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Forest Lore of the Maori

The Fernbird and the Kingfisher:

The Fernbird and the Kingfisher:

The fernbird, toetoe, kukurutoki, mātā, etc. (Sphenoeacus punctatus) was looked upon as a manu tohu, a wise bird, the cries of which contained warnings of coming events, of future success and ill fortune. Its ordinary cry of Te, te, te! does not appear to have contained any message, but when it cries Kore ti! Kore ti! then all know it is a puhore; whatever project may be on hand at the time will be a failure, absolutely unsuccessful. When the cry changes to Toro ki! Toro ki! Toro ki! Kuri! Kuri! then know it is a token of good fortune; he ra kei tua, the sun shines beyond; the cry Kuri whatia! is ominous of coming evil, while that of Kuri ora! bears the opposite meaning. Such were the explanations given by sages of Ngati Awa, when Matutaera Hatua, Hoani Pururu and Tumutara held the stage.

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The kotare or kingfisher (Halcyon vagans). The young of this bird were taken from the nest in former times for the pot, or rather steam-pit. Some natives however were prejudiced against them because it was believed that they ate lizards. The following jingle, collected by Sir G. Grey, was repeated by children in order to cause rain to cease: E rere, e te kotare, ki runga ki te pu wharawhara ruru ai o parirau, ka mate koe i te ua. Tihore mal i uta, Tihore mai i tai; he rangi ka maomao; mao, mao, mao te ua. Herein children address a kingfisher during a shower, telling it to fly swiftly to a clump of epiphytic Astelia, and there close its wings and seek shelter, then calling upon the sky to become clear, and the rain to cease.

Curiously enough, the Maori never seems to have used the blue feathers of this bird in any of his decorative feather-work on garments, etc., handsome as they are; though he ever utilised red, brown, black and white feathers for such purposes.