Kahu: Our genteel, murderous hawk
Guest Blogger: Campaign Manager for the Harrier Hawk, Tom Kahu Hunt
Please note: voting for Bird of the Year will begin in mid-September.
You will, as you read cases for other birds of the year, come across sickeningly-cutesy reasons for choosing the cheeky kea, the twittering fool the fantail, or that flightless national bore the kiwi.
But Kahu, the harrier hawk, does not rest its popularity on tugged heart strings, nor does it care for endangered lists – if anything it creates them.
Kahu isn’t the kind of bird to wait for crumbs from your table. You, if you are lucky, get crumbs from its. Kahu to most is that stooped shape over a road-killed carcass, most likely deftly picking out the best bits; the heart, the liver, the spleen.
It is that same bird that glances over its shoulder as you bear down at it at 100kmh and gently, effortlessly spreads its great wings and lopes off, an elegant gent into the sky.
It is that same cool character you grew up wondering, when you saw it soaring high above paddocks in search of dead lambs, if the North American bald eagle was similar, but cooler. But then, years later, you realised Kahu, with its angular arc in the sky, was so much cooler than that.
Kahu has the kind of intelligence that shows the term “bird-brained” does not apply to all birds – sun-warmed, carefully selected, and strategically placed stones keep the nest warm while mother hunts.
It is no surprise, when you see Kahu cruising up high, that Maori believed it to be a messenger from the gods. Some tribes refused to eat Kahu because they believed it would eat human carcasses (it probably would). Others though were not so kind.
But fair’s fair, and Kahu has a few kills to its name, with rabbit being a favourite prey. Where other New Zealand birds perished with European settlement, the new pastures were a boon for Kahu.
Early farmers, suspecting Kahu of stealing lambs, put a bounty on their heads but despite that Kahu continues to thrive today, reaching afar afield as the Chatham Islands, Australia, the South Pacific, even New Guinea.
One fan describes the courtship as “wonderful” – a sky-dance from July to October, a series of u-shaped dives and loud calls. September and October is for building nests; a low platform of leaves, flax, and grass in swamps, rushes, even road verges – almost to show, despite it all, Kahu is never too proud.
Kahu doesn’t care if he becomes Bird of the Year. But you should. Ladies and gentlemen, Kahu – your new Bird of the Year.