Lord Howe Thrush Turdus poliocephalus vinitinctus (Gould, 1855)
- RMNH 110.036: female. Lord Howe Island. Cabinet Temminck.
Exterminated by rats and owls
The inhabitants of Lord Howe, a small island 600 km east of Australia, were very particular about rats. Already more than a hundred years ago they realized that rats could destroy the natural balance of the island. Therefore ships were never allowed ashore, but had to drop anchor off the coast. Small boats were used to ship the cargo. In spite of these precautions, disaster struck in June 1918. The SS Makambo drifted ashore and rats invaded the island. Within years various endemic birds of Lord Howe became extinct. In order to exterminate the rats owls were introduced, but these only added to the disaster. The owls not only hunted the rats, but also killed many of the endemic birds, including the Lord Howe Thrush and the Lord Howe White-eye.
The Lord Howe Thrush built its nest on the ground, which made it particularly vulnerable for rats. A survey in 1913-14, before the rat invasion, showed it to be common. The white-eye was even abundant at that time and was considered a pest by the local fruit farmers. Within ten years after the disaster with the Makambo, both species had vanished, as had the Lord Howe Starling Aplonis fusca (Gould, 1836).
Museum specimens of the Lord Howe Thrush and Lord Howe White-eye are rare. They can be found in Tring (United Kingdom), Berlin, New York, Washington and Sydney. The thrush in the Leiden Museum, a female, was part of the C.J. Temminck's private collection and dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. One of the two skins of the white-eye was donated by the Sydney Museum at about 1900. The provenance of the other specimen is unknown.