E, kua rite ke ti Koekoea
By Jim Webber
10th October 2009
We’ve talked already about how Maori proverbs and sayings often refer to birds and animals — and one that I think of at this time of year is the Long-tailed Cuckoo, the Koekoea.
The Koekoea arrives here from Polynesia in springtime.
It has a distinctive, harsh screech which we hear on Kapiti particularly, a sure sign that it has made landfall and probably is looking for a nest with suitable foster parents.
The “homeless” nature of the Koekoea is acknowledged in the saying “E, kua rite ki te koekoea.” Or, “you’re just like the koekoea” — sometimes directed at someone who has no permanent place to live.
The cuckoo’s habit of leaving its egg in another bird’s nest is also noted in “Te parahako o te koekoea” (the “unwanted” offspring of the cuckoo), referring to a child abandoned by its parents.
For some reason we always thought that the Koekoea was a pretty fierce bird, possibly because of its screech which is a “I’m here, lock your doors” kind of sound and also because it is believed to be partial to the respected skinks which are common on Kapiti and its neighbouring islands.
I guess it’s good that a warning note like this exists. However something in bird genetics clearly hasn’t got the message through because the nest-grabbing continues from season to season.