Endemic to the three main islands of New Zealand, the bush wren was a small, 9cm long, nearly flightless bird. It inhabited both dense, mountainous forest and coastal forest. It has been extinct since 1972, last recorded on the North Island in 1955, Stewart Island in 1965 and on the South Island in 1972.
Out of the six species in the New Zealand wren family Acanthisittidae, only two survive. As the bush wren was a ground nester and hopped around on the forest floor, it was very susceptible to predators, as were many of the country’s now extinct wrens. The extinction of X. longipes is widely attributed to the 1880s introduction of rodents to the island, such as ship rats and stoats. In 1964 the New Zealand Wildlife Service translocated six individuals from Big South Cape Island to a nearby rat-free island, in a desperate last attempt to rescue the species. The experiment failed but did, however, inspire more proactive conservation attempts to save New Zealand’s birds from predators, successfully translocating 50 species of bird since the 1960s.