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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

“Maui's Bird.”

“Maui's Bird.”

In Stewart Island, just as in the North, the annual arrival of the far-flying pipi-wharauroa, the shining cuckoo, from the tropic islands of the Pacific is the signal for the people of the native race to plant their food-crops. Its name means, literally, “long-journeying little bird.” Cruising around Paterson Inlet, long ago, I learned from an old Maori, Mohi, the folk-talk concerning this harbinger of summer weather. Its first long-drawn call is a reminder to get busy in the cultivations.

Here it has an honorific title, Te Manu a Maui, or “Maui's Bird.” Maui is the traditional tutelary deity of the food gardens. Its call when it first arrives on these shores in spring sounds like “Kwee, kwee, tio-o.” The Maoris interpret the “Kwee, kwee” as “Koia, koia” (“Dig away”), and they proceed to obey its musical injunction. Later on its clear whistling cry sounds to the Maori ear a paean of rejoicing at the warmth of midsummer, “Kui, Kui, whiti-whiti ora, tio-o!” This high call, with its melodious whistle at the end, is peculiarly the pipi-wharauroa's cry; it can never be mistaken for that of any other bird. But it is curiously interesting to find this same oft-repeated “tio, tio” call in the classic song of the hoopoe summoning its fellows in “The Birds” of Aristophanes.

The other cuckoo, the koekoea (or kohoperoa, (the long-tailed cuckoo) has a harsher note, but it, too, is a welcome visitant. The pipi-wharauroa seems to be less shy than its long-tailed cousin. This little messenger, whose life knows no winter, is sometimes to be heard even in gardens and plantations in the New Zealand towns.