lutosa (Ridgeway)

Guadalupe Caracara (Caracara lutosa 

The Guadalupe Caracara was described in 1876, it was restricted to the Isla Guadalupe in the Baja California wher it was the top predator.

The species is one of the few who disappeared directly due to hunting by humans; the birds were condemned by farmers to be vicious goat killers, which, of course, was complete nonsense, since the birds almost certainly did not hunt the goats themselves but just fed on deceased animals.

The species was already nearly extinct when on December 1, 1900 the infamous American collector Rollo Beck, in the course of a scientific epedition, encountered what probably were the last eleven existing birds. Not knowing that these might be the last surviving individuals of their species, he shot 9 of them and thereby eradicated the species quite incidentally.

*********************

edited: 21.09.2020

Porphyrio kukwiedei Balouet & Olson

New Caledonian Swamphen (Porphyrio kukwiedei)

The New Caledonian Swamphen was described in 1989 based on subfossil bones that were excavated from deposits from the Pindai Cave complex on the western coast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia. 

The species was about the same size as the New Zealand Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri (A. B. Meyer)) but was more lightly built, it was likewise flightless, the males probably were larger then the females. [2]

The New Caledonian Swamphen may in fact have survived into quite recent times, this can be assumed from a note that is given at the description of another New Caledonian bird species, the now likewise extinct New Caledonian Rail (Gallirallus lafresnayanus Verreaux & Des Murs).:

Nouvelle-Calédonie, où il est nommé, par les indigènes, N’dino, camp de Morari. It vit dans les lieux marécageux, et arriverait, dit la note, a la taille du Dindon! Est-ce la même espèce, ou bien y en aurait-il une autre qui atteindrait cette dimension?” [1]

translation:

New Caledonia, where he is named, by the natives, N’dino, camp of Morari. It lives in marshy places, and would arrive, says the note, the size of the turkey! Is it the same species, or would there be another one that would reach this dimension?

This description, in my opinion, fits better with the far larger New Caledonian Swamphen than with the New Caledonian Rail.

There is furthermore an account that speaks about old people who remember a bird that was similar to the Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus (Temminck)), that still is commonly found in New Caledonia, except for being much larger and having a grey tail and a white throat. Unfortunately I do not find the source for that statement anymore.

*********************

References:

[1] M. M. Jules Verreaux; O des Murs: Description d’Oiseux nouveaux de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et indication des espèces déjà connues de ce pays. Revue et Magasin de Zoologie pure et appliquée. Ser. II 12: 431-443. 1860
[2] J. C. Balouet; Storrs L. Olson: Fossil birds from Late Quaternary deposits in New Caledonia. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 469: 23-27. 1989

*********************

edited: 16.05.2019

Ninox albifacies ssp. albifacies (G. R. Gray)

South Island Laughing Owl (Ninox albifacies ssp. albifacies)

The South Island Laughing Owl, as its name implies, was found on the southern main islands of New Zealand.

The species reached a size of about 32 cm; it is also known as whēkau, which is one of its Maori names, or as White-faced Owl.

Originally, the South Island Laughing Owl fed on birds and especially on geckos and skinks, whose subfossil remains still can be found at former roost sites, after the arrival of human settlers it also took mice and rats, and actually there exists at least one photograph that shows an owl with a mouse in its beak.

The species died out sometimes during the early 1920s.

*********************

Depiction from: ‘George Dawson Rowley: Birds of New Zealand. Part 1. Ornithological Miscellany 1: 1.18. 1876’

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 05.11.2021

Ptilinopus mercierii ssp. tristrami (Salvadori)

Hiva Oa Red-mustached Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus mercierii ssp. tristrami 

The Hiva Oa Red-mustached Fruit-Dove is known only from the island of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, but might indeed have been more widespread in former times.   

This form, which differs from the nominate by the narrow yellow band below its pink head-cap, is known from several specimens and some rather scarce accounts like the following by the American ornithologist Rollo H. Beck in 1921.:

January 24

I went up onto the plateau and on up to Mt. Ootua several miles to the eastward, and around its base saw several red-capped doves of which three were secured. they were as reported, found near the heads of canyons and usually seen when flying to or from the canyon where the stream of water was flowing. As I stood on the top of the ridge with a brisk breeze sweeping over, one flew back and forth to windward of me several times looking at me. Their call notes did not seem to have the half douen rapid “Coos” at the end of the cooing as does the white-crowned and the Tahitian species. … The red-crown would come to my calling occasionally, but in the thick forest would fly past or light unseen. No white-crowns were seen where the reds were found, but they occurred just below them.” [1]

The white-capped Fruit-Dove (Ptilnopus dupetithouarsii (Neboux) is still found on most of the Marquesan Islands, it is thus somewhat strange that the Rad-capped Fruit-Dove is now extinct. [2]

*********************  

References:  

[1] Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck. Vol. 1, Sept 1920 – June 1923
[2] David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes, John Cox: Pigeons and Doves, A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Pica Press, Sussex 2001  

*********************  

Photo: Alexander Lang

*********************

edited: 16.03.2020

Rallus carvaoensis Alcover, Pieper, Pereira & Rando

Sao Miguel Rail (Rallus carvaoensis)

The Sao Miguel Rail was described in 2015 based on subfossil remains that had been excavated from deposits from the Gruta do Carvão on the island of São Miguel, one of the Azores Islands, Portugal.

Like its congeners from the other islands of the Azores, also known by subfossil remains, this one too was a derivative of the Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus L.) from the European mainland. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Josep Antoni Alcover; Harald Pieper; Fernando Pereira; Juan Carlos Rando: Five new extinct species of rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae) from the Macaronesian Islands (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa 4057(2): 151-190. 2015

*********************

edited: 10.09.2019

Amazona vittata ssp. ‘Vieques’

Vieques Amazon (Amazona vittata ssp.)

The Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata (Boddaert)) is a very rare parrot species that is now restricted to the island of Puerto Rico in the Lesser Antilles, at least one subspecies formerly occurred on the offshore island of Culebra.

The same form, or perhaps another endemic one occurred on the nearby island of Vieques, this form, however, is only known by reliable accounts like the following one.:

Parrots are found during the rainy season in the months of June, July and August in the heavy forest of the southern side of the island. It is believed that they cross at that season from Porto Rico. Señor José Bartôn was well acquainted with them and told me that they were considered a game bird, making a highly desirable dish for the table. There were none here during the period of my visit.” [1]

The Vieques Amazon, if it indeed was a distinct form, disappeared sometimes after this account, the reasons are clearly mentioned in the account.

*********************

References:

[1] Alexander Wetmore: The birds of Vieques Island, Porto Rico. The Auk 33: 403-419. 1916

*********************

edited: 16.02.2020

Talpanas lippa Olson & James

Mole Duck (Talpanas lippa)

The Mole Duck, or Kauai Mole Duck was described in 2009 based on subfossil remains found on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

The species was flightless and apparently had extremely small eyes and thus might have been almost blind in life, it had a distinct wide beak which it very likely used for probing the soil for invertebrates. [1]

The Mole Dock most likely disappeared, together with countless additional species, when humans first reached the Hawaiian Islands.

*********************    

References:    

[1] A. L. Iwaniuk; S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Extraordinary cranial specialization in a new genus of extinct duck (Aves: Anseriformes) from Kauai, Hawaiian Islands. Zootaxa 2296: 47–67. 2009

*********************

edited: 13.09.2020

Aplonis pelzelni Finsch

Pohnpei Starling (Aplonis pelzelni)

The Pohnpei Starling was restricted to the mountainous areas in the interior of Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

The species reaches a length of 19 cm, it is mainly inconspicuously dark greyish brown colored.

The Pohnpei Starling was last recorded in 1956 and was finally declared extinct in 1990, however, five years later a single female specimen was obtained by a native hunter and thus the species was deemed as having been rediscovered, the species was apparently subsequently found again in 2008, but since then there has not been any trace of it and it is now thought to be extinct. 

*********************

Photo: Huub Veldhuijzen van Zanten; Naturalis Biodiversity Center  

(under creative commons license (3.0)) 
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

*********************

edited: 30.04.2021

Chaetoptila sp. ‘O’ahu’

Oahu Kioea (Chaetoptila sp.)  

The Oahu Kioea is known only from subfossil remains that were found on the island of O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands.

The species has not been described yet, but appears to have been distinct from the historically known Hawaiian Kioea. [1] 

*********************  
References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

*********************

edited: 13.09.2020

Ciridops anna (Dole)

Ula Ai Hawane (Ciridops anna)

The Ula Ai Hawane was described in 1879, the species is historically known for certain only from the island of Hawai’i, however, it is possible that two of the five existing specimens were collected on the island of Moloka’i (these two are of a supposed female and a likewise supposed immature male (see depiction below)). [2]

The species reached a size of about 11 to 12 cm; the males had a light grey head and neck, a black breast and a bright red rump, the wings were black and red as well, with the outer webs of the tertials white; the females were olive green and brown in color. [4]

Since the only two specimens that possibly come from Moloka’i differ from the other three, they might as well be interpreted as a distinct subspecies. 

***

The Hawaiian name ʻula-ʻai-hāwane means “red eating hawane”, hawane are the fruits of the endemic lo’ulu palms (Pritchardia spp.). The birds were only ever found near the lo’ulu palms and are thought to have fed on their flowers and fruits or perhaps on insects hiding in the leaf axilles. [3]

***

Subfossil remains found on Moloka’i were also assigned to this species, however, it is definitely possible that the Moloka’ian birds differed from the Hawaiians at the subspecies level. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991
[2] Storrs L. Olson: William T. Brigham’s Hawaiian birds and a possible historical record of Ciridops anna (Aves: Drepanidini) from Molokai. Pacific Scenice 46(4): 495-500. 1992
[3] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford University Press 2005
[4] Storrs L. Olson: History, structure, evolution, behaviour, distribution, and ecology of the extinct Hawaiian genus Ciridops (Fringillidae, Carduelini, Drepanidini). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 124(4): 651-674. 2012

*********************

Depiction from: ‘Scott B. Wilson; A. H. Wilson; Frederick William Frohawk; Hans Gadow: Aves Hawaiienses: the birds of the Sandwich Islands. London: R. H. Porter 1890-1899’

(not in copyright)

*********************

edited: 18.10.2020

cf. Porphyrio sp. ‘Efate’

Efate Swamphen (cf. Porphyrio sp.)

Throughout the Pacific region we now know of several radiations of rails, which sometimes include congeneric pairs or triplets of species inhabiting, respectively having formerly inhabited, single islands.

The excavations that took place on the island of Efate, Vanuatu produced subfossil bones of several well-known rails, including the Pacific Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus ssp. samoensis Peale), but yet also of another, relatively large rail species that may have been a member of the same genus.

This form was similar in size and apparently in proportions to the likewise extinct Island Takahe (Porphyrio mantelli (Owen)) from New Zealand.

Yet, the currently known material isn’t sufficient enough to determine the genus exactly, let alone a species. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy; Stuart Hawkins; Stuart Bedford; Matthew Spriggs: Avifauna from the Teouma Lapita Site, Efate Island, Vanuatu, including a new genus and species of Megapode. Pacific Science 69(2): 205-254. 2015

*********************

edited: 01.09.2020

Charmosyna sp. ‘Samoa’

Samoan Lorikeet (Charmosyna sp.)  

The Samoan Lorikeet is a hypothetical species that might in fact once have existed, it is, however, not fully understood if it was a native form of the Samoan Islands, or if it may have also occurred on the Tongan Islands as well, or if it might have originted from somewhere else and was just traded among these island groups. [2]

All we know about this very enigmatic form comes from a single account, made by Otto von Kotzebue, a Russian officer and navigator in the Imperial Russian Navy, in the early 19th century; his reports, however, are otherwise incredibly contemptuous, inhumane and racist and speak of the local Polynesian people as cannibals and wild, blood-thirsty almost-animals etc..:

Noch eines Handelsartikels auf unserem Markte muß ich erwähnen. Es waren gezähmte Tauben und Papageyen. Erstere weichen von den europäischen sowohl in der Form, als in der Farbenpracht sehr ab. Auch waren ihre Klauen, mit denen sie sich, wie Spechte, an die Taue haften, anders gestaltet. Die Papagayen waren nur von der Größe eines Sperlings, mit dem lebhaftesten Roth und Grün gezeichnet, und der rothe Schweif übertraf an Länge den Körper wohl um vier Mal.” [1]

translation:

One more item on our market I have to mention. These were tamed pigeons and parrots. The former differ markedly from the European ones in their form and in their colorfulness. Their claws, with which they, like woodpeckers, cling to the ropes, were also designed differently. The parrots were only the size of a sparrow, painted with the most vivid red and green, and the red tail was perhaps four times longer than the body.

***

The specific account apparently was made on or offshore an island named Olajava, according to the description given by Kotzebue I personally think that the island in question is the one today known as Ofu in American Samoa. 

*********************  

Referenzen:  

[1] Otto von Kotzebue: Reise um die Welt in den Jahren 1823, 24, 25 und 26. Weimar: W. Hoffman 1830
[2] Julian P. Hume: Extinct Birds: Bloomsbury Natural History; 2nd edition 2017

*********************

edited: 12.02.2020

Amazilia alfaroana Underwood

Alfaro’s Hummingbird (Amazilia alfaroana)

Alfaro’s Hummingbird was described in 1896, it is known from a single specimen that had been collected at the Volcán de Miravalles in northwestern Costa Rica; it was mostly treated as a subspecies of the Indigo-capped Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanifrons (Bourcier)) which, however, is endemic to Colombia.

The sole specimen was analysed at least two times, in both cases with the same result: it is a distinct species. [1][2]  

Alfaro’s Hummingbird is now accepted as a full species and is considered extinct.

*********************

References:

[1] André-Alexander Weller: On types of trochilids in the Natural History Museum, Tring III. Amazilia alfaroana Underwood (1896), with notes on biogeography and geographical variation in the Saucerottia saucerrottei superspecies. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 121(2): 98-107. 2001
[2] Guy M. Kirwan; Nigel J. Collar: The ‘foremost ornithological mystery of Costa Rica’: Amazilia alfaroana Underwood, 1896. Zootaxa 4189(2): 244-250. 2016 

*********************

edited: 30.10.2020

Porphyrio paepae Steadman

Marquesan Swamphen (Porphyrio paepae)

The Marquesan Swamphen was described based on subfossil bones that were found in archaeological sites, or rather in midden remains on the islands of Hiva Oa and Tahuata.

The wing elements were of equal size to that of the extant Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio martinicus (L.)) but slightly stouter built.

Since the species occurred on both, Hiva Oa and Tahuata, it apparently was not flightless, however, it might also have been transported from one island to another by the Polynesian settlers. [1] 

***

It is very likely that additional congeneric species inhabited other islands in the Marquesan group.

*********************

References:

[] Jeremy J. Kirchman; David W. Steadman: New Species of Rails (Aves: Rallidae) from an Archaeological Site on Huahine, Society Islands. Pacific Science 60(2): 281-297. 2006  

*********************

edited: 01.09.2020

Charmosyna diadema (Verreaux & Des Murs)

New Caledonian Lorikeet (Charmosyna diadema)

The New Caledonian Lorikeet, as its name implies, was endemic to the island of Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia, the species is known from only two specimens, both female, both collected sometimed prior 1860, one of which is now lost.

The species reached a size of about 18 to 19 cm.

The New Caledonian Lorikeet appears to be extremely rare and confined, but may in fact already be extinct since the time of its discovery.

*********************

Depiction from: St. George Jackson Mivart: A monograph of the lories, or brush-tongued parrots, composing the family Loriidae. London: R. H. Porter 1896

(not in copyright)

*********************

edited: 12.02.2020

Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti Mazar Barnett & Buzzetti

Cryptic Treehunter (Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti)

The Cryptic Treehunter is an enigmatic species that is currently included in this genus following thorough morphometric analyses, however, it differs strikingly from the other two species in this genus and superficially resembles the Alagoas Foliage-Gleaner (Phylidor novaesi Teixeira & Gonzaga) with which it occurred sympatrically.

***

The Cryptic Treehunter was restricted to two localities in the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, Brazil, where it inhabited the last surviving remnants of the former rainforest.

The species reached a size of about 21 cm. 

The Cryptic Treehunter was described in 2014, just seven years after it was last seen, the species is now considered most likely extinct.

********************

edited: 01.09.2019

Monarcha mira (Murphy & Mathews)

Ua Pou Monarch (Monarcha mira)

The Ua Pou Monarch was described in 1928, originally as a subspecies of the Marquesan Monarch (Monarcha mendozae (Hartlaub)); it was endemic to the island of Ua Pou in the Marquesas.

The species was originally found all over the island, but in the 1970s its population was restricted to the higher elevations and its numbers were estimated to be about 150 to 200 pairs; these number soon dropped and finally, the last birds, two immature individuals, were seen in 1985 in the Hakahetau Valley near the north-western coast of the island.

The bird were locally known as pati’oti’o; the males were completely glossy black while the females were black with a white area covering the proximal two-thirds of the wings and a white tail. [1][2][3]

*********************

References:

[1] Robert Cushman Murphy; Gregory M. Mathews: Birds collected during the Whitney South Sea Expedition. V. American Museum Novitates 337: 1-18. 1928
[2] D. T. Holyoak; Jean-Claude Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[3] Jean-Claude Thibault; Jean-Yves Meyer: Contemporary extinctions and population declines of the monarchs (Pomarea spp.) in French Polynesia, South Pacific. Oryx 35(1): 73-80. 2001

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edited: 08.05.2022

Colaptes oceanicus Olson

Bermuda Flicker (Colaptes oceanicus)  

The Bermuda Flicker was described based on fossil bones of Late Pleistocene age, however, at least one bone assingend to this species, a tarsometatarsus from a juvenile individual, dates to the Holocene. [2]

There is furthermore at least one account from 1623 which not only mentions what very likely is this species but which also gives a hint about the reasons for its extinction.: 

Neither hath the aire for her part been wanting with due supplies of many sorts of Fowles, as the gray and white Hearne, the gray and greene Plouer, some wilde Ducks and Malards, Coots and Red-shankes, Sea-wigions, Gray-bitterns, Cormorants, numbers of small Birds like Sparrowes and Robins, which haue lately beene destroyed by the wilde Cats, Wood-pickars, very many Crowes, which since this Plantation are kild, the rest fled or seldome seene except in the most vninhabited places, from whence they are obserued to take their flight about sun set, directing their course towards the North-west, which makes many coniecture there are some more Ilands not far off that way.” [1]

The native vegetation was destroyed for plantations, the birds were shot, and many were killed by introduced feral cats.

*********************  

References:

[1] John Smith: The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their first beginning, An: 1584. to this present 1624. With the Procedings of Those Severall Colonies and the Accidents that befell them in all their Journyes and Discoveries. Also the Maps and Descriptions of all those Countryes, their Commodities, people, Government, Customes, and Religion yet knowne. Divided into Sixe Bookes. By Captaine Iohn Smith, sometymes Governour in those Countryes & Admirall of New England. London: printed by I. D. and I. H. for Michael Sparkes 1624
[2] Storrs L. Olson: Fossil woodpeckers from Bermuda with the description of a new species of Colaptes (Aves: Picidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 126(1): 17–24. 2013

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edited: 02.11.2020

cf. Chloridops sp.

Unassigned Maui Finch (cf. Chloridops sp.)

This form is known by a fragment of a cranium including the frontal and parts of the interoribital septum and maxilla, which where excavated from deposits of the Pu’u Naio Cave on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

This species was about the size of the Wahi Crosbeak (Chloridops wahi James & Olson), that is 13 to 14,5 cm, but probably was not a close relative of it.

***

There appear to exist remains of at least two additional finch forms in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., USA, that were collected on Maui and still await their description as soon as more material is found.

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 08.10.2020

Myadestes lanaiensis ssp. ‘Maui’

Maui Thrush (Myadestes lanaiensis ssp.)

This form is known only from reports from the 1850s as well as from subfossil remains that were recovered from deposits on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

Taken into account the fact that all known island forms of the species are considered distinct subspecies, the form that formerly inhabited the island of Maui, must also have been a distinct form.

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 17.11.2021

Chaetoptila sp. ‘narrow-billed’

Narrow-billed Kioea (Chaetoptila sp.)  

The Narrow-billed Kioea is known from subfossil bones that were found on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

The species had a much narrower bill than the Hawaiian Kioe, with which it occurred sympatrically (at least if the form known as Chaetoptila sp. ‘Maui Nui’ indeed turns out to be identical with this species) [1]. 

*********************  
References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 13.09.2020 

Nesotrochis debooyi Wetmore

Antillean Cave Rail (Nesotrochis debooyi)

The Antillean Cave Rail, which is also known as DeBooy’s Rail, was a large, flightless species that is known exclusively from subfossil remains recovered from cave deposits on the islands of Saint Croix and Saint Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands as well as on Puerto Rico.

The species was originally known exclusively from subfossil midden remains, and it was not clear to which island it originally was native to since the birds appear to have been an important meat-source and to have been transported from island to island by the native inhabitants of the region.:

There is at beast considerable uncertainty as to the exact place of origin of bone remains from kitchen midden deposits, but it may be supposed that where so many bones representing one species are found, that these came from the island on which the midden was located. There is no proof, however, that they belong to a truly indigenous species, nor is it known that they were not brought as needed from somewhere else. The comparative abundance of the remains of this rail in these deposits when compared with other species of birds indicate that it possessed flesh that was held in high esteem as a source of food. This beeing the case, there is no evidence to show that these rails may not have been kept as captives and transported from island to island by their owners.

***

The Antillean Cave Rail was later also found in cave deposits on Puerto Rico without any archaeological context and thus appear to have probably been native to that island. [2]

The species might have survived on Puerto Rico into the 19th century: there are stories of a bird called carroo, that was run down with dogs by hunters prior to 1912; the name is now applied to the Limpkin (Aramus guarana (L.)), which is a wary bird with strong flight abilities, that very unlikely can be captured with dogs. [3]

*********************

References:

[1] A. Wetmore: Bones of birds collected by Theodoor de Booy from Kitchen Midden deposits in the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 54(2245): 513-522. 1918
[2] Alexander Wetmore: Bird remains from the caves of Porto Rico. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 46: 297-333. 1922
[3] Storrs L. Olson: A new species of Nesotrochis from Hispaniola, with notes on other fossil rails from the West Indies (Aves: Rallidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 87(38): 439-450. 1974
[4] Jessica A. Oswald; Ryan S. Terrill; Brian J. Stucky; Michelle J. LeFebvre; David W. Steadman; Robert P. Guralnick: Supplementary material from “Ancient DNA from the extinct Haitian cave-rail (Nesotrochis steganinos) suggests a biogeographic connection between the Caribbean and Old World”. Biological Letters 17(3). 2021 

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edited: 16.02.2020

Pyrrhura subandina Todd

Sinu Parakeet (Pyrrhura subandina)

The Sinu Parakeet was described in 1917; it is restricted to the dry forests of the Sinú Valley in northern Colombia; it was considered a subspecies of the Painted Parakeet (Pyrrhura picta (Müller)) but is now known to be a distinct species. [1]

The species has not been seen since the 1940s and is most likely extinct.

*********************

References:

[1] Stuart H. M. Butchart; Stephen Lowe; Rob W. Martin; Andy Symes; James R. S. Westrip; Hannah Wheatley: Which bird species have gone extinct? A novel quantitative classification approach. Biological Conservation 227: 9-18. 2018

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edited: 23.04.2022

Monarcha fluxa (Murphy & Mathews)

Eiao Monarch (Monarcha fluxa)

The Eiao Monarch was described in 1928, originally as a subspecies of the Marquesan Monarch (Monarcha mendozae (Hartlaub)).

The males had the head, the nape, the chest and the upper tail coverts black with a very slight iridescence and variably mottled with white feathers, the wings were sooty black, the outermost one or two pairs of rectrices of the tail usually were white, but this character was very variable.

The forests that once covered Eiao are now highly reduced to little remnants; the last Eiao Monarchs were seen in 1977, all subsequent searches failed to find any remaining birds. [1][2][3]

*********************

References:

[1] Robert Cushman Murphy; Gregory M. Mathews: Birds collected during the Whitney South Sea Expedition. V. American Museum Novitates 337: 1-18. 1928
[2] D. T. Holyoak; Jean-Claude Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984
[3] Jean-Claude Thibault; Jean-Yves Meyer: Contemporary extinctions and population declines of the monarchs (Pomarea spp.) in French Polynesia, South Pacific. Oryx 35(1): 73-80. 2001

*********************

edited: 08.05.2022

Amazona sp. ‘Turks Islands’

Turks and Caicos Amazon (Amazona sp.)

This form is known from at least two subfossil remains, a palatine and a scapula, that were excavated from the Coralie archaeological site on the island of Grand Turk, Turcs an Caicos Islands in the Lesser Antilles.

The species was sympatric with the Cuban Amazon, probably of the Bahamian subspecies (Amazona leucocephala ssp. bahamensis (H. Bryant)), which is now locally extinct. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Charles A. Woods; Florence E. Sergile: Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and Perspectives, Second Edition. CRC Press; Auflage: Subsequent 2001

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edited: 13.02.2020

Upucerthia dumetaria ssp. peruana Zimmer

Peruvian Scale-throated Earthcreeper (Upucerthia dumetaria ssp. peruana)

The Peruvian Scale-throated Earthcreeper, one of three subspecies of the Scale-throated Earthcreeper (Upucerthia dumetaria I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire) (see photo), was described in 1954 based on two specimens that had been collected in the 1950s in the Puno region in the Andes of southern Peru.

The Peruvian Scale-throated Earthcreeper apparently was the largest of the three subspecies, reaching a size of about 21,5 cm, it is also said to have been darker colored than the other forms.

There are apparently no recent records of this form and it is sometimes thought to be already extinct, however, its type locality is huge and it might still be rediscovered some day. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Juan I. Areta; Mark Pearman: Natural history, morphology, evolution, and taxonomic status of the Earthcreeper Upucerthia saturatior (Furnariidae) from the Patagonian forests of South America. The condor 111(1): 135-149. 2009

*********************

Scale-throated Earthcreeper (Upucerthia dumetaria); nominate race

Photo: Brian Ralphs

(under creative commons license (2.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

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edited: 07.03.2020

Drymodes superciliaris ssp. colcloughi Mathews

Roper River Scrub Robin (Drymodes superciliaris ssp. colcloughi)

The Roper River Scrub Robin, a subspecies of the Scrub Robin (Drymodes superciliaris Gould), was described in 1914 based on two specimens, a female and a male, that are said to had been found in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Differs from D. s . superciliaris in being much redder on the back and entirely reddish-buff on the under-surface. Roper River, Northern Territory.” [1]

There are no additional records of Scrub Robins from the Northern Territory and this subspecies, if it indeed is a valid one, is considered extinct.

*********************

References:

[1] Gregory M. Mathews: The Birds of Australia. Vol. 9. London: Witherby & Co. 1921-1922

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Depiction from: ‘Gregory M. Mathews: The Birds of Australia. Vol. 9. London: Witherby & Co. 1921-1922’

(public domain)

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edited: 15.05.2021

Pedinorhis stirpsarcana Olson & McKitrick

Puerto Rico Bushfinch (Pedinorhis stirpsarcana)

The Puerto Rico Bushfinch was a large finch-like bird with a long and narrow beak that is known from (sub)fossil remains that were found in cave deposits on the island of Puerto Rico and that could be dated to Late Pleistocene age, however, it is believed that some remains from other fossil sites are younger.

The remains were found in association with the fossils of species that are typical for open, arid environments and it is thought that the species disappeared due to postglacial reduction of these arid habitats. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Storrs L. Olson; Mary C. McKitrick: A new genus and species of emberizine finch from Pleistocene cave deposits in Puerto Rico (Aves: Passeriformes). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 1(3-4): 276-283. 1981

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edited: 05.11.2020

Nesotrochis picapicensis (Fischer & Stephan)

Cuban Cave Rail (Nesotrochis picapicensis)

The Cuban Cave Rail was described (originally as a species of coot) in 1971 from Pleistocene deposits from the Pío Domingo cave in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba. [1]

The species very likely survived into Holocene times.

*********************

References:

[1] Storrs L. Olson: A new species of Nesotrochis from Hispaniola, with notes on other fossil rails from the West Indies (Aves: Rallidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 87(38): 439-450. 1974
[2] Jessica A. Oswald; Ryan S. Terrill; Brian J. Stucky; Michelle J. LeFebvre; David W. Steadman; Robert P. Guralnick: Supplementary material from “Ancient DNA from the extinct Haitian cave-rail (Nesotrochis steganinos) suggests a biogeographic connection between the Caribbean and Old World”. Biological Letters 17(3). 2021 

*********************

edited: 16.02.2020

Ducula tihonireasini Rigal, Kirch & Worthy

Mangarevan Imperial Pigeon (Ducula tihonireasini)

This species was already known from subfossil remains for several years when it was described in 2018.

The Mangarevan Imperial Pigeon apparently was still alive when the first Europeans set foot on the Gambier Islands in the 1820s.:  

Of the feathered tribe, oceanic bird form the greater part; but even these are rare compared with the numbers that usually frequent the islands of the Pacific, arising, no doubt, from the Gambier Islands being inhabited. The whole consist of three kinds of tern, the white, black, and slate-coloured – of which the first are most numerous, and the last very scarce; together with a species of procellaria, the white heron, and the tropic and egg birds. Those frequent the shore are a kind of pharmatopus, curlew, charadrine, and totanus; and the woods, the wood-pigeon, and a species of turdus, somewhat resembling a thrush in plumage, but smaller, possessing a similar though less harmonious note.” [1]

It died out sometimes later.

*********************

References:

[1] Narrative of a voyage to the Pacific and Beering’s Strait, to co-operate with the polar expeditions : performed in His Majesty’s ship Blossom, under the command of Captain F. W. Beechey in the years 1825, 26, 27, 28. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley 1831
[2] Stanislas Rigal; Patrick V. Kirch; Trevor H. Worthy: New prehistoric avifaunas from the Gambier Group, French Polynesia. Palaeontologia Electronica 21.3.4A 1-35. 2018

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edited: 04.05.2021

Branta rhuax (Wetmore)

Giant Nene (Branta rhuax)

The Giant Nene was already described in 1943, its remains were found in 1926 at a depth of 25 m under a lava flow near a place named Kaumaike’ohu in the Ka’u District on the island of Hawai’i; it was actually the first fossil bird described from the Hawaiian Islands.

This form has widely been synonymized with a very large goose, that is known from subfossil remains also found on Hawai’i Island.

The Giant Nene was the largest member of the large Hawaiian goose radiation, it was more than twice the size of the still living Nene (Branta sandvicensis (Vigors)).

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 05.05.2022

Milvago carbo Suárez & Olson

Cuban Caracara (Milvago carbo)

The Cuban Caracara was described in 2003 based on subfossil bones found on the island of Cuba. [1]

********************

References:

[1] W. Suárez; S. L. Olson: A new species of caracara (Milvago) from Quaternary asphalt deposits in Cuba, with notes on new material of Caracara creightoni Brodkorb (Aves: Falconidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 116(2): 301-307. 2003

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edited: 25.04.2021

Porphyrio sp. ‘Rota’

Rota Swamphen (Porphyrio sp.)

Since the undescribed Tinian Swamphen (Porphyrio sp. ‘Tinian’) apparently was a flightless species, it is rather unlikely that the same species also inhabited Rota, thus the Rotan birds almost certainly were a distinct, though closely related species. [1]

***

It might be of interest that the Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus (Temminck)) apparently is trying to reestablish a population in Micronesia. [2]

*********************  

References:  

[1] D. W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006
[2] D. W. Buden; J. Wichep; S. Fal’Mngar: First record of Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio in the Federated States of Micronesia, with remarks on vagrants and recently established populations of rallids in Micronesia. Bulletin of the British Ornthologists’ Club 131(1): 59-63. 2011

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edited: 01.09.2020

Branta sp. ‘O’ahu’

Oahu Nene (Branta sp.)

The Oahu Nene is known from subfossil remains that were found at Barbers Point in the southwest part of O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands.

This form is quite similar to the Great Nene (Branta hylobadistes Olson & James) from Maui Island, but its hindlimb elements were generally longer and more gracile; the form shows furthermore a great variation in size, especially of the wing elements. [1]

***

The Oahu Nene occurred sympatrically with the Nene (Branta sandvicensis (Vigors)), the sole surviving species of the now extinct Hawaiian goose radiation.

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 05.05.2022