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 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
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
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
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
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: