Acanthisittidae (New Zealand wrens)
Bush Wren Xenicus longipes longipes (Gmelin, 1789)
- RMNH 110.000: male. Bealey, South Island, New Zealand, November 1872. Collector: Dr Haast; Donator: Dr Finsch.
Ancestors of the passerine birds
The family of New Zealand Wrens comprises four species, all of which are endangered or extinct. Recent DNA-studies show that the New Zealand wrens are the ancestors of the passerine birds which have spread from Gondwana, of which New Zealand was part, all across the globe. Two of the three species of the genus Xenicus are probably extinct. Xenicus lyalli, the Stephens Island Wren, the only passerine known to have lost the power of flight, had its home on tiny Stephens Island. The population was exterminated by one single creature: the lighthouse keeper's cat.
Bush Wren possibly extinct
The Bush Wren Xenicus longipes might still survive in remote parts of Fjordland, although it is generally considered to be extinct. There were three subspecies: X. l. longipes which lived on South Island, X. l. stokesii from North Island and X. l. variabilis which inhabited Stewart Island. The North Island Bush Wren has always been rare: the only museum specimens of this race are the so-called type-specimens from which the species was originally described. The South Island Bush Wren was last sighted in the 1972. Stead’s Bush Wren disappeared from Stewart Island in 1965, but survived for some time on nearby Big South Cape Island. Introduced rats sealed its fate.
The specimen in the Leiden Museum is the South Island form longipes. It was collected in the 1870s by Sir John Francis Julius von Haast. Apparently, Von Haast gave the skin to Otto Finsch, who later became bird curator in Leiden.