New Zealand swan

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New Zealand swan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Tribe: Cygnini
Genus: Cygnus
Species: C. atratus
Subspecies: C. a. sumnerensis
Trinomial name
Cygnus atratus sumnerensis
(Forbes, 1890)

Chenopis sumnerensis
Cygnus sumnerensis

The New Zealand swan (Cygnus atratus sumnerensis) is an extinct swan from the Chatham Islands and the South Island of New Zealand. It was originally described as a separate species from the black swan based on the slightly larger size of the fossil bones found and the apparent absence of the black swan from New Zealand prior to 1864. More recent analysis of these fossils, and others, suggests that the New Zealand swan was a subspecies of the black swan, and it is referred to this way in ornithology today. The plumage color has not been determined from the sub-fossil record and is unknown. The swan remains found in the Chatham Islands may constitute a separate species, C. chathamicus (Oliver, 1955 - C. chathamensis is an unjustified emendation), but more work is needed to establish this.

Māori midden deposits indicate the black swan was an indigenous species in New Zealand. Lack of records is cited as evidence that the black swan was made extinct prior to being reintroduced to New Zealand and the Chatham Islands in 1864 and 1890, respectively therefore the statement that the black swan is an introduced species. In New Zealand this means Māori are not allowed to collect eggs without a permit. They have effortlessly filled the ecological niche of their extinct relative(s) and multiplied, today numbering in the tens of thousands.


  • Oliver, W.R.B. (1955). New Zealand Birds (2nd edition). A. H. & A. W. Reed:Wellington.
  • Worthy, Trevor H. & Holdaway, Richard N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa. Indiana University Press:Bloomington. ISBN 0-253-34034-9