New Zealand raven

Corvus antipodum (Forbes, 1893)

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Corvidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Geographical variation: Ravens from the South Island were slightly larger, and are considered a different subspecies (C.a. pycrafti) from the nominate North Island raven (C.a. antipodum).

 
 
 
New Zealand raven. New Zealand raven (Corvus antipodum). Image 2006-0010-1/14 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=711029&term=zealand+raven

New Zealand raven. New Zealand raven (Corvus antipodum). Image 2006-0010-1/14 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=711029&term=zealand+raven

The endemic New Zealand raven and the larger Chatham Island raven are both extinct. Weighing up to one kilogram, they were two of the largest songbird species, a group which comprises more than 5,000 bird species worldwide. Only the common raven of the northern hemisphere, thick-billed raven of Africa, and superb lyrebird of Australia are heavier than 1 kg.

Most ravens and crows have similar body shapes, plumage and behaviour, and so the New Zealand raven was probably glossy black, omnivorous and aggressive. They had relatively long, slender legs, a long, broad, pointed bill and retained strong powers of flight.

Once common around coastal New Zealand, ravens were probably a raucous feature of seasonal seal, sea lion and seabird colonies, where they would have eaten unprotected pups, eggs, chicks and offal. The diet probably also included fish, snails, shellfish, skinks, insects, invertebrates and fruits. They became extinct before European contact. The presence of bone remains in midden sites shows that they were eaten by humans, and they may have been impacted by the rapid extirpation of mainland seal and seabird colonies following human arrival.

Distribution and habitat

New Zealand ravens were common around coastal New Zealand, including Stewart Island, and bones have been found at a few inland sites close to the coast. There is an anomalous record of a single raven bone from subantarctic Enderby Island in the Auckland Islands, found near an archaeological site. How this bone got there is uncertain: was it from a vagrant bird that flew there from Stewart Island, or was it taken there by humans?

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Raven

References

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

Gill, B. 2003. Osteometry and systematics of the extinct New Zealand ravens. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 1: 43-58.

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

Tennyson, A.J.D. 2010. Passeriformes. Pp. 275-322. In: Checklist Committee (OSNZ) 2010. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th ed.). Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press,Wellington.

Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. 2002. The lost world of the moa: prehistoric life in New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Recommended citation

Szabo, M.J. 2013. New Zealand raven. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

New Zealand raven

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North Island raven

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South Island raven

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