New Zealand owlet-nightjar

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New Zealand owlet-nightjar
Temporal range: Quaternary
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Aegothelidae
Genus: Aegotheles
A. novazelandiae
Binomial name
Aegotheles novazelandiae
(Scarlett 1968)

Megaegotheles novazelandiae

The New Zealand owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles novazelandiae) was a large species of owlet-nightjar (family Aegothelidae) formerly endemic to the islands of New Zealand. Fossil remains (which are common in the pellets of the extinct laughing owl) indicate the species was once widespread across both the North Island and the South Island. Despite a small number of reports of small owls being found in the 19th century that may have been New Zealand owlet-nightjars, the species is thought to have become extinct around 1200 AD.

The New Zealand owlet-nightjar was the largest species of owlet-nightjar, weighing an estimated 150-200 g. The species was also either flightless, as suggested by its small wings, or a very poor flier (the species has a strong keel). The diet probably consisted of invertebrates, as well as frogs and lizards.

The species rapidly became extinct after the introduction of Pacific rats to New Zealand. Their remains have never been found in association with Māori middens, and are unlikely to have been hunted due to their small size and nocturnal habits.


  • Holdaway, R. N., Jones, M. D., Athfield, N. R. B. (2002) Late Holocene extinction of the New Zealand owlet-nightjar Aegotheles novaezealandiae. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 32(4) 653-667.
  • Worthy, Trevor H., & Holdaway, Richard N. (2002) The Lost World of the Moa, Indiana University Press:Bloomington, ISBN 0-253-34034-9