Unsorted Wild Birds

New Zealand Snipes, also known as the Subantarctic Snipes

The New Zealand Snipes Coenocorypha aucklandica, also known as the Subantarctic Snipe, is a species of snipe endemic to New Zealand.

The New Zealand Snipes nominate race is found on the Auckland Islands (excluding the main island). Other subspecies include C. a. huegeli which is found on the Snares Islands, and C. a. meinertzhagenae which is found on the Antipodes Islands.

The introduction of the Pacific Rat Rattus exulans probably caused the extinction of the species from mainland New Zealand around 1,000 years ago, but the North Island and South Island subspecies managed to hang on on offshore islands, the last refugia being Little Barrier Island (until the 1870s: Miskelly, 1988) and Big South Cape Island (until c.1964).

The M? ori have legends about the hokioi or hakawai, a mythical bird that was only heard. Supposedly a giant bird of prey, this image was influenced by tales of the then-extinct Haast’s Eagle and the loud noises attributed to the hokioi.

However, Miskelly (1987; see also Galbreath and Miskelly, 1988) demonstrated that the tiny New Zealand Snipe was responsible for producing the loud rushing or screaming heard at nighttime during its mating flight, similar to the Common Snipe‘s “winnowing” and entirely out of proportion in loudness to the bird’s diminutive size. Miskelly et al. (2006) describe it as

A series of 3-6 disyllabic whistles variously described as “queeyoo queeyoo queeyoo” or “hakwai hakwai hakwai” was given by unseen birds high (10s of m) above the ground, followed immediately by a “roar” or undulating whistle of air rushing through feathers […], that we likened to a jet aircraft passing close overhead.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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