As one of New Zealand's pre-eminent bird writers I must alert you to the Great Kereru Count, which is set to fly later this month.

The aim is to check up on the health of the kereru, or native wood pigeon as it's sometimes known, and make sure there are enough 'gardeners of the sky' soaring above Aotearoa, fulfilling a role no other New Zealand bird can.

The native pigeon performs such a vital part in this country's conservation, it's critical we know how many are out there and how they're faring in the twenty-first century.

But what, I hear you ask, is this role performed by the kereru that is so vital to the flourishing of our native flora? Well this prince among pigeons takes flight and disperses the seeds of local trees such as Tawa and Matai.


Conservationists say without the kereru, the native forests of New Zealand would find it very hard to regenerate. The kereru is like a flying seed dispensary, scattering the embryos of our mighty trees onto the forest floor.

The purpose of the Great Kereru Count is to work out where the birds are living and where they aren't. All New Zealanders are invited to join in the count, and I'd also urge you all to bear the kereru in mind when time comes time to cast your vote in the annual Bird of the Year competition. This large green and bronze feathered pigeon has surprisingly never won the title in the competition's twelve year history.

With its iridescent feathers, replete with a splendid white vest, the Kereru deserves to be higher up in the pecking order of New Zealand birds.

The noisy beat of its wings is a distinctive sound in our forests, it's provided the inspiration for one of New Zealand's finest craft breweries and even made headlines a couple of years ago when Sonny Tau shot and froze five of them and earmarked the carcasses for consumption at a later date.

He was thwarted in his attempt to dine on the native wood pigeons by the vigilant staff at Invercargill Airport and subsequently fined nearly $25,000 for his crime.

The healthy size of the average kereru not only explains Tau's desire to chow down on them for dinner (would it be wrong to pair a Kereru IPA with a feed of kereru?), but also helps explain their role in forestry regeneration.

The size of the bird means it's also blessed with a large mouth-width, which allows it to consume all manner of fruit, including the fruit found on our native trees.

They can't get enough of the stuff and once they've gorged themselves they fly up to a high perch to digest their meal. We all know what happens when we eat lots of fruit and the kereru are no exception; they bomb the forest floor with number two's which just happen to contain a seed wrapped in its very own package of fertiliser.


The wide-ranging travel habits of the bird mean the seeds are dropped all over New Zealand, thereby replenishing the forest.

The kereru's love of fruit also gives it an advantage over other birds; it can get drunk.

The kereru has been known to eat so much ripe fruit it becomes absolutely legless and falls out of trees. No wonder Chris Mills and the team at Kereru Brewing chose to name their brewing operation after this inebriated vertebrate.

The good folk at Kereru have even donated kegs to bars around Wellington, with proceeds going to Forest & Bird.

I urge you all to embrace the kereru with the same joy and vigour as Mills. Let's count them, vote for them, not eat them and make sure they keep soiling forests up and down our fine country.