They characterised its cheeky nature in their proverbs.
They also found them to be a tasty treat, as Walter Buller records in 1877 in his Notes on the Ornithology of New Zealand:
"At Tokano (at the southern extremity of Lake Taupo) the natives snare thousands of them in June and July, at which time they are very fat. They are caught by a very simple artifice. The natives, having marked their principal haunts, drive rows of stakes into the swampy soil at distances of a few feet. These are connected by means of flax-strings, from which are suspended hair-like nooses (made of the fibrous leaf of Cordyline) arranged in close succession, with the edges overlapping, and placed just high enough from the ground to catch the bird's head as it moves along the surface in search of food. As the swamp-hen is semi-nocturnal in its habits, being most active after dusk, it has less opportunity of avoiding the treacherous loops.
It frequents the Maori plantations in considerable numbers and proves very destructive to the young crops, and later in the season it plunders the potato fields and kumera beds. The snaring of these birds, therefore, on this large scale, answers a double purpose, inasmuch as they are excellent eating when roasted in their own fat. Their eggs also are much sought after in the nesting season, being esteemed as great a delicacy as "plover's eggs."
And they also recorded them in their oral histories, with East Coast Māori asserting the pūkeko was introduced by their ancestors - brought here on the Horouta canoe about twenty-four generations ago, (as noted by Elsdon Best). Best also said the Aotea tribe of the West Coast claimed the pūkeko, the kiore and the karaka tree were all introduced by their ancestors in a waka called the Aotea.
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