Te manu tukutuku – Māori kites for kids

Māori kites are known as manu tukutuku or manu aute. Manu is the word for both bird and kite. Tukutuku refers to the winding out of the line as the kite climbs and aute is a type of bark that could be used to make kites.

Kites and Matariki

Kites were often flown at Matariki, but also at other times:

  • They were used to work out what the gods wanted the people to do.
  • They were a way of sending messages to people far away, both to living people who were far away and people who had died.
  • People had kite flying competitions.
  • They were used to celebrate things, like Matariki.
  • Children played with them.

Types of kites

There are 17 types of Māori kites that we know of today. Out of all the kites that were made, only seven survived until today, including Manu taratahi, Upoko tangata and Manu patiki.

There was also a very large birdman kite. There is one in Auckland Museum. These kites could be very large, with wingspans of up to five metres, and required several people to launch them.

All this information comes from the book The Māori kite: Te manu tukutuku by Bob Maysmor.

Resources in our libraries

Online resources

Make a simple kite video
Make a simple paper kite.
How to fly a kite
Gives lots of advice on where, when and how to fly your kite.
Kite history
A timeline and list of important people in the history of kites.
Read up on kites in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Great for projects or homework. If you are at home, you'll need your library card and password/PIN to access this resource.
Kites and manutukutuku
Te Ara has a good short article about kites and manu tukutuku.
Names for kites in different languages
A list of some of the names for kites in different languages.
Traditional Māori kites
Learn about manu tukutuku on this page from Christchurch City Libraries.
Types of manu tukutuku
Did you know there were 17 types of Māori kites? Read all about them here.
Virtual kite zoo
Come and look at the first kite zoo! You can learn about the parts of a kite, different types of kite, the weird things kites have been used for and look up plans for slightly tricky kites too.
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