Natural world

This photograph illustrates one important reason for maintaining and hopefully extending the population of our native wood pigeon or kereru.

About to be swallowed is a red plum about the size of a $2 coin.  Most observers, when comparing the size of the plum with a pigeon’s quite narrow red bill can’t really imagine how the bird’s bill could open wide enough to allow the plum to be swallowed.

However, a few seconds after the photograph was taken the plum was gone.

The bill is hinged in such a way that quite large fruit can be swallowed whole with ease. Five more plums were eaten before this bird flew away to a nearby gum tree for a rest.

Now a number of our native trees such as miro, karaka and tawa have large fruit and the native pigeon is the main disperser of the seed of these trees.

Without the pigeon, conservationists predict that there would be minimal regeneration of these important native forest trees.

The trouble is that kereru is under threat.

Predators such as stoats, cats and opossums take both eggs and young pigeons and unfortunately they are still being poached by short-sighted humans who believe that a feed of pigeon is more important than the efforts to conserve this valued species.

Fast moving cars also injure and kill a number of low flying pigeons and it’s good to see “watch out for kereru” road signs appearing in many districts.

Four pigeons visited this particular plum tree and during about a week the red plums were gone, and so were the pigeons.

Where did they go to?

Just down the road was a yellow plum tree with slightly larger plums and the change of colour didn’t seem to bother the pigeons.


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