Birds, birds, birds

White tern chick (pic: Department of Conservation, photo by Don Merton (10030637))

White tern chick (pic: Department of Conservation, photo by Don Merton (10030637))

A-well-a, everybody’s heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word …

Whether you like Big Bird or little birds, early birds who get the worm, or birds who flock together, there is bound to be something in Te Ara to interest you. (Well, maybe not Big Bird, we only have one mention of Sesame Street). Most of our bird entries were published in 2005–7, however, so we’ve recently been starting to update them.

Some changes in the bird world since we did these entries include the discovery of the New Zealand storm petrel breeding on Te Hauturu-o-Toi/Little Barrier Island and the removal of Canada geese from the game birds schedule of the Wildlife Act. It has also recently been discovered that kiwi are most closely related to the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar, and that the closest living relative of moa is the small South American tinamou, which can fly!

One of the great things about working on Te Ara is the wide range of subjects that I get to research. However, the jump from painters, potters and poets to penguins, pūkeko and prions has meant a bit of a stretch in the old brain department. Luckily, we’ve had Colin Miskelly (seen here with a fluttering shearwater chick), ornithologist, curator at Te Papa and editor of New Zealand Birds Online, to review these entries and patiently answer our questions about nominate subspecies and the genetic distance between moa and kiwi.

As well as updates to the text, our designers have been hard at work re-sizing all the images and video, and moving layered maps like this albatross one from Flash into HTML. This might not look immediately different on your PC screen, but it does mean that it is now usable on my phone (and hopefully yours!).

Another new function is that some of our tables are now sortable, like this one listing the birds that migrate to New Zealand – you can sort it alphabetically by common name or species name.

The bill of a whio or blue duck (pic: Nature's Pic Images, photograph by Rob Suisted)

The bill of a whio or blue duck (pic: Nature's Pic Images, photograph by Rob Suisted)

We’ve also added some new photographs, such as this fascinating one of the underside of a whio’s bill (above), supplied by Rob Suisted of Nature’s Pics, and this amazing one of a long-tailed cuckoo being fed by its much smaller whitehead parent. You can read about how photographer Adam Clarke got this image on the Te Papa blog.

So this is just a taster of some of the work we’ve been doing recently. We’ll have more images and some lovely new video still to come, as well as some interactive graphs, so do keep looking!

* A bit more trivia – the quote at the top comes from the Trashmen’s 1963 hit song ‘Surfin’ bird. When I was writing this blog, I kept singing the Bluebird chips song from their early-1990s advert, which turned out to be an adaptation of ‘Surfin’ bird’. The Trashmen apparently created their song from two songs by 1960s American doo-wop band the Rivingtons, ‘Papa-oom-mow-mow’ and ‘The bird’s the word’. Blog writing occasionally takes you down some strange paths.

One comment added so far

  1. Comment made by Julia || May 27th, 2015

    I wish this coment was about birds… but unfortunately I just thought I’d share with you my favourite Papa Oom Mow Mow song:

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