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Holocene bird bones found at the subantarctic Auckland Islands

  • Publication Type


  • Publication Year


  • Author(s)

    A.J.D. Tennyson

  • Journal Name


  • Volume, Issue

    67, 1

  • Pagination


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Auckland Islands; birds; extinction; fossil; Holocene; subantarctic

Holocene bird bones found at the subantarctic Auckland Islands

Notornis, 67 (1), 269-294

A.J.D. Tennyson (2020)

Article Type: Paper



More than 3,500 Holocene bones, representing at least 853 individual birds, have been recovered on the uninhabited subantarctic Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand. Today this island group has a rich seabird and land-bird fauna, although there have been at least four bird extinctions (a duck, two petrels and a plover) due to predation by introduced mammals and hunting by humans. The Holocene bone fauna, overwhelmingly from sand dunes on Enderby Island, is dominated by seabirds still found at the island group (particularly diving petrels Pelecanoides spp., southern royal albatrosses Diomedea epomophora, and prions Pachyptila spp.). Remains of all endemic taxa (apart from the Auckland Island tomtit Petroica macrocephala marrineri) were recovered from the deposits. All the taxa known to have gone extinct at the island group have now been recovered in Holocene bone deposits, except for the shore plover (Thinornis novaeseelandiae). The deposits indicate also that the abundance of other species has changed. For example, both the eastern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes filholi) and white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) are common in the Enderby Island deposits but are rare on the island today, and the Auckland Island rail (Lewinia muelleri) is present as bones in these dunes but has no historical records from the island. This information on the prehistoric distributions of birds will assist the management of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands, which is currently the subject of a major ecological restoration programme.