New New Zealand passerine bird family

This video is of a tui, Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae.

From the Australian Journal of Zoology:

A new endemic family of New Zealand passerine birds: adding heat to a biodiversity hotspot

Amy Driskell, Les Christidis, B. J. Gill, Walter E. Boles, F. Keith Barker and N. W. Longmore …


The results of phylogenetic analysis of two molecular datasets sampling all three endemic New Zealand ‘honeyeaters’ (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae, Anthornis melanura and Notiomystis cincta) are reported.

The undisputed relatedness of the first two species to other honeyeaters (Meliphagidae), and a close relationship between them, are demonstrated.

However, our results confirm that Notiomystis is not a honeyeater, but is instead most closely related to the Callaeidae (New Zealand wattlebirds) represented by Philesturnus carunculatus in our study.

An estimated divergence time for Notiomystis and Philesturnus of 33.8 mya (Oligocene) suggests a very long evolutionary history of this clade in New Zealand.

As a taxonomic interpretation of these data we place Notiomystis in a new family of its own which takes the name Notiomystidae.

We expect this new phylogenetic and taxonomic information to assist policy decisions for the conservation of this rare bird.

Grey warblers of New Zealand: here.

Bellbirds and introduced predators: here.

New hope for Regent Honeyeater in Australia: here.

1 thought on “New New Zealand passerine bird family

  1. Song of the bellbird returns to Motutapu

    By Eloise Gibson

    4:00 AM Saturday Apr 17, 2010

    Volunteers helping with weeding on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf were thrilled to hear a bellbird singing in the trees – because the birds disappeared from the island 100 years ago.

    Neil Lorimer, a volunteer for the Motutapu Restoration Trust, was the first person to hear a bellbird singing after the Department of Conservation dropped 147 tonnes of poison-laced cereal bait to kill predatory rats and mice on Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto last year.

    A few days later Mr Lorimer saw a bellbird – the third native species to appear on the island since the blitz of warm-blooded predators.

    The poison drop, which was controversial at the time, is now being used as an example for international visitors who have gathered in Auckland for a workshop on tackling threats to island wildlife.

    Alfonso Aguirre, executive director of Mexican island conservation group Grupo de Ecologia y Conservacion de Islas, said after visiting Motutapu yesterday that New Zealand had a lot to teach other countries about eradicating warm-blooded pests.

    He said island projects showed there was hope for restoring wildlife on the mainland. “If we keep going, we can restore the whole world,” he said.

    Department of Conservation project manager Richard Griffiths said the bellbirds probably came from rodent-free Rakino Island, less than two kilometres from Motutapu.

    There was now a real chance they would start turning up in Aucklanders’ backyards, he said.

    It will not be known until next year if the attempt to create a predator-free, 3842ha city-side sanctuary for rare native birds has succeeded.

    But native pateke, or brown teal, were spotted there in February after a long absence and kakariki began breeding there in December.

    Mr Aguirre said Mexican researchers were working with New Zealand conservation workers on finding new ways to improve island biodiversity.

    Mexico’s 1000 islands had been home to 77 per cent of its extinct species, he said, and they had many of the same pests as New Zealand islands, including rats and cats.


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