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
Subspecies: Mainland Tui:      Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae ssp. novaeseelandiae
                      South Island Tui: Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae
                      Chatham Island Tui: Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae ssp. chathamensis
Common name: Tui, Parson bird, Poe bee-eater, New Zealand creeper, Koko, Mockingbird.

The Tui is a native to New Zealand. There are one species and two subspecies. 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 honeyeater 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 alike. 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 wheezy.  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 they are in possession of a favoured feeding tree.  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 is 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 nectar (winter-spring)
Kahikatea fruit (autumn)
Kohekohe nectar (winter)
Kowhai nectar (winter-spring)
NZ flax nectar (spring-summer)
Prunus spp. nectar (winter-spring)
Puriri nectar (autumn-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 an interesting link to an article by Geoff Moon on his watching magpies trying to attack tui young in a nest.http://www.tuitime.org.nz/info_nest/story1.htm


A Tui feeding on Phormium cookianum, Mountain flax, wharariki   


Mainland Tui 
feeding on Xeronema callistemon (Poor Knights lily)

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

An old tui nest

The tui singing its complicated song

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