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Four ImpromPtus

by Jeanne-Marie Cantereau

“Years ago we purchased a home in Thames with

a large kowhai tree I could see from my studio.

When in bloom first to arrive was kereru (wood

pigeon) then tui, and the war began.

I saw the tui puff itself up – obviously to make

itself bigger and more threatening to the kereru.

Then the tui thrust its long curved beak at the

much bigger bird, driving it out of the tree.

For days the tui defended the kowhai – with

amazing aerobatics and speed, loud flapping

of wings, and tireless singing – all to remind the

kereru and other tui that he was claiming this tree

as his territory. All this stopped my painting as I

watched the daily drama.

As an artist, loving NZ birds for their iridescent,

bright and beautiful colours, I was inspired and

enchanted to capture this wonderful gift of nature.

And the medium of watercolour allows me to

express the constant movement of these birds.”



Tui Chief

by Monique Rush

“I painted this from a photo

I took of a plump Tui sitting

on my flax at home. He

was very content with me

photographing him so close.

He looked so confident,

grand and important. He

reminded me of a great

Maori chief, looking over

his land and people.With

his feathers fluffed up as if

it were his sacred cloak. I

have kept only a handful of

the paintings I create and

this is one of my favourites.”

There’s no doubting that NZ native tui are one

of the most visually pleasing birds of all to find

in our gardens, and few others’ song can rival

the variety of trills, screeches, clicks, and ‘rusty

gate’ noises they delight us with.

So it’s no wonder we want to find ways to encourage

tui to our gardens. How? The tui’s long curved beak

and thin tongue are specially adapted to reach

into tubular flowers, so those types of plants will

always attract them. They also inadvertently

help with pollination as they transfer pollen

from one flower to the next. You may even

see pollen on their face or head.

You may already have plants that draw

them to the area like flax, (Phormium)

kowhai, (Sophora) and the humble

Pittosporum flowers. Other native NZ

plants that naturally occur on

the Coromandel and will entice

them include karo and other

Pittosporum, five finger

(Pseudopanax), rewarewa

(Knightia excelsa),

pohutukawa (Metrosideros), Corokia, and the climber

Tecomanthe speciosa.

They are particularly attracted to the non-natives

Taiwanese cherry, or

Prunus campanulata

. Others

include Felix Jury, Okama and Superba, Rowan

trees (Sorbus), firethorn (Pyracantha), flame tree

(Brachychiton acerifolius), red hot pokers (Kniphofia),

flowering gums (Eucalyptus) and the succulent aloes.

Although their most preferred food is nectar, they’ll also

munch into insects (like cicadas and even stick insects).

Create a perch or platform for whole berries and seeds,

provide fresh water, and they are sure to return year on

year, especially in winter when their natural sources of

sustenance are less available. To get a close up view,

dissolve a tablespoon of sugar in a cup of water, and

place (preferably in a red container) nearby yet out of

reach of cats. Replace with a fresh batch each couple

of days to avoid contamination.

One word of caution, Rhododendron are poisonous to

tui. If you have them planted near similarly coloured

flowering plants tui are attracted to, they may

inadvertently feed on this toxic plant that could mean

certain death.

Want some help? For plant advice and/or garden planning,

ring Sandra Scott of Sandscapes Landscape Design, a

specialist in native NZ plants and coastal garden design. 07

866 2656 or 021 030 6614.

Tui Bouquet

by Jane Galloway

Made by doing many detailed botanical paintings in

watercolour which are then photographed and the plant/

bird layers assembled using Photoshop.

From Jane:

After the cold, rain and gales of winter,

it’s like a ray of sunshine hearing the tui’s bell-like

notes as it feeds in the neighbour’s bottlebrush.

Local gardens keep tui near and as spring becomes

summer, their song is the accompaniment to my daily

work in the studio.

A few summers ago I spotted a dead tui on the

road as I left for my morning walk. After that, and for

the next two summers, its mate constantly called

from the tallest kanuka, the same pattern of sounds

over and over.

We are privileged to have these remarkable wild birds

living so close, sharing their colour and character.