In early December a baby kereru (native NZ wood pigeon) that had fallen from its nest was delivered to Kuaotunu Bird Rescue. This is not the first time we have had Kereru babies, but we've never had one as small as this. We nicknamed him Kenny.
I made a call to Project Kereru to find out what the best rearing food is for these birds, as the mother feeds them crop milk. Kereru are one of the few birds in the world that produce crop milk for their young. I was advised to order a special diet food that kakapo chicks are also reared on in captivity.
Feeding 2 to 3 times a day at a certain temperature takes time. We were using a crop tube each time, as it is fast, easy and less messy. Kenny grew quickly and got introduced to solid food (kereru mix) and we weighed him every week.
Soon Kenny was tried on a soft branch and happily sat on it.
Unfortunately, when raising a bird from that young age it is hard to avoid having them imprint on humans. Kenny was put in an aviary, but was waiting for us each time before he ate his food. It was time Kenny learned to be a real Kereru.
After some phone calls it was decided that Native Bird Rescue in Waiheke was the closest rehab centre where Kenny could be with other kereru. It took some organising to get him there. Under the Wildlife Act I needed an "Authority to transfer a protected Species" form from the Department of Conservation.
Then the bird needed to be banded, and although I have the gear I still need supervision to band, so Rob Chappel was called to come with the right size band and the job was done.
The Department of Conservation also asked if it was possible to have the bird blessed by iwi before leaving the mainland. So a good friend of mine, Roimata Taimana, was more than happy to do that.
I called Fullers ferry and asked for a free trip over to Waiheke Island, and got Kenny ready for transport. Karen Saunders from Native Bird Rescue in Waiheke made sure someone was going to pick him up from the ferry at the other end.
It was sad to see him go but it's for the best, and hopefully he will bond with the others in time and fly off.
Unfortunately Kenny did not bond with the other kereru at Native Bird Rescue, Waiheke. Kenny also had some other issues that needed investigating. So Karen decided that a check up at the Auckland Zoo veterinary clinic was a good idea.
Several tests were done at Auckland Zoo which also revealed that Kenny was a girl! "She" was put on medication to deal with some of the smaller issues, but her biggest problem was that she had been imprinted on humans during her time in Kuaotunu, which resulted in her being unfit to be released into the wild. Since Auckland Zoo staff became very besotted with her, they decided that she would be a perfect candidate as an "Advocate Bird", to be one of the stars in the NZ Native Bird enclosure.
Our experience with Kenny has been a good learning experience for Kuaotunu Bird Rescue which has led to us making some positive changes to minimise the risk of imprinting.