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Forest Lore of the Maori

The Parakeet or Kākārīkī (Cyanoramphus novae-zealandiae):

The Parakeet or Kākārīkī (Cyanoramphus novae-zealandiae):

Commonly called porete in the Matatua district, kaka-wairiki at Waiapu, while powhaitere, kawariki, etc., are heard in other places. In former times this bird was very numerous, its favoured haunts being about the outskirts of a forest. It was a marked nuisance to our earliest European settlers, having quickly developed a liking for seed wheat, which in those days, was often planted between the roots of a new 'burn' by means of a grubber or heavy hoe. At such times a flock of parakeets would appear, and, following up the planters, would quickly recover much of the seed wheat from the soil.

We do not now see the parakeet in the woods of the Wellington district, but I can recall the time when flocks of that bird were common in the bush Clearings, in scrub-areas, and about the edge of dense forest-growth; that was in the 'sixties at Porirua. These pokai porete or pokai kakariki (parakeet flocks) often included a great many birds, so that the expression was used to denote large numbers, even the word kakariki alone was so employed. Thus I have heard a person plagued by a number of inquisitive children, say in a vexed tone: Ha! He tau pukahu koia tenei kia rere mai te kakariki? (Is this a plentiful season that parakeets should flock hither?). When Te Whakumu and his clan defeated Ngati Mamoe and Rangitane in the Paepaetahi fight, his younger brother looked upon the slain and remarked: Tena, tera te hora na me he para kakariki, This bird was also mentioned when a person sought a simile for noisy chattering, continued gossip, as in: Ko te rua porete hai whakarite, thus comparing the chatter to a parakeet's nest in a hollow tree, when the chicks are all crying out, as they often do. Another saying is: He kakariki kai ata, and this was directed against a person who took food in the early morning, the same not being a Maori custom. The parakeet is certainly ready for food in the early morning, as the above saying denotes. Yet another saying: Kakariki tunua, kakariki otaina, is said to have originated with a man who declined to take part in a strenuous defensive fight until he had satisfied his hunger. There being no cooked food handy he ate some uncooked parakeets and then helped to defeat the raiding force. The above saying is used in the sense of 'Delay is dangerous,' and so kakariki otaina (parakeets eaten raw) may be preferable to kakariki tunua (parakeets cooked) when enemies are nigh.

The cry of the parakeet is said to be: "Torete! Kaurehe!" by my friends of Matatua, but I must say that I could not recognise any resemblance to these words in their cries. Those tribes also say that page 319one Hine-porete was the mother or origin of the parakeet. The word kaiirehe appears as kaureke in the fable of the parakeet and the brown parrot. The kaka is said to have obtained the bright red feathers seen under its wings in manner felonious from the parakeet, to whom they originally belonged, hence the latter ever sings the following reproachful ditty when it sees the kaka:

E te kaka e rere atu rara, homai aku kura
Naku ano aku kura i tiki ki te motu tapu na Tinirau
Torete, kaureke! Torete, kaureke!
E te kaka e rere atu rara, e rere ana koe ki hea?
E rere ana ki Puke-whanake ki te kawe korero ki a Te Iripa
Kaore hoki au e aha atu nei ki a koe
Ka tu au i te rahui whakaioio na Tokoahu
Tenei au kei te ruhi noa, kei te ngenge noa
Ta te raumati hanga. Torete, kaureke! Torete, kaureke!

Here the luckless parakeet, bereft of its most attractive plumage, cries to passing kaka: "O kaka! flying yonder, give me my prized red feathers; I procured them myself from the sacred isle of Tinirau. O kaka! whither are you flying?, etc."

In taking the parakeet the puaka, tari, and hauhau methods were employed, but yet, as is the case with most other statements of this kind, these birds were also taken when fowlers were occupied in taking other species, such as the tui, robin, bell-bird, etc. The puaka is a snaring method, but a form of trap was made in which to deposit some form of bait, such as berries. An oblong enclosure several feet in length was made by thrusting rods of two or three feet in length into the ground, close enough together to prevent the ingress of birds; the width of such an enclosure was inconsiderable. According to its size four, six, or eight small open spaces were left in this barrier by which the birds might enter, and some kind of bird-food was placed inside the enclosure in order to attract birds; this was repeated several times ere snares were set in the small openings. The trap was kept supplied with bait, and so the birds saw it and endeavoured to reach it by passing through the openings; so were they caught in the arranged snares. When a number were so caught the fowler advanced, retrieved the snared birds, and reset the snares. Robins and some other birds were also taken by means of this device.

In taking parakeets by means of the tari or running-noose arranged on the end of a rod, three forms of lure were employed, the call leaf, live decoys, and the waving of fern fronds; this was in autumn. This way of taking these birds, and the place where they were so taken, were often indicated by the term koputa. A rude form of page 320booth was constructed of branches and tree-fern fronds, being left open on one side, the branches, etc., being bent over so that the upper ends formed overhead cover. Several rods were secured in a horizontal position near the back of the booth for the birds to settle on. The first act of the fowler was to catch a few parakeets to serve as decoys, and these he attracted by means of a call leaf, or by placing his hand at the side of his mouth; in either way he would succeed in making a sound resembling the peculiar cry of the bird when flitting about from tree to tree. As an additional lure the fowler would procure a number of small fern-fronds, often Poly-podium, and tie them to the end of a stick; squatting down behind the rear wall of the booth he would thrust this leaf-lure through the frail barrier, and then, by causing the fronds to shake, he would attract the attention of the birds, whose curiosity would impel them to examine the strange object. As soon as several of the birds had settled on the rod perches the fowler would take up one of several slip-noose snares (tari, reti) secured to the ends of short, slim rods, that were lying by his side ready for use. Thrusting this through the leafy screen he would slip the noose over the head of a bird, when a quick movement of the rod would tighten the noose around the bird's throat. Having caught several birds in this manner the fowler would tie them, still living, to pegs or rods stuck in the earth in a vertical position just in front of the perches, where they would flutter ceaselessly and so form a great attraction to their free kindred; such temporary decoys were called maimoa, in this case maimoa porete (or kakariki). The lure-call, the waved bunch of fern-fronds and the living decoys often brought a good bag of porete to the Maori fowler. Birds that alighted on the perches were so interested in watching the struggling captives that they were easily taken; so much for the tari method of taking the parakeet.

Tānga kakariki is an expression that denotes the hauhau or 'striking' method of taking these birds, a method well known to many who have sojourned in the byways of the land. Two stout rods were thrust firmly into the earth, and to these pou was lashed a rod in a horizontal position about 5ft. from the ground, this was the rongohua or perch on which the birds alighted. About lft. below this perch a string or strip of flax was tied to the uprights in a position parallel to the perch, and from this cord were suspended several live parakeets to serve as decoys. These small birds used as decoys in this manner were often suspended by their beaks to the cord, their constant struggles to escape served to attract their fellows, many of whom would settle on the rod perch. In many cases a strip of flax thrust through the beak of the bird served page 321to attach it to the tau maimoa as the horizontal line was called. The Maori was extremely callous in his dealing with birds and other creatures. I have seen a native woman pull the wings off a live blight-bird that had been used as a decoy, and laugh as she watched tts frantic struggles. A rough booth close to one of the uprights served to shelter the fowler, who was armed with his hauhau or striker, a straight rod about lin. in thickness, and say 5ft. in length. With his arm thrust through the leafy screen he held this rod so that it was in contact with the perch near his place of concealment, and, when a few birds had settled on the perch, he would sweep his rod swiftly along the perch, striking down any hapless birds sitting thereon. The maimed and struggling birds were soon despatched. Some natives call the above contrivance a pae.

I have gathered no notes as to the parakeet being taken by means of the mutu snaring perch, as the following remark by Hori Ropiha may possibly imply: Ko te kakariki hepatu ano tona, hepara kakariki, he mea hanga ki te tawhiti; he tutu ano tona. The tawhiti or spring-snare, however, was used in connection with the puaka (described above) in taking several species. The fact that the parakeet ate such berries as those of the poporo, a Solanum, is enough to teil us that those birds would be taken on such trees, not only when fowlers went there for that purpose, but also when they were taking tui, bell-birds, etc., by means of snare, spear, or rod. And ever we should remember that, when young parakeets hatched out the fragments of egg shells left in the nest were wont to develop into moko kakariki or green lizards (Naultinus elegans)!