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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Ecology arrow Maori language Week, Pii Manu, and the dotterels
Maori language Week, Pii Manu, and the dotterels PDF Print
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Articles - Ecology
Written by Sophie Edwards, Focus Magazine   
Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I see Maori language week is from 27 July to 2 August. This gave me the idea to write about the dotterel and about names in both languages.

Ngunguru Sandspit is occasionally called Pii Manu. Some say it was mainly the northern part of what we call Ngunguru Sandspit that was referred to as Pii Manu by tangata whenua. Others would like this traditional name to be used today for the entire area of the Sandspit. The dictionary definition of manu is bird. The i in the word ‘pii’ is pronounced like the e in email but with a stress marked by a macron over the vowel (ī) or indicated by using a double vowel, two letters ‘ii’. The word ‘pii’ has several meanings—given in the dictionary as bee, chick, pea (the vegetable), and chicken. The sound of this first word is somewhat like the call of birds wheeling in the sky above the sandspit. So we have: chick – bird.

dotterel nest

Soon it will be the nesting season for dotterel. The nest, often just above the high water mark, is difficult to spot so please take extra care. The northern part of the spit is a favourite nesting site.

The Maori name of this bird is Tūturiwhatu pukunui (puku - belly, nui - big ) perhaps it got the name as during the breeding season its colourful front is specially noticeable. Our NZ dotterel is endemic, which means it is found only in New Zealand. Did you know it is the largest dotterel in the world? NZ Dotterel, once widespread and common, are now listed as endangered. Through loss of habitat and increased pressure caused by human activity its numbers have dropped alarmingly.

Our behaviour - walking and letting dogs run through nesting, roosting and feeding shorebirds - has become an increasing problem. Ngunguru Sandspit is Public Conservation Land, designated a Reserve and as such there are DoC regulations in place to protect flora and fauna. Your help is needed. Please follow these guidelines which include no dogs, no vehicles/ bikes, no camping , no fires and no litter on the Reserve. The dotterels and other shorebirds will be able to flourish and survive on Pii Manu with your help.
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