Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Bird in the Bush

I’ve introduced you to our fabulous kereru before but I thought these photographs warranted a second post. I took them some months back in the native bird enclosure at Orana Wildlife Park here in Christchurch. Officially Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae, this gorgeous chubby bird is usually known as kereru in Maori, although Northland Maori also call it kuku or kukupa. Maori hunted the birds for food and their feathers and although it is now illegal to hunt kereru, they are still caught illegally in some places. That, coupled with habitat loss, competition and predation, has seen their numbers gradually decline – not that it seems that way sometimes, when these fat birds ‘whoosh’ across the treetops in search of their favourite berries.
Since the extinction of the moa, the kereru is now the only New Zealand native bird with a large enough beak to eat, digest and disperse the large fruits of native karaka, tawa and taraire trees and without them, large tracts of native forest would soon begin to disappear. Thankfully, in a good year, with plentiful food supplies, they can nest up to four times, laying a single egg in a flimsy nest, which hatches after 28 days. Particularly diligent pairs of birds have been known to incubate an egg in one next, at the same time looking after a large chick in a second nest nearby.
When you get up close to these birds you can see why they would have been a popular part of the Maori diet. Growing to around 22 inches in length, they usually weigh between 550 and 850 grams – plenty chubby enough for a taste treat. They’re one of my favourite birds - not to eat I hasten to add – rather to admire. I love their slightly-out-of-proportion bodies – the tiny heads and that big cuddly puffed-out chest; the iridescent glow of their colourful feathers; and the soft cooing sound they make as they roost high up in the trees. They’re still relatively common in Canterbury – especially over on Banks Peninsular. Let’s hope it stays that way.

1 comment:

  1. I have posted a link to this blog post at

    I also included the opeining sentence from your sidebar 'ABOUT ME'.

    If you check the link post over there, and feel I have been too pushy, leave a comment or
    email me at redpenn [at]hotmail [dot] com
    requesting the link to be removed.

    Thanks for your blog - I'm so glad I discovered it - via google)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin