Cattle are revered by Masai and Hindu, bears by the Ainu of northern Japan, ea­gles by American Indians. In order to ensure that we get some goslings to survive, we take the eggs from the goose nest and incubate them ourselves. In the case of the Pukekos I suspect they predate any human movement between Aus and NZ. Under the more limited breeding space of these offshore islands (compared to the huge area they range over in Fiordland) some of the birds have formed breeding trios. Perhaps these discoveries don’t warrant the worshipping of the pukeko and its being allowed to wander freely through our temples or market gardens. Interestingly, for communal nests the average clutch size per fe­male is seven eggs, and there can be as many as 25 eggs in total. To become a father, a male pukeko must mate at the right time. Peter Lapwood, a Waikato Fish and Game Council ranger, believes they are underrated, and swears that pukeko makes a de­licious soup. [12] In Samoa, where it is called manuali'i (literally, "chiefly bird"). The swamphens which colonised New Zealand probably flew across from Australia a thousand years ago or less, and share the subspecies name melanotus along with swamphens in the Kermadecs, Tasmania, eastern and northern Australia and the South Pacific. Its typical habitat is any natural grassland, particularly swamps, and can be seen occasionally foraging for food on the side of roads. P. p. bellus (Gould, 1820) from West Australia is as melanotus but has a cerulean blue throat and breast. Close relatedness seemed to offer a good explanation for mate sharing and co­operation in raising young. For male pukeko, breeding begins to look like a lottery: each male buys as many tickets as he can afford, but never finds out exactly how much money he has won. Haere ki to huhi, haere ki to repo, Haere ki a Hine-wairua-kokako! In fact, the pukeko is one of the few native species to have expanded its range and increased in numbers with the clearance of native forests for farmland, although this trend has been reversed in areas where swamps have been drained. Pukeko feet are big, they have long toes that are excellent at walking over squishy, muddy ground. Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes. Photo by Holly A. Heyser. I am glad we did get to eat one pukeko with its skin on, however. Predictably, male courtship of fe­males proved most intense in the morning (after egg laying), but, contrary to expectations, alpha males made few attempts to prevent lesser males mating. Feathery fact: Pukekos are categorised as a game bird and can be hunted during the game bird hunting season for up to four months each year. I would have a chat to your local Fish & Game office. Perhaps, we wondered, it is the smaller, less aggressive males that form coalitions in order to gain breeding territory in desirable pukeko “suburbs.” Several males are better able to defend a prime terri­tory than one on his own, but in return they must all be assured of having a good chance of fathering some of the partnership’s offspring. And quite possibly the main reason for its success is its highly unusual egalitarian and co-operative social system. And, while other native birds struggle to survive environmental changes, pukeko seem to take everything in their strutting stride. Although they prefer to breed and nest in marshy areas, they spend considerable time foraging for grubs and grasses in adjacent pasture land. They were subsequently given a takahe egg to incubate, which they did, although the chick that hatched later died. According to their para­digm, the only type of success is breeding success—leaving one’s genes in as many offspring as possi­ble. Copy ... You need to learn to live with them and wait until duck shooting season. Ac­cording to the French biologist Buffon, the Greeks and Romans im­ported swamphens from Africa and let them walk freely in palaces and temples as guests worthy of such places because of their gracious na­ture and the beauty of their plumage. One nest is cared for by many female and adolescent birds. These stakes were connected by a fine flax string. If anything, these incidents should cause conservationists to take more notice of the similari­ties in the biology of the two species. Banding studies of chicks over several years showed, in fact, that 70 per cent of pukeko at Shakespear ended up breeding with close rela­tives (fathers, sisters, cousins, etc.) This is presumably because takahe evolved in the absence of mammalian predators and therefore do not recognise the recently introduced mustelids as potential threats. It's also a big ask for the dog to draw a line between the pukekos and the chooks. Pukekos are a type of 'Swamp Hen' that lives in New Zealand. The bird gallery links to in-depth descriptions of most New Zealand birds. Photographed by Nic Bishop. Adult pukeko will immedi­ately respond to a ground predator like a stoat or a cat by first giving a specific alarm call which differs from the alarm call they give in response to an aerial predator such as a harrier. Unlimited access to every NZGeo story ever written and hundreds of hours of natural history documentaries on all your devices. Otherwise, a male that was continu­ally usurped by his coalition partner would depart to join another group and leave the resident male to de­fend alone. Pukeko (and Takahe) are a member of the rail family of birds Pūkeko and Takahe look very similar but takahe are much heavier of the two. Anyone who is not aware of Australia’s obsession with pokies is missing an important history lesson. For two female birds to share the same nest is extremely rare and is known to occur only in a few other species such as ostriches, Tasma­nian native hens, the anis of South America, and acorn woodpeckers in California. If you are talking about plovers they could have come on a ship. To the Maori, all living things were the children of Tane, the crea­tor of life, and each species had its own special relationship with hu­mans. Also, the laying down of the shell layers takes about 24 hours as the egg moves down the oviduct prior to laying, and only after that presum­ably fairly effective contraceptive is out of the way can sperm swim up the oviduct to fertilise the next egg.