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Niuē-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People

Birds (manu-lele)

Birds (manu-lele)

The most important of the Niuē birds is the common domestic fowl called moa. It has been on the island from ancient times, and was no doubt brought there by the early inhabitants, for it is a very ancient possession of the Polynesians. The fowl bears the same name in Tonga, Samoa, Futuna, Fiji (toa), Uea, Rarotonga, Tahiti, Paumotu, Mangareva, Marquesas, and Hawaii, whilst in New Zealand, where the Maoris had no fowls, the name is applied to the Dinornis. The following are the birds of Niuē:—

Veka.—This bird is extinct; the natives told me it is now impossible to get a specimen. From their description it must have been very like the New Zealand and Samoan bird (weka in New Zealand, re'a in the latter dialect—Rallus pectoralis). It was from six to eight inches high, and mottled brown in color; was a dirty feeder, fond of offal, &c. In Tonga there is a bird named reka: and in Futuna, a reka of grey color, with long tail.

Kalē, or Kulē.—A species of Porphyrio; in plumage and size, apparently exactly like our New Zealand pukeko, or pakura (Porphyrio, melanotus), and very nearly like the Samoan bird (manu-ali'i, and manu-sā, Porphyrio Samoensis). Like its New Zealand cousin, it steals page 23 the roots from the cultivations. This bird has many stories connected with it in various islands of the Pacific. In New Zealand it is connected with the Māui myths. Some Samoan stories about it will be found in “O le tala i manu,” by the Rev. Thos. Powell, F.L.S., p. 189. The Niuē people have the following brief story: “The Veka and the Kalē once met and had a conversation, during which the Kalē derided the Veka on account of its filthy living; whilst the Veka accused the other of its predatory habits of stealing from the cultivations. The two birds then went down to the reef, where they found a great clam (Gēegēe)), and the Veka told the Kalē to tickle it near the hinge of its shell, which it did, thus causing the clam to open wide its shell. The Veka now induced the Kalē to put its legs into the open chasm, and as soon as he did so the clam closed its shells and held the Kalē tight. Thus he remained, to the amusement of the Veka, until the tide rose, when the clam opened his mouth and allowed the Kalē to escape; but in his struggles to free himself the Kalē's legs were drawn out quite long and became red, which they remain to this day.”

Lupe.—A large wood pigeon, about the same size as the New Zealand pigeon (kereru, kuku, kukupa, and emblematically rupe, Carpophaga Novae Zealandiae.) It is very like the kereru in coloring also. There is a lupe in Tonga, a pigeon; one (lupe, C. Pacifica), in Samoa; also pigeons having the same native names (lupe) in Rarotonga, Tahiti, Futuna (lupe), Fiji, rupe or rure; whilst in Mangareva the pigeon or ring-dove is kuku, in Hawaii monu, and in Nukuoro manu-nono (a dove). Formerly these birds were caught by decoy birds and nets, and it was an occupation or amusement of the chiefs, as it was in Samoa.

Kulukulu.—The dove, a pretty little bird, whose sweet “coo” is constantly heard in the woods. It is green on the back, greyishgreen on the breast, red on top of the head, and yellow under the tail—from 6 to 8 inches long. There is a dove called kulukulu in Tonga; in Samoa a species of Columba, whether identical or not I cannot say, called fiaui; in Futuna a dove called kulukulu: whilst in Tahiti there is a species of Columba called ‘u'upa = Maori kukupa, the name for the pigeon. The yellow feathers of the kulukulu on Niuē are much prized for purposes of ornamentation.

Henga.—The parroquet, which is a pretty little bird very like the New Zealand species (kakariki) but smaller; it has blue feathers on the top of the head, red on the throat and lower part of the belly, and all the rest dark green. In Tonga the parroquet is called kaka, the Maori word for a parrot. In Samoa the senga is the Coriphilus fringillacous, a parroquet about the same size as its Niuē cousin. In Futuna the senga is a red and green parroquet.

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MOHO.—A small land rail, about 5 or 6 inches high, brown on the back and sides, shading off into grey on the sides. It has a loud note, and is not unlike the New Zealand moho, or rail (Rallus-philippensis). There is a Tongan bird named moho, a Samoan bird mosomoso, Futuna moso, a small-back bird, Rarotonga mo‘o, Hawaii moho, but whether of the same species I know not.

PEKA.—The flying fox. which appears to me to be the same species as in Rarotonga with the same name. In Tonga and Fiji the bat is beka, and in Samoa the flying fox is pe'a (Pteropus, three species), and peka in Futuna. In Nukuoro peka is a bat, as it is in New Zealand. A story about the peka will be found later on. The bird (or beast, for of course it is an animal), is common, and large flocks of them are sometimes seen flying overhead. They are too fond of fruit.

PEKAPEKA.—A little swallow-like bird, black and grey in colour, that is constantly seen darting about after flies, &c. It seems to me to be the same bird as that of the same name in Tonga, and the pe‘ape‘a in Samoa (Callocalia spodiopygia) In Tahiti the same bird is called ope‘a.

MITI.—A small speckled brown bird, very common. In Tonga there is a bird named miji; in Samoa, three species of miti, the mitisina (Lalage terat), the miti-uli, and miti-rao (Aplonis brevirostris); Futuna, miti, three species.

Heahea.—A small black and grey bird, about the size of a sparrow, very common—a pretty little bird. The name appears to be local, for I cannot find it in any other dialect.

Lulu.—The owl, a very fine handsome bird, silver-grey mottled plumage, standing about 10 inches high. This bird is semi-sacred, the natives seem rather to fear it and object to catching it, though one was brought to me by a boy. This name for the owl is common in the Pacific. New Zealand, ruru (Spiloglaux Novae Zealandiæ); Samoa, lulu (Strix delicatula); Tonga, lulu, the owl; Futuna, lulu, the screech owl; Fiji, lulu, the owl; Rarotonga, ruru, the white heron, or the albatross; Tahiti, ruru, the albatross, also a land bird; whilst in Hawaii the owl is pu‘e‘o = Maori pukeko, the Porphyrio.

Motuku.—A sea-shore bird, a crane. There is another species, the motuku-tea, or white crane, but I saw neither. The equivalents in other islands are: New Zealand, matuku, the crane; Tonga, motuku, a sea gull; Samoa, matu‘u, the crane (Ardea sacra); Futuna, amatuku; Nukuoro, matuku, blue heron; Tahiti, ‘otu‘u (= Maori kotuku, the white heron); Rarotonga, kotuku, heron; Mangareva, kotuku, white heron.

Tuaki.—A handsome white gull, with two long white tail feathers, a species of man-o'-war, or tropic bird. The tail feathers are prized for ornamental purposes. There is another species, the tuaki-kula, page 25 which visits the island occasionally, that has two long red tail feathers, much prized by the natives. It is, I think, identical with the amo-kura of New Zealand, whose red tail feathers are equally highly prized by the Maoris. Sir W. L. Buller's description* of the tail feathers of the New Zealand bird fits exactly those from Niuē. He gives the name as Phaeton rubricauda, or red-tailed tropic bird. In Samoa, the same bird is called tara‘e-ula (in Maori tavake, an ancient personal name). In Tonga there is a bird called tu and tariki, but of what species I know not. In Rarotonga the frigate-bird is tarake. In Futuna the tarake is the “paille-en-queue”; in Mangareva it is tavake; whilst in Tahiti the tropic-bird is mauroa.

Taeetake.—Is a species of seagull, very like the above, beautifully white, but without the long white tail feathers. It is a very pretty little bird, about 8 to 10 inches high, and is often seen flying over the coco-nut trees. The name (though probably not the bird) is local, for I do not know of any bird's name like it in other dialects except New Zealand, where it is also the name of a gull, but I cannot say if the two birds are identical.

Gogo, kalāgi and kalūe are sea birds, which I did not see. A gull in New Zealand is also called ngongo.

Kiu—There are four species of this bird (at least four names)—kiu-ulu-fua, a reef bird, dark grey, about 10 inches high, long-legged; kiu-valuvalu, with long tail; kiu-hakumani, and kiu-uta. They are probably plovers.

Neither of the New Zealand cuckoos visit Niuē, though one—the kohoperoa—goes much farther away, to Tahiti, &e.

* “Birds of New Zealand,” vol. II., p. 186.

From the fact of there being a place in Niuē called Hiku-tavake (the tavake's tail) it would seem that the tropic bird, although now called tuaki, was once known as tavake, as in other islands.