Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

The adzebill (Aptornis)

The adzebill (Aptornis)

The moa was not the only large bird that succumbed to Polynesian settlement. Many, like the adzebill, which weighed up to 25 kg, remain a mystery. What is clear is that Polynesians ate them, as adzebill remains have been found in midden sites. While human hunting accounted for the larger birds, rats forced the smaller land-nesting seabirds off the mainland and on to offshore islands. Some researchers suspect that population declines in some small bird species, such as petrels, may have occurred before 1250–1300. If the mainland populations of these seabirds were in decline before this, it would suggest that rats (and therefore canoes, via which rats travelled) also arrived earlier. So far little evidence has been found to support this view.

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New Zealand Post
Reference: 1996 Extinct Birds stamp issue

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How to cite this page:

Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, 'When was New Zealand first settled? - Extinction and decline', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/postage-stamp/3628/the-adzebill-aptornis (accessed 4 August 2020)

Story by Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 May 2016