Bird bingo

By | 15 February 2023

It’s bird bingo, he said, looking at the sheet.
I tried not to beat the ten-year-olds who were also keen.

You had to really listen.
And there they were.

Tūi, playing chase, fighting rivals:
blue-black, green glossy, white.

Puffed up to double his size to impress a mate
who flapped off over trees.

Puffed up to fight the kākā for sugar water,
but the kākā, all curved beak and red underwing, held his perch.

A saddleback’s flash of chestnut:
akin to the huia, flashes swerving through trees.

At the top of the dam and over the suspension bridge,
we have the eye of God.

Walking under canopies, I see a kākā soar high, ka-aa.
Beneath mamaku: the feather of wings and the feather of ferns.

If you’re over fifty you can’t hear the rifleman, he said.
Even the noise of the stream sounds like chatter.

A clear call; less a bell, more
the note of singer with perfect pitch.

I’d nearly cried seeing the film of the death of huia.
Then again, I nearly cried when I saw it –

steadily eating grass, as if
the most natural thing in the world.

Takahē, back from the dead:
royal blue, peacock blue, green;

a sharp red beak –
like watching a miracle.

I have five, I said.
I have four. Oh, I forgot the tūi.

But I counted the duck.
I found birds that were not on the sheet.

There are too few of those to include, he said.
But we saw them anyway.

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