New Zealand bird of the year: ‘drunk, gluttonous’ kerer pigeon wins

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Often heard before it is seen, the kerer has been known to fall out of the odd tree after too much fermented fruit

A native green and bronze wood pigeon with a taste for fermented fruit has been named the 2018 bird of the year in New Zealand.

The kerer is endemic to the country and can be found in both the North and South islands, living in cities as well as rural areas. Although quiet and reclusive by nature, kerer have earned a reputation as the drunkest bird in New Zealand, and been known to fall from trees after consuming rotting fruit left lying on the ground. During the summer when fruit is in abundance drunk kerer are sometimes taken to wildlife centres to sober up.

Described by conservation group Forest and Bird as clumsy, drunk, gluttonous and glamorous, the Kerer population is not endangered, but is vulnerable to attacks by predators such as feral cats and stoats, and also competes with possums for food.

Kerer play a vital role in dispersing the seeds of native New Zealand species such as karaka, miro, tawa and taraire across large areas, because they are one of the few birds large enough to swallow the fruit whole.

It was the clear leader in the poll, with 5,833 votes. The kkp came second with 3,772 and the Kak or black stilt, an extremely rare bird that is raised by hand, coming third with 2,995 votes.

The kerer has been known to fall out of the occasional tree. Photograph: Ross Land/Getty Images

The competition, organised by Forest and Bird, is in its 14th year, and pits the countrys rare and endangered birds against one another. No bird has won twice, and this year saw the highest voter turnout on record, despite 2,000 votes being discarded after they were found to be fraudulent and originating from Australia.

More than 48,000 votes were cast this year, up from 41,000 in 2017.

Overseas celebrity endorsements from Stephen Fry for the kkp, and comedian Bill Bailey for the takah upped the stakes in this years competition, with bird of the year also featuring on Tinder for the first time, with Shelly the kak, or black stilt, attracting 500 matches across the country.

Although she voted for the black petrel (tiko), prime minister Jacinda Ardern quickly offered the kerer her congratulations.

Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

I salute you, @Kereru4PM #BirdOfTheYear

October 14, 2018

Kimberley Collins (@kimi_collins)

Actual footage captured earlier today of kerer celebrating its #BirdOfTheYear win after a few fermented berries.

October 14, 2018

Forest & Bird (@Forest_and_Bird)

Your #BirdOfTheYear for 2018 is that absolute unit, the roundest boi, the devourer of fruit, the whooshiest of whooshes, the mighty kerur. A big round of applause for the kerer, as well as for @Kereru4PM who ran a top campaign.

October 14, 2018

The kerer is one of our most recognisable birds, it is often heard before it is seen, Forest & Birds Megan Hubscher told Radio NZ. It is one of our few birds that is doing OK. Only one in five of New Zealands native birds are increasing in number or stable, 80% are decreasing. But the kerer is doing pretty well.

Hubscher said there were some regions of the country where kerer was not doing well including Northland and this was largely down to poor predator control.

However in other parts of the country where populations are thriving such as the capital city of Wellington road signs warn motorists to be careful because of flying kerer, which can cause serious damage because of their size and weight.

Kerer used to be hunted for their meat and feathers, but they are now protected and it is illegal to hunt them.

Some Mori tribes are given permission by the department of conservation to use the bones and feathers of kerer for cultural reasons, and reports of the birds being eaten for special occasions arise occasionally.

There are 168 bird species in New Zealand and about a third are threatened with extinction, with dozens more on the endangered list. Some species have dwindled to a few hundred individuals tucked away in isolated pockets of the country.

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