What makes the New Zealand tui so special?
The New Zealand tui, sometimes also known as the parson bird or koko, is a stunning endemic species that is quite noticeable from its white tuft on its chest.
While the ‘Tui’ beer brand is special to many New Zealanders, the real thing is a very real treat, as well.
You’ll often hear them before you see them, as these boisterous birds are nothing if not vocal. They are known for their melodic songs, but can also be heard coughing, grunting, or screaming.
When you do see one, it may appear black, but up close, those feathers are a silky sheen of green, blue, bronze, and reddish brown. Of course, there is also the small white tuft (its poi), which are actually two curled white feathers.
You can find tuis all over New Zealand, although they don’t enjoy large open, dry areas such as those east of the Southern Alps. Instead, they prefer anywhere with plenty of flowering or fruiting plants, which is why you’ll find them through native forests, suburban parks, and even backyard gardens! Their numbers are even larger in places around New Zealand with pest control programmes in place, such as where we tour at Tawharanui Regional Park.
If offered the choice, a tui would usually prefer honeydew or nectar from sources such as kowhai, puriri, rewarewa, flax, or gum trees. They will also turn to bugs such as cicadas during the breeding season, and they even enjoy the odd sugar-water feeder from birders’ gardens.
Fortunately, the tui doesn’t have to deal with many pests. Possums, rats, and mustelids are their biggest predators (who prey on the nests), but the large population of tui in New Zealand and the consistent pest control strategies in place around the country mean that we should have no problems seeing this gorgeous, tuneful bird for many years to come!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist