Chatham Pigeon

Chatham Pigeon
Chatham Pigeon
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: Hemiphaga
Species: H. chathamensis
Binomial name
Hemiphaga chathamensis
(Rothschild, 1891)

Hemiphaga novaseelandiae chathamensis

The Chatham Pigeon, Chatham Island Pigeon, or Parea (from Moriori) (Hemiphaga chathamensis) is a bird endemic to the Chatham Islands in New Zealand. Growing to 800g in weight and 55 cm in length, the Chatham Pigeon is a relative of the Kererū or New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae).

While not rated by IUCN (where considered a subspecies of the Kererū), it is a threatened species, with a population of around 150 birds largely restricted to the southern forests of Chatham Island/Rekohu (particularly those around the Tuku River). A few have been seen elsewhere on Chatham island and also further afield on Pitt and South East Islands[2]. They were common in the 1870s but because of habitat destruction and the predation of mammalian invasive species, the population was reduced to 40 by 1990. Since then, predator control and stock fencing in and around the Tuku valley have resulted in improved breeding success which has led to rapid population growth[2].

Traditionally considered a subspecies of the Kererū, it was proposed in 2001 to be distinct enough to be raised to full species status.[3] Few authorities outside New Zealand have followed this, with most still considering it a subspecies.[4][5]

Because the Chatham Islands have been separated from the mainland of New Zealand for so long, the Chatham Pigeon has evolved differently from its mainland relative, the Kereru. There are a number of differences between the two pigeons. The Chatham Pigeon is heavier than the Kereru and it has a heavier bill. Unlike the Kereru it has an enlarged hind toe which helps it to scrabble about on the forest floor. The Chatham Pigeon generally nests from June to October, while the Kereru nests from September to January. The Chatham Pigeon nests in bracken or fern near the ground while the Kereru prefers to nest in a tree, out of harm's way. The Chatham Pigeon's egg is also much bigger.

Chatham Pigeon feed on the fruits of the hoho (Pseudopanax chathamicus), matipo, mahoe and karamu tree, and the foliage of mahoe, hoho and clover. The succulent fruits of the hoho are especially sought after. They are at their best in August and September, which coincides with the peak of the pigeon's breeding season.

Chatham Pigeon are renowned for their spectacular flying dives, especially by the males, to attract a mate. Most breed at 1 to 2 years of age, laying just one egg. Chicks fledge at about 45 days old and become independent at 3 months. They have a life expectancy of up to 25 years.

The critically endangered Chatham Pigeon is restricted to the Chatham Islands. Although similar in appearance to the New Zealand pigeon (or wood pigeon), it is around 20% heavier, making it one of the world's heaviest pigeons. Once numbering just 40 birds, the population has responded to conservation efforts and now stands at around 500.


  1. ^ "Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Barrie Heather and Hugh Robertson, "The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand" (revised edition), Viking, 2005
  3. ^ Millener, P. R., and R. G. Powlesland. (2001). The Chatham Island pigeon (Chatham Pigeon) deserves full species status; Hemiphaga chathamensis (Rothschild 1891); Aves: Columbidae. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 31:365-383.
  4. ^ Clements, J. (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World. Edition 6. Christopher Helm. ISBN 9780713686951
  5. ^ Dickinson, E. (2003). The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Edition 3. Christopher Helm. ISBN 0713665362

Further reading

Hutching, G. (2004). Back from the Brink. The Fight to Save our Endangered Birds. Penguin Books: Auckland.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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