Some features of recent research on the takahe (Notornis mantelli)
- Wildlife Service, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington
Takahe were once widely distributed—the type specimen being sub-fossil and from Taranaki in the North Island. During recent centuries the size and range of the population has shrunk and only four living specimens, all from Fiordland, were recorded between 1849 and 1898 (Williams, 1960). There followed a gap of 50 years and the species was considered extinct. Then, in November 1948, takahe were rediscovered in the neighbouring Point Burn and Tunnel Burn Valleys of the Murchison Mountains, Fiordland (Orbell, 1949).
Field studies started the same summer and during the next four years ten trips involving a total of 345 man days were made. Considerable information (Falla, 1951; Fleming, 1951; Gurr, 1951; Turbott, 1951; Williams, 1950, 1952) resulted but the returns did not compensate for the time involved, as there was no way of identifying individual birds. This precluded reliable work on many aspects of social behaviour and population ecology.