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Porphyrio hochstetteri
(Photo from Of Trees, Birds and Other Things)

Common name:

takahe (en); takahe (pt); talève takahe (fr); takahe (es); Südinseltakahe (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Rallidae

The takahe is endemic to New Zealand, only being found on the Murchison Mountains of South Island. Conservation efforts have lead to the translocation of populations to the offshore islands of Kapiti, Mana, Tiritiri Matangi and Maud.

These birds are 63 cm long. Males tend to be larger than female, weighing 2,7 kg while females weigh 2,3 kg.

It originally occurred throughout forest and grass ecosystems. Today it is restricted to alpine tussock grasslands.

Takahes primarily consume the leaf bases and seeds of native tussock grasses, including broad leafed snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida), mid-ribbed snow tussock (Chionochloa pallens) and curled snow tussock (Chionochloa crassiuscula). They occasionally take insects as well, especially when raising young.

These birds breed after the end of the Austral winter, from October onwards. The nest is a deep, bowl-like pile of grass, where the female lays 1-3 buff-coloured blotchy eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 30 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, for a period of up to 3 months, after which they become independent. Typically, just one chick per clutch survives the first winter.

IUCN status – EN (Endangered)
The fossil record suggests this species was once widespread throughout New Zealand, but when it was discovered, in the late 1940s, it was already confined to its current very confined breeding range of just 600-700 sq. km. After an initial decline, the population stabilized at just 150-220 individuals, but it is threatened by introduced predators, like the stout Mustela erminea, and competitors, like the red deer Cervus elaphus and the brush-tailed possum Trichosurus vulpecula. The species was introduced to several predator-free offshore islands where the population is growing slowly due to low hatching and fledging rates.
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