T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae)

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genera: Prosthermadera
Species: Novaeseelandiae
Scientific Name: Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae
Common name: Tui, Parson bird, poe bee-eater, New Zealand creeper, koko, mocking bird.

The Tui is a native to New Zealand. There is one species and two sub species. Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae (Is the South Island Tui). The North Island tui is Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae ssp. Novaeseelandiae (called the Mainland Tui) and Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae ssp. Chathamensis (The Chatham Island Tui).
The Tui is one of the largest members of the diverse honey eater family.  Their size is 30 cm male and a 120 gm, female at 90 gm. Looks black in dull light, but has green, bluish-purple and bronze iridescent sheen, back and flanks dark reddish brown; with two white throat tufts (poi), a lacy collar of filamentous white feathers on neck; white wing bar; slightly curved black bill and strong black legs. Sexes are a like. Juvenile dull slate black with glossy wings and tail, greyish-white throat, lacks tufts.
They are energetic and acrobatic while feeding in trees on nectar and fruit. They are very noisy birds, always “carrying on”, chortling and chuckling, before bursting into a marvellous song. (see link below).  Its song has rich fluid melodic notes (often repeated) mixed with coughs, clicks, grunts and wheezesy.  It lives in native forests and scrub, farmland with kowhai, gums and flax, parks and local gardens. 
Male Tui can be extremely aggressive, chasing all other birds (large and small) from their territory with loud flapping and sounds akin to rude human speech. This is especially true of other Tui when possession of a favoured feeding tree is impinged. Birds will often erect their body feathers in order to appear larger in an attempt to intimidate a rival. They have even been known to mob harriers and magpies.
Nectar is the normal diet but fruit and insects are frequently eaten, and pollen and seeds more occasionally. Particularly popular is the New Zealand flax, whose nectar sometimes ferments, resulting in the Tui flying in a fashion that suggests that they might be drunk. Tui are the main pollinators of flax, kowhai, kaka beak and some other plants. Note that the flowers of the three plants mentioned are similar in shape to the Tui's beak—a vivid example of mutualistic coevolution.
Breeding takes place during Sept-Feb. During this time they can be seen to perform a mating display of rising at speed in a vertical climb in clear air, before stalling and dropping into a powered dive, then repeating. Females alone build untidy nests of twigs, grasses and mosses.

In 2007 a Department of Conservation project determine the 10 top Tui foods in New Plymouth are:
Banksia nectar (autumn-winter)
Camelia nectae (winter-spring)
Kahikatea fruit (autum)
Kohekohe nector (winter)
Kowhai nectar (winter-spring)
NZ flax nector (spring-summer)
Prunus spp. nectar (winter-spring)
Puriri nectar (auntum-winter
Rewarewa nectar (spring)
Totara fruit (summer-autumn)

Early Maori use to eat them fresh or preserved them in fat for later consumption during leaner times or to trade with other tribes. The feathers were used to make cloaks, or were worn in people’s hair.

This is and interesting link to and article by Geoff Moon of watching magpies trying to atttack tui young in a nest.http://www.tuitime.org.nz/info_nest/story1.htm

The tui singing its complicated songa

A Tui feeding on A Tui feeding on Phormium cookianum, Mountain flax, wharariki  


Two tui nests high in the trees.Visible after leaves have fallen.

Old tui nest

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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