Our tour of the amazing birds of New Zealand continues with the Takahe.
This bird is the largest member of the rail family, Rallidae, weighing in at as much as 6 pounds and standing 20 inches high. It was thought to be extinct like so many of NZ's flightless birds, but in 1948 it was rediscovered high in the mountains on South Island. The Takahe lives on alpine grasses, shoots,and insects. They are a long-lived species that takes at least two years to reach sexual maturity. Both male and female parents care for the offspring in above ground nests. Each November 1-3 eggs are laid and 80% of the eggs hatch, but few chicks survive their first winter.
Due to their life cycle they were especially vulnerable to predation by introduced species such as cats and stoats. Like other flightless birds of NZ they were hunted by the Maori and were especially easy to locate because of their loud call. Other threats come from competition for grasses with introduced deer, but the National Wildlife Service is working to cull the deer population, and from habitat destruction due to expansion in paper-tree farms as well as agriculture. As of 2008 there are 250 Takahe living on the South Island.
The Takahe is currently listed by the IUCN as endangered and as having a growing population.