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Image Käkä, chromolithograph, 1888

TLF ID R4202

This is a print of two käkä (native New Zealand parrot, 'Nestor meridionalis') sitting among the crimson flowers of a rata tree. The bird on the left is the rare käkä kura (red käkä), while the one on the right has the more common brown plumage. A fully grown käkä can reach 45 cm in length and weigh between 425 g and 575 g. This chromolithograph from Walter Buller's 'A History of the Birds of New Zealand', second edition (1888), is after a watercolour by J G Keulemans (1842-1912) and measures 27.5 cm x 21.0 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset portrays the käkä - this bird was important to Mäori both as a food source and for its feathers, which were valued for their colour and rarity and were used to make finely woven käkahu kura (käkä feather cloaks).
  • It depicts a bird that Mäori captured and tamed as mökai (captive or pet) - they used the tame birds as decoys to lure wild käkä to mutu käkä (snares) during the fowling season.
  • It illustrates a bird that, while mainly diurnal, can be active at night during fine weather or a full moon - flocks of boisterous käkä frequently gather in the early morning and evening to socialise; Mäori refer to them as chattering and gossiping.
  • It pictures a bird that has become localised to a few areas since 1930 - forest clearance has resulted in habitat loss, and introduced pests such as possums, stoats, deer and pigs have reduced the käkä's food supply while also eating its chicks and eggs; the käkä is the subject of a recovery program organised by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
  • It highlights the printing method of chromolithography - a development of the lithographic process, chromolithography uses a separate engraved stone to print each colour; before chromolithography, prints were coloured in by hand; the process was first commercialised in the 1830s by Godefroy Englemann of France.
  • It illustrates the more intricate chromolithography popular in the late 19th century - this style used as many as 15 stones and was admired because of its rich colouring; many books were bound with chromolithographic prints, and children's books are a popular example of this printing method.
  • It highlights the work of J G Keulemans, a Dutch painter and illustrator who became famous as an artist and illustrator in England in the late 19th century - his work in Walter Buller's 'A History of the Birds of New Zealand' shows chromolithography at its best and is still the standard for images of New Zealand birds; the demand for the first edition was such that Buller persuaded Keulemans to undertake a second edition including details of many more species.
  • It highlights the ornithological work of Walter Buller - his achievements culminated in the 1873 publication of the first edition of 'A History of the Birds of New Zealand', earning international acclaim for both Buller and Keulemans as well as a knighthood for Buller.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: John Gerard Keulemans
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements