The New Zealand pigeon, or kererū, is one of the largest pigeons in the world. It is one of those birds where the Māori name is more appealing and more commonly used. Few words are needed to help in its identification—you will probably hear its noisy wingbeats before you see it, and will then notice its distinctive white breast perched high in the forest. Kererū’s beautiful emerald green and white feathers were used in some of New Zealand’s finest Māori cloaks.
It is the seasonal quest for food that dictates where and when kererū might be seen in the Park. Their preferred food is fruit from a variety of native shrubs and trees. The supply of this depends very much on the species—wineberry and coprosma are available early in the summer as the birds begin to nest. The kererū then moves on to a range of podocarps, with miro providing the last of the fruit in winter. When the miro stops fruiting these birds must resort to eating foliage, with only some plants proving attractive. Introduced species such as broom, fruit trees, plane trees and poplar are all visited. This is the time of year when large flocks of kererū may be seen flying between these favoured sites.
Kererū play an important role in the dispersal of forest plants. They are the only bird which effectively feed on the fruit of miro, tawa and nīkau. Hence, they have a vital role in re-establishing these trees in areas where the original vegetation has been logged or burnt. Sometimes a small cluster of these seedlings will be found on the forest floor, indicating that there is a favoured kererū perch somewhere overhead!