The distinctive flying bird artwork that graces the twin hulls of our boat is a native New Zealand song bird, but not endemic to the country. In English it is called a ‘fantail’, whilst in Māori it is called a ‘Piwakawaka’. This cute bird has a few other Māori names including tīwakawaka or piwaiwaka.
The piwakawaka fantail is a cheeky bird that is scarcely ever still and could definitely never be described as shy. They adapt to their environment easily including areas that have been altered by humans. It flits and flirts as it flies, zips and darts about hunting for tiny flying insects to dine upon. The piwakawaka fantail will often fly alongside as you walk through New Zealand native bush and it is considered a most friendly avian. Their tail comprises virtually half of their body and their famous fan shaped tail is fully on display often, the design of which allows them to quickly change direction often during flight in pursuit of insects. They have a chattery, tweeta tweet chirp that is tuneful and bright. A lovely sound as well as a delightful sight.
In Māori mythology, the exquisite piwakawaka fantail represents as a bird that brings a message of ‘change. It can be considered a majestic messenger bird as they believed the bird brought news of death from the Gods to their people. Far beyond that, the feathers of many native birds from the piwakawaka to the tui, kiwi, kereru and many others have been used in ritual ceremonies, healing practices, their feathers weaved into cloaks, and worn in the hair. The restlessness of their flight is thought to indicate that change is imminent, and new experiences will soon come forth.
They are not dangerous in any way. Piwakawaka fantails produce and raise babies 3 times a year and are found in breeding pairs that last all year long and as they don’t live beyond 3 years of age, it is considered that they partner for life. One of the most beautiful things about this bird is that besides being found in forests and bush, they are also found in urban areas and gardens – including our non-floating urban city home in Auckland., so it is easy to find them tweeta tweeta tweeta-ing almost anywhere. And as a note of interest, the artwork on Waiata’s hull that shows the piwakawaka fantail was created and drawn by our Captain Greg.