Story: Land birds – overview

South Island goose

South Island goose

New Zealand had two species of huge flightless geese. The skeleton at right, drawn by fossil specialist Richard Owen in 1879, is of the South Island goose, thought to have weighed up to 18 kilograms. The smaller skeleton is that of the New Zealand species’ nearest relative, Australia’s 5-kilogram Cape Barren goose. The scale indicates 3 feet or about 1 metre. The South Island goose was probably more a land bird than a water bird. Being large and flightless made it easy game for Māori hunters, leading to its extinction in the last few hundred years.

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Richard Owen, Memoirs on the extinct wingless birds of New Zealand. London: John Van Voorst, 1879, plate 95

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How to cite this page:

Kerry-Jayne Wilson, 'Land birds – overview - Weird and wonderful birds', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/artwork/9886/south-island-goose (accessed 6 July 2020)

Story by Kerry-Jayne Wilson, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 20 Apr 2015