Monday, November 23, 2009

Birds of a Feather

The Kakariki is a small brightly coloured native parakeet that lives in and around the edges of native forest, often in large noisy groups. The red feathers of their head were prized by Maori for use in feather cloaks, or to secure to the ends of tiaiha (spears). The birds were caught with handmade snares using bait as berries. As legend has it, Maori used to believe that the brilliant orange-red feathers of another, much larger native parrot, the kaka, which has an incredible burst of colour under its brown-green wings, were stolen from the kakariki. Kakariki in fact, literally means small kaka. As Margaret Orbell points out in her very useful book, The Natural World of Maori, the birds sometimes raucous chatter has been likened to human behaviour in the simile 'ko te rua porete hai whakarite,' ‘just like a nest of kakariki.’ I took these photos of kakariki on Ulva Island, near Stewart Island – with a very small camera and from a long distance, hence the blurry quality. But they give you an idea of the kakariki’s vibrant colouring and distinctive red head.

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