Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Painstaking Research Brings Extinct Birds to Life

Media Release for immediate use: 15 November 2006

Painstaking Research Brings Extinct Birds to Life

58 Paintings by renowned artist Paul Martinson and expert commentary by palaeontologist Alan Tennyson breathe new life into New Zealand’s extinct bird population in a book published by Te Papa Press this month.

New Zealand’s flora and fauna thrived in its isolation for over 80 million years and developed many unique characteristics which subsequently fascinated scientists and collectors alike from around the globe.

In the last few hundred years many of these unique flora and fauna, including over a quarter of all New Zealand’s original bird species, have simply ceased to exist.

The book Extinct Birds of New Zealand by Alan Tennyson and Paul Martinson is the fruition of years of research and collaboration. Each of the 58 breathtakingly lifelike paintings and their descriptions is the result of careful drafting and re-drafting, consultation with experts from around the world, and the examination of rare museum specimens and records. All these resources have enabled Tennyson and Martinson to portray the birds, together with their habitats, and what (or who) killed them in remarkable detail.

Other projects at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa benefit from this type of exhaustive research. The current exhibition Blood Earth Fire contains life-like models of the birds like the flesh-eating adzebill, and the soundtrack includes the recreation of calls from 5 extinct birds; moa, huia, New Zealand goose, Finsch’s duck and whekau. The fossilised remains of trachea rings were used to help determine the sound these birds would have made: the longer the trachea, the deeper the sound would have been.

The demise of these birds is largely attributable to the arrival of foreign predators and most dramatically to the arrival of humans themselves. “13 alien predators helped drive these bird species to extinction,” says Tennyson, “but human hunters exterminated more birds than any other single agent.”

Extinct Birds of New Zealand is a vital resource for expert and amateur ornithologists, art-lovers, teachers, students and anyone passionate about how best to preserve those species which remain.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Joel Coen's Monochromatic Macbeth

The Bard of Avon may well be smirking up the sleeves of his lace doublet at the irony of Will Smith's Oscar debacle, but now that the initial furore has dissipated, it's worth revisiting the movie for which Denzel Washington was also nominated. More>>

Howard Davis: Kenneth Branagh’s Black & White Belfast

Branagh has assembled a wonderful cast, including Ciarán Hinds, a gently formidable actor who well deserves his Oscar nomination, and Judi Dench, who steals every scene she’s in. More>>

Howard Davis: Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune - A Brief History

So many elements of Herbert’s novel have since become tropes of popular SciFi that Villeneuve’s film sometimes seems deceptively derivative. What makes all this nonsense essential viewing is his astonishing visual sensibility. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which has been republished by Te Papa press. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland