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New Zealand's Drunkest Bird Is A Gloriously Fat Pigeon

Now that's a familiar we can vibe with.

author

Rachael Funnell

author

Rachael Funnell

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

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a drunk kereru pigeon

Oh, to be a drunk, round kererū fermenting fruits in the sun.

Image credit: Chris Moody / Shutterstock.com

New Zealand’s kererū is a wonderfully round pigeon with beautiful, iridescent plumage, but it is a majestic bird with an unfortunate habit. You see, it has a tendency to get absolutely hammered.

The boozy bird’s downfall is its penchant for fruit. Specifically, eating fruit and then sitting in the sun with a crop full of organic matter that’s prone to fermentation.

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The crop is a part of the digestive system for some birds. All doves and pigeons have one, and as a famously portly pigeon, the kerurū is no exception.

Faced with a surfeit of fruit, a kererū (also known as kūkū or kūkūpa) will gorge itself and it can thanks to the stretchy, expandable pouch that is its crop. It’s an anatomical adaptation that enables birds to eat lots of food very quickly and then store it while the rest of the digestive system gets to work on the excess of food.

The fruit goes into the crop, which acts like a sort of holding bay, and when it's stuffed full it gives pigeons that wonderfully round aesthetic for a short while after eating. Here is where things get a bit blotto for the kererū.

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These birds like to perch in sunny spots, and if you’ve got a sack-full of fruits getting warm inside your crop, they can ferment, producing alcohol. Before any bored readers huff down an apple and go and sit in the sun, it only gets these birds so drunk because they are very small. You, on the other hand, are just going to end up with a mouthful of warm mushy apple.

For the kererūs, it’s a very different story.

"They were coming in absolutely drunk as can be," said manager at the Native Bird Recovery Centre in Whangarei, Robert Webb, to the New Zealand Herald, following an incident in 2010 when the center was delivered around 60 drunk kererūs. “It was ridiculous, we were getting people bringing armfuls of these flaming drunk pigeons."

Though they might be a bit of a liability, their drunkenness fortunately hasn’t lost them any love among New Zealanders who awarded them the coveted Bird Of The Year accolade in 2018.

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Beyond being legends of the sesh, and beautiful to behold, kererūs are very important birds for the New Zealand landscape. Known to some as “gardeners of the sky”, they are the only birds with a bill big enough to eat some of the country’s largest seeded fruits, and therefore play a pivotal role in dispersing plant species across the land.

The moa used to also help out here, but it’s long been extinct. Exactly how long, however? Alleged “sightings” have been reported as late as 1993, and a recent pre-print decided to look into their authenticity.


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natureNaturenatureanimals
  • tag
  • alcohol,

  • animals,

  • birds,

  • New Zealand,

  • drunk,

  • bird of the year,

  • kererū,

  • weird and wonderful

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