Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi Forbes, 1892a:416

Hawkins’ rail, Giant rail (archaic) (used by Williams, 1962:17), Meho(-)nui or Mehonui (Māori)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

A complete synonymy taken from (Checklist Committee (OSNZ), 2022:58):

Aphanapteryx Hawkinsi Forbes, 1892 (3 Mar.): Nature 45: 416 – Chatham Islands.; Aphanapteryx hawkinsi Forbes; Forbes 1892 (21 Apr.): Nature 45: 580.; Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi (Forbes); Forbes 1892 (31 Dec.), Bull. Brit. Ornith. Club 1(4): 21.; Diaphorapteryx hawkingi [sic] (Forbes); Checklist Committee 1990, Checklist Birds N.Z.: 121. Misspelling.


Conservation Status


Last record: Holocene (after 1835?)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


No European is believed to have seen Hawkins' rail alive. However, second-hand reports from Moriori's (Shand, 1894, 1911; White, 1897; Cooper & Tennyson, 2004) suggest that it became extinct during the 1800's. Its abundance in Moriori middens suggests a large role for humans in it's extinction.



Pitt and Chatham Island, Chatham Islands, New Zealand


Biology & Ecology




Much sub-fossil material exists. See (Tennyson, 2004) for a partial list.



Above: Hawkins' Rail / Mehonui. Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi. 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 (2006-0010-1/44)



Original scientific description:

Forbes, H. O. (1892a). New extinct rail (telegram). Nature 45: 416.


Other references:

Andrews, C. W. (1896a). On the Extinct Birds of the Chatham Islands. Part 1. The Osteology of Diaphorapteryx Hawkinsi. Novit. Zoolog. 3: 73-84.

Andrews, C. W. (1896b). Note on the skeleton of Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi, Forbes, a large extinct rail from the Chatham Islands. Geological magazine 3(8): 337-338, pl. XII.

BirdLife International. (2008). Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. ( Downloaded on 26 January 2012.

BirdLife International. 2017. Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22733394A119260892. Accessed on 19 June 2022.

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. 184]

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. 58]

Cooper, Joanne H. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2004). New evidence on the life and death of Hawkins' rail (Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi): Moriori accounts recorded by Sigvard Dannefaerd and Alexander Shand. Notornis 51(4): 212-216.

Dawson, Elliott W. (1959). The supposed occurrence of Kakapo, Kaka and Kea in the Chatham Islands. Notornis 8(4): 106-115.

Fisher, Clemency T. and Warr, F. E. (2003). Museums on paper: library & manuscript resources. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 123A: 136-164.

Forbes, H. O. (1892b). Aphanapteryx in the New Zealand region. Nature 45(1173): 580-581.

Forbes, H. O. (1892c). [Diaphorapteryx gen.nov.].  Bulletin of the British ornithologists’ Club 1: 21-22.

Forbes, H. O. (1892d). Aphanapteryx and other remains in the Chatham Islands. Nature 46(1185): 252-253.

Gill, B. and Martinson, P. (1991). New Zealand’s Extinct Birds. Random Century New Zealand Ltd.

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.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Hume, Julian Pender and Walters, Michael. (2012). Extinct Birds. London: T & AD Poyser. 544 pp.

Livezey, Bradley C. (1998). A phylogenetic analysis of the Gruiformes (Aves) based on morphological characters, with an emphasis on the rails (Rallidae). Phil.Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 353: 2077-2151.

Millener PR (1999) The history of the Chatham Islands’ bird fauna of the last 7000 years—a chronicle of change and extinction. In Olson SL, ed., Avian Paleontology at the Close of the 20th Century: Proceedings of the 4th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington DC ., 4–7 June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89, 85–109.

Olson, Storrs L. (1975). A review of the extinct rails of the New Zealand region (Aves: Rallidae).  National Museum of New Zealand records 1(3): 63-79.

Olson, Storrs L. (1977). A synopsis on the fossil Rallidae, pp. 509-525. In: Ripley, S. D. Rails of the World: A Monograph of the Family Rallidae. Boston: Codline.

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. 133-134]

Sayol, Ferran, Steinbauer, Manuel J., Blackburn, Tim M., Antonelli, Alexandre and Faurby, Søren. (2020). Anthropogenic extinctions conceal widespread evolution of flightlessness in birds. Science Advances 6(49): eabb6095. [Supplementary Material (Data File S1)]

Shand, Alexander. (1894). The Moriori people of the Chatham Islands: their traditions and history. J. Polynes. Soc., 3(1): 76-92. [assigns the meho(-)nui to the Kakapo on p. 80]

Shand, Alexander. (1911). The Moriori people of the Chatham Islands: Their history and traditions. Wellington, Polynesian Society of New Zealand.

Tennyson, Alan J.D. (2004). Records of the extinct Hawkins’ rail (Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi) from Pitt Island, Chatham Islands. Notornis 51(3):159-160.

Trewick SA (1997) Flightlessness and phylogeny amongst endemic rails (Aves: Rallidae) of the New Zealand region. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 352, 429–446.

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.

White, Taylor. (1897). On the Poua and other extinct birds of the Chathain Islands. Trans. N.Z. Inst., 29: 162-168. [rejects the assignation of the meho(-)nui to the Kakapo by (Shand, 1894), suggests instead that it refers to what we today know as Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi]

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

Worthy, T.H. & Holdaway, R.N. (2002) Indiana University Press.

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.


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