New Zealand owlet-nightjar

Aegotheles novaezealandiae (Scarlett, 1968)

Order: Apodiformes

Family: Aegothelidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Other names: New Zealand owletnightjar, New Zealand owlet nightjar

Geographical variation: Nil

 
 
 
New Zealand owlet-nightjar. New Zealand owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles novaezealandiae). Image 2006-0010-1/58 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710961&term=owlet-nightjar

New Zealand owlet-nightjar. New Zealand owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles novaezealandiae). Image 2006-0010-1/58 from the series 'Extinct birds of New Zealand'. Masterton. Image © Purchased 2006. © Te Papa by Paul Martinson See Te Papa website: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?irn=710961&term=owlet-nightjar

Owlet-nightjars are a small group of secretive, nocturnal insectivores. Seven of the nine extant species are found in New Guinea, with species also found in north Maluku (Indonesia), Australia, and New Caledonia. The name owlet-nightjar derives from the owl-like forward-facing eyes set in a facial disk combined with a small beak, rictal bristles, and large gape reminiscent of nightjars. However, appearances can be deceptive and owlet-nightjars are not related to nightjars (Order Caprimulgiformes), but to swifts and hummingbirds (Order Apodiformes). The extinct New Zealand owlet-nightjar was most closely related to the New Caledonian species Aegotheles savesi. Together, these two species are considered to have separated from the owlet-nightjars tree long before any of the other surviving species.

Identification                                                                                      

The New Zealand owlet-nightjar was the largest of all the owlet-nightjars. It is known only from isolated bones and partial skeletons, but reconstructions show the typical upright stance of the group. It is likely to have had a facial-disk and forward facing eyes, small bill with a large gape, relatively small wings, and long legs.

Distribution and habitat

Found throughout the North and South Islands in forest or heavily wooded habitats.

Threats and conservation

The New Zealand owlet-nightjar was probably extinct by the 13th Century due to predation by the Pacific rat (kiore, Rattus exulans) introduced when Polynesian settlers first arrived about a thousand years ago.

Breeding

No information, but extant species lay white eggs in cavity nests.

Behaviour and ecology

While the New Zealand owlet-nightjar had a well developed keel on the sternum, its relatively small wings and long legs indicate that it was either flightless or a poor flier. It is thought to have been nocturnal, spending most of its time foraging on the forest floor for insects and, possibly, frogs and small reptiles.

Weblinks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owlet-nightjar

References

Clere, N. 2010. Nightjars of the world. Wildguides Ltd, UK.

Dumbacher, J. P.; Pratt, T. K.; Fleischer, R. C. 2003. Phylogeny of the owlet-nightjars (Aves: Aegothelidae) based on mitochondrial DNA sequence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29: 540-549.

Holdaway, R. N.; Jones, M. D.; Athfield, N. R. B. 2002. Late Holocene extinction of the New Zealand owlet-nightjar Aegotheles novaezealandiae. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 32: 653-667.

Mayr, G. 2009. Phylogenetic relationships of the paraphyletic ‘caprimulgiform’ birds (nightjars and allies). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 48: 126-137.

Rich, P. V.; Scarlett, R. J. 1977. Another look at Megaegotheles, a large owlet-nightjar from New Zealand. Emu 77: 1-8.

Scarlett, R. J. 1968. An owlet-nightjar from New Zealand. Notornis, 15: 254-266.

Tennyson, A.; Martinson, P. 2006. Extinct birds of New Zealand. Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Worthy, T H.; Holdaway, R. N. 2002. The lost world of the moa. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Recommended citation

Michaux, B. 2013. New Zealand owlet-nightjar. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

New Zealand owlet-nightjar

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