Tag Archives: bellbird

Tui, kereru and korimako

Tui in the cherry tree

Tui in the cherry tree

It is the time of the year when I spend a great deal of time trying to get the perfect images of the scores of tui we have feeding in the Prunus campanulata. Because we have a number of trees, the birds migrate between them but never sit still long enough for us to count.
Too many to count. All the black shadows are tui.

Too many to count. All the black shadows are tui.

These early flowering cherry trees from Taiwan get a mixed reception in New Zealand. There is no doubt that our native birds find them hugely appealing. In an environment filled with food sources, it is the campanulatas to which they head en masse. But, and it is a huge but, most campanulatas set prodigious amounts of seed and because these form as little cherries, tasty to our fruit-eating native birds, they are spread far and wide. Indeed, seedling cherries are one of the worst weeds we have in our own garden and it takes constant management to stop the spread. So bad is it that the councils further north have banned seeding campanulata varieties and some folk would like to see total eradication across the country.

Shy korimako in Prunus Pink Clouds. It was soon banished by the bullying tui

Shy korimako in Prunus Pink Clouds. It was soon banished by the bullying tui

We would be very sorry to see all campanulatas banned but certainly the future lies in sterile selections. Sterility means that they don’t set seed so they won’t spread but we get to keep the mass blooming and the tui – and indeed korimako, our shy bellbirds – get to keep their favourite food source. Pink Clouds and Mimosa are both sterile varieties which date back to the work Felix Jury did on them, but the sugar pink colour is often less favoured to the cerises and reds. Unfortunately, the good compact growing, dark flowered variety named for Felix by Duncan and Davies – Prunus Felix Jury – is not sterile.

Acrobatic tui in a campanulata that is sterile but much too large for most gardens

Acrobatic tui in a campanulata that is sterile but much too large for most gardens

We have a sterile cerise red which is a great performer but at over 12 metres tall and 10 metres wide, it is far too large for domestic gardens. But there is hope. Mark has identified one which is sterile, has good colour and does not look as if it will get anywhere near as large.

Kereru feasting on Magnolia Vulcan buds

Kereru feasting on Magnolia Vulcan buds

“Now look ‘ere, Mr and Mrs Kereru, we need to have words about this latest taste treat you have found. This just won’t do at all. There is plenty of other food here for you but magnolia buds are off limits, especially the first flowers opening on Magnolia Vulcan.”

Poor kereru died after flying into a window

Poor kereru died after flying into a window

I would make jokes about Mr and Mrs Kereru dicing with death on this latest escapade, but some sensitive soul would take me seriously. Kereru are our large native wood pigeon and were a valued food source for Maori in times past. But they are very slow breeders and are suffering from habitat loss so are now totally protected. 056There has been a bit of a scandal recently about kereru being served as part of a traditional feast – did the Parliamentarians know they were eating kereru? – so it is poor form to even make jokes about eating them. Besides, even when a beautiful plump specimen died before my eyes after flying into one of our house windows, we could not bring ourselves to try cooking it. Instead we bought window decals from Bird Rescue to try and prevent such a thing happening again.

Apparently Vulcan scores highly on the kereru taste test

Apparently Vulcan scores highly on the kereru taste test

A flurry of feathers*

* That is a flurry of feathers as opposed to a tranquil haven filled with bird song.

Some dreary weather and the need to find the best photos we have of our garden had me trawling through and sorting all the many photos on my computer. I was quite pleased with the bird file and in an act of displacement behaviour (because the more urgent task was far more difficult) sorted some out for here.
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Photographing our native kereru (New Zealand’s wood pigeon) can be a challenge because they are inclined to take fright and crash away. This large bird is protected these days and is slow to procreate.
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Mark has been known to erect hammocks beneath a precarious kereru nest to protect the growing baby (kereru usually raise only one young at a time), and to build a large ground enclosure to save one which was learning to fly from ground predators.
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The morepork or ruru is our native owl and is rarely seen by day. This was almost certainly a young one. A morepork calling is one of the loveliest night time sounds. One of the most delightful sights we have seen was a family of five roosting in a tree here during the day. Mama and Papa Ruru were trying to sleep and three babies with big owl eyes were all bright and alert.
??????????????????????????????? Sadly this one was lying dead beside our letter box last week – almost certainly coming off second best from an encounter with a vehicle at night.
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I have spent a great deal of time photographing the tui. There is no shortage of candidates – we can have trees heaving with scores of bickering tui – they are strongly territorial.
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And acrobat tui number two. Feeding upside down is no problem to these nectar feeding birds.
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King tui, we call this one. He looks as if he is the dominant bird in this campanulata cherry. I posted two short clips of feeding tui last spring here and here.
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Bellbirds, often known by their Maori names of korimako or makomako, tend to be heard more often than seen. They are a modest bird to look at and very shy in their behaviour, but with beautiful song.
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One of our most ubiquitous birds is the little fantail or pīwakawaka. The tail spreads out in a full fan and these little birds do not show a great deal of fear around humans. However they also move extremely quickly and this is the best photo I have managed so far.
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The little waxeyes are here in large numbers – almost our equivalent of humming birds, which we don’t have in this country. Because it is self-introduced to this country, it is regarded as a native. Wikipedia says: “ Its Māori name, Tauhou, means “stranger” or more literally, “new arrival”.”
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The Californian quail are a more recent arrival to our garden but are a quietly delightful addition. Each spring we watch nervously as Mama Quail heads off with a gaggle of little babies in tow – each of them a tiny bundle of feathers. Up above we can see Papa Quail and hear him calling. We like to think he is cooing out directions: “Turn left.” “Veer right.” “Danger ahead.” Sadly, we then watch an ever-diminishing number of fluffy babes as each day passes. But this winter we have seven mature quail quietly foraging around so maybe they are going to be a permanent feature.
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And Mark’s pidgies – tumbler pigeons these days. He likes the coloured ones rather than the white ones more commonly favoured. There are times when he feels he is raising fodder for the rare, endangered native falcon or Kārearea which makes frequent feeding forays through this area. The surviving pigeons are the wise ones.
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Just common old blackbirds in a nest last season – a nest in a particularly public position – but the sight of babies brings out the protective instinct all the same. They all matured and flew away – probably to thieve our strawberries.
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Then there are the nests. This one is an exquisite little fantail nest built in a fork of a magnolia tree.
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Each year we gather the abandoned nests which are in good condition and bring them under cover – our nest installation. Each spring the birds fly in gradually demolish them in their search for nesting materials – recycling in action.
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And my most favourite tui photo of all. Sitting in a mandarin tree out from our back door. It was gorging itself on the fruit. We no longer have a cat and none of our immediate neighbours have cats. We would rather have the birds.

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 24 August, 2012

Perched on the very top - the dainty silvereye or tauhou

Perched on the very top – the dainty silvereye or tauhou

Fifty eight seconds of video, captured with much delight and good fortune, of kereru feeding on plum blossom. The colours of a Tikorangi springtime.

Magnolia Black Tulip

Magnolia Black Tulip

Somewhat slowed down by a bout of flu and heavy cold this week (the last time this happened would be over a decade ago), I have spent some time photographing birds and magnolias this week. Still tui in abundance, but also kereru, waxeyes (syn. silveryeyes or tauhou) and even the elusive bellbird, all feeding at the same time from Prunus Mimosa. The tui usually chase the bellbirds away. This must surely be one of the most beautiful times of the year here. If you use Facebook, *liking* our garden page will see the magnolia updates arriving on your news feed.

The garden is now open daily. No appointment is necessary. If we are not around, there is an honesty box.

The shy bellbird or korimako

The shy bellbird or korimako