New Zealand’s newest bird named after vessel that nearly destroyed it
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionA bird not known to exist until 1997 has at last got its own scientific name.
Date: 16 February 2010
A bird not known to exist until 1997 has at last got its own scientific name.
The critically-endangered Campbell Island snipe has been named Coenocorypha aucklandica perseverance after Captain Frederick Hasselburgh’s sealing brig Perseverance.
Captain Hasselburgh discovered subantarctic Campbell Island in 1810. The Perseverance is believed to have brought Norway rats to the island when it was wrecked in 1828, and consequently nearly wiped out the Campbell Island snipe.
Campbell Island snipe chick
No one knew the bird existed until a small population was found on 19 ha Jacquemart Island, off Campbell Island, by a survey team in 1997, says Department of Conservation conservation analyst Dr Colin Miskelly, who named the bird.
“It was the first discovery of an undescribed and unknown living bird in New Zealand in 50 years.”
The last scientifically unknown, living bird to be described and named was the Westland petrel in 1945-46.
“Ironically, by seeking refuge on predator free Jacquemart Island, snipe have outlasted the rats which were eradicated from Campbell Island in 2001,” says Dr Miskelly.
“Their new name acknowledges their perseverance in the face of adversity.”
Following the successful eradication snipe have naturally recolonised Campbell Island.
“It was likely that the snipe had been confined to Jacquemart Island since Norway rats reached Campbell Island about 170 years before. Now, with the rats gone, they are recolonising and spreading surprisingly quickly.”
Dr Colin Miskelly, who named the
Campbell Island snipe, holds a chick
caught in January 2006
Footprints were found in 2003, and a large chick was caught in 2005 by a survey team.
In January 2006, Dr Miskelly, James Fraser and James’ bird-locater dog Percy surveyed the Six Foot Lake catchment on Campbell Island for snipe.
They obtained genetic samples from 12 adults and three chicks. These samples were used to compare the Campbell Island snipe with samples from four other snipe species or subspecies.
Their findings showed the Snares Island snipe and the Chatham Island snipe are distinct species – separate from the more southern varieties.
The Auckland Island, Antipodes Island and Campbell Island snipes are all subspecies of the re-defined subantarctic snipe, Coenocorypha aucklandica.
Visitors to Campbell Island in 2008 and 2010 reported seeing snipe near the shores of Perseverance Harbour – a major geographical feature of Campbell Island. The harbour was named by Captain Hasselburgh.
For more information contact Dr Colin Miskelly +64 4 470 8420