Incredibly round, drunk pigeon just became New Zealand’s Bird of the Year, because of course it did

Drinking alcohol is dangerous at the best of times. Intoxication in the treetops really raises the stakes.

This impressive albeit risky feat is just one of the many reasons why the kererū pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is the “absolute unit“.

In 2018, this “devourer of fruit” was named Bird Of The Year in New Zealand, winning the popular vote by a clear margin.

The kererū, also known as kūkū or kūkūpa, is a native wood pigeon endemic to New Zealand’s north and south island.

The large bird, around 50 centimetres from beak to tail, is famous around the world for its spectacular flight aerobatics, the ‘whoosh’ of its wings and its complete lack of self-discipline.

The conservation group Forest and Bird, which organised the annual competition, described the victor in the most endearing terms: “clumsy, drunk, gluttonous, and glamorous”.

True to its reputation, the kererū lives life to the fullest. In its spare time, the metallic green, grey and white pigeon likes to gorge itself on rotten fruit, which it finds on the forest floor.

In particularly bounteous seasons, the abundance of fermented treats can leave the pigeons so ridiculously drunk they end up falling from the trees.

In one such summer, a bird sanctuary in New Zealand was inundated with inebriated kererū brought in by concerned locals.

“They were coming in absolutely drunk as can be,” Robert Webb, the manager of The Native Bird Recovery Centre in Whangarei, told The New Zealand Herald.

“It was ridiculous, we were getting people bringing armfuls of these flaming drunk pigeons.”

The kererū, endorsed by the Green’s party leader Chlöe Swarbrick, was the clear winner of this year’s competition, receiving 5,833 votes out of an impressive 48,000.

The species managed to beat even the native kākāpō, which came second with 3,772 votes and was endorsed by Stephen Fry himself.

Above and beyond public amusement, the kererū plays a crucial role in New Zealand’s unique forests. It is the only surviving bird big enough to swallow and disperse the large seeds of the karaka, miro, tawa and taraire.

A 2009 review found that New Zealand had more extinct and endangered birds than any other country in the world. But while many native species are struggling, kererū numbers appear to be doing pretty well.

Still, with conservation there’s always room for improvement. In some local areas, this remarkable pigeon is in danger of becoming extinct, mainly from a lack of predator control.

One can only hope that the kererū’s victory in this prestigious competition will prompt greater support for the glamorous creature in the future.

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