Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae
Population size
Life Span
12 years
g oz 
cm inch 

The tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is a native passerine bird of New Zealand. It is one of the largest species in the diverse Australasian honeyeater family Meliphagidae, and one of two living species of that family found in New Zealand. The tui was first encountered by Europeans in 1770 at Queen Charlotte Sound on the north coast of New Zealand's South Island during Captain James Cook's first voyage to the Pacific Ocean. The tui was seen on all three of Cook's voyages.


At first glance the tui appears completely black except for a small tuft of white feathers at its neck and a small white wing patch, causing it to resemble a parson in clerical attire. On closer inspection, it can be seen that tui have brown feathers on the back and flanks, a multicolored iridescent sheen that varies with the angle from which the light strikes them, and a dusting of small, white-shafted feathers on the back and sides of the neck that produce a lacy collar.




Biogeographical realms

Tui are found throughout much of New Zealand, particularly the North Island, the west and south coasts of the South Island, Stewart Island/Rakiura, and the Chatham Islands. Other populations live on Raoul Island in the Kermadecs and in the Auckland Islands. Tui live in broadleaf forests but can also be found in small remnant patches, regrowth, exotic plantations, and well-vegetated suburbs. They are one of the most common birds found in urban areas, parks, and sometimes in orchards.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Tui are sedentary and diurnal birds. They are usually seen singly, in pairs, or in small family groups, but will congregate in large numbers at suitable food sources, often in company with silvereyes, bellbirds, or kererū (New Zealand wood pigeon). Males can be extremely aggressive, especially in favored feeding trees, chasing all other birds from their territory with loud flapping and sounds akin to rude human speech. Birds will often erect their body feathers in order to appear larger in an attempt to intimidate a rival. They can even mob harriers and magpies. Tui are powerful flyers; their flight is quite loud as they have short wide wings that give excellent maneuverability in the dense forest they prefer. Tui are known for their noisy, unusual call, different for each individual, that combine bellbird-like notes with clicks, cackles, timber-like creaks and groans, and wheezing sounds. Songbirds have two voice boxes (syrinxes) and this is what enables them to perform such a myriad of vocalizations.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Tui are herbivores (nectarivores) and feed particularly on nectar. However, they also eat fruit, insects, and occasionally pollen and seeds.

Mating Habits

12-15 days
2-4 eggs

Tui are monogamous and form pair bonds. During the breeding season that occurs in early spring (September and October), they perform a mating display of rising at speed in a vertical climb in clear air, before stalling and dropping into a powered dive, then repeating. Females alone build nests of twigs, grasses, and mosses. The nest is usually located in a tree fork or dense scrub and is lined with feathers and soft grasses. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs which she incubates for about 12-15 days. The chicks fledge 2 weeks after hatching but remain with their parents for some time more. During this time the male continues to feed them while the female lays a second clutch.


Population threats

Populations of this species have declined considerably since European settlement, mainly as a result of widespread habitat destruction and predation by mammalian invasive species. Predation by introduced species still remains a threat, particularly brushtail possums (which eat eggs and chicks), stoats, the common myna (which competes with tui for food and sometimes takes eggs), and rats.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total tui population size is around 3,500-15,000 individuals. The population on Rangatira Island is estimated to number 278 mature individuals. Currently, tui are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but their numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their diet habits, tui are the main pollinators of flax, kowhai, kaka beak, and some other plants in their local ecosystem.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The common name 'tui' comes from the Māori language.
  • Early European colonists called tui the parson bird or mockingbird; however, these names are no longer used.
  • The closest living relative to tui is the New Zealand bellbird.
  • Tui have a complex variety of songs and calls, much like parrots. They also resemble parrots in their ability to clearly imitate human speech and were trained by Māori to replicate complex speech.
  • Some of the wide range of tui sounds are beyond the human register. Watching a tui sing, one can observe gaps in the sound when the beak is agape and throat tufts throbbing. Tui may also sing at night, especially around the full moon period.
  • Feeding mainly on nectar, tui favor the New Zealand flax, whose nectar sometimes ferments; after that, the birds fly in a fashion that suggests that they might be drunk.

Coloring Pages


2. Tui on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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