Tag Archives: Stewart Island

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

Xenicus longipes ssp. variabilis Stead

Stokes’ Bushwren (Xenicus longipes ssp. variabilis)

Stokes’ Bushwren was endemic to Stewart Island and some of the small islets surrounding it, including Kotiwhenua- and Taukihepa Islands.

The form disappeared from Stewart Island already at the beginning of the 20th century but was still reasonably common on some of the offshore islets and survived on the predator-free Taukihepa Island until the invasion by Black Rats (Rattus rattus (L.)) in 1964. The New Zealand Wildlife Service attempted to save the species by relocating all the birds they could capture. They caught six birds and transferred them to Kaimohu Island, where, unfortunately, they did not survive and finally died out in 1972.


There are some photos taken in 1913 by Herbert Guthrie-Smith on Taukihepa (Big South Cape) Island, one is shown below.


Photo from: “Herbert Guthrie-Smith: Bird Life on Island and Shore. 1925”

(public domain)


edited: 21.01.2022

Megadyptes waitaha ssp. waitaha Boessenkool et al.

Waitaha Penguin (Megadyptes waitaha ssp. waitaha 

This species was described in 2009 based on numerous subfossil remains that were found on New Zealand’s South Island as well as on Stewart Island.  

These bones were originally assigned to the recent Yellow-eyed Penguin, locally known as Hoiho (Megadyptes antipodes (Hombron & Jacquinot)) (see photo), but were found not only to be smaller but also to differ genetically.  

The Waitaha Penguin disappeared shortly after the colonization of New Zealand by the Maori, sometimes between 1300 and 1500 AD. [1]  


Only some 200 years after the extinction, the species was replaced by immigrating Yellow-eyed Penguins, whose main island populations are now threatened likewise with extinction, mainly by introduced predators. [2]  



[1] Sanne Boessenkool; Jeremy J. Austin; Trevor H. Worthy; Paul Scofield; Alan Cooper; Philip J. Seddon; Jonathan M. Waters: Relict or colonizer? Extinction and range expansion of penguins in southern New Zealand. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276(1658): 815–821. 2009 
[2] Nicolas J. Rawlence; George L. W. Perry; Ian W. G. Smith; R. Paul Scofield; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Elizabeth A. Matisoo-Smith; Sanne Boessenkool; Jeremy J. Austin; Jonathan M. Waters: Radiocarbon-dating and ancient DNA reveal rapid replacement of extinct prehistoric penguins: Quaternary Science Reviews 112: 59-65. 2015  


Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)

Photo: Twiddlebat 

(under creative commons license (2.0)) 


edited: 06.11.2017