Large flocks of kererū show up in annual survey

The independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird says a kererū (wood pigeon) survey that has received reports of flocks of as many as 170 birds, could indicate the kererū population is recovering – thanks to good predator control.   

Two tame kereru, Tania Booth

Two tame kereru, Tania Booth

The 2014 Great Kererū Count concluded at midday today. Five of the reports that came from the public during the course of the count noted flocks of over 100 birds. 

The count is run by Forest & Bird and its affiliate, the Kiwi Conservation Club for children, with support from kererū advocates Kererū Discovery. 

The Kererū Count website (www.kererucount.org.nz) has received 6900 reports since the citizen science project began on September 22nd, with a total of over 14 000 birds spotted.

The result makes the 2014 Great Kererū Count the most successful ever. Last year’s count received 2036 reports.  

Coromandel farmer Arthur Hinds reported seeing a large flock of the birds “grazing” on his land. 

“It was amazing to watch up to 170 of them feeding on the pasture,” he says. 

Arthur Hinds is a member of Forest & Bird and the Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group, which carries out predator control between Tairua and Hot Water Beach, on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

“It's a heartwarming sight to a conservationist to see our native kererū grazing in large numbers on pasture in close proximity to houses, the result of 14 years of intense predator control. It just shows how nature will respond when given a helping hand.

“I find it interesting to note that our grandchildren accept it as normal to have large numbers of kererū in their backyard, which have to compete with kaka for mandarins. We have far more of these birds present now than I had when I was their age - over 50 years ago,” Arthur Hinds says.  

KCC Manager Tiff Stewart says kererū are not classed as “endangered,” but are protected by law. She says historic population estimates are far higher than current estimates – and that the birds are vital in keeping New Zealand’s forests alive.  

“Because so many New Zealand bird species are extinct, kererū are the only birds left that are big enough to swallow the berries of tawa, pūriri, miro and karaka,” Tiff Stewart says.

The birds eat then excrete seeds over a wide radius. 

The survey began on September 22nd. The information collected will be shared with scientists, local bodies and community groups. 

Kererū are known as kukupa in Northland.