Volume 1 1892 > Volume 1, No. 3, 1892 > Our summer migrants to New Zealand, by Joshua Rutland, p131-132
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- 131

TWO species of land birds, the Longtailed Cuckoo, Eudynamis Taitiensis,1 and the Shining Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx lucidus,2 spend the summer months in New Zealand, the former wintering in Fiji, the Friendly Society, Marquesas, and Samoa Islands; the latter in New Caledonia, Australia, Tasmania, Java, and Sumatra.3

With these birds it is evident the natives of Polynesia, Melanesia, and New Zealand, must have been acquainted from time immemorial, but only to the last-mentioned people could both species have been well known, for it is only in New Zealand and the Kermadec Islands they appear together. The Longtailed Cuckoo, being common to so many of the Polynesian groups, should in accordance with the Polynesian system of nomenclature have a common name, or similar names throughout the region; and if the New Zealand islands were originally peopled from any of the Polynesian islands frequented by it, the name it there bore would certainly have been conferred on it here. For example: ruru and lulu are the names by which the various species of owls found in New Zealand, Futuna, Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti are generally known.

The Longtailed Cuckoo, being a very peculiar bird both in form and plumage, besides having a loud cry, which it constantly utters, day and night, on the wing and while at rest, could not fail to be immediately recognised by an observant people like the Maoris, if they had been acquainted with it in other lands.

In his manual of the New Zealand birds, Sir Walter Buller gives two Maori names for the Eudynamis Taitiensis: Koekoea and Koho- - 132 peroa.4 Whether the names are found amongst any Polynesian nation, or by what names the bird is known in its scattered winter quarters, I do not know; it is therefore with the hope of obtaining information I have ventured to call attention to the subject. If, in addition to the names, the exact distribution of the species during the winter season could be ascertained, the migratory bird might throw some light on the former movements of the ancient migrating people, with whom it has been so long associated. In the list of winter stations,—which has been taken from the manual referred to—the Harvey Islands are not included. Does the Eudynamis Taitiensis visit that group?

The historical importance of this question is obvious. The Shining Cuckoo, wintering in the Melanesian Islands where such a babel of tongues prevails, is not likely to yield much information, still it would be interesting to compare its appellations in the various groups it frequents, and to ascertain whether the New Zealand name Pipiwharauroa resembles any of them.

I have been informed by Mr. Edward Kenny of Queen Charlotte Sounds, that the Maoris lick the excrement of the Longtailed Cuckoo off the leaves of trees on which it has fallen, stating that it is sweettasted.5 Some time ago I communicated this fact to Mr. H. O. Forbes, author of the “Naturalist in Java,”6 as it offered an explanation of a fact observed by him. It would be useful to ascertain whether any of the Polynesian peoples have discovered the saccharine properties of the Cuckoo's or other birds' excrement. We know that many animals feed on the fæces of other species, but as far as I am aware, amongst the races of mankind the Maori is unique in this respect.

1  Maori names: Koekoea, Kohoperoa, Kohaperoa, Koheperoa, and Kawekawea.
2  Maori name: Pipiwharauroa, Whakarauroa.
3  Mr. H. O. Forbes informs us that the Chrysococcyx lucidus does not range as far as Java and Sumatra.
The Longtailed Cuckoo is known in Tahiti by the name of 'O'oea or Pareva (called by Lesson and Sparman, Cuculus taitiensis), and the first of these names is nearly identical with one of the Maori names for the bird, i.e., Koekoea, which will be readily seen by replacing the dash in 'o'oea with a “k” which letter the Tahitians do not pronounce. The bird is known in Nanomanga (one of the Ellis Group) as Areva, see “Jottings from the Pacific,” by Dr. Wyatt Gill, page 25, and this name is probably a variant of the Tahitian Pareva. In Samoa it is called Aleva, almost identical with the Nanomanga name.
One of the favourite landing places of the Shining Cuckoo (Pipiwharauroa) is on Maunganui Bluff, 25 miles south of Hokianga, where in spring time, the pretty little birds may be seen in numbers after their long flight from Australia, generally in a state of exhaustion.—Editors.
4  Although it is probable that this name—Kohoperoa—is not now retained in any of the dialects of the Islands, the words Hope-roa are known in Tahiti, where Hope means tail, and roa long, hence the name “longtail,” a very appropriate one for the bird. The Maori has retained the word hope in the name of the bird, but has otherwise lost the meaning as “tail.”—Editors.
5  The Maori was in the habit of treating the excrement of the Korimako in the same manner.—Editors.
6  See “Darwinism,” by A. R. Wallace, chapter viii.