Pukeko: Swamped in Controversy

Guest Blogger: Campaign Manager for the Pukeko, Radio Presenter & Writer, Damian Christie

If ever there was an underbird in this competition, it’s the Pukeko.  But there are so many reasons why the humble Swamp Hen should be Bird of the Year 2009.

Pukeko, Photo: Jordan Kappelly

Pukeko, Photo: Jordan Kappelly

The Pukeko is here to stay.  Despite the best efforts of the nice people at Forest & Bird to set the mood, too many of our so-called “treasured” birds do themselves no favours in the downstairs department.  Whether they’re picky, or simply lack the requiste knowledge on the finer points of breeding, many of our precious natives score as much as a thirty year old Morrissey fan who still lives with his parents. By contrast, the Pukeko is a prodigious lover.  Frankly, if anything, the Pukeko probably spreads itself a bit thin in that department, and already as Campaign Manager I’ve had to pull favours to keep them out of the gossip pages.  Chances are, if you read any snippet beginning “Which cheeky swamp hen was seen late on Friday night…”, you’ll know who they’re talking about.  Point being, Pukeko are everywhere, and there’s only going to be more of them in the future – why not back one of nature’s winners?

Okay, sure they’re not endemic to New Zealand -they are native though- they’ve been here for about a thousand years or less.  Just like Maori.  So if you don’t vote for the Pukeko because they’ve only been here a thousand years, then you’re pretty much a racist.

But the main reason to get in behind the Pukeko for Bird of the Year 2009, is they are awesome.  They don’t hide in dense bush and only come out at night (*cough* bloody lame kiwis *cough*) in fact they stand on the side of motorways to make it easier for toursits to see them as they drive past in tour vans.  They’re super cute as babies, you can feed them your left over chips (but you probably shouldn’t) and they can be trained to unplug stuff around the house too.

Get in behind the Mighty Puke’ this year – Give us your vote.

Damian Christie – Pukeko Campaign Manager.

To vote go here – http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/poll

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  1. September 15, 2009 8:48 pm
    Trisha says

    Time to kick up the campaign, Damian.
    Pukekos are falling behind in the vote.
    Can we put our “small cult following” in touch with yours?
    Ours is based mostly around one rescued chick who is now fourishing, still in the care of his surrogate (human) mum. He is a last season’s chick, so quite a lad now.
    She has great pics of him, as a tiny, tiny chick and ongoing.
    He doesn’t uplug things in the house yet, but he unplugs things in the garden very successfully.
    How can we help? We support our special Pukeko leader and all others.
    Very intelligent birds, but much misunderstood by many humans it seems.

  2. September 15, 2009 9:51 pm
    Bruce Dudley says

    What would happen if everyone had a pet pukeko instead of a pet cat? Has anyone looked into this? Can you house train them? Ducklings would still get a hard time, by the look of it.

  3. September 16, 2009 10:16 am
    Gill says

    Tis rather an unfortunate photo of the pukeko. A lot of birds kill the young of other birds… they know not what they do. Our beloved Tui are one of the most territorial birds and they kill other Tui’s young ones, other birds that threaten their food sources and fight to the death amongst themselves. My 11 month old Pukeko resides quite companionably with my little dog and 2 cats and various other rescue birds that I have residing with me from time to time.
    He is well fed and is very gentle and loving… but Bruce, alas, impossible to housetrain! And yes, he certainly unplugs things in the garden… but a very funny bird and when he climbs up on to my lap for a head rub, all his faults are forgiven. Yes, Damian, have some great photos if you can use them.

  4. September 17, 2009 10:35 am
    Gill says

    When I looked at this, this morning, Pukes had 62 votes so how come it now says 25 votes?

  5. September 17, 2009 10:43 am
    Mandy says

    Sorry, we had a technical glitch, all sorted now!

  6. September 18, 2009 3:47 pm
    Damian Christie says

    Trisha – would love to get in contact – unfortunately this Campaign Manager is heading off for a couple of weeks overseas today, right in the middle of the campaign I know! But drop me a line, damian dot christie at gmail.

    In the meantime I’ve given the campaign a plug on my latest blog, http://www.publicaddress.net/cracker – let’s see how it goes.

    Direct action campaign when I get back. Stand by troops.

  7. September 20, 2009 3:18 pm
    Trisha says

    Standing by, Damian!!!
    Gill is our pukeko raiser – I am support crew.
    Hopefully we have rallied some votes – it seems so.
    Quite right about so many things in your public address blog.
    Enjoy your trip – rest up for action back here when you return.
    I will email you – pukeko supporters should unite.

  8. September 24, 2009 10:42 am
    Kim says

    That looks like a mallard duck – the good ol’ pukeko eh, doing its bit to get rid of pests….

  9. September 26, 2009 8:19 pm
    Michael the Possum eradicator says

    I would rather eat the duck at 26 weeks (roasted in lemonade) instead of the Pukeko who really is a soup animal on account of those sinew riddled legs. Cant say they make it as my 2009 bird, it seems they have a poor memory and have yet to return the greenstone tiki they were entrusted with some time ago. (Lost in the swamp- yeah right)

  10. September 28, 2009 2:23 pm
    Anne says

    My dad taught me that you stew the pukeko in water for several hours, throw the bird carcass away, and drink the water… I got the impression they aren’t the best and tastiest meal on two legs….

  11. September 29, 2009 3:39 pm
    riflefan says

    No the pukeko soup joke goes like this: To make pukeko soup take one pukeko and one old boot, boil for 10 hours then throw away the pukeko and eat the boot.

  12. September 29, 2009 7:56 pm
    Gill says

    I thought this was a weblog about birds, not a recipe site – just sort of proves the ignorance of some. Do a little bit more research you guys about birds before sounding off about pukes…. its a struggle for survival out there… most birds kill others ….Tuis are the most nasty….

  13. October 14, 2009 9:02 am
    David Woodward says

    The pukeko is really more suited to be representative of the average “Kiwi” than the kiwi. It is everywhere, extremely social, not in the least shy , quite attractive and colourful. Of our native birds is probably the most seen bird (not like the kiwi who skulks around in the bush at night and hides). Has undoubtfully been viewed by all “Kiwis” (but how many “Kiwis” have actually seen a kiwi which is not in captivity)? It can be somewhat oversexed, but what normal red-blooded “Kiwi” isn’t? It is quite self-reliant and doesn’t have to molly-coddled and protected by its own self-appointed nursemaid to survive. All-in-all the pukeko is more like we what we are than any other bird and as such deserves our support.

  14. October 14, 2009 10:41 am
    Gill says

    Well said David!

  15. October 14, 2009 10:54 am
    Trisha says

    Exactly, David.
    Pukekos need more votes! They make themselves so accessible for all NZers to see and they are beautiful.
    A Top 10 placing at very least is deserved.

  16. February 21, 2010 8:55 pm
    Lindsey & Carisse de Beer says

    Given the Pukeko is one of the Nation’s icons, we are astounded to find it actually on the menu at the Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika next month. Never mind voting, I think it is time for action of another kind. If you’re interested in joining my sister and I : lindseydebeer@hotmail.com

  17. February 24, 2010 11:37 am
    anne says

    I was (ignorantly?) amazed quite frankly when I saw that in the news; being able to use a native bird like this – I mean, it kinda makes a mockery of telling iwi off for cultural harvest of birds like keruru…Except I suppose people’ll say that pukeko is a nuisance. What about the folk in Wellington who threatened the lives of kea from Karori Sanctuary because those birds ate the plums in their garden? Or the complaints I’ve heard about the noisiness of tuis on quiet mornings?

  18. January 3, 2012 8:11 am
    Ruth Newbury-Swash says

    Hi, I don’t belong to your association but thought you may be interested to know: Yesterday Idid, with friends, the Waterfall Walk at Shakespear on the end of the Whangaparaoa Pen., and pleased to see the new predator fence , but, where have ALL the pukeko birds gone, I didn’t see one and feel upset and a favourite walk of mine and I have loved seeing these cute lovely birds; have they been culled or moved or what? Do you know? Also all the peacocks gone too and they were magnificent strolling around Shakespeare Bay and kids always entranced by them???? Am I missing something here?
    Cheers, Ruth

  19. May 21, 2012 11:58 am
    Michael says

    What’s a threat to a pukeko?

  20. May 25, 2012 2:14 pm
    Mandy says

    HI Micheal,

    Rats, stoats, possums and weasels all threaten pukeko. And in duck shooting season, you can add humans to the list

    Hope that answers your question,



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