New Zealand bittern (Ixobrychus novaezelandiae)
Endemic. Extinct 1890’s
Once widespread in NZ, the arrival of rats and then cats throughout the land saw the decline of this species. It was reported to have shown alarm at the sight of a cat, suggesting it had a learned response from the impact of these predators. The ultimate extinction could also be attributed to the arrival of stoats in its remaining stronghold .. the S.I West coast.
(image of NZ bittern attempting to camouflage itself by perching in sedge, near a west coast swamp. Courtesy of Tepapa museum)
Threats and conservation
The early scarcity of New Zealand little bitterns may have been due the early spread of Norway rats and feral cats throughout New Zealand. A captive bird showed alarm at the presence of a cat. Their final demise seems to coincide well with the first wave of the stoat invasion on the West Coast and was before the wetlands were drained for farming.
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