In the mid-19th century, the southern subspecies of the New Zealand Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus obscurus) was widespread in the South Island of New Zealand. It now no longer breeds there and the only recent records are coastal; these are of juvenile and unpaired birds wandering from the small relict population on Stewart Island. Written records and data from museum specimens collected before 1940 are presented, and possible causes of the decline are discussed. The records tend to confirm earlier suggestions that the southern subspecies bred inland. The available evidence suggests that the species had declined in the South Island by the early 1880s. Predation by feral cats (Felis catus) and possibly Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), and shooting were the most likely causes. During the period 1880-1900, the decline appears to have become more rapid, coinciding with the introduction and rapid spread of mustelids (Mustela spp.) in the mid-late 1880s. The last specimen that may have been a breeding bird was collected in or before 1903. Cats, rats and mustelids were also introduced to the North Island but the Northern New Zealand Dotterel (C. o. aquilonius) has survived there; possible reasons for this difference are discussed.