(Gallirallus australis)




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.

Breeding occurs mainly from September to April, but can be anytime. The nest, made of coarse grass and , lined with soft vegetation, wool, feathers, hair or leaves, is hidden in vegetation or logs, or other shelter. A clutch consists of 1- 6 eggs, which are creamy white to pinkish splotched brown and lilac, and are incubated by both parents for 25 to 27 days. The black-brown down chicks will stay close to nest for first 2-4 days.


Weka feed mainly on invertebrates and fruit, but also eat seeds, grasses, farmland crops, small vertebrates such as rats, birds and lizards, eggs and carrion.

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.


Class AVES
Suborder GRUES
Name (Scientific) Gallirallus australis
Name (English) Weka
Name (French) Râle weka
Name (German) Wekaralle
Name (Spanish) Racón weka
Local names Maori: Weka
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Alan Liefting



Range New Zealand
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.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Hutty Mcphoo

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.