Walked out this morning into the garden to see a flock of silver eyes grazing the micro life in the bottle brush bush outside the window of this study. Sometimes they're called wax eyes. A small green bird with a white ring around the eye. You get them in New Zealand too, as well as on many other islands in the Pacific. Their Maori name is tauhou, which means stranger; and thereby hangs a tale. The bird was unknown in Aotearoa until the middle of the 19th century, when a few individuals arrived, apparently blown across from Australia. They are now ubiquitous, to the extent that I was surprised and excited, not long after I arrived here, to find a 'New Zealand bird' in Oz. It was of course the other way round. Hence the name.
I knew other Australian birds for what they were: the magpies that are everywhere there, the kookaburras you find in North Auckland, the caged birds like cockatoos and cockatiels; and after a few years living here I thought I detected similarities between birds that are endemic here and native over there. Some of the Australian honey eaters have cries that resemble the harsher register of their New Zealand equivalents. Some of them have wattles like that strange family of New Zealand wattle birds, which includes the huia, the kokako and the tieke. There are scrub birds down in the Royal National Park south of Sydney which, to the casual eye, look a lot like bellbirds, although they don't sing like the korimako.
And then there are the parrots: the kakapo, the kea, the kaka, the kakaariki, which, except for the last, do not really resemble any of the individual species in the wonderful profusion of Australian parrots; yet that just might mean they were blown across the Tasman Sea a longer time ago than the tauhou, say, or more recent arrivals. Because when I was in Auckland last year, I learned that at least two more strangers have crossed the water. One, the rainbow lorikeet, appear to have been deliberately released over there; the other, the Sydney spotted dove, might too. I don't know.
They could hardly be more different. The lorikeet is brilliantly coloured (it has a purple bill), loud, aggressive and intolerant. The spotted dove is delicately plumed, shy, beautiful, with a pink breast and a black and white checkerboard pattern on the sides of its throat. Yet you always know when they are around because of their insistent, throaty, repetitive call. Temperamentally, you might be tempted to say the lorikeet is typically Aussie, the dove the ideal of what a New Zealander is like. Except that's really nonsense. We only exist, after all, in the exchanges we make with others; what is strange to you is familiar to me; and vice versa.
And in both countries the common owl, bobook here, ruru there, is also called morepork.