Thursday, 9 August 2012

New Zealand pigeon

Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

Photo by Pete McGregor (The Ruins of the Moment)

Common name:
New Zealand pigeon (en); pombo-maori (pt); carpophage de Nouvelle-Zélande (fr); paloma maorí (es)Maorifruchttaube (de)

Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae

This species is endemic to New Zealand, being found in both the North island and the South island, as well as in the Chatham islands.

These large pigeons are 46-55 cm long and weigh 550-850 g.

The New Zealand pigeon is mostly found in native podocarp forests, but outside the breeding season will also use exotic plantations and gardens.

They are mainly frugivorous, eating large native fruits and drupes such as karaka, tawa and taraire, but also leaves, shoots, flowers and buds of native and exotic species in winter and spring, when fruits are not available.

The breeding season of the New Zealand pigeon varies according to the availability of ripe fruits, but is mostly concentrated in October-April. They are monogamous, with pair bonds lasting for more than one season, and nest in a frail platform of twigs placed in a tree. There the female lays a single white egg which is incubated by bth parents for 28-30 days. The chick is fed crop milk by both parents and fledges 30-45 days after hatching.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a relatively large breeding range and is described as not uncommon, but the population is suspected to be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to hunting, habitat degradation and introduced predators. The introduction of exotic species is the main threat for this species, namely predators such as brush-tailed possum Trichosurus vulpecula, black rat Rattus rattus, stoat Mustela erminea and cats. The first two also compete for fruits. The New Zealand pigeon is illegally hunted and the loss of forest habitat through burning and clearance for farmland, removal of firewood and browsing by herbivores is also a threat.

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