Porphyrio hochstetteri

Physical Description

The Takahē is a large flightless bird and one of New Zealand's most iconic and rarest species. It has a robust build with blue-purple plumage on its head and back, a greenish-blue breast, and a red frontal shield on its forehead. Takahē have a stout red beak, strong legs, and large feet adapted for walking on uneven terrain. They can reach a length of up to 63 centimetres (25 inches) and weigh around 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds).

Habitat and Range

Takahē are found only in specific alpine and subalpine habitats of New Zealand. Historically, they inhabited various locations across the country, but their range has significantly reduced over time. Today, they are primarily restricted to a few protected and managed sites, including Fiordland and the Murchison Mountains in the South Island.

Feeding Habits

Takahē are herbivorous birds that feed on various plant materials. They primarily graze on the leaves, stems, and roots of grasses, sedges, and other herbaceous plants. Their specialised digestive system allows them to extract nutrients from tough and fibrous vegetation. During the breeding season, they may also consume additional plant parts, such as flowers and fruits.

Breeding and Nesting

Takahē are monogamous birds that form long-term pair bonds. They construct large nests made of tussock grass, rushes, and other vegetation, which are often located in wetland or swampy areas. The female lays a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs, which both parents incubate for approximately 30 days. The chicks are precocial, meaning they are relatively mature and mobile upon hatching.

Conservation Status

The Takahē is considered critically endangered, with a small and fragile population. They were once considered extinct, but a small remnant population was discovered in 1948, leading to conservation efforts to protect and restore the species. Intensive management and breeding programs have helped increase their numbers, but they still face ongoing threats, including habitat loss, introduced predators, and diseases.

Tree and Plant Preferences

Takahē primarily inhabits alpine and subalpine grasslands, wetlands, and tussock-dominated habitats. They rely on various grass species, sedges, and other herbaceous plants as their main food sources. While they may not have specific tree preferences due to their habitat preferences, they are often associated with areas where tussock grasses (such as Chionochloa spp.) dominate.

Interesting Facts

  • The Takahē is a close relative of the Pūkeko, another New Zealand bird species, but it has a larger size and distinct physical characteristics.
  • They are considered a living fossils, representing a remnant of an ancient bird lineage that was once widespread in New Zealand.
  • Takahē are known for their slow and deliberate walking style, often pausing to feed or observe their surroundings.
  • They have a unique and distinctive call, described as a loud "kee-aa" or a trumpeting sound.
  • Conservation efforts, including habitat restoration, predator control, and captive breeding, are crucial for the survival of this critically endangered species.