Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I’ve been observing a young blackbird puffing up its new feathers on the lawn as it demands food from its patient parent. The tyranny of the species’ survival. The adult finds worms and bugs to feed that voracious appetite.

This morning’s paper has a lovely story and photograph about a wild tui at Waikanae. Two young tui were found miles away – blown out of their nest probably and taken to the wild life reserve. Staff have been feeding them in their cage. But an adult wild tui heard their agitated cries and has begun feeding them through the netting. It’s not the mother, the youngsters were found in an area with a different call from the food-hunting one.

The other night I watched a full moon rise. I was surprised going to bed to hear a tui singing outside, going through an extensive range of vocalisations. Morning chorus yes, but not this late. I checked the internet. Apparently tui have been known to call at known at night, especially clear, moonlit ones. Considerably better than the forlorn morepork that I often hear.

From the internet I also learnt they have two voiceboxes. This enables them to make the myriad of sounds of which they are capable. I knew that some of those sounds were above the human register. I have seen tui obviously singing at full throttle and heard nothing. A fascinating facet which I also knew was tui and kowhai and flax flowers have evolved to be mutually compatible. The tui is their chief pollinator because of the shape of its head.

To the best of my knowledge I have never heard a nightingale sing. Not even in the lush hotel garden in Ishfahan in Iran where the setting called for one. So I’ll settle for a tui one summer night in 2010.

Here is a paragraph from Buller our famous ornithologist: ‘One of its finest notes is a clear, silvery toll, followed by a pause and then another toll, the performance lasting sometimes an hour or more. This is generally heard at the close of day, or just before the bird betakes itself to its roost for the night. I have, however, on one or two occasions, heard the tui’s sweet toll long after the shadow of darkness had settled down upon the forests and all other sounds were hushed.’

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