South Island goose

Cnemiornis calcitrans Owen, 1865

Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Other names: New Zealand goose

 
 
 
South Island goose. South Island goose (Cnemiornis calcitrans). Image 2006-0010-1/27 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=710928&term=south+island+goose

South Island goose. South Island goose (Cnemiornis calcitrans). Image 2006-0010-1/27 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=710928&term=south+island+goose

The South Island goose was a large goose whose closest living relative is probably the Cape Barren goose. It was one of two closely-related New Zealand geese species, and was larger than its North Island cousin. It was flightless with much reduced wings, and had a modified second toe which formed a spur and may have been used for fighting.

Identification

The South Island goose was a very large bird. At 18 kilograms and standing 1 metre tall, it would have been as large as some of the smaller species of moa, and considerably larger than the closely-related North Island goose. It was terrestrial, flightless and had short wings and a shortened tail

Distribution and habitat

South Island geese occurred widely throughout South Island grassland and scrubland habitats. They were most numerous in the drier eastern regions, including coastal and central Otago, where these habitats were more common.

Population

South Island geese were probably never numerous due to their preference for grassland habitats, which were of limited extent in primeval New Zealand.

Threats and conservation  

Due to their large size and flightlessness, South Island geese were much hunted by early Polynesian settlers. Their remains are widespread in midden deposits. Over-hunting is the most likely cause of their extinction, which occurred long before European arrived in New Zealand.

Behaviour and ecology

South Island geese are thought to have relatively good eyesight, possibly in response to predation pressure from Haast’s eagle.

Food

The South Island goose was a browser of grasses and plants from grassland habitats. It had a robust bill with a squared-off end, well-suited to cropping short grassland swards.

Websites

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

References

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

Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. 2002. The lost world of the moa. Christchurch, Canterbury University Press.

Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N.; Sorenson, M.D.; Cooper, A.C. 1997. Description of the first complete skeleton of the extinct New Zealand goose Cnemiornis calcitrans (Aves: Anatidae), and a reassessment of the relationships of Cnemiornis. Journal of Zoology 243: 695-723.

Recommended citation

Adams, L. 2013. South Island goose. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

South Island goose

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