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Wing areas and wing loadings of New Zealand land birds

  • Publication Type

    Journal Article

  • Publication Year


  • Author(s)

    Gill BJ

  • Journal Name


  • Volume, Issue

    70, 2

  • Pagination


  • Article Type



wings, body weight, flying ability, passerines

Wing areas and wing loadings of New Zealand land birds

Notornis, 70 (2), 74-82

Gill BJ (2023)

Article Type: Paper



Abstract: Wing areas and wing loadings of New Zealand land birds are poorly documented in the literature. I therefore report measured wing areas of 84 individual birds belonging to 27 species, with calculated wing loadings. Plotting the data graphically allows some ecological inferences. Heavier New Zealand land birds achieve greater wing loadings than lighter species, as is the case for birds generally. For flying birds, small passerines had the lowest wing loadings (0.12 g/cm2 for the New Zealand fantail) and heavier non-passerines the highest wing loadings (0.88 g/cm2 for the pukeko). I expected non-migratory, forest-dwelling, endemic song-birds with weak dispersal abilities to have very high wing loadings but this was not the case. Instead, native and introduced song-birds of similar size tended to have fairly similar wing loadings. Wing loading was slightly elevated in the North Island saddleback and North Island kokako but the whitehead was normal. The tui, a vigorous flier, had a much lower wing loading than expected for its mass. Data for three flightless species suggest that while high wing loading is an important correlate of flightlessness, it is not the only factor.