Andrew Crowe

Andrew Crowe was born in England to Irish immigrant parents, and reached New Zealand by ship at the age of twenty. After learning how to survive alone in the native forest and spending three years researching the topic, he put out his first book, A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand. ‘My parents must have despaired about what I was doing with my life,’ he says. ‘How could learning to be at ease in the forest, pondering how Māori adapted from the tropics, and discovering how to live on very little equip anyone for a job?' To everyone's surprise, Andrew went on to become an award-winning author of some 40 non-fiction books, many of which seek to foster a deeper appreciation of New Zealand's natural world. His latest, Pathway of the Birds: The Voyaging Achievements of Māori and their Polynesian Ancestors (Bateman/University of Hawaii Press, 2018), was inspired by an appreciation of Polynesian skills and similarities in languages across the Pacific. The New Zealand Listener has described the book as 'A highly readable and lucid account of the early Polynesians' epic saga... will appeal to both the general reader and the specialist'. Between the US and New Zealand, it has won critical acclaim and four awards. (Cover, contents page and foreword available here.)


  • Children's Non-Fiction
  • History
  • Non-Fiction
  • Young Adult






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

AWARDS Winner NZ Heritage Book Awards 2019 Winner of two Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards 2019 Storylines Notable Book Award 2019

Did Māori reach Aotearoa-New Zealand aboard a single fleet of seven canoes, as told and retold throughout much of the twentieth century? Or did Māori arrive by accident – as often claimed in New Zealand educational publications? Under scrutiny, neither version turns out to be true or even credible. In an attempt to fill an aching void surrounding the country's founding history – and that of the Pacific as a whole – science writer Andrew Crowe presents the evidence. 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.' Through a readable summary of what is now known, we come to doubt the claim by one prominent scholar that Polynesians were 'certainly heroic but not necessarily skilful'. The author goes on to elaborate on the unique capabilities of Pacific seafarers: their ability to find and re-find incredibly small and/or remote maritime targets. As Hawaiian master navigator Nainoa Thompson explains, 'Everything you need to navigate is in nature. The question is, can you see it?' This book shows how this remarkable skill lies at the heart of 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 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.


The significance of Hinemoana in the launch of Pathway of the Birds and its appearance on the cover of the book – is explained here by Dr Simon McDonald: 'I was so inspired by [a draft of] the book that I decided to purchase an ocean-going waka (Hinemoana, left, shown on the book 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)

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 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


View a series of YouTube VIDEOS about the book from the author HERE

Listen to podcast of AUTHOR INTERVIEW on Radio New Zealand National HERE

View AUTHOR BIO in the New Zealand Herald ► HERE



Pathway of the Birds is published by David Bateman Ltd in New Zealand (2018), where it won two awards, and in the USA by University of Hawaii Press (UHP) the same year, where it won in two categories of the biennial Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards. The book was reprinted in 2019.


BRIDGES THE GAP between academic researchers and the general audience

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 2018Auckland 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


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. 


by Mike Crawford, entitled Te Ara o Ngā Manu.

The exhibition is named after the book. Mike explains that the vessel forms are inspired by waka and manu, reflecting the inspiration and guidance that Polynesian explorers received from migrating birds.

See Instagram page for more photos.


are being passed on by the likes of Papa Mau...

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, see Papa Mau: The Wayfinder on YouTube

Tenanoa of Tarawa

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.

and Koloso Kaveia of Taumako

Master navigator, Te Aliki Koloso Kahia Kaveia (left) stems 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, visit the Vaka Taumako Project. 


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'


Which? series – published by Penguin

  • Winner of AIM Children's Book Awards (1995)
  • Winner of NZLIA Book Awards (2003)
  • Winner of New Zealand Post 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 NZLIA Book Awards (1998)
  • Finalist GP Book Design Awards (1998)
  • Finalist NZPost Children's Book Awards (1998, 2000, 2004, 2005)
  • Finalist NZLIA 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

  • Now in its fourth edition and 23rd printing, with 40,000 copies sold.

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.