A New Zealand Tūī Feeding on Flax Nectar

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae [TUI] Whanganui, New Zealand 16-11-2017 (5)Click to zoom in

New Zealand’s Endemic Tūī

Tūī (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) are an endemic New Zealand bird found across almost all of New Zealand. They range from the subtropical Kermadec Islands to the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands. Tūī are noticeably absent from the Canterbury region although they were found there historically. With native planting, predator control, and reintroduction efforts, however, Tūī are slowly returning.

Tūī are one of the two bird species in New Zealand from the honeyeater family, Meliphagidae (the other being the bellbird). There are actually two subspecies of tūī: The larger Chatham Island tūī (P. n. chathamensis) which is classified as “Threatened/Nationally Endangered”, and P. n. novaeseelandiae which is found locally abundant everywhere else.

Tūī are very charismatic birds known for their blue, green and bronze iridescent sheen when in the right light, and distinctive white throat tufts (poi). They are also known for their magical and elaborate song made up of tuneful notes, coughs, grunts and wheezes. They show vocal mimicry and appear boisterous at times utilising a noisy, flapping flight. You can hear the call of a tūī and learn some about them more from this Radio NZ segment.

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae [TUI] Whanganui, New Zealand 16-11-2017 (4)
Click to zoom in


Capturing Tūī on Camera

I have been taking average photographs at best of tūī for sometime since arriving in New Zealand in 2014. This year I found that the flax plants that have been growing slowly on the windswept bank below the deck close to our room had this year developed flowers for the first time. When flax plants are in full bloom, tūī are a common sight feeding on the nectar, so I was feeling hopeful.

A week before the flowers opened, a tūī would come and check their progress. Eventually, the flowers were ready and our cautious tūī would snatch a quick feed before loudly flapping away. Over a few weeks I kept attempting to get closer. With each attempt the bird seemed less and less skittish.

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae [TUI] Whanganui, New Zealand 16-11-2017 (2).jpg
Click to zoom in

Eventually the tūī seemed at ease with me being there. I managed to get these shots one morning when the light was just right.

Click to zoom in

The flax flowers by the window have now gone, and the seed pods have formed. Luckily, there are many more flowering flax on the bank and throughout the region.


Enticing Tūī to Your Garden

If you would like tūī in your garden, plant suitable high nectar-producing plants such as flax and kōwhai. The Department of Conservation has a good page on what to plant to attract native birds to you garden. You can also create a tūī feeder.

It is important to put a bell on your cat if you have one, and invest in some backyard trapping for invasive mammalian predators.

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae [TUI] Whanganui, New Zealand 16-11-2017 (1).jpgClick to zoom in


References and Further Reading

Backyardbirds Website, Tui Feeder – http://www.backyardbirds.co.nz/tui-feeder1.htm
(Retrieved 25 December, 2017)

DOC Website, Chatham Island Tui – http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/chatham-island-tui/
(Retrieved 25 December, 2017)

DOC Website, What to plant to support birds and other wildlife – http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-activities/attract-birds-to-your-garden/what-to-plant/
(Retrieved 27 December, 2017)

NZ Birds Online Website, Tui – http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/tui
(Retrieved 25 December, 2017)

Predator Free NZ Website, Backyard trapping – https://predatorfreenz.org/backyard-trapping/
(Retrieved 25 December, 2017)

Radio NZ Website, Birdwatching Tui – http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/audio/2495592/birdwatching-tui
(Retrieved 25 December, 2017)

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex Samaras says:

    Outstanding photographs of a stunning bird! Well done taking the time and having the patience to get such wonderful shots! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Alex! Patience certainly is the key. 😃

      Like

  2. Fabulous photos of tui!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Liz! 💕

      -Emma

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Graham says:

    Those are gorgeous pictures of a truly beautiful bird. When I first came to NZ I thought Tui were black and white until I saw one in the light and realised how gorgeous they were, and so full of character and territorial to boot! I love their song too! I have given them sugar water the last two winters, incredibly I hadn’t seen them for months and they came looking for it one morning in May.

    I’ve recently seen one have a bath for the first time too in some water I put out, what a hoot! They really don’t like hanging around lower down like a blackbird does. Have you seen such a thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Graham!

      Aw, I love how your tui remembered where to come for a feed. 🙂 They’re smart birds!

      We also have a tui that regularly bathes in a birdbath outside our livingroom window. It’s great because the birdbath is at eye-level and only a couple of metres from the window, so we get a good view. It really is a hoot watching them fluff themselves up and splash about madly. 😀

      As for the tui not hanging around down low like blackbirds, I agree with your observation. If I was to have a guess at why, I would think it’s because of their food sources: Blackbirds mainly eat earthworms, insects, spiders, snails and slugs – most of which our found on the ground, whereas tui primarily eat nectar and fruit – which is found on the branches of trees and bushes higher up.

      -Emma

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely bird– love that fancy collar! Thanks for the great photos and informative post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jean! You are welcome! The tui’s white throat tuft is fab, I agree. It’s made up of two curled feathers and is called a ‘poi’. 😀

      -Emma

      Like

    1. Thank you, Cindy!

      -Emma

      Like

  5. Pam says:

    Spectacular bird!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam! 😀

      -Emma

      Like

  6. What excellent and colorful tūī pictures. Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve! Thanks for your lovely comment! 🙂

      -Emma

      Like

      1. You’re welcome. On my first trip to NZ I lucked out in getting a picture of this bird that I liked, even if it wasn’t as colorful as yours.

        https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/tui/

        Like

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