Auckland University Press
12 September 2013
New guide includes Māori names for 200 New Zealand birds
A new guide to New Zealand birds, by author Dr Paul Scofield and photographer Brent Stephenson (Auckland University
Press) includes the most frequently used Māori names and commonly used alternative English or Māori names alongside the
scientific names of the bird species found in New Zealand.
Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide, publishing 16 September, is the definitive introduction to the identification and behaviour of this country’s extraordinary avian life. It covers
the 365 species found in New Zealand but not every bird included has a commonly used Te Reo name.
After extensive research in early journals, histories and early dictionaries author Dr Scofield compiled nearly 1200
Māori names for 200 different species, most of which are rarely if ever used today.
Māori naming conventions for birds reflect the fact that Te Reo is a dynamic and evolving language but, unfortunately,
usage has been subject to significant Pākehā pigeonholing. While Māori saw the same species as Pakeha, the importance of
particular birds to daily life could be very different and affected how many names a species was given and whether the
early accounts accurately recorded these names. Further, research shows that some species do not have individual species
names recorded and it’s probable that some names have been lost.
“Traditional bird names are couched in practical language,” Dr Scofield says, “because the whole idea of naming such
things is to describe the elements important to survival in a harsh land.
“Names are not only describing the birds but historically offered practical information such as whether the meat is
tasty, what sex you’re looking at and the time of year at which the bird appears in the area. In some cases, chicks have
different names to adults of the same species.”
Each of the ancestral waka’s descendants often use a different name for some species, for example, the native pigeon has
four names: kuku, kukupa and kererū and parea; and usage often reflects lineage.
Birds of New Zealand also includes names borrowed from English such as peihana for Ring-necked Pheasant and makipai for Australian Magpie
but Dr Scofield hopes that Te Reo as a modern language may create names for our introduced fauna that reflect a unique
Māori ethos in the naming of the natural world. Indeed, he has recently started work with Drs Tom Roa and Hemi Whaanga
at the University of Waikato and the Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Centre at The University of Auckland looking at Māori
naming conventions for birds and the way that our introduced fauna can be identified in Te Reo.
The taxonomic notes in Birds of New Zealand discuss the origins of the Te Reo names provided in some detail but do not include the mythology and tikanga
surrounding the origin of these names, which is rich and whimsical but beyond the scope of the book.
About the authors
Paul Scofield is senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since childhood, Scofield has
studied birds and travelled extensively from the high Arctic to the Antarctic to pursue his passion. He has served as
convener of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand’s Records Appraisal Committee and was a co-author of the most
recent Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand (Te Papa Press, 2010). His scientific work specialises in the taxonomy and evolution of Australasian birds, the
palaeobiology of New Zealand birds and the biology of albatrosses and petrels. He has authored more than 100 scientific
papers and several book chapters and books, including Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World (Princeton and A Black, 2006).
New Zealand bird photographer and guide Brent Stephenson has had an interest in birds and photography from childhood. After completing a PhD in zoology (studying Australasian
gannets at Cape Kidnappers), Stephenson launched a full-time guiding, photography and birding career. He is co-owner of
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ (www.wrybill-tours.com), along with Sav Saville, and in 2003 they rediscovered the New Zealand
storm petrel, a species believed extinct for more than 150 years. Stephenson spends considerable time each year
travelling the world as a birding guide and photographer on expedition cruise ships, and when at home in New Zealand
also operates Eco-Vista: Photography & Research (www.eco-vista.com), conducting contract research and pursuing his love of photography. He currently holds the
record for the most species seen in New Zealand in a calendar year.
Notes for editors
A. Key features of Birds of New Zealand: A Photographic Guide
• Publishing on 16 September
• Flexibind, 552 pages
• Over 1000 new, colour photographs illustrating key identification characteristics and variation by age and sex
• 235 maps showing species distribution
B. Sample discussion of a bird’s Māori name from Birds of New Zealand
Stitchbird Notiomystis cincta / Hīhī / Hihi
In Rev. W. Yate’s An Account of New Zealand published in 1835, he used the name Kotihe.It is possible Yate may have encountered this name on the East Cape, which he
visited in the early 1830s (contra Oliver).In the late 1850s, Dieffenbach obtained the name Ihi from the Māori of Taranaki.The name Hīhī was first used by
Taylor for a bird ‘like a koromiko’ but in the same volume Kotihe is used for Meliphaga cincta. White uses the name in his 1885 anthology but does not define what bird a Hihi is. Williamsplaced this name first
alphabetically in his important paper Māori Bird Names, listing another 18 names for this species, many describing the sexes and probably for birds of differing ages and
females in different seasonal plumages. Like many Māori names from Williams now regarded as ‘correct’, it would appear
that common usage follows the fact that Hīhī is listed first alphabetically. While some have suggested Hīhī is
onomatopoeic, the bird produces no obvious call that this name resembles. Hīhī are the ‘long plumes ornamenting the bow
of a war canoe’ and is also a method of dressing the hair in horns on each side of the head. These names undoubtedly
refer to the prominent white tufts near the ear coverts that both sexes can manipulate and erect.
C. Sample pages showing the entry for stitchbirds are attached.