The North Island Kokako is a large, dark bluish grey plumaged bird with bright blue wattles that lives in the canopy of mature native forest trees. The Kokako is not a strong flyer, preferring to take brief flights and long hops amongst the branches. Secretive by nature, Kokako are rarely seen but sing a song so hauntingly beautiful that early European colonists gave them the name, “organ bird”.
This bird is totally dependant for food on the leaves and fruits of native trees and, like many other endangered bird species, has suffered a critical decline in numbers due to incessant forest clearance over the last two centuries. With only remnants of native forest remaining, at the present rate it is likely that soon the Kokako will only be a memory on the North Island mainland.
The Kokako is the most endangered of New Zealand’s two remaining endemic wattle birds and one of the country’s most endeared birds. To halt total extinction (the fate of the South Island Orange Wattle Crow variety last seen in the early 1970s) and increase numbers, attempts are ongoing to establish and monitor progress of breeding colonies on offshore islands.
In Maori mythology, it is said that one day the demi-god and trickster Maui, being extremely thirsty, asked forest birds to bring him water. Only the short-legged Kokako responded, obligingly filling its ears with water, allowing Maui to quench his thirst. As a reward, Maui stretched the Kokako’s legs which now allow it to move with strong bounding hops. The water held in its ears is still there in the form of wattles.
Te Rarawa, Ngāti Paoa, Te Ātiawa
Rex Homan was born 1940 in Thames, New Zealand of Māori, Irish and Scottish ancestry. He lived in Auckland in his early years before moving to the Bay of Plenty. Rex has earned international recognition as a wood sculptor in the 1960s and 1970s and began working in bronze in the 1980s. His current work is influenced by the culture of the Pacific and displays uniqueness in its diversity of form and dramatic flow of lines. Rex has exhibited in solo, group and jury shows. He has won several national awards for “National Wood Skills” and is represented in corporate and private collections worldwide.
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