Fr: Carpophage de Nouvelle Zélande
Ang: New Zealand Pigeon
Maori: Kereru – Kukupa
All: Maorifruchttaube
Esp: Paloma Maorí
Ita: Piccione di Nuova Zelanda
Nd: Nieuw-Zeelandse Duif
Sd: Nya Zeelandduva


Patrick Ingremeau

Ian McHenry
My New Zealand Birds

Otto Plantema
Trips around the world

Simon Tan
PBase Bird galleries

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 4 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334229

PIGEONS AND DOVES by David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes and John Cox - Pica Press Sussex - ISBN: 1873403607

KNOW YOUR NEW ZEALAND BIRDS by Lynnette Moon - New Holland Publishers – ISBN: 1869660897

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

New Zealand Birds Online

New Zealand bird status between 2008 and 2012

Department of Conservation

ARKive (Christopher Parsons)

New Zealand birds and birding (Narena Olliver)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

HBW Alive


Home page

Page Columbidae family

Summary cards


New Zealand Pigeon
Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

Columbiformes Order – Columbidae family

This large Columbidae is endemic to New Zealand where it is also known as Kereru, and Kukupa in Northland.
This arboreal species feeds mainly on fruit and flowers, and may fly long distances to find its preferred food items.
The New Zealand Pigeon is protected, but it is still hunted illegally in some forests, and it is a good prey for the introduced mammalian predators.
The Chatham Island Pigeon is usually considered a separate species and will be studied later.
The Norfolk Island Pigeon (H.n. spadicea) is extinct due to hunting and predation.   

Length: 50-51 cm
Weight: 630-650 g

The adult is a heavily built bird with iridescent metallic green upperparts. Nape, mantle, scapulars and lesser wing-coverts show purple and bronze reflections. Back and rump are duller, with pale silvery grey tinge on rump, uppertail-coverts and bases of primaries, often conspicuous in flight. The tail is blackish-brown with indistinct paler tip. There is a narrow white band between the breast and the folded wing.

On the underparts, chin, throat and breast are dark metallic green, and contrast strongly from the white belly, vent and undertail-coverts. However, flanks and undertail-coverts show grey wash. On the underwing, the coverts are pale grey whereas the flight feathers are darker. The undertail is silvery grey with broad, brown subterminal band.

The head is strongly glossed metallic green.
The bill is red with yellowish tip. The eyes are red with reddish eyering. Legs and feet are dark red.

Both sexes are similar.
The juvenile has similar but duller plumage, with buff-fringed feathers on the breast, and pale buff undertail-coverts. The bare parts are duller too.  

The New Zealand Pigeon is found throughout New Zealand, including the larger offshore islands that have suitable forest or shrubland habitats.

The New Zealand Pigeon frequents a variety of forest habitats such as podocarp-broadleaf forests, second growth native forest after logging, small forest remnants, and also exotic plantations, parks and gardens. It is less often found in pure beech forest because fruiting trees are lacking.
This species occurs in mixed forests but also in open country if there are nearby fruiting and flowering trees.

The New Zealand Pigeon’s advertising call is a soft “kuu-kuu” which can become louder and drawn-out like a wail. When alarmed, it gives a harsh growling cry, and brief moans and whistles. The contact call is a low, longer “oooooos” rising towards the end, usually repeated several times.

The New Zealand Pigeon is a “fruit-pigeon”. It feeds on plant matter such as buds, leaves, flowers and fruits from numerous native and exotic plant species. It often flies long distances to find good food sources. It particularly takes the fruit of the podocarp trees. In addition, it is the only bird able to swallow the large fruits from Karaka and Puriri trees, and to disperse widely their large seeds.  

It takes most food from shrubs and trees by clambering about on vines and among foliage with clumsy movements. It may occasionally spend time on the ground, feeding on flowers of broom and clover, and probably other plants. It feeds on leaves when ripe fruits are not available, according to the seasons.

During the breeding season, the New Zealand Pigeon performs flight displays like numerous Columbidae. These spectacular displays are mainly performed by territorial males. They fly vertically upwards and at great height, before to glide down into foliage with widely spread wings and tail.
The breeding season is closely related to the onset of the fruiting season in December and January. The pair maintains a home range and the nest-site is defended. The pair-bonds probably last more than one season, and the pair remains within the breeding range all year round.

The New Zealand Pigeon is sedentary but it performs local movements to find food. They may fly over the sea between islands too.
The wings produce a distinctive noise, a low whistling-wind sound, while the bird performs heavy and powerful wingbeats. It flies through the trees in forest, thanks to its rounded wings.

The breeding season takes place from September to March, with peak in December-January related to abundance of food.
The nest is placed in tree. This is a flimsy, shallow structure made with thin twigs and usually unlined. The nest is hidden among the dense foliage and well shaded from the sun.   

The female lays a single white egg, and both adults incubate during one month, the female at night and the male by day. The chick is typically fed on regurgitated “pigeon-milk”, followed later by fruit pulp. The young fledges about 6-7 weeks after hatching.
Nest failures are due to predation by black rats (Rattus rattus), and this species has low reproductive rate.

The New Zealand Pigeon is widespread but the numbers are gradually declining due to habitat loss, predation and illegal hunting.
The main predators are rats, stoats, cats and possums which eat both eggs and chicks. Although fully protected in New Zealand, the New Zealand Pigeon is still illegally hunted in some areas. Continual logging and degradation of native forests, and competition for fruit resources affect the species too.
The New Zealand Pigeon is the only one able to disperse large seeds over wide areas.
The species is currently classified as Near Threatened, but the global population size is unknown. However, it is described as not uncommon.