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Coturnix novaezelandiae - New Zealand Quail (RMNH 110.051)
RMNH 110.051
Coturnix novaezelandiae - New Zealand Quail (RMNH 110.052)
RMNH 110.052

Phasianidae (Pheasants)

New Zealand Quail Coturnix novaezelandiae Quoy & Gaimard, 1830

  • RMNH 110.051: male. Australia? (= New Zealand). Obtained through: J. Gould.
  • RMNH 110.052: female. Australia? (= New Zealand). Obtained through: J. Gould.

Exterminated by disease?
The New Zealand Quail lived on North and South Island. Although the species was still fairly common on South Island in the 1860s, it was considered to be extinct shortly after 1875. As Sir John Francis Julius von Haast, curator of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch wrote to the German ornithologist Otto Finsch in 1873: "You might be interested to hear from this quail, which may disappear within only a couple of years. I only know two places where it can still be found, one on the west coast and the other on a small island in the Tasman River; still it should be found in some places in Otago and Nelson".

Extinction was very rapid indeed. Its cause was never determined, but given the short period in which the quail disappeared, it seems likely that it was a disease spread by pheasants and quails which the Europeans introduced as game. Furthermore, these birds may have competed with the indigenous quails for food. As with so many other New Zealand species, introduced cats and ferrets may have played a role in the extinction process, but are not regarded as the primary cause here. The decline was too rapid to have been caused by carnivores while other species of quail, such as the imported Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora were thriving at the same time.

Museum specimens
Specimens of the New Zealand Quail are kept in a many European and American museums, as well as in Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand. Naturalis possesses a male and a female. They are labelled "Australie?" which obviously is an error, since the species never occurred in Australia.


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