Noisy tui draw complaints

21:38, Feb 17 2009

Noisy  tui are giving Wellingtonians a rude wake-up call, with some people ringing Karori Sanctuary to complain about the birds' raucous singing.

Conservation scientist Raewyn Empson said she had taken several phone calls this summer from people complaining that singing tui were waking them at the crack of dawn.

"The trouble is that tui don't seem to need as much sleep as we do. During daylight saving, tui can carry on singing until about half past nine in the evening and start up again as early as 4am."

Te Papa bird curator Sandy Bartle said that if people thought tui were loud today, they should imagine what it was like before European settlement.

"It was incredibly loud. Joseph Banks aboard the Endeavour described it as 'the most melodious wild music I have ever heard'.

"Tui haven't changed, it's people's habits that have."


The opening of the Karori Sanctuary in 2000 has led to an explosion in Wellington's tui population.

Though most people have welcomed the sight of more of the sleek birds with their distinctive white neck ruffle, Ms Empson said a handful found the birds' constant chattering and early-morning wake-up calls less appealing.

Part of the problem could be that there were a lot of young tui around at this time of year. These were still learning how to sing properly.

"Like all youngsters, they only have a limited vocabulary to begin with, and take time to build up a full repertoire.

"In early summer, you will hear a lot of juvenile tui belting out the same three or four notes for hours on end. Still, there are a lot of worse noises to wake up to!"

With practice, tui can develop into virtuoso performers, even singing two songs at the same time.

Their song has been described as an unlikely medley of clear, bell-like notes and harsh hacking, some of which is beyond human hearing.


The Dominion Post