South Island goose
Cnemiornis calcitrans Owen, 1865
Other names: New Zealand 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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 695-718.
Adams, L. 2013. South Island goose. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
South Island goose
- Breeding season
- Egg laying dates