Kereru | Kukupa
New Zealand Pigeon | Maori name Kereru | Kukupa
The kererū is a large bird with iridescent green and bronze feathers on its head and a smart white vest. The noisy beat of its wings is a distinctive sound in our forests.
We have two species of native pigeon:
New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) known as kererū, or up here in Northland it is known as kūkū or kūkupa
Chatham Islands pigeon (Hemiphaga chathamensis) or parea
Kererū can measure up to 51 cm from tail to beak, and weigh about 650 g. Parea are around 20% heavier.
While kererū are not threatened, parea are considered nationally vulnerable. Two other kinds of native pigeon became extinct on Raoul Island and Norfolk Island last century, probably due to hunting and predation.
Important seed dispersers
Since the extinction of the moa, the kererū and parea are now the only bird species that are big enough to swallow large fruit, such as those of karaka, miro, tawa and taraire, and disperse the seed over long distances. The disappearance of these birds could be a disaster for the regeneration of our native forests.
Nationally, the kererū population is considered to be stable but its numbers are gradually declining in areas where predation and illegal hunting are unchecked.
That decline has been offset due to recovery on predator-free offshore islands, or from large-scale recovery at sites with widespread pest control, particularly near large urban centres.
Although the kererū was traditionally hunted for its meat and feathers, hunting of the bird is now illegal.
The most serious threat to the kererū comes from predators. Recent studies in several parts of the country have found that many nests produce no chicks at all. Rats, stoats, cats and possums eat their eggs and young; stoats and cats will also attack and kill adult kererū.
Possums also compete with adult kererū for food (leaves, flowers, fruit) and devastate trees by consuming new shoots. Forest clearance and poaching are also threats to its survival. Research by the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, universities and other groups has found that the species is unlikely to cope with hunting pressure.
In Northland, the kūkupa is in danger of becoming locally extinct through the combined effects of predation, competition and continued hunting.
The Department of Conservation carries out large-scale pest control operations. These assist the recovery of kererū by killing the predators that prey on their eggs and chicks. By controlling rats and possums, kererū populations can increase by 50 percent in two years.
We are also involved in educating the public about the plight of the New Zealand pigeon and encouraging local initiatives to save it.
In Northland, they have been working with local iwi to help stop illegal poaching of the kūkupa by educating young Māori about the disastrous effect this is having on the birds' survival rate.
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