5 names the Royal Cam chick could have had – e rima ngā ingoa

Department of Conservation —  14/10/2020

Atawhai from Royal Cam has fledged now, and as we head into the next Royal Cam season, we want to talk about how Atawhai got her beautiful te reo Māori name.

📷: Chris McCormack

Ko Atawhai tōna ingoa. Her name is Atawhai.

Last month, during te wiki o te reo Māori, Atawhai fledged!

Mā te wā. See you later.

Footage of Atawhai fledging
🎥: Royal Cam

Atawhai has fledged now, so chapter closed, right? Kāo/no.

Royal Cam is a cyclical programme, and adolescents are coming back, new eggs will be laid, and new chicks will hatch.

It also means we’ll run more Name the Chick competitions.

So in advance of that, let’s talk about how Atawhai got her name, and respond to the question we got a lot about why the name was in te reo Māori, and why each previous Royal Cam name has been too. 

First, a fast background on Royal Cam.

Royal Cam

Ranger Sharyn and a chick on the headland
📷: Chris McCormack

Since 2016, we’ve had a 24-hour live stream of a Toroa/Northern Royal albatross nest during breeding season at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head.

Every year the camera focuses on a nest, from nesting to fledging, and the chick inevitably steals hearts.

Every chick is special, but Atawhai was our lockdown chick.

Connecting with nature digitally while staying at home in our bubbles was great for the wellbeing of cam viewers, both here and overseas.

The camera on the peninsula (which is currently run in partnership with Cornell Lab of Ornithology) also offers a deeper look at some of the challenges of conservation, including plastic pollution and climate change.

Over the years on camera there have been some ups:

The first photo of Atawhai when she was born
📷: DOC

And some downs:

A speedily taken image of 2017 chick Tūmanako, who ejected a smelly, sticky substance on himself as a defence mechanism during a weigh in
📷: DOC

But ultimately the cam is doing what it’s meant to – which is educate viewers about this species, which is a taonga/treasure species for Ngāi Tahu and Aotearoa.

If you’re unfamiliar with ‘taonga species’, it means native birds, plants or animals which are of special cultural significance and importance. It means they are unique treasures to us.

Name the Chick

The annual Name the Chick competition is a way for cam viewers to be part of the chick’s journey.

Ko Atawhai tenei. This is Atawhai.

📷: Chris McCormack

Name pronunciation for Atawhai (MP3, 34K) 

The past Royal Cam chicks’ names were Karere, Amīria, Tūmanako and Moana.

And now Atawhai too.

There’s been some concerns expressed about clarity on the naming process and questions why a te reo name was always chosen, so let’s go into that a little.

Firstly, we open submissions to the public, then a panel from Te Papa Atawhai/Department of Conservation shortlists the submissions to 20 names based on this judging criteria:

  1. relevance to the theme Celebrating Connection, the chick, colony or species
  2. originality and creativity of the name and inspiration
  3. reflective of the characteristics of the species or their habitat on the peninsula.

Those 20 names go to Te Poāri a Pukekura, the Pukekura Co-management Trust, who vote on their top five names. Te Poāri a Pukekura is a registered charitable trust representing mana whenua (Ōtākou Rūnanga and Korako Karetai Trust), the Dunedin City Council and Department of Conservation. This Co-management Trust oversee management of the reserves on the headland.

The top five then go out to the public for voting.

You can read the full criteria and process on our site.

This year we had 2,500 submissions!

Ka wani kē!/Wow! And more than 3,200 people voted on these submissions.

There were 866 votes for the winning name Atawhai, and 666 votes for the runner-up name, Marama.

For your reading pleasure, here are five other beautiful names Atawhai could have had

Not all of these are the top five chosen by Te Poāri a Pukekura (you probably already know those), instead they’re a random selection from the shortlist.


This means much love, or deep affection in te reo Māori. It’s often used as a sign off between loved ones.

See Māori Dictionary for full definitions and pronunciation help.


This is an Arabic name meaning “One who returns”. This was suggested as a way to celebrate the diversity of Aotearoa. This was submitted more than once, with various options for English spellings.

See عايدة via Almaany Arabic Dictionary.


Which means peace, or harmony in te reo. One submitter said, “observing this brave, resilient little chick, serenely perched on her Dunedin sea cliff over the past six historic months the world has seen, brought me so many moments of peace, and hope that no matter what, nature prevails.”

See Māori Dictionary for more.


Means to support, look out for in te reo. Manākitia is showing respect and caring for others. Special mention to the submitter who suggested this to honour her mokopuna/grandchild, who is named Manaaki. It is a beautiful name.

See Māori Dictionary for more.


Kōtuitui is a verb in te reo which means to interlace and connect. This reflects the connections that viewers have made with nature through the Royal Cam.

See Māori Dictionary for more.

Is it a rule that the name has to be in te reo Māori?

No. But let’s dive into why it usually is a name in te reo.

In 1986 the Waitangi Tribunal recognised te reo Māori itself as a taonga/treasure, and a year later it was made an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s beautiful to see taonga species recognised with taonga names.

Te reo Māori is a storytelling language, steeped in metaphor and poetry; and Atawhai means kindness and generosity of spirit, which is a particularly apt choice in 2020.

There’s no precise rule that only te reo names can be submitted or will be chosen. And given the international popularity of the cam, there are often names submitted in various languages, including English.

But it’s fitting that the names with the most significance for a taonga native species in Aotearoa have been names in the native language of Aotearoa.

It just makes sense.

One of the parents of Atawhai in flight, either OGK or YRK
📷: DOC Ligs Hoffman

Given there were so many name submissions, it was inevitable people would be disappointed if their name wasn’t shortlisted. That’s fair enough.

But as we laid out in the naming criteria above, a name without significance to this taonga species is unlikely to be shortlisted, or even to get many public votes.

That’s why when names like Fluffy or Tom or Bill are submitted, they’re unlikely to make the grade.

Because it’s about significance, and the big picture here in Aotearoa.

Kia kaha te reo Māori

The name Atawhai, and all of the Royal Cam chicks’ names, are gifts. A taonga name for a taonga species.

Now, Atawhai carries her name with her across oceans.

Ā te wā Atawhai. See you at another time, Atwahai.

We look forward to more pīpī/chicks next year.

Māori Dictionary, which also includes pronunciation help: www.maoridictionary.co.nz

The official te wiki o te reo Māori website: www.tewikiotereomaori.co.nz

Royal Cam: www.doc.govt.nz/royalcam

10 responses to 5 names the Royal Cam chick could have had – e rima ngā ingoa

    Janet Klemka 16/10/2020 at 9:01 am

    I like the Maori names but wish you had let us know about the language requirements and provided the link to the Maori dictionary BEFORE the naming contest.


    I am sorry, that you didn’t speak about big elephant in room. This chick is called and loved with the name “Pippa” from all youtube/facebook fans like me during all those dark times that we are living through. You say, there is no rule about language of name and one of the five names was also Arabic for the diversity which is a good thing. Additionally, respecting native culture shows how we learned to fight against our ignorance and own demons.You have my complete agreement.
    Nevertheless, you are writing this long article and not once spend a word about Pippa. Why? With all the respect for your hard work and what all those great rangers effort, why don’t you show a little sympathy for people like me calling the chick from very beginning Pippa? If you want, you could find a compromise like “Pippa Atawhai”. Why not? Of course you can ignore me (or people who think like me) but I would say it is not a good way to communication and not as Atawhai’s name “showing the kindness”.
    I am sure very respected and deep spirituality Maori/ Taonga culture has a heart to understand what I am talking about. I don’t mean to offend someone, I just only show how you hurt my feelings and I still don’t understand the reason after this long article. Do you mean Pippa is like Fluffy, Bill etc. not to worth fulfill the naming criteria? If so, why not saying directly?
    Well, there is enough barbarism, cruelty, all the bad things in the world and sure much more important issues than Atawhai’s name. But why the making things complicated than it should be while a solution/compromise can be find easily? For this case you could make everyone happy and showing also your appreciation to the fans like me. I think it would be easier than writing this article not even includes Atawhai’s meaning.
    So, I couldn’t understand your aspect, may be you show some grace and understand my aspect.

    Have a peaceful day and stay safe!


      I agree. Pippa brought so many people together following her from before she was layed. Atawhai Pippa would have been a fitting name still keeping with the Moari name tradition but also honoring her known name. It would have taken nothing away from the Moari name tradition at all to include it.


      With all due respect to your point of view, I do not agree that “all youtube/facebook fans” referred to the chick as Pippa, as you assert. I did not. My feeling is that viewers of bird cams should refrain from attaching “cute” human names to chicks, especially when those names bear no relation to the species or to the area they inhabit; most especially when the bird in question is of special cultural significance to the native population, as in this case. It is entirely appropriate that Atawhai should have a Maori. name. A beautiful name it is. I greatly appreciate this blog by the DOC. It is informative and written with respect to the feelings of cam viewers.


      Tēnā koe Seku. It’s lovely that the Toroa/Northern Royal Albatross has meant so much to you, and to viewers around the world. Ka rawe!/Awesome. We enjoy seeing stream viewers grow in number each year as more and more people learn about this taonga species and their significance to Aotearoa.

      In some circles there is an informal nicknaming of the chicks, like Pippa or Dora; but this happens independently of Te Poāri a Pukekura and the Department of Conservation. The formal naming process is designed to give all Royal Cam fans the ability to participate in the naming, and for that to be a fair and open process which works to a meaningful criteria.

      The name Pippa was nominated, and we appreciate that there are many fans who are attached to that name. But it didn’t make the shortlist of 20 names, for reasons around significance and meaning which are explained in this blog. Naming is based on meaning, not on frequency of prior use.

      Atawhai is a taonga name for a taonga species. (A hybrid name wasn’t considered).

      Next year we will look at if we can bring the naming process forward so that informal nicknames don’t solidify so much. We appreciate that people get very attached to these nicknames, although Atawhai is still the same ball of fluff you watched hatch and fledge – but now she has a taonga name which means kindness, and this is befitting of her species’ cultural significance; her presence on our screens during a challenging year; and her status as an ambassador for Aotearoa.

      Your experience watching Atawhai grow and your aroha/love for her species is important. Hopefully this blog (while long, as you say!) can be a useful resource for people to share and become more aware of the context and culture of this taonga species beyond just what is seen on camera.

      Thanks for watching the stream and taking the time to write to us. Ngā mihi nui.

    Jane Reynolds 14/10/2020 at 1:23 pm

    Well written story. Don’t know why people get their knickers in a knot over Maori names. Love the phrase “A taonga name for a taonga species”.

    Linda Kontol 14/10/2020 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you for this and all about them is always very interesting!

    Rita Palasek 14/10/2020 at 11:55 am

    Thank you for posting this; I wanted to see the five final names again, for a reference for next year. I couldn’t find the link to that section, after searching the site for it. Thank you DoC and Cornell for all you do!


    Good story to read about. Perfect Name