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  • Writer's pictureRose Parsons

Godwit, Ethereal Earth Travelers

Godwit, Ethereal Earth Travelers

These clustering flocks of godwit have been described as “hau te kapakapa – the flapping wind”.

Godwits or kuaka, hold cultural significance for many New Zealanders but especially for the indigenous people, the Maori. The Godwits were believed to accompany the spirits of the Maori people’s departed souls when they flew north near the island of Hawaiki, the Maori’s ancestral home.

‘Who has seen the nest of the Kuaka?’ Old Maori proverb.

Godwit were also used by Maori and early European’s as a food source, it was illegalised to hunt them as late as 1941.

According to some tribal traditions, when living creatures first habituated the earth, it was the task of the kuaka to fly to the furthest seas to call together all sea birds to fight for a share of the harvest of river fish claimed by land birds.

Kuaka on the wing are known as “waka kuaka”. According to legend, Maori once followed the course of the kuaka in flight in their canoes for navigation purposes and at night would listen for their cries for guidance.

‘Ko te kaupapa waka kit e moana hoe ai ko te kahui atua kit e ranga rere ai.’ Whilst the fleet of canoes over the ocean are paddled, the flocks of gods are above in the heavens flying.

The Kuaka will be arriving around mid April after a non-stop 8-9 days flight from the Arctic Circle. Click here to read about our Meet the Godwit by Kayak Tour

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