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The hypothetical birds of Polynesia

… just a list (in alphabetical order) of the hypothetical birds (marked in green letters) that once may have existed within the Polynesian triangle, in a rather conservative approach!



Acrocephalus kerearako ssp. ”Atiu’
Acrocephalus kerearako ssp. ‘Ma’uke’

Acrocephalus musae ssp. ‘Bora Bora’

Acrocephalus musae ssp. ‘Maupiti’
Acrocephalus sp. ‘Austral Islands’

Acrocephalus sp. ‘Palmyra Atoll’


Todiramphus sp. ‘Makatea’
Todiramphus sp. ‘Me’eti’a’
Todiramphus sp. ‘Raivavae’

Todiramphus sp. ‘Rimatara’
Todiramphus sp. ‘Rurutu’
Todiramphus sp. ‘Tubuai’

Todiramphus tutus ssp. ‘Miti’aro’
Todiramphus ‘veneratus ssp.’ ‘Huahine’
– new
Todiramphus ‘veneratus ssp.’ ‘Ra’iatea’
– new


Anas sp. ‘Kiritimati’

Anatidae gen. & sp. ‘Ni’ihau Moa nalo’


Aerodramus sp. ‘Austral Islands’ 
Aerodramus sp. ‘Ma’uke’

Aerodramus sp. ‘Miti’aro’
Aerodramus sp. ‘Rarotonga’


Butorides striata ssp. ‘Austral Islands’
Butorides striata ssp. ‘Cook Islands’

Butorides striata ssp. ‘Samoa’
Butorides striata ssp. ‘Tonga’

Nycticorax sp. ‘Samoa’
not hypothetical anymore, and apparently survived on the Manu’a Islands (probably Ta’u) until the 1930s

“… night-heron “being found only on the island of Manua …”

– J. S. Armstrong: Hand-list to the Birds of Samoa. John Bale, Sons and Danielsson, London 1932


Alopecoenas sp. ‘Pitcairn Island’
Alopecoenas sp. ‘Raivavae’
Alopecoenas sp. ‘Rapa’
Alopecoenas sp. ‘Rimatara’

Ducula sp. ‘Pitcairn Island’

Macropygia sp. ‘Cook Islands’
Macropygia sp. ‘Fiji’
Macropygia sp. ‘Samoa’
Macropygia sp. ‘Tonga’

Ptilinopus sp. ‘Pitcairn Island’


Erythrura sp. ‘Rotuma’
Erythrura sp. ‘Tonga’
Erythrura sp. ‘Wallis & Futuna’


Chloridops sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Hemignathus sp. ‘Ni’ihau’
Hemignathus sp. ‘Ni’ihau Akialoa’
Hemignathus sp. ‘Ni’ihau Nukupu’u’

Loxioides sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Loxops sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Magumma sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Oreomystis sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Paroreomyza montana ssp. ‘Kaho’olawe’

Rhodacanthis sp.’Ni’ihau’

Telespiza sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Xestospiza sp. ‘Ni’ihau’


Hemiprocne (mystacina) ssp. ‘Fiji’ 


Hirundo javanica ssp. ‘Samoa’
Hirundo sp. ‘Austral Islands’

Hirundo sp. ‘Cook Islands’

Hirundo sp. ‘Mangareva’


Lamprolia sp. ‘Kadavu’
Lamprolia sp. ‘Viti Levu’


Megalurulus rufa ssp. ‘Kadavu’
Megalurulus rufa ssp. Taveuni


Megapodius sp. ‘Rotuma’
Megapodius sp. ‘Samoa’

Megapodius sp. ‘Wallis & Futuna’


Gymnomyza sp. ‘Kadavu’

Mohoidae (endemic family)

Moho sp. ‘Ni’ihau’


Monarcha sp. ‘Bora Bora’
Monarcha sp. ‘Huahine’
Monarcha sp. ‘Makatea’
Monarcha sp. ‘Mangaia’

Monarcha sp. ‘Maui Nui’
Monarcha sp. ‘Mo’orea’

Monarcha sp. ‘Ni’ihau’
Monarcha sp. ‘Ra’iatea/Taha’a’

Myiagra sp. ‘Rotuma’
Myiagra sp. ‘Tongatapu’


Anthus novaeseelandiae ssp. ‘Macquarie Island’


Pachycephala jacquinoti ssp. ‘Ha’apai Islands’
Pachycephala jacquinoti ssp. ‘Tongatapu’


Pandion cristatus ssp. ‘Fiji’


Petroica pusilla ssp. ”Eua’
Petroica pusilla ssp. ‘Tongatapu’
Petroica pusilla ssp. ‘Vava’u Islands’

Petroica pusilla ssp. ‘Wallis & Futuna’


Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Bora Bora’
Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Cook Islands’
Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Huahine’

Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Raivavae’
Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Rimatara’
Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Rurutu’
Cyanoramphus sp. ‘Tubuai’

Cyanoramphus zealandicus ssp. ‘Mo’orea’

Eclectus infectus ssp. ‘Fiji’

Vini kuhlii ssp. ‘Society Islands’


Fulica sp. ‘Fiji’

Gallinula sp. ‘Tonga’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Aitutaki’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Alofi’

Gallirallus sp. ”Atiu’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Bora Bora’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Fatu Hiva’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Futuna’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Mai’ao’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Makatea’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Ma’uke’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Miti’aro’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Mo’orea’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Niau’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Ra’iatea’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Raivavae’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Rarotonga’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Rimatara’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Rotuma’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Savai’i’
Gallirallus sp. ‘Taveuni’

Gallirallus sp. ‘Ua Pou’
Gallirallus sp. ”Uvea’
Gallirallus sp. ”Upolu’

Porphyrio sp. ‘Bora Bora’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Fatu Hiva’

Porphyrio sp. ‘Mo’orea’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Nuku Hiva’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Rarotonga’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Tahiti’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Ua Huka’
Porphyrio sp. ‘Ua Pou’

Zapornia sp. ‘Aitutaki’
Zapornia sp. ‘Alofi’
Zapornia sp. ‘Anaa’

Zapornia sp. ”Atiu’
Zapornia sp. ‘Bora Bora’
Zapornia sp. ‘Eiao’
Zapornia sp. ‘Fatu Hiva’
Zapornia sp. ‘Futuna’

Zapornia sp. ‘Hiva Oa’
Zapornia sp. ‘Huahine’
Zapornia sp. ‘Kaho’olawe’

Zapornia sp. ‘Lana’i’
Zapornia sp. ‘Mai’ao’
Zapornia sp. ‘Makatea’

Zapornia sp. ‘Mangareva’
Zapornia sp. ‘Ma’uke’
Zapornia sp. ‘Maupiti’
Zapornia sp. ‘Me’eti’a’

Zapornia sp. ‘Miti’aro’
Zapornia sp. ‘Mohotani’
Zapornia sp. ‘Mo’orea’
Zapornia sp. ‘Niau’
Zapornia sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Zapornia sp. ‘Pitcairn Island’
Zapornia sp. ‘Ra’iatea’
Zapornia sp. ‘Raivavaea’
Zapornia sp. ‘Rapa’

Zapornia sp. ‘Rarotonga’
Zapornia sp. ‘Rimatara’
Zapornia sp. ‘Rotuma’
Zapornia sp. ‘Rurutu’
Zapornia sp. ‘Savai’i’
Zapornia sp. ‘Taha’a’
Zapornia sp. ‘Tahuata’

Zapornia sp. ‘Tetiaroa’
Zapornia sp. ‘Tubuai’

Zapornia sp. ‘Tupai’

Zapornia sp. ‘Ua Pou’
Zapornia sp. ”Upolu’
Zapornia sp. ”Uvea


Rhipidura sp. ”Eua’
Rhipidura sp. ‘Tongatapu’


Coenocorypha sp. ‘Kermadec Islands’
Coenocorypha sp. ‘Macquarie Island’


Grallistrix sp. ‘Lana’i’
Grallistrix sp. ‘Ni’ihau’


Aplonis sp. ‘Austral Islands‘ 
Aplonis sp. ‘Bora Bora’
Aplonis sp. ‘Mangaia’
Aplonis sp. ‘Mai’ao’
Aplonis sp. ‘Maupiti’
Aplonis sp. ‘Mo’orea’
Aplonis sp. ‘Tahiti’


Myadestes lanaiensis ssp. ‘Kaho’olawe’
Myadestes sp. ‘Ni’ihau’

Turdus sp. ‘Wallis & Futuna’


Zosteropidae gen. & sp. ‘Samoa’


Let’s see which of ‘my’ hypothetical birds will be discovered in the future.   😛


edited: 30.10.2019

Black-fronted Parakeet – lesser known depictions

This Tahitian parakeet is one of my favorite birds, unfortunately it doesn’t exist any longer because it was wiped out by introduced cats, dogs and rats.

Here are two depictions that were both made in the year 1792, when the HMS Providence stayed at the island of Tahiti with the mission to collect breadfruit trees and other botanical specimens from the Pacific to be transported to the West Indies.

This depiction was made by a George Tobin, Lieutenant on board the HMS Providence
(public domain)
This depiction apparently was made by William Bligh himself, Captain of the HMS Providence
(public domain)


edited: 27.10.2019

Miller’s Rail

Miller’s Rail is one of the more commonly known so-called mysterious birds.

This species is actually known exclusively from a single drawing made by Georg Forster sometimes between 1772 and 75 during the second voyage of James Cook [and a copy of it made by John Frederick Miller, who described the bird as a new species in 1784]. The annotation just states that it is a Rallus minutus, [a small rail], [called] Maho, [and coming from] Taheitee, [Tahiti]. 

The drawing is rather a crude one, not „fieldguide-suitable“ and shows a small bird, clearly identifiable as a crake, with rather dark, almost black feathers, sitting on its red legs.

The bird could very well just be a Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis (Gmelin)), which today is still [patchily these days] distributed all over Polynesia, and of course was even more so 250 years ago!


There is yet another quite detailed description supposed to be of this species, made by John Latham in 1785 from the actual type, that is now lost.:

Otaheite R[ail].

LENGTH six inches. Bill three quarters of an inch, black: the head, neck, and all the under parts of the body, dark ash-colour: palest on the chin: the upper parts, and wing coverts, deep red brown: quills dusky, edged with white: edge of the wing, and the first quill feather, white: tail an inch and a half long, rounded in shape, and black: legs dusky yellow. Claws black.
Inhabits Otaheite, and the Friendly Isles. Sir Joseph Banks.
“ [2]


The same book contains the description of a variety of the Tabuan rail [now Spottless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis)] from the island of Tanna in the Solomon Islands chain which is often regarded to as being the description of the actual type specimen of Miller’s Rail, however, the description differs quite significantly from G. Forster’s depiction.:

This varies in having the plumage more inclined to brown: the vent white, transversely barred with black lines: legs red.
Inhabits the island of Tanna. Sir Joseph Banks.
” [1]

The island of Tanna, mentioned here as place of origin of this bird, was just one of several islands that were visited by Cook and his entourage in the middle of the 18th century, and the place names given by J. Latham are very often completely wrong, however, the descriptions on the other hand are rather complete and trustworthy.

It has to be taken into account that such old books most often lack any kind of register and that they mostly just use common names but lack scientific ones, searching inside them is a long-term venture.


It is now quite well known that in former times probably all of the islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean were inhabited by endemic rails, with several islands being known to have been inhabited by more than one species, and in many cases these were congeneric species, meaning species from one and the same genus – something that today is extremely rare, which, however, is a relict situation, left behind by human-induced extictions. [3]


[1] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 235. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[2] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 236. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[3] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006


Miller’s Rail

Depiction by Georg Forster, 1772-75
(public domain)


edited: 23.10.2019

Some Micronesian beauties

A while ago I found this Japanese book about the birds of Micronesia online while searching for I don’t no what, it originally probably included more than these three plates, however, these are the only ones that I could find and I want to share them here because they are so exceedingly beautiful.:

Tokutaro Momiyama: Horyo Nanyo Shoto-san chorui. Tokyo: Nihon Chogakkai: Taisho 11. 1922
(public domain)


I will name the birds with their current names in the order in which they are depicted.

White-throated Ground Dove (Alopecoenas xanthonurus ), female and male
Caroline Ground Dove (Alopecoenas kubaryi)
White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinereus)
Pohnpei Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubiginosus)
Purple-capped Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus ponapensis)
Micronesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula oceanica ssp. monacha)
Kosrae Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus hernsheimi), juvenile
Truk Monarch (Monarcha rugensis), young male, adult male, and female
Yap Olive White-eye (Zosterops oleagineus)
Truk White-eye (Rukia ruki)


edited: 20.10.2019

A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs

Matthew P. Martyniuk: A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs. Pan Aves 2012


Ich habe dieses Buch schon ein paar Monate, und ich muss gestehen, ich weiß nicht recht wie ich es einordnen soll.

Die Idee des Autors war es, sein Buch wie einen herkömmlichen Field Guide, ein Bestimmungsbuch für unterwegs, aufzubauen und genau das ist ihm auch gelungen. Das Buch umasst hierbei alles was im Mesozoikum gelebt hat und (sowohl wahrscheinlich wie auch tatsächlich) Federn besessen hat (nicht alles davon würde heutzutage als Vogel durchgehen). 

In der Einleitung erfährt man, was genau ein Vogel ist, oder, anders ausgedrückt, wie weit man diesen Begriff dehnen kann (… alles was Federn hat ….). Es folgen einige Informationen über den Ursprung der Vögel, den Ursprung der Federn und, vor allem, ein kleiner Überblick über die Vielfalt, die innerhalb dieser Tiergruppe bereits im Mesozoikum geherrscht hat.  

Fast jede der vorgestellten Arten ist mit einer Abbildung versehen, die jeweils auf aktuellen wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen beruht, weshalb man sich nicht wundern darf, dass die allermeisten Abbildungen eher weniger farbenfroh ausfallen (“Carotinoids be damned” schreibt der Autor hierzu schon als Vorwort).

Ich kann dieses Buch nur empfehlen! 😛


bearbeitet: 20.10.2019

Winnicavis gorskii Bocheński, Tomek, Wertz, Happ, Bujoczek & Świdnicka

This is the “newest” of the European Oligocene birds with “brittly limbs”, this time only the wingbones are preserved. These are unlike the wingbones of any other passerine bird known so far, extant or extinct.

The bird was small, about the size of a Great Tit (Parus major L.), I will see if I am able to make some kind of reconstruction, whatsoever. [1]



[1] Zbigniew M. Bocheński, Teresa Tomek, Krzysztof Wertz, Johannes Happ, Małgorzata Bujoczek & Ewa Świdnicka: Articulated avian remains from the early Oligocene of Poland adds to our understanding of Passerine evolution. Palaeontologia Electronica 21(2). 2018


Let’s have a little update here.

I’ve made a little sketch, based on a Great Tit, however, knowing that this bird was not related to any of the modern Passeriformes, I thought of a little songbird-like creature resembling some of the Australian/Papuan “primitive” songbirds.

a reconstruction, the bird reached a size of about 15 cm or in other words was indeed about the size of a Great Tit; remember, only the wing bones and some impressions of several wing feathers are known


edited: 24.09.2018; 14.08.2019

Perplexicervix microcephalon Mayr

This species was described in 2010, it is known from five or six specimens found in the Messel shale, five of which include cervical vertebrae which again all bear strange small tubercles unknown in any other bird dead or alive.

The bird may or may not be related to the so-called screamers (Anhimidae), it had a quite small head compared to its body and had very large and strong wing bones, thus apparently was good at flying, its feet have short toes which appear to have been somewhat flattened – and my gut feeling tells me that they may have had been webbed ….

a humble reconstruction, note that I forgot to draw the halluces (big toes) onto the feet

Fossil record of the Cariamiformes

Family incertae sedis

Elaphrocnemus brodkorbi Milne-Edwards
Elaphrocnemus crex
Elaphrocnemus phasianus Milne-Edwards

Gradiornis walbeckensis Mayr

Itaboravis elaphrocnemoides Mayr et al.

Lavocatavis africana Mourer-Chauviré et al. – new


Ameghinornis minor Gaillard

Ameghinornithidae gen. & sp. ‘Jebel Qatrani Formation, Egypt’
Ameghinornithidae gen. & sp. ‘Nei Mongol, China’

Strigogyps dubius Gaillard
Strigogyps robustus (Lambrecht)
Strigogyps sapea (Peters)
Strigogyps sp. ‘Eckfelder Maar, Germany’


Bathornis celeripes Wetmore
Bathornis cursor Wetmore
Bathornis fricki Ostrom
Bathornis geographicus Wetmore
Bathornis grallator Olson
Bathornis veredus Wetmore

Eutreptornis uintae (Cracraft)

Paracrax antiqua Shufeldt
Paracrax gigantea Cracraft
Paracrax wetmorei Cracraft


Cariama santacrucensis Noriega et al.

Cariamidae gen. & sp. ‘Alto Río Bandurrias, Chile’

Chunga incertis (Tonni)

Noriegavis santacrucensis (Noriega et al.)

Riacama caliginea Ameghino


Gypsornis cuvieri Milne-Edwards

Idiornis gaillardi Cracraft

Oblitavis insolitus Mourer-Chauviré

Occitaniavis elatus (Milne-Edwards)

Propelargus cayluxensis Lydekker
Propelargus edwardsi Lydekker
Propelargus olseni Brodkorb


Andalgalornis steulleti (Kraglievich)

Andrewsornis abbotti Patterson

Devincenzia pozzii (Kraglievich)

Eleutherornis cotei Gaillard

Hermosiornis australis Moreno

Kelenken guillermoi Bertelli, Chiappe & Tambussi

Llallawavis scagliai Degrange et al.

Mesembriornis incertus Rovereto
Mesembriornis milneedwardsi Moreno

Paleopsilopterus itaboraiensis Alvarenga

Paraphysornis brasiliensis (Alvarenga)

Patagornis marshi Moreno & Mercerat

Phorusrhacos longissimus Ameghino

Physornis fortis Ameghino

Procariama simplex Rovereto

Psilopterus bachmanni (Moreno & Mercerat)
Psilopterus lemoinei (Moreno & Mercerat)
Psilopterus affinis (Ameghino)
Psilopterus colzecus Tonni & Tambussi

Titanis walleri Brodkorb


Salmila robusta Mayr
Salmilidae gen. & sp. `Green River Formation, USA`


edited: 11.03.2019

Eutreptodactylus itaboraiensis Baird & Vickers-Rich

This enigmatic bird from the Late Paleocene of Brazil is known only from a single, broken tarsometatarsus, which, however, apparently can be assigned to the cuckoos.

I cannot say that much about this bird, it appears to have been quite large for a Paleocene bird species, and it may indeed have been a real cuckoo or it may have been something completely different.

a cuckoo-like reconstruction


A little (long uverdue) update … since this species is now thought to be closely related to – or even included within the family Gracilitarsidae.

See also here.

The bird in my reconstruction still is about 15 cm long, about one third larger than Gracilitarsus mirabilis Mayr, the sole known species of its genus.

a Gracilitarsus-like reconstruction, note that the foot is suggested as having been facultatively zygodactyl, so is here given as having only the first toe bent behind


edited: 28.07.2019