Wildlife - Pukeko

Pukeko

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Pūkeko is the New Zealand name for the purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), or which there are many subspecies.  You will often see the distinctive blue and black hen-sized birds feeding off the ground in and around the park boundaries.

It is thought that pūkeko first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand during the Pliocene (3-5 million years ago).  Finding a land with abundant food and no mammalian predators the species evolved into a more efficient form – flightless and large.

Unfortunately with the arrival of predators in the last few hundred years this strategy proved most inappropriate and the species we know as takahē, which are closely related to the pūkeko, are now in danger of extinction.  A more recent arrival of the same Australian swamp hen has retained its form as the pukeko we know today.

It is most often seen on the ground in swampy country where it feeds mainly on vegetation but it is not averse to large insects or other meaty prey. In rural areas it can be a nuisance, preferring newly planted vegetables to foraging in the wild. In the Abel Tasman National Park it is frequently seen and heard at Totaranui, Awaroa and Marahau.  It will fly when it needs to and is occasionally seen perching in a clumsy manner.

The native pukeko has done so well in Aotearoa that it may be shot in season by licensed hunters – but not in the national park.

Bird calls & Photo courtesy of NZ birds online