Turnagra capensis (Sparrman, 1787)

    Piopio, the New Zealand Thrush (Turnagra capensis) is unfortunately now extinct. This omnivorous, medium sized perching bird had a plumage of olive brown, rufous, yellow and yellowish-white. Its bill and feet were dark brown. It was about the same size as the New Zealand Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae).

    The European name is misleading since its resemblance to the Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) seems coincidental. Piopio is thought to be related to the Bowerbirds of Australia.

    The North Island sub-species (pictured) was described by early settlers as "unquestionably the best of our native songsters". At the time of European settlement it was widespread in forest throught the country. It was tame and is recorded as taking food scraps at bush camp sites.

    By 1888 it was said to be one of New Zealand's rarest species and by 1905 was quoted almost extinct. The last recorded North Island Piopio was shot at Ohura in 1902.

    Despite extensive searches over recent years, there have been no positive sightings.

    The main reasons for the decline of this magnificent bird seem to be the destruction of its forest habitat, and the introduction of mammalian predators.

    Illusztráció: John G. Keulemans


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