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NZ‘s oldest kererū returns to nest after 24 years

Twenty-nine-year-old Pidge the day after he was found. Supplied photos.

One of the oldest documented kererū, 29-year-old Pidge, has returned to his birthplace to enjoy retirement.

A wet, slightly bedraggled kererū showed up at the National Kiwi Hatchery in the Rainbow Springs Nature Park complex in Rotorua late last month.

It was spotted on the ground nibbling a tree sapling and oblivious to the noise around it – unusual behaviour that prompted the team to take a closer look, which revealed the bird was not in great shape.

It was taken to the wildlife intensive care unit where its tattered zoo jess (ankle band) was removed to reveal a metal bird band and its identity.

National kererū studbook data revealed the senior kererū was Pidge, who was hand-raised by the Rainbow Springs team in March 1991 and released into the wild in January 1996.

Pidge had been flying free around the area for more than 24 years.

“It’s fantastic that Pidge has returned to the nest after such a long time flying free around Rainbow Springs," says Kiwi Hatchery Manager Tumu Kaitiaki Kiwi Emma Bean.

"We’re really pleased to be able to provide the extra care and support he needs in his senior years. Most ornithological references suggest kererū live for 20 to 25 years, so Pidge is doing really well! He is quite possibly the oldest known kereru alive today – which is something we’re investigating.”

Since being discovered, Pidge has had a vet check, received medication, and has been enjoying delicacies such as fresh grapes and bananas.

He is slowly gaining weight and strength, so all being well he will soon be released into one of the aviaries, offering him a great retirement option.

The Ngāi Tahu Tourism-owned National Kiwi Hatchery reopened on Saturday 26 September thanks to funding from the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme (STAPP).

It has been closed to visitors since the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

The hatchery will be open every day during the upcoming school holidays and then from Thursdays to Sundays, 8.30am to 2pm.

Entry fees have been discounted from standard rates and are $30 per adult and $15 per child.

One hundred per cent of visitor entry fees go directly to the National Kiwi Recovery Trust to support the hatchery’s conservation work.

There will be five tours per day, with the last tour at 1pm and visitors can make bookings and find more information on the website: https://www.nationalkiwihatchery.org.nz/.

While the National Kiwi Hatchery is in the Rainbow Springs complex, only the hatchery is reopening. Rainbow Springs does not yet have a reopening date.

The hatchery is also supported by Kiwis for Kiwis and the Department of Conservations Wildlife Institution Relief Fund.

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