Extinct Animals The Stephens Island Wren

About the now extinct animal species the Stephens Island Wren, history, physical description, location and how the species died out.


The Stephens Island Wren

Physical Description: A flightless bird, the Stephens Island wren measured 4 in. long. The backs of both sexes were dark brown, and the male sported a chrome-yellow breast while the female's underside was tangray. Both sexes appeared mottled because each feather was tipped with black.

Where and How They Lived: Not much is known about the daily life of this small wren. It was nocturnal and hopped about on coastal rocks, searching for insects to eat. Stephens Island, New Zealand, is only a mile long, so the wren had the distinction of having the smallest known range of any bird.

How and When Destroyed: In 1894 Mr. D. Lyall went to the island to be the lighthouse keeper, and he took his cat along for companionship. One day Lyall opened the lighthouse door to find that his intrepid cat had brought home a strange bird, which the lighthouse keeper managed to pry out of the feline's mouth and pack off to England. Lord Walter Rothschild, a member of the British Ornithological Club, eventually acquired the specimen, established the wren's classification, and named it Traversia lyalli. During the next few weeks Lyall's cat delivered about a dozen more birds, and then the supply was exhausted. Lyall dutifully saved each body, and his diligence is responsible for the number of specimens in the world's museums. This is probably the only case in which a cat was responsible for both the discovery and the extermination of species of bird.

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