Avifaunal changes revealed in Quaternary deposits near Waitomo Caves, North Island, New Zealand

Trevor H. Worthy, Stephen E.J. Swabey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Late Pleistocene (23 000-10 000 14C yr BP) and Holocene (10 000 14C yr - present BP) avifaunas are described from the Henry Lambert and associated passages in Gardners Gut Cave, Waitomo Caves, North Island, New Zealand. Nine radiocarbon dates on bones and three uranium series dates on speleothems support the dating of the sites. These data are augmented by six new dates and reanalysis of the avifaunas from F1c Cave, also in the Waitomo karst. A distinctive Pleistocene avifauna characterised by the moa Euryapteryx curtus and Pachyornis mappini and the North Island goose (Cnemiornis gracilis) with common associates including New Zealand coot (Fulica prisca), North Island takahe (Porphyrio mantelli), Finsch's duck (Euryanas finschi), and North Island kokako (Callaeas wilsoni) was present. The presence of kokako, saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater), and robin (Petroica longipes) in the Pleistocene deposits and the absence of grassland taxa such as pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae) and quail (Coturnix novaezelandiae) indicate that the vegetation about Gardners Gut Cave included tall shrubland and probably lacked much grassland, even over the Last Glacial Maximum. The Holocene at Waitomo was characterised by a moa fauna dominated by Anomalopteryx didiformis, although both Euryapteryx curtus and Pachyornis mappini persisted in small numbers. The frequent occurence of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), weka (Gallirallus australis), and brown teal (Anas chlorotis) typifies Holocene avifaunas; Cnemiornis and Fulica are unknown from Holocene deposits in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-325
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Faunal change
  • Flo Cave
  • Fossil avifaunas
  • Gardners Gut Cave
  • Holocene
  • New Zealand
  • Palaeovegetation
  • Pleistocene
  • Radiocarbon dates
  • Waitomo Caves


Dive into the research topics of 'Avifaunal changes revealed in Quaternary deposits near Waitomo Caves, North Island, New Zealand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this