New Zealand Pigeon (Kererû)

The kererû or New Zealand Pigeon, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae, is a bird endemic to New Zealand.The kererû belongs to the family Columbidae, and the subfamily Treroninae, which is found throughout Southeast Asia, Malaya, Africa and New Zealand. They are commonly found in native forests (lowlands in particular), scrub, rural and city gardens and parks.

New Zealand Pigeons are large pigeons weighing up to 30 ounces. They are typical like most pigeons. They have a small head, a straight soft-based bill and loosely attached feathers. The head, throat and wings are generally a shiny green-purple color, but with a bronze tinge to the feathers on the mainland and an ashy-gray wash on the islands. The breast is typically white and the bill red with an orange tip. The feet and eye are red. Juveniles have a similar coloration but are generally paler with dull colors for the beak, eyes and feet and a shorter tail.

New Zealand primarily eat fruits from native trees. They play an important ecological role, as they are the only birds capable of eating the largest native fruits and drupes and thus spreading the seeds intact. While fruit comprises the major part of their diets, the New Zealand pigeon also browses on leaves and buds, especially nitrogen rich foliage during breeding. The diet changes seasonally as the availability of fruit changes, and leaves can comprise the major part of the diet at certain times of the year, such as when there is little fruit around.

Breeding generally depends on the occurrence of ripe fruit, which varies annually (good years and bad years), and by location. A flimsy, shallow, twiggy nest is built and one egg is laid. The egg is incubated for 28 days. The young bird then takes another 36 days to fledge. In seasons of plentiful fruit the pigeons can successfully nest more than once.

Pigeon populations are under also threat from hunting, habitat degradation and poor reproductive success. Pigeons were very numerous until about the 1860s and large flocks used to congregate in fruiting trees to feed. Restrictions on the shooting of pigeons were necessary as early as 1864, with total protection since 1921.