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Whekau • Laughing Owl

by


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The Whekau (also known as the White Faced Owl) was unique to New Zealand, estimated to have inhabited the country for at least a million years. A very large, robust native owl with a thick coat of soft feathers, the whekau was ideally suited to its environment of harsh forest, scrub and open country with rock and limestone habitation.

Thomas Henry Potts, a naturalist who arrived in New Zealand in 1853, was one of the few to study the Whekau before it became extinct. He described the Whekau’s call as “a weird loud cry made up of a series of dismal shrieks frequently repeated” that earned the bird the name “laughing owl”. Their high pitched chattering was generally heard when the bird was on the wing on dark drizzly nights. Nocturnal in habit, ground feeding on native rats, small birds, lizards and insects, the Whekau was widespread throughout New Zealand.

By the mid 1800s it had become rare in North Island but was still common in South Island. The introduction of predators from Europe, like mustelids (weasels) for the killing of rabbits, and the Little German Owl for controlling the numbers of introduced sparrows and finches in the Otago orchards, created such competition for food that the Whekau inevitably faced extinction. Although rumours persist that the Whekau still exist in remote forest areas, the last substantiated recorded sighting was in 1914 in the northern part of South Island.

Other available artwork you might like by Rex Homan:

Rex Homan

Rex Homan

Māori

Te Rarawa, Ngāti Paoa, Te Ātiawa

(1940- )

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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Spirit Wrestler Gallery

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