Messages from birds: New Zealand’s native birds are the tweeters you should pay attention to

Illustrations Olivia Bezett

For centuries, birds have been adored by humans, many moments have been spent appreciating their exquisiteness. Indigenous cultures around the world have seen them as majestic messengers, watching their behaviours and listening to subtle changes to predict the future. Their feathers are used as tools to help in ritual ceremonies and healing practices; their plumes are worn in the hair and the most beautiful and powerful birds’ feathers woven into cloaks.

When we connect to birds’ energies we can listen to the messages these beautiful creatures bring us. They offer suggestions on how we, too, can connect more harmoniously to our environment.

Tūī: Adaptation

Tūī imitates the songs of other birds and even people. These birds were sometimes tamed and taught mihi (greetings), which they would recite when visitors arrived. Everyone knows the beautiful song of the tūī and if you watch them closely you will see they have no problem flying in and interrupting other birds with their abrupt entrances. “Everywhere you are you belong, speak up, what you have to say is important.”

Pīwakawaka Fantail: Change

The fantail has many different Māori names. In one Māori tradition, it was the fantail that caused Māui’s death, so it is known as a harbinger of death when seen inside a house. A fidgety person is described as a fantail’s tail, because of the bird’s restless movements. “Ready for change? A part of you is ready to end and a new experience ready to come forth.”

Kea Parrot: Attachment

The name of this mountain parrot sounds like its call – ‘keee aaa’. Many bird names were named after how they sound. These birds are very clever and cheeky. They are attracted to
anything gleaming. In some Māori traditions they were seen as guardians, which is ironic as they steal your shiny stuff. “Where are you getting distracted in life by the material influence, where is the trickery of your mind taking you away from the basic joy of your inner child?’’

Kōtare Kingfisher: Awareness

The word kōtare sometimes referred to the elevated platform in a pā, used to watch for enemies. The bird perches motionless then attacks its prey from out of nowhere. The kingfisher knows what to do and when to act, it is patient and alert to subtle changes in the environment. “Be aware, sit still and only at the perfect moment your inner instinct will know when to take precise action.”

Ruru Morepork: Take care

New Zealand’s native owl has large, staring eyes and a mournful cry. Their haunting cry and watchful nature are linked with tapu (spiritual restriction). They are symbolic of guardianship, forewarning, grief and awareness for Māori. “Are you taking enough care for yourself and your whānau and your provider, Papatūānuku (Earth Mother).”

Kererū Wood Pigeon: Abundance

The kererū’s colourful feathers were used to make cloaks. They were used as a staple food source for Māori and their feathers were also used to preserve food. We often see them eating berries alone in the bush, or balancing precariously on the thin branch of a kōwhai tree, but when we see these big clumsy birds in flocks it is quite a sight to be seenas their big wings plow their way through the trees. Abundance and wealth are on the cards when we see this majestic bird. “May you be flooded with all the abundance your heart desires.”

Kiwi: Worthiness

Our national treasure, the kiwi, is known as the hidden bird of Tāne (god of the forest). The kiwi is taonga (treasure) to Māori, who have strong cultural and spiritual associations with it. Its feathers were used for weaving into cloaks for the high ranks. These barely seen birds seem to not really do a lot, they don’t even fly, which is why they are so vulnerable in their natural habitat. “There is no need to gain respect through force, you are worthy just as you are. Sometimes the power is in the silence.”

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