The Morepork is New Zealand’s only surviving native owl. They are found in mainland New Zealand’s forests and on many offshore islands. They are less common in the drier, more open regions like Canterbury…which is why it was a pleasant surprise when this little bod stopped to rest in one of the trees by our veggie patch.
They are very pretty little owls….Speckled dark brown, with yellow eyes and long tails, they are around 29 centimetres long from head to tail and 175 grams in weight.
In Māori tradition, they were often seen as a watchful guardian. As a bird of the night, it was associated with the spirit world. Its high, piercing call was supposed to signify bad news, such as a death, but the more common ‘ruru’ call heralded good news.
A number of sayings referred to the birds’ alertness. One saying warned an enemy that they were being watched:
“Etia anō āku mata me te mata-ā-ruru e tīwai ana
Me te mata kāhu e paro noa rā kai te tahora!”
My eyes are like morepork eyes turning from side to side,
Like the eyes of a hawk who soars over the plain!