Archives For Pukeko

By Sarah Matthew, volunteer and artist based in Wellington

The memories I have of Raoul Island are going to keep me smiling for a long, long time. Being a Department of Conservation (DOC) volunteer for six months was a fantastic opportunity to learn about and explore the remote rock, and meet some awesome people in the process.

Denham Bay Hut on Raoul Island. Photo: Sarah Matthew.

Denham Bay Hut

From bird life to hostel life, there were loads of wonderful and inspirational things to stimulate creativity. There is a lot of history in the hostel and library, and also in the books and relics that can be found in the huts dotted around the island.

Black winged petrel. Photo: Sarah Matthew.

Black winged petrel

Weeding was our core purpose, and the biggest chunk of our week was spent in the bush hunting for rogue plants.

The weekends allowed us free time to go adventuring and enjoy our own activities.

I really appreciated being so far removed from the mainland and the sense of freedom it allowed. The absence of shops meant we were able to embrace the good old kiwi mentality of making the most out of what was at hand and, for once, money was not an issue!

Flying tropicbird. Photo; Sarah Matthew.


Clothes hanger shaped into a kiwi on Raoul Island. Photo: Sarah Matthew.

Kiwi ingenuity.

The bush and the bird life are glorious on Raoul, and a trip to weed the Meyer Islands was a treat, as there are a large number of birds nesting there, including tropicbirds, petrels, terns and boobies! It was a delight to be able to get so close to such magnificent creatures.

There are tui, kakariki, and also a few families of cheeky pukeko living around the hostel. They graze the lawn and wake the entire population of the island with their lovely call—sounding something like a seagull getting strangled with a potato chip still in its mouth.

I took to walking around with a stick during nesting, not so that I could whack them, just so I could scare them away when they decided to attack!

Pukeko on Raoul Island. Photo: Sarah Matthew.

Lawn ornament?

From an artist’s perspective, being surrounded by nature and not a lot else, gave me the space to be creative and think about the relevance of my work and the way I produce it.

Using my camera to document, I enjoyed taking photographs of things as I found them—or of things that I had made, that did not permanently alter or harm the environment.

Humour has always been a big part of my artwork and I have fun placing things out of context to create alternative meanings, sometimes using playful imagery to discuss more serious ideas.

An environment such as Raoul makes it impossible not to see the inevitable impact that we humans have on nature.

Scrabble letters on the Raoul Island beach saying "I am here". Photo Sarah Matthew.

I am here

It was hard to leave the Island the when the time came, but I am extraordinarily grateful to be able to have gone, and to have gained the knowledge and experience it gave me.  I hope very much to go back there someday.

More photos of my time there can be seen on my artist page on Facebook.

Raoul is the largest island in the Kermadec Islands Nature Reserve—a chain of islands lying some 1000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand.

All the islands of the Kermadec group are part of the specially protected reserve. It is the most remote conservation area managed by the Department of Conservation. 

By Caroline Carter, Community Relations Ranger, Te Anau

Mention ‘Te Anau Wildlife Centre‘ around here and you’ll find it means many different things to many different birds!

A pukeko. Photographed by Peter Harrison.

For pukeko the Te Anau Wildlife Centre is the place to be seen

For some birds, such as the Auckland Island teal, the Te Anau Wildlife Centre is their retirement home, providing a safe nurturing place where breakfast, lunch and tea are assured.

For others, such as the kea and kaka, it is a place of refuge following the loss of a parent at a young age or being the victim of a road accident.

For some birds, such as the pukeko and ducks, it is the place to see and be seen. They all have wings and could fly away… and sometimes they do, but they just can’t resist returning for those crunchy breakfast pellets and plenty of visitors to keep them amused!

And then there’s the takahē. These are one of New Zealand’s rarest birds and were once thought to be extinct. The Te Anau Wildlife Centre is home to ‘Hebe’ and ‘Monty’, retirees from the breeding programme, along with two parent takahē ‘Kawa’ and ‘Tumbles’, who each year are given a new chick to foster.

A takahe. Photographed by Br3nda on Flickr.

Ta Anau Wildlife Centre is home to some true takahē charcters

Over the summer visitors had the delight of meeting their chick ‘Tawa’. Her reputation grew for being a bird of distinction, who knew exactly what she wanted in life—and that was corn on the cob for breakfast!

Unfortunately for her, Tawa’s breakfast was not sweetcorn but specially designed pellets rich in all the things a captive takahe needs. The pukeko on the other hand would get a sweetcorn to keep him away from the pellets!

The video that follows is comedy gold as Tawa the takahē battles the pukeko for the corn on the cob breakfast.