'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Grey warbler and shining cuckoo

I've been hearing the grey warbler, riroriro, as I weed and plant in the garden.  And today I heard the shining cuckoo, pipiwharauroa,  so at least one is back from overwintering in the Solomon Islands.  

The warbler has a particularly tiny hanging nest with a very small opening and it's a bit of a mystery how cuckoos get in to lay.   Now the secret is out.  A cuckoo (about the size of a sparrow) has been seen carrying its own egg in its beak and popping it in!
After the chick has hatched, it ejects all the warbler chicks (usually the warbler's second brood, fortunately) and the minute warbler parents work like crazy bringing up the large impostor.

Hmmm, I had hoped to paste a MP3 recoding here, but have had problems.  So if you'd care to take a little detour now, the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary website has a lovely selection of recordings of New Zealand native birds including the shining cuckoo.  Once you have heard the distinctive call, you never forget it.

There is an old Maori story: 

In spring, the song of riroriro the grey warbler  meant it was time to plant the crops. Some people were lazy. They didn’t work hard in their gardens and in the winter they would grumble because they were hungry. The people who had grown plenty of food would laugh and say, "I hea koe I te tangihanga o te riroriro?" which means, "Where were you when the riroriro sang?"


  1. I like the old maori story - It sounds like a variation on the story of the Little Red Hen.

    In early NZ as you probably know (before the introduction of exotic species such as rats and stoats and weasels) we had what was called the 'Dawn Chorus' - the song of so many birds that they acted like an alarm clock of sorts - sad that that has all gone - but it may be revived again in special areas like off shore islands where introduced pests have been eradicated.

  2. I am afraid you are mistaken ma'am
    - "I hea koe I te tangihanga o te riroriro?" means "May I crush your oranges with my bare Maori feet?"

  3. Tillerman - I think if I was up early enough, I could hear it up at Otanewainuku...

    Your Imperialist lunacy leaves me speechless YP.