- Pets and Animals
The New Zealand Tui Bird
The New Zealand Tui - A Native Honeyeater With A Unique Voice
The tui is a well known and wonderful endemic New Zealand bird. It is somewhat larger than a blackbird, and if seated on my shoulder would have its head level with the top of mine. They are rather common around the house, as we live in the Waitakere Ranges and overlooking a small reserve.
I have gathered together photos and videos, and oddities and anecdotes, as I can, to try to convey some of the charm of this bird.
If you do nothing else here.... listen to one of the recordings of a tui singing.
Feel free to leave comments, and questions!
"Under its throat hang two little tufts of snow-white feathers, called poies, which being the Otaheitean word for ear-rings, occasioned our giving that name to the bird; which is not more remarkable for the beauty of its plumage than the sweetness of its note. The flesh is also most delicious and was the greatest luxury the wood afforded us".Captain Cook while at Dusky Sound on his second voyage; 1773
(The white throat feathers are currently known as throat tufts, or pois)
Photos of the Tui - My photos of tuis in AucklandClick thumbnail to view full-size
Most of my photos are taken around the Waitakeres, where tuis are fairly common, or in the New Zealand bird aviaries at Auckland Zoo.
I know most conservation centres and tourist shops in New Zealand stock some fantastic New Zealand birdsong CDs and that there had to be some online - andI was right. take a moment to listen to these recordings, the clarity is far better than the videos further down.
Each track costs $0.99 (the end of the song box seems to get cut-off a lot!)
(You may have to wait - they don't always load straight away, but a menu should appear on the left)
Birdsong in Nature
The tui's song is fantastic, but not just nice to listen to. It performs an important social and evolutionary function. The tui's song acts as an indicator of health and dominance, guarding its territory. It also helps in courtship.
"Me he korokoro tui"
"How eloquent he is; he has the throat of a Tui".
Photos of Tuis - Tuis I've photographed around the WaitakeresClick thumbnail to view full-size
The tui photographs above were all taken around Titirangi, which is based in the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland. The Ranges are the largest area of bush reserves near the city - my house overlooks a small valley reserve and is never quiet because of the birds.
When most people think of New Zealand, they probably think 'kiwi' or the cheeky Kea, unique Kakapo or giant Moa. But you'll be lucky to see any of these, if you ever visit (and ...well, if you DO see the last one, I know a lot of people who'd love to hear from you!)
You will almost certainly see a tui, though. Not only are they distinctive, but their population is rapidly recovering. So tell me... did you know they existed?
Can Tuis Be White? - A rare white tui, photographed by Mandy Hague
Where is Opotiki?
Interested in going looking for white tuis? It's not likely you'll see her of course, but if you do, want to try then you'll be wanting directions. The original photos are from 2007, but the more recent ones are from July 2009, so she's alive and well.
Opotiki is a town in the eastern Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand. It houses the headquarters of the Opotiki District Council and comes under the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Tame Tui Feeding - Tuis are often quite fearless around humans.
Tuis are bold birds and happy to live around humans. They feed on nectar from flowers, and happily accept honeywater (similar to hummingbird feeders). You can make a homemade tui feeder simply by putting out a bowl of sugar and water!
For more information about setting up Tui Feeders, visit jHow To Make A Tui Feeder.
What's In A Name? - The Naming of the Tui
European settlers named it the 'Parson Bird' after its distinctive white collar tuft,
Like many birds, the Tui has gone by various names, throughout history: poe, bee-eater, New Zealand creeper, koko, mockingbird, Tui cravate-frise, Pjaro Sacerdote ...
but the name that stuck is the easier, more musical 'tui'- pronounced Too-ee.
Sub Species: novaeseelandiae, chathamensis
The Tui's latin name is Prosthermadera novaeseelandiae previously Merops novaeseelandiae Gmelin, 1788, Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand.
'Tui' is from the maori language and means:
The Maori tribes were many and scattered, and had different names for many species.
Life History and Habitat - New Zealand Bird Websites
- New Zealand Birds | Birds | Gallery | Tui, Prosthermadera novaeseelandiae
Tui, Prosthermadera novaeseelandiae, found in New Zealand Birds' bird gallery section, includes general information about the bird, taxonomy, description, where to find them and other useful and interesting information. The bird gallery links to in-d
- Tui: New Zealand native land birds
Tūī are unique (endemic) to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants. The DoC - Department of Conservation - is responsible for managing and preserving native species throu
A Bit Of Background: New Zealand - Lonely Planet Travel Guide
There are probably countries you can visit without a Lonely Planet Guide. New Zealand is not one of these countries.The way to enjoy New Zealand is to travel from place to place and not to pre-book everything ( you are too dependent on the weather to do that and also it takes away the feeling of freedom this country has to offer). The more flexible you want to be on a trip the more important it is to have a good guide. We arrived in Auckland with only a general idea what we wanted to do in our three weeks and we found that we left all other guidebooks in the suitcase and relied exclusively on the Lonely Planet to plan our trip. The guide contains all necessary information and is surprisingly up to date. The most important is that it is not a commercial tourism promoter but that it gives you an honest impression on what there is that you can do.
E.G. it was pretty clear after reading the relevant chapters that for our
Maori Mythology - appearances of the Tui
History, Culture and Beliefs
Maori Mythology - appearances of the Tui
For such a well known and respected bird, I could find very little in the way of myths and was forced to resort to searching through books in the library. While most birds have well established origin myths, and roles in famous stories - the fantail guiding, the Kea stealing fire, the Kiwi - the tui usually turns up only as a meal. What examples I have found are described below.
Tui Myths and Legends - Excerpts from books.
Based on The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legend, this is a concise guide to Maori myths and legends, religious beliefs, folklore and history. More than 300 entries, arranged alphabetically, reveal the subtlety and complexity of the tradional Maori view of the world.
A detailed guide to Maori myths and legends, religious beliefs, folklore and history. More than 380 entries, arranged alphabetically, reveal the subtlety and complexity of the traditional Maori view of the world.
Hatupatu and the Bird Woman
What was going to happen to him? Hatupatu wondered. Why ahd she thrown him into this cage wth all these birds? What were they doing here? He looked around. There were seven kereru, eight kaka, five tui and six plump piopio. A pipiwharaura hovered close by, above the cage.
from Myths and Legends of Aotearoa retold by Annie Rae The Ake Ake
Iwi-katere - Owner of a wise bird
Tui were often kept in cages an taught words and songs. Long ago, at The Wairoa on the east coast, a rangatira named Iwi-katere owned a pet tui, called Tane-miti-rangi, which he taught ritual chants of every kind. The bird became so knowledgeable that it recited all the chants at the rituals performed at harvest time.
One year a neighbouring rangatira, Tamatera, sent a messenger to ask if the bird could recite the chants for his kumara-harvesting ceremony. Iwi-katere replied that Tamatera could borrow the tui, but that first it would have to officiate at his own ceremony. Tamatera regarded this as an insult and that night he sent the messenger back to steal the bird.
As the thief approached the house, the tui awoke and called to Iwi-katere, 'I'm being carried off, carried off by a thief, wake up!'
But Iwi-katere slept on, and the thief got away with the bird. Next morning Iwi-katere listened in vain for the accustomed sound of his tui's voice as it spoke to the people. He wept for his bird, and knowing that Tamatera had stolen it, he raised an army.
In the end the thief's people were defeated and migrated from The Wairoa to Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay). Their descendants are still there and Iwi-katere's descendents are still at The Wairoa.
The following myth has two variants, in one Tane is the protagonist, the other it is Rupe. It tells of how the tui came to the land of Aotearoa.
Rehua: A great rangatira in the sky
[...] the visitor is shocked when Rehua prepares a meal for him by untying his long hair and shaking into a vessel the birds that haven been feeding on the lice on his head. When these birds - they are tui - are cooked by his attendants, and palced before them, neither Rupe nor Tane will touch them, because they have fed on the lice that have fed on Rehua's tapu head. Tane, however, receives permission from Rehua to take the birds down to the earth below, and he is told how to snare them. As well he takes the trees with thefruits on which the birds feed: and so we now haves birds and forests.
from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legend retold by Margaret Orbell
Pronunciation is phonetic (as written). The one tricky bit is the 'wh' which is meant to be a very breathy wwhh (think 'hwich') but is easier just to use 'f'. So Whakapapa (genealogy/family) is pronounced 'Ffakapapa'
- The Wairoa is pronounced 'teh why-row-ah'
- pipiwharaura - Shining Bronze Cuckoo (pee-pee-fah-rou-rah )
- Piopio - extinct New Zealand thrush
- rangatira - hereditary Maori chieftain
- kumara - type of potato
- tapu - sacred
- Tane - God of the forests (Tah-ney)
- Rehua - sacred man in the highest skies (also Betelguese, Sirius, Antares) Sometimes associated with the sun.
Describes the early relationship in New Zealand between Maori and the extraordinary birds they found there. The book provides scientific information, recounts traditions explaining the birds' origins and natures, quotes from songs that they appear in, and shows us some of the beautiful items used by Maori inspired by the birds.
Matoka-rau-taawhiri - In Which They Try to Eat Tui Again
In Maori mythology (South Island), Matoka-rau-taawhiri is a wife of Wahieroa, and mother of Rata.
When Matoka-rau-tawhiri was pregnant, she had a craving to eat the flesh of a tui bird, and asked Wahieroa to catch one. Wahieroa did so. It was cooked and she ate it with relish. Some time later she asked him to bring her another. Wahieroa went into the forest with his slave, but could not find any tui.
The two men went further and further into the forest, until they came to the hunting grounds of Matuku-tangotango, who killed Wahieroa and captured his slave. Shortly after Wahieroa had been killed, Matoka-rau-tawhiri gave birth to a son, named Rata
From Reed 1963:178
Tane-miti-rangi, Tamaoho's Tui Bird and other Talking Tuis - The tui that started the wars of The Wairoa
Talking tuis were much prized. They were taught speeches to welcome visitors to the marae, such as the one from Sir George Grey's Poetry of New Zealanders
A small waterfall near the Waikato railway named “The Ako-o-te-tui-a-Tamaoho” (“The Teaching of Tamaoho's Tui Bird”) The story here is that this is where Tamaoho took his pet to teach it how to talk. Maori believe that tuis learn best within the sound a small waterfall, with the steady noise of the water would create a sound barrier. This meant that the bird only heard the teacher's voice.
Tane-miti-rangi was one such legendary tui.
It was not long before a cause of quarrel arose between these people and that section of the Ngai-Tauira who lived at the Huru-mua pa, under the chief Iwi-katea. This hapu owned a very remarkable bird-a tui-known by the name of Tane-miti-rangi, who is said to have possessed more than human intelligence, for it could not only repeat the most powerful karakias, but also bewitch anyone to order. For these reasons the bird was greatly coveted, and therefore stolen by The Ngarengare.
When the Ngai-Tauira discovered their loss they pursued the offenders, and overtook them at Turi-roa; but it would have been better for them had they not done so, for The Ngarengare turned upon them and slew them at that place. This defeat compelled the Ngai-Tauira to call upon Rakai-pāka for assistance, and he, nothing loth to interfere in the affairs of the Wairoa people, made short work of the offenders, and drove the survivors to Hawke's Bay, where they amalgamated with the people of that district, and are now counted among the ancestors of The Hapuku and other chiefs.
- Sculpture: Tane-miti-rangi by Todd Cooper Ngati Kahungunu
- More here
Follow the Tribes...
"What struck me about the speaking mode of the Tui was its silibancy ... every word the Tui spoke was clear and understandable." ~ Henry Stowell
The Wairoa, also known as The Buried Village is located close to the shore of Lake Tarawera in New Zealand's North Island. It was a Maori and European settlement where visitors would stay on their way to visit the Pink and White Terraces. The village was destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Tarawera on June 10, 1886. 100 people died in the eruption, many of them in other villages closer to the volcano.
Hawke's Bay (Maori: Heretaunga) is a region of New Zealand. Hawke's Bay is recognised on the world stage for its award-winning wines. The regional council sits in both the cities of Napier and Hastings.
Woof Woof - The Talking Tui
Tuis are incredible mimics, and much prized among maori tribes - even being trained to greet people when they visited a marae. More recently, the most famous example of a 'talking Tui' is Woof Woof.
Woof Woof is a permanent resident at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre in New Zealand. I saw him when I was on a camping trip around New Zealand with my family, when I was about thirteen years old.
Art thou Tu?
Art thou Rongo?
It is the guest.
Sleep with the dog.
Welcome to the guest!
From the south is the guest?
From the north is the guest?
Perhaps he has come by canoe?
Ah! They speak now in oracles!
What wonderful lore and knowledge!
An apt proverb! It stands apart! O joy!
Who can he be who is speaking?
What a tongue to be sure!
A second Te Whare-pa-tahi!
A recital of the divine history of man.
Impart thy lore to me.
Art thou Tu?
Art thou Rongo?
This is the guest!
There is no food in the village.
E Rongo! Maru! Awa!
How fareth the tide?
The tide is ebbing.
Tides which provide abundance of food!
Yonder are the canoes.
Which secure food during the year round.
Bear us two along.
Give us of your waters.
We fish the foods.
Abundantly, even to wasting it.
Eat of it then!
It is plenteous!
It is lasting!
It causes anxiety.
Thanks to the female sea deity!
Thanks for thy sea-foods!
Impart thy lore to me!
The Tui's Welcome Speech - The speech the Maori taught Tuis
Ko Tu Koe?
Ko Rongo koe?
Ko te manuwhiri.
Moemoetia mai te kuri.
Haere mai te manuwhiri!
No runga te manuwhiri?
No raro te manuwhiri?
No te ti?
No te ta?
No waka i-o-i?
Ki-tahi! Ka tu kë! He!
Ka kore-kore te toki!
Te huia te rangiora.
E roro ki waho.
Ko Tu koe?
Ko Rongo koe?
Ko tënei te manuwhiri!
Kahore te kai i te kainga.
E Rongo! Maru! Awa!
He aha te ta
Ka timu te tai.
Nga tai o te tu!
Ko waka rara.
No tau na.
Ma nga wai
E tari taua.
Homai te wai.
Ka hi te kai.
Ka whakarere te kai.
E to kai moana!
E roro ki waho!
How the Kiwi Lost his Wings - Another Maori Legend
One day, Tanemahuta was walking through the forest. He looked up at his children reaching for the sky and he noticed that they were starting to sicken, as bugs were eating them.
He talked to his brother, Tanehokahoka, who called all of his children, the birds of the air together.
Tanemahuta spoke to them.
"Something is eating my children, the trees. I need one of you to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor, so that my children can be saved, and your home can be saved. Who will come?"
All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.
Tanehokahoka turned to Tui.
"E Tui, will you come down from the forest roof?"
Tui looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Tui looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, dark earth and shuddered.
"Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too dark and I am afraid of the dark."
Tanehokahoka turned to Pukeko...
Read the rest of How the Kiwi Lost his Wings or watch it performed at Kelvin Road Primary School, below.
What does the word tui mean to you? - How many things are called Tui?
When I say 'Tui', you think...
The Tui in New Zealand Culture - The Tui Has An Important Role In New Zealand Culture
Being such a lively, charismatic, and noisy bird, the tui plays an iconic role in the history and culture of New Zealand. From appearing on early coinage, to tattoos, to stories, stuffed toys, Maori mythology and literature, this highly recognisable bird appears everywhere!
Spot the Tui! - Can you identify the Tui below?
Which one is the Tui?
New Zealand Artwork: Local Tui Prints - New Zealand Art prints and posters by NZ Artists - NZ Fine Prints
If you're looking for beautiful original art, New Zealand Fine Prints is a locally based print on demand site that stocks art from local New Zealand artists. Here are some of my favourite Tui prints.
Tui Artwork - Paintings and Drawings of the Tui
Tui Cross Stitch Pattern - All Proceeds Go to Support Happy PAWS Haven
This pattern is made with the generous permission of the New Zealand artist, Val Stokes.
All funds are used to support the no-kill, no-kennel companion animal shelter, Happy Paws Haven. Please bid generously to help abandoned, abused, and neglected dogs and cats to have a new life!
The Tui's Song
The tui has the most distinctive song in the New Zealand bush - it is an artful mimic, as demonstrated above, by Woof Woof and has approprated the liquid beauty of the bellbird, as well as incorporatng noises from its environment.
This bird has two voiceboxes and is capable of an enormous range and variety.
"much of the Tui's singing we cannot hear, the notes too high, I suppose, for our human ears, for I have often watched the bird's throat from but a few yards distance swelling with song entirely inaudible."
Guthrie-Smith, New Zealand ornithologist (1861-1940)
Songs About Tuis
There appears to be a terrible shortage of songs about tuis available.
Nevertheless, I have scoured the hundreds of false positives (tui turns up in a lot of languages!) found this peaceful song from a little known songwriter, guitarist and singer, Aaron Burdett.
Tui Bird by Aaron Burdett
Tui Folksongs - Tuis in the Kowhai Tree
Our Homeland Aotearoa: The Tui in the Kowhai
Words A. G. Hall, 1920s. Music "Pretty Caroline", traditional
When the Tui sits in the Kowhai tree
and the sun tips the mountain tops with gold
when the Rata blooms in the forest glade,
and the hills glow with sunny tints untold.
I love to roam through bush and fern
and hear the Bellbird sing
and feel the touch of the wind on my face
while the joy in my heart does ring.
There are some who long for coral sands
and some for wind-swept plains
while others roam the ocean wide
then pine for home again.
But give to me the care-free life
by mountain, lake or shore
of the lovely land of the Long White Cloud,
Our Homeland Aotearoa.
The Kowhai and the Tui
Words Edgar Brewster, music Nettie Brewster, 1950s
- How glorious is the Kowhai
Our springtime's golden shower
The brightest promise of July
New Zealand's national flower
Then rapidly does the Tui
The Kowhai nectar sip
Call, chuckle and flit with glee
And into each flower dip
How handsome is our Parson bird
With his tufted white cravat
Clear as a bell his notes are heard
For his mate to answer back
Each year we watch our Kowhai tree
And as the buds appear
Our hearts are glad that soon there'll be
A Tui's call to hear
- The Kowhai tree is a yellow flowering bottlebrush tree, which the tui feeds on.
- Aotearoa is the 'official' maori name for New Zealand.
- Kowhai is a maori word, and the correct pronunciation of the 'wh' is closer to 'f' - so kowhai is pronounced cow-fye
The Tui in Literature - Poetry and Prose
Suppose, sweet eyes, you went into a distant country
Where these young islands are nothing but a word;
Suppose you never came back again by Terawhiti:
Would you remember and be faithful to your bird?
And when they boasted there of thrushes, larks and linnets,
Would you hold up a stubborn little hand,
And say: "Not so! I know a sweeter singer
Than any bird that cries across your land!"
Would you, remembering, tell them of the Tui?
Wild, wild and blinding in its wildest note.
They - they never heard him, swinging on a flax-flower,
Mad with the honey and the noon in his throat.
They say that in the old days stately rangatiras
Slit his tongue, and made him speak instead of sing;
We would rather see him shining and gold-dusted,
From a morning kowhai flinging wide the spring.
So, my little sweet eyes, if you go a-sailing
Out beyond Pencarrow, and come not again,
Hold unto the southlands in the pure October,
When the Tui's sweetness ripples through the rain.
- Eileen Duggan
Personal Encounters: Of Cats and Tuis
One of the worst things that happened to the New Zealand birdlife was humans. Both directly, by killing and eating everything in sight; indirectly - clearing habitat and polluting; and by introducing competitors and predators.
The Tui has done quite well for itself, more so now the bush is coming back in places, and it dominates over most birdlife. Cats, however... well, I can personally attest to cats being well able to catch Tuis. Read on for my story...
(disclaimer: if the tuis died, it wasn't while I was waching)
The first occasion was in summer, a few years back - 2004, perhaps. We'd been noticing a particularly bold bird creeping lower and lower as he sang, trying to claim the entire garden, so it was probably quite predictable that the cats should take in interest...
As we sat around the dinner table, finishing off our dinner, the cat shot through, with something large and squawking!
The father leaps up and follows her onto the deck and grabs her - but isn't sure how to make her let go of the tui (it's usually my job, as I'm the one she brings things to... there's a trick to it - you hold their head and put pressure on the jaw joint, and this forces them to let go). So he calls for water.So my sister throws the jug from the table over him.
Needless to say, it stuck in my memory! ^_^
The second tale is more recent, and I, being in a somewhat dramatic mood, wrote an account of it at the time...
Today, this evening, during the daylight hours, my father called out to me to come up into the kitchen and see the present that was left for me.
By my cat.
And truly, it was my cat, for he had seen her do it, and therefore no t'other cat, what he had not seen do it, and this concludes with the result of it being a gift for me, and me alone.
From my cat.
And so, bravely, boldly, walk I up the stairs and stroll into the kitchen, there to see a dark and huddled pile. For truly, it was a tui, lying forlorn on the floor (that I had mopped but yesterday). And all around I did note marks, and was fearful that they might be bloodstains (for then, I would have to mop the floor again).
But bending down to check, I mde two discoveries. The first? My cat, under the table, clearly considered her duty done, now I was here and was of herself most proud. Evinced she no further interest in the unmoving bird. Secondly, 'twere only marks of mud, doubtless from my brother's mud clad feet - that boy is shocking, never takes his shoes off.
The cat accounted for, turned I then to the feathered corpse and considered it. Having a certain distaste for the floppiness of them, I fetched out newspaper from the recycling, and bent down that I might push and slide the piece about until the bird did lie sufficiently upon the paper enough that I might lift it and carry forth the little wobbly corpse without it falling off again. But lo! For as I carefully this bird examined, noted I a certain movement of the chest, a pulsing of the claw, a brightness to the eye! The damn thing was still alive! And now? Now must I cast it out into the bush to die of shock, where the cats might not discover it again and bring back the gift that has somehow mysteriously wandered away, despite them being most careful to place it right there were we could see it, safely within the house.
And my sister is decrying the horror and disgust, summed up in "oh no" and "ew", while my father muttered most stormily in the next room - where his eyes might not by the sight of the poor feathered victim be afflicted. And as I slide the fold of paper (a weekend section, thick and mostly boring, quite suited to the carrying of corpses, a grey and ad-ridden hearse), why, as I slide the fold of paper, what shoudd happen, but that the bird does raise its head, and with a bright and beady gleam of feathers, twist and grasp upon my hand with long toes of surprising grip (considering its apparent faintness of but a moment previous).
And rise I then to a standing pose, a handsome honeyeater upon my hand perched, and walk across to the door outside, and from the deck, I let it fly...
And at my feet my cat purrs, and then wants a hug.
Personal observation, Dec. 16th, 2008
A very handy and accurate little book, easily slipped into a pocket, and full of beautiful photographs.
Cats and birds... - What do you think?
Most cats hunt birds, and in many countries, while startling for a suddenly-awakened owner, this isn't quite the ecological risk it is in places like New Zealand, which has a very vulnerable and endangered birdlife.
Cats hunting birds is...
The photograph above is actually of the bush in my parents' 'back garden', so to speak. It's a small reserve, which is one reason I see so many tui.
Guestbook - Sing me a song!
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