Meet the korimako

Meet the korimako

Often heard before they are seen, this olive green beauty has a melodious bell-like call that is a welcome addition to dawn choruses across the country.

Also known as the bellbird, the korimako is classed as a non-threatened, endemic species, inhabiting mostly forested areas from the far North to the deep South. They can also be found in urban areas, especially when there’s bush or established trees in the area. For backyard bird spotters, hanging up a nectar feeder is the best bet for bringing their delightful songs to your garden.

How they sound

Consisting of three distinct bell-like sounds, the korimako’s song is widely admired. Māori have a saying “he rite ki te kōpara e kō nei te ata”,  which is used to compliment a pitch-perfect singer or a powerful speaker, translates as “like a bellbird pealing at daybreak”. Captain Cook also famously remarked that the korimako sounded like ‘small bells exquisitely tuned’. 

Interestingly, the korimako’s much admired song differs depending on where they live, much like the regional dialects of New Zealanders. Studies have found that the differences can even occur in parts of the same forest.

What they eat

Korimako tend to stay high in the canopy of the forest, feeding on nectar from both native and introduced plants. If there is good cover, they will occasionally come lower to feed on flax and native fuchsia nectar. In late summer and autumn, they get extra sustenance from fruit, and enjoy honeydew taken from insects on beech trees.

They will also peck up insects and spiders found on trunks, leaves and branches, with insects making up the majority of the meals offered to their young.

Nesting and breeding

Like most native birds, korimako breed in spring and summer. Their nests are a slightly chaotic looking formation of twigs and vegetation, with a soft lining created from feathers and grasses. They are usually built in a fork in a tree in a densely covered spot.

Korimako usually lay three or four eggs, with the female doing the incubating while both parents care for the fledglings. They are territorial when breeding but will leave their territories for an abundance of food.

How to spot them

For bird spotters, korimako are larger than the similarly coloured tauhou, with short curved bills and slightly forked tails. Males have pale feathers around the legs with a dark tail, while females have an overall brownish tone with a pale stripe across their cheeks. Both males and females have dark red eyes.

Your best bet for coming across a korimako is to go bush. Korimako are the most abundant in dense native vegetation, where they enjoy the high canopy of native and introduced trees. Their green feathers tend to blend with their surroundings, but they are usually easy to spot once their song is heard, or you may be alerted by the whirring sound of their flight overhead.

If you are using a Nectar Feeder in the hopes of bringing in a korimako chorus, don’t forget to keep it stocked with nectar and also to keep it fresh and clean so that your visitors don’t pick up any diseases. Happy bird spotting!

New Zealand native bIrds

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