- Species Information
- This large and distinctively-coloured pigeon is a familiar sight to many New Zealanders. This is because the New Zealand pigeon (or kereru) has a widespread distribution through the country, being present in extensive tracts of native forest, and rural and urban habitats, including most cities. As well as allowing close approach, it often roosts conspicuously, such as on powerlines or on the tops of trees. The distinctive sound of its wing beats in flight also draws attention. Kereru also frequently feature on works of art, such as paintings and sculptures. However, even though it is widespread, like many forest birds its abundance is severely compromised by introduced mammals, particularly possums, stoats and ship rats. Only where these pests are not present (predator-free islands) or are controlled to low levels do kereru populations thrive.
Although there is some individual variation, in general the upper parts of adult kereru are blue-green, with a purple-bronze iridescence on the neck, mantle and coverts of the wings. The underparts are white with a sharp demarcation between the white and blue-green on the upper breast. The bill colouration is quite variable, from uniformly red, but often having a paler red or even orangey tip, and feet and eyes crimson. Fledglings and juveniles have duller plumage, and often the white chest is smudgy white-grey, and the demarcation between dark and white feathering is ragged and may have a narrow border of cinnamon wash over the upper white feathers.
Voice: kereru are generally silent except for occasional ‘oos’. Brief, moderate volume ‘oos’ are given when alarmed, such as a harrier flying close by, and longer, low volume ‘oooooos’, with a rising tone towards the end given as contact calls, often repeated several times.
There is no other species in New Zealand that looks similar to the New Zealand pigeon, apart from the Chatham Island pigeon, which is confined to the Chatham Islands.
Threats and conservation
Although a major issue for conservation of the kereru in the early 1900s, habitat loss probably has little impact on regional populations today. The main threat to kereru is predation by introduced mammalian predators, particularly feral cats, possums, stoats and ship rats, especially when nesting. Other mortality factors include collisions with fast moving vehicles, overhead power and telephone wires and windows, electrocution when perched on some power poles, and illegal hunting. Where pest populations are removed (offshore islands, exclusion fenced areas) or controlled to very low levels kereru populations have increased markedly
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