The bones of this large goose were first discovered in a crevice in limestone rocks near Timaru about 1863 and were transmitted to Professor Owen for description in 1873. For some time the affinity of the owner of this wonderful structure was in doubt, but all hesitation was dispelled by the discovery of a nearly perfect skeleton, now in the British Museum, which proved the bird to be a goose, of great size, and unable, from the shortness of its wings, to fly. In correlation with this loss of power may also be noted the dwindling of the keel of the sternum. Generally, however, its osteological characters point to an affinity to Cereopsis, as was noticed by Dr Hector who first determined its Anserine character.

This giant flightless, short-legged goose stood about 1m tall and weighed up to 15 kilgrams. Bones have been found in swamps and caves in the North West and Eastern areas of the South Island. There was a smaller North Island sub-species which was also flightless, and remains of this bird have been found throughout the North Island.

R. Holdaway says that this flightless goose was large, 10-15 kg, estimated from leg bone dimensions, flightless and terrestrial. It occurred in both islands and was a grazer on short herbage like its presumed closest ecological counterpart, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, Cape Barren goose, of southern Australia which grazed herbs under open canopy and on riparian strips in forests. He says further that the flightless goose was more abundant in the extensive areas of forest, scrub and grassland on the drier eastern side of the South Island, inhabiting open seral forests of kanuka, Kunzea ericoides, seral grasslands, and the more extensive grasslands of Central Otago. Eggs and adults were hunted by humans and dogs. Eggs and chicks were vulnerable to rats and major areas of habitat were destroyed by fire.

— Greytown, 2007.

extinct goose
Sub Species:
calcitrans, gracilis.

Other common names:  — 

Description:  — 

Extinct bird

Where to find:  — 

Credit for the photograph: — 

Illustration description: — 


Proceedings of the Zoological Society, 1873.

Transactions of the New Zealand Insititute, V.6.

Reference(s): — 


Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

R. Holdaway

Page date & version: — 


Thursday, 1 August 2019; ver2009v1


©  2007    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.