Bird 68 – Lyall’s Wren

We’ve done extinct birds before, but this week I’ve got an interesting story. An entire species of bird wiped out by a single cat, named Tibbles.

Lyall’s Wren (Traversia Lyalli), was a small flightless wren native to Stephen’s island, which is located between the North and South Island of New Zealand.

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In 1894 several peopled moved to the island to crew its lighthouse. Among them was a chap named David Lyall, who brought a pet cat named Tibbles with him.

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Not long after arriving on the island, Tibbles brought home a dead bird she had caught. Lyall, was a bit of an amateur naturalist and was intrigued by a bird he’d never seen before. So he sent the specimen off to be identified. Turned out Tibbles had discovered a new species of hitherto unidentified bird. Scientists around the world were soon excited to learn more about this rare bird.

In the meantime, though, it turned out Tibbles had been pregnant when she came to the island, and now she and her kittens were running a muck, killing more birds in the process. Being flightless and fearless also made them super easy to catch.

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The long and the short of it is that within 12 months of its discovery, Lyall’s Wren was extinct. Wiped out by Tibbles and her children. 

They were killed so quickly it’s believed they were only ever seen alive in the wild twice and so today we know virtually nothing about them, except that they were flightless and maybe nocturnal. 

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And that’s the story of Lyall’s Wren.

It’s rare for a bird to be so totally destroyed by one cat, but make no mistakes, collectively cats do a grand job. Cats kill more than 316 million birds in Australia every year. That’s nearly a million a day. So if you have a cat, please keep them inside and away from the birds.

We don’t want another Lyall’s Wren on our hands.



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