Tui in New Zealand

The Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is an endemic New Zealand bird. It belongs to the honeyeater family. Its name is derived from the Maori language. In earlier times, the English settlers called it the parson bird, because of its dark plumage with white neck feathers.


The Tui photographed here is from a farm stay at Matamata district, in the North Island in December 2013. It is interesting to note that its feathers has a metallic blue-green sheen to their underlying black colour that changes hue depending on the angle of light.


It is seen here with it’s favourite plant, the New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax). The curvature of the bird’s bill matches the shape of the flower of the flax plant, enabling easy feeding of the nectar. This is a good example of mutualistic coevolution.


The orange colour around the bird’s bill and forecrown is actually the pollen of the flax plant. So for the price of some sweet nectar, the Tui gladly acts as a pollinator of the plant.


Interestingly, sometimes the nectar ferments and as a result, Tuis can be seen flying drunk. Perhaps that’s why there is a brand of beer called Tui!


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