Some kererū/wood pigeon are being deliberately injured in Otago, requiring weeks of hard work to rehabilitate them, says Project Kererū‘s Nik Hurring.
“Most kererū come to me with impact injuries from flying into something but when they are deliberately injured, it makes it all the more heartbreaking and totally frustrating.”
Mrs Hurring rehabilitates injured kererū both at her home and at a purpose-built aviary nearby. She cares for about 60 kererū a year on a voluntary basis before releasing them into the wild.
“One bird brought in recently that had been shot with an air rifle had a serious neck wound. It was touch and go whether it would survive, because of the shock let alone be able to be released into the wild again as initially it couldn’t fly. The bird had to have a general anaesthetic and have a large wound on its neck stitched it up, then followed four weeks of dealing with a very shocked, traumatised bird, trying to encourage it to eat, supplementary feeding, introducing it into the aviary, and helping it to fly again,” Mrs Hurring said.
“But this was one of the lucky birds as someone rescued it. Many kererū that are shot fall to the ground and eventually die a slow painful death.”
Department of Conservation’s Programme Manager Biodiversity Assets, David Agnew, said, “It’s bad enough when a kererū is accidently injured flying into a window, building, power line or vehicle, but when one is deliberately shot and then survives, the bird can face months of pain, shock, and often has to learn to fly again”.
“Its rehabilitation requires intensive nursing by Mrs Hurring. She isn’t paid for this work and does it entirely for the love of the birds.”
- Mrs Hurring rehabilitates kererū with the support of DOC, Forest and Bird, the Marjorie Barclay Trust, and other individuals, groups and companies such as Watties (this company recently donated 1200 kg of frozen vegetables to the project).
- She first became interested in caring for the birds in 1992 when she was a veterinary nurse. She now cares for birds from all over Otago, (kererū are known to travel long distances for rich resources of seasonal food) but has also recently received distress calls about birds from as far away as Nelson, the West Coast, Hamner and the North Island.
- The aviary has a ‘kererū café’ providing foliage the birds are partial to, such as kowhai, laburnum, fruit trees and tree lucerne.
- In the last two years, Project Kererū has received more than 120 birds with injuries including broken bones from hitting windows, power lines, fences, and clotheslines or being hit by a vehicle. These birds can take several months to recover as they lose muscle mass while in captivity and must learn to fly again.
- Although kererū appear to be accident-prone, accidents are often the result of a wild bird trying to survive in an urban environment.
- Sometimes young birds are brought in suffering from starvation if they have been separated from parents or become lost on their first solo flight.
- The birds often die from shock so when they are first handed to Mrs Hurring she keeps them in a small, quiet confined space and handles them calmly and as little as possible.
- Kererū are a protected native species, classified as in ‘gradual decline’ and harming one can result in a charge under the Wildlife Act of hunting a protected species. Despite increasing numbers around Dunedin, nationally they are declining due to habitat loss, predation, poaching and competition for food.
- Anyone who sees an injured kererū should pick it up gently in a towel, put it in a box and call DOC.