Quail on Tiritiri Matangi Island are from Australia, rather than a remnant of an extinct quail native to New Zealand as had been thought.
Massey University biology researcher Mark Seabrook-Davison says DNA evidence was used to prove the quail is genetically identical to the Australian brown quail.
Mr Seabrook-Davison says the introduced species could enhance New Zealand's forests if allowed to thrive in other regions, though he acknowledges the idea may be controversial among conservationists.
He says the Australian quail is genetically very similar to the extinct New Zealand variety, appears to benefit an ecosystem and has no detrimental impact on threatened native species.
Mr Seabrook-Davison says other introduced species thriving in New Zealand but endangered in their countries of origin could be given special conservation status if they are not a threat to native species.