Māori observed birds carefully, and their actions were often believed to predict the weather.
Hurupounamu (bush wren)
Māori saw hurupounamu as tapu (sacred), and believed that if one was killed, snow would fall.
The kārearea’s cry was believed to foretell the weather, as in the saying:
Ka tangi te kārewarewa ki waenga o te rangi pai, ka ua āpōpō.
Ka tangi ki waenga o te rangi ua, ka paki āpōpō.
When a kārearea screams in fine weather, next day there’ll be rain.
When it screams in the rain, next day will be fine.
Pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo) and koekoeā (long-tailed cuckoo)
The calls of the migratory pīpīwharauroa and koekoeā heralded the arrival of spring. These birds laid a single egg in another bird’s nest. The intruder’s egg hatched first, and the chick pushed the other eggs out of the nest so it was the only mouth for the parent birds to feed. A lazy, irresponsible parent was said to be like the pīpīwharauroa or the koekoeā (‘ka rite koe ki te koekoeā’).
Riroriro (grey warbler)
The position of the riroriro’s nest was believed to indicate the prevailing wind, as the nest’s entrance faced away from the wind.
The riroriro’s song signalled the time to plant crops. The bird is also mentioned in a saying about a lazy person who doesn’t help plant the seeds, but turns up later to eat the harvest:
I whea koe i te tangihanga o te riroriro, ka mahi kai māu?
Where were you when the riroriro was singing, that you didn’t work to get yourself food?
Tōrea (pied oystercatcher)
When the tōrea cried ‘keria, keria’ (dig, dig), it was seen as a sign of an approaching storm – in other words, dig for shellfish before the storm comes. After a storm, the bird is said to call ‘tōkia, tōkia’, meaning that calm has settled and all is well.