After our piece on pigeons the other week, we were surprised to find New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2018 competition threw up this unusual winner: the kererū pigeon! What’s so interesting about this winged wonder? Well, the wood pigeon often gets inebriated after dining on fruit. This makes their behaviour a bit erratic. Coo!
The New Zealand pigeon (in Māori it’s the kererū pigeon) is a large fruit bird. You may notice they have a really dinky head, but a pretty massive body. That makes them look peculiar. But they’re also distinctive from your more regular city pigeons as they’re a pretty wild mishmash of greens and purple-like hues.
But they’ve found themselves at the centre of international press stories during the week. Why? The Bird of the Year organisation awarded it this status and had this message for the winner:
"With a whoosh-whoosh, the kererū, also known as the kūkū, kūkūpa, or wood pigeon, has swooped to glory for Bird of the Year (Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau) 2018. While the kererū population is classed as stable overall, it is in danger of becoming locally extinct in some areas where there has not been sustained predator control. The fate of many forests is linked to that of the kererū, as it's the only native bird big enough to swallow and disperse the large fruit of karaka, miro, tawa and taraire."
But the bit of information that won many people from around the world over is this – the bird’s drinking habits. During the summer, the pigeons often overindulge on bumper summer crops of fruit.
They do this to such an extent they get visibly drunk. This can sometimes cause them to fall out of trees. Although, frankly, from the below clip it looks like that one is having a good laugh.
What happens is, when the weather gets warm and they eat a large amount of ripe fruit, it can actually ferment in the bird’s crop (part of the pigeon’s digestive tract). This then turns into a mild form of alcohol. With their diminutive stature, it’s enough for the kererū pigeon to get a bit wasted.
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With a whoosh whoosh, #kererū has taken the lead in the start of our #BirdOfTheYear competition. But #kākāpō and kakī are close behind, with #kea and #takahē coming in strong. It’s still anyone’s game! . . Repost from @hollyneill . Captured at @visit_zealandia . #teamkaki #roundboi #teamkereru #teamkea #teamkakapo #birdoftheyear2018
Some statistics we dug up showed that 60 pigeons ended up in various bird sanctuarys during 2010 (due to drunken mishaps). So it’s hardly an epidemic scale disaster, but they clearly need warning about the dangers of binge drinking. Contrary to popular belief, pigeons are smart birds – so a leaflet campaign should be enough to steer them back on the right track.
Pigeons being pretty comical with their behaviour in general can only get more adorable when wasted, surely? Well, in New Zealand local authorities have taken to putting up road signs warning drivers of the dangers of these under-the-influence birds. Not that they’re permanently drunk, of course, as you can see this well-behaved one below. They seem most excellent to us.