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Attracting and Feeding Kereru

See more about:      Nesting Boxes  Attracting Wild Birds  Attracting Birds to Your Nest Box  Attracting Birds with Nesting Materials
 Identifying New Zealand Backyard Birds 
  Attracting and Feeding Kereru

The Kereru or native woodpigeon is New Zealandís only endemic pigeon.
It is probably the most important bird we have in New Zealand. Since the demise of the Moa and Huia, the Kereru is the only surviving bird capable of ingesting the large fruit and berries of over 70 New Zealand native trees and dispersing their seed. Many trees such as miro, puriri, tawa and tairare are totally reliant on the Kereru for their continued existence. 

Although flocks of hundreds of kererū used to be common in New Zealand skies, their numbers have been declining at an alarming rate for many years. In some areas their numbers have decrease by over 50% in the last 50 years.
The reasons for their declining numbers are the destruction of their native bush habitat by man, as well as the introduction of predators. A Kereru pair only nest one egg at a time and that egg has a long incubation period of 28 days. During this time, and for the 35 - 40 days that the chick remain in the nest, they are in danger from possums, rats, stoats and cats. Some studies have found that fewer than 15 per cent of chicks survive long enough to become independent.
But the news is not all bad. Recent surveys have indicated the Kereru is increasing in numbers in some urban centres, particularly those with well established gardens and effective pest control.

The traditional Kereru diet has always been fruit and berries from native trees and also leaves when fruit is scarce. This diet has now changed to include orchard fruits such as guavas, loquats, and plums.

Attracting Kereru to your backyard, and feeding them is probably one of the biggest challenges a bird feeder can set themselves but the results are well worth the effort. These are large magnificent birds whose aerobatic displays during mating time have to be seen to be believed.

A source of water is the initial reason many Kereru are attracted to a backyard. In the long, dry months of last summer, many people reported Kereru arriving from local parks and reserves to use their bird baths. While any bird bath will attract Kereru they, like most birds, are more likely to be attracted to the sound of running water, so a water feature with a pump is the best when trying to entice Kereru to your backyard. The bath you provide for these large birds will need to be bigger and deeper than for most of your other visitors.

Tempting these birds to your feeder can be a long, slow process. These birds are naturally shy so you will need to set up a garden feeding platform in a quiet area of the garden, a couple of metres off the ground, with a metre long branch attached to it so the birds can easily land.
The simplest food to offer them is thawed frozen peas and corn, although many people have good results with plums and red grapes. Once you have started feeding Kereru they also like pieces of cut up bananas but you cant use these to attract them initially because they don't recognize these as a food source.
Put the food in a shallow glass or clear plate. Being so shy, the Kereru wont feed from any container where the sides block their view.

Kereru are happiest when they are perched on high branches where they can keep a look out for any danger approaching. If you don't have a large tree in your yard you can make them a substitute perch by attaching metre long branches to a high pole (2.5 metres or higher). Try to use tree branches to make it appear as natural as possible. One of our customers reports good results by using cheap plastic foliage attached to the perches to improve the overall natural appearance. The perch needs to be solidly built because these birds weigh around 650 grams, and they do not land gently. In the wild it is common to see branches break under the weight of a landing Kereru.

When trying to attract specific wild birds to your feeders the old adage "it pays to advertise" holds true. Any bird flying around your neighbourhood will be attracted when they spot bushes and trees that have edible fruit on, so you will greatly increase your chances by planting some of these in your yard.

A good start is to take a walk around your neighbourhood local parks to see what trees the Kereru are feeding in. Dusk is the best time to do this while all the birds are out having their evening meal. The most attractive trees to the local birds will obviously be the ones that they are already finding food in, so if possible add these to your garden.
Most of the trees you will find in the local parks and reserves with Kereru feeding in them will be large, slow growing natives which many people wont have the space or the patience to grow, there are several natives you could consider. These include the Kowhai, Nikau and Pigenwood.

Many exotic trees will not only take less time to become established but also produce far more fruit than the natives. Loquat and Guava are good examples of these, and both have the added advantage that they can be formed into a hedge if space is a problem. Another fast growing food source is plum trees but I suspect kereru will be attracted by any berry or soft fruit small enough to swallow in one gulp. Like most exotics, these trees all produce fruit on very thin branches when they are young, so be prepared for many branch breakages when the heavy Kereru lands on them.
If possible, try to plant away from houses and other buildings. Despite their amazing aerobatic skills, Kereru are quite slow, clumsy flyers, especially at low speed and when they have a full stomach. It is surprising how many injured birds are found after having hit the side of buildings, or especially large windows.

There are several organisations throughout New Zealand that are dedicated to improving kereru habitats in their local areas. If you are looking for more information on Kereru, specific to you location, try these sites listed below:









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