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Callaeidae - Kokako & Saddlebacks

Kokako
North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni ©Matt Binns (Creative Commons) Website

The small bird family Callaeidae (also named in some sources as Callaeatidae) is endemic to New Zealand. It contains three monotypic genera, with five species in the family. One, the huia, became extiis also presumed extinct.

The Callaeidae are often known as wattlebirds or wattled crows, a term that leads to confusion, as there are other, unrelated species with this same name, notably the large Australian wattlebirds of the family Meliphagidae, which are honeyeaters. For this reason New Zealand wattlebirds is the informal name for this family used by the scientific community. Equally confusingly, they are also sometimes known as wattled crows, even though they are not corvids and are only distantly related to crows.

They are ground-dwelling passerines, 26–38 cm in length. They inhabit dense forests, where they feed on insects. They have strong legs and featherless wattles behind the bill. Their wings are rounded and unusually weak, giving them very limited powers of flight. They are monogamous and maintain permanent territories.

These birds seem to be remnants of an early expansion of passerines to New Zealand. They have no close relatives except the stitchbird, and their more distant relationships are likewise still unknown.

A molecular study of the nuclear RAG-1 and c-mos genes of the three species within the family proved inconclusive, the data providing most support for either a basally diverging kokako or huia.

There are now just three extant species in this family; they are:

North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni

North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater
South Island Saddleback Philesturnus carunculatus

Family Links

New Zealand Wattlebirds Callaeidae

Species Account

Brief taxonomy

New Zealand Wattlebirds Callaeidae

Family Account

The small bird family Callaeidae (also named in some sources as Callaeatidae) is endemic to New Zealand.

New Zealand Wattlebirds Callaeidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list

Species Links

North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni

Species Account

The North Island kōkako (Callaeas wilsoni) is an endangered forest bird which is endemic to the North Island of New Zealand.

North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater

Species Account

Sometimes considered conspecific with South Island saddleback P. carunculatus, which has name priority.

North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni

Species Account

Sometimes considered conspecific with South Island kokako C. cinerea, which has name priority.

North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

North Island Kokako Callaeas wilsoni

HBW Species Account

North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater

Species Account

The North Island saddleback has benefited from multiple population reintroductions and is now resident on nine off-shore islands totalling approximately 7000 birds, from the original 500 birds found on Hen Island.

North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater

HBW Species Account

South Island Saddleback hilesturnus carunculatus

Species Account

Sometimes considered conspecific with North Island saddleback P. rufusater; South Island saddleback has name priority.

South Island Saddleback hilesturnus carunculatus

HBW Species Account

South Island Saddleback hilesturnus carunculatus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 3