New Zealand coot

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New Zealand coot
Temporal range: Holocene
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Fulica
Species: F. prisca
Binomial name
Fulica prisca
Hamilton, 1893
  • Palaeolimnas prisca
  • Nesophalaris prisca Brodkorb & Dawson, 1962
  • Fulica chathamensis prisca Olson, 1975

The New Zealand coot (Fulica prisca) is an extinct bird in the rail family, Rallidae, that was endemic to New Zealand. It was described in 1893 by New Zealand naturalist, ethnologist and museum director Augustus Hamilton, from material he had collected the previous year at Castle Rocks on the Oreti River in Southland.[1] The specific epithet comes from the Latin priscus ("old"), referring to its subfossil occurrence. Remains have subsequently been found at several sites in both North and South Islands.[2]


The New Zealand coot and the related Chatham coot (F. chathamensis) are classified as coots on the basis of anatomical features of the pelvis and humerus typical of the genus. There has been disagreement regarding the relationship between the two species. They have variously been considered full species, subspecies or lacking in taxonomic distinction. At one point a new genus, Nesophalaris, was proposed for them.[3] A review by Trevor Worthy and Richard Holdaway in 2002 recommended that both coots be treated as separate species.[4]


Although the coot’s body proportions were similar to those of living coots, it was larger than most, at about 1.8 kg (4 lb) in weight and a length of 40 cm (16 in), though it was still probably able to fly. It was also more terrestrial, with its remains discovered in inland forests and subalpine regions as well as coastal wetlands. Its bones have also been found in early Maori middens in coastal Marlborough, and it is likely to have become extinct through over-hunting.[4]


  1. ^ "New Zealand Coot, Fulica prisca; lectotype". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 2013-07-19. 
  2. ^ Millener, P.R. (1981). "The subfossil distribution of extinct New Zealand coots, Fulica chathamensis subspp. (Aves: Rallidae)" (PDF). Notornis. 28 (1): 1–9. 
  3. ^ Millener, P.R. (1980). "The taxonomic state of New Zealand coots, Fulica chathamensis subspp. (Aves: Rallidae)" (PDF). Notornis. 27: 363–367. 
  4. ^ a b Michaux, B. (2013). "New Zealand Coot". In Miskelly, C.M. (ed). New Zealand Birds Online. nzbirdsonline. Retrieved 2013-07-19.