top of page

Why do we use the Godwit, the Kuaka?

Our logo depicts a flying Kuaka, the godwit. These birds show incredible endurance and are recognised for their tenacity and perseverance. 


Every year, as winter approaches, the Kuaka fly north to the breeding grounds of Alaska, stopping off in Korea and Japan for a rest and some food on the way. On the return journey, as our summer approaches, they fly directly to New Zealand, a trip of endurance with no food, water, or rest; nearly 12,000 km non-stop.  


The Kuaka fly in flocks, with birds taking turns to lead and conserve their energy in the slipstream of others. Some banded birds have made that journey 20 times and some of them come to the Canterbury coast. The Kuaka arrive back at the Avon Heathcote Estuary every spring. 

In the face of an enormous challenge, the Kuaka brings a spirit of endurance and cooperation, and that is what makes the Kuaka an appropriate symbol for MECFS Canterbury. 

The Kuaka have been seen as birds of mystery: there is a saying: ‘Kua kite te kohanga kuaka?’,  

‘Who has seen the nest of the kuaka?’.  

The mystery of course was because the Kuaka makes their nests far away in Alaska.  

There’s a parallel there with our experience with ME/CFS. The illness is as real as the Kuaka, but no one yet knows what is causing it. Hopefully one day, soon, the answer to the mystery will be as obvious as the location of the Kuaka’s nests is to us now.  

There’s another evocative saying about the kuaka that can inspire our community:

‘Ka ngau ki te turi kakao te paringa o te tai, e tika te rere o te kuaka’

‘The spinifex wanders along the beach like the incoming tide, the kuaka flies direct’.

The big spiny seed heads of the spinifex plant move along the beach like tumbleweeds, backwards and forwards at the whim of the wind. But the Kuaka make their own way, working with purpose and as a group to achieve something remarkable.

Buller, W. L. (1967). Buller’s birds of New Zealand: A new edition of Sir Walter Lawry Buller’s a History of the birds of New Zealand. Whitcombe & Tombs.    

It’s said that when Pacific explorers saw the flocks of Kuaka flying so determinedly and seeing that they weren’t sea-birds, they knew that there must be land to the south.


So, they set off, following the Kuaka flocks, and discovered Aotearoa.

We like to think that the scientists can be like those explorers, following the clues from people with ME/CFS, to make a great medical discovery.

bottom of page