Tui is the first bird to sing every morning and the last to go to sleep every night. No more than a foot (30 cm) from tip to tail and weighing at most 4 ounces (124gm), prosthemadera novaeseelandiae was named the parson bird by early settlers because of the white tuft at his throat. But his behaviour is quite uncharitable. He is the undisputed neighbourhood bully. When tui takes ‘ownership’ of a flowering tree or bush, he chases off all-comers, big and small. In the kowhai tree, he harasses kereru, until the much larger wood pigeon departs to find a quieter meal. Our bottle brush tree is sending out invitations to all nectar eaters with it’s fire engine red flowers this month and the tuis are scrapping over the spoils. They clap their wings to intimidate smaller birds like korimako the bellbird and chase and harry each other like dog fighting pilots. In the garden, the whir of their wings as they race past your ears fuels fear of a collision but their precision never fails. They may be mean but you can’t help but admire them.
NZ Birds Online says ‘Tui are boisterous, medium-sized, common and widespread bird of forest and suburbia – unless you live in Canterbury. They look black from a distance, but in good light tui have a blue, green and bronze iridescent sheen, and distinctive white throat tufts (poi). They are usually very vocal, with a complicated mix of tuneful notes interspersed with coughs, grunts and wheezes. In flight, their bodies slant with the head higher than the tail, and their noisy whirring flight is interspersed with short glides.’