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South Island Takahe. (Porphyrio hochstetteri) | by Bernard Spragg
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South Island Takahe. (Porphyrio hochstetteri)

The South Island takahē, a large flightless rail, hit headlines in the late 1940s. Takahē were thought to be extinct – but then, in 1948, Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the South Island species (Porphyrio hochstetteri) in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains. However, the North Island takahē (Porphyrio mantelli) is extinct.

South Island takahē


Weighing up to 4 kilograms and 63 centimetres long, the South Island takahē is the world’s largest rail. Several million years ago its ancestors flew from Australia to New Zealand, where, without ground predators, the takahē became flightless. This colourful bird has turquoise, purple, brown-green and navy plumage, with a white undertail and bright orange-red bill and legs. Today South Island takahē remain in the Fiordland mountains, and have been introduced to several island sanctuaries.

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Taken on April 12, 2011