Soft the morning sweet the sound
each new day brings.
High up in the kowhai tree
the purest notes the tui each morning sings.
In the kauri forest where
Tane mahuta reigns
the duet of the tui and the kokako
in my heart still remains.
No matter where i travel
no birdsong can compare
the memory takes me back .
In my minds eye I am there.
(The tui (parson bird) – by Lorraine Rohtmets)
The Tui (Prosthemadera novaseelandiae) is a bird unique (endemic) to New Zealand. It belongs to the honey eater family and represents one of its largest members. The name tui originates from the Maori language and is used as its common formal name. Early European settlers called it the “parson bird”, due to its likeliness to a parson with its white tuft on its throat and the small, white shafted feathers on the back and sides of its neck producing a lacy collar, but this name is not used anymore.
Tui appear to be black at first sight, but depending on the angle from which the light strikes them, they’ll show you their seemingly metallic blue, bronze and green iridescent sheen. Very striking are the unusual curled white throat tufts (called poi).
Tui are widespread all over New Zealand and its offshore islands except for the dry, largely open country east of the Southern Alps. They can be found in native forests -sometimes even exotic forests – and also in rural or suburban gardens and parks, where there are flowering kowhai and gums. Like most of the New Zealand birds populations, the tui population has declined since European settlement, due to habitat destruction and predation by introduced mammals like possums, stoats and rats. But not just the introduced mammals are a thread. The common myna, a bird native to Asia, competes with tui for food and even steals its eggs. But nonetheless, the tui species is considered secure and in some areas numbers are even increasing again.