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Here’s another bird that once fertilised our forest. Piopio.

Using their wings, their strong legs, & their stout beaks,
they moved about in the undergrowth. Here they took fruits, buds, seeds & foliage. Here they wrapped their short deep bills around the large seeds of our great podocarp trees.

Once piopio’s song greeted the early morning everywhere. It was a short, sharp, quick whistle, piopio, piopio…piopio, piopio..again & again…

Later in the day they sang in a sweet, sad, warble. Their long rust-red tails were spread and their wings were slightly drooped. Then the song would stop, half-way-sung, and he would cry out in a loud rasp.

Until the 1890’s, there were plenty – then there weren’t. The last bird was heard at Lake Hauroko, Fiordland, te Waipounamu (the South Island) in 1949. First kiore, then later ship rat and stoat, ate the eggs, ate the young. In a short time, no more children = no more adults.

So why did piopio’s song stop half-way through?

Piopio was one of the birds who went with Maui on his final quest. Maui was going to climb back up through the birth canal of Hine nui te Po – and so conquer death.

Piopio went with him as far as her doorway, singing all the way, to keep up Maui’s courage. But suddenly it stopped.

Maui was dead. His quest had failed.

So piopio’s song was forever half-way sung. Piopio, pio-p…….g.

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