Mitch and Monty: their true story, told by Mick Kelly to Kathy and Alex Scott, written by Kathy Scott and illustrated by Alex Scott
When I first went to Canberra, in the summer of ’95-’96, I was astonished to see pukeko (“poo – keh – ko”) in the creek at the Australian National University. “Oi!” I thought. “What are they doing here?”
The birds that I know as pukeko are the New Zealand version of swamp hens, and they are found in southern Europe, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Melanesia, western Polynesia, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Common as muck.
This is a true story about a pair of pukeko chicks, Mitch and Monty, that were hand reared by Mr and Mrs Kelly. The Kellys would take them on day trips to streams, but they always came home and slept in the wash house. Eventually, the Kellys tried to reintroduce Mitch and Monty to the wild, but when they drove off from the stream where they were hoping the bird would settle,
… they looked back and there were Mitch and Monty right behind them running flat out with the necks stretched forward and their wings flapping. The car stopped and Mitch and Monty were SO pleased. They danced their special dance, bowing down, shaking their heads and talking their special cackle. So they all went back home.
But the Kellys knew they needed to find a place for Mitch and Monty to live, especially when their neighbour started getting upset about his ruined lettuces. Would they be able to find a home for the birds?
This is a gentle story, gently told. Mitch and Monty are endearing birds, which is not something I thought I would ever say about pukeko. I smile with delight when I see them here – they’re a glimpse of the colours of home.