Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Colonial names

From the time of Captain Cook’s second arrival to New Zealand in 1772, Europeans have called the tūī by several different names.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Cook’s Second Voyage 1772 - <em>tui</em></h5><p>Early European visitors wanted to know the Māori names for the animals and plants they saw. Reinhold Forster was the naturalist on Captain Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand in 1772. Forster asked the Rangitāne people living in Queen Charlotte Sound what the name of the bird they heard calling was.</p>

<p>He wrote down their reply phonetically as “Rògho Etooee”. In early texts this is recorded as the Māori name of the species. It is now clear that this supposed ‘name’ is the phrase “Rongo e <em>tūī</em>” translated as “You are hearing the <em>tui</em>”.</p>
Cook’s Second Voyage 1772 - tui »

The first written record for the name tui dates back to Captain Cook’s naturalist, Reinhold Forster.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Cook’s Second Voyage 1772 -<em> pòhe</em> or <em>poe bird</em></h5><p>Georg Forster, who was also a naturalist on Cook’s second voyage to New Zealand, drew a picture of the <em>tūī</em>. He labelled it the <em>pòhe</em> or <em>poe bird</em>. This is the first name we know of that the early Europeans used.</p>

<p>We don’t know exactly why it was known as the <em>pòhe bird</em>. Captain Cook suggested that the white throat tufts were called “poies”. Māori wore ear pendants (poe) with <em>tūī</em> as feather ornaments. Reinholt Forster argued, however, that European sailors, not Māori, used this name.</p>
Cook’s Second Voyage 1772 - pòhe or poe bird »

Georg Forster, another naturalist on Cook’s second voyage, thought the name pòhe or poe bird was used by European sailors.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Early 19th century - <em>mocking bird</em></h5><p>Early European colonists were entranced by the <em>tūī</em>’s liveliness and great powers of mimicry. Because of this, they called it the <em>mocking bird</em>. Both Māori and Pākehā taught <em>tūī</em> to replicate human speech.</p>
Early 19th century - mocking bird »

Early European settlers used the name mocking bird because of the bird’s mimicry.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Late 19th century - <em>parson bird</em></h5><p>As the European colony in New Zealand grew, ministers became more common. The tuft of white feathers at the <em>tūī</em>’s throat reminded settlers of the white collar of a minister or parson. The name <em>parson bird</em> became fashionable for the <em>tūī</em>.</p>

<p>In his famous book, The History of the Birds of New Zealand, Walter Buller (1888) described the <em>tūī</em>: “To those familiar with the bird, this name [<em>parson bird</em>] is certainly appropriate; for when indulging in its strain of wild notes it displays these ‘bands’, and gesticulates in a manner forcibly suggestive of the declamatory style of preaching.”</p>
Late 19th century - parson bird »

As church ministers became more common in the colony, the name parson bird became fashionable as white tufts or feathers resembled a minister’s collar.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Early 20th century - <em>tui</em></h5><p>In the mid-19th century, Europeans, or Pākehā, were calling this bird the <em>tui</em> or <em>parson bird</em>, but by the early 20th century the name <em>parson bird</em> was largely discarded in favour of <em>tui</em>. This early spelling of <em>tui</em> reflects the English convention of the time, where long vowels in Māori were not shown by macrons.<br /></p>
Early 20th century - tui »

By the early 20th century the name parson bird was abandoned in favour of tui.

<h5 style=text-transform:uppercase;margin:0em;>Early 21st century - <em>tūī</em></h5><p>The <em>tūī</em> is now one of New Zealanders’ favourite garden birds and its name is changing again. In Māori, macrons indicate that the sound of a vowel is long. When <em>tui</em> is spoken and spelt correctly, both vowels are long and it is written as <em>tūī</em>. <em>Tūī</em> is now sometimes written like this in English too – this helps us pronounce its name.</p>
Early 21st century - tūī »

Since the late 20th century we have added macrons to words such as tūī to show long vowel sounds in Māori.