Pukeko versatility

Daytime sightings of New Zealand’s iconic bird, the kiwi, are extremely rare and although it is a nocturnal creature, encounters after dark seldom happen either. It is hardly surprising then that another native bird – one that is colourful and quirky and easily spotted – has been happily adopted as a sort of all-purpose mascot. The pukeko, or (less glamorously) the purple swamp hen, inhabits wetlands and grassy areas.

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Its feathers are gorgeous shades of blue and silky black, with a white tuft under its tail feathers. It struts jauntily about on sturdy red legs and has a distinctive red beak. Unlike the flightless kiwi, the pukeko can fly, although its takeoff and landing tend to be rather clumsy.

Over the last 15-20 years the pukeko has appeared increasingly in decorative and souvenir versions: everything from fridge magnets to paintings to quite bizarre garden décor.

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Take your pick in any gardening shop throughout the country. Notice how the pukeko on the bicycle is wearing gumboots like any true “kiwi” New Zealander. But also notice that this poor pukeko has “knees” (its legs bend like a human leg) whereas real pukeko have “elbows” in their legs – their legs are jointed like human arms. Prices are in New Zealand dollars – NZ$10.00 = €6.00

100B2527 Fridge magnets are fun.

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Garden pukeko in all sizes, from a small bowl of succulents to life size.

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This pukeko family came to Dad’s garden about 15 years ago, carefully hand crafted in Taranaki. They’ve kept their colour amazingly well.

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At this time of year a pukeko may even sport a Santa hat and a beakful of tinsel.

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