9 Dec 2023

Long Read: The grief bird

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 9 December 2023

This is The Detail's Long Read  one in-depth story read by us every weekend.

A bittern is walking across a dewy patch of grass amidst swamp and reeds. It tilts its head up to the sky. The light is dim, as if early morning.

A master of camouflage, his plumage of streaky brown and cream blends into the reeds, especially when he stands stock-still, neck elongated. But in the evenings of spring and early summer, his boom reverberates through the wetland. It’s his way of saying “I’m here” to both prospective mates and rival males. A foghorn in the impenetrable scrub. Photo: Craig McKenzie / New Zealand Geographic

This week, 'The grief bird' – a story by Ellen Rykers about the conservation effort to save the Australasian bittern or matuku.

You can read the full story, plus see photographs from Craig McKenzie, in the November-December issue of New Zealand Geographic magazine, or on their website.

The bittern’s eerie, booming call sounds like a lament, a tangi ringing across the marshes. Now, the birds themselves are in trouble.

With the wetlands they once called home being depleted, starving wayward bitterns are being led into the path of cars, predator birds, and the grips of starvation.

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