A mythical Māori bird is gone, but its name still lives on (albeit in an extinct bird!)

Hakawai melvillei © Derek Onley

This is a story that would sit well in the pages of An Inspiration Of Waders, our last book where we investigated how waders have inspired, among other things, myths and legends. This is the story of the Hakawai, a mythical bird among the Māori people.

This bird was said to have been seldom seen but was more frequently heard at night when its unearthly calls would send shiver down the spine of those who heard it. This was partly because of the strangeness of the call, but also as it was supposed to be a portent of war or some other bad event. The Hakawai was believed to be one of eleven tapu which were sacred birds of Raka-maomao, a wind god. It was said that the Hakawai only descended to earth at night, spending their days in the firmament. It was believed to be a large bird, like a colourful, giant (reputed to be the size of a Moa) bird of prey.

To find out how this mythical creature is connected to New Zealand Snipes, both extinct and extant and also, strangely, to the Australian Plains-wanderer and the South American Seedsnipes read more here.