Cnemiornis calcitrans Owen, 1866:396

South Island goose, Flightless goose



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Cnemiornis minor Forbes, 1892:185


Conservation Status




South Island, New Zealand


Biology & Ecology







Above: South Island Goose. Cnemiornis calcitrans. From the series: Extinct Birds of New Zealand., 2004, Masterton, by Paul Martinson. Purchased 2006. © Te Papa. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (2006-0010-1/27)



Original scientific description:

Owen, R. (1866). On Dinornis (part X): containing a description of part of the skeleton of a flightless bird indicative of a new genus and species ([i]Cnemiornis calcitrans[/i], Ow.). Trans. Zool. Soc. Lond. 5: 395-404.


Other references:

Chapman, B. (1986). Bone remains in Kings Cave, Cave, South Canterbury. N.Z. Speleological Bulletin 7(135): 440-444.

Checklist Committee (OSNZ). (2010). Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th ed.). Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press, Wellington. [p. 35]

Checklist Committee (OSNZ). (2022). Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand (5th edition). Ornithological Society of New Zealand Occasional Publication No. 1. Wellington: Ornithological Society of New Zealand. [p. 27]

Clark, Geoffrey R., Petchey, Peter, McGlone, Matthew S. and Bristow, Peter. (1996). Faunal and Floral Remains from Earnscleugh Cave, Central Otago, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 26(3): 363-380. [Abstract]

Forbes, H. O. (1892). Preliminary notice of additions to the extinct avifauna of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 24: 185-189.

Gill, Brian and Martinson, Paul. (1991). New Zealand's extinct birds. New Zealand: Random Century.

Hector, J. (1873). On Cnemiornis calcitrans, showing its affinity to the Natatores. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. [incomplete reference]

Hector, J. (1874). On Cnemiornis calcitrans, Owen, showing its affinity to the Lamellirostrate Natatores. Trans. Proc. N. Z. Inst. 6: 76-84.

Holdaway, Richard N., Worthy, Trevor H. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2001). A working list of breeding bird species of the New Zealand region at first human contact. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28: 119-187.

Johnston, A. G., Duffy, B. C. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2022). When the lonely goose? Implications of a revised history of the lake and its surrounding vegetation for a radiocarbon age for the only South Island goose (Cnemiornis calcitrans) from the Pyramid Valley lake bed deposit, New Zealand. Notornis 69(1): 19-36.

Livezey, Bradley C. (1989). Phylogenetic relationships of several subfossil anseriformes of New Zealand. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, The University of Kansas Lawrence, Kansas 128: 1-25.

Owen, R. (1875). On Dinornis (part XX): containing a restoration of the skeleton of Cnemiornis calcitrans, Ow., with remarks on its affinities in the lamellirostral group.Trans. Zool. Soc. Lond. 9: 253-292.

Rawlence, N. J., Wood, J. R., Scofield, R. P., Fraser, C. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2012). Soft-tissue specimens from pre-European extinct birds of New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand iFirst 2012: 1-28.

Robertson, H. A., Baird, K. A., Elliott, G. P., Hitchmough, R. A., McArthur, N. J., Makan, T. D., Miskelly, Colin M., O’Donnell, C. F. J., Sagar, P. M., Scofield, R. P., Taylor, G. A. and Michel, P. (2021). Conservation status of birds in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 36. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 43 pp.

Hugh Robertson, John Dowding, Graeme Elliott, Rod Hitchmough, Colin Miskelly, Colin O’Donnell, Ralph Powlesland, Paul Sagar, Paul Scofield, Graeme Taylor. (2013). Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 4. 22 pp.

Rothschild, Lionel Walter. (1907). Extinct birds: an attempt to write in one volume a short account of those birds which have become extinct in historical times, that is within the last six or seven hundred years: to which are added a few which still exist, but are on the verge of extinction. London: Hutchinson & Co. XXIX + 243 pp. [p. 97]

Tennyson AJD and Martinson P (2006) Extinct Birds of New Zealand. Te Papa Press, Wellington.

Trotter, M. M. (1965). Avian remains from North Otago archaeological sites. Notornis 12(3): 176-178.

Tyrberg, Tommy. (2009). Holocene avian extinctions, pp. 63-106. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Watanabe, Junya. (2017). Quantitative discrimination of flightlessness in fossil Anatidae from skeletal proportions. The Auk 134(3): 672-695.

Williams, G. R. (1962). Extinction and the land and freshwater-inhabiting birds of New Zealand. Notornis 10(1): 15-32.

Worthy, Trevor H. (1998). Quaternary fossil faunas of Otago, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 28(3): 421-521. [p. 457]

Worthy, T.H. 1999a. The role of climate change versus human impacts – avian extinction on South Island, New Zealand. Proceedings of the 4th International meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution. Washington, U.S.A., June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89: 111-123.

Worthy, T.H. 1999b. What was on the menu? Avian extinction in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 19: 125-160.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Holdaway, Richard N. (1993). Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in the Punakaiki area, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 23(3): 147-254.

Worthy, T. H. and Holdaway, R. N. (1994). Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in Takaka Valley and on Takaka Hill, northwest Nelson, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of The Royal Society of New Zealand 24(3): 297-391.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway, M. D. Sorenson and A. C. Cooper. (1997). Description of the first complete skeleton of the extinct New Zealand goose Cnemiornis calcitrans (Aves: Anatidae), and a reassessment of  the relationships of Cnemiornis. Journal of Zoology, London 243(4): 695-718. [pagination at top of the first page is incorrect]

Worthy, Trevor H. and Mildenhall, D. C. (1989). A late Otiran-Holocene paleoenvironment reconstruction based on cave excavations in northwest Nelson, New Zealand. N.Z. Journal of Geology and Geophysics 32: 243-253.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Zhao, J. X. (2006). A late Pleistocene predator-accumulated avifauna from Kids Cave, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 389-408.

Wragg, Graham M. (1981). The birds of Canterbury: history and present status. A dissertation presented as a requirement for the Diploma in Parks and Recreation (National Parks option). Lincoln College, New Zealand.

Young, H. Glyn, Tonge, Simon J. and Hume, Julian Pender. (1996). Review of Holocene wildfowl extinctions. Wildfowl 47: 167-181.


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