Forest Lore of the Maori
The kaka or Brown Parrot (Nestor meridionalis):
The kaka or Brown Parrot (Nestor meridionalis):
Having disposed of certain flightless and short-flight birds we will now consider some of the more important game-birds of Aotea. As most of these were snared in one or more ways we will commence by dealing with the one that was not snared in any ordinary way, but had to be speared, struck down, or gripped by the feet or wings. The fowler had no gentle creature such as the pigeon to deal with when he went forth to take the kaka, but a turbulent rover of the woods, who, with rending beak, would quickly sever the tahei form of snare such as were set on trees for taking pigeons, tui, and some other species. Our Maori fowler quotes an old saying to shew that page 193what the barracouta is at sea so is the kaka on land: He kākā kai uta, he mangā kai te moana, the one rends the net of the fisherman as the other rends wood, and, if necessary, snares. Our fowler did recognize, however, that he had, in the kaka, one of the two most important game-birds of Maoriland, the other being the pigeon, and so we find another old saying that runs: He tutu kaka ki uta, he toka koura ki te moana (a parrot-snaring tree on land, a crayfish rock at sea). Herein a tree much frequented by these parrots, and on which they were taken in large numbers by the mutu method, is compared as a food-provider to a sea-standing rock frequented by crayfish, another important food-provider. The Waiapu folk compare this parrot to a much-appreciated sea-fish in the following saying: He kaka tawari ki Hikurangi, he moki ki te moana (a kaka feeding on the tawari berries of Hikurangi is as fat as the moki fish of the ocean). When these parrots are feeding on the berries of the tawari (Ixerba brexioides) on the slopes of Mt. Hikurangi, they become fat. The moki becomes fat about August. The expression, He kaka waha nui (a loud-voiced kaka), was used in former times to describe a very talkative or blustering person.
The kaka is said to have had a special progenitor in the person of a being named Tu-mātāika, and so, when many birds are seen flying about or hovering over trees, one may exclaim: Kore e rikarika te tama a Tu-mataika e rere nei (the child of Tu-mataika is flying in numbers). A bird of unusually dark plumage is called a kaka parakiwai, and the Maori tells us that such birds were hatched in a hinau; this quaint idea is doubtless based on the fact that the sap of this tree stains anything a dark colour. A dark dye was obtained from the bark, and to handle the split wood means a pair of black-stained hands, and so the young birds hatched in a hollow hinau tree must have become so stained. Occasionally an albino parrot is seen, and this is called tuauru by the Waiapu folk, who informed me that such birds make better decoys than do those of ordinary plumage, they attract their fellows better, possibly on account of their abnormal appearance. Also albinoes are said to have been very good flock-leaders (kaka whakataka pokai, or kaea). These light-coloured birds were also called kaka korako. In some cases, we are told, a kaka kura (red parrot) is seen acting as a flock-leader. This name is applied to a bird of exceptional plumage, one having a large proportion of bright-red feathers, in place of sombre brown. Other natives have told me that this kura bird is not seen as a flock-leader and controller, but that it keeps aloof from flocks and moves about with but one companion. Such rare birds as the korako and kura parrots are often alluded to as ariki, which implies leadership. The page 194following names, etc., pertaining to the kaka have been collected from divers sources;—
- Tarariki, Tatariki, Tatarariki—Leader of a flock, usually a small bird (Tuhoe).
- Tawaka—A large sized parrot (Tuhoe).
- Tata-apopo—The male bird, known by its big head (Tuhoe).
- Kēkē-toi—So called when very fat (Tuhoe).
- Tāmaire—A long-beaked kaka, said to be the male (Ngati Porou).
- Tarariki—A short-beaked kaka, said to be the female (Ngati Porou).
- Motaraua=Kaka nihoriki—A short-beaked parrot (Williams).
- Kaka reko—A kaka having light-coloured plumage (Williams).
- Huripa, Karorouri, Karorotea, Pipiwharauroa, Kaka kereru—Given in Williams' Maori Dictionary as varieties of kaka. In most cases these names seem to denote some abnormality in the plumage of some kaka, but nothing more. The term karorouri and karorotea are applied by Ngati Porou to pigeons showing such peculiarities.
- Tiaka—Leader of a flock of kaka (Williams).
- Tarakeha, Kareha, Kaiewha, Koriwhai—All names for cries of alarm or fear uttered by kaka (Tuhoe).
- Tarahae—A querulous form of cry (Tuhoe).
- Tarawhete—A chattering form of cry (Tuhoe).
- Nganga—Peculiar sound made when gnawing a bone, etc. (Raukawa).
- Nge=Ngenge—Peculiar sound made when gnawing a bone etc.
- Kehakeha—Describes sounds uttered by nestlings.
- Whakange—To cause a decoy parrot to cry out, sometimes done by teasing it. Williams gives whakangae as a synonym.
In addition to the above two well known cries of this parrot are a deep-toned whistle and a harsh croak. Many years ago I had a foolish idea that the kaka was a creature of few cries, but having taken the trouble to jot down notes on them I gradually acquired a remarkable list of such descriptions, shewing that our harsh-voiced kaka waha nui has many different cries. The kaka is a restless bird, and when camped in the bush one hears their cries throughout the night. Ere any sign of dawn is noted the brown parrot is awake and awaiting it, its harsh cry rings out, and the sojourners within the realm of Tane say: Kua tangi te kaka (the kaka has cried), and know that Hine-ata the Morning Maid is at hand.
The leader of a flock is seen to hover about it, and the Maori says that it seems to watch the flock and keep it in order and within certain bounds, to prevent straggling. It is also said to call or guide the flock from one whakarua (feeding ground) to another, and keeps flying round the flock at such a time. When speaking of a flying flock of kaka one calls it a pokai kaka, but when the flock is settled on a feeding-ground it is alluded to as a whakarua kaka. A feeding-page 195ground where different species of birds do congregate in the berry or blossom season is termed a hapua by the Matatua tribes.
It is a well-known fact that, long ages ago, the kaka filched from the kakariki (parakeet) some of its brilliant feathers, obtained originally from the Sacred Isle of Tinirau, and which you will now find concealed beneath the wings of the filcher. These showy feathers were prized by the Maori, who used them wherewith to adorn some of his most valued garments, the kahu-kura and other objects. Our Maori have a saying that runs: He kuku ki te kainga, he kaka ki te haere (a pigeon at home, a parrot abroad), and this has been explained as denoting a person who, at home, is plainly dressed, but who, when he goes a-visiting, is gaily bedecked. Colenso gives a different explanation, as referring to a person who is silent when travellers pass his abode, and does not cheerily hail them and offer a meal, but who, when he moves abroad, sounds his trumpet ere he reaches a village, and so practically orders a meal to be prepared for him.
Kēkētoi is a name applied to the kaka when very fat in midwinter, a time when they are moulting and are found seeking food on the ground; being so fat they are unable to take flight from the ground, and so are compelled to walk to a tree and then walk up it, a movement that is both awkward and slow; and so these birds can then be taken by hand. At such a time the bird waddles awkwardly along with partially extended wings, very much as it descends a taki rod, and a favoured way of taking them was by grasping the two wings.
A South Island Maori contributor has furnished some data concerning the arts of the fowler in those parts, for which see No. 13 of the Addenda. He states that the kaka and tui were both taken by hand when very fat from feeding on the berry harvest. If, at such a time, a spell of wet and blusterous weather should occur, these birds would be harassed, drenched and chilled, hence they would abandon the swaying branches of the taller trees and roost on small trees and shrubs not so exposed to wind. At such a time the folk of a hamlet would turn out and take the birds by hand, often shaking them from their perches, when they would fall to the ground in such a condition that they would be unable to fly; a method much like that called whakamoe koko, to be described anon. Quoth my informant: "So fell they helpless, and so, ere long—a basket filled, a basket filled."
Natives of east coast districts have told me that in olden days, when their forebears were much given to sea fishing and sometimes went a considerable distance out to sea, they would occasionally page 196see kaka parrots or pigeons flying landward from the ocean, and always flying high. Exhausted birds have sometimes descended and alighted on fishing-craft. It is not easy to say why the birds should fly seaward, but possibly they were seeking new feeding-grounds, and, not finding them on the water deserts, returned to the forest-bearing land. One might think that such birds had been carried seaward by a strong wind, but the pigeon is a low-flying bird that would scarcely be affected by such a mischance; the kaka is a high-flyer when bound for a new feeding ground.
A peculiar myth connected with our parrot is to the effect that it carries with it a small stone called o kaka by the Maori. O denotes any food used as rations when the consumer is travelling, but natives do not agree as to the use to which the stone is put. Some say that the bird carries this stone in its claws for the purpose of sharpening its beak on it, others explain that the stones are found in some land in the sky region, and that one bird in each flock carries one of these stones to be used as a hone by the rest of the flock. Yet other fertile minds have asserted that many kaka fly hither from Hawaiki, the isles of Polynesia, possibly an annual migration, and that these carry the stone in their claws during the long flight, so that, when athirst, they can lick the stone and so gain some relief. These stones were prized by shamans or 'medicine men,' who used them in certain barbaric rites, and indeed are said to have sometimes swallowed them because the absorption of such uncanny objects seems to have endowed their ritual acts with extra mana. Ngapuhi folk state that it is the cuckoo that carries the thirst-relieving stone hither across wide seas, while the kaka carries a piece of bark.
Another expression, that of o manapou, remains to be dealt with; this, according to Matatua folk, is the seed, or fruit-kernel of some tree that grows at Hawaiki, that is in the northern isles, and it is found in the crops of kaka parrots that fly hither from those distant isles; it is said to be of a brown or reddish colour. Manapau is a tree-name at Samoa. As a word of our local dialect of the Polynesian language manapou is a bird-name, that of the crested grebe (Podicipes cristatus). Yet another term for a similar object is manatawa, and this was explained by the Tuhoe people of Ruata-huna; it is a black or dark-coloured kernel, resembling in form that of the fruit of the tawa tree. It is said to be, or to have been, found in the crops of kaka that flew hither from Hawaiki, as was the o manapou, but the manatawa was the smaller of the two. My informants remarked of these kernels: "We believe them to be kernels of the fruit of trees of Hawaiki, such fruit being eaten by the page 197kaka, which birds in former times were wont to fly hither in great numbers from Hawaiki, and, on reaching these shores, would be so exhausted that they were easily caught by hand." It seems strange that the Maori should believe that this slow-flight bird should be able to fly across five hundred leagues of open ocean, but one cannot argue with people who believed that the native rat swam across the same stretch of ocean. Is it possible that when they occasionally saw land-seeking birds flying in from the ocean, as referred to above, they concluded that they had come from northern isles?
Variant names for the kaka are given by Williams as kāri and kārīwhai, though the Matatua folk employ the term kariwhai (a and i short) to denote a peculiar cry of the species. Bidwill, in his little work on New Zealand, remarks that he could never get near enough to a kaka to shoot it, a very singular statement; it certainly has not been our experience, and the Maori often took them by hand. As this writer has been sojourning at Muckatoo, Wyho, Coteropo and Karnarika, not to speak of Taranather Bay, we may charitably overlook his nervous condition!
The Maori tells us that occasionally captive parrots were taught to speak a few words, but apparently these birds never reached the level of the tui in such accomplishment. Whanganui natives told me that kaka could not be taught to repeat any lengthy tale of words, but were sometimes enabled to acquire and repeat a brief phrase, such as Homai he kai rnaku (give me some tucker), which is just what a kaka would want to say.
The kaka finds its food-supplies in many places; it is not only much given to seeking and eating wood-grubs, but is also a berry and honey-eater; berries of the hinau, miro, tawari, Gaultheria, and many other species are sought by it. It is not so much given to the eating of tavra-berries as is the pigeon, but the berries of the tawari (Ixerba), which it does eat, do not seem to be appreciated by any other birds. Our parrot is said to crush miro berries just before they get ripe in order to get at the kernels; also it eats the blossoms of Nothopanax, and seems to gnaw off, but reject its bark. Like the pigeon it eats, when berries are scarce, certain leaves, etc., to serve as a substitute for better food. In its search for the huhu grub the parrot cuts into wood with its powerful beak much as if it were a chisel. When shooting for the pot we often found these birds by hearing the fall of debris, pieces of bark, half-decayed wood, etc. torn off and rejected by the kaka ngaupopo or (wood-rending parrots) of Tumataika. Both kaka and tui gathered on the rata (Metrosideros) when in bloom, in order to feed on the nectar or honey contained in the blossoms, but the pigeon did not join in this feast. The parrot page 198also frequents the blossom of the flax (Phormium) and those of the kowhai. Like many other trees the rata blossoms most profusely about every third year, and in such years the offspring of Tumataika and of Parauri fairly swarmed round the tree-heads. In like manner, when a particularly fine crop of berries was produced by any trees, Podocarpus for example, then the kaka and other birds would be much in evidence.
These parrots prefer not to construct a nest, but to seek a convenient hollow in a tree, wherein the nest consists of nothing more than the debris that has collected at the bottom of the hollow; in some cases the actual nest is considerably below the level of the entrance to the hollow trunk. Such a nest is not alluded to as a kowhanga, the name for a built nest, but is merely called a puta kaka (kaka-hole); Waiapu natives call it a hapoki kaka. The Maori tells us that these nests were used year after year by the birds, and some at least seem to believe that the same pair of parrots would utilize the same hole for years in sucession. When young birds were taken from such a nest to add to the local food-supply it was considered quite necessary to take to the tree some ashes from the fire at which the young birds had been cooked, and cast them into the rifled nest, this to prevent the parent birds abandoning the nest.
When taking young parrots from the nest just before they learned to fly, our Maori fowler might find a nest quite unreachable by the human arm, and here it was that the before-described whakawiri or karau was so useful. In some districts at least it was usual to leave one of the young in the nest, 'to take care of the nest' as the Maori puts it. These young birds are said to have often been very fat.*
* A simpler method was employed with the young titi (muttonbird) in the south; the rod was simply cleft at the end, the cleft end was brought in contact with the young bird, and on being twisted the down was caught in the cleft and the bird withdrawn—Ed.
The Maori had certain names that he employed to denote trees on which birds were taken, the name differing according to the method employed by the fowler. Thus a tree on which birds were taken by means of the mutu method was known as a tutu; one on which the spear was used was called a kaihua or rakau wero; and a tree on which snares of the taeke or tahei kind were used was a taumatua in the Matatua district, but a rakau taeke at Waiapu. The names tipapa and rakau tipapa were also applied to trees on which birds were snared, or to any trees on which birds settled in considerable numbers. It will be seen that a tree might be called by several of the above names, according to which method a person adopted in taking birds. Any tree much frequented by birds was prized, as it was looked upon as a bountiful 'food-basket,' hence an old-time saying of the Maori: He kaihua ki uta, he toka hapuka ki te rnoana (A kaihua on land, a toka hapuku at sea), which explains that a kaihua tree furnishes abundance of food, as does a rock or reef at sea whereat groper congregate and are caught. And again: Ko Kaitara ki uta, ko Moutohora ki waho ki te moana (Kaitara on land is the equal of Moutohora at sea), Kaitara being the name of the famous toromiro tree at Te Weraiti, Ruatahuna district, whereon many pigeons were taken yearly, while Moutohora (Whale Island) in the Bay of Plenty is a famed groper-ground; the latter is a toka hapuku (groper rock or ground), and the former a 'toka' kereru (pigeon-'rock'), as my informant facetiously termed it. These peculiar terms are also met with in song, sometimes to our puzzlement, as in the song of Tutahuna:—
- He manu maunu au kai te tao na Te Kurapa i whakatoro ra
- To kaihua kai Manuruhi raia, etc.
wherein the singer compares herself to an impaled bird that has struggled off the piercing spear point of Te Kurapa at a kaihua page 200tree at Manuruhi. The word whakatoro describes the slow, stealthy pushing forward of the spear-point prior to delivering the rapid thrust that impales the bird. I remember another well-known kaihua-tree near Tara-pounamu that was, and is, known as the Whare o Rakautawhia.
A famous tutu-tree at Te Weraiti is known by the name of the Rua o Tane, a name that may be rendered as 'the food store of Tane.' This tree stood near one of my bush-camps about 34 years ago (say 1900), and is probably still there. It was a source of much anxiety to me, inasmuch as it had been endowed with malignant powers by Te Pouwhenua, grandfather of Te Whenuanui, so that any person who committed an unseemly act in its vicinity would assuredly perish miserably. I was not sure that I was aware of all the acts of desecration and belittlement that offend such trees, or their indwelling demons, but I was quite sure that I did not wish to perish miserably. In order to endow such a tree with its protective and active powers the expert would take a bird that had been taken on the tree, or the left wing of such bird, and repeat over it a certain charm that would render the tree tapu and endow it with dread powers, after which he would take the bird or wing into the surrounding forest and there conceal it. This meant that he had taken the hau of the tree, and that hau was represented by the concealed bird; the vitality, productiveness, etc., of the tree, were represented by that symbolic object, and, should an enemy endeavour to destroy the tree by means of magic he would be quite unable to do so. That tree was absolutely safe, for it was really under the protection of the gods, and what can puny man effect in such a case? The Maori has some very singular notions concerning protection, as we have already seen; in some cases a lizard was liberated at the base of such a tree as the Rua o Tane, in order that it might remain there and protect the tree from all acts and wiles of evil-doers. This lizard was supposed to remain permanently at the base of the tree, and, so far as I could judge, the Maori seems to have believed that such a guardian acquired the priceless gift of eternal life. Again, when Tuhoe slew Tionga of the realm of Hine-tapeka, they carried his head back to their tribal lands and set it up on a tutu at Tara-pounamu, so that it might protect that tree. In after days the Awa folk of the outlands borrowed the dried head to set up in their cultivated fields, so that it might protect the crops. Not only would their crops flourish under this stimulus, but the act was also gratifying to the friends of Te Rama, who had been slain by the tribesmen of Tionga.page 201
In a song composed by one Turangapito occur the words:—
- Homai o iwi kia kawea e au ki runga o Te Kumete, ki runga o Te Akatea
- He maringitanga iho no te wai o Tane.
Herein, Te Kumete and Te Akatea are the names of two miro trees on the Rangatira Block of Ngati-Apa, at which trees deposited human bones would do a world of good.
The fattening of the kaka on honey of the ratablossoms during the rarangi tahi period was much appreciated by the Maori, for other birds are in but poor condition in mid-summer; this is the only food provided by that tree for birds, and, according to my informants, birds do not frequent all rata trees. During this time of the rata-blossom the pigeon is found on moire trees, or is feeding on the leaves of kowhai, houhi, hangehange, wharangi, etc.; at such a time it is not taken, for it is in poor condition and distasteful.
Decoy-birds were much used by our Maori fowler when taking the kaka, this in connection with several methods of taking these parrots; and there are a number of different terms that were applied to these decoy-birds, but a few only that apply to decoys used in taking smaller species:—
Mokai—A captive or pet creature of any kind. Slaves were so termed, also any person, child or adult, who was favoured by the speaker, hence the term was not necessarily used in a stigmatic manner.
Mokai kaka—A captive kaka, not necessarily used as a decoy, hence a Raukawa fowler explained: Ka haria te mokai kaka ki nga tutu ka kiia te ingoa he timori (When a captive parrot was taken to the snaring trees then it was styled a timori—decoy-bird).
Maimoa—Denotes a pet or fondling, or decoy bird, as maimoa porete.
Maimoa kaka—A captive parrot, not necessarily used as a decoy; if used as such it was usual to refer to it by a different term, as shown in Williams' example, Kia tikina taku maimoa hei papaki kaka. See Williams' Maori Dictionary, 5th ed., p. 195.
Pakipaki, Tionga, Tirore—A newly-caught parrot used as a decoy for the day only in some cases, or it might be kept, trained, and used as decoy, Waiapu folk explained that it would then be furnished with a komore or leg-ring and secured to a perch by means of a cord, then trained to screech when so desired, the training consisting of irritating it by means of a stick. When it was ready to be used as a decoy it would be referred to as a mokai, not a pakipaki, the latter name being dropped. The name tionga is evidently connected with onga (to decoy, to lure birds), the prefixed ti has a similar value in tiwaha, tipona, etc. In the sentence: Ko te pokai kaka e onga ana ki te mokai i runga i te tutu the word onga calls for a somewhat different rendering. When a fowler had no decoy he would often use the first parrot taken as such for the day, in which case he would break its lower beak to prevent it severing the cord it was secured by.page 202
Tiori, Manu tioriori—A decoy-bird, applied to kaka and probably to other birds also. A Waiapu native stated that tiori carries the meaning of calling together, calling out with a view to assembling, which is the task assigned to a decoy-parrot, hence it was so named.
Timori—Mokai haka so termed when used as decoys: applied to any bird used as a decoy, also as a verb 'to lure, to decoy.' E timoritia ana hoki ki te kakariki ano.
Perua, Whakakōpē—Perua (a decoy-parrot): Williams adds, 'one on a perch being termed mokai, and one held by the fowler whakakope,' which needs some modifying; a fowler did not hold the decoy. The term whakakōpē, might have been confined to the temporary decoy with the crushed beak. See kōpē 3 in Williams' Maori Dictionary.
Whakahope—A decoy-parrot, says Williams.
Manu taupunga—A decoy-bird.
Puarere—A decoy-bird, of small birds.
When a Maori wished to keep a captured parrot as a mokai his first act was to prevent it escaping; this was done by means of a cord, one end of which was secured to one of the bird's legs, and the other end usually to a rod termed a hoka. The bird was but seldom separated from the rod, for when the bird was taken into the woods to be used as a decoy the fowler took rod and bird together. So have I seen the fowler striding along with the rod resting on his shoulder and the parrot perched on the outer end of the rod behind him. The cord used to tie a parrot was called a mdikaika, and this was not secured directly to the bird's leg, but to a ring of bone, stone, or other material that encircled that leg; this ring was known as a poria, maria, komore, and takaore. The first of these names seems to be the most widely known, the second is used in the Bay of Plenty district, the third at Waiapu, while Wairarapa folk gave the fourth. In some cases the cord was not tied to the rod, but was passed through a hole in such rod, and then some object was attached to the end of the cord so that it could not be withdrawn through the hole.
These leg-rings were fashioned from human bone, whale's bone, bird's bones, greenstone, the epidermis of the midrib of the leaf of Cordyline indivisa, etc. In some cases they received special names, a specimen in the Dominion Museum fashioned from a kiwibone was called by its Whanganui owners Nga Wai-takahia; it is No. 3823, and was presented to the Museum by Ropata Rangitahua of Koriniti in 1921. Such rings were carefully fashioned, and many were adorned in divers ways; the most highly prized rings were those fashioned from greenstone (nephrite or jade), or from the bones of a tribal enemy; those of stone and bone have, not infrequently, been given a cruciform shape. The hoka was a rounded rod of hardwood about one page 203inch in diameter and four or five feet in length, or even longer; the Raukawa folk term it a turuturu.
The best form of perch and shelter provided for mokai kaka were such as were covered by a roof of bark. Such a whata kaka often consisted of a long, narrow form of trough, or perchance merely a slab, elevated some four or five feet on two posts. A roof of bark or other material over this sheltered the birds from excessive heat and rain to some extent. Several birds might be kept at such a place, but each would have its own hoka or perch-rod, and these were not placed close together. In order to fix these perches a favoured plan was to bore a hole in the side of the horizontal waka or trough and insert the end of the hoka in this hole so that the rod was in a horizontal position, or possibly with its outer end somewhat higher than the elevated trough. The captive bird would often walk to and fro along this rod, but it was too hard for it to destroy by gnawing. If several birds were kept at a whata then one saw a series of rods extending outward from the trough, each furnished with a bird occupant. Occasionally a whata kaka showed some carved design. Wakefield mentions that the perching-rods were often slim and pliant, and that the captive birds learned to swing on them. It may be said that captive birds were not always well treated by the natives, for they often suffered from neglect and the callous side of Maori character. In some cases the food for a captive parrot was deposited in the hollow of the waka, or a cavity in the cap-piece; but if two or more birds were kept at the same place and any trouble occurred at meal times, then each bird had its own little netted bag in which its food was placed, and which bag was tied to the hoka or perch; the bird pulled its food out through the meshes. This netted open-mesh bag is known as a kori to the Raukawa natives, as a torehe to Waiapu folk, and as a rohe to the Matatua tribes; it was made of dressed Phormium fibre, and not from the raw leaf. When food for a parrotwas placed in it then the mouth of the little bag was closed by drawing it in. A similar contrivance was used in baiting a taruke koura (crayfish pot).
The Maori tells us that female parrots become tame sooner than the male bird, but they are not always satisfactory as decoys, sometimes shewing timidity; young birds are said to have been preferable for decoy work. These captive birds were often given names, in some cases that of an ancestor of the owner. Decoy-parrots were used in both the taki and tutu methods of taking the kaka. Mohi Turei informed me that there were three common methods of taking the kaka, viz., by spear, by the taki, and by the mutu; the second of these methods includes three different ways of actually securing the birds. page 204Quoth Mohi: "The first way of taking the kaka was by piercing them with spears when the tawari, kohai and whinau were in fruit. The second way was by means of a decoy; a parrot was caught to serve as a decoy, a rude booth was constructed, outside of which a perching-rod was fixed, while a decoy-bird was fastened below it, the fowler being within the booth with his slip nooses arranged on rods. He would cause the decoy to screech, whereupon the parrots would be attracted to the place, where they would alight on the rongohua (perch), whereupon the fowler would slip the nooses over their heads, pull the lines, and so kill the birds.
"In the third method a platform was constructed among the branches of a lofty tree and a similar shelter-booth erected on it, for which purpose branchlets of the same tree might be used, so as to conceal the fowler; then uprights were set up and secured whereon to place the mutu or peke snaring-perches. The booth would be some little distance below the summit of the tree, and four, six, or eight snares might be set up; the decoy would be secured in the middle, between the different snare-stands. Then the decoy would be made to screech out, whereupon parrots would come to look into the matter and so settle on the snare-rigged perches, the pendant cords would be jerked by the fowler or fowlers, the feet of the birds would be caught, the perches would be taken down, the birds killed, and the perches and re-arranged snares replaced above for other birds to alight on, and so it would continue until the whole flock was taken." (See No. 14 of Addenda.)
All fowlers seem to have had the same ways of irritating a decoy, and so causing it to screech out in so discordant a manner, and that was by pulling the string attached to its leg, or by teasing it with a stick. Here we see the origin of an old Maori saying that is about equivalent to our "The labourer is worthy of his hire"—and which runs: Me whangai ano te mokai kaka e ngete ai, meaning, that if you want a decoy parrot to do its work well you must feed it properly. The terms nga, ngenge and ngete denote the peculiar sounds made by such decoys.
In the taki-method of taking the kaka the lure of the decoy is the principal reliance of the fowler, hence doubtless the use of the word taki (to attract, etc.) to describe the method. When preparing his stand the fowler would procure a straight pole and lash it to two trees, sometimes in a horizontal position, but some fowlers preferred to secure them in a slanting position. This pae, as it was called, would be say, 6ft. or 8ft. above the ground, and another pole or rod was placed against it in a sloping position; this latter was known as the taki, and its lower end was thrust into the earth in page 205order to keep it steady, or, by tying the upper end of the pae the same result was obtained. The angle at which this taki rod was placed was such as would enable parrots to walk down it with ease, if a kaka makes any such movement with ease, for most of its movements appear awkward.
At the base of the taki-rod the decoy parrot would be secured, and a fowler endeavoured to so train these decoys that they would busy themselves in scratching the debris on the ground and in uttering the discordant sounds it seems to give to when so engaged. A favoured plan was to give the creature a bone, which it would mouth, and gnaw at, and mumble, and croak over in a manner that attracted the wild parrots. These latter would gradually approach, being attracted by the sounds, until one or more would settle on the pae, from which the decoy and its actions would be inspected with great gravity and close attention.
Now quite close to the lower part of the oblique taki-rod our friend the fowler would be squatting, awaiting the arrival of Tumataika. He would be concealed within a rude booth made by sticking some leafy branches or tree-fern fronds in the ground; a few branches so thrust in to the earth and having a number of large fern fronds placed outside them, makes a very good screen. If the patient fowler were not provided with a decoy he would use a call leaf (pepe) and so attract the parrots until he caught one, which he would utilize as a decoy. Possibly several parrots would reach the pae ere one ventured to walk down the sloping taki-pdle. This downward walk is always a slow one, the parrot turns from side to side as it descends, peering at the decoy and the booth with owl-like solemnity; when it reaches the lower part of the pole, just opposite the waiting fowler, then something happens. Several methods were employed for securing the birds when so attracted by the decoy; in some cases the bird was struck down with a hardwood stick called a hauhau and then despatched. Another method was that known as tari, a running noose formed on the end of a cord was arranged on the end of a stick so that the fowler could slip it over a bird's head as he sat in his shelter, as described by Mohi. Yet another way to take the inquisitive parrot was to grasp it in the hands; some seized it by the neck, but others caught it by seizing its half-distended wings as it waddled down the pole. Some despatched the birds by crushing their heads with a vigorous bite; Downes states that Whanganui natives killed them with a small club termed a kuru, a method that I have not seen employed.
The best decoy for taking this parrot is that kind known as tata-apopo, this when taking them by the taki method; but when using page 206the mutu for the purpose then the tarariki is said to be the best; female birds are said to be too apt to become alarmed when many parrots gather round; they do not act in a natural or desirable manner, but cease to scratch the ground and practise other activites that attract the wild birds. Should it so occur that a decoy did not attract other birds, then some more vigorous action on its part was necessary, hence a wing of a captured bird would be broken, a piece of it would be torn out and given to the decoy, whereupon it would proceed to gnaw at it, and utter the harsh sounds that these birds give off at such a time.
Waiapu natives explained that these parrots were also taken by this taki method without any decoy-bird being used; this method was practised at a place where the birds were wont to go when athirst. If the water were that of a stream, then it became necessary to blind the waters thereof by covering them with branches, leaving one or more clear spaces where birds might gain access to the water, and whereat the taki apparatus would be arranged; tree-fern fronds are excellent blinds to use in such cases. The base of the sloping pole in this case would be in the water, and the bird walked down the pole to reach the water. In using the striking rod (hauhau or whiu) the operator held it over the upper part of the taki or rongohua pole, his arm being thrust through the frail wall of his booth for the purpose. When the descending bird got well down the pole the fowler would sweep his rod down the pole and strike the parrot down. Haply some pigeons or a few tui would also be taken at such a time. The birds were killed by biting their heads. In this case no decoy was used, for the birds were athirst and the water served as a decoy. Some fowlers caught the birds by hand under these circumstances. As each bird was taken and killed its body was concealed within the booth, lest it be seen by living birds, which would be unlucky, for the fowler. The Matatua folk seemed ever to prefer taking these parrots by hand when following the taki method. During the rarangi taki season of 1909 large numbers of kaka were taken by old methods at Maungapohatu.
The terms tari, here, and tahere are employed to denote the taking of a bird by slipping a running noose over its head, but, as a rule, each district has its special term so used, to the exclusion of others. When taking birds by this method a fowler would prepare a number of these ton-nooses extended on the ends of as many light rods, and these would be laid aside ready to be snatched up and used. Waiapu folk termed this procedure here kaka, and, when an open noose was slipped over a parrot's head it was jerked backward toward the tail of the bird, in order to tighten the slip knot round its neck. One page 207informant told me that the actual killing was done by squeezing the bird's neck, this was done quickly, lest the cries of the bird alarm its fellows. This method was adopted in places much frequented by parrots, such as Paihau, Hika-ahi-ka-roa, Puke-wharangi and Tahanga in the above-mentioned district.
In taking the kaka by means of the mutu the Maori used this appliance in two ways; in some cases these snaring-perches were used in ground-work, being set up at a booth or screen of branches that concealed the fowler; in others they were used aloft only, set up among the branches of trees. So far as my knowledge extends the Tuhoe folk used the mutu only in the latter way, for ground-work they practised the taki mode, and the tari, hauhau or hopu manner of securing the birds. The Whanganui method of using the mutu (or, as it is there termed, the tuke), as described by Downes, seems to have been the same as that described by Travers in vol. 4 of the Trans. N.Z.L, at p. 210. As described by Downes, the Whanganui natives used the mutu on terra firma only, and did not operate them among the branches, as was done elsewhere. Yet they used the ordinary snare, ahere, taeke, wherewith to take these parrots among the branches, which is much less satisfactory than the mutu. With the taeke form of snare a bird is caught by the neck, and, owing to the struggling of the bird when caught, the running noose soon does its work; it cannot escape and gives no trouble, hence other birds often come and are caught by the side of one or more lifeless birds; this means that the fowler never had to stay by his taeke snares when taking pigeons, tui, etc., he simply visited them once or twice a day,, removed the dead birds, rearranged the snares, and passed on. But when Tumātāika the kākā is being ensnared it behoves the fowler to be ever on hand quickly to attend to birds when caught, otherwise they will soon sever the cord with their rending beaks, and so escape. Now the advantage of the mutu over the ordinary form of snare (taeke, ahere, etc ) is that the operator does not have to go to each mutu-snare when a bird is caught in order to take it and reset the loop snare; the mutu is attached to a rod, but the rod is not secured to anything, being merely suspended by a hook, thus when a bird is caught the fowler keeps the cord taut with one hand, grasps the rod with the other, lifts it down, kills the bird, rearranges the snare and thrusts the rod up and suspends it again without changing his position. The taeke form of snare is not so portable, and a kaka could not be left alone when caught in one as other birds were; it must be put out of action ere it releases itself.
Taking kaka by means of mutu was practised in summer and early winter, when the birds were in good condition, which depended on page 208the food obtainable. When feeding on the wai kaihua or nectar contained in blossoms of the rata both mutu and spear were used in taking them, but the best place to use the mutu at is certainly in the head of the tree where the attractive blossoms are, not on the ground far below. The use of these implements among the topmost branches of rata trees has often been described to me by natives, and I have seen platforms and the row-form of ladder on trees.
Trees on which birds are taken by means of the mutu method of snaring are called tutu, and the species usually used as tutu are the miro, hinau, maire, kahikatea, tawai, rata and rimu. The kaka does not appreciate the fruit of the tawa as does the pigeon, but it is partial to the berries of the tawiniwini (Gaultheria), miro, hinau, etc., etc. We must also note that birds often frequent, and are taken on, trees that provide little or no bird-food.
The implement called mutu is known by at least four other names; among the Matatua and some other tribes the name mutu is used, in the Waikato district it is termed tumu, at Waiapu peke, at Horowhenua tekateka, while at Whanganui and the Napier district tuke seems to be generally used. Like many other simple implements the mutu enters into Maori myth, as when Whakatau went to attack the folk of the Tihi o Manono. Those strange folk tried many methods of attack, but all were in vain, for Whakatau brought confusion upon all. Then one strove to slay him by flying through space, but Whakatau the wily set up a great mutu, on which the flying man alighted, and so perished.
The above names of the implement were used in a generic sense, for there were different forms of these perches, each form having its distinctive name. The difference usually consisted of the pae (perch being at a different angle with regard to the shank or vertical part of the implement; the forms known to the writer are as follows; their names are those of the Matatua district:—
Huanui—The pae or perch is at right angles to the shank, or trends upward somewhat from the shank.
Porae—The perch is curved, convex side uppermost. Nos. 1 and 2 generally placed over the fowler's position.
Kapu—Has a curved perch, convex side downward.
Kīra—The perch slants upward in a marked manner from the shank, and this form is used when the rod it is attached to is placed at a low angle with reference to the abiding place of the fowler.
In addition to the above Williams gives a and hao as names of mutu, the latter having a curved perch, it is probably the same as the kapu. Taking these forms on the whole it will be seen that, when lashed by the shank to a straight rod, they were suited for using at different page 209angles to the platform of the fowler. Thus a kira having a perch with a sharp upward trend might be placed in a position almost horizontal and yet provide a suitable perch for birds.
A peculiar form of mutu seen in the Whanganui Museum resembles a kapu, but below the perch is a strut-like attachment resembling the kake of a pewa; the utility of this on a one-piece mutu is not clear to the writer, the perch of the pewa was a separate piece, not a part of the tia-haere or rod, hence the bracing by means of the kake and turi. One of the advantages of the kapu-form of perch is that the snare catches the legs of the doomed bird high up; the same effect can be gained by making the hole for the snare-cord high up on the mahunga (upper part of the shank). A mutu with no mahunga or projection extending above the perch is called a mutu porepore, and in these a hole had to be bored diagonally through the top of the shank for the cord of the snare to pass through; with this form of snaring perch the loop of the snare would merely grip the claws of a captive.
A reference to Fig. 4 will shew the simple form of this implement. The shank and pae or perch are in one piece, being a branch fork of the desired angle, not in the rough, but worked down to the required size and of fair surface. The lashing shows how the mutu is secured to the rod called ti-haere, tia-haere and kokirikiri; the short stick contained by the lashing forms a crotch by which the apparatus may be suspended. The loop of the snare, when arranged, hangs down as shown in the diagram on either side of the perch, and extends as far as the shank, from which point the single cord passes through the mahunga or head of the shank and down to the platform where the fowler is squatting inside his rude shelter. In order that the arranged snare should not be easily disarranged it was confined under the two ngingita, which were two pieces of pliant vine, or lengths of quills, that were passed through holes bored in the perch, bent close in to the perch and there secured by ties. When the pendant snare loop was pushed under these pieces they remained in position until a bird alighted on the perch and the fowler gave a quick, strong tug that snatched the loop free, caused it to grip the legs of the bird and jam them up against the top of the shank. As explained the fowler kept the strain on the cord with one hand as he took the rod down with the other so as to secure the bird, or he secured the taut cord to the rod, and so left the cord-pulling hand free. Occasionally a fowler who was attending to several snares might have two or three perches occupied at the one time, in which case he would clutch a cord and tug it, so as to grip the bird, then place the cord under his foot and put his weight on it, so that the bird could not escape, then swiftly pull another cord, and so on; he might take several birds almost at once page 210in this way. An expert, when pulling the cord, gives it a quick, vigorous tug, and, as his hand descends, it is turned so that the palm thereof is uppermost at the conclusion of the pull.
We have seen that the rod to which the snaring perch called a mutu was attached was suspended on a tree top, but in most cases it was not so hung on a tree branch. Birds frequent trees in order to feed on berries, leaves, or nectar, and in most cases these food-supplies are on the outside, at or near the extremities of branches, hence it would not be advisable to place snares inside the bushy outer foliage, they should be outside the leafage, where there is nought to hang a snare on. Occasionally a dead and bare branch would be found projecting from the foliage, and, if suitable, this was used as a hiwi on which to hang the tia-haere (or kokirikiri) with its attached mutu and snare. Such a hiwi, as these supports were called, was known as a hiwi ariki. In some districts these hiwi are called pouaka, as at Waikato; in the Waiapu district they are known as turi or turuturu. The pekapeka or short attached piece to form a crotch on the tiahaere, was not always used, for on the east coast the bottom of the shank was often cut away obliquely, or so hewn as to present an offset tang that served the same purpose, the providing of a crotch by means of which the apparatus could be hooked on to the hiwi. The pekapeka or crotch it formed was also known as kōpāpā, rera, korera, tokorera, tokorerarera, and turi When a mutu had not the oblique shank end, and no pekapeka was used, then a small piece of wood was inserted between the shank and the tia haere so as to cause the lower end of the shank to stand out from the tia rod, and so providing the necessary crotch for hooking on to the turi or hiwi as the Tuhoe folk term it. This is a Waiapu usage. The hiwi were, naturally, of differing lengths, say from four to six or seven feet as a rule, and they were lashed permanently to branches, not removed at the close of the season, hence they were durable timber, as totara, maire, mapou, etc. Those that were fixed above the platform of the fowler were set up in a vertical position, and were called pou tauru or pou whakaara; on these the parae and kapu forms of mutu were used, and some of the huanui. A notch cut in the end of the hiwi served to accommodate the crotch on the tia-haere rod, the lashing material used in securing these supports was aka-tea, a durable vine, this was more satisfactory for the purpose than any form of fibre. The hiwi used with a kira perch was secured at a low angle, not far from the horizontal, the others were set at varying angles between perpendicular and the kira, thus these hiwi and their accompanying tiahaere, mutu and snares covered a segment of nearly ninety degrees, and, when page 211 page 212 page 213 the other side of the tree-top was beset with snares then the area covered was one of nearly 180°. In some cases two fowlers would occupy one platform, and each would attend to a 90° sweep of the tree top.
The ends of these hiwi protruded outside the foliage of the tree, so that a mutu perch set thereon was in plain sight of any bird approaching or circling the tree. The bird would probably take advantage of a resting place so desirably placed—to its own undoing. The fact is that the projecting hiwi looked very much like the dead, bare, weatherbeaten branch ends often seen protruding from a tree top, and such an aspect is described by the terms hiwi and kohiwi.
Mutu was fashioned from forked branches of tawhero, tanekaha, maire, totara, matai, and a number of other trees. In some cases they were adorned with carved designs, especially on the eastern side of the island, and occasionally small pieces of brightly coloured Haliotis shell were countersunk in such carved designs, as, for instance, to serve as eyes in the grotesque heads that were sometimes carved on the upper part of the shank. The knoblike outer end of the perch the toretore, was also carved in some cases, and some light notches might be cut along the perch; always these perches were exposed to the weather for a considerable time ere being used, so that they might become weather-beaten, old looking; birds dislike settling on perches that look new. These mutu were sometimes given special names, such as one numbered 3822 in the Dominion Museum, the name of which is Rerehau; it was presented to the Museum by Rangitahua of Whanganui.
* Not maimai, which is an Australian aboriginal term, introduced into Otago by gold-diggers and sheep-men from Australia.
In his admirable paper on the Maori fowler and his methods, as pertaining to the Whanganui district, Mr. Downes describes several forms of mutu not mentioned above. See the Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 37. His Fig. 25 at p. 24 depicts the usual form, but at p. 22 we are introduced to a kind of hybrid form, a combined tia-haere and mutu as shown in his Figs. 18 and 19. See our Figs. 4, 5 for this novel form, where it will be seen that a straight-stemmed, small tree having a diameter of about 1¼ in. or 1½ in. was sought, one having a branch growing at an angle of about 45°. This branch was cut off at about 8 in. from the main stem in order that it might serve as a perch. One would have supposed that the stem would have been cut off about 2 in. above the branch so as to retain a mahunga through which to reeve the cord, as in east coast forms, but not so, the stem was cut even with the upper surface of the branch, as though a mutu porepore were desired. Again not so, for the next thing done was to tie a piece of bent vine over the angle to serve as a mahunga, and through this the cord of the snare was passed. (We may be fairly sure that, in many cases wherein the Maori has bored holes in artifacts for generations past, other devices were employed in pre-European times.) Bunches of kaka feathers were then tied at either end of the perch, as shown in his Fig. 25, and this is another novelty to an east coaster, where berries and blossoms were so attached to a mutu, or pewa, but only occasionally with respect to the former. This is the only case I have heard of in which a native has asserted that feathers were so used, and I can hardly believe that they would serve as a lure. It might be thought that the piece of vine lashed on would serve to hook over a branch or the rails shown in his Fig. 18, but they are not so utilized, the rods are apparently merely leaning against the horizontal rails, the crotch formation being well above them. They look as if they would be very unsteady when a parrot alighted on them, but possibly the lower ends were pointed and thrust into the earth. The decoy bird seems to be doing its duty. It is hard to accept kohupapa as a name for the spot where the fowler crouched; probably the word employed by the native who gave the information was kahupapa, but this term would not be employed to denote the small area of ground on which the fowler was kneeling or page 215squatting, for the word means 'platform, stage, etc' Inasmuch as the rata tree under which these peculiar mutu were used does not provide the kaka with any food save the nectar in its blossoms, then it would be preferable to use the mutu among the branches where the birds were collected, as was done elsewhere. To set up the mutu on the ground would mean that the birds must be lured away from an attractive food supply.
Fig. 20 in Mr. Downes' article shows a series of snares so set as to be suspended a litle way above a horizontal branch. The bent piece of vine lashed to the branch whereto one end of the kaha or suspension was secured is a somewhat unusual feature. In such cases, when there was no lateral branch to tie the cord to, a substitute was often provided by lashing a rod to the branch in a vertical position, its upper or lower end, as the case might be, being tied to another branch. Some fowlers again preferred to use a horizontal rod in place of a cord to attach the snares to; a cord so used is referred to as a kaha, tāhu, tāhuhu, takeke, karewa, and taiki; a rod so used is a tāhū. A long suspension cord for snares might be braced by tying it to one or more upright rods tied to branches, these would be called turuturu. When no suitable branch to set snares on was handy then a rod would be lashed to branches in a horizontal position for birds to settle on; this would be termed a paerangi, rongohua or tuhunga. This way of snaring kaka, as described by Mr. Downes, was assisted by the use of a decoy, but the fowler would have to remain close at hand to take and kill the parrots as soon as they were caught in the snares, otherwise they would free themselves. One can leave pigeons and many other birds in the snares, but not the kaka; if one of these parrots gets caught in an unattended snare, as set for pigeons for example, then the result is a wrecked snare. Not for Tumataika the turbulent is the kawau moe roa or 'long slumbering cormorant,' as the Maori terms any form of net, trap or other device for taking fish or game that is left unattended.
It is not explained as to where the decoy was stationed in the above-mentioned method of taking parrots, or just what it was supposed to do, how it induced the birds to ensnare themselves; to use a decoy parrot for ordinary taeke snares seems to be highly unusual, and this is the only case in which I have heard of such snares being set for kaka.
The ordinary form of mutu is called tuke and tuke-a-Maui at Whanganui, we are told. Tuke= elbow seems a suitable name for it, while Tuke o Maui is, according to Taylor, a name for Orion's Belt, called Tuke o Tautoru in some districts. This short form of page 216snaring perch was also used under, not on trees, and Mr. Downes' paper seems to prove that natives of the Whanganui district did not employ the takiri method of taking birds, i.e., by using the mutu, in tree-tops, but only on terra firma, although they ascended trees in order to spear birds and to work snaring troughs for pigeons. This is a singular fact, for birds congregate round the head of a tree where their food supply is.
Another form of mutu illustrated and described by Mr. Downes may be called a combination form; the perch was about 4 ft. in length and accommodated four snares, as shown in his Fig. 27. This elongated perch is said to have been lashed to a pole in some way and worked from a shelter, a decoy being used. Some further illustration of this apparatus, and explanation of the method of working it would be welcomed.
In his Fig. 27 Mr. Downes shews a mutu rigged with a double snare, i.e., a double loop; this form was used when birds were numerous, and on it two birds might be taken at one and the same time. The running noose was of course the loop used with the mutu, but Waiapu folk told me that their elders occasionally used a tamarua loop for the purpose, a doubled cord, a non-slipping loop; it was arranged in the same manner as the slip noose. The terms whakatohe, whakakatohe, whakakorekore and whakawene describe this act of arranging a noose or a perch, the word tohe meaning a snare. The terms ahere, karau, karu, karumahanga, kopeti, koputa, koromahanga, mahanga manga pihere reti, rore, taeke, tahei, taraharaha, tarahanga, torohere are all applied to snares.