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Forest Lore of the Maori

The Kokako or Crow:

The Kokako or Crow:

The kokako or crow (Glaucopsis spp.) was not prized by the Maori as a food supply; as one old man put it to me it bears too close a resemblance to the shag; this in reference to its lack of palatableness. At the same time nothing eatable was despised by the Maori, and so crows were snared or otherwise caught when possible, and eaten as were young shags and also bats. In the Matatua district a flock of crows is termed a ta kokako, and the Tuhoe folk sometimes refer to the Ta kokako a Ira-motumotu, or Ira-motumotu's flock of crows, whereon hangs the following tale. Upon a time the wife of Ira went a-fishing for kokopu, and returned home with a goodly mess thereof. Ira opened her puwai, and when he did so, the living fish wriggled out of it, to the amusement of bystanders. Anon it was Ira who went a-fowling, and, having snared a number of crows, he put them still living, in a basket, then tied the mouth thereof. On returning to his home he handed the basket to his wife, who at once opened it, only to see the birds fly away.

When Ruawharo reached Nukutaurua in the long ago he is said to have had with him seeds of the karaka tree and a tarne kokako, a bird of many parts, possessing much uncanny knowledge. There does not seem to be any further evidence that the crow was ever kept in captivity by the Maori.

Persons were often compared to, or spoken of, as birds in former times, especially those who were fleet of foot, as witness the following saying: E hoki i kona, e kore e mau i a koe te kokako a Whareatua (You can turn back, for you will never catch the 'crow' of Whareatua). In such cases the name of a parent of the 'crow' or other bird was quoted. The saying quoted above was used in a similar way: E kore koe e rere i te ta kokako a Ira-motumotu (You cannot escape from the crow flock of Ira-motumotu), albeit the crows of Ira that flew so well were genuine kokako, not men. In page 323Maori myth the crow is said to be the offspring of one Hine-wairua-kokako. The blue wattles of the crow are called werewere, sometimes peruperu; a blue-coloured fungoid growth is called werewere kokako by the Tuhoe folk. The pepe or call leaf was used by fowlers in in order to attract the crow. Cook gives a paragraph on the south Island crow, which he called the wattle-bird.

The following fable may be put in the same class as that pertaining to the kaka and kakariki: The kokako resolved to gain admiration from all the bird-tribes by assuming the appearance of the admired huia. As the crow sat on his tree he looked long at the huia, and thought to himself: Ah! how truly brave is the appearance of these birds, all birds admire them, and how well I would look could I but assume their admired features." So the crow looked far and wide until he found a dead huia, and from that bird he took the fine plumage and beak. But when the crow went abroad and mingled with other birds, behold, no token of admiration came from them, but they jeered at the hapless crow, and said, one to the other: "Ha! Look at the crow that is trying to be a huia, but still retains the appearance of a crow."