Pukekura Park - its ecology and history - Friends of Pukekura Park New Plymouth Inc.

Breeding Of New Zealand Pigeons In An Urban Park

My observations in Pukekura Park in central New Plymouth over recent years indicate that the nesting season of New Zealand pigeons (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) resident there extends from September to March, with a peak of nest building in October and November.

I followed eleven nesting attempts during the four breeding seasons 2001/2002 - 2004/2005. Nests I studied were in tree ferns (2), karaka (3), rimu (1), tanekaha (1), totara (1), mahoe (1), rewarewa (1), and macrocarpa (1). Therefore, the pigeons I studied had a preference for nesting in karaka trees. The only exotic tree used by them was the macrocarpa. One of the nests, that I analysed later, was quite a substantial structure for a pigeon nest. It consisted of almost 100 slender twigs of various lengths and widths. This pair must have made many forays to collect these twigs because pigeons usually collect only one twig at a time. On one occasion, I saw them collecting dead twigs from nearby kamahi and Tasmanian beech trees, and small-leaved white rata vines.

Six of the nesting attempts I studied were unsuccessful. One failed at the egg stage when the tree fern frond on which the nest was built collapsed. The others failed for unknown reasons. I did not find any evidence indicating that any of them failed because of mammalian predation. There is no systematic control of those predators in the park, but their numbers appear to be low. The remaining five nesting attempts (45%) were successful. Other nesting attempts in the park during these four breeding seasons were also successful because, during those periods, I saw immature pigeons there that were not associated with any of the nests I studied.

PigeonIt has been suggested that New Zealand pigeons may not come into breeding condition unless fruits are available. But no fruits that are eaten by them are available in Pukekura Park for some months before the peak of nest building there in October and November. The diet of pigeons in the park throughout that time seems to consist entirely of leaf buds and leaves, and flower buds and flowers of various magnolias and kowhai in particular. Some fruits, kawakawa and puriri, become available in the park from about mid-late December. One immature pigeon I observed was fed kawakawa fruits at the time of fledging. Another was fed both kawakawa and puriri fruits for a period of at least three weeks after it fledged.

David Medway

Reproduced, with permission, from Miranda Naturalists’ Trust News No. 62 (August 2006).

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