Story: Te tāhere manu – bird catching

Page 3. Snaring methods: tākiri and tāhei

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Snaring with a looped rope was a common method of catching birds.

Tākiri method

In the tākiri method, a single snare is put on a perch. Birds are caught by the feet in the snare when the fowler pulls an attached cord with a quick tug (tākiri). There are three snares used in this method: the mutu, tumu and pewa.


The mutu snare (called tumu or pewa in some areas) was used both on the ground and up in trees. The mutu was made from a single piece of wood, L- or T-shaped, with a horizontal perch and a vertical upright. The mutu was often carved and weathered. A looped snare was draped over the mutu. It was lifted to the tree on a rod and hooked over another rod attached to a branch. When a bird landed on the perch, the looped snare was tugged, trapping the bird against the upright. The fowler then unhooked the mutu, keeping the cord tight, brought the bird down and killed it. The snare was rearranged and the mutu put back up.

The mutu was used in miro, hīnau, maire, kahikatea, tawai, rātā and rimu trees. The word for a tree in which it was used extensively is tūtū.

Give ’em a taste of kiwi

Early European explorers, and later settlers, survived by eating native birds – often caught using indigenous methods. Their opinion of kiwi meat varied. Explorer Ernest Dieffenbach said it was quite tasty. On the other hand, the trader Joel Polack thought that the ‘flesh is worthless and tough’. 1 Ethnographer Elsdon Best took the middle ground. He said that the kiwi was not tough, tasted fine, but was nowhere near as good as the kererū and tūī.


Used by the Ngāti Raukawa tribe, a tumu was a different type of snaring perch, placed on small trees or shrubs. It was not crafted like the mutu – rather, it was a small branch that divided into two branchlets. These were tied together at the end. The branch was left growing on the tree, or cut and reattached to another tree, and a snare-loop was laid on it. A cord tied to this loop led to a shelter where the fowler was hidden. When a bird landed, the fowler pulled the loop, similar to the mutu. The cord had a peg at one end, which was stuck in the ground, tethering the bird. Once most of the snares were full, the fowler would emerge, take the birds, and reset the snares.


The pewa was used in a similar way to the mutu and tumu. Rather than a single upright perch, it had an upright with a perch lashed to it horizontally and a strut bracing the upright and perch. A lure of ripe berries or nectar-bearing flowers was often tied to the perch to attract birds, and moss or lichen was attached to disguise it.

Tāhei (taeke) method

In the tāhei method the snare was unattended. A row of snares tied with slipknots were attached to a cord, or a rod secured horizontally between branches. The snares were set close to a straight branch or perch. The birds would sit on the branch or perch and be caught by their necks. As they struggled, the slipknot would tighten and catch them.

A tree on which these snares were set was called a rākau tāhei, rākau taeke or taumatua. When the snares were set near water, the water was known as wai tāhei or wai taheke.

Snares were visited once or twice a day. The fowler would gather the caught birds and reset the snares. These unattended snares did not work for kākā, which would rip them apart with their beaks.

  1. Quoted in Elsdon Best, Forest lore of the Maori. Wellington: E. C. Keating, Government Printer, 1977, p.170 (originally published 1942). › Back
How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Te tāhere manu – bird catching - Snaring methods: tākiri and tāhei', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 May 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007