For many years, two of New Zealand’s most treasured native birds have been misidentified – and for good reason, they have very similar features.
Is it a takahē or a pūkeko?
Takahē have long been called a fat pūkeko, which isn’t very nice to be called a fat version of another species. The fat shaming ends here.
April is the Month of the Takahē, or Takahē Awareness Month. This month brings awareness to not just to the once-thought-to-be-extinct takahē, but also to the misconception that takahē and pūkeko are the same native bird.
One of the clear indicators that the species are different – their conservation status. Takahe is Endemic in New Zealand, whilst the pūkeko are everywhere, probably one of Aotearoa’s most recognised native birds.
1. There are much more pūkeko than takahē.
New Zealand’s flightless takahē was thought extinct until famously rediscovered by Dr Geoffrey Orbell in 1948 in the remote Murchison Mountains of Fiordland in the South Island south-west. Today, takahē are classified as Nationally Vulnerable with a population of just over 400 birds.
Pūkeko are abundant and widespread and there is no threat to their long term existence.
2. They’re entirely different colours.
Evidence below (top, Pūkeko; bottom, Takahē). Takahē have bright blue and green coloured feathers. Pūkeko have dull blue and black feathers.