Rants and Whimsy

The Mayfairy’s Guide To New Zealand Birds

November 8, 2015

The-Mayfairy-NZ Birds Header

New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of fancy animals, especially not of the furry critter sort. This confuses folks. I’ve met people who were confused that we didn’t have kangaroos hopping all over the place. I know people who freaked out when they discovered that we don’t have squirrels (“but who eats your nuts?” they say).

What we do have is a lot of birds. Many of them flightless. Unfortunately, they are also delicious to predators, so we have to expend a lot of energy in keeping them alive. They can’t flee from predators or defend themselves in any way, because they’ve basically spent thousands of years before those pesky humans got in the way having an easy life. They don’t know shit. But they are still interesting. Therefore I’ve dedicated this entirely too long blog to explaining New Zealand birds to the uninitiated. Enjoy.



In Maori kaka means parrot and po means night. This nocturnal featherlump is the world’s heaviest parrot. As such, the fat fuck can’t fly, so it’s also the world’s only flightless parrot and a herbivore to boot. Because everything tastes  great on the forest floor, except the rats, cats and stoats that are trying to kick the shit out of you. To fill their time while waiting for inevitable carnivore death, they climb to the tops of very tall trees and then “parachute” down by spreading their wings.

Sexy times are rather interesting. Monsieur Kakapo operates a polygynous lek breeding system. What the fuck is that? Well, during breeding season, the males will all gather together in a mating arena and do some kind of performance to impress females. Females then get all the choice as to who they have babies with. It’s like sexy X Factor, with parrots.

Males will find a spot in their arena with great acoustics so as to emphasise their booming mating call. Basically, a few grunts, 20 loud booms and then a high pitched “ching”. He can do this for eight fucking hours every night if need be. Once a female enters into his space he’ll turn around, extend his wings and walk backwards towards her like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.

This schtick makes female kakapos all kinds of crazy with lust, so she’s totally getting pregnant, after which they’ll probably never speak again and he’ll carry on booming into the night trying to attract more randy tail.

Co-parenting isn’t a thing on planet kakapo, but don’t judge them too harshly. They have one redeeming feature: they smell bloody fantastic. Well, it has been described as “musty” which doesn’t sound fantastic, but it is said to be very pleasant and powerful.

There are only 126 living kakapo left on the planet. That means there are more people in your morning tube carriage than kakapo in the wilderness,




This is another parrot, but this geezer can fly.  It’s rather large and likes to live in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand. This gives Mr Kea ample opportunity to fuck with tourists and snow bunnies by vandalising cars parked near skifields. They’ve been known to remove all the rubber around car windows, which then causes the window to fall out and BOOM, a kea now lives in your car, punk, and he’s eating all of your dashboard jelly babies.

The kea is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange streak under its wings. It has a large  beak which is great for eating fucking everything it can get to. Butter. Nuts. Carrots. Grapes. Figs. Bread. Dairy. Meat. Fucking pasta. Kea will eat your bolognaise, bitch, so don’t be leaving that shit out. They’ll also attack sheep, eating the back fat, but only if they think no one is looking.

Scientists do like to mess with kea and have been forcing them to solve logic puzzles. Kea rule at logic puzzles, they can work out orders, they can work together to achieve objectives, fuck they can even prepare and use tools to help them get through life. This makes them more useful than 90% of humans I’ve met.

Basically they are social creatures, living in groups. They will suffer if forced into isolation, but they bloody love a mirror. Sounds like 90% of bloggers I know.





The mega celebrity of the New Zealand bird scene. There are different kinds of kiwi and they lay enormous eggs. Biggest egg to bird-body-size ratio in the world. *salutes female kiwis*. Let’s talk about sex:

Boy meets girl. They bond. They live their entire lives as a monogamous couple. Mating season means the  pair call each other at night, meeting in the “nesting burrow” every three days. Sounds like me in high school. However, this relationship will probably last 20 years.

Great spotted kiwi: The female lays one egg, both parents will sit on it
Little spotted kiwi: The female lays one egg, only the male sits on it
Okarito brown kiwi: Females can lay up to three eggs in a season, but she’s particular about each one being in a different nest. The male and female both incubate.
North Island brown kiwi: The female usually lays two eggs, and then forces the male to sit on them.

See, I told you female kiwis are rather progressive in their thinking.  Don’t think the female gets off easy though. As well as laying this giant egg, she also has to grow the thing. For 30 days she must eat three times her normal amount of food. And you wonder why there are so many kiwi food bloggers. It’s in our DNA, baby.  The sad times come for the last few days before giving birth when there’s no room for ANYTHING left inside that kiwi so she has to fast.

Kiwi are shy and nocturnal, as any New Zealander who’s been on a school camp lead by an over excited DOC worker will tell you. Walking around the forest without socks in the dark looking for a bird who doesn’t want to talk to 30 odd preteens is fun. /sarcasm




Ok so this is actually a swamp hen and it’s found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea… in New Zealand it’s a pukeko and it’s cheeky as fuck.

They’ll scheme, they’ll steal from your garden, hell, they’ll steal eggs from each other. They’re up to no good. If you want to tell someone that they’re stubborn and annoying and you also want to confuse the fuck out of them, you can say they have “pukeko ears” (taringa Pākura).



Love this little guy. He’s  flightless, indigenous to New Zealand and belongs to the rail family. Of course he does. If you can’t fly rail is really your only option.

Now, he does like the swamp, but he can easily set up camp in the grasslands, the forest or the scrub. Mr and Mrs takahē lead simple, monogamous lives and are territorial as fuck. So don’t go disturbing them without an invite.



A beautiful singing voice but they know how to swear! The male tui will chase all other birds away whenever it sees fit with “loud flapping and sounds akin to rude human speech” according to Wikipedia. Oh, I’m sorry, Mr Tui would like to make an appointment to see you next Tuesday, bitch.

How does this potty mouth impress the ladies? Well, he’s fly. He rises at speed “in a vertical climb in clear air, before stalling and dropping into a powered dive, then repeating”  It’s like the fucking Olympics in here except Tom Daley can sing, OMG, what was that sound? Oh, just Simon Cowell creaming himself. Females are so impressed by this that they take on the task of house building all by themselves.

Tui are very intelligent and similar to parrots in that they can imitate human speech. Maori used to train them to replicate all kinds of complicated conversations, and oh the fun that was had.  Each bird has it’s own individual call – some of it melodic, groans, cackles, creaks, anything. Really, anything.

They can even create sounds that humans can’t hear. Sometimes you see them with their gob wide open singing away and you can’t hear a thing. That’s when you know they’re talking about you.  You don’t even get any reprieve at night, they love a good sing in the dark especially if there’s a full moon.



Another flightless rail family member. But this baby is an omnivore! He’ll eat 30% animal foods and 70% plant foods. His animal foods aren’t anything exciting, mostly insects, spiders, worms, snails, stuff like that, but they will extend to rats, frogs, mice, and small birds. Finally, a bird willing to stand up to the rat bastard!

The weka is a curious little beggar and likes to poke around your house and garden for food or anything really that’s unfamiliar and transportable. He particularly likes shiny things and bags of sugar. He’s enterprising. He’s also a new age feminist type being, with eggs being incubated and then the little wekas fed by both sexes until they are fully grown.

Weka have previously been used as a source of food, perfume, medicine and clothing, but let us just think of  them as cheeky, bold and sweet toothed.



Sometimes called a  hoiho this is a mother fucking  penguin that’s  native to New Zealand. He likes to eat fish.

It’s one of the world’s rarest penguin species and also may be the most ancient of all living penguins. Again, this birdie likes to co-parent with egg incubation duties being shared by both parents, this may involve sitting on a nest for DAYS. For six weeks after hatching one parent guards the children during the day, while the other is at sea feeding. The sea faring adult returns once a day at least to feed the chicks and give the other parent a rest. Because children are hard fucking work, even if you are a penguin.

Once six weeks are up and they can’t take any more of those bloody kids, both parents go to sea to eat as much fish as possible. It all helps to feed the young. With yellow eyed penguins, it’s all for the kids.

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