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Forest Lore of the Maori

The Kuaka or Godwit:

The Kuaka or Godwit:

The kuaka or godwit (Limosa novae zealandiae) provided quite an important food-supply in some favoured places. These birds were taken on beaches, sand banks, mud flats, etc., where they assembled in great numbers, and were taken by snare and net, possibly also in other ways, for I have gained but little information anent the taking of these birds. One method of taking them was a decidedly novel one, consisting as it did of a great number of slip-nooses arranged on a high-pitched horizontal staging, of which an illustration is included in the volume of Sketches, prepared for White's Ancient History of page 351the Maori (see Fig. at p. 79 of the sketches). To make the overhead open racks on which the snares were set horizontally and close together poles were set up vertically, and, at a height of 10 ft. or 12 ft. above ground; light poles or rods were lashed in a horizontal Position to the tops of these uprights, and there supported the snares. These snare-set frames were erected on areas of ground whereat the godwit were wont to assemble in flocks. During the evening the birds would so assemble, and the watchful fowlers would then rush forward and startle them; some would be provided with torches if the shades of night had fallen. On being alarmed the birds would rise swiftly, and many would be caught in the overhead snares so cunningly set. It was by studying the habits of birds that the Maori was enabled to devise the best methods of taking the various species. When taking the godwit by the above-described method the shades of night and calm weather conditions were desirable, for darkness would tend to obscure the snares, which snares might be disarranged by a high wind. Report says that, during heavy rain, the godwit could be run down and caught by hand. As usual the Maori did not trouble to clean these birds ere cooking them, if for immediate use, but did so when they were to be potted a la huahua, as also was usual.

Feeding-grounds favoured by the godwit are called puta in the far north, and an account of the taking of the bird from that part shews us that the kuaka were sometimes taken in a form of hoop-net secured to the end of a light pole, the net itself being of a bag-like form. These were used at night, when men would run through a squatting multitude of somnolent birds holding the hoop nets on high, mouth forward; as the alarmed birds rose in flight some would be caught in the nets. In some cases torch-armed assistants would Surround a flock, and so confuse the birds, this leading to greater takings. Yet another way of taking the bird was by the tahu, tahuhu, or kaha method employed for many other species. Short stakes were inserted in the sand or mud of a puta in rows, and to these long cords were secured about a foot from the ground surface. Overlapping slip nooses were suspended from the horizontal cords in their hundreds (see p. 78 of volume of sketches above referred to). When conditions were favourable a row of tall poles were set up so as to extend across the line of flight of the birds when flying from one feeding-ground to another. A number of tahu (syn. takeke, etc.) cords were tied to the verticals, and overlapping snares suspended from them. The horizontal cords being only about a foot apart it follows that a very large number of snares would be ready to receive the flying multitude.

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