Story: Small forest birds

Tūī pollinating native flowers

Tūī pollinating native flowers

Some native plants have evolved along with tūī, and have a give-and-take relationship. Their flowers produce nutritious nectar to attract the bird, which then transfers pollen to other plants, ensuring cross-pollination. The curve and length of the flowers (pūriri, top; kōwhai, bottom) and the tūī’s bill are a good match. The anther of each flower species deposits pollen on a specific area of the tūī’s head. When it feeds on another flower of the same species, a sticky stigma-tipped style will brush the same spot, picking up pollen.

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Source: Charles McCann, ‘The tui and its food plants.’ Notornis 5, no. 1 (July 1952): 6–14,

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How to cite this page:

Christina Troup, 'Small forest birds - Honeyeaters – bellbirds and tūī', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by Christina Troup, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015, updated 1 Aug 2023