A preference for certain birds. Tui'ch their own.

Maui Tui

Aside from fretting about the terribly amazing pun in the title, I want to talk about one of our native brothers: Tui. He is arguably the most beautiful native bird we have and perhaps the most iconic as well. Combining his tantalising color scheme, the distinct tuft of white feathers on his collar and his beautifully unique song, make for a mesmerising sight. His reputation, on the other hand, is less than stellar, in New Zealand myth anyway. In fairness i'm saying this with only one myth in mind which (in my defense) is one of the more well known bird myths in NZ. He did make a comeback though in later years, in my book anyway.


The story of how the kiwi lost his wings,  tells of the Tui being a selfish coward. The tuft under his beak, which I see as a beard of endless wisdom, is in fact a reminder of his cowardice. As the story goes Tane Mahuta was gutted that his children; the trees, were being eaten by the bugs on the forest floor so he asked his brother Tanehokahoka to get one of his bird children to take care of it. Tanehokahoka asked all of the birds if they'd be keen to live on the ground to protect the trees by eating the bugs. They all said no, except for the Kiwi. All the birds that denied the request were punished in different ways, the Tui in particular had to wear 'two white feathers at [his] throat as the mark of a coward."

I'm not hating on the myth because I understand it's talking up our boy the Kiwi, but Tane didn't really sell the idea very well. For a start it's a bit of an uphill battle considering the chosen one stands to lose the ability to fly, which is probably the best part about being a bird. And when Tane asked, he's like "can you do this important thing for me " he gets as far as convincing one of them to think about it, but then he puts doubt in his head by asking if he's sure, highlighting the undesirable nature of the request. You needa sell the idea boys. First tell him that the reason he needs to go (and this isn't a lie) is because there are too many tasty feeds down there. And second, despite losing your wings (a pretty hefty loss at that) , you'll get tough as legs and friends don't let friends skip leg day. The Kiwi did it in the end because he's a good dude and got a pretty good rep for it. You can't really blame the other birds for not being keen though, really.

Thankfully brother Tui redeemed himself later on in his evolutionary line hundreds of years after the epic request and this is something I learned this week. It turns out brother Tui has some pretty well developed lungs, due to having two voice boxes. Brother Tui was used for his ability to imitate the sounds he heard, even as far as imitating human speech. One tui was so talented in fact that he was awarded the honor of being taught the speech to welcome Sir George Grey, third governor of New Zealand onto a marae. That is crazy. The Kaumaatua are like "you're up moko" as they get their bird to go up and deliver the speech to the governor. Here is the speech -An excerpt from Sir George Grey's poetry of New Zealanders. Note the reference down the right hand side. Good work memorising e hoa.

Andre aged 5

Hana aged 5

Anarangi aged 5

Izaraea aged 5

Thanks to the kids from Randwick primary for these awesome tui pictures.

 If any of you are fans of this cool manu, you might be interested in a small trick that could attract a few of these guys into your garden. I've read in a few articles that nga tui love red and also like sweet things. Combing red food colouring with some sugar water might bring a few cool birds into your hood. About half a cup of sugar to a litre of water should do it. This article has a bit more extensive information about building pro feeders, which i'd recommend for the gardening veterans among our readers if they don't already know this stuff. If any of you guys manage to teach a tui from your garden anything cool make sure to let us know.


What do you guys think of the tui? Is he the man or just a coward?

Fancy yourself an artist like the lovely tamariki featured in this article? Then send us some of your art work so you can see it showcased.