A couple of years ago a carpenter built me a bird-feeding table on my balcony. Jutting out over a valley it is a convenient cat free site, that quickly enticed birds of many varieties. After a few months however I decided to see if any tui would come and feed off a syrup, one cup sugar to one litre of water, that I was leaving for them.

For more than a year I had no luck even though tui were coming into nearby trees. Two or three months ago the first tui began visiting. After another month or so later there were two, and now there are four. I can approach to within about 3 metres of them, although they are getting tamer. The photo above was taken this morning.

Two weeks ago I was concerned when I noticed a rat sitting in the sugar container, it’s tail draped over the side. The night before I heard one running across the ceiling of my bedroom so it was not a total surprise. It was not myself that I was concerned about but the birds who might nest in my garden. Rats are such agile climbers that few nests would be safe. I laid poison several nights in a row but it has it has taught me that I should lay bait using a proper dispenser, on a semi-permanent basis. I want this to be a sanctuary and I have planted a couple of hundred native trees, many of them providing food for birds.

I would like to make a portrait of a tui, they have such strong faces. I believe that if I could set up a plain background behind the feeding container perhaps I could succeed. I would want to be close, although a very long telephoto would be interesting to try. I don’t have one at present. A camera that could be fired using a remote I would also like to experiment with.

However, at present I’m working on gaining the confidence of these visitors. I don’t always leave food out, I bring it in at night, for example. I do this so that the birds associate me with food thereby seeing me as a friend. It is touching to see one or two on the table, waiting for me in the morning.

As far as I know, tui are the only NZ birds that can to be taught to ‘talk’. I heard a most chatty one at Mt Bruce, in the Wairarapa. Certainly Maori trained and prized them for their abilities to recite. They also used tui as a food source.

PS. Next day. A visitor to my site has kindly sent me a link to the Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre where they has a tui called Woof Woof. Here are some videos of him saying a few phrases in what sounds like a NZ Pakeha accent.