Kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae)
A New Zealand icon, the herbivorous kereru, or wood pigeon, is our only native pigeon. These large, beautiful birds are currently a rare sight on 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 kereru
Kereru 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.
Why kereru need you
Recent studies show that although kereru can live between 15 and 26 years, their average lifespan in most regions is between 1½ and 5½ years. Until relatively recently, kereru flocked in their hundreds; so why are they dying young?
- Introduced pests.
- Kereru 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. Kereru are also prone to attack from cats and dogs while feeding.
- Loss of habitat.
- When certain trees fail to fruit in a given year, the breeding success of kereru suffers. In lean food years they may not breed at all.
- Impacts with windows and cars.
- Illegal hunting.
Though kereru are making a comeback around Karori’s Zealandia, they need further support in Miramar. You can help with planting and pest control.
Kereru 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, which are not locally native but are making an appearance in bushy areas around the region, including Maupuia Reserve.
Windows and other obstacles
Reflections on windows can confuse birds. The kereru 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 Kereru Discovery Project: http://www.projectkereru.org.nz/preventing-window-strike.
Planting for kereru
A little planning is needed when planting a kereru-friendly garden, but even if your garden is small, it can still attract kereru. Over winter and spring kereru will travel considerable distances in search of flowers and fruit.
Kereru 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.
Stop that cat
Planting low shrubs make a heavy bird like kereru 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 your dog is on a chain when in the garden.
Kereru-friendly plant calendar, 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 kereru, however, kohekohe, pigeonwood and the favourite nikau are sadly often overlooked. See our useful Nectar, fruit & seed calendar.
Read more about planting for birds.