Kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae)
A New Zealand icon, the herbivorous kererū, or wood pigeon, is a native fruit pigeon. This large, beautiful pigeon is currently still a rare sight on most parts of the Miramar Peninsula but they play a crucial role in seed dispersal, unmatched by other species.
You can watch a kereru documentary and find out more at http://www.kererudiscovery.org.nz/
Why we need kererū- the constant gardener
This fruit pigeon inhabit a wide variety of forest eco systems; podocarp broadleaf, coastal forest, beech, regenerating native and remnants, to exotic urban parks, rural and suburban gardens. While they can spend weeks on months living within an area of a few hectares, such periods can be interspersed with long distance flights, up to 60 km between suburbua, remnant forest or other habitats in theri quest for seasonally food sources. Kererū eat large fruit intact, and then distribute the seed through their droppings, sometimes kilometres away from the parent tree. Without the kereru, the rate of decline of kereru-dependent tree species is alarmingly high. Plant species with large fruit include tawa, titoki, nikau, miro and kohekohe. These trees add to biodiversity and are needed as part of a healthy ecosystem.
While most ripe fruit seems to be eaten while climbing about on vines, shrubs and trees, Kererū can also be found feeding on ground covers. In most regions fruit is still not available year round, and so kererū will feed on leaves and buds. Important leaf sources include those of kōwhai, coprosma, parsonsia and exotics such as tree lucerne and broom (which can act as nurse species for further native plantings) With it´s large size and large mouth-width, it´s diet of fruit and berries, these landscape-scale flight make kererū the most important native component for the transfer of seeds between widely-spaced fragments of native forest and restoration sites.
Why kererū need you
Recent studies show that although kererū can live between 15 and 26 years, their average lifespan in most regions is between 1½ and 5½ years. Until relatively recently, kererū flocked in their hundreds; so why are they dying young?
- Impacts with windows and glass balustrades.
- Introduced predators.
- Kererū are vulnerable to predators while in the nest. Just one egg is laid, taking a month to hatch, and a further month for the chick to fledge. Kererū are also very prone to attack from cats and dogs while feeding, especilly on the ground.
- Loss of habitat.
- When certain trees fail to fruit in a given year, the breeding success of kererū suffers. In lean food years they may not breed at all.
- Being hit by cars.
- Illegal hunting. This is a protected species.
A combined effect of these have these birds in ”gradual decline”
However, if the conditions are right, kererū can live amongst people and even in cities, with the right habitat and the right help.
Though kererū are making a comeback around Zealandia and Otari Wiltons bush, they need further support in Miramar Peninsula. You can help with planting, predator control control being a responsible pet owner and make sure Kererū stay clear of windows.
Kererū effectively disperse native plants but they can also spread weeds, contaminating nearby bush and natural areas. So make sure that your garden and surroundings are free of weedy species of trees and plants, such as ivy, holly, bay tree and cherry. Also avoid puriri and karaka, which are not locally native and may become weeds over time, making an appearance in bushy areas around the region, including Maupuia Reserve/ Centennial Park.
Windows, glass balustrades and other obstacles
Reflections on windows can confuse birds. WIndow strikes is probably now the highest casue of death of Kererū in Wellington. The kererū is a heavy and slow flier, sometimes lacking the mobility to avoid obstacles such as cables among trees. Avoid planting too close to these potential surprises.
We recommend using decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight. These are almost invisible to humans but obvious birds, helping spare our feathered friends from deadly window strike. You can purchase WindowAlert decals from the Project kererū: http://www.projectkereru.org.nz/preventing-window-strike.
Planting for kererū
A little planning is needed when planting a kererū-friendly garden, but even if your garden is small, it can still attract this fruitpigeon. Over winter and spring kererū will travel considerable distances in search of leaves and fruit. Up to 60 km.
Kererū like to sit in tall trees and overlook food sites. It can be impractical to plant large trees in small urban spaces so measure your site, talk to your neighbours and think long-term.
Very large species may not fruit for the first 20 years, such as miro, but once fruiting they can be a source of food for 1000 years. What a wonderful legacy to leave behind for everyone to enjoy.
Use a birth bath or a shallow trough up in a tree. Kererū will appriciate having somewhere to drink. Using a traditional birdbath on a pedistal works well as the bird can use it as a lookout for predators.
Stop that cat
Planting low shrubs make a heavy bird like kererū vulnerable to cats, especially when drunk on fermented berries.
Plant thickly to limit access for cats and dogs. Make sure your cat has a bell or two, or your dog is on a leash when in the garden.
Kererū-friendly plants, Wellington Region
Select trees so you have species that will flower or fruit at different times of the year, providing food year-round. Kowhai is often planted and is an important species for kererū, however, kohekohe, pigeonwood and the favourite nikau are sadly often overlooked. See our useful Nectar, fruit & seed calendar.
Top 5 Primary trees
Taupata- Coprosma repens
Kōwhai -Sophora chathamica
Ngaio - Myoporum laetum
Cabbage tree - Cordyline australis
Kawakawa - Macropiper excelsum
Top 5 Secondary trees
Kohekohe- Dysoxylum spectabile
Tawa- beilschmiedia tawa
Nikau - Rhopalostylis sapida
Titoki - Alectryon excelsus
Miro - Prumnopitys ferruginea
Read more about planting for birds.