Meet the parrots that kōrero in Te Reo

9:10 pm on 5 July 2016

"Tihei mauri ora kia tātou": These words came from the mouths of 11 Amazon parrots living in quiet, secluded Cambridge in Waikato.

It might be Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) but, for these birds, every day is the day for Te Reo.

Wayne Morris has 11 Amazon parrots living in spacious outdoor cages. He is Māori and, when he spends time with the birds or works outside near them, he chats to them in Te Reo - and they respond.

"Amazon parrots are renowned as good talkers and you can teach them anything, so you have to watch your language [around them]."

Mr Morris, who raised the chicks inside, said every time he walked past them he would speak to them in Māori.

"Repetition is the key," he said.

In the mornings, when he took the cover off their cage, it was "ata mārie (good morning)" and, at night, when the cover went back on, it was "pō mārie (good night)".

"They picked up ata mārie but can't pronounce the 'p' part of pō," Mr Morris said.

Whatever came into his head, he introduced to the birds, he said - and had another bird that could whistle four bars of Pōkarekare Ana.

Wayne Morris's 11 Amazon Parrots have been taught te reo Māori.

Wayne Morris's 11 Amazon parrots have been taught te reo Māori. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The reaction he got from people when he told them his parrots spoke Te Reo varied from disbelief to amazement, he said.

When RNZ News visited, the parrots certainly made a lot of noise but, when encouraged by Mr Morris with phrases in Te Reo, they did not want to perform.

The birds could be put off by strangers, he said. "It is getting them in the right mood to talk."

They did say "kia ora" and "tihei mauri ora kia tātou" but unfortunately not when the camera or microphone were rolling.

On a second visit - maybe it was because they recognised me or, more likely, that they had just been fed - they were in a more chatty mood.

"Kia ora. Ata mārie ... Kia ora, kei te pēhea koe? (Hello, how are you?)"

When he's not training his birds, Mr Morris works as a prison guard at Waikeria Prison in North King Country.

On Wednesday, he will take two of his birds to work to coincide with other Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori initiatives being organised in the prison's Te Ao Mārama Unit.

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Mr Morris says he speaks Te Reo whenever he spends time with the birds. Photo: supplied

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