Facts about this animal
Weka are flightless birds having a total length of about 53 cm. The sexes are alike, although males are slightly larger than females, and there are no seasonal differences in plumage colour. Upper parts are yellowish buff, longitudinally spotted and blotched with brownish black and reddish tinge on the head. Tail feathers are reddish with central and lateral black lines. The throat and the streak over the eye are light grey, the chin is paler. The under parts are ashy brown. The flanks and undertail coverts are yellowish brown, narrowly barred with brownish black.
The bill is sturdy and short bill and legs, red-brown beak in colour with darker edge. The legs and feet are strong as well and brown to pinkish in colour. The iris is brown. Weka are territorial and their remarkable homing instinct makes relocating difficult.. They are flightless and escape predators by running fast. They have even been known to fight and kill intruding ferrets. They walk with a deliberate stride, tail-flicking. When running, they hold the neck outstretched. Inquisitive, they may approach people for food.
Did you know?
that, historically, the weka was a significant resource for indigenous people of New Zealand, and their availability for sustainable harvest remains an important issue in weka conservation? Weka were also utilised by early European settlers who gave it the name 'bush hen.' As the weka has declined on mainland New Zealand, the only place where legal harvest of weka still occurs is on the Chatham Islands.
|Name (Scientific)||Gallirallus australis|
|Name (French)||Râle weka|
|Name (Spanish)||Racón weka|
|Local names||Maori: Weka|
|CITES Status||Not listed|
|CMS Status||Not listed|
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|Habitat||Is found in many types of habitat: forest, shrubland, grassland, wetlands, freshwater lakes, marshes, sandy shoreline and beaches.|
|Wild population||The subspecies australis remains locally common, but numbers fluctuate dramatically. The subspecies greyi has undergone significant declines to about 4,000 birds as of today. The subspecies hectori is now extinct in its natural range, but was introduced to Chatham and Pitt Islands where it may number between 38,000-58,000 birds. The subspecies scotti became extinct on Stewart Island, but introduced populations survive on surrounding islands, and may number less than 25,000 birds (Red List IUCN 2011)..|
|Zoo population||7 reported to ISIS (2007).|
In the Zoo
How this animal should be transported
For air transport, Container Note 11G of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.
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Why do zoos keep this animal
Being a flightless bird species, the weka is of particular educational interest. It is, however, only rarely kept outside its native country, New Zealand.