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nly two species of land-based cuckoo

migrate overseas.

The shining cuckoo



winters in the western

tropical Pacific – from Indonesia to the

Solomon Islands and Bismarck Archipelago.

Known also by Maori as the “bird of Hawaiki”

and, as tradition told of the annual wintering in

Hawaiki, it is thought the migratory flight of the


may have encouraged them to

make their own great migration here.

The cuckoo arrives exhausted in the northern

region of the North Island. Maori state that

a favourite landing place is Manganui Bluff,

where they can be seen in great numbers

after their arrival. The bird is said to carry in its

claws a small pebble, usually white, which it

licks during flight when thirsty.

The shining cuckoo is a ‘brood parasite’,

meaning it lays its eggs into the nest of another

bird, usually a grey warbler, for its offspring

Shining Cuckoo

... harbinger of



“Ka tangi te

wharauroa, ko nga

karere a Mahuru”,

says a Maori proverb.

“If the shining

cuckoo cries it is the

messenger of Spring”.

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to be raised by this unwitting surrogate. The

choice of nest is a bit of a puzzler, for the

parent cuckoo is too large to get inside the

warbler’s woven nest.

And what a comical sight to see the tiny

warbler feeding the gaping mouth of this

comparatively giant ‘baby’. The clever cuckoo

is also known to foster its chicks out to

fantails, tits and silvereyes.

These amazing birds, about the size of a

sparrow, are iridescent dark green above,

its white front banded with green horizontal

stripes. Want to catch sight of one? Cuckoos

are characteristically shy, adept at concealing

themselves. But you might be lucky to see one

while it is distracted foraging for its favourite

meal, the kowhai moth caterpillar.

Liz Hart’s watercolour

Spring Bunch

(see Gallery ad p3).

Shining Cuckoo illustration by Walter Lawry Buller,

A History of the Birds of New Zealand

, 1888.

by Sandra Scott

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