Karanga weka are small bird callers made specifically to replicate the call of a weka, a flightless bird endemic to Aotearoa. Weka are known for having an inquisitive nature. In Aotearoa, there are two types of weka, the rare north island weka and the more common south island weka. The endemic and native birds of Aotearoa are a very important part of taonga pūoro in the creation of various instruments and the songs that they produce. Birds also served as an important food source for early Māori. A skilled player of karanga weka was able to replicate the weka's call and because of its curiosity, it could be lured close enough to be snared. Māori often stored weka and gave them to guests as part of welcoming them.
Karanga weka can also be played melodically and produce a high pitch sound that is often described as being pure and uplifting. They are also noted for having the ability to cut through other sounds. This cutting quality would seem useful as a communication tool that could be audible yet disguised within other sounds of the forest. It would seem likely that karanga weka were also used by hunting or travelling parties to communicate with each other, sending various messages with different types of calls, within a blanket of numerous other bird calls and forest sounds. Karanga weka can be made from pounamu (NZ greenstone) bone and wood. They are small instruments and can also be worn as beautiful pendants.
Pictured: Karanga weka made by Jeremy Cloake from a pounamu pebble collected close to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound). It has been adorned with a maire rau nui toggle holding weka feathers and is strung to be worn as a functional pendant.