12 November 2009

Tauhou (silvereye)

Ready to goWe knew them as waxeyes when we were kids, and the old books gave a long list of other common names. “Blighty birds” was one of my favourites but I’ve never heard anyone actually call them that, although it’s still listed in most references.  Apparently they earned that particular name from their habit of eating “blight”, an old term for aphids, scale insects and the like. Ornithologists and other scientists call them Zosterops lateralis (sometimes with a subspecies added); the Maori name is tauhou, “stranger” (often translated as “little stranger”) — reference to their arrival in Aotearoa in the nineteenth century.
I went for a short walk yesterday to remind my legs what they were for and to forget about marking assignments. This little bird was one of a small flock flitting about the manuka along the driveway.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

7 comments:

Anne-Marie said...

Hello, pretty bird! I don't think I've ever seen such a close-up photo of a tauhou before. I always take them for granted but they are surprisingly colourful and beautiful when you see them like this.

I hope your legs enjoyed being reminded of their proper use :-)

the watercats said...

Such a stunning photo :-) and a fantastic little bird! Where did they originate from?

Zhoen said...

I can see exactly how those needle claw feet can hold so well.

Barbara said...

Now this is a beautiful bird. That shade of green is my favorite - I wear it whenever I can. (Did you know that 'Barbara' means 'stranger to the land'?) The soft focus around this sharp eyed little one is very nice, and I like the way you captured the green lichen on the branch and the soft brown under the wing. Those feet look like delicate metal filigree. Cool ...

robin andrea said...

It's always a pleasure to see what you are seeing in your neck of the woods. What a beautiful little bird. I'm glad you took the time to go for a walk.

Patricia said...

You do have an "eye" for birds. This little fella is charming beyond belief.

pohanginapete said...

Anne-Marie, they're lovely little birds, although the grape-growers aren't too fond of them. The legs did fine, thank you :^)

Watercats, presumably they were blown over from Australia, like most of our recent self-introduced birds (e.g. spur-winged plovers, white-faced herons, welcome swallows).

Zhoen, when a bird sits like this with its legs bent, a tendon automatically closes the claws. It's simple and effective and means birds don't have to actively grasp their perch while they're sleeping or resting.

Barbara, I didn't know that. Given your empathy with things like birds, it sounds most unfitting ;^)

Thanks Robin. Now it's time I got out of the house again, I think ;^)

Patricia, thanks. I have to admit birds fascinate me, for many reasons, particularly their ability to live truly in three dimensions rather than being stuck to the plane of the ground.