Monday, 26 December 2011

Nectaring tuis

Te Anau, South Island, New Zealand
16.12.2011

Here I’ve already shown you a couple of nectaring birds: sunbirds in South Africa and a wattlebird in Western Australia. On this trip I’ve been particularly interested in these birds because in the UK there are no birds that feed on nectar; correct me if I’m wrong.

Tuis Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae are one of New Zealand nectaring birds. They are more often heard than seen; their song is very melodic and varies a great deal.
So hearing a tui, or seeing one, is a real pleasure and there were lots of them at Te Anau. They are very acrobatic and you need to be at the right place the right time. The photos below were selected from around 100 shots!

Tui on a flax flower stem
They have a very characteristic lacy collar; otherwise they could almost be mistaken for a blackbird except for their behaviour and feeding habits. In case you didn’t know, there are masses of blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, sparrows and starlings all over NZ. Tuis together with the bellbirds are perhaps the NZ birds that has escaped the onslaught  of a number of catastrophic introduced species. The flightless ones have suffered most and in order to see them one has to go to bird sanctuaries or the like.

Tui nectaring on a flax flower
They arrive at a flowering flax plant and quickly work up and down the stems. In the process they pollinate the flowers.
They aren’t entirely black and the photo below illustrates that: lovely bluish-purple and bronze iridescent sheen feathers; bits of white too.

Tui nectaring lower down a flax stem
They also feed on insects and seeds.

Flax Phormium sp. plants are widespread in New Zealand, sometimes they cover huge areas. The Maoris used them for clothing and other domestic things, then the settlers also used them, mostly for ropes. 

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