Ngā manu – meet the birds

Head and shoulders illustration of kaka


Good friends of ours found a flat right on the boundary of aZealandia Bird Sanctuary in Wellington. As we helped them shift in, this inquisitive kākā kept a close eye on our progress, and he and his friends flocked to see us every time we went to visit them.
The photo I based my illustration on was taken by my husband, and I applied a little creative liberty - he was actually perched on their gutter, but I thought the kōwhai ngutukākā (kakabeak) from a few doors down suited him so much better!
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head and shoulders illustration of a ruru


Before we moved to our current home, we lived near the top of Te Ahumairangi Hill (Tinakori Hill) for several years, and we got very accustomed to being sung to sleep by the many ruru (moreporks) that made their homes in the pines.
When we first moved out to the Hutt Valley, we missed their call, but in the last couple of years we've started to hear them more frequently. On one occasion we even had one hooting in our back yard, metres from the house.
Sadly we haven't been able to snap a decent photo of these nocturnal visitors in our own garden yet, but the photo I based this illustration on was taken by a very dear friend when she was on holiday in the Catlins.
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head and shoulders illustration of a tauhou or waxeye


Flocks of tauhou - you might know them as waxeye or silvereye - often flit through our garden. For months I ran to get my camera every time I saw a flock gathering in the kōwhai, mamaku, kawakawa and pittosporum that line our driveway, only to find they'd all dispersed before I could get the lens cap off.
Then as I was preparing lunch one day, I spotted this wee one around the side of the house, and from the kitchen it was just close enough for me to take a very fuzzy photo with my cellphone! Fuzzy, but with just enough detail for me to work with it for an illustration.
There's a bit of a funny side-story about this illustration though. I thought I'd finished it, and I was researching the name of the plant, when suddenly it dawned on me that it wasn't one of the many native shrubs that grow around our section, but privet, which is a pest plant.
So, after consideration came a quick trip out to the garden for inspiration, and I redid the background fauna, kōwhai is a much more welcoming tree. I also had a wee chat with my neighbour, and her husband took to the privet with a saw (he's remarkably amenable to removing plants at the least suggestion!).
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Head and shoulders illustration of a tui


Part of our section is bush clad, and we live near a reserve, so at times ngā tūī get a bit raucous around our place. This proud fella was having a good look around one day, and my husband captured the original photograph I based my illustration on. The tūī is posed in the same mamaku tree fern as the kererū! It's a popular possie for the many avian visitors we get.
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Head and shoulders illustration of the kereru


This is the bird that started it all off. It was the week of my 40th birthday, and my husband had told me I should take 6 months off from contracting to focus on my creative pursuits.
I'd made myself lunch, and sat down to eat it on the couch, with a view over the Hutt Valley, the native trees on our property in the foreground. As I munched my way through my noodles a curious kererū peered in from his perch on the mamaku tree fern at the top of our driveway.
I told him if he was going to stare like that, I was going to shoot his portait. He was very obliging in his posing, and my first #NZNative illustration was soon underway.
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an illustration of the head of a kakariki shown in a circle. There are leaves in the background.


One of my nieces has grown up on the other side of the world from her home in Aotearoa New Zealand. She came and visited us a while back, and we made sure she had lots of opportunities to get out and about into our beautiful natural environment. She was just as delighted by the jewel tones of the kākāriki at Zealandia as I always am!
We got a great photo of this kākāriki, but there was no foliage in shot, so the next day we made a visit to Kaitoke for more photography (both her and my husband are photographers) and to see if we could find something appropriate for the background. We did get lots of photos, but it turned out the whauwhaupaku growing at home worked best.
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Illustration of a tauhou or waxeye perched on a twig of kōwhai.

Tēnā koe,
it’s nice to meet you.

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