New Zealand fernbird
|New Zealand fernbird|
(Quoy & Gaimard, 1830)
The New Zealand fernbird or simply fernbird (Megalurus punctatus) is an insectivorous bird endemic to New Zealand. The Māori names are kōtātā or mātātā. It is a rich brown above and white below, with brown spots on both the throat and breast. Early settlers called it the "swamp sparrow" no doubt because of its colouration. The tail feathers are thin, dark brown, and spine-like. The birds reach a length of 18 cm (7 in) - as measured from tip of beak to end of tail. However,almost half of that is tail
The New Zealand fernbird is a ground-dwelling bird, and is a reluctant flier, travelling mainly on foot or in occasional short flights of less than 15 metres. In the 19th century Buller described it as "one of our most common" (birds) but it has been adversely affected by the subsequent widespread destruction of its natural (wetland) habitat following European settlement and is now rare
There are six fully protected sub-species of New Zealand fernbird:
- M. p. punctatus (South Island fernbird)
- M. p. vealeae (North Island fernbird)
- M. p. stewartianus (Stewart Island fernbird)
- M. p. wilsoni (Codfish Island fernbird)
- M. p. caudatus (Snares fernbird)
Megalurus rufescens (the Chatham fernbird) is believed to have become extinct circa 1900.
The birds nest in sedges or other vegetation close to the ground, making a deep woven cup of dried rushes lined with feathers. Breeding occurs from September to February, producing clutches of 2-3 pinkish-white eggs with brown or purple speckles.
Place in Māori culture
Māori revered the fernbird as an "oracle" or "Wise bird" (Manu tohu). The calls of the bird were interpreted as heralding success or failure in daily activities such as fishing but on a more serious level could also portend prosperity and health or disaster and death.
- Falla, R.A., Sibson, R.B., and Turbott, E.G. (1970). A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-212022-4
- Marshall, J., Kinsky, F.C., and Robinson, C.J.R. (1982). The Fiat Book of Common birds in New Zealand. Wellington: A.H. and A.W. Reed. ISBN 0-589-00759-9