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New Zealand wattlebirds
Huia Buller.jpg
Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Callaeidae
Sundevall, 1836


The small bird family Callaeidae (also named in some sources as Callaeatidae) is endemic to New Zealand. It contains three monotypic genera, with five species in the family. One, the huia, became extinct early in the 20th century.

The Callaeidae are often known as wattlebirds, a term that leads to confusion, as there are other, unrelated species with this same name, notably the large Australian wattlebirds of the family Meliphagidae, which are honeyeaters. For this reason New Zealand wattlebirds is the informal name for this family used by the scientific community.[1] Equally confusingly, they are also sometimes known as wattled crows, even though they are not corvids and are only distantly related to crows.

Biology and evolution[edit]

They are ground-dwelling songbirds, 26–38 cm in length. They inhabit dense forests, where they feed on insects. They have strong legs and featherless wattles behind the bill. Their wings are rounded and unusually weak, giving them very limited powers of flight. They are monogamous and maintain permanent territories.[2]

These birds seem to be remnants of an early expansion of passerines to New Zealand. They have no close relatives except the stitchbird, and their more distant relationships are likewise still unknown.[3]

A molecular study of the nuclear RAG-1 and c-mos genes of the three species within the family proved inconclusive, the data providing most support for either a basally diverging kokako or huia.[4]


  1. ^ Higgins, P.J. & J.M. Peter (eds) 2002. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553762-9
  2. ^ Lindsey, Terence (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 225. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  3. ^ Ewen, John G.; Flux, Ian; Ericson, Per G. P.; et al. (2006). "Systematic affinities of two enigmatic New Zealand passerines of high conservation priority, the hihi or stitchbird Notiomystis cincta and the kokako Callaeas cinerea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40 (1): 281–284. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.01.026. PMID 16527495. 
  4. ^ Shepherd, Lara D.; Lambert, David M. (2007). "The relationships and origins of the New Zealand wattlebirds (Passeriformes, Callaeatidae) from DNA sequence analyses". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 43 (2): 480–92. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.12.008. PMID 17369056.