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Birds of Lake Mapourika – Tui

Birds of Lake Mapourika – Tui

by | Nov 5, 2016

Tui Lake Mapourika

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)


Franz Josef Tours Tui


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. myna 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.


 Usually you will encounter them on their own or very small groups, but they can appear in larger numbers where there is a good food source. Tui generally nest in native forests and shrubs, but will travel more than 10 km daily to feed on rich sources of nectar – which is their normal diet – like stands of puriri, kowhai, fuchsia, rewarewa, flax, rata and gums. Particularly popular with tui is the New Zealand flax, which flowers are shaped like the tui’s beak, with its great source of nectar. Sometimes this nectar would ferment and cause the tui to fly in a fashion that suggests it is drunk. Next to nectar the tui feeds on fruit and insects as well, occasionally even on seeds and pollen.
The tui itself can be a very aggressive bird and fights for its territory and food source against small and even bigger birds then itself  like harriers, magpies or kaka with loud flapping of their wings and the use of sounds that remind you of rude human speech.
If you ever encountered a tui, you probably noticed its noisy and unusual call. With its two voiceboxes it is able to perform a myriad of sounds. It combines bellbird-like notes with clicks, cackles, coughs, groans and wheezes. Tui are considered to be pretty intelligent and resemble parrots not just in this way but in their ability to imitate human speech as well. Maori used to train these birds to replicate complex speech.
Excited to listen to the tui’s unique sound?
Come on a kayak trip with us and we’ll introduce you to the wonderful world of birds in the forest around Lake Mapourika.
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