The New Zealand native or wood pigeons are large, handsome birds. They like to rest on high branches but do not seem to be afraid of people so you can come quite close before they fly away. Their feathers gleam in the sunlight, reflecting blues, greens, purples and of course snowy white. They have a crimson red beak with orange tip, crimson eyes and feet.
They are vegetarians and eat fruit, leaves and flowers. They are the only birds that can eat the large fruits of our native miro, tawa, karaka and taraire. Without the kererū these trees would disappear from our forests. The larger Chatham Island species, called parea, was down to around 50 birds in the 1980’s but has made a recovery with over 600 birds recorded in 2009.
In spring you can watch their wonderful flying displays. The male birds show off their aerobatic skills by swooping and looping the loop. Kererū don’t make much noise so you won’t hear them singing in a tree but their wings makes a special sound and that is often how you know that a kererū is nearby.
They produce only one egg in a nest and both parents take turns to sit on the egg. They first feed their young with crop milk, a milky liquid from their crop and then add regurgitated berries to the diet. Kererū may live as long as ten years.
The kererū’s colourful feathers were used to make cloaks and tail feathers were often used to decorate containers in which Maori kept preserved birds. These plump, easily caught birds were prized for food.
Sometimes a pale coloured, leucistic (born without feather pigment) kereru can be spotted. There are several Maori legends about white kereru including one which claims that kererū started off as white birds and describes how they got their colours.
Kererū websites –
- Chatham Island Parea
- DOC Kereru Page
- Radio NZ Bird Watching – Kereru
- Great Kereru Count
- Kereru Discovery
- Kereru Recovery
- Wildlife Arkive kereru page
- Oiseau-Birds NZ Pigeon page
- Leucistic Kereru Image