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The King Country; or, Explorations in New Zealand. A Narrative of 600 Miles of Travel through Maoriland.

The Fauna

The Fauna.

The almost total absence of land mammalia forms one of the most remarkable features in the fauna of New Zealand. Of this class New Zealand can boast of only two genera: the bat—pekapeka of the natives, two species—and a small indigenous rat, the kiore, now almost extinct. The author met with one or two specimens of the latter animal at Ruakaka, in the King Country, but there, as in other parts of the island, it has been mostly exterminated by the Norwegian or grey rat. The kararehe, a native dog, the origin of which is uncertain, has entirely passed away. Its remains, however, have been found with those of the moa in the limestone caves of the South Island. The natives claim to have brought the kiore with them on their migration from Hawaiki, and it is likely that they may have imported the dog at the same time, as a reference to it is made in connection with their earliest traditions. Of the maritime mammalia both whales and seals were formerly very numerous on the coast of the islands. There are known to be eight kinds of whales, and three of seals. The total absence of serpents and tortoises is again another notable feature.


By far the most attractive part of the New Zealand fauna is the birds, which include some of the most beautiful species of the feathered tribe. Of these the following are among the most remarkable:—

  • Hihipopokero.—Turdvs albifrons. A small brown bird with a white head.
  • Hioi.—Ptilocinctatis. A ground-lark, very common on the plains of the interior of North Island.
  • Huia.—Genus Melliphagus. A black bird, about the size of a jay; it has two little fleshy lappets under the beak: its tail feathers, tipped with white, are much prized by the Maories as ornaments for the hair.page 361
  • Hurukiwi.—A wild duck.
  • Kahu.—Falcon harpe. A large hawk.
  • Kaiaia.—A sparrow-hawk.
  • Kaka.—Nestor meridionalis. A large greenish-brown parrot. The author found this bird to be very common in the forests of the Whanganui, where its harsh note was the first sound to break the morning stillness. This family of parrots is characterized by an aquiline or overlapping beak.
  • Kakapo.—Strigaps habroptilus. A ground parrot; colour, green and yellow; it does not fly, although it has wings, but hops from branch to branch; it is nocturnal in its habits.
  • Kakariki.—Platycerus Novœ Zealandiœ. A pretty, green parrot.
  • Karewarewa.—Falco brunnea. A quail-hawk.
  • Katatai.—Ralus assimilus. A kind of rail.
  • Kauau.—Graculus carunculatus. A shag or cormorant.
  • Kea.—A large parrot, common in the South Island. It was formerly a vegetarian, but in recent times it has developed a strong taste for flesh, and has wrought great destruction among sheep flocks. The fat surrounding the kidney appears to be its chief delight. Planting its strong claws into the woolly loins of the live sheep, it, by the aid of its powerful beak, pierces through those parts of the flesh and fat around the kidney, which it greedily devours, while the animal is powerless to resist its attacks.
  • Kereru.—Columbus spadicea. A wood-pigeon.
  • Kiwi.—Fam. Struthionidœ. (See Wingless Birds.)
  • Kohihi.—Endynamys taitensis. A bird.
  • Kohaperoa.—A bird of passage, the New Zealand cuckoo; it is a handsome bird, spotted like the sparrow-hawk.
  • Kokako.—The New Zealand crow.
  • Kororeke.—The New Zealand quail.
  • Koriniako.—Genus Melliphagus. The bell-bird, one of the sweetest songsters.
  • Kotare.—Halcyon vagrans. The king-fisher.
  • Kotuku.—Ardea flavirostris. A large white crane.
  • Koukou.—A small nocturnal owl, the "morepork" of the colonists.
  • Kuruengo.—The shoveller, a duck of Lake Taupo.
  • Mata.—A swamp-sparrow, a small brown bird with long tail feathers.
  • Matuku.—Botaurus melanotus. A bittern.
  • Mirmiro.—Miro albifrons. A small, graceful bird.
  • Moa.—Fam. Struthionidœ. (See Wingless Birds.)
  • Moakeroa.—A black bird with red bill and feet.page 362
  • Ngirungiru.—-Petroica macrocophala. A tomtit.
  • Parera.—Anas superciliosa. A wild duck.
  • Pihana.—A little black and white bird.
  • Pihoihoi.—The New Zealand ground-lark.
  • Piwakawaka.—Rhipidura flabellifera. The fantail fly catcher, a small graceful bird with a spreading tail.
  • Poaka.—Himantopis. Pied stilt.
  • Popokatea.—Orthornyx heteroalytus. The New Zealand canary bird.
  • Poporoihewa.—A snipe-like bird.
  • Puetoeto.—A bird living in swamps.
  • Pukeko.—Porophyrino melanotus. The swamp-hen; red bill and feet, back black, breast bright blue.
  • Putaugitange.—Casarca variegata. The paradise-duck.
  • Riroriro.—Fam. Luscindœ. A small wren.
  • Ruru.—Strigidœ Athene. An owl.
  • Takupu.—A white gull.
  • Tarapunga.—A small gull, frequenting Lake Taupo.
  • Tatarihuka.—A small bird, held sacred by the Maories.
  • Tatariki.—Fam. Luscindœ. A small bird.
  • Tewakawaka.—Fam. Rhipidura fuliginosa. The black fantail.
  • Titi.—Palecanoides urinatrix. The mutton-bird
  • Toetoe.—Certhiparus Novœ Zealandiœ. A small bird.
  • Totoara.—The robin.
  • Tui.—Prosthemadera Novœ Zealandiœ. The parson-bird. A beautiful black bird, the size of a thrush; plumage a lustrous blue-black, irradiated with green hues, pencilled with silver-grey, and white delicate hair-feathers under the throat, suggestive of a parson's tie. It has a melodious, clear note, and mocks other birds. It is easily domesticated, and may be taught to talk.
  • Weka.—Ralus Australis. A large rail, the wood-hen, frequently met with on the high land of the interior.
  • Wio.—The blue mountain duck.
  • Wiorau.—A small grey duck, frequenting the forest streams.

Sea Birds.

The sea birds inhabiting the coasts of New Zealand are fairly numerous, and among them are two small kinds of penguin.

  • Hawe.—A large gull, the tail-feathers of which are highly prized by the natives.
  • Hoiho.—Eudyptes antipodes. A small penguin, inhabiting the coasts of the South Island.page 363
  • Kao.—A gull frequenting the shores at night.
  • Karoro.—A gull.
  • Kawan.—Graculus carruculatus. A shag or cormorant.
  • Kuaka.—A small sea bird.
  • Pekeha.—A gull.
  • Pitoitoi.—A small sea bird.
  • Taiko.—A gull.
  • Takahikahi.—A sea-shore bird.
  • Takupu.—A white gull.
  • Tara.—Lula Australis. A sea swallow.
  • Tarapunga.—A small, graceful gull, inhabiting Lake Taupo; very numerous in the vicinity of Tokanu.
  • Titipu.—A gull.
  • Torea.—Hœmatopus picatus. The oyster-catcher; has red legs and beak.
  • Toroa.—Diomedia exulans. The albatross.

Wingless Birds.

The almost extinct family of the Struthionidœ, or wingless birds, of New Zealand, forms one of the most interesting features in the fauna of the country. All the members of this genus are wholly different from the common types of birds. They are remarkable for short rudimentary wings, entirely unfit for flight, and for bones nearly devoid of air cells; the leg muscles are of unusual strength and thickness; the feet are powerful and long, with three toes, while the plumage is composed of light, shaggy feathers, almost resembling hair. Before its period of extinction, the largest member of this family, known by tradition to the natives as the moa, was the giant of the feathered tribe, the height of the several species of this bird, as computed from its remains, being as follows:—

Feet. Inches.
Dinornis Giganteus 11 0
Dinornis Robustus 8 6
Dinornis Elephantopus 6 8
Dinornis Casuarinus 5 6
Dinornis Crassus 5 0
Dinornis Didiformus 4 8

Although the remains of all these birds are of extraordinary proportions, the Dinornis elephantopus, or elephant-footed moa, is page 364distinguished by the singularly massive construction of its leg bones. The sole remaining representative of these colossal birds is the apteryx or kiwi of the natives. Of this genus there are several species. The Apteryx Australis was the first made known to science, in 1812. The Apteryx Mantelli differs from the former kind in its smaller size, shorter toes, and longer bill and less developed wings, while its plumage is of a somewhat darker colour. The Apteryx Owenii is slightly smaller than the former species, with a greyish plumage. During his journey through the interior the author found the kiwi to be yet common in the Kaimanawa Mountains, the forests of the Whanganui, in the mountainous districts of Western Taupo, and at Mount Perongia.


In New Zealand the lizards are represented by eleven species, five of which belong to the neat genus Naultinus.

  • Kakariki.—Naultinus elegans. A beautiful green lizard, now rarely found.
  • Kakawariki.—Naultinus punctatus. A green lizard with yellow spots on the back.
  • Mokonui.—A large lizard, said by the natives to be common on the Upper Whanganui.
  • Tuatard.—Hatteria puntata. A great fringed lizard, about eighteen inches long. It is now only found on the small island of Karewha, in the Bay of Plenty.
  • Around Lake Taupo the author found small brown lizards, about two inches long; and at Pangarara, near Tongariro, lizards eight inches long, of a dark-brown colour.


The insect life of New Zealand is represented by many curious forms.

  • Anuie.—A large caterpillar.
  • Aweto.—A caterpillar which feeds on the kumara.
  • Hara.—A large centipede, nearly six inches long.
  • Hataretare.—Slug-snail.
  • Hawate.—Caterpillar.
  • Heire.—Maggot.
  • Hotete.—Sphœria Robertsi. The vegetating caterpillar.page 365
  • Howaka.—A cerambyx.
  • Huhu.—A boring grub.
  • Huhu.—A moth.
  • Hurangi.—A fly.
  • Kukaraiti.—A grasshopper.
  • Kapapa. —A large cerambyx.
  • Kapokapowai.—A dragon-fly.
  • Katipo.—A venomous spider, one kind red and one black, with a red spot on the back.
  • Keha.—A flea.
  • Kekeriru.—-Cimex nemoralis. A large black wood-bug.
  • Kekerewai.—A small green beetle.
  • Kihikihi.—A grasshopper.
  • Kiriwhenua.—A garden bug.
  • Kopi.—Chrysalis.
  • Kowhitiwhiti.—A small grasshopper.
  • Kurikuri.—A grub which turns into a green, bronzed beetle.
  • Kutu.—Louse.
  • Mokoroa.—A large caterpillar.
  • Mumatana.—A large brown beetle,
  • Naenae.—Mosquito.
  • Namu.—Sand-fly.
  • Ngata.—Leech.
  • Ngaungau.—Midge.
  • Papapapa.—Small brown beetle.
  • Pepeaweto.—The grub which begets the hotete, or vegetating caterpillar.
  • Pepeatua.—Butterfly.
  • Pepeturia.—Large green moth.
  • Puawere.—Spider.
  • Purehurehu.—Large butterfly,
  • Puwerewere.—Spider.
  • Rango.—Large meat-fly.
  • Tarakihi.—Locust.
  • Titiwai.—Small luminous earthworm.
  • Toke.—A very long worm.
  • Kokoriro.—Large red weta.
  • Weta.—Deinacrida heteracantha A beetle two and a half inches in length.