The New Zealand merganser (''Mergus australis''), also known as Auckland merganser or Auckland Islands merganser, was a typical merganser
which is now extinct.
This duck was similar in size to the
The red-breasted merganser (''Mergus serrator'') is a diving duck, one of the sawbills. The genus name is a Latin word used by Pliny and other Roman authors to refer to an unspecified waterbird, and ''serrator'' is a sawyer from Latin ''serra ...
(''Mergus serrator''). The adult male had a dark reddish-brown head, crest and neck, with bluish black mantle and tail and slate grey wings. The female was slightly smaller with a shorter crest.
This bird was first collected when a French expedition led by the explorer
Jules Dumont d'Urville
Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (; 23 May 1790 – 8 May 1842) was a French explorer and naval officer who explored the south and western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. As a botanist and cartographer, he gave his n ...
on the ships ''L'Astrolabe'' and ''La Zelee'' visited the
The Auckland Islands ( Māori: ''Motu Maha'' "Many islands" or ''Maungahuka'' "Snowy mountains") are an archipelago of New Zealand, lying south of the South Island. The main Auckland Island, occupying , is surrounded by smaller Adams Island ...
in 1840. Its decline was caused by a combination of hunting and predation by introduced
Mammals () are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia (), characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex (a region of the brain), fu ...
s. The bird was not flightless, but rather hard to flush; it preferred to hide between rocks when pursued. The last sighting was of a pair shot on January 9, 1902. It was not found in a 1909 search, and a thorough 1972/1973 exploration of possible habitat concluded that it was long extinct (Williams & Weller, 1974).
Subsequent fossil discoveries suggest that this merganser was previously resident in the
The South Island, also officially named , is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand in surface area, the other being the smaller but more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman ...
, and on Stewart Island/Rakiura
New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and over 700 smaller islands. It is the sixth-largest island count ...
. Fossils of a subspecies or closely related species have also been found on the
The Chatham Islands ( ) ( Moriori: ''Rēkohu'', 'Misty Sun'; mi, Wharekauri) are an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean about east of New Zealand's South Island. They are administered as part of New Zealand. The archipelago consists of about t ...
. There exists a short remark mentioning "a merganser" found on Campbell Island
in McCormick (1842), but this may just as well refer to the semi-marine Campbell teal
which is otherwise missing in his notes: he only mentions the
Pacific black duck
The Pacific black duck (''Anas superciliosa''), commonly known as the PBD, is a dabbling duck found in much of Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and many islands in the southwestern Pacific, reaching to the Caroline Islands in the no ...
("a New Zealand species of duck").
* McCormick, Robert (1842): A sketch of the Antarctic regions, embracing a few passing remarks, geographical and ornithological. ''Tasmanian Journal of Natural Sciences'' 1(4): 241–247PDF fulltext
* Williams, G. R. & Weller, M. W.. (1974): Unsuccessful search for the Auckland Islands Merganser (''Mergus australis''). ''Notornis'' 21(3): 246–249PDF fulltext''Southern Merganser. Mergus australis''.
by Paul Martinson. Artwork produced for the book ''Extinct Birds of New Zealand'', by Alan Tennyson, Te Papa Press, Wellington, 2006
Extinct birds of New Zealand
Endemic birds of New Zealand
Bird extinctions since 1500
Fauna of the Auckland Islands
Birds described in 1841
Taxa named by Jacques Bernard Hombron
Taxa named by Honoré Jacquinot
Extinct birds of subantarctic islands