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The Autobiography of a Maori

Snaring the Kaka

Snaring the Kaka

In early spring it was the habit of the kaka to fly about in large numbers. Because some have been found exhausted near the coast, the natives say the kaka, like the shining-cuckoo, is a migratory bird, and it is on its return to New Zealand that it is seen in large numbers. This view is, of course, incorrect. It is probable that a bird was blown out to sea by a strong gale and, in flying back to the land became exhausted. I have never troubled to find out why the kaka did fly about in large numbers and very often over grassy and bare hills where no berries could be found.

Snaring the kaka was a very fascinating practice. Strangely enough, my father did not take any interest in snaring the kaka, one reason, I suppose, was because at this season the bird was not in good condition. I generally accompanied Pepene on a kaka-snaring expedition. A prominent hill where a large tree grew was chosen as our base, and here a little hut of green branches was erected Just outside the hut, and between it and the tree, a perch was provided and tied to the perch was the decoy. As soon as a flock of kaka was seen, the hunter would imitate the cry of the bird and the flock, hearing this, would make for the tree. He at once concealed himself within the hut and urged the decoy to entice its unwary fellows to come nearer. A large flock filled the tree and in response to the invitation of the decoy, the more curious ones left the tree and alighted on the perch. The hunter adroitly snared one of the curious birds and pulled page 43it inside the hut. As the bird was being dragged inside, the man caught its head and instantly crushed it between his teeth. It was necessary to kill the bird quickly before it could give a warning cry to its fellows. A first-class and well-trained decoy was incessant in its enticing cry and often scratched the ground with its talons as though he were digging up some dainty morsel. It was an instance of most disgusting treachery.

Usually a flock of kaka had a leader, or manu-whakataka-pokai as it is called in Maori, and when its plumage was redish it was called kaka-kura. An experienced snarer always tried to catch the leading bird, for if he succeeded in doing that he could catch the whole flock for there would be no one to give the command to move on. A kaka-snaring spot was always regarded as private—it belonged to the family and for anybody else to use it without permission was to trespass.