Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae

Physical Description

The Tūī is a medium-sized songbird endemic to New Zealand. It has a glossy plumage with iridescent colours, including shades of black, blue, green, and bronze. Tūī have a distinctive white tuft of feathers at the throat, which is known as a "poi." They have a slender curved bill, long wings, and a relatively short tail. Males and females have similar appearances, but males are slightly larger than females.

Habitat and Range

Tūī are found throughout New Zealand, including the North and South Islands and some offshore islands. They inhabit various habitats, including native forests, coastal areas, urban gardens, and parks. Tūī are highly adaptable and can be seen in both native and introduced plant species as long as there are suitable food sources and nesting sites available.

Feeding Habits

Tūī are nectarivorous birds primarily feed on nectar from various native and exotic flowering plants. Their specialised brush-like tongue allows them to extract nectar from flowers. In addition to nectar, they also consume insects, fruits, berries, and even honeydew secreted by scale insects. Tūī play an important role in pollination, as they transfer pollen between flowers while feeding.

Behaviour and Vocalisations:

Tūī are known for their acrobatic flight and distinctive vocalisations. They are highly territorial and defend their feeding and nesting areas vigorously. Tūī produces various vocalisations, including a complex mix of musical notes, melodies, gurgles, and harsh calls. They have a remarkable ability to mimic other bird sounds and even human speech.

Breeding and Nesting

The breeding season for Tūī typically occurs from September to January. Males engage in elaborate courtship displays, including impressive aerial displays and singing. Females build cup-shaped nests made of twigs, grass, and other plant materials, usually located in trees or shrubs. They lay 2 to 4 eggs, which the female incubates for about two weeks. Both parents participate in feeding and caring for the chicks until they fledge.

Conservation Status

Tūī are currently not considered a threatened species and are classified as "Not Threatened" by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. However, their populations can vary in different regions, and they may face threats such as habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals, and competition for food sources. Conservation efforts focus on preserving their habitats, controlling predators, and providing suitable food sources.

Tree and Plant Preferences

Tūī are highly adaptable and can utilise various tree and plant species for foraging and nesting. They are particularly attracted to native flowering plants that produce nectar, such as kōwhai (Sophora spp.), pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), rātā (Metrosideros spp.), flax (Phormium spp.), and harakeke (New Zealand flax). They also feed on introduced flowering plants, including bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and flowering gums (Eucalyptus spp.).

Interesting Facts

  • Tūī have a unique feather structure that creates iridescent colours. Light hitting their feathers at different angles produces a stunning shimmering effect.
  • They are highly territorial birds and use aggressive displays, such as spreading their wings, fluffing their feathers, and making loud calls, to defend their territories.
  • Tūī are excellent mimics and can imitate the calls of other bird species and various sounds in their environment, including car alarms and ringing phones.
  • Their presence in an area is often associated with a rich and healthy ecosystem, as their feeding habits contribute to pollination and the dispersal of plant seeds.
  • In Māori mythology, the Tūī is considered a sacred bird associated with beauty, music, and storytelling.