Taupo district historical bird records

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Jim Kirker
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Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2017 8:54 pm

Taupo district historical bird records

Postby Jim Kirker » Mon Dec 31, 2018 6:40 pm

Awhi Northcroft was born in the second half of the nineteenth century at the vanished village of Te Wairoa about fifteen miles south of lake Taupo up from the Tauranga-Taupo River on the slopes of the Kaimanawa Ranges. He lived in the Taupo district until his death at the age of 95 and in the 1930s was a friend, fishing and hunting companion of the late Fred Fletcher of Waitahanui. Fred's reminiscences were published in the book "Mr Hundred Percent" by Keith Draper published in 1969. The book includes stories from Awhi Northcroft about his knowledge of birds in the region.

"The Maoris had their hunting seasons at the time of year when the birds were in prime condition. Awhi told me that one season he shot about 360 pigeons and numbers of kaka. He also caught fifty-four kiwis with his dogs; and all these birds were preserved in barrels of hot fat which, when cooled, sealed the air out. The birds remained edible for months. Much of the bush where the old Maori hunted has been felled. Awhi said that deforestation, combined with the ravages of the stoat, was to blame for the present shortage of native birds.
There was an old settlement at the Opawa bush, inland from Hatepe, called Te Kakapo. Awhi told me it was named after the kakapo which abounded in the area in his younger days until the stoat killed them out. Apparently the Maoris thought the bird was like the kaka. "Po" means night; so it could be literally translated as meaning "the kaka that comes out of hiding at night". The last kakapo he saw was about 1912"

Buller in his "A history of the Birds of New Zealand" published 1888 states that "In the North Island it is rarely heard of; but it exists in the Kai-Manawa ranges, and, as I have been assured by the chief Herekiekie, it is still occasionally met with in various parts of the Taupo district"

"New Zealand Birds" by WRB Oliver states the last North Island Kakapo record was of a bird caught in the Kaimanawas in 1906, which is a few
years prior to Awhi Northcroft's sighting and in the same region.

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