Chatham Island coot

Fulica chathamensis Forbes, 1892

Order: Gruiformes

Family: Rallidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Geographical variation: Sometimes regarded as conspecific with F. prisca (F. chathamensis has priority)

 
 
 
Chatham Island coot. Chatham Island coot (Fulica chathamensis). Image 2006-0010-1/49 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710952&term=island+coot

Chatham Island coot. Chatham Island coot (Fulica chathamensis). Image 2006-0010-1/49 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710952&term=island+coot

This large, extinct coot was first found in dune deposits on Chatham Island by Henry Forbes in 1892. Forbes’s type material is held in the Natural History Museum in London. Since then, numerous bones of this species have been found in dune sites and middens throughout Chatham Island, but the species may have been absent from other islands in the group. The Chatham Island coot was about twice the weight of extant coots, and was the largest coot known. Apart from a long neck and disproportionately long legs and toes, its skeletal proportions were similar to those of other coots, and so it was probably capable of flight. The presence of large salt glands above the eyes indicates that Chatham Island coots inhabited the brackish waters of the enormous (16,000 ha) Te Whanga Lagoon, probably in addition to a variety of freshwater and terrestrial habitats.

Differences between the Chatham Island coot and the slightly smaller New Zealand coot have been debated over the years. The most recent review by Trevor Worthy and Richard Holdaway recommended that the both be considered as full species.

The Chatham Island coot became extinct in historic times because of over-hunting by man and possibly predation of eggs and chicks by the introduced Pacific rat. Its bones are common in middens as well as natural deposits, indicating that it was frequently taken for food.

References

Forbes, H.O. 1892. Aphanapteryx and other remains in the Chatham Islands. Nature 46: 252-253.

Gill, B.; Martinson, P. 1991. New Zealand’s extinct birds. Random Century, Auckland.

Millener, P.R. 1980. The taxonomic status of extinct New Zealand coots, Fulica chathamensis subspp. (Aves: Rallidae). Notornis 27: 363-367.

Millener, P.R. 1981. The subfossil distribution of extinct New Zealand coots Fulica chathamensis subspp. (Aves: Rallidae). Notornis 28: 1-9.

Olson, S. L. 1975. A review of the extinct rails of the New Zealand region (Aves: Rallidae). Records of the National Museum of New Zealand 1: 63-79.

Tennyson, A.; Martinson, P. 2006. Extinct birds of New Zealand. Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. 2002. The lost world of the moa. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Recommended citation

Michaux, B. 2013. Chatham Island coot. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Chatham Island coot

Breeding season
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