Subfossil bones of the New Zealand pelican have been found at Lake Grassmere in Marlborough and at four North Island sites: Karikari Penisula, Motutapu Island, Lake Waikaremoana and Lake Poukawa. The pelvis is broader and more robust than the modern Australian pelican and so is regarded as a distinct species. The skeleton found at Poukawa is 3,500 – 4,500 years old. Bones from other sites are younger and may post–date man’s arrival in New Zealand. This species may have weighed as much as 12 kgs; the heaviest flying bird today is the trumpeter swan, Cygnus cygnus, which weighs about 12.5 kgs.
However, Worthy and Holdaway do not think New Zealand had a resident breeding population of pelican on the basis that its occurence in the fossil record is not significant and have returned the New Zealand pelican to the Australian P. conspiculatus.
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Oliver, W.R.B. New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Gill & Martinson, NZ Extinct Birds, 1991.
Worthy, Trevor H., & Holdaway, Richard N., The Lost World of the Moa, 2002.
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Thursday, 21 October, 2010; ver2009v1