Hodgens' waterhen

Gallinula hodgenorum (Scarlett, 1955)

Order: Gruiformes

Family: Rallidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Other names: Hodgens waterhen, Hodgen's waterhen

Geographical variation: Nil  

 
 
 
Hodgens' waterhen. Hodgens’ waterhen (Gallinula hodgenorum). Image 2006-0010-1/47 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=710950&term=hodgens%27

Hodgens' waterhen. Hodgens’ waterhen (Gallinula hodgenorum). Image 2006-0010-1/47 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=710950&term=hodgens%27

The history of this species has been one of nomenclatural instability, with no fewer than 7 generic and 3 specific names applied to it since its initial description by Ron Scarlett in 1955. It is now agreed that the bird was a moorhen and thus it is placed in the genus Gallinula. This small (250 g), flightless species was present on both the North and South Islands, and was named from bones recovered from the famous Pyramid Valley swamp in North Canterbury. The specific name honours the Hodgen brothers who owned the land on which the swamp is found. The holotype (CM AV6197, an incomplete pelvis) and paratypes are held in the Canterbury museum.

The genus Gallinula comprises 9 extant species of world-wide distribution. All but one of these species have dark, plain plumage and all of them have brightly coloured bills and frontal shields, and so it is likely that Hodgens’ waterhen shared these generic features. It was probably related to the Australian black-tailed native hen, which occurs in New Zealand as a rare vagrant. Unlike the black-tailed native hen, Hodgens’ waterhen was flightless. It inhabited forest as well as wetlands, and was abundant in the forested margins of Lake Poukawa in Hawke’s Bay. It may have been ecologically similar to two other flightless, forest-dwelling gallinules of the south-west Pacific, the Samoan moorhen (G. pacifica) and the San Cristobal moorhen (G. silvestris).

Hodgens’ waterhen was extinct by the 18th Century, a probable victim of egg and chick predation by introduced Pacific rats and hunting by humans. Despite its small size (about a quarter of the body weight of a pukeko), its bones have been found in archaeological middens, indicating that it was taken for food.

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodgens’_Waterhen

References

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

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.

Scarlett, R.J. 1970. The genus Capellirallus. Notornis 17: 303-319.

Taylor, B; van Perlo, B. 1998. Rails. Pica Press, East Sussex.

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. Hodgens’ waterhen. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Hodgens' waterhen

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