Andrew Crowe







PATHWAY OF THE BIRDS: The Voyaging Achievements of Māori and their Polynesian Ancestors

New Zealand Heritage Book Award 2019
Two Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards 2019
Storylines Notable Book Award 2019

Many New Zealand educational publications suggest that Māori reached Aotearoa by accident, or that their legends tell of ancestors arriving aboard a single fleet of seven canoes, but are either of these views correct? Here, science writer Andrew Crowe summarises a wide range of evidence in an effort to shed light on the country's founding history – and that of the Pacific as a whole. In 'a tour de force', declares The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 'Crowe describes what a voyage of settlement may have looked like in the most accurate and vivid way. Imagining a planned voyage from Rarotonga to New Zealand, we embark on a canoe and visualise Matariki rising on the horizon, follow the humpback whales and the petrels, observe the clouds and swell patterns, and learn how the Māori survived at sea for weeks with regards to such factors as hydration, provisioning and changing temperatures.' This readable summary of what is now known serves to challenge the popular claim that Polynesian voyagers were 'certainly heroic but not necessarily skilful'. Here, Crowe draws attention to the unique capabilities of Pacific seafarers, specifically their ability to find and re-find incredibly small and/or remote maritime targets. Hawaiian master navigator Nainoa Thompson explains: 'Everything you need to navigate is in nature. The question is, can you see it?' This book confirms how this skill provides a key to understanding one of the most expansive and rapid phases of human migration in prehistory – a relatively brief period during which New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands and Easter Island and all the islands in between were discovered and settled by a single race of people.


This is how Anihera Zhou Black (left) introduced Pathway of the Birds to her fellow crew at the book's launch (top photo) aboard Hinemoana in 2018. [Taonga = a culturally valued object or resource]. Ani has the distinction of having crewed on the traditional-style Ngāhiraka Mai Tawhiti on its epic voyage from New Zealand to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and back in 2012–3, a voyage that relied on the kind of nature-based, traditional navigation techniques described in this book. (View Te Karere TVNZ Māori News report of Te Aurere and Ngāhiraka Mai Tawhiti crews being welcomed onto Rapa Nui on YouTube.)


Dr Simon McDonald explains how he was so inspired by reading a draft of Pathway of the Birds that he 'decided to purchase an ocean-going waka (Hinemoana, left and on the book's cover) and set up a foundation that offers young Maori, Polynesians and other New Zealanders the opportunity to appreciate the seafaring experiences of their great ancestors who sailed to Aotearoa 800 years ago. For the last three years the foundation has offered 1–day, 2–day and 8–day voyagers to hundreds of young people and given them the chance to see life very differently. And it has been life-changing for many.'  (View promotional video for Hinemoana on YouTube and likewise for sister projects: Tairāwhiti, Te Matau a Māui, Te Toki Waka Hourua.)

This same waka hourua Hinemoana – was selected to meet the re-enacted arrival of Captain James Cook off Whitianga during New Zealand's Tuia 250 voyaging commemorations in 2019, an event that reportedly shone a spotlight on the 'remarkable achievements of Polynesian sailors'.

The book's title refers to the deliberate nature of Polynesian exploration, navigation and settlement and is from a traditional Tuamotuan voyaging chant, Pathway of the Birds

  Mine is the migrating bird
      flying on even-beating wings to lands revisited,
  Ever searching out the road of the ocean.
      It is the road of the winds coursed by the Sea Kings to unknown lands!
  Mine is the bird


INTERVIEWS about the book at Radio New Zealand National and The Lovepost

VIDEOS about the book viewable at ►

1. Guided by Birds 2. Return Voyages  3. The South American Connection

AUTHOR BIO in the New Zealand Herald



David Bateman Ltd in NZ, and in the USA by University of Hawaii Press (UHP).



Pathway of the Birds bridges the gap between academic researchers and the general audience Journal of the Polynesian Society

Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. It has changed my relationship with the ocean. Radio New Zealand National: Best of 2019 ►Listen to whole podcast

Pathway of the Birds is a great read. It skilfully traces the migration paths of our Polynesian tūpuna and highlights their mastery, ingenuity and determination in settling the great ocean of Kiwa. Te Karaka

Crowe's book [is] a highly readable and lucid account of the early Polynesians' epic saga. Illustrated with photographs and maps, his account of the Pacific's cultural, ecological and navigational settlement will appeal to both the general reader and the specialist. New Zealand Listener

Andrew Crowe has as­sembled a stunning amount of evidence from archaeology, ge­netics, linguistics, meteorol­ogy, astronomy, zoology and tradition to show not only that the Polynesians knew how to navigate across the seemingly trackless waves but the paths they followed, their techniques for locating islands and how they adapted to so many differ­ent environments. Wonderfully informative and entertaining. New Zealand Weekend Herald: Top Reads of 2018

Top Ten Non-Fiction for 2018 Auckland Libraries



Although departing from classical narratives of migrations, [Crowe's] organisation remains compelling and surely succeeds in demonstrating the unrivalled voyaging capacities of Polynesians generally and Māori specifically. . . . Another noteworthy quality of the book lies in the exhaustive review of Polynesian places. Crowe does not omit archipelagos commonly left aside in the big narratives. . . . Chapter 10 remains in my view a tour de force of this volume. Crowe describes here what a voyage of settlement may have looked like in the most accurate and vivid way. The Journal of the Polynesian Society

A veritable mine of information about the environments and resources of ancient Polynesia. It stands as an excellent addition to earlier books on Polynesian navigation by authors such as David Lewis and Geoffrey Irwin. Journal of Anthropological Research

The book is very well written and illustrated, and is comprehensively referenced... I highly recommend [it] for its readability and presentation while offering an informed account of how Polynesians in double-hulled canoes voyaged over vast distances of the Pacific Ocean from small island to small island, carrying with them the materials required for successful settlement. International Journal of Maritime History

Pathway of the Birds contains such fascinating history, vignettes, maps, and images, the reader will be drawn to read it again and again and absorb more details along the way. . . . Crowe has assembled a compelling picture of the Polynesian age of exploration and settlement that provides a necessary contribution to the existing literature. The Globe Journal


Patrick Vinton Kirch, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

'Andrew Crowe has without doubt produced a major work of scholarly synthesis regarding the voyaging achievements and history of the Polynesians, one that will be accessible to the lay reader yet also required reading for the serious scholar of this fascinating region… Indeed, I see the great strength of Crowe's book in the masterful way that he has managed to integrate a diversity of scholarly perspectives and viewpoints into a coherent and engaging narrative.' Patrick V. Kirch contributed a Foreword to the book, which is downloadabe HERE.

Lisa Matisoo-Smith, Head of the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

'I was impressed with how many different disciplines — scientific disciplines — are all threaded together in one book... It's beautifully researched, very in-depth... Crowe's linguistic knowledge is truly impressive... A beautiful, beautiful book.' ►Listen HERE to podcast of whole Radio review

James Bushnell Richardson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh

'This is an extraordinary synthesis of the voyaging history of Polynesian settlement of the Pacific... A major feat of scholarship presented with remarkable graphics and photographs. Highly recommended.' Choice Reviews

Andrew Shamoo, Digital Library Curator, University of California

'Crowe's work synthesizes generations of knowledge-building on Oceania and Island Southeast Asia. Pathway of the Birds shames highly trained archaeologists and anthropologists in its deeply engaging narrative of the peopling of the world's most remote islands. Drawing upon an incredible amount of multidisciplinary research, Crowe does what countless Malayo-Polynesian ethnographies fail to do by summarizing and expounding upon such a rich and complicated area of study without becoming bogged down in jargon and processual dehumanization. A must-read for all scholars of Polynesia.'


are still practised today and being passed on by the likes of...

Pius Mau Piailug (left) from Satawal, a Micronesian master navigator who helped revive the art of traditional wayfinding in the Pacific. Navigating the first voyage of the Hōkūle’a from the Hawaiian Islands to Tahiti in 1976, he helped to reawaken cultural pride in voyaging throughout Oceania, including the cultural region now known as Polynesia. For a great 56-minute documentary on his legacy (d. 2010), see Papa Mau: The Wayfinder on YouTube

Master shipbuilder Tenanoa (left) of Tarawa, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), who built a traditional Kiribati baurua, named Taratai, a large, single-hulled craft with two lateen sails and single outrigger, and navigated it by traditional means over more than 2000 km to Fiji in 1976. A three-part documentary, Te Baurua n Taratai, includes excellent coverage of him, his craft, and, in particular, traditional Pacific shipbuilding and its major economic and labour demands on a small island community.

Master navigator, Te Aliki Koloso Kahia Kaveia (left) who stemmed from the original lineage of Polynesian wayfinders from Taumako in the Duff Islands in the western Pacific. To learn more about him and his legacy (d. 2009), visit the Vaka Taumako Project. 



The author recently received these two framed awards (left) from Hawaii, where Pathway of the Birds won the Award of Excellence in two categories of the 2019 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Book Awards: Illustrated Books and Reference Books. The judging panels (different for each category) were impressed by 'the seamless interpretation and integration of a vast amount of information by the designer into a dense, but clear design rhythm that’s consistent throughout', adding that this 'very well may be the best example of merging hard science and clear narrative... Whether read start to finish or flipped open to almost any page, Pathways of the Birds will enlighten and entertain.' By this time, the book had already received two New Zealand awards: a Storylines Notable Book Award 2019 and the New Zealand Heritage Book Award (Non-Fiction) 2019.


Which? series – published by Penguin

  • Winner of AIM Children's Book Awards (1995)
  • Winner of LIANZA Book Awards (2003)
  • Winner of NZPost Children's Book Awards (2008)
  • Finalist AIM Children's Book Awards (1995)
  • Finalist NZLIA Book Awards (1996)
  • Finalist NZPost Children's Book Awards (2002, 2003)
  • Finalist Montana Book Awards (2002, 2003)

Life-Size Guides – published by Penguin

  • Winner of LIANZA Book Awards (1998)
  • Finalist GP Book Design Awards (1998)
  • Finalist NZPost Children's Book Awards (1998, 2000, 2004, 2005)
  • Finalist LIANZA Book Awards (2004)

Mini Guides (truly pocket-sized!) – published by Penguin

  • Finalist NZPost Children's Book Awards (2008)

Nature Flip Guide series – published by Penguin 1998, 2008

(fold-out, all-weather ID guides)

Wild Stories series – published by Heinemann Education 1997

First published 1988 by Longman Paul

  • A Kiwi Has No Wings sold 25,000 copies

Patterns in Nature series – published by Longman Paul 1990

and in Māori as

Ngā Tauira Taiao – published by Longman Paul 1991

A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand

– published by Penguin

  • Andrew's first book was initally published as a hardback by Collins in 1981, then redesigned and republished in paperback by Hodder & Stoughton in 1990, redesigned again and republished as a hardback by Godwit in 1997, and since reprinted 18 times by Penguin from 2004. It is an usual print history, remaining in print for 40 years, going into 24 printings, and selling over 40,000 copies.

Nature's Alphabet – published by Penguin 1998, 2008

  • Finalist NZPost Children's Book Awards 1998

Earthkids – published by Penguin 1992

  • Finalist AIM Children's Book Awards 1993

The Dalai Lama Story – published by Longacre 2007

  • Winner Ashton Wylie Award 2005

The Parks and Woodlands of London – Fourth Estate, London 1987

Margaret Mahy Medal

In 2009, Andrew Crowe received New Zealand's top honour for children's literature -- the Margaret Mahy Medal – the first non-fiction writer to receive this award.