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Hakawai or Hokioki in the North Island, is a bird heard but not seen, like the Gee-Gee Bird or the Devil Bird. The Hakawai is one of the eleven tapu birds of Raka Maomao, the god of the winds. It lives in the heavens and only descends to Earth at night. It was considered a giant bird of prey (similar to the American Thunderbird) and was described by Ngāti Apa chief, to the Governor of New Zealand Sir George Grey, as:

”Its colour was red and black and white. It was a bird of (black) feathers, tinged with yellow and green; it had a bunch of red feathers on the top of its head. It was a large bird, as large as the Moa"
Haast

Haast's Eagle preying on Moa

The Hakawai is a bad omen, traditionally presaging war. Ornithologists from New Zealand wonder if it's based on a real bird, extinct or alive, probably a Haas'ts Eagle.


Investigation

Dr Colin Miskelly, who was studying the genus of New Zealand snipes Coenocorypha, investigated the possibility that the sound heard are actually of the South Island Snipe, that went recently extinct during the time. He interviewed people who had memories of the sounds. He found that the apparent range had steadily decreased over the years to the early 1960s. The sounds made by this cryptids were described “a sound as if a cable chain was lowered into a boat” a “jet-stream”, a “blind rolling itself up” or “a shell passing overhead". The reaction of the sounds were generally one of fright.

Of his research in the Chatham Islands wrote:

”I studied Chatham Snipe on South East and Mangere .Islands during November 1983 to January 1984 and in July 1986, and recorded three different kinds of aerial displays. All these displays were performed at night; the most spectacular display included both a vocal and a non-vocal component. This display was indeed hair-raising when I first heard it. The vocal component was a disyllabic call, repeated five times, identical to one of the ground displays given by territorial male Chatham Island Snipe. This was followed by a loud roar, similar to a jet passing overhead, as the bird swooped over the 6 m canopy at high speed. The non-vocal component of the call had three stacked bands (0.7 kHz, 0.9 kHz & 1.2 kHz) and lasted for about 1.5 seconds".

and:

” If this aerial display of Chatham Island Snipe is homologous with the 'drumming' or 'bleating' of Gallinago snipes, the non-vocal part of the call is likely to be created by air currents making the tail feathers vibrate as the bird dives at speed. I found indirect evidence of this on two of the 24 adult male snipe that I handled on South East Island in November 1983-January 1984. Their tail feathers had unusual wear. The shafts of all 14 rectrices had snapped off about 5 mm from the tip, creating a V at the tip of each feather. I attribute this unusual feather wear to vibrational stress during the display.”

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