Tūī can be found throughout the three main islands of New Zealand. They are scarce only in drier, largely open, country east of the Southern Alps. They live in native forests, bush reserves, and bush remnants.
The Chatham Islands tui is a threatened subspecies of tūī.
These attractive birds can often be heard singing their beautiful melodies before they are spotted. You will recognise them by their distinctive white tuft under their throat.
They are important pollinators of many native trees and will fly large distances, especially during winter for their favourite foods. They feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants such as kōwhai, puriri, rewarewa, kahikatea, pohutukawa, rātā and flax. Occasionally they will eat insects too.
Protective of their living space, tūī have been known to defend themselves against magpies and even 'mob' harriers. The tūī has suffered in the past with the introduction of predators such as possums, feral cats, rats, stoats, and ferrets, and the destruction of habitat.
A good sign of a successful restoration programme in areas of New Zealand, is the sound of the tūī warbling in surrounding shrubs.
Effective predator control in various regions around New Zealand has resulted in a dramatic increase in tūī numbers. For example, it's reported that in Wellington there has been an eight-fold increase in tūī numbers since the council began pest control in parks and reserves across the wider city region.
You can help
Plant a variety of natives to provide a year-round food supply for tūī. Plants need to be carefully selected so there are flowers and fruit at different times.
Tūī can be attracted to feed at troughs full of sugar-water.
Help protect our native birds
When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
- Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
- Check for pests when visiting pest-free islands.
- Leave nesting birds alone.
- Use available access ways to get to the beach.
- Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
- Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
- Don't drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
Other ways to help
- Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
- Volunteer to control predators and restore bird habitats.
- Set predator traps on your property.
- Put a bell on your cat's collar and feed it well.