Why is the tui changing its song?
The little white tufts, the resplendent deep blue and green feathers and the beautiful songs are all as iconic to the tui as the tui is to New Zealand.
So why is it that the tui has been found to be changing its birdsong after so long?
Put simply, it’s us.
Researchers from Massey University recently studied the songs of tuis living in various places, specifically and intentionally spreading out their research areas to include noisy places such as by the motorway, and quieter spots further from the city.
What they found was that the more of a racket us humans are making, the simpler the birdsong from the tui. This change signals that the tui is one of just a handful of native species to have changed their ways to adapt to the proximity and existence of humans.
Tui that lived close to the motorway were also recorded to have a higher proportion of harsher elements in their songs compared to the ‘out of towners’, which helped the birds to stand out from the noises around them.
The tuis song, of course, is a mating call. The more impressive the male’s song, the more likely it is that a female tui may find him a suitable mate during the breeding season. With this adjustment of calls, the tuis are able to thrive in more urban areas and live alongside humans.
Tuis are widespread throughout New Zealand, and you’ll find them everywhere from native forest and scrub areas to your back garden or local park. They are a wonderful bird to have nearby, not just because of their beautiful song or colouring, but because as nectar and fruit eaters, they are a great help in pollinating flowering plants and dispersing seeds. There is every chance you’ll see one on a day tour from Auckland at either Tawharanui or the Waitakere Ranges.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist