Fat Little Pūkeko
by Scott Moyes
Fat little pūkeko.
Don’t mind me.
I was tiptoeing through the trees.
And then I saw you!
Tiptoeing through your living room.
Perhaps I should have knocked.
Fat little pūkeko.
Look at those magnificent navy feathers.
And flashy red beak.
Where are your friends?
And is that… a bracelet?
Fat little pūkeko!
You’re no pūkeko at all!
You’re a trim little takahē!
And this isn’t your living room.
It’s your sanctuary.
Go forth, little takahē.
Be invisible once more.
And if anyone ever asks.
Tell ‘em what you are.
Just a fat little pūkeko.
Forests, Tāwharanui, New Zealand. Writer, Scott Moyes. Artist, Aimée Moyes.
Tāwharanui Regional Park isn’t a secret anymore.
It used to be. Or perhaps we just weren’t looking hard enough. Maybe Auckland grew so big that one day it landed on our doorstep without us knowing how it ever got there.
You might recognise it as the turn-off just before Omaha. I, for one, always thought of it as just another beach amongst the many others in the area. It’s one of the most stunning places in New Zealand, and it took me a great number of road trips to even consider popping in.
First and foremost, Tāwharanui Regional Park is a sanctuary. That’s not a secret either. There are multiple signs that warn you of the precious native birds that swoop and scurry through this land. You never really expect to see anything of the sort. If they’re protected, they must be rare sightings, right?
That’s why my favourite visit to Tāwharanui came in winter. The surfers and young families were nowhere to be seen. It was just my friend and I on a nostalgic journey up north. It was almost like we were the only ones who knew about the place. The hum of excitement was gone. And that made all the difference.
It only took a few steps out of the carpark to see the fattest pūkeko in the country, and then another. In just a few more, we realised what they truly were.
Takahē are astoundingly rare. There are only about 400 left, making them five times more endangered than giant pandas. To see not one, but two of them going about their daily business was wildly unexpected.
Tāwharanui is a fantastic place for takahē and other vulnerable native birds to call home. It’s situated on a peninsula, making it difficult for predators to enter. There’s also enough protective forest for them to hide in, just as they did for many years when we thought they were extinct.
I wonder how strong that protection will be as more and more people discover the gem that is Tawharanui. Will the takahē retreat further into their sanctuary for a bit of peace and quiet? Perhaps they’ll become more accustomed to seeing our unusual faces? And if we see more of them, maybe we’ll feel more compelled to fight for their survival?
Tāwharanui Regional Park may not be a secret anymore, but perhaps that’s a good thing.
We pledge to be respectful guests. To not disturb the peace inside someone else’s home. To be awestruck observers should our hosts decide to greet us.